A colorful figure in the history of science whose “misses” are as entertaining and instructive as his “hits.” (timeline,...

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THE MAN WHO KNEW EVERYTHING

THE STRANGE LIFE OF ATHANASIUS KIRCHER

An introduction to an undeservedly obscure polymath of the scientific revolution.

Justly (if anachronistically, as the term wasn’t coined until the 19th century) dubbing Kircher (1602-1680) in his time “the most famous scientist in all of Europe,” Peters devotes most of this profile just to laying out the immense range of his interests and exploits. Along with writings on music, geology, mathematics, travel, and more, he built microscopes and other devices, demonstrated a megaphone with a 5-mile range, and had himself winched down into a live volcano. Being also a showman (“closer to P.T. Barnum than to Einstein”), he also created in Rome a popular museum of “bizarre and fantastical objects” including magnetic clocks and mermaid bones, ancient obelisks, statues that could talk or vomit, and many other marvels. Reading this book is like a walk through that museum, and if certain passages of the hair-fine text, being printed on low-contrast color blocks, require some squinting, Bikadoroff’s portraits of Kircher and other historical figures (all white) over antique landscapes and images add proper notes of wonder as well as period flavor. Many of Kircher’s works and notions were fanciful or, like that talking statue, outright hoaxes, but others have turned out to be valuable contributions; both get equal play, both throughout and in a final section dubbed “Hits and Misses.”

A colorful figure in the history of science whose “misses” are as entertaining and instructive as his “hits.” (timeline, map, lists of sources and further reading) (Biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55451-974-3

Page Count: 60

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals.

EXPLORING SPACE

FROM GALILEO TO THE MARS ROVER AND BEYOND

Finely detailed cutaway views of spacecraft and satellites launch a broad account of space exploration’s past, present, and near future.

Jenkins begins with the journey of Voyager I, currently the “most distant man-made object ever,” then goes back to recap the history of astronomy, the space race, and the space-shuttle program. He goes on to survey major interplanetary probes and the proliferating swarm of near-Earth satellites, then closes with reflections on our current revived interest in visiting Mars and a brief mention of a proposed “space elevator.” This is all familiar territory, at least to well-read young skywatchers and would-be astronauts, and despite occasional wry observations (“For longer stays [in space], things to consider include staying fit and healthy, keeping clean, and not going insane”) it reads more like a digest than a vivid, ongoing story. Biesty’s eye for exact, precise detail is well in evidence in the illustrations, though, and if one spread of generic residents of the International Space Station is the only place his human figures aren’t all white and male, at least he offers riveting depictions of space gear and craft with every last scientific instrument and structural element visible and labeled.

A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals. (index, timeline, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8931-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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