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

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. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A measured corrective to pervasive myths about what is often referred to as the “first Thanksgiving.”

Contextualizing them within a Native perspective, Newell (Passamaquoddy) touches on the all-too-familiar elements of the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving and its origins and the history of English colonization in the territory now known as New England. In addition to the voyage and landfall of the Mayflower, readers learn about the Doctrine of Discovery that arrogated the lands of non-Christian peoples to European settlers; earlier encounters between the Indigenous peoples of the region and Europeans; and the Great Dying of 1616-1619, which emptied the village of Patuxet by 1620. Short, two- to six-page chapters alternate between the story of the English settlers and exploring the complex political makeup of the region and the culture, agriculture, and technology of the Wampanoag—all before covering the evolution of the holiday. Refreshingly, the lens Newell offers is a Native one, describing how the Wampanoag and other Native peoples received the English rather than the other way around. Key words ranging from estuary to discover are printed in boldface in the narrative and defined in a closing glossary. Nelson (a member of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa) contributes soft line-and-color illustrations of the proceedings. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Essential. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-72637-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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

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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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