An interesting account, but Victor remains as inscrutable as ever.

The well-documented case of a feral child who didn’t speak, ran on all fours, and was captured in post-Revolution France and studied by a succession of Enlightenment-influenced thinkers gets an interesting, well-informed retelling, but unlike his inquisitors, the boy never comes into focus.

Two who studied him left detailed accounts of their observations: a teacher at a boys’ school, Pierre-Joseph Bonnaterre, and later, a doctor at a Paris school for deaf-mute children, Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard, who undertook his education and gave him his name: Victor. Itard’s intelligent, compassionate housekeeper opened her home to him. Though Victor never learned to speak, Itard’s mostly humane, child-centered teaching profoundly influenced later educators. Inconsistencies in Losure’s take abound. Scenery and buildings merit detailed description, but historical and cultural context is lacking—the French Revolution isn’t mentioned. Readers are invited to judge “cold-eyed” scientists, especially Bonnaterre (“to him, the boy was only a specimen”) by contemporary standards. Itard’s harshest actions (knowing Victor’s fear of heights, Itard dangled him out a high window) escape editorializing. Text, syntax and vocabulary envision quite young readers, yet the eight pages of scholarly footnotes and academic bibliography are strictly for adults. Resources for children or teachers aren’t provided. Victor is known only through those who observed and studied him. Losure’s speculations on what he might have felt have a distancing effect and do not belong in a work of nonfiction.

An interesting account, but Victor remains as inscrutable as ever.   (author's note) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5669-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013


A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history.

In spare verse, Lowry reflects on moments in her childhood, including the bombings of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. 

When she was a child, Lowry played at Waikiki Beach with her grandmother while her father filmed. In the old home movie, the USS Arizona appears through the mist on the horizon. Looking back at her childhood in Hawaii and then Japan, Lowry reflects on the bombings that began and ended a war and how they affected and connected everyone involved. In Part 1, she shares the lives and actions of sailors at Pearl Harbor. Part 2 is stories of civilians in Hiroshima affected by the bombing. Part 3 presents her own experience as an American in Japan shortly after the war ended. The poems bring the haunting human scale of war to the forefront, like the Christmas cards a sailor sent days before he died or the 4-year-old who was buried with his red tricycle after Hiroshima. All the personal stories—of sailors, civilians, and Lowry herself—are grounding. There is heartbreak and hope, reminding readers to reflect on the past to create a more peaceful future. Lowry uses a variety of poetry styles, identifying some, such as triolet and haiku. Pak’s graphite illustrations are like still shots of history, adding to the emotion and somber feeling. He includes some sailors of color among the mostly white U.S. forces; Lowry is white.

A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history. (author’s note, bibliography) (Memoir/poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-12940-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020


“Sam was born excited. He did stuff. He tramped and skylarked and poked his shovel into whatever tripped his fancy.” If that sounds like how the fictional character Huckleberry Finn would describe his creator, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), then author Burleigh has at least nailed Huck-speak in this unorthodox picture-book biography for older Twainophiles. The “editors’ ” “Warning to the Reader” about the impending “ain’ts” and potentially confusing folksy expressions only calls attention to the dicey premise and begs the question, “Who is this for?” That said, Blitt’s lovely, lively pen, ink and watercolors inventively illustrate Huck’s affectionate, time-traveling, tour guide’s view of Twain’s life. A giant-headed Huck looks through a window, Ghost of Christmas Past–style, examining 11-year-old Sam, who’s gazing forlornly at a picture of his late Pap, for instance. Huck journeys from Twain’s Mississippi-loving, school-phobic boyhood years to his steamboat days to his “honest-to-goodness writer” career, to his family life, through hard times when he was “dead-for-earnest broke,” to his death. At the end is another “editor’s” note and timeline: “Since Mr. Finn’s manuscript contains no dates and leaves out some important details.” Huck says this “ain’t intendin’ to be some windy bioografy,” and it isn’t. It’s a breezy homage to Twain’s life and literary world that will please some, aggravate some and utterly baffle others. (Picture book/biography. 10 & up)

Pub Date: March 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-689-83041-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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