THE STORY OF BRITAIN

FROM THE NORMAN CONQUEST TO THE EUROPEAN UNION

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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It’s a topic of major concern, but there’s little here to kindle that concern in young readers or to set the book apart from...

SEVEN BILLION AND COUNTING

THE CRISIS IN GLOBAL POPULATION GROWTH

A slim volume combines a background overview with a call to action.

Andregg begins by citing a 2011 figure for human numbers and vaguely noting that “[p]eople are planting crops in areas with poor soil in an effort to feed growing populations.” He goes on to explain the basics of demographics, then presents an eye-glazing continent-by-continent review of trends in birth rates, death rates, growth rates, life expectancies and similar indicators. In equally abstract terms he also covers population-related wildlife and environmental issues, plus international efforts to reduce human birth rates. Aside from intriguing posters and public-service advertisements from various countries promoting said family-planning initiatives, the illustrations are largely just generic crowd shots. The sound-bite quotes at chapter heads and elsewhere are more specifically sourced than the facts and figures in the narrative or the charts with which it is punctuated. Unappealing extracurricular activities proposed at the end include starting a club to discuss population issues and conducting a survey (suggested question: “What kind of population policy do you think the United States should have? Why?”).

It’s a topic of major concern, but there’s little here to kindle that concern in young readers or to set the book apart from the assignment-fodder herd. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-6715-4

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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This is a book that cries out for publication as an e-book with links to the music (and fewer sidebars); till then, readers...

GIVE ME WINGS

HOW A CHOIR OF FORMER SLAVES TOOK ON THE WORLD

A biography of Ella Sheppard and the Jubilee Singers, the choir she co-founded.

Lowinger’s second book after Shifting Sands: Life in the Times of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (2014) does a lot in 144 pages. While Sheppard’s life story and the Jubilee Singers’ history make up most of the main text, the author packs the first half of the book with graphics and sidebars about, for example, the routes and history of the European slave trade, important historical figures like Nat Turner, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Mark Twain, and minstrel shows to contextualize what Sheppard and her choir faced as they brought the music of enslaved black people to the rest of the United States and the world. Each chapter is full of paintings, postcards, and other visuals and ends with a minihistory of one of the songs in the Singers’ repertoire. An archival woodcut displays the mask and shackles a slave might be forced to wear, for instance—chilling testimony indeed. An introduction explains that quotes are taken from Sheppard’s diaries or letters. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t do enough with the one thing that makes the subjects narrative-worthy in the first place: the music.

This is a book that cries out for publication as an e-book with links to the music (and fewer sidebars); till then, readers will have to make do by finding the music on their own. (maps, timeline, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55451-747-3

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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