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John Harrison, an obscure 18th-century carpenter and clockmaker from Yorkshire, solved a problem that had plagued sailors for centuries: how to tell East-West location at sea, thereby avoiding shipwrecks and other costly disasters. To aid sailors, the British government offered the Longitude Prize, an enormous sum of £20,000 (an amount equal to $12 million today), to the inventor of a device that would determine longitude “that shall have been Tried and found Practicable and useful at Sea.” Harrison met the challenge with his Harrison’s Number One-H-1, the first accurate portable clock. Dash (We Shall Not Be Moved, 1996, etc.) brings the inventor to life with excerpts from his diaries and letters, as she reports on his painstaking experiments, refinements, and extensive sea tests of his 75-pound portable clock. B&w illustraions add a whimsical touch to the telling. For the gruff and meticulous clock-builder, perfecting the clock proved less difficult than claiming the prize offered. Politics and class distinctions in 18th-century England made it extremely difficult for someone not university-educated to get a fair hearing. It took the intervention of His Majesty George III and nearly 50 years of effort before Harrison saw even a portion of his prize money. Dash documents the development of Harrison’s inventions and provides an overview of the politics and science of the period, introducing luminaries such as Sir Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley. Harrison emerges as a stubborn perfectionist who succeeded at long last through great effort. For a less-detailed but perhaps sufficient take on the subject, Trent Duffy’s less-detailed The Clock (p. 630) provides a chapter on Harrison and his chronometric clock. Dash’s title provides an in-depth look at a little known inventor and his life and times and makes good use of primary sources seldom available to students. (afterword, glossary, timeline, bibliography) (Biography. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2000

ISBN: 0-374-34636-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2000

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Chilling, difficult, and definitely not for readers without a solid understanding of the Holocaust despite the relatively...

A young boy grows up in Adolf Hitler’s mountain home in Austria.

Seven-year-old Pierrot Fischer and his frail French mother live in Paris. His German father, a bitter ex-soldier, returned to Germany and died there. Pierrot’s best friend is Anshel Bronstein, a deaf Jewish boy. After his mother dies, he lives in an orphanage, until his aunt Beatrix sends for him to join her at the Berghof mountain retreat in Austria, where she is housekeeper for Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. It is here that he becomes ever more enthralled with Hitler and grows up, proudly wearing the uniform of the Hitler Youth, treating others with great disdain, basking in his self-importance, and then committing a terrible act of betrayal against his aunt. He witnesses vicious acts against Jews, and he hears firsthand of plans for extermination camps. Yet at war’s end he maintains that he was only a child and didn’t really understand. An epilogue has him returning to Paris, where he finds Anshel and begins a kind of catharsis. Boyne includes real Nazi leaders and historical details in his relentless depiction of Pierrot’s inevitable corruption and self-delusion. As with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006), readers both need to know what Pierrot disingenuously doesn’t and are expected to accept his extreme naiveté, his total lack of awareness and comprehension in spite of what is right in front of him.

Chilling, difficult, and definitely not for readers without a solid understanding of the Holocaust despite the relatively simple reading level. (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-030-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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PLB 0-531-33140-7 Ketcham’s first book is based on an allegedly true story of a childhood incident in the life of Johann Sebastian Bach. It starts with a couple of pages regaling the Bach home and all the Johanns in the family, who made their fame through music. After his father’s death, Johann Sebastian goes to live with his brother, Johann Christoph, where he boasts that he is the best organist in the world. Johann Christoph contradicts him: “Old Adam Reincken is the best.” So Johann Sebastian sets out to hear the master himself. In fact, he is humbled to tears, but there is hope that he will be the world’s best organist one day. Johann Sebastian emerges as little more than a brat, Reincken as more of a suggestion than a character. Bush’s illustrations are most transporting when offering details of the landscape, but his protagonist is too impish to give the story much authority. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-531-30140-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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