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The history of what people wear is never simple, hemmed about with culture, nurture, mores and occasionally cockamamie ideas. Sills strives to address all of these issues in a busy format, but doesn’t always hit the mark. Her chapters are only a few pages in length and her pictures—most of them photographs—are well chosen. However, the text is printed on papers that reflect many kinds of printed cloth, visually interesting but hard to read. Her subject is American girls’ clothing and the confining aspects of girls’ clothes—from swaddling and stays to hoopskirts to bustles—is highlighted in the 12 chapter headings. She’s so breezy, though, that sometimes information isn’t complete—like why bobbed hair was such an innovation (freeing girls from caring for very long locks) or incorrect (the derivation she gives for “nylon, for instance). Young female readers will be delighted with the photos of Lucia, who designed her own dress, and astounded at how late the idea of females wearing pants came along. (glossary, index, bibliography, Webography, author’s note, lists of museums and organizations) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 31, 2005

ISBN: 0-8234-1708-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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A pleasing new picture book looks at George Washington’s career through an agricultural lens. Sprinkling excerpts from his letters and diaries throughout to allow its subject to speak in his own voice, the narrative makes a convincing case for Washington’s place as the nation’s First Farmer. His innovations, in addition to applying the scientific method to compost, include a combination plow-tiller-harrow, the popularization of the mule and a two-level barn that put horses to work at threshing grain in any weather. Thomas integrates Washington’s military and political adventures into her account, making clear that it was his frustration as a farmer that caused him to join the revolutionary cause. Lane’s oil illustrations, while sometimes stiff, appropriately portray a man who was happiest when working the land. Backmatter includes a timeline, author’s notes on both Mount Vernon and Washington the slaveholder, resources for further exploration and a bibliography. (Picture book/biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59078-460-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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The author of Cod’s Tale (2001) again demonstrates a dab hand at recasting his adult work for a younger audience. Here the topic is salt, “the only rock eaten by human beings,” and, as he engrossingly demonstrates, “the object of wars and revolutions” throughout recorded history and before. Between his opening disquisition on its chemical composition and a closing timeline, he explores salt’s sources and methods of extraction, its worldwide economic influences from prehistoric domestication of animals to Gandhi’s Salt March, its many uses as a preservative and industrial product, its culinary and even, as the source for words like “salary” and “salad,” its linguistic history. Along with lucid maps and diagrams, Schindler supplies detailed, sometimes fanciful scenes to go along, finishing with a view of young folk chowing down on orders of French fries as ghostly figures from history look on. Some of Kurlansky’s claims are exaggerated (the Erie and other canals were built to transport more than just salt, for instance), and there are no leads to further resources, but this salutary (in more ways than one) micro-history will have young readers lifting their shakers in tribute. (Picture book/nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-23998-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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