Little Lotta’s big life is a globe-trotting adventure of a woman ahead of her time, reminding contemporary readers that, “if...

Harris introduces 19th-century performer Lotta Crabtree in her newest biography.

Born in 1847 to English immigrants, Lotta Crabtree became a darling of the stage in the latter half of the 19th century. Lotta got her start as a child performing as a so-called “Fairy Star” in California Gold Rush mining communities but came to be known across the United States and in England as well. Lotta established her own style, with a willingness to bend rules and break tradition, her playful physicality on stage also earning her the distinction of first female comic performer. In addition to the narrative biography, informative sidebars provide a more in-depth look at technology, events, and cultural issues of Lotta’s life and times, including the invention of the telegraph, completion of the transcontinental railroad, and the rise and fall of minstrel shows. The sheer number of Lotta’s major life events that the author includes in such a brief space leads to occasional disruptions in the narrative flow. Nevertheless, this easy-to-read biography is sure to appeal to fans of 19th-century American history as well as those seeking narratives of strong and trailblazing women.

Little Lotta’s big life is a globe-trotting adventure of a woman ahead of her time, reminding contemporary readers that, “if a girl is going to truly succeed in the world she must do so as her own self.” (timeline, source notes, glossary, bibliography, index) (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4556-2230-6

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017


From the They Did What? series

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015


From the Giants of Science series

Hot on the heels of the well-received Leonardo da Vinci (2005) comes another agreeably chatty entry in the Giants of Science series. Here the pioneering physicist is revealed as undeniably brilliant, but also cantankerous, mean-spirited, paranoid and possibly depressive. Newton’s youth and annus mirabilis receive respectful treatment, the solitude enforced by family estrangement and then the plague seen as critical to the development of his thoughtful, methodical approach. His subsequent squabbles with the rest of the scientific community—he refrained from publishing one treatise until his rival was dead—further support the image of Newton as a scientific lone wolf. Krull’s colloquial treatment sketches Newton’s advances in clearly understandable terms without bogging the text down with detailed explanations. A final chapter on “His Impact” places him squarely in the pantheon of great thinkers, arguing that both his insistence on the scientific method and his theories of physics have informed all subsequent scientific thought. A bibliography, web site and index round out the volume; the lack of detail on the use of sources is regrettable in an otherwise solid offering for middle-grade students. (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-05921-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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