A SAVAGE THUNDER

ANTIETAM AND THE BLOODY ROAD TO FREEDOM

Murphy returns to the War Between the States for this account of Antietam, known as the bloodiest battle in American history. As the subtitle suggests, the author makes a direct connection between the battle and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, opening by reminding readers that up to this point, the war was being fought nominally over the preservation of the Union, not the underlying issue of slavery. He sketches in the major players—Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee and the truculent commander of the Union’s Army of the Potomac, George McClellan—and how political and military maneuvering led to the blood-soaked standoff northwest of the nation’s capitol. The liberal inclusion of both archival material and maps showing troop movements during skirmishes helps to draw readers in, but what makes this impassioned volume speak—literally—are the many primary-source quotations of those involved, from the least to the most. The author deftly develops his characters, most notably the stubborn, vainglorious McClellan, whose inadequate intelligence and low regard for his commander-in-chief led him to botch the campaign and arguably to prolong the war. Grand. (notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 7, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-689-87633-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2009

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A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history.

ON THE HORIZON

In spare verse, Lowry reflects on moments in her childhood, including the bombings of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. 

When she was a child, Lowry played at Waikiki Beach with her grandmother while her father filmed. In the old home movie, the USS Arizona appears through the mist on the horizon. Looking back at her childhood in Hawaii and then Japan, Lowry reflects on the bombings that began and ended a war and how they affected and connected everyone involved. In Part 1, she shares the lives and actions of sailors at Pearl Harbor. Part 2 is stories of civilians in Hiroshima affected by the bombing. Part 3 presents her own experience as an American in Japan shortly after the war ended. The poems bring the haunting human scale of war to the forefront, like the Christmas cards a sailor sent days before he died or the 4-year-old who was buried with his red tricycle after Hiroshima. All the personal stories—of sailors, civilians, and Lowry herself—are grounding. There is heartbreak and hope, reminding readers to reflect on the past to create a more peaceful future. Lowry uses a variety of poetry styles, identifying some, such as triolet and haiku. Pak’s graphite illustrations are like still shots of history, adding to the emotion and somber feeling. He includes some sailors of color among the mostly white U.S. forces; Lowry is white.

A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history. (author’s note, bibliography) (Memoir/poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-12940-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Ultimately adds little to conversations about race.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK BOY

A popular YouTube series on race, “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man,” turns how-to manual and history lesson for young readers.

Acho is a former NFL player and second-generation Nigerian American who cites his upbringing in predominantly White spaces as well as his tenure on largely Black football teams as qualifications for facilitating the titular conversations about anti-Black racism. The broad range of subjects covered here includes implicit bias, cultural appropriation, and systemic racism. Each chapter features brief overviews of American history, personal anecdotes of Acho’s struggles with his own anti-Black biases, and sections titled “Let’s Get Uncomfortable.” The book’s centering of Whiteness and White readers seems to show up, to the detriment of its subject matter, both in Acho’s accounts of his upbringing and his thought processes regarding race. The overall tone unfortunately conveys a sense of expecting little from a younger generation who may have a greater awareness than he did at the same age and who, therefore, may already be uncomfortable with racial injustice itself. The attempt at an avuncular tone disappointingly reads as condescending, revealing that, despite his online success with adults, the author is ill-equipped to be writing for middle-grade readers. Chapters dedicated to explaining to White readers why they shouldn’t use the N-word and how valuable White allyship is may make readers of color (and many White readers) bristle with indignation and discomfort despite Acho’s positive intentions.

Ultimately adds little to conversations about race. (glossary, FAQ, recommended reading, references) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-80106-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

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