Overall the connection between the boy and the future general and president is labored and tenuous, and it may well baffle...

GEORGE WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY

A MOSTLY TRUE TALE

This potentially amusing blend of story and historical fact feels a bit strained.

“When George Washington went to sleep Friday night, he was six years old. When he woke up on Saturday, he was seven.” Eager to observe his birthday but thwarted throughout the day, George studies with older brother Augustine, spends a bored few minutes heaving rocks across the Rappahannock, helps his father prune the cherry trees with disastrous results and finally celebrates at dinner with his loving family. The boy’s concerns about a seemingly forgotten birthday will resonate with young readers, and Blitt’s signature caricature style in watercolor is lively and droll. McNamara offers both facts and myths—presented in bordered inset captions—about the grownup George that relate to her fictional account of his seventh birthday. For example, as George crosses an icy creek carrying the remains of the cherry tree (“Hope I never have to do this again”), the caption reveals that in fact he had to cross the Delaware many times “in one of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War.” The author offers a first-person narrative in Washington’s voice, “George Washington Tells the Truth,” following the picture-book story.

Overall the connection between the boy and the future general and president is labored and tenuous, and it may well baffle young readers unfamiliar with most of those stories. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-84499-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

THE CREATURE OF THE PINES

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Moving and accessible.

BEAR AND FRED

A WORLD WAR II STORY

A bear and his boy survive the Holocaust.

A stuffed bear tells the story of his life with a young Dutch Jewish boy as World War II engulfs the Netherlands. The bear’s words are never maudlin or precious. Rather, he is an observer with keen eyes and ears and a loving heart. Fred, the boy, lives with his parents and brothers in Delft but is then taken to Amsterdam to stay with his grandfather. Fred is warned to keep silent about his family. After Grandpa sews a yellow star onto Fred’s coat, Mama returns, rips off the star, and takes Fred to live with a “nice lady.” The war ends, and Fred and his family are all happily united. In her author’s note, Argaman describes how she saw the bear at Yad Vashem, Israel‘s Holocaust museum, and exchanged letters with Fred Lessing, now living in America, because she wanted to share the story. Translated from Hebrew, it reads seamlessly and beautifully presents a family caught up in war as seen from the perspective of a caring but historically naïve eyewitness. Without in any manner diminishing the actual horrors of World War II or any current fighting, the author enables a child to grasp in some small manner the impact of conflict on a family. Loose-lined, simply colored illustrations focus attention on the titular characters.

Moving and accessible. (author’s note, photograph) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1821-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

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