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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ALONE IN THE WORLD

ORPHANS AND ORPHANAGES IN AMERICA

A solid, but not stellar, volume surveys the development of orphanages in the United States from the beginning of the 19th century to their decline in the 20th. Reef capably examines the social conditions that led to the establishment of the various institutions serving the children of poverty, from orphan asylums and reformatories, to the orphan trains and settlement houses, and finally to the New Deal and A.F.D.C. The highly readable text gives readers a powerful glimpse into the living conditions of these orphans, from accommodations and clothing to playtime and school, carefully explaining the various underpinning philosophies that led to those conditions. The narrative makes effective use of primary source material ranging from individual orphanages’ histories (every asylum had an historian, it seems) to Davy Crockett and Charles Dickens; archival drawings and photographs further develop the stories (though, regrettably, the captions do not include dates or credits). Although most quoted dialogue is attributed in chapter notes, and an exhaustive bibliography is appended, glaringly absent is any hint of further reading for children whose interest has been piqued. A crying shame. (afterword, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 18, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-35670-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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FIVE THOUSAND YEARS OF SLAVERY

Sandwiched between telling lines from the epic of Gilgamesh (“…the warrior’s daughter, the young man’s bride, / he uses her, no one dares to oppose him”) and the exposure of a migrant worker–trafficking ring in Florida in the mid-1990s, this survey methodically presents both a history of the slave trade and what involuntary servitude was and is like in a broad range of times and climes. Though occasionally guilty of overgeneralizing, the authors weave their narrative around contemporary accounts and documented incidents, supplemented by period images or photos and frequent sidebar essays. Also, though their accounts of slavery in North America and the abolition movement in Britain are more detailed than the other chapters, the practice’s past and present in Africa, Asia and the Pacific—including the modern “recruitment” of child soldiers and conditions in the Chinese laogai (forced labor camps)—do come in for broad overviews. For timeliness, international focus and, particularly, accuracy, this leaves Richard Watkins’ Slavery: Bondage Throughout History (2001) in the dust as a first look at a terrible topic. (timeline, index; notes and sources on an associated website) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-88776-914-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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