A wordy but useful introduction to a popular Washington museum that has an engaging heroine.

SIMONE VISITS THE MUSEUM

A young girl has fun exploring the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in this illustrated children's book.

Simone is thrilled when her mother decides to take her to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C, where she lives. Before they leave home, her mother asks if she remembers how to behave in a museum, and she answers quickly and correctly: “Stay near you at all times, lower my voice when speaking, greet the workers, and keep my hands to myself.” After taking a Metrobus to their destination, Simone marvels at the large size of the museum and learns that it celebrates “the resilience and strength of African Americans.” When her mother explains that “families were separated during slavery,” however, Simone misses her father and her brother, Scott, both of whom stayed home, so after she and her mother enjoy an outdoor lunch at a cafe, they join their male family members at Anacostia Park and talk about the day. At times, the book relies too much on telling instead of showing: It asserts, for example, that the museum honors the “resilience” of African Americans without showing an exhibit or giving examples that would have enabled its youthful readers to see what that word means (especially if they’re too young to know what “resilience” is). The text also needlessly mentions some details shown repeatedly via the illustrations (as when Simone speaks of “my red sneakers and leggings”). Still, Marie’s colorful illustrations are nicely detailed, enhancing the adventures of family members who have skin tones in varied shades of brown, and they depict not just the museum, but spots such as the National Mall and the Anacostia River. As for the museum itself, as Simone observes, it’s “huuuuugggggge!” This book, by the author of Geoengineering: Governance and Technology (2013), would no doubt make a first visit more enjoyable and less intimidating for many children.

A wordy but useful introduction to a popular Washington museum that has an engaging heroine.

Pub Date: April 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9995685-0-7

Page Count: 38

Publisher: Mayhew

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2020

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This may spark a few imaginations, but its lack of directions and the difficulty level of most of the projects—not to...

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH ONLY ONE SHOE?

REUSE, RECYCLE, REINVENT

Readers learn how to “Reuse, Recycle, Reinvent” what some might call trash into treasures.  

Rhyming poems each introduce a single way to reuse/reinvent something: A toilet becomes a planter, the titular shoe morphs into a birdhouse, a (very large, nonstandard) light bulb houses a fish, and favorite jeans that are holey? They become a new purse. The most creative has to be a table supported by a pitchfork: “If you’re wanting to picnic on uneven ground, / where your table’s unstable or up on a mound, / stop and think! Be creative! The answer’s around.” While cans, wood and wire are both easily found and transformed into musical instruments, not all these projects use such common materials or are as simple to complete: Half of a boat turns into a covered bench, a car becomes a bed, and a grocery cart transforms into a chair. And although it’s neat to see a farmer’s new watering trough (an enormous tire) and a community’s new playground (an old ambulance anchors it), these are not projects that are likely to fire readers up to do similar things. Cartoon spot illustrations share space with photographs of the new inventions, and both are needed to make sense of the poems.

This may spark a few imaginations, but its lack of directions and the difficulty level of most of the projects—not to mention its failure to impart reasons for reducing, reusing and recycling—make this one to skip. (Poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55451-642-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A crisp historical vignette.

BEN'S REVOLUTION

BENJAMIN RUSSELL AND THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL

A boy experiences the Boston Tea Party, the response to the Intolerable Acts, and the battle at Breed’s Hill in Charlestown.

Philbrick has taken his Bunker Hill (2013), pulled from its 400 pages the pivotal moments, added a 12-year-old white boy—Benjamin Russell—as the pivot, and crafted a tale of what might have happened to him during those days of unrest in Boston from 1773 to 1775 (Russell was a real person). Philbrick explains, in plainspoken but gradually accelerating language, the tea tax, the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, and the quartering of troops in Boston as well as the institution of a military government. Into this ferment, he introduces Benjamin Russell, where he went to school, his part-time apprenticeship at Isaiah Thomas’ newspaper, sledding down Beacon Hill, and the British officer who cleaned the cinders from the snow so the boys could sled farther and farther. It is these humanizing touches that make war its own intolerable act. Readers see Benjamin, courtesy of Minor’s misty gouache-and-watercolor tableaux, as he becomes stranded outside Boston Neck and becomes a clerk for the patriots. Significant characters are introduced, as is the geography of pre-landfilled Boston, to gain a good sense of why certain actions took place where they did. The final encounter at Breed’s Hill demonstrates how a battle can be won by retreating.

A crisp historical vignette. (maps, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Historical fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16674-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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