A child’s experience on a whaling ship in 1851 is brought to life in this fictional account based on two real whaling families’ journals and diaries. Nine-year-old Laura and her younger brother William sail with their mother and sea-captain father on an expedition to the Arctic whaling grounds. They won’t return for seven months or until the ship is filled with 2,600 barrels of whale oil. Laura writes in her diary each day, sharing with readers the routines of eating, sleeping, and learning, as well as the adventures and the hardships of living on a small whaling ship. Excitement mounts as the ship enters arctic waters. Whales are hunted and processed. When unseasonably cold weather sets, the boat is caught in the ice and the captain is forced to abandon ship before reaching his goal. Laura and family travel in a longboat until they are rescued at sea, and there, Laura ends her diary. Allen’s (Good-Bye, Charles Lindbergh, 1998, etc.) sepia ink sketches set alongside the text illustrate many objects that may be unfamiliar to the modern reader. These include a chamber pot, sailor’s knots, and a harpoon. Two-page color pencil-and-oil wash illustrations interspersed with the text give the larger context of the whaling scene. These luminous images sharpen the reader’s understanding of a bygone life. Additional information and historical background are included in an authors’ note, and a glossary is placed at the front of the book for easy reference. A good read with an interesting historical background. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-82222-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



The author and illustrator bring to life an incident right out of history in this droll picture book enhanced by lively, color- washed pen-and-ink drawings. In Cheshire, Massachusetts, the home of mouth-watering cheese, the local residents grumble that President Jefferson is serving cheese from Norton, Connecticut, at the White House. “I have an idea,” says Elder John Leland to the assembled town folk, “If each of you will give one day’s milking from each of your many cows, we can put our curds together and create a whopping big cheddar.” Although some people scoff, the farmers bring load after load of milk—from 934 cows—to town and they set about making an enormous cheese. There are problems along the way, but eventually the giant cheese is dragged to a barn to age. At last it is perfect, and Mr. Leland and friends start the long haul to the East Room of White House. In a foreword, the author explains the truth and fiction in the tale, e.g., that the presidential residence wasn’t called the White House until about 1809. A humorous tale with a wide range of appeal and uses in and out of the classroom. (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7894-2573-4

Page Count: 30

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



From Dodds (The Shape of Things, 1994, not reviewed, etc.), a rhyming, reckless text that makes a math process pleasurably solvable; Mitchell’s illustrative debut features a smashing cast of 1930s characters and a playfulness that will keep readers guessing. The premise is a Great Race: at the sound of the gun, 80 bicycle racers take off at top speed. The path diverges at the top of a cliff, and half the racers hurtle forever downward and right out of the race and the book. The remaining 40 racers determinedly continue in boats, their curls, spyglasses, eye patches, matronly upswept hairdos, and Clara Bow—lips intact. Whirlpools erupt to divide them again and wreck their ships, so it’s time to grab the next horse and ride on. The race continues, despite abrupt changes in modes of transportation and in the number of racers that dwindle by disastrous divisions, until a single winner glides over the finish line in a single-prop plane. The pace is so breathless and engaging that the book’s didactic origins all but disappear; few readers will notice that they’ve just finished a math problem, and most will want to go over all the action again. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7636-0442-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet