Overall, a humorous, thoughtful demonstration that the path to writing isn’t always a straight line.




The Newbery medalist offers a combination memoir and guide for aspiring writers.

As a young boy in 1962, Paul Fleischman, son of children’s author Sid Fleischman, is introduced to a larger world of storytelling with his shortwave radio. Listening to broadcasts from around the world opens him up to cultures beyond white suburban Santa Monica. As part of his father’s research for a book, the family purchases a printing press to be assembled at home, an experience that is an early influence on Paul’s road to becoming an author himself. One of his first experiments as a writer is an outlandish, rogue newspaper he and his fellow classmates produce and distribute under the radar of high school administrators. High school is followed by a spell of wanderlust, including a short stint at UC Berkeley and a bike ride up the West Coast to Vancouver that capriciously lands him first in New England and ultimately in Albuquerque. Vignettes with writing advice, sometimes only tangentially connected to the adjoining chapters, appear sporadically and jar the narrative. Fleischman’s story reads as a remarkably engaging memoir but less successfully as a writing tutorial. At times, cultural references may be lost on younger readers, such as roller derby, Shirley Temple, and Marxism, and they may wish for more context.

Overall, a humorous, thoughtful demonstration that the path to writing isn’t always a straight line. (Memoir. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-285745-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Readers of either edition will be in for a grand, inspiring, sometimes hilarious ride.



A 2016 memoir from the first astronaut to tweet from space, lightly tweaked for younger readers.

Along with some reworking of the prose, Massimino drops chapters on his father’s death and his schooling in NASA fundraising and media relations. As a result, though this edition isn’t significantly shorter or easier to read than the original, his valorization of teamwork, maintaining a positive attitude, and overcoming past struggles and reverses through determination play out less in his private life than in his roller-coaster ride through school, astronaut training, and two missions into space. Fortunately, he also paints vivid word pictures, whether capturing the heady experience of playing with an Astronaut Snoopy as a child (“I still have him, only now he’s been to space for real”) or, memorably, the removal of what he repeatedly describes as “111 very tiny screws” from a failed device on the Hubble Space Telescope. Readers will feel his profound shock, but also relief, upon learning (in a segment pointedly titled “Russian Roulette”) that the shuttle Columbia had come apart upon reentry on the mission just after his. Yes, he writes, it’s very nearly impossible to become an astronaut, but: “I wanted to grow up to be Spider-Man—and I did.” Photo illustrations not seen.

Readers of either edition will be in for a grand, inspiring, sometimes hilarious ride. (Autobiography. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12086-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The life of Manjiro Nakahama, also known as John Mung, makes an amazing story: shipwrecked as a young fisherman for months on a remote island, rescued by an American whaler, he became the first Japanese resident of the US. Then, after further adventures at sea and in the California gold fields, he returned to Japan where his first-hand knowledge of America and its people earned him a central role in the modernization of his country after its centuries of peaceful isolation had ended. Expanding a passage from her Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun (1985, Newbery Honor), Blumberg not only delivers an absorbing tale of severe hardships and startling accomplishments, but also takes side excursions to give readers vivid pictures of life in mid-19th-century Japan, aboard a whaler, and amidst the California Gold Rush. The illustrations, a generous mix of contemporary photos and prints with Manjiro’s own simple, expressive drawings interspersed, are at least as revealing. Seeing a photo of Commodore Perry side by side with a Japanese artist’s painted portrait, or strange renditions of a New England town and a steam train, based solely on Manjiro’s verbal descriptions, not only captures the unique flavor of Japanese art, but points up just how high were the self-imposed barriers that separated Japan from the rest of the world. Once again, Blumberg shows her ability to combine high adventure with vivid historical detail to open a window onto the past. (source note) (Biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-17484-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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