Once again, the individual Native Americans are lost in history.

THE NAVAJO CODE TALKERS

Persecuted by the U.S. government, many Navajo children were forced to give up their language in boarding schools established in the 19th century and designed to eradicate Native American culture.

Ironically this language would be used during World War II as a secret code by American military forces in the Pacific. Although other Native Americans became Code Talkers, the Navajo were the largest in number (about 420). Their unusual achievement was kept a secret until 1968, when new technologies superseded Navajo code-talking and “the heroic story of the People could be told.” This powerfully illustrated large-format informational picture book provides the outline of both that story and the code itself, which used Navajo words to represent Roman letters, employing them as substitutes for English words, such as chay-da-gahi (“tortoise”) to mean “tank.” Illustrated samples are given in the text, but it still may not be enough for all readers to fully understand how the code worked. The somber pastel drawings are striking, and the ironic situation—a language once vilified that becomes an almost magical weapon—is made evident, but it is too bad readers aren’t given glimpses of the men who participated in this endeavor. The only people named are Philip Johnston, “an Anglo missionary’s son who had grown up with the Navajo” and who suggested the idea, and Marine Maj. Howard Connor, a white officer.

Once again, the individual Native Americans are lost in history. (endnotes, artist’s notes, selected bibliography) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56846-295-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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A great collection of harrowing, true survivor stories.

SURVIVORS

A large-format hardcover gathers together true stories of adventure and survival.

Two that are well-known, at least to adults, are Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition and the ordeal of Aron Ralston, who cut off his own arm with a dull pocketknife in order to extricate himself from a dislodged boulder that trapped him in a narrow canyon, the subject of the film 127 Hours. Lesser known is the story of Poon Lim, who survived 133 days alone in the South Atlantic when the merchant ship he was serving on was sunk by a U-boat. At one point, he caught a shark several feet long, pulled it aboard his raft, beat it to death, and proceeded to suck its blood and eat it raw for nourishment. Seventeen-year-old Juliane Koepcke, the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Peruvian rain forest, relied on survival lessons taught by her parents. During her nine-day ordeal, she poured gasoline on her wounds, which succeeded in removing 35 maggots from one arm. In a skiing accident, Anna Bågenholm was trapped under freezing water for so long her heart stopped. Four hours later, medics managed to warm her blood enough to revive her. The attractive design features a full-page or double-page–spread color illustration depicting a pivotal moment in each well-told story. Entirely absent are such standard features as table of contents, source notes, bibliography, or index, pegging this as an entertainment resource only.

A great collection of harrowing, true survivor stories. (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-571-31601-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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