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Even though grandmother meets the Motorwagen with the same disgruntlement as the emperor, everybody else cheers the...

Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go; we steal father’s car, we are going quite far, and mother cooks up the whole show.

In the town of Mannheim in Germany, in 1888, Bertha Benz decides to take her husband’s car, the Benz Motorwagen, to grandmother’s house, 60 miles distant in the town of Pforzheim, on roads that were more suited for—to all intents and purposes likely made by—sheep, horses, goats, and cows. Emperor Wilhelm II and the church are not amused by the self-propelled Motorwagen, so Bertha is out to prove them wrong. Bertha and her two sons push the car out of the garage in the early morn, but as they motor along, they meet up with internal-combustion-engine problems that the ingenious Bertha—who had worked with her husband to build the car—solves: she invents the brake shoe along the way, made for her by a cobbler. Adkins tells the tale with brio and dash and illustrates it with nifty, time-gone-by details like roadside alms boxes (hello, toll roads), springs disgorging through gargoylelike face into basins to refresh weary travelers, and naphtha as fuel. The artwork is mostly pleasing, with 1888 European countrysides and villages. The characters’ faces are often obscured by hat brims; when doffed, they often reveal unsettlingly wooden expressions. The story is a hoot of ingenuity and an exhilarating tip of the hat to unsung women heroes, and Adkins has a good time telling it.

Even though grandmother meets the Motorwagen with the same disgruntlement as the emperor, everybody else cheers the contraption’s epic voyage. (timeline, schematics, afterword) (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58089-696-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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From the Questioneers series , Vol. 2

Adventure, humor, and smart, likable characters make for a winning chapter book.

Ada Twist’s incessant stream of questions leads to answers that help solve a neighborhood crisis.

Ada conducts experiments at home to answer questions such as, why does Mom’s coffee smell stronger than Dad’s coffee? Each answer leads to another question, another hypothesis, and another experiment, which is how she goes from collecting data on backyard birds for a citizen-science project to helping Rosie Revere figure out how to get her uncle Ned down from the sky, where his helium-filled “perilous pants” are keeping him afloat. The Questioneers—Rosie the engineer, Iggy Peck the architect, and Ada the scientist—work together, asking questions like scientists. Armed with knowledge (of molecules and air pressure, force and temperature) but more importantly, with curiosity, Ada works out a solution. Ada is a recognizable, three-dimensional girl in this delightfully silly chapter book: tirelessly curious and determined yet easily excited and still learning to express herself. If science concepts aren’t completely clear in this romp, relationships and emotions certainly are. In playful full- and half-page illustrations that break up the text, Ada is black with Afro-textured hair; Rosie and Iggy are white. A closing section on citizen science may inspire readers to get involved in science too; on the other hand, the “Ode to a Gas!” may just puzzle them. Other backmatter topics include the importance of bird study and the threat palm-oil use poses to rainforests.

Adventure, humor, and smart, likable characters make for a winning chapter book. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3422-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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