Painfully parochial.



A wide-angled overview of the settling of the American West in first-person, free-verse poems.

As the title implies, the era is regarded, even by the few non-Anglo witnesses, from a decidedly Eurocentric point of view. Garland opens with statements from Sacagawea (the only Native American), trapper Jedediah Smith, and George Catlin, but all of her other “voices” are anonymous ones ("I am a girl walking along the Oregon Trail") until Annie Oakley steps in toward the end. The observations are largely likewise generic—“Since the Louisiana Purchase twenty-two years ago, / trappers have been depleting the beaver everywhere,” complains Smith. They are occasionally cringe-inducing: the Chinese railroad worker is proud to have earned “respect from our bosses for a job well-done,” and the “Buffalo Soldier” identifies himself as “a former slave / who joined this all-Negro regiment in 1866.” A long historical note displays similar lack of sensitivity, capped by a claim that the Indian Wars were started by “renegades” out for payback for the slaughter of the buffalo. Depicted in period dress and settings, most of the improbably clean, largely light-skinned figures in Buckner’s painted portraits look directly at readers. The chronologically arranged entries end with a modern child at a rodeo, observing that “today the Indians wear boots and hats and jeans. / But for a little while, in front of cheering crowds, / the old Wild West lives once again.”

Painfully parochial. (glossary, map, bibliographies) (Informational picture book/poetry. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4556-1961-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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More homily than history—and bland to boot.



A pop-up introduction to the great Christian reformer.

In Traini’s seven compositionally similar tableaux, simply drawn cartoon figures—all white until a diverse mix of worshipers from the past and present gathers at the end—pop up to look on wide-eyed, along with lots of small cute forest creatures, at select incidents in Luther’s career. As a disclaimer has it, the uncredited and decidedly sketchy narrative is the “popular” version: after being caught in a storm that prompts him to promise God to become a monk if he survives (according to his own account, he appealed to St. Anne), Martin goes on to discover in the Bible “the very good news that we are saved by faith!” Following his 95 theses (totally unexplained) and refusal to recant before the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, he is temporarily kidnapped for his own safety, later produces a German Bible and other writings, and inspires “a reformation of the church” that is still ongoing so long as “we read the Bible, listen to the Holy Spirit, and follow Jesus in faith.” Readers interested in specific dates, biographical details, or even a general picture of Luther’s times will have to look elsewhere.

More homily than history—and bland to boot. (Informational pop-up picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5064-2192-6

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Sparkhouse

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Despite the book’s clarity, many young listeners still may not understand the enormity of the enterprise or its importance...



Brown brings to life a complex undertaking that had important repercussions, though his early-elementary audience may not be quite ready for it.

The book’s trajectory is clearly laid out: A simple map traces an almost-300-mile path through the wilderness from Fort Ticonderoga in New York to Boston. The first line draws readers firmly into the past—“It was the winter of 1775”—and defines the problem: British soldiers occupy Boston, and the Americans have no way to dislodge them. Despite the seeming impossibility of transporting heavy cannons over snowy roads, across icy lakes and through forbidding forests, young Henry Knox, a bookseller and militia member, volunteered to get the job done. As he has in other informational picture books, Brown uses a variety of page layouts, including some sequential panels, to convey the action. Cool blues and icy whites evoke the wintry landscape; figures and faces are loosely drawn but ably express emotion and determination. Likewise, the brief text employs lyrical language to both get the basic facts across and communicate the feelings and experiences of Henry and his band of hardy helpers. Children intrigued by Brown’s succinct summary will want to follow up with Anita Silvey’s Henry Knox: Bookseller, Solider, Patriot, illustrated by Wendell Minor (2010).

Despite the book’s clarity, many young listeners still may not understand the enormity of the enterprise or its importance in U.S. history (bibliography) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59643-266-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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