A breezy look at a historical footnote, just right for young children on their way to the amusement park.

READ REVIEW

A ROYAL RIDE

CATHERINE THE GREAT'S GREAT INVENTION

Who knew that Catherine the Great was such a sport?

Today’s roller-coaster enthusiasts can thank Catherine the Great for her role in the creation of an early roller coaster. Since the 1400s, Russians had created ice slides, like giant versions of today’s playground slides but made of wood, with the slide itself covered in ice. Catherine apparently loved wintertime, when she could whoosh down the slope in her “jeweled tiara and tapestry gown,” but the fun ended when winter ended and the ice melted. So she ordered her royal builders to create a slide that could be enjoyed year-round. She envisioned “Gilded beams and poles as high as a mountain. Golden stairs that spiraled all the way to the top.” What she got, in 1784, was a wooden structure that threatened splinters in “her royal bum.” It was all downhill from there…and uphill…and around. With the installation of rails and a wheeled carriage, it was a success and the progenitor of the many refinements over the many years since. In lighthearted illustrations rendered in Adobe Photoshop, Catherine is portrayed as a rosy-cheeked, fun-loving, olive-skinned young woman who sponsored schools, universities, and museums. Absent from both text and illustrations are the despot’s less-sterling attributes. Simplifying history to provide context for a purposively upbeat story can be a slippery slope, but young readers will enjoy the fun in which the volume is intended.

A breezy look at a historical footnote, just right for young children on their way to the amusement park. (author’s note, timeline, bibliography, acknowledgments) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9657-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Pretty but substance-free—which is probably not how any of this book’s subjects would like to be remembered.

SHE PERSISTED

13 AMERICAN WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD

Inspired by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s stand against the appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general—and titled for Sen. Mitch McConnell’s stifling of same—glancing introductions to 13 American women who “persisted.”

Among the figures relatively familiar to the audience are Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, and Ruby Bridges; among the more obscure are union organizer Clara Lemlich, physician Virginia Apgar, and Olympian Florence Griffith Joyner. Sonia Sotomayor and Oprah Winfrey are two readers may already have some consciousness of. The women have clearly been carefully selected to represent American diversity, although there are significant gaps—there are no Asian-American women, for instance—and the extreme brevity of the coverage leads to reductivism and erasure: Osage dancer Maria Tallchief is identified only as “Native American,” and lesbian Sally Ride’s sexual orientation is elided completely. Clinton’s prose is almost bloodless, running to such uninspiring lines as, about Margaret Chase Smith, “she persisted in championing women’s rights and more opportunities for women in the military, standing up for free speech and supporting space exploration.” Boiger does her best to compensate, creating airy watercolors full of movement for each double-page spread. Quotations are incorporated into illustrations—although the absence of dates and context leaves them unmoored. That’s the overall feeling readers will get, as the uniformity of presentation and near-total lack of detail makes this overview so broad as to be ineffectual. The failure to provide any sources for further information should the book manage to pique readers’ interests simply exacerbates the problem.

Pretty but substance-free—which is probably not how any of this book’s subjects would like to be remembered. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4172-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...

ROSA PARKS

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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