Clear, engaging, and fun (and just a little iconoclastic).



What did presidents do before being elected? Tour a gallery of presidential portraits and find out!

There is always just one president at a time, but the presidents to come—maybe 10 or more—will be out there somewhere. When John F. Kennedy was elected as the 35th president in 1961, the next 10 presidents were alive. What were they doing? Lyndon Baines Johnson was Kennedy’s vice president. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer. George H.W. Bush was president of an oil exploration company. Donald Trump was attending a military academy, “where his father had hoped he would learn some discipline.” In his painterly art, Rex depicts a diverse group of people touring a gallery of presidential portraits. The tourists are multiracial and multiethnic, young and old. There’s a woman wearing a hijab pushing a stroller and a woman using a wheelchair. But the faces on the wall are all of white men until No. 44, President Barack Obama. There is no portrait of President Trump, but there is one of Hillary Clinton, “a woman nominated by a major party for the highest office of the land”—which, though true, is misleading in this context. Follow her gaze to an empty frame, No. 46, where the next portrait of a future president will be included. What are future presidents doing right now? The extensive backmatter is accessible and informative, and it includes reading suggestions for young readers.

Clear, engaging, and fun (and just a little iconoclastic). (presidential birthplaces, presidential requirements, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7488-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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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. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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