In theory, a fun, STEAM-filled story idea; in execution, not so much.



From the Asian Hall of Fame series

In this follow-up to The Discovery of Ramen (2018), Dao the red panda takes Emma and Ethan on another adventure.

On a visit to Chinatown, Emma (with light brown hair and brown eyes), and Ethan (who has Asian features) witness firecrackers exploding and are intrigued by the display. Dao appears and whisks them back to ancient China to learn about gunpowder, the key ingredient in fireworks. During the Han dynasty, alchemists working on a “magic pill” made a substance that created a “bigger bang” when heated. The recipe—two parts sulfur, three parts charcoal and 15 parts saltpeter—was gunpowder, also used in mining, to build roads, and in war. Then, in the 1800s, the Italians added metallic salts to the gunpowder recipe to create the different-colored fireworks we see today. This picture book is filled with fascinating facts (but no bibliography) that should intrigue any child who has seen a fireworks display, and it has many likable elements. These include kid-friendly characters and tidbits of chemistry, physics, and history. Furthermore, Calle’s dynamic animation-inflected illustrations keep pages turning. However, the stiff, teacherly text and incongruous storyline make it difficult to follow. Perhaps with a little effort, an adult can make sense of the historical events and chemical reactions that led to the development of the modern-day fireworks display.

In theory, a fun, STEAM-filled story idea; in execution, not so much. (glossary) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59702-142-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Immedium

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Timely and stirring.



A shoutout to heroes of nonviolent protest, from Sam Adams to the Parkland students.

Kicking off a proud tradition, “Samuel threw a tea party.” In the same vein, “Harriet led the way,” “Susan cast her vote,” “Rosa kept her seat,” “Ruby went to school,” and “Martin had a dream.” But Easton adds both newer and less-prominent names to the familiar roster: “Tommie and John raised their fists” (at the 1968 Summer Olympics, also depicted on the cover), for instance; “John and Yoko stayed in bed”; “Gilbert sewed a rainbow” (for San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day parade in 1978); “Jazz wore a dress”; and “America [Ferrera] said, ‘Time’s up.’ ” Viewed from low or elevated angles that give them a monumental look, the grave, determined faces of the chosen subjects shine with lapidary dignity in Chen’s painted, close-up portraits. Variations in features and skin tone are rather subtle, but in general both the main lineup and groups of onlookers are visibly diverse. The closing notes are particularly valuable—not only filling in the context and circumstances of each act of protest (and the full names of the protesters), but laying out its personal consequences: Rosa Parks and her husband lost their jobs, as did Ruby Bridges’ first-grade teacher, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos were banned for life from Olympic competition. Pull quotes in both the art and the endnotes add further insight and inspiration.

Timely and stirring. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984831-97-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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What makes one person step into danger to help others? A question worthy of discussion, with this title as an admirable...



An extraordinary athlete was also an extraordinary hero.

Gino Bartali grew up in Florence, Italy, loving everything about riding bicycles. After years of studying them and years of endurance training, he won the 1938 Tour de France. His triumph was muted by the outbreak of World War II, during which Mussolini followed Hitler in the establishment of anti-Jewish laws. In the middle years of the conflict, Bartali was enlisted by a cardinal of the Italian church to help Jews by becoming a document courier. His skill as a cyclist and his fame helped him elude capture until 1944. When the war ended, he kept his clandestine efforts private and went on to win another Tour de France in 1948. The author’s afterword explains why his work was unknown. Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum, honored him as a Righteous Among the Nations in 2013. Bartali’s is a life well worth knowing and well worthy of esteem. Fedele’s illustrations in mostly dark hues will appeal to sports fans with their action-oriented scenes. Young readers of World War II stories will gain an understanding from the somber wartime pages.

What makes one person step into danger to help others? A question worthy of discussion, with this title as an admirable springboard. (photograph, select bibliography, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68446-063-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Capstone Editions

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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