A fictive plotline adds a strong “you are there” feel to this informative account.

THE GREAT CHICAGO FIRE

RISING FROM THE ASHES

From the History Comics series

Two young eyewitnesses link watershed events in Chicago’s history: its massive fire in 1871 and the Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Separated from their parents, Franny and John Patrick Fitzgerald flee amid panic-stricken crowds—and also witness flaring prejudice against the city’s Irish immigrants—as the fire destroys one neighborhood after another. Both then reappear 22 years later as young parents to marvel over the Ferris wheel and other wonders of an exposition that was organized to highlight their city’s brilliant recovery and promise. Hannigan sticks closely to historical records in tracing the causes and course of the fire (no, it was not the fault of either Mrs. O’Leary or her cow) as well as the architectural and infrastructure improvements wrought in its wake and the fair’s artistic and technological highlights. If the dialogue sometimes assumes a declamatory cast (“There are so many new immigrants moving into the city—Greek, Italian, Jewish, Polish”), Graudins overlays the infodumps with small, intimate panels depicting period-clad people with appealingly open expressions (and, often, puppies in tow) in accurately drawn settings. Crowd scenes frequently feature both white characters like Franny and John Patrick and people of color…except at the Exposition, from which, as one character pointedly if anachronistically puts it, “African Americans” were excluded. Simultaneously publishing in the History Comics series, Chris Schweizer’s The Roanoke Colony: America’s First Mystery (with coloring by Liz Trice Schweizer) works period sources and modern archaeology into a snarky account of the early settlement’s decidedly checkered career delivered by two local observers from the Secotan Nation. Both volumes close with source notes; students of the Windy City also get a modern tour and a timeline.

A fictive plotline adds a strong “you are there” feel to this informative account. (bibliography, maps, additional facts) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-17425-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care.

OIL

In 1977, the oil carrier Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into a formerly pristine Alaskan ocean inlet, killing millions of birds, animals, and fish. Despite a cleanup, crude oil is still there.

The Winters foretold the destructive powers of the atomic bomb allusively in The Secret Project (2017), leaving the actuality to the backmatter. They make no such accommodations to young audiences in this disturbing book. From the dark front cover, on which oily blobs conceal a seabird, to the rescuer’s sad face on the back, the mother-son team emphasizes the disaster. A relatively easy-to-read and poetically heightened text introduces the situation. Oil is pumped from the Earth “all day long, all night long, / day after day, year after year” in “what had been unspoiled land, home to Native people // and thousands of caribou.” The scale of extraction is huge: There’s “a giant pipeline” leading to “enormous ships.” Then, crash. Rivers of oil gush out over three full-bleed wordless pages. Subsequent scenes show rocks, seabirds, and sea otters covered with oil. Finally, 30 years later, animals have returned to a cheerful scene. “But if you lift a rock… // oil / seeps / up.” For an adult reader, this is heartbreaking. How much more difficult might this be for an animal-loving child?

Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3077-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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