An engaging, intriguing story of a fascinating man.

THE RAIN WIZARD

THE AMAZING, MYSTERIOUS, TRUE LIFE OF CHARLES MALLORY HATFIELD

In December 1915, San Diego’s reservoirs were nearly empty, so the city turned to Charles Mallory Hatfield, whose skills at making rain were legendary.

Hatfield, who claimed no supernatural powers, had perfected a method of sending a concoction of evaporating chemicals into the atmosphere to make rain fall. The San Diego City Council contracted with Hatfield to fill the Morena Resevoir to overflowing, for which he would receive $10,000 if successful. A light drizzle quickly turned into torrents, resulting in flooded roads, washed-out bridges, burst dams, widespread property damage, and several fatalities. Blaming Hatfield for the disaster, the City Council refused to pay him. Hatfield was more than compensated for his lost fee by the publicity, and he continued his rainmaking work into the 1930s. When he died in 1958, Hatfield took his rainmaking chemical formula with him. His success in making rain remains a mystery. In this attractively designed and illustrated biography, Brimner offers a fascinating, well-timed portrait of an enigmatic character, providing contextualizing information and efficiently exploring the San Diego controversy. Readers will not find an explanation of how Hatfield acquired his knowledge of chemical processes or his methods of experimentation. The generously leaded text is set within wide margins and accompanied by copious archival illustrations; both decisions keep the relatively complex text accessible.

An engaging, intriguing story of a fascinating man. (author’s note, bibliography, source notes, index) (Biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59078-990-2

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care.

OIL

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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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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