A fascinating twin narrative, though not quite the story the title suggests.

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SUPERMAN VERSUS THE KU KLUX KLAN

THE TRUE STORY OF HOW THE ICONIC SUPERHERO BATTLED THE MEN OF HATE

In 1946, The Adventures of Superman radio show took on the Ku Klux Klan in an effort to teach young listeners lessons about tolerance and standing up to bigotry.

The first episode of the 16-part “Clan of the Fiery Cross” aired on June 10, 1946, to “dramatiz[e] the realities of the Ku Klux Klan to a generation of young radio listeners.” From the beginning, Superman had a social conscience, and one thread of this narrative traces the origins of Superman and his rise to stardom as a comic-book and radio hero. The other thread examines the history and mid-20th-century resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. But it’s not until late in the volume that the collision between Superman and the KKK occurs, making it seem like a work that isn’t quite sure of what it wants to be, or for whom it was written. With sentences such as, “Brown even got inside a secret subunit of the Kavalier Klub that called itself the Ass-Tearers and printed on its calling card the image of a corkscrew—its implement of choice for torturing and disemboweling its victims,” this often reads more like journalism than children’s literature.

A fascinating twin narrative, though not quite the story the title suggests. (bibliography, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4263-0915-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of.

SCARED STIFF

50 PHOBIAS THAT FREAK US OUT

Part browsing item, part therapy for the afflicted, this catalog of irrational terrors offers a little help along with a lot of pop psychology and culture.

The book opens with a clinical psychologist’s foreword and closes with a chapter of personal and professional coping strategies. In between, Latta’s alphabetically arranged encyclopedia introduces a range of panic-inducers from buttons (“koumpounophobia”) and being out of cellphone contact (“nomophobia”) to more widespread fears of heights (“acrophobia”), clowns (“coulroiphobia”) and various animals. There’s also the generalized “social anxiety disorder”—which has no medical name but is “just its own bad self.” As most phobias have obscure origins (generally in childhood), similar physical symptoms and the same approaches to treatment, the descriptive passages tend toward monotony. To counter that, the author chucks in references aplenty to celebrity sufferers, annotated lists of relevant books and (mostly horror) movies, side notes on “joke phobias” and other topics. At each entry’s end, she contributes a box of “Scare Quotes” such as a passage from Coraline for the aforementioned fear of buttons.

Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of. (end notes, resource list) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-936976-49-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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A loud, cynical cash grab—far from amazing.

THE AMAZING BOOK IS NOT ON FIRE

THE WORLD OF DAN AND PHIL

A couple more YouTube stars write a book.

Howell, who goes by "danisnotonfire," and "AmazingPhil" Lester are the latest YouTube stars hoping to cross over to the world of books. Instead of crafting a memoir or adapting their videos into a fictional series, the duo have filled these 225 pages with bold graphics, scatological humor, and quirky how tos that may entice their fan base but will leave everyone else out in the cold. It contains a wide variety of nonsense, ranging from Phil's chat logs to information on breeding hamsters. There's an emoji-only interview and some Dan/Phil fanfiction (by Howell rather than a fan) and even a full double-page spread of the pair's unsuccessful selfies. All this miscellany is shoveled in without much rhyme or reason following introductory pages that clearly introduce the pair as children, leaving readers who aren't in on the joke completely out of the loop. The authors make no attempt to bring in those on the outside, but in all honesty, why should they? The only people buying this book are kids who already love everything Dan and Phil do or clueless relatives in desperate search of a gift for the awkward teens in their lives. The book's biggest fault is its apparent laziness. It feels like something slapped together over a weekend, with no heart or soul.   

A loud, cynical cash grab—far from amazing. (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-93984-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2015

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