Photographer/historian Bial (Ghost Towns of the American West, 2001, etc.) sets his sights on New York City’s Lower East Side, which during the decades around the turn of the 20th Century became a contender for the most densely populated area on Earth. Mixing his own color photos of apartment building facades, narrow hallways, and tiny rooms—most of the last are restored museum exhibits—with more effective old black-and-white shots of teeming streets, ragamuffin children posing in alleyways, and crowded sweatshops, he conveys a visual sense of the area’s former (if not its present) bustle and squalor. This is more than just a photo album, however; quoting Jacob Riis and other reformers, Bial also presents a substantial historical overview, taking aim at the unsanitary living conditions, the economic oppression (“These immigrants received just $3.75 for every thousand cigars, and, working as hard as possible, an entire family could roll only about three thousand cigars a week”), and the periodic waves of anti-immigrant feeling residents were forced to endure. Though he writes in generalities, and sometimes repetitively, his picture is a clearer one, especially for non–New Yorkers, than Granfield’s more specific but patchwork 97 Orchard Street (2001). (bibliography, Web sites) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-13849-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002


After years of normal living, a teenager learns he has epilepsy and has to cope not just with the disease, but with the side effects, including the hostility of his peers. High schooler Lefty has an epileptic seizure while hanging out with his best friend, Reuben, and must subsequently learn to live with the disease, deal with medication, make lifestyle changes, overcome his own fear, as well as that of family and friends, and face his peers. What little action there is in this marathon talkfest concerns Lefty and his friends (including his 12-year-old brother) smoking and drinking. In his tough, working-class neighborhood this is considered perfectly normal, and the author never counters that. Most of readers’ efforts may be spent trying to keep track of the many characters: Lefty’s friends and brothers, his mother’s tough-as-nails girlfriends, neighbors, classmates, medical personnel, etc. When Lefty, a budding writer, pens an imaginary dialogue between two elderly neighbors and a would-be mugger, the story picks up; otherwise this is a flat and emotionally distant bull session that, though extended, leads nowhere. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2000

ISBN: 1-55143-166-1

Page Count: 215

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000


With an emphasis on Western “makers” of the millennium, and, perhaps inevitably, deep coverage of the last 200 years and fleeting coverage of the first few centuries, this volume offers brief biographical sketches of 1,000 people who had an impact on the last 1,000 years. Profusely illustrated and printed on heavy glossy stock, this is a coffee table book for children, meant to be dipped into rather than read from start to finish. Organized chronologically, with a chapter for each century, the parade of people is given context through a timeline of major events, with those of particular importance discussed in special boxes. As with any effort of this kind, there are surprising omissions (the publisher is creating a website for readers’ own suggestions) and inclusions, a Western predominance that grows more pronounced in the later centuries, and an emphasis on sports and celebrity that finishes off the last few decades. The selection can seem highly subjective and provocatively arbitrary, e.g., the US presidents from Nixon back to Teddy Roosevelt are all covered, but none after Nixon. Still, there is a clear effort to include a wide variety of countries and cultures, and this ambitious effort will be the starting point for many historical journeys. (chronology, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7894-4709-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1999

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