A fascinating tale, worthy of retelling, that includes plenty of smoothly incorporated details of life in Mesopotamia.

THE LIFEBOAT THAT SAVED THE WORLD

Many are familiar with the biblical story of Noah’s Ark. Finkel retells a much earlier ark tale, discovered in the cuneiform writing of the people of Mesopotamia.

Very-quick, a 9-year-old boy, overhears Enki, one of the gods, tell his father, Atra-hasis, that he must build a giant coracle, a round boat, and “save life.” Enki is very specific about its construction, which is a good thing since Atra-hasis doesn’t know much of anything about boat building. Fortunately, he’s able to convince many neighbors to help out, since the scale of the boat is immense, and he’s only got seven days to both complete the work and gather up pairs of all the world’s animals. Happily, the animals start arriving on their own as soon as the boat is completed. Inserted in the fable is one chapter from the point of view of the gods, one of whom, highly cantankerous (and the most powerful), is tired of humankind; their group dynamics are almost humorous—and very human, as well. Finkel includes direct quotes from the ancient cuneiform tablets in bold type. Giles’ naïve, black-and-white illustrations enhance the presentation. Brief and presented in relatively simple language, this story is both amusing and intriguing.

A fascinating tale, worthy of retelling, that includes plenty of smoothly incorporated details of life in Mesopotamia. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-500-65122-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care.

OIL

In 1977, the oil carrier Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into a formerly pristine Alaskan ocean inlet, killing millions of birds, animals, and fish. Despite a cleanup, crude oil is still there.

The Winters foretold the destructive powers of the atomic bomb allusively in The Secret Project (2017), leaving the actuality to the backmatter. They make no such accommodations to young audiences in this disturbing book. From the dark front cover, on which oily blobs conceal a seabird, to the rescuer’s sad face on the back, the mother-son team emphasizes the disaster. A relatively easy-to-read and poetically heightened text introduces the situation. Oil is pumped from the Earth “all day long, all night long, / day after day, year after year” in “what had been unspoiled land, home to Native people // and thousands of caribou.” The scale of extraction is huge: There’s “a giant pipeline” leading to “enormous ships.” Then, crash. Rivers of oil gush out over three full-bleed wordless pages. Subsequent scenes show rocks, seabirds, and sea otters covered with oil. Finally, 30 years later, animals have returned to a cheerful scene. “But if you lift a rock… // oil / seeps / up.” For an adult reader, this is heartbreaking. How much more difficult might this be for an animal-loving child?

Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3077-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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