A sharp, revealing look at deeply entrenched institutional sexism.

TO FLY AMONG THE STARS

THE HIDDEN STORY OF THE FIGHT FOR WOMEN ASTRONAUTS

During the Cold War, 13 highly experienced women aviators proved they had as much of the “right stuff” as male astronauts but were nonetheless excluded from America’s space program.

Within the context of the United States’ space race with the Soviet Union, Siegel tells the infuriating story of how these women were denied opportunities even after excelling at grueling physical and psychological tests. As Tanya Lee Stone did in her Sibert Medal–winning Almost Astronauts (2009), Siegel chronicles how the “Mercury 13” proved to be as courageous, intelligent, and fit as any man. Despite this, they were nonetheless ridiculed and thwarted by everyone from Vice President Lyndon Johnson to the Mercury 7 astronauts, and they were shockingly betrayed by the highly respected woman aviator Jackie Cochran, apparently out of jealousy and spite. Whereas Stone’s narrative focuses on Jerrie Cobb, Siegel includes the experiences of all the women and alternates chapters about the women with those about the Mercury 7. Her focus on their arrogant, boozing, loutish, womanizing behavior and sloppiness on missions puts these men—all white, like the women—in a considerably unheroic light. Disappointingly, this emphasis serves as a distraction from the women’s narrative rather than throwing it into relief. And oddly, given this overall icon-busting approach, Siegel does not reveal Wernher von Braun’s Nazi past when introducing this minor character.

A sharp, revealing look at deeply entrenched institutional sexism. (photos, glossary, notes, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-29015-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic Focus

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care.

OIL

In 1977, the oil carrier Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into a formerly pristine Alaskan ocean inlet, killing millions of birds, animals, and fish. Despite a cleanup, crude oil is still there.

The Winters foretold the destructive powers of the atomic bomb allusively in The Secret Project (2017), leaving the actuality to the backmatter. They make no such accommodations to young audiences in this disturbing book. From the dark front cover, on which oily blobs conceal a seabird, to the rescuer’s sad face on the back, the mother-son team emphasizes the disaster. A relatively easy-to-read and poetically heightened text introduces the situation. Oil is pumped from the Earth “all day long, all night long, / day after day, year after year” in “what had been unspoiled land, home to Native people // and thousands of caribou.” The scale of extraction is huge: There’s “a giant pipeline” leading to “enormous ships.” Then, crash. Rivers of oil gush out over three full-bleed wordless pages. Subsequent scenes show rocks, seabirds, and sea otters covered with oil. Finally, 30 years later, animals have returned to a cheerful scene. “But if you lift a rock… // oil / seeps / up.” For an adult reader, this is heartbreaking. How much more difficult might this be for an animal-loving child?

Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3077-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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