DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THE PIONEERS

In an addition to his series that repeatedly demonstrates how much we don’t know, Davis tackles the pioneer days and routes to the west. The flyleaf sets the tone by alerting readers to the “cool quotes” and “fascinating sidebars” of the volume and proclaiming, “The West doesn’t get any wilder than this.” An accessible resource for the many teachers who do units on the Oregon Trail, this offering covers such topics as Lewis and Clark, mountain men, trail dangers, the Gold Rush, cowboys, railroads, and Indian wars. The question-and-answer format invites browsing and offers a fair amount of information, but the work is condescending to young readers who don’t need silly illustrations and dumb questions to entice them. “Did the pioneers take the Yellow Brick Road to Oregon?” “Did the pioneers use their best parachutes for jumping off?” “Were there Pilgrims on the trail?” The breezy, casual style fails to provide sufficient context for the occasional serious sidebars, such as General Sherman’s statement that “the more Indians we kill this year, the less will have to be killed in the next war.” The work does succeed in one of its missions—to tell the interesting story of real pioneers “who braved harsh winters and burning summers, disease and disaster, to head west in search of a dream come true.” Though an adequate introduction, this is not for serious readers. (time line, additional resources) (Nonfiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-028617-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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TWENTY-ONE ELEPHANTS AND STILL STANDING

Strong rhythms and occasional full or partial rhymes give this account of P.T. Barnum’s 1884 elephant parade across the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge an incantatory tone. Catching a whiff of public concern about the new bridge’s sturdiness, Barnum seizes the moment: “’I will stage an event / that will calm every fear, erase every worry, / about that remarkable bridge. / My display will amuse, inform / and astound some. / Or else my name isn’t Barnum!’” Using a rich palette of glowing golds and browns, Roca imbues the pachyderms with a calm solidity, sending them ambling past equally solid-looking buildings and over a truly monumental bridge—which soars over a striped Big Top tent in the final scene. A stately rendition of the episode, less exuberant, but also less fictionalized, than Phil Bildner’s Twenty-One Elephants (2004), illustrated by LeUyen Pham. (author’s note, resource list) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-44887-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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This lighthearted addition to the STEM shelf encourages children to question, hypothesize, experiment, and observe.

IT'S A ROUND, ROUND WORLD!

From the Joulia Copernicus series

In a confident first-person narrative, young scientist Joulia Copernicus debunks the story that Columbus “proved Earth is round.”

Informing readers that Columbus knew this fact, and so did most people of his time, Joulia also points out that “Ancient Greek, Islamic, and Indian scholars theorized that Earth was round WAY before Columbus’s time.” Confident Joulia explains how Columbus, shown as a haughty captain in the humorous, cartoon illustrations, and his fellow mariners confirmed Earth was round by discerning “that when ships sail away from you, they seem to disappear from the bottom. When they sail toward you, they appear from the top. On a flat Earth, you’d see the entire ship the entire time.” The accompanying illustrations, almost like animation cels, provide the visuals readers need to confirm these assertions. Joulia also turns to astronomy. A lunar eclipse is the highlight of a double-page spread with a large yellow sun, a personified blue and green Earth wearing sunglasses, and the moon moving in iterations through the Earth’s shadow. This shows readers that the Earth’s shadow is “ROUND!” Joulia has straight, brown hair and pale skin and is almost always the only human in any given illustration. It’s great to see a young woman scientist, but it’s too bad there’s not more diversity around her. Two experiments stimulate further exploration.

This lighthearted addition to the STEM shelf encourages children to question, hypothesize, experiment, and observe. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63592-128-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: StarBerry Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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