Evil in content but engaging in form.

Gape at the many misdeeds of notorious leaders throughout history.

Ropes stretch limbs beyond limits. Sharpened poles pierce bodies. Severed hands litter the ground. These vivid images introduce 16 of humanity’s “deadly hearts” through a sampling of the gruesome violence and torture they sanctioned. The usual suspects (e.g., Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler) join those perhaps less well known to younger readers (e.g., Elizabeth Báthory and Idi Amin Dada) to create a truly disturbing timeline of genocide, military force, religious persecution, and more. Though individual chapters are brief, each delves deeply enough into its subject’s crimes to provide additional biographical context. Curiosity is a common thread, with Burgan questioning why these people were impelled to inflict such horrors. Whether motivated by power, wealth, or just plain enjoyment, these villains remind us of human nature’s “dark side”—and provide a lesson to readers against history repeating itself. The structure closely mirrors Jim Gigliotti’s companion, Dark Hearts (2021); both titles include black-and-white cartoon portraits from Mountford. Black headers with drips of blood adorn chapters, a visual link to the book’s incredibly high body count. Arranged chronologically by the subjects’ birth order, the collection spans from 356 B.C.E. to 2003. Europeans (and men) comprise the majority of profiles, but women, Asians, and Africans are also represented.

Evil in content but engaging in form. (bibliography) (Collective biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-38667-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022


In no particular order and using no set criteria for his selections, veteran sportscaster Berman pays tribute to an arbitrary gallery of baseball stars—all familiar names and, except for the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, retired from play for decades. Repeatedly taking the stance that statistics are just numbers but then reeling off batting averages, home-run totals, wins (for pitchers) and other data as evidence of greatness, he offers career highlights in a folksy narrative surrounded by photos, side comments and baseball-card–style notes in side boxes. Readers had best come to this with some prior knowledge, since he casually drops terms like “slugging percentage,” “dead ball era” and “barnstorming” without explanation and also presents a notably superficial picture of baseball’s history—placing the sport’s “first half-century” almost entirely in the 1900s, for instance, and condescendingly noting that Jackie Robinson’s skill led Branch Rickey to decide that he “was worthy of becoming the first black player to play in the majors.” The awesome feats of Ruth, Mantle, the Gibsons Bob and Josh, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and the rest are always worth a recap—but this one’s strictly minor league. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4022-3886-4

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010



From the Sterling Biographies series

A spirited biography untangles the accretion of myth and story around Pocahontas and makes clear what little is actually known and what fragments of the historical record are available. The text is rich in illustration and in sidebars (on longhouses, colonial diet, weaponry and so on) that illuminate the central narrative. Whether Pocahontas saved John Smith’s life directly or as part of an elaborate ritual might not matter, argues Jones. Pocahontas and her people were certainly responsible for keeping the English settlement of Jamestown from starvation. Relations between English settlers and Native people were uneasy at best, and the author traces these carefully, relating how Pocahontas was later kidnapped by the British and held for ransom. When none was forthcoming, she was converted both to English ways and the Christian religion, marrying the widower John Rolfe and traveling to England, where Pocahontas saw John Smith once again and died at about the age of 21. An excellent stab at myth busting and capturing the nuances of both the figure and her times. (glossary, bibliography, source notes, index) (Biography. 9-12)


Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4027-6844-6

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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