A sweet animal tale with intriguing origins and thoughtful backmatter.

HELIX GETS HIS WHEELS

Classmates come up with a creative solution to help a fellow tortoise in this debut picture book.

On his first day at a new school, a tortoise named Helix informs his class that he is unable to use his back legs. On the playground, Helix’s classmates invite him to participate in activities like tag and hopscotch. But due to his immobile legs, Helix can’t join them. Finally, a student named Herman offers Helix a skateboard to ride, enabling him to move around. Helix is thrilled that he can participate in physical activities. At dinner, he tells his parents about his new friends who “helped me play all the games I thought I would never be able to play.” In Betz’s story, the sentiment underscoring kindness is well done and not overly complicated. The repetition featured here (as when Helix frequently replies to his friends: “I am not good…yet…but I will try”) is appropriate for young readers. Icuza’s (The Purple Pickle, 2019, etc.) colorful, graphiclike illustrations offer cheerful tortoise portrayals and fun details. In the well-documented backmatter, the author explains how the characters are modeled after actual tortoise breeds (a classmate named Star is an Indian Star Tortoise), providing his own photographs and shots by others and scientific facts. Betz also reveals that the book is inspired by a true story and includes Instagram photos and specifics about the real Helix, a disabled tortoise fitted with wheels.

A sweet animal tale with intriguing origins and thoughtful backmatter.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5439-9119-2

Page Count: 42

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more