NELLIE VS. ELIZABETH

TWO DAREDEVIL JOURNALISTS' BREAKNECK RACE AROUND THE WORLD

This mutual homage mutes the thrill of competition, yet there's much to love in this historic tale of female derring-do.

The real-life story of two intrepid female journalists and their competition to circumnavigate the globe.

In 1889, daredevil American newswoman Nellie Bly was keen to improve on the journey described in Around the World in Eighty Days (1872). Though skeptical at first—“women are too delicate for adventures”—her editors eventually gave her the go-ahead. Little did she know that rival reporter Elizabeth Bisland was attempting the same record-breaking trip from the opposite coast of the USA. Hannigan recounts the hair-raising, breakneck race, including the challenges each woman faced—seasickness, late ships, surly sailors, and more. Direct quotes attributed to Bly, Bisland, and various newspapers that covered the escapade pepper the text, some raising more questions than they answer. Did Elizabeth really receive false information that her ship had refused to wait for her? On this point the book is mum. Although the narrative attempts to laud both women equally, the description of Bly as a “stunt journalist” who was “willing to go to outrageous extremes to catch a reader’s attention” minimizes her important work. The acrylic ink and colored pencil illustrations are colorful with fine details, if flat; they sometimes strain the reader’s credulity, as in a spread showing the two women joining hands and celebrating their wins together. Backmatter includes a marvelous “Timeline of Women Investigative Journalists” that is worthy of an entire book in and of itself.

This mutual homage mutes the thrill of competition, yet there's much to love in this historic tale of female derring-do. (author's note, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-68437-377-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Astra Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS

From the Celebrate the World series

Pass.

The traditions and history of one of Mexico’s most important holidays are introduced in this latest of Eliot’s Celebrate the World series.

From setting up the flower-festooned altars to decorating the calaveras, the preparations depicted involve entire communities over several weeks. Characters in cowboy hats, sombreros, and baseball caps place the final touches on skeletons in full lucha libre regalia or spangled mariachi outfits. However, instead of accurately using Mexico’s name for the holiday, Día de Muertos, Eliot uses the English back-translation, “Día de los Muertos,” as is common in the U.S. even though the story evidently takes place in Mexico. Also, aside from stating that the celebration “is an ancient tradition,” there is no mention of its Indigenous, pre-European/Christian roots nor does the book actively distinguish between Día de Muertos and Halloween. The first-person narration vacillates between child and adult perspectives. “We do all this to celebrate the beauty of life and death rather than mourn it.” Gutierrez’s mixed-media illustrations are convulsive, crowded panes of frenetic activity. Exaggerated facial features border on stereotypical caricatures—snouts and bug eyes abound. Contributing to the crowded page design is the unfortunate choice of board rather than picture-book format. Consequently, the initial perception is that this series is geared toward toddlers, when it is the school-age child who would most benefit from the information in this book.

Pass. (Board book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1515-7

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

MIRIAM AT THE RIVER

This biblical tale is filled with wonder, hope, and beauty.

Miriam is pivotal in the story of Moses and the Exodus.

A 7-year-old girl narrates the details of the day that she heeds “God’s voice,” places her baby brother in a basket, sets him adrift in the Nile River to save him from “Pharoah’s men,” and then watches as Pharoah’s daughter rescues him. That baby boy will grow up to be Moses, and his sister is the prophet Miriam. In her author’s note, Yolen explains that she has taken this story from Exodus and from the Midrash, tales that interpret the Torah. Miriam’s story is interwoven with miracles associated with water, ranging from that basket on the Nile to the parting of the Red Sea and the life-giving water flowing from a rock that sustains the Jews wandering in the desert, but there are relatively few children’s books that place her at their center. Many celebrants of the Passover Seder sing a song honoring Miriam and will welcome a book that celebrates her childhood. It is Le’s illustrations that truly shine, however. The vibrant blues and oranges reflect both calm and swirling waters dotted with a multitude of plant life. Elegant storks wade in the water as hippos and crocodiles swim nearby.

This biblical tale is filled with wonder, hope, and beauty. (Picture book/religion. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5415-4400-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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