From the History Smashers series

Critical, respectful, engaging: exemplary history for children.

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: April 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020



A measured corrective to pervasive myths about what is often referred to as the “first Thanksgiving.”

Contextualizing them within a Native perspective, Newell (Passamaquoddy) touches on the all-too-familiar elements of the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving and its origins and the history of English colonization in the territory now known as New England. In addition to the voyage and landfall of the Mayflower, readers learn about the Doctrine of Discovery that arrogated the lands of non-Christian peoples to European settlers; earlier encounters between the Indigenous peoples of the region and Europeans; and the Great Dying of 1616-1619, which emptied the village of Patuxet by 1620. Short, two- to six-page chapters alternate between the story of the English settlers and exploring the complex political makeup of the region and the culture, agriculture, and technology of the Wampanoag—all before covering the evolution of the holiday. Refreshingly, the lens Newell offers is a Native one, describing how the Wampanoag and other Native peoples received the English rather than the other way around. Key words ranging from estuary to discover are printed in boldface in the narrative and defined in a closing glossary. Nelson (a member of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa) contributes soft line-and-color illustrations of the proceedings. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Essential. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-72637-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021


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

Close Quickview