The appeal of the events shines through despite a shaky start.

THE ELECTRIC WAR

EDISON, TESLA, WESTINGHOUSE, AND THE RACE TO LIGHT THE WORLD

The war of the currents and its larger-than-life personalities are illuminated by a flickering light.

In the 1870s and 1880s, two competing systems of electrical current were backed by three very different men. Thomas Alva Edison, the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” advocated for direct current, while inventor Nikola Tesla, a Serbian immigrant, and George Westinghouse were leading proponents of alternating current. The potential for acclaim and riches was high, but it all came down to which system—direct or alternating current—would prevail. Edison had the name recognition but a flawed system, while Tesla and Westinghouse were confident in alternating current’s superiority, even when it was branded too dangerous in the press. It took a world’s fair, court battles, and worldwide financial panic to yield a winner in the war of the currents. Although the men and the historical events provide plenty of drama, Winchell (Been There, Done That: School Daze, 2016, etc.) blunts the impact by spending too much time at the beginning of the book on the development of the electric chair and its first victim. Black-and-white photographs and technical drawings supplement the text, which is based on extensive primary and high-quality secondary sources. There is unfortunately no mention of influential African-American inventor and Edison employee Lewis Latimer, who patented the carbon filament.

The appeal of the events shines through despite a shaky start. (timeline, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-12016-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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A thorough recounting of Nansen’s unfairly half-forgotten achievements—colorful, exhausting, compelling reading.

LOCKED IN ICE

NANSEN'S DARING QUEST FOR THE NORTH POLE

A vivid (sometimes all too much so) account of Norwegian scientist, explorer, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Fridtjof Nansen’s 1893-1896 try for the North Pole.

Though the Nansen expedition was possibly even more meticulously planned than Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic venture, both had similar results—neither reached their goals, but both endured weary months of such wild mischances that it seems miraculous that neither lost a man. Lourie (Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush, 2017, etc.) draws generously from Nansen’s detailed records to describe the special gear and provisions he, in many cases, invented or improvised (“meat-chocolate,” yum, giving way in later, more desperate, times to “cold boiled bear and a few ounces of bread”), to introduce his human and canine crews (the latter eventually becoming their own food supply), and to retrace the trek’s route. The highly informative appendix includes a wealth of information, including conversations with modern polar explorers that present a picture of what being out on the arctic ice is like…highlighted by guidelines for pooping outdoors in subzero temperatures. Though the many sepia-toned maps and photographs are too often dim and foggy, the images add both flavor and immediacy to the narrative. Only glancing mention is made of all Nansen learned from the Inuit residents who aided him.

A thorough recounting of Nansen’s unfairly half-forgotten achievements—colorful, exhausting, compelling reading. (author’s note, aftermatter, appendix, sources, bibliography and resources, websites, image credits, index) (Nonfiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-13764-7

Page Count: 337

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

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An insightful and focused profile of a political trailblazer.

SPEAK UP, SPEAK OUT

THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF FIGHTING SHIRLEY CHISHOLM

A comprehensive biography of Shirley Chisholm’s political career.

Born in the U.S. to Bajan immigrants in 1924, “Fighting Shirley Chisholm” was raised and educated in both Barbados and the United States. As a teacher and administrator, she labored to improve the welfare of children in New York and championed legislation that supported low-income families and disadvantaged groups all over the country. Dedicated and unrelenting in her passion to serve “the workaday folk who make up most of the nation,” Chisholm worked her way up to becoming a congresswoman. The book describes how she was forced to battle racism and sexism en route to becoming the first Black person to seek a major party’s nomination for president of the United States. Readers will learn how Chisholm navigated an educational and political system bent on keeping women like her disempowered. The strength of Bolden’s skill as a researcher is evident; chapter by chapter, she provides succinct but critical context around the motivations and movements of Chisholm’s political career. A foreword by Stacey Abrams helps establish that Chisholm’s legacy is one of political innovation as someone who forged a path for others to follow. This informative book has an engaging narrative structure. The use of repetition and inclusion of memorable pearls of wisdom attributed to Chisholm add a poetic tone.

An insightful and focused profile of a political trailblazer. (maps, author's note, bibliography, photos) (Biography. 12-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4263-7236-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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