As historical fiction, this offering is fine, but it is not nonfiction by any stretch of the imagination.



Holocaust survivor Gruenbaum has a story to tell.

From prewar childhood in Prague to Terezin (and participation in its infamous performances of Brundibar) and liberation by the Red Army, a first-person narration relates Gruenbaum’s story; although his father perished, remarkably, he, his mother, and his sister survived together. In an introduction, Gruenbaum describes his story’s path to publication some 70 years after the end of the war. After many rejections of his original, picture-book manuscript, his story was picked up with the suggestion that his experiences be retold by a professional writer in a much longer book. What follows is Hasak-Lowy’s re-creation of Gruenbaum’s experiences, told in a childlike first person and featuring novelistic flourishes such as extensive, “recreated” dialogue. In a lengthy afterword, Hasak-Lowy describes his process, which included a trip to Prague and Terezin and consultation with Gruenbaum. In writing, he "elaborate[ed] on the fragments of [Gruenbaum’s] memories" by "fill[ing] in gaps on a very regular basis," and "suppl[ied] large parts" of the personalities and actions of the characters "in order to bring the scenes with them to life." Gruenbaum is “very pleased with the results,” but moving though it is, the book simply does not meet the definition of nonfiction, which the label “memoir” implies.

As historical fiction, this offering is fine, but it is not nonfiction by any stretch of the imagination. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8486-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy.



A portrait of two victims of the Great Depression whose taste for guns and fast cars led to short careers in crime but longer ones as legends.

Blumenthal (Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2016, etc.) makes a determined effort to untangle a mare’s nest of conflicting eyewitness accounts, purple journalism, inaccurate police reports, and self-serving statements from relatives and cohorts of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Though the results sometimes read as dry recitations of names and indistinguishable small towns, she makes perceptive guesses about what drove them and why they have become iconic figures, along with retracing their early lives, two-year crime spree, and subsequent transformations into doomed pop-culture antiheroes. She does not romanticize the duo—giving many of their murder victims faces through individual profiles, for instance, and describing wounds in grisly detail—but does convincingly argue that their crimes and characters (particularly Bonnie’s) were occasionally exaggerated. Blumenthal also wrenchingly portrays the desperation that their displaced, impoverished families must have felt while pointedly showing how an overtaxed, brutal legal system can turn petty offenders into violent ones. A full version of Bonnie’s homespun ballad “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” and notes on the subsequent lives of significant relatives, accomplices, and lawmen join meaty lists of sources and interviews at the end.

Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy. (photos, timeline, author’s note, source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47122-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Tricked out with a ribbon, foil highlights on the jacket and portrait galleries at each chapter’s head by Ireland’s leading illustrator, this handsome package offers British readers an orgy of self-congratulatory historical highlights. These are borne along on a tide of invented epithets (“ ‘Foreigners!’ spat Boudicca”), fictive sound bites (“Down with the Committee of Safety!”) and homiletic observations (“By beating Napoléon the British showed how strong they were when they worked together”). Aside from occasional stumbles like the slave trade or the Irish potato famine, Britain’s history—from the Magna Carta to the dissolution of the biggest empire “there had ever been”—unfolds as a steady trot toward ever-broader religious toleration, voting rights and personal freedom. American audiences will likely be surprised to see Mary Queen of Scots characterized as “one of the most famous of all monarchs,” and the Revolutionary War get scarcely more play than the Charge of the Light Brigade. It makes a grand tale, though, even when strict accuracy sometimes takes a back seat to truthiness. Includes timelines, lists of monarchs and an index but no source lists. (Nonfiction. 11-13)


Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5122-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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