THE ROMANS

GODS, EMPERORS, AND DORMICE

In cartoon panels, the inimitable Williams offers snapshots of ancient Rome from the mythological creation of the universe to the fall of the empire.

Lightly salting her account with Latin quips (“In theobroma cacao fidemus!”), Williams pens a semiserious narrative history broken up into bite-sized bits on single-topic spreads (“The Gruesome Gauls”). She illustrates them with small cartoon scenes that depict significant incidents or scenes of daily life. Dropping side comments and the occasional Res vera (“fact”) as he goes, a dozy dormouse aptly named Dormeo Augustus squires young readers along. He leads them past the major gods, the tale of Romulus and Remus, Rome’s first seven kings, the Republic, the Caesars and a select few other emperors. There are side excursions to the Forum and a crowded bath, plus glimpses of patrician and plebeian life, slavery, gladiators and the renowned Roman army. Though a certain amount of mayhem makes its way into her account, the author tones down the worst excesses (as Dormeo puts it, the Sabine women were “treated most cruelly”—that’s one way to put it) or acknowledges them only in passing. Not a very detailed picture, but broad enough to leave younger readers with a general sense of how grand the grandeur was. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

 

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6581-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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A sensitive, discussable access point for children learning about Holocaust history.

JARS OF HOPE

HOW ONE WOMAN HELPED SAVE 2,500 CHILDREN DURING THE HOLOCAUST

The brave work of Irena Sendler, one of the righteous gentiles of World War II, is succinctly depicted in this new picture book.

“There are two kinds of people in this world, good and bad.” As a child, wise words from her father gave Irena a guiding principle to live by and prompted the adult Sendler to find ways to save 2,500 innocent Jewish children and babies from the horror of their Holocaust fate. She worked with a network of smugglers and shelters to hide them in carpentry boxes, vegetable sacks, and laundry piles, transporting them to orphanages and the homes of willing Christian foster families, recording the children’s names so they could be found later and burying her lists in the titular jars. And when she herself was imprisoned by the Nazis, Zegota, the Polish resistance group, bribed guards to free her so she could continue her important work. Digital and traditional art in opaque dark browns and grays illustrates the sinister period and shadowy existence of these saved children. Roy’s chronological narrative concentrates on the period from 1940 to 1944 and stresses Sendler’s heroism; it also includes invented scenes and dialogue, marking it as fiction.

A sensitive, discussable access point for children learning about Holocaust history. (afterword, author’s note, glossary, index, source notes) (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62370-425-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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As Wild Bill Hickok “says” in his blurb: “Factual as far as it goes.” (glossary, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

WHAT IF YOU MET A COWBOY?

From the What If You Met… series

Following other books in the What if You Met…(a Pirate, 2004; a Knight, 2006) series, this title somewhat less successfully tackles the subject of cowboys.

The image of the handsome cowboy idealized in movies, “on the lookout for pretty schoolteachers and Indians on the warpath,” is shattered by Jacob McHugh Peavey, the “real deal,” unwashed and unshaven. Only careful readers will determine that Jake’s heyday was around 1860-1885. He’s white, although Adkins notes that “[a]bout half of [cowboys] are African-American, Indian, or Hispanic.” Cowgirls are dismissed in a side note. Given this limited perspective, youngsters interested in diversity in the Wild West will want to look elsewhere. Those not familiar with the history of Native Americans may require a source to understand potentially confusing descriptions of Franciscan missionaries who introduced horses in the Southwest as “relatively gentle and patient” conquerors who received an assist from European diseases or the “hostile native” tribes or youth that may on occasion pose a threat to Jake. (Source notes—a list of titles consulted—are provided, but there are no specific citations.) However, children enamored of cowboy gear and cattle drives will find a plethora of information about and detailed illustrations of saddles, guns, brands, the chuck wagon and more, each topic covered in one or two pages.

As Wild Bill Hickok “says” in his blurb: “Factual as far as it goes.” (glossary, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59643-149-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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