A patchy, unusually wrong-footed outing from the deservedly esteemed historian.

A portrait of the Revolutionary War as a family spat that got out of hand.

In a savvy effort to make the war more accessible to young audiences, Krull begins by characterizing it as a “blowup between a parent figure and unruly children.” She then goes on to trace its course from the Stamp Act to the Treaty of Paris. Glib and readable as her overall account may be, though, it’s so frequently interrupted by discursive anecdotes and “Wise Words” from both participants and such modern savants as Hillary Clinton and Lin-Manual Miranda (the latter in an amusingly bowdlerized quote) that it’s often hard to keep track of events. More problematically, her language is afflicted with a pervasive parochialism that comes out both in her repeated use of the term “slaves” and, notwithstanding a proper acknowledgement of the influence of the Iroquois Confederacy on the political thinking of the Declaration’s drafters, several references to Native peoples as generic “Indians.” She does remember the ladies as well as African-Americans who fought on both sides, and she closes with an inspiring appreciation of the ways ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence have gone on to affect the histories of this and many other countries. In her line drawings DiVito adds tongue-in-cheek notes, portraying George Washington as Captain America, for instance, and tucking a few extra heads among those on Mount Rushmore.

A patchy, unusually wrong-footed outing from the deservedly esteemed historian. (maps, index, source list) (History. 10-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-238110-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017


From the They Did What? series

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015



The life of Manjiro Nakahama, also known as John Mung, makes an amazing story: shipwrecked as a young fisherman for months on a remote island, rescued by an American whaler, he became the first Japanese resident of the US. Then, after further adventures at sea and in the California gold fields, he returned to Japan where his first-hand knowledge of America and its people earned him a central role in the modernization of his country after its centuries of peaceful isolation had ended. Expanding a passage from her Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun (1985, Newbery Honor), Blumberg not only delivers an absorbing tale of severe hardships and startling accomplishments, but also takes side excursions to give readers vivid pictures of life in mid-19th-century Japan, aboard a whaler, and amidst the California Gold Rush. The illustrations, a generous mix of contemporary photos and prints with Manjiro’s own simple, expressive drawings interspersed, are at least as revealing. Seeing a photo of Commodore Perry side by side with a Japanese artist’s painted portrait, or strange renditions of a New England town and a steam train, based solely on Manjiro’s verbal descriptions, not only captures the unique flavor of Japanese art, but points up just how high were the self-imposed barriers that separated Japan from the rest of the world. Once again, Blumberg shows her ability to combine high adventure with vivid historical detail to open a window onto the past. (source note) (Biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-17484-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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