THE MYSTERIES OF BEETHOVEN’S HAIR

In 1827, a music student cut a lock of hair as a memento from the head of recently deceased Ludwig van Beethoven. In 1994, two Americans bought the hair for about $7,300 and had scientists subject it to forensic tests. This slim volume introduces Beethoven’s life, with an emphasis on his poor health and emotional problems, interspersing chapters about the hair’s journey from Vienna to Arizona and the scientific analysis. Although the lock’s history intersects with Denmark’s remarkable evacuation of Jews in World War II, the specifics of its journey are unknown, which leaches some of the excitement from the episode. One must also wonder how many child readers will be captivated by the revelation that Beethoven’s hair had extremely high levels of lead, much as the authors strain to build to a dramatic climax. Beethoven fans and music students may be intrigued, but overall the audience for this mildly interesting story will be limited. Black-and-white archival illustrations and photographs add little to the appeal. (authors’ note, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-57091-714-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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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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SHADOW BOXER

In the five years since their father's death from accumulated boxing injuries, 14-year-old George has earnestly taught his younger brother Monty how to fight—but not how to stop fighting; now, to his dismay (and his mother's), Monty is growing up in his dad's image, with "the heart of a lion and the head of a starfish,'' sneaking away to Uncle Archie's gym to train, going off on his own, coming home with the marks of street fights. Lynch surrounds George and Monty with a vivid tragicomic cast—from Chaz, an unwelcome Big Brother, and Nat, an unsavory building super whose only tools are a hammer and a roll of duct tape, to the horribly abused Rafkin children and their psychotic father. The subplots for each of these characters may be too neatly closed (having nerved themselves for a rescue, George and Monty charge into the Rafkin apartment only to find it empty), but they add comic interludes and build a sturdy emotional base for Monty's restless anger. This first novel, though, is less a study of the perils of violence (organized or otherwise) than a penetrating look at two close brothers—one who takes his responsibilities as man of the house too seriously, the other beginning to slip the leash. In the end, watching one of his father's gruesome bouts on film, Monty does learn that other lesson. Brutal, a little too tidy, but memorable. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-023027-4

Page Count: 216

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1993

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