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From the History's Worst series

A shoddily constructed, clumsily written biography that does a disservice to its audience.

Kicking off a new series about History’s Worst, a middle-grade survey of Adolf Hitler and World War II.

Buckley covers Hitler’s childhood, youth, service during World War I, takeover of the German Workers’ Party and subsequent transformation to the Nazi Party, seizure of power, World War II, and the Holocaust. Buckley’s overuse of adverbs and reliance on clichés results in such trite statements as “Measuring his failure against his friend’s success, Hitler basically fell off the map” and “World War I had begun and, believe it or not, Hitler was overjoyed.” Discussing the purge known as the “Night of the Long Knives,” Buckley writes, “If people had not been scared of Hitler before, these actions pushed their fear level off the charts.” His descriptions of historical, ideological, and political complexities are vague and frequently misleading. Readers may well end up believing the Freikorps was a single unit when, in fact, they were multiple, autonomous anti-communist paramilitary units organized during the Weimar Republic. Mein Kampf is characterized as “like a to-do list for taking and holding power but with an awful, racist twist.” The Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact is described “as if dogs and cats had signed an agreement saying they would never fight again.” Compared to such exemplars as James Cross Giblin’s The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, this biography, even though for a younger audience, falls far short.

A shoddily constructed, clumsily written biography that does a disservice to its audience. (timeline, source notes) (Biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7941-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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