UNDERGROUND

Powerfully expressive imagery will sweep young viewers into this suspenseful journey along the Underground Railroad. Accompanied by a commentary of, usually, just two or three words per spread, the scenes track a small group of escapees stealing through darkness beneath a thin crescent moon. They are seen running, crawling, resting tensely, taking brief shelter with “new friends,” then wearily keeping on until sunrise at last brings them to their goal: “I am free. He is free. She is free. We are free.” Underscoring the sense of fear and urgency with broad, slanted strokes of thinly applied paint, Evans limns his hunched, indistinct figures in dark lines and adds weight with scribbled fill and jagged bits of paper or cloth. His palette of midnight-dark blue lit only by the occasional yellow torch- or lantern light and white stars draws attention to the whites of the frightened escapees’ eyes and makes sunlit Freedom all the more precious when attained. Lengthier accounts of travel on the Underground Railroad abound, but few if any portray the experience with such compelling immediacy. (afterword) (Picture book. 5-9)

 

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59643-538-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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An absorbing read for young makers and dreamers.

THE FANTASTIC FERRIS WHEEL

THE STORY OF INVENTOR GEORGE FERRIS

Heeding the call to “make big plans” for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, George Ferris designed—and built—the giant observation wheel that now bears his name.

Kraft’s clear narrative sets the stage for the Columbian Exposition. Following on the 19th century’s spectacular achievements in architecture and engineering, a sense of competition prevailed: the fair’s organizers stood in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, erected for France’s 1889 World’s Fair. Ferris’ friends and Chicago's fair organizers doubted his plans for their sheer scale: how could a 26-story-tall wheel with 36 cars, each designed to carry 60 passengers, be safely constructed and operated? Ferris found investors and refined his plans. Finally, in December 1892—just 4 1/2 months before the opening—the committee gave Ferris the nod. The engineering challenges, coupled with the harsh Chicago winter, lend drama to the text; Salerno’s richly detailed compositions extend it. Using traditional mixed media as well as Adobe Photoshop to layer, compose, and add color, the artist’s full-bleed pictures exhibit dizzying perspective and inventive composition, adding plenty of detail, including fairgoers in period dress. A color palette of blue, green, and ochre evokes vintage postcards. Withstanding a tornado in Chicago, Ferris’ wheel served again at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair before its eventual scrapping. Kraft credits Ferris’ enduring feat; a tall gatefold depicts the London Eye.

An absorbing read for young makers and dreamers. (biographical note, sources) (Informational picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-072-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A crisp historical vignette.

BEN'S REVOLUTION

BENJAMIN RUSSELL AND THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL

A boy experiences the Boston Tea Party, the response to the Intolerable Acts, and the battle at Breed’s Hill in Charlestown.

Philbrick has taken his Bunker Hill (2013), pulled from its 400 pages the pivotal moments, added a 12-year-old white boy—Benjamin Russell—as the pivot, and crafted a tale of what might have happened to him during those days of unrest in Boston from 1773 to 1775 (Russell was a real person). Philbrick explains, in plainspoken but gradually accelerating language, the tea tax, the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, and the quartering of troops in Boston as well as the institution of a military government. Into this ferment, he introduces Benjamin Russell, where he went to school, his part-time apprenticeship at Isaiah Thomas’ newspaper, sledding down Beacon Hill, and the British officer who cleaned the cinders from the snow so the boys could sled farther and farther. It is these humanizing touches that make war its own intolerable act. Readers see Benjamin, courtesy of Minor’s misty gouache-and-watercolor tableaux, as he becomes stranded outside Boston Neck and becomes a clerk for the patriots. Significant characters are introduced, as is the geography of pre-landfilled Boston, to gain a good sense of why certain actions took place where they did. The final encounter at Breed’s Hill demonstrates how a battle can be won by retreating.

A crisp historical vignette. (maps, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Historical fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16674-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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