Hero worship abounds, but even within this context, the book scores a home run.

JOLTIN' JOE DIMAGGIO

The great Joe DiMaggio still holds fascination for modern fans.

Baseball in the first half of the 20th century was indeed the national pastime. Whether it was the major league teams, players and game, the minor leagues with their future stars, or the local sandlot team, baseball was king. Winter taps into this fervor for this brief but thorough biography. From the beginning, Joe was determined not to become a fisherman like his father. Baseball would be his way out. Winter covers all the highlights of DiMaggio’s remarkable career, including his amazing, still unbroken hitting streaks, contextualizing it against the Depression and the coming war. He describes Joe’s quiet, almost taciturn demeanor and how it did nothing to impede his stature as a national hero. The narrative notes how DiMaggio’s every deed was covered in depth in newspapers and on radio, how he earned his nicknames, “Joltin’ Joe” and “the Yankee Clipper,” and how he even became the subject of a hit song. Even DiMaggio’s later marriage to Marilyn Monroe is remarked on for its joining of two of the most famous icons in America. Ransome’s detailed watercolors beautifully convey DiMaggio’s persona and his baseball prowess with just the right combination of accuracy and nostalgia.

Hero worship abounds, but even within this context, the book scores a home run. (author’s note, stats, sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4169-4080-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering.

THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH

An honestly told biography of an important politician whose name every American should know.

Published while the United States has its first African-American president, this story of John Roy Lynch, the first African-American speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, lays bare the long and arduous path black Americans have walked to obtain equality. The title’s first three words—“The Amazing Age”—emphasize how many more freedoms African-Americans had during Reconstruction than for decades afterward. Barton and Tate do not shy away from honest depictions of slavery, floggings, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, or the various means of intimidation that whites employed to prevent blacks from voting and living lives equal to those of whites. Like President Barack Obama, Lynch was of biracial descent; born to an enslaved mother and an Irish father, he did not know hard labor until his slave mistress asked him a question that he answered honestly. Freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lynch had a long and varied career that points to his resilience and perseverance. Tate’s bright watercolor illustrations often belie the harshness of what takes place within them; though this sometimes creates a visual conflict, it may also make the book more palatable for young readers unaware of the violence African-Americans have suffered than fully graphic images would. A historical note, timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography and map are appended.

A picture book worth reading about a historical figure worth remembering. (Picture book biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5379-0

Page Count: 50

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Absolutely wonderful in every way.

THE SECRET SUBWAY

A long-forgotten chapter in New York City history is brilliantly illuminated.

In mid-19th-century New York, horses and horse-drawn vehicles were the only means of transportation, and the din created by wheels as they rumbled on the cobblestones was deafening. The congestion at intersections threatened the lives of drivers and pedestrians alike. Many solutions were bandied about, but nothing was ever done. Enter Alfred Ely Beach, an admirer of “newfangled notions.” Working in secret, he created an underground train powered by an enormous fan in a pneumatic tube. He built a tunnel lined with brick and concrete and a sumptuously decorated waiting room for passenger comfort. It brought a curious public rushing to use it and became a great though short-lived success, ending when the corrupt politician Boss Tweed used his influence to kill the whole project. Here is science, history, suspense, secrecy, and skulduggery in action. Corey’s narrative is brisk, chatty, and highly descriptive, vividly presenting all the salient facts and making the events accessible and fascinating to modern readers. The incredibly inventive multimedia illustrations match the text perfectly and add detail, dimension, and pizazz. Located on the inside of the book jacket is a step-by-step guide to the creative process behind these remarkable illustrations.

Absolutely wonderful in every way. (author’s note, bibliography, Web resources) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-375-87071-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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