Absolutely stellar.

READ REVIEW

NOW OR NEVER!

FIFTY-FOURTH MASSACHUSETTS INFANTRY'S WAR TO END SLAVERY

Two black Civil War soldiers and writers offer unique perspectives about how they fought on and off the battlefield.

George E. Stephens and James Henry Gooding were both Union soldiers. The fact that they were African-Americans meant that the trajectory of their service and the weight they carried in battle were unusual. In their minds, they were fighting not just to preserve the Union, but to end slavery and secure their rights as full American citizens. The Quaker-educated men both joined the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, and both also wrote about what they saw, Stephens for the Anglo-American, a black Northern weekly, and Gooding for the New Bedford, Massachusetts, Mercury, both showing a different side of the war to blacks and abolitionists. They were skilled at sharing compelling details of the battles they fought in combat and against the racism that, among other things, denied them equal pay for their service. Author Shepard does a great job using the dispatches from these men to form the basis for this narrative. The most impressive contribution is how the individual voices of Stephens and Gooding are in the forefront with their similarities and distinctions. This is a powerful use of primary resources, one that illuminates the lives of its subjects but never gets in the way of their remarkable stories. Rich backmatter provides useful information.

Absolutely stellar. (timeline, source notes, bibliography, further reading, index, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62979-340-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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The author’s elegant narrative conveys how the love for these amazing creatures transcends national animosities.

THE PERFECT HORSE

THE DARING U.S. MISSION TO RESCUE THE PRICELESS STALLIONS KIDNAPPED BY THE NAZIS

A singular spotlight on the concerted World War II effort to save Lipizzaner stallions.

Letts (The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation, 2011, etc.), a lifelong equestrienne, eloquently brings together the many facets of this unlikely, poignant story underscoring the love and respect of man for horses. The horses in question were rare Arabian thoroughbreds introduced to Europe by the Ottoman Turks in the late 17th century and subsequently bred in Poland. The Bolsheviks had slaughtered nearly the whole stock in 1917, deeming them the “playthings of princes,” though the Polish stud stable at Janów Podlaski was finally beginning to thrive again by the time of the Russian-Nazi invasion of Poland in late 1938. Two important equine sagas, handled well by the author, converge here: the German takeover of the Janów stud farm, led by German Olympic organizer Gustav Rau, in order to reassemble the Polish horse-breeding industry for the glory of the Third Reich, which desperately needed horses for mounted troops; and the attempts to save the working Lipizzaner stallions at the aristocratic Spanish Riding School in Vienna, led by Alois Podhajsky, who had won the bronze medal in dressage at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Under Rau, the stud farm was moved to Hostau, Czechoslovakia, by October 1942, and put under the care of Polish civil servant Hubert Rudofsky, who successfully increased the number of bred Lipizzaners by 1944. With Allied bombs falling on German cities, and eventually Vienna, Podhajsky determined that his horses had to be moved to safety, eventually housed in the village of St. Martin, Austria, yet the Nazi-controlled Austrian government was loathe to relinquish control of such a symbol of Austrian determination. Enter the Americans, specifically Maj. Hank Reed of the 2nd Calvary, which had traded in tanks for horses to fight the Nazis across France, and the exciting meeting of Gen. George Patton’s army at Hostau.

The author’s elegant narrative conveys how the love for these amazing creatures transcends national animosities.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-345-54480-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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An excellent work of children’s nonfiction that just may inspire the next Chuck Yeager.

Chuck Yeager Goes Supersonic

AN ACTION-PACKED, TRUE FLYING ADVENTURE

This straightforward biography engages young readers’ imaginations, respects their intelligence and takes them along on an exciting, real-life adventure.

From Chuck Yeager’s childhood in the Depression, through his experience in World War II, flight school and finally his chance to pilot the first supersonic flight, this debut children’s book brings his biography to life and includes a science lesson for eager young minds, as well. Biermann expertly weaves vignettes from Yeager’s life—like the time he plowed a test plane through a chicken coop—into the narrative, creating a tale with a cinematic, easy-to-follow rhythm. These anecdotes illustrate Yeager’s character in a natural, show-don’t-tell fashion. Biermann’s explanation of the science behind sound waves, the sound barrier and supersonic flight is so clear and memorable, it’s sure to stick with readers well into their adulthood. (Some adults who read this to kids will be relieved to have this burden lifted from them, so they don’t have to sputter out shaky explanations themselves.) While this story may inspire a lifelong interest in science, it’s unlikely to inspire a lifelong love of poetic language. From the very first paragraph—“Chuck Yeager loved to fly airplanes. He loved to fly high. He loved to fly fast.”—the language is a bit unadorned. But it is crystal clear, precise and geared with almost mathematical accuracy to a young elementary reading level. Science- and adventure-minded readers who are just here for the sonic boom won’t care that the book reads more like a technical manual than poetry. The illustrations are of a piece with the language: precise down to the buttons and badges on Yeager’s flight suit but flat and stylized, reminiscent of old-school film strips. And, like the language, while the illustrations are not inspiring or beautiful, they are perfectly suited to the book’s likely audience, who will probably be scrutinizing the cockpit controls.

An excellent work of children’s nonfiction that just may inspire the next Chuck Yeager.

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1480276321

Page Count: 48

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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