VOICES OF THE WESTERN FRONTIER

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.

THE LIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

A POP-UP BOOK

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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A greater exploration of the art form than the artist.

BASHO'S HAIKU JOURNEYS

A glimpse into the life of a legendary poet.

A brief preface explains that the beloved Japanese poet Basho was born in 1644 in Edo, Japan. However, this particular title is focused on his “wayfaring, or traveling, life,” which occurred during the period from 1684 to 1689. The story is divided into five sections modeled after the five journeys Basho took, which later served as inspiration for some of his most recognized work. Via narration cast entirely in a series of haiku, readers are introduced to the poet when he is still a teacher. Faced with sudden change when his house burns down, Basho decides to be “forever afoot” in his quest to seek “the Way” and embarks on the path as a wanderer. The majority of his journeys consist of observations of fleeting moments in nature, such as the birth of a fawn, a “newborn spirit,” during his third journey. Later, in his fourth, he feels the dizzying heights of mountains. The whimsical haiku are paired with Rockwood Ghanem’s landscapes, rendered in bold colors that deftly blend together to invoke the feeling of misty mountains and grassy fields. As a sudden illness takes Basho on his fifth and final journey, the concluding lines from the poet himself ponder the natural course of life. While the narrative is skillfully done, readers may become more familiar with the art of haiku than with Basho’s life.

A greater exploration of the art form than the artist. (note on haiku) (Picture book/poetry. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61172-069-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Stone Bridge Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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