Critical, respectful, engaging: exemplary history for children.


From the History Smashers series

Adopting a casual, colloquial tone, Messner dismantles one received truth after another, drawing on a variety of resources and evidence to give readers the “real-deal story of the Mayflower” and its storied passengers.

Never underestimating the capacity of her readers, she begins with a brief history of the Reformation in England before following William Brewster’s group of separatists as they eventually made their way to the shores of Massachusetts and seized Wampanoag land for their colony. Shifting tone as appropriate, copious sidebars include a discussion on the relative reliability of primary sources, the inglorious history of Plymouth Rock, and modern efforts to reclaim the Wampanoag language, Wôpanâak. Quotations from primary sources are presented in an antique-looking display type and then translated into modern English: “ ‘[The mussels] caused us to cast and scour, but they were soon all well again.’ —Edward Winslow / Translation: They threw up and had diarrhea but felt better in a while.” Most notable is the care with which Messner covers relations between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag; her description of first contact is brilliant in its refusal to cast the Indigenous people as other: “After [Myles Standish and his party had] gone about a mile, they saw five or six people and a dog.” Meconis’ humorous cartoons—sometimes presented as comics-style paneled sequences—complement archival illustrations, which readers are frequently invited to examine critically. The second in the History Smashers series, Women’s Right To Vote, publishes simultaneously.

Critical, respectful, engaging: exemplary history for children. (author's note, further reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12031-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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



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

Did you like this book?

A valuable introduction to a vanished North American people, told with nuance, engagement, and rue.



Before the Inuit came to the Arctic, there were the Tuniit.

The Qitsualik-Tinsleys offer readers an introduction to this prehistoric people, twining scientific findings with Inuit legend and even Inuktitut grammar to provide a window on the early Arctic. Without going into anthropological specifics, the husband-and-wife team, who include Inuit, Cree, and Mohawk in their combined heritage, introduce the notion that the Tuniit may not have been human before going on to say that they lived in settlements, originated the intricate stone cairns known as inuksuit, and were short, strong, and shy. They introduce snippets of traditional lore that claim supernatural powers for the Tuniit and that build a strong case for the eventual assimilation of the Tuniit by the encroaching Inuit. Anthropological discoveries validate the existence of the Tuniit and their disappearance as a distinct culture and genotype. Bigham contributes moody oil paintings and ink drawings; shifts in typeface seem to indicate corresponding shifts in mode that highlight the persistence of the Tuniit in Inuit legend, though this is not consistent. The authors clearly wrestle with the understanding that Inuit ancestors displaced an earlier indigenous people, introducing real poignancy to their exhortation that their readers respect the Tuniit by remembering them: "We remember a fate that no culture should have to endure."

A valuable introduction to a vanished North American people, told with nuance, engagement, and rue. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-927095-76-8

Page Count: 60

Publisher: Inhabit Media

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet