Anne Frank has been memorialized properly—elsewhere.

Nature watches as humans wage war.

A personified horse chestnut tree witnesses history as it grows, “reach[ing] skyward in peace. Until war came.” So begins the story of military “strangers” who enter a city. Soon after, eight solemn-faced people—five adults, two girls, and one boy—come to live in the nearby factory annex, and the tree watches as one of the young girls sits by the attic window and writes in her diary, never leaving the building. The tree blooms “extra bright” the spring after the young girl and boy kiss. Then the people are taken away, and the “tree ke[eps] a vigil.” Years later, the tree dies, only to have her seeds replanted in many cities. The book’s nameless war is, of course, World War II, and the unnamed soldiers were German troops. By avoiding specifics, Gottesfeld seems to be trying to universalize the story of Anne Frank, and in doing so, he diminishes the terrible truth of the Holocaust and Hitler’s Final Solution, during which, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1 million or more Jewish children perished. Giving the tree human sentiments is a further misstep. McCarty’s brown ink drawings on a white background are suitably sober and evocative, with scenes that are photographic images capturing stark moments.

Anne Frank has been memorialized properly—elsewhere. (afterword) (Informational picture book. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75397-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016


It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that...

Antics both instructive and embarrassing ensue after a mysterious package left on their doorstep brings a Founding Father into the lives of two modern children.

Summoned somehow by what looks for all the world like an old-time crystal radio set, Ben Franklin turns out to be an amiable sort. He is immediately taken in hand by 7-year-old Olive for a tour of modern wonders—early versions of which many, from electrical appliances in the kitchen to the Illinois town’s public library and fire department, he justly lays claim to inventing. Meanwhile big brother Nolan, 10, tags along, frantic to return him to his own era before either their divorced mom or snoopy classmate Tommy Tuttle sees him. Fleming, author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) (and also, not uncoincidentally considering the final scene of this outing, Our Eleanor, 2005), mixes history with humor as the great man dispenses aphorisms and reminiscences through diverse misadventures, all of which end well, before vanishing at last. Following a closing, sequel-cueing kicker (see above) she then separates facts from fancies in closing notes, with print and online leads to more of the former. To go with spot illustrations of the evidently all-white cast throughout the narrative, Fearing incorporates change-of-pace sets of sequential panels for Franklin’s biographical and scientific anecdotes. Final illustrations not seen.

It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that adds flavor without weight. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93406-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017


Suggesting that some things haven’t changed since the Stone Age, Briggs (A Bit More Bert, p. 1300, etc.) introduces a moon-faced lad who infuriates his clueless parents by insistently questioning things-as-they-are. To the despair and fury of his dad, Dug, and mom, Dugs, Ug is forever complaining about his stone trousers, wanting something nicer for breakfast than “cold bits of dead animal,” wondering whether the stream couldn’t be “bent” a bit closer to the family cave. He’s not all talk, either, though most of his bright ideas come to naught; his stone boat sinks, his wheel rolls down the hill but has no other apparent use, and though his father indulgently cuts trousers for him from animal hide, they aren’t wearable, as sewing hasn’t been invented. Briggs tells the tale in cartoon panels with dialogue balloons, footnoting his own anachronisms: “No one living in the Stone Age would know he was living in the Stone Age. He would believe he was living in the modern age. Today we believe we are living in the modern age. Time will tell.” Ultimately, Ug fulfills his mother’s dark prediction that he would end up painting on walls, and is last seen beneath his art, still pining for something better. Beneath the satiric barbs there’s a touch of poignancy to this tale of a da Vinci just a few dozen millennia ahead of his time. (Picture book. 8-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-91611-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2002

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