A detail-rich picture book best for readers who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in history or science.

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COUNTING THE STARS

THE STORY OF KATHERINE JOHNSON, NASA MATHEMATICIAN

This biography of renowned mathematician Katherine Johnson featuring illustrations by Colón aims for elementary-age readers.

Cline-Ransome (Finding Langston, 2018, etc.) traces Johnson’s love of math, curiosity about the world, and studiousness from her early entry to school through her help sending a man into space as a human computer at NASA. The text is detailed and lengthy, between one and four paragraphs of fairly small text on each spread. Many biographies of black achievers during segregation focus on society’s limits and the subject’s determination to reach beyond them. This book takes a subtler approach, mentioning segregation only once (at her new work assignment, “she ignored the stares and the COLORED GIRLS signs on the bathroom door and the segregated cafeteria”) and the glass ceiling for women twice in a factual tone as potential obstacles that did not stop Johnson. Her work is described in the context of the space race, which helps to clarify the importance of her role. Colón’s signature soft, textured illustrations evoke the time period and Johnson’s feeling of wonder about the world, expressed in the refrain, “Why? What? How?” The text moves slowly and demands a fairly high comprehension level (e.g., “it was the job of these women computers to double-check the engineers’ data, develop complex equations, and analyze the numbers”). An author’s note repeats much of the text, adding quotes from Johnson and more details about her more recent recognition.

A detail-rich picture book best for readers who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in history or science. (Picture book/biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0475-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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The photos effectively convey the scope of Harvey’s impact, but while journalistically sound, this informative book doesn’t...

HURRICANE HARVEY

DISASTER IN TEXAS AND BEYOND

The devastation of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey is explained, from the storm’s origin to its ongoing aftermath, in this photo-heavy book.

In retelling the story of how a storm got so big it caused 82 deaths and billions of dollars in damage along the Texas coast, Minneapolis-based author Felix details the science of hurricanes for those unfamiliar and unpacks why this and a series of other hurricanes made for one of the most damaging weather years on record. Although it’s packed with info-boxes, a glossary, tips for safety during a hurricane and helping survivors afterward, a snapshot of five other historic hurricanes, and well-curated photos, it misses an opportunity to convey some of the emotion and pain victims endured and continue to feel. Instead, much of the text feels like a summation of news reports, an efficient attempt to answer the whys of Hurricane Harvey, with only a few direct quotations. Readers learn about Virgil Smith, a Dickinson, Texas, teen who rescued others from floodwaters with an air mattress, but the information is secondhand. The book does answer, clearly and concisely, questions a kid might have about a hurricane, such as what happens to animals at the zoo in such an emergency and how a tropical storm forms in the first place. A portion of the book’s proceeds are to be donated to the Texas Library Association’s Disaster Relief Fund.

The photos effectively convey the scope of Harvey’s impact, but while journalistically sound, this informative book doesn’t capture the fear and shock those who lived through the hurricane must have felt. (Nonfiction. 9-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5415-2888-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

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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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