ACROSS AMERICA ON AN EMIGRANT TRAIN

The 19th century's transcontinental railroads, explored via a delightfully effective narrative device: tracing the 1879 journey of Robert Louis Stevenson, who, at 29, was making an as- swift-as-possible journey from Edinburgh to Monterey, California, where his beloved Fanny was desperately ill. Murphy draws extensively on Stevenson's own account of his journey, by boat and a succession of trains of varying speed and discomfort, paraphrasing the gist of his experiences and including splendid quotes revealing RLS as a sharp observer—and extraordinarily gifted reporter—with an open mind and an unusually humane attitude toward people of all sorts. Meanwhile, in well- integrated tangents, Murphy discusses related topics: the building of the railroad, including the roles of different ethnic groups; the prevalence of collisions like one that delayed RLS's train; various immigrant groups; the real nature of the ``Wild West.'' He ends with the joyful reunion (Fanny has recovered) and a summary of RLS's brief later life. A fascinating, imaginatively structured account that brings the experience vividly to life in all its detail: history at its best. Generously illustrated with period photos and prints; endpaper map; extensive bibliography, mostly of sources; index. (Nonfiction. 9+)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 1993

ISBN: 0-395-63390-7

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1993

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Humble, endearing and utterly easy to relate to; don’t miss this one.

THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER!

The charismatic creator of the Eisner-nominated Amelia Rules! series recounts his beginnings as a cartoonist.

From the very first panel, Gownley’s graphic memoir is refreshingly different. He’s not the archetypal nerd, and he doesn’t retreat to draw due to feelings of loneliness or isolation. Gownley seems to be a smart kid and a talented athlete, and he has a loyal group of friends and a girlfriend. After he falls ill, first with chicken pox and then pneumonia, he falls behind in school and loses his head-of-the-class standing—a condition he is determined to reverse. A long-standing love of comics leads him to write his own, though his first attempt is shot down by his best friend, who suggests he should instead write a comic about their group. He does, and it’s an instant sensation. Gownley’s story is wonderful; his small-town life is so vividly evinced, it’s difficult to not get lost in it. While readers will certainly pick up on the nostalgia, it should be refreshing—if not completely alien—for younger readers to see teens interacting without texting, instead using phones with cords. Eagle-eyed readers will also be able to see the beginnings of his well-loved books about Amelia. He includes an author’s note that shouldn’t be overlooked—just be sure to keep the tissues handy.

Humble, endearing and utterly easy to relate to; don’t miss this one. (author’s note) (Graphic memoir. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-45346-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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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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