An incomplete but appealing and informative depiction of cryptographer Elizebeth Friedman.

CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER

HOW ELIZEBETH FRIEDMAN CHANGED THE COURSE OF TWO WORLD WARS

From Shakespeare to secrets and spies.

When Elizebeth Smith Friedman graduated college in 1915 with a degree in English literature, she had no idea that the future held secret government work in store—she was initially hired by a wealthy eccentric to find messages in Shakespeare’s plays to reveal his “true” identity. Eventually, her talent with language and analysis led to her selection, with her husband, to set up the first code-breaking unit in the U.S. Over her career she unraveled thousands of secret messages, working for the military through two world wars, preventing countless deaths, catching smugglers and spies, and training others to do all of the above. Her work was classified Top Secret Ultra. Concise description with interesting details combines with evocative illustrations that frequently incorporate Friedman’s own words to portray the life of this extraordinary White woman. With the exception of a single quote worked into the illustrations—“Many times I’ve been asked as to how my direction, that is the direction and superior status of a woman as instructor, teacher, mentor…how these men accepted my authority”—no mention is made of how unusual her position was as a woman of the time and, indeed, how her authority was accepted. Still, youngsters will be fascinated by this engaging biographical selection of an original thinker, which includes elements of STEM and history and provides a picture of a dedicated, resilient woman. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

An incomplete but appealing and informative depiction of cryptographer Elizebeth Friedman. (notes, timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3963-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few...

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT FREEDOM

Shamir offers an investigation of the foundations of freedoms in the United States via its founding documents, as well as movements and individuals who had great impacts on shaping and reshaping those institutions.

The opening pages of this picture book get off to a wobbly start with comments such as “You know that feeling you get…when you see a wide open field that you can run through without worrying about traffic or cars? That’s freedom.” But as the book progresses, Shamir slowly steadies the craft toward that wide-open field of freedom. She notes the many obvious-to-us-now exclusivities that the founding political documents embodied—that the entitled, white, male authors did not extend freedom to enslaved African-Americans, Native Americans, and women—and encourages readers to learn to exercise vigilance and foresight. The gradual inclusion of these left-behind people paints a modestly rosy picture of their circumstances today, and the text seems to give up on explaining how Native Americans continue to be left behind. Still, a vital part of what makes freedom daunting is its constant motion, and that is ably expressed. Numerous boxed tidbits give substance to the bigger political picture. Who were the abolitionists and the suffragists, what were the Montgomery bus boycott and the “Uprising of 20,000”? Faulkner’s artwork conveys settings and emotions quite well, and his drawing of Ruby Bridges is about as darling as it gets. A helpful timeline and bibliography appear as endnotes.

A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few misfires. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54728-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Blandly laudatory.

I AM WALT DISNEY

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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