THE GREAT CHICAGO FIRE

RISING FROM THE ASHES

From the History Comics series

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

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 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

OIL

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

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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

MUMMIES OF THE PHARAOHS

EXPLORING THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS

An introduction to ancient Egypt and the Pharaohs buried in the Valley of the Kings. The authors begin with how archaeologist Howard Carter found the tomb of King Tut, then move back 3,000 years to the time of Thutmosis I, who built the first tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Finally they describe the building of the tomb of a later Pharaoh, Ramses II. The backward-forward narration is not always easy to follow, and the authors attribute emotions to the Pharaohs without citation. For example, “Thutmosis III was furious [with Hatshepsut]. He was especially annoyed that she planned to be buried in KV 20, the tomb of her father.” Since both these people lived 3,500 years ago, speculation on who was furious or annoyed should be used with extreme caution. And the tangled intrigue of Egyptian royalty is not easily sorted out in so brief a work. Throughout, though, there are spectacular photographs of ancient Egyptian artifacts, monuments, tomb paintings, jewels, and death masks that will appeal to young viewers. The photographs of the exposed mummies of Ramses II, King Tut, and Seti I are compelling. More useful for the hauntingly beautiful photos than the text. (brief bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7922-7223-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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