THE AMAZING AIR BALLOON

Based on a true story, Van Leeuwen’s (Lucy Was There . . . , 2002, etc.) latest effort imagines the experience of 13-year-old Edward Warren, the sole passenger aboard America’s first manned hot-air balloon, launched in 1784, a year after the Montgolfier brothers flew their balloon in France. A newspaper account of the journey is printed on the endpapers. It provides the basic facts; Van Leeuwen fills in the rest. In her account the orphaned boy is a blacksmith’s apprentice. For months, tavern owner Peter Carnes tests his balloons not far from Edward’s shop. When Edward reads of Mr. Carnes’s intention to exhibit the balloon in Baltimore he longs to attend. He’s asked to join the crew just one day before the exhibition. Van Leeuwen, of course, takes creative liberty, but her account is solidly based on fact and embellished with details that reflect 18th-century reality. Similarly, Ventura’s illustrations, rendered in oil and neatly framed throughout, accurately portray the early American landscape. His depiction of period clothing and tall ships in the Baltimore bay is especially engaging. So is Van Leeuwen’s hopeful message: “If Mr. Carnes [can] build an air balloon, if I [can] ride in one,” Edward muses as he rises into the sky, “anything [is] possible.” In an author’s note, Van Leeuwen provides a historical perspective. “Nothing is known about Edward Warren except his name and age,” she begins. “After his brief moment in the historical spotlight, he disappeared from sight.” Van Leeuwen brings him brilliantly back to life. (Historical fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8037-2258-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Plenty of baseball action, but the paint-by-numbers plot is just a vehicle for equally standard-issue advice. .

THE CONTRACT

For his eponymous imprint, the New York Yankees star leads off with a self-referential tale of Little League triumphs.

In the first of a projected 10 episodes based on the same number of “Life Lessons” espoused by the lead author’s Turn 2 Foundation, third-grader Derek turns in an essay announcing that his dream is to play shortstop for the New York Yankees (No. 1 on the Turn 2 list: “Set your goals high”). His parents take him seriously enough not only to present him with a “contract” that promises rewards for behaviors like working hard and avoiding alcohol and drugs, but also to put a flea in the ear of his teacher after she gives him a B-minus on the essay for being unrealistic. Derek then goes on to pull up his math grade. He also proceeds to pull off brilliant plays for his new Little League team despite finding himself stuck at second base while the coach’s son makes multiple bad decisions at shortstop and, worse, publicly puts down other team members. Jeter serves as his own best example of the chosen theme’s theoretical validity, but as he never acknowledges that making the majors (in any sport) requires uncommon physical talent as well as ambition and determination, this values-driven pitch is well out of the strike zone.

Plenty of baseball action, but the paint-by-numbers plot is just a vehicle for equally standard-issue advice. . (foundation ad and curriculum guide, not seen) (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2312-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Jeter/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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