Fear of failure keeps many from pursuing challenges in life, but these profiles of successful people from a variety of fields may affirm and inspire the reluctant.

The 22 activists, artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, heads of state, and scientists profiled all experienced numerous failures before achieving success. The text is formatted as a game, with readers encouraged to guess from a listing of their failures who the subject is. The following page has a picture of the person, a brief profile of their accomplishments, and a few quotes. Among those profiled are Albert Einstein, who did not learn to read until he was 7; Martin Luther King Jr., who received a C in public speaking at seminary; J.K. Rowling, whose first book was rejected 12 times; Julia Child, whose recipes were rejected for publication in magazines; and Mohandas K. Gandhi, whose law practice failed after two years. At the end of each chapter, activities encourage readers to think about setting goals, anticipating challenges, and overcoming obstacles. Unfortunately, the sketchy profiles offer little insight into how these figures did likewise. Moreover, the framing of disability, cultural difference, and obstacles imposed by societal inequity as “failure” sends a deeply troubling message. Clara Barton “had a lisp”; fluent Hindi speaker Gandhi “couldn’t speak English well”; Serena Williams endured a crowd that “booed and screamed insults” (that these were racist insults goes unmentioned). There are no source notes, bibliography, or suggestions for further reading.

Fails. (Nonfiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-87441-977-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Behrman House Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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What makes one person step into danger to help others? A question worthy of discussion, with this title as an admirable...



An extraordinary athlete was also an extraordinary hero.

Gino Bartali grew up in Florence, Italy, loving everything about riding bicycles. After years of studying them and years of endurance training, he won the 1938 Tour de France. His triumph was muted by the outbreak of World War II, during which Mussolini followed Hitler in the establishment of anti-Jewish laws. In the middle years of the conflict, Bartali was enlisted by a cardinal of the Italian church to help Jews by becoming a document courier. His skill as a cyclist and his fame helped him elude capture until 1944. When the war ended, he kept his clandestine efforts private and went on to win another Tour de France in 1948. The author’s afterword explains why his work was unknown. Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum, honored him as a Righteous Among the Nations in 2013. Bartali’s is a life well worth knowing and well worthy of esteem. Fedele’s illustrations in mostly dark hues will appeal to sports fans with their action-oriented scenes. Young readers of World War II stories will gain an understanding from the somber wartime pages.

What makes one person step into danger to help others? A question worthy of discussion, with this title as an admirable springboard. (photograph, select bibliography, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68446-063-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Capstone Editions

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Gives readers a fresh and thrilling sense of what it took to make history.


The backstory of a renowned address is revealed.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” is one of the most famous ever given, yet with this book, Wittenstein and Pinkney give young readers new insights into both the speech and the man behind it. When Dr. King arrived in Washington, D.C., for the 1963 March on Washington, the speech was not yet finished. He turned to his fellow civil rights leaders for advice, and after hours of listening, he returned to his room to compose, fine-tuning even the day of the march. He went on to deliver a powerful speech, but as he closed, he moved away from the prepared text and into a stirring sermon. “Martin was done circling. / The lecture was over. / He was going to church, / his place to land, / and taking a congregation / of two hundred and fifty thousand / along for the ride.” Although much hard work still lay ahead, the impact of Dr. King’s dramatic words and delivery elevated that important moment in the struggle for equal rights. Wittenstein’s free-verse narrative perfectly captures the tension leading up to the speech as each adviser urged his own ideas while remaining a supportive community. Pinkney’s trademark illustrations dramatize this and the speech, adding power and further illuminating the sense of historical importance.

Gives readers a fresh and thrilling sense of what it took to make history. (author’s note, lists of advisers and speakers, bibliography, source notes) (Informational picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4331-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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