A stirring example of “grace under fire” (writes the author, mangling another meme), commemorated in rhapsodic but not...

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THE BRAVEST MAN IN THE WORLD

A tribute to Wallace Hartley, the bandleader who played on as the RMS Titanic was sinking.

When young Jonathan complains that piano practice is “sissy stuff,” his grandfather responds with the tale of how, as a 9-year-old stowaway on the Titanic, he was taken in by the friendly Hartley—who was so impressed by the lad’s talent that he arranged an onboard audition before John Jacob Astor that later led to a life in music. First, though, comes that night to remember (or as Polacco unoriginally puts it, a “date that would live in infamy”), with its rending collision, general panic…and tearful separation as the child reluctantly boards a lifeboat while Hartley remains on deck, playing “Nearer, My God, to Thee” for those doomed to stay behind. “Can you imagine the majesty and harrowing strength…the limitless bravery in that man’s heart,” the storyteller declaims. The musicians who, with like courage, joined Hartley on that fateful night are just dim figures in the background, but the illustrations bring the disaster’s terror and tragedy into sharp focus on the expressive faces of the young stowaway and other passengers and crew (all white). Readers will come away appreciating Hartley’s fortitude and may be equally moved by the closing note (with photos) that his violin, miraculously, was later recovered along with his body.

A stirring example of “grace under fire” (writes the author, mangling another meme), commemorated in rhapsodic but not unsuitable language. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9461-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

THE CREATURE OF THE PINES

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A rousing introduction to the life of a voyageur told from a unique perspective.

THE LITTLEST VOYAGEUR

Stowing away with French Canadian fur traders in 1792, a loquacious red squirrel embarks on a life-changing adventure.

Each spring, Jean Pierre Petit Le Rouge, a squirrel with wanderlust, watches brave, strong voyageurs depart in canoes from Montreal and return the following autumn. Determined to be a voyageur, Le Rouge hides in a canoe paddled by eight stout voyageurs, part of a brigade of five. Soon his incessant chattering distracts the voyageurs, who become separated from the rest of the brigade, but, after ascending the highest tree, he points the crew back on course. More than once, pesky Le Rouge barely escapes becoming squirrel ragout. He’s just beginning to feel like a real voyageur when they reach the trading post on Lake Superior, where he discovers the voyageurs exchanging their cargo for animal skins to return to Montreal. Heartsick, Le Rouge decides he cannot be a voyageur if it involves trading animal skins, unless he can change things. Le Rouge relates his story with drama and flair, presenting a colorful prism through which to view the daily life of a voyageur. Peppered with historical facts and (italicized) French phrases and names, this exciting, well-documented tale (with a contemporary animal-rights subtext) proves educational and entertaining. Realistic pencil drawings highlight Le Rouge’s memorable journey.

A rousing introduction to the life of a voyageur told from a unique perspective. (map, pronunciation guide, historical and biological notes, recipe, further reading) (Historical fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4247-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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