An ennobling portrait of a pioneer who took the library out of its walls and to the public.

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LIBRARY ON WHEELS

MARY LEMIST TITCOMB AND AMERICA'S FIRST BOOKMOBILE

Anyone who has enjoyed the services of a bookmobile can thank a dedicated, visionary librarian named Mary Lemist Titcomb.

With career opportunities limited for women in 19th-century America, Titcomb chose the emerging new field of librarianship. After an apprenticeship, Titcomb was hired by the Rutland Free Library in Vermont, where she quickly moved up to chief librarian. A significant career disappointment was Melvil Dewey’s rejection of her application to serve in the Woman’s Building library at the Chicago World’s Fair; Dewey acknowledged Titcomb’s admirable work in Vermont but said she had not done enough to make herself known beyond. That slap inspired Titcomb to work tirelessly to make a name for herself and a difference in her profession. Titcomb’s greatest contribution to library services came as head of the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, Maryland. Determined to make the library accessible to the county’s rural residents, the most revolutionary of her innovations was a horse-drawn book wagon. A horseless carriage later succeeded it. Book wagons soon appeared in other parts of the country, and by 1922, the bookmobile was born. Titcomb’s complete dedication to her work and determination to succeed is inspiring, and the peek into her climb up the career ladder is revelatory beyond its look at the history of librarianship. Attractively designed to resemble a scrapbook, the engaging narrative is complemented with archival photographs, reproductions of correspondence, and other artifacts.

An ennobling portrait of a pioneer who took the library out of its walls and to the public. (source notes, bibliography) (Biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2875-4

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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A detail-rich picture book best for readers who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in history or science.

COUNTING THE STARS

THE STORY OF KATHERINE JOHNSON, NASA MATHEMATICIAN

This biography of renowned mathematician Katherine Johnson featuring illustrations by Colón aims for elementary-age readers.

Cline-Ransome (Finding Langston, 2018, etc.) traces Johnson’s love of math, curiosity about the world, and studiousness from her early entry to school through her help sending a man into space as a human computer at NASA. The text is detailed and lengthy, between one and four paragraphs of fairly small text on each spread. Many biographies of black achievers during segregation focus on society’s limits and the subject’s determination to reach beyond them. This book takes a subtler approach, mentioning segregation only once (at her new work assignment, “she ignored the stares and the COLORED GIRLS signs on the bathroom door and the segregated cafeteria”) and the glass ceiling for women twice in a factual tone as potential obstacles that did not stop Johnson. Her work is described in the context of the space race, which helps to clarify the importance of her role. Colón’s signature soft, textured illustrations evoke the time period and Johnson’s feeling of wonder about the world, expressed in the refrain, “Why? What? How?” The text moves slowly and demands a fairly high comprehension level (e.g., “it was the job of these women computers to double-check the engineers’ data, develop complex equations, and analyze the numbers”). An author’s note repeats much of the text, adding quotes from Johnson and more details about her more recent recognition.

A detail-rich picture book best for readers who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in history or science. (Picture book/biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0475-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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