History buffs and fans of forensic television shows will especially appreciate this exploration of one of the worst fires in...

BIG TOP BURNING

THE TRUE STORY OF AN ARSONIST, A MISSING GIRL, AND THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH

In 1944, 167 people died in a circus fire in Hartford, Connecticut; 59 of them were children under 10.

Some were trampled when the audience of 6,000 tried to flee the tent; others died from burns. This chronological account vividly describes the circus, the fire, the rescue, and the medical care that followed. The polished text draws from interviews the author conducted as well as legal documents, newspapers, letters, and more. Black-and-white photographs of mixed quality add both information and a sense of the time. Much of the book focuses on mysteries surrounding the fire, such as its causes and unidentified bodies, puzzling them out from official reports from the time and subsequent investigations. Woven throughout is the story of a child’s unclaimed body, perhaps that of Eleanor Cook, a missing girl who wasn’t identified at the time. Details about the child’s clothes, her injuries from being trampled, and even a dental chart provide clues for readers to assess. It remains uncertain if the fire was caused by arson or if the body was Eleanor Cook’s, leaving readers with the realistic but possibly disappointing view that not all mysteries from the past can be solved.

History buffs and fans of forensic television shows will especially appreciate this exploration of one of the worst fires in American history. (author’s note, notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61373-114-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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Trots in all the tropes except the cherry tree, but the rosy glow may not be misplaced considering his predecessor.

JOE BIDEN

A BIOGRAPHY FOR YOUNG READERS

A hagiographic portrait of the United States’ newest president-elect.

Gormley begins with Biden’s working-class origins, then retraces his development as a “natural leader” from roguish, family-centered senior class president to responsible and still family-centered national one. Focusing as she goes on values or character-revealing anecdotes and sound bites (including multiple early predictions that he would grow up to be president), she turns his father’s motto “if you get knocked down, get up” into a thematic mantra. Gormley portrays his career as a heroic march to the White House past both political challenges and wrenching personal tragedies. The author mixes frank accounts of the latter with heartwarming family stories like the time his sons, then 6 and 7, sat him down in 1976 and told him to marry Jill Jacobs. The author presents Biden’s early positions on, for instance, same-sex marriage or crime as either evolving or errors acknowledged in retrospect, dismisses allegations of sexual harassment, and frames his verbal gaffes as just foibles: “Obama was ‘the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.’ Oops. Joe Biden had spoken without thinking.” Side looks at relevant topics from trickle-down economics to the Electoral College inelegantly interrupt the text but serve to fill in some of the historical background, and the tactics and failures of the Trump administration, particularly to address the Covid-19 pandemic, get a good airing. The narrative ends the weekend after Election Day with an analysis of the challenges ahead. No illustrations or index were seen.

Trots in all the tropes except the cherry tree, but the rosy glow may not be misplaced considering his predecessor. (source notes) (Biography. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7932-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A well-researched and spirited slice of history.

STAR-SPANGLED

THE STORY OF A FLAG, A BATTLE, AND THE AMERICAN ANTHEM

An in-depth look at the events that led to the connected stories of the United States flag, the national anthem, and an important military victory.

The United States was a vulnerable young nation when the War of 1812 plunged it into conflict with Great Britain. The British navy targeted the Chesapeake Bay and the city of Baltimore for attack, both for its proximity to Washington and the shipbuilding that occurred there. Grove provides comprehensive background about both nations’ underlying military strategy. The actual story about the commission of the flag that flew over Fort McHenry is explored in great detail, as is the confluence of events that found Maryland-born attorney Francis Scott Key on a ship during battle, the aftermath of which inspired him to write the words that became the national anthem. Grove provides a page-turning narrative that enhances the familiar aspects of this story and fills in those little-known areas. He paints a full picture of Key’s attitudes toward slavery as well as of Mary Pickersgill and how she came to take on the task of making a somewhat unusual flag. In addition to details about shipbuilding and military planning, he weaves in the role of enslaved fighters who ran away to the British, who promised freedom, forming the Colonial Marines. Generous archival illustrations and the rich and varied backmatter make this a boon for fledgling historians.

A well-researched and spirited slice of history. (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4102-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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