Undisguised ephemera.

READ REVIEW

ATLANTIS

THE SEARCH FOR THE LOST CITY

With help from a CD-sized cardboard decoder disk, young archaeologists can discover for themselves that the ancient Atlantean language was actually English.

Threaded together along a thin and thoroughly predictable plotline involving a fictional 19th-century submarine expedition to the Mediterranean, this low-budget item assembles a hodgepodge of facts about Minoans and mazes, underwater archaeology, mapmaking history and theories about Atlantis. It lays these out along with easily spotted “clues” to the legendary island’s location on old documents and artifacts. Many of said clues are short messages slightly hidden behind a substitution code that uses modified Roman capitals. Exceptionally lazy readers can skip to the end to find the translations, along with solutions to other conundrums posed during the expedition’s contrived misadventures. Printed on heavy stock with an occasional side flap, the spreads all offer a visual jumble of narrative blocks, small historical images, photos of live models in period dress and new art to fill in the gaps.

Undisguised ephemera. (Novelty. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7534-6680-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Kingfisher

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener.

MARY BOWSER AND THE CIVIL WAR SPY RING

From the Spy on History series , Vol. 1

Using a provided packet of helpful tools, readers can search for clues along with a historical spy in the house of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

Fans of ciphers and hidden clues will find both in abundance, beginning on the copyright page and continuing to a final, sealed-off section of explanations and solutions. Fictionalized but spun around actual figures and events, the tale centers on Bowser, a free African-American who worked undercover as a maid in Davis’ house and passed information to a ring of white Richmond spies. Here she looks for the key phrase that will unlock a Vigenère cipher—an alphabetic substitution code—while struggling to hide her intelligence and ability to read. As an extra challenge, she leaves the diary in which she records some of her experiences concealed for readers to discover, using allusive and sometimes-misleading clues that are hidden in Cliff’s monochrome illustrations and in cryptic marginal notations. A Caesar cipher wheel, a sheet of red acetate, and several other items in a front pocket supply an espionage starter kit that readers can use along the way; it is supplemented by quick introductions in the narrative to ciphers and codes, including Morse dashes and dots and the language of flowers.

Plenty of work for sharp eyes and active intellects in this history-based series opener. (answers, historical notes, biographies, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7611-8739-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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Chatty, formulaic, superficial—and dispensable, as the content is neither reliable nor systematic. .

STATES AND CAPITALS

UNITED WE STAND!

From the Basher History series

Sprouting bodies and grins, the states introduce themselves alphabetically in this Basher History gallery.

Following the series’ cast-in-stone design, each entry poses in a cartoon portrait with small emblems representing prominent physical features, industry, number of native U.S. presidents and other select distinctions. On opposite pages, a hearty self-description dominates: “Aloha! Come and hang ten with me, dude. I’m a bunch of chilled-out islands in the Pacific, but I have a fiery heart.” This is sandwiched between bulleted lists of superficial facts, from state bird, flower and nickname to (for Arkansas) “Known for diverse landscape, extreme weather, and Walmart.” U.S. territories bring up the rear, followed by a table of official state mottos and, glued to the rear cover, a foldout map. Along with out-and-out errors (a mistranslation of “e pluribus unum”) and unqualified claims (Boston built the first subway), Green offers confusing or opaque views on the origins of “Hawkeye,” “Sooners,” some state names and which of two “Mississippi Deltas” was the birthplace of the blues. Furthermore, a reference to “sacred hunting grounds” in West Virginia and Kentucky’s claim that “It wasn’t until pioneer Daniel Boone breached the Cumberland Gap…that my verdant pastures were colonized” are, at best, ingenuous.

Chatty, formulaic, superficial—and dispensable, as the content is neither reliable nor systematic. . (index, glossary) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7534-7138-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Kingfisher

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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