Solid research underpins whimsy in McCarthy’s latest historical foray.



In time for the 2016 Summer Olympics, McCarthy spotlights the men’s marathon at the first Olympic Games hosted by the United States, held at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

Representing six countries, the race’s 32 starting athletes included 17 Americans. McCarthy focuses on 10 runners, including two South Africans, a Cuban, a Frenchman, and six Americans. The 90-degree heat and scarce water daunted the athletes—several succumbed to cramps and nausea. Attendees in autos and on bicycles created thick dust clouds that impeded the runners’ vision and breathing. Justifying the titular claim, McCarthy recounts events that contrast with the tightly scripted modern Olympics. Len Tau, chased by an angry dog, ran a mile off course—and still finished ninth. Felix Carvajal, the Cuban, stopped to snack and practice his English with bystanders—and cried to learn that he had finished fourth. American Fred Lorz, driven off in an automobile after suffering cramps, mysteriously showed up first at the finish line—but was quickly disqualified for cheating. Prefiguring today’s doping scandals, Thomas Hicks, the marathon’s winner, begged for water during the race—and was given strychnine by his trainers. Trademark googly eyes notwithstanding, McCarthy’s acrylic compositions of runners are based on period photographs. Endpapers reproduce fairgoers’ handwritten postcards.

Solid research underpins whimsy in McCarthy’s latest historical foray. (historical note, photographs, selected bibliography) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0639-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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One determined man brings two villages together with a hammer, chisel, and an iron will.

Deep in the heart of India, a mighty mountain separates two villages. Manjhi lives on one side, where nothing grows. On the other, rice and wheat flourish. The people there are affluent, while Manjhi’s village struggles with hunger. Manjhi climbs to the top of the mountain to ponder this problem. When he throws a stone, it triggers a sprinkle of powder, which gives him an idea. Manjhi trades his trio of goats for a hammer and chisel. Hurrying back to the top of the mountain, he positions the chisel and strikes it with the hammer. Powdered rock and tiny chips spray. He continues until he’s exhausted, but he’s also filled with hope. Even though people tell him he’s “crazy,” day after day Manjhi returns to the mountain. After a year, Majhi is a little stronger, and the hole he has made a little deeper. He perseveres and, when he returns to his task each day, notices that others have continued his work. It takes 22 years, but Manjhi lives to see the day that two villages become one, sharing water, hopes, and dreams. Churnin’s prose has an elegance appropriate for her inspiring tale, which is based on a true story. Popovich’s double-page illustrations use a warm palette and are nicely composed.

Heartening. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-939547-34-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creston

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them.


An inspirational ode to the life of the great South African leader by an award-winning author and illustrator.

Mandela’s has been a monumental life, a fact made clear on the front cover, which features an imposing, full-page portrait. The title is on the rear cover. His family gave him the Xhosa name Rolihlahla, but his schoolteacher called him Nelson. Later, he was sent to study with village elders who told him stories about his beautiful and fertile land, which was conquered by European settlers with more powerful weapons. Then came apartheid, and his protests, rallies and legal work for the cause of racial equality led to nearly 30 years of imprisonment followed at last by freedom for Mandela and for all South Africans. “The ancestors, / The people, / The world, / Celebrated.” Nelson’s writing is spare, poetic, and grounded in empathy and admiration. His oil paintings on birch plywood are muscular and powerful. Dramatic moments are captured in shifting perspectives; a whites-only beach is seen through a wide-angle lens, while faces behind bars and faces beaming in final victory are masterfully portrayed in close-up.

A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-178374-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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