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A rangy but concise slice of history, it’s likely to encourage readers to take the next step in learning about medieval...

A waggishly illuminating pictorial tour of the Middle Ages.

Medieval history is full of good stuff—the Silk Road, the bubonic plague, Vikings—and Shapiro touches on a fair amount, concentrating on the area that became known as Europe and the Near East, with brief forays to Cathay. Kinnaird deploys infographics to give readers a sense of numbers: of Viking travels, weapons of warfare or women in the workplace. Shapiro infuses the 1,000-year period with both the foreign and the familiar. Readers may know about diseases, but the scope of the Black Death boggles the mind; medieval class structure—“The life of a young peasant was like that of an old peasant, only poorer”—finds echoes in today’s inequities of wealth. He lays it out well, and Kinnaird provides crisp artwork with a comic-book look and touch of humor. The book gets below the surface on more than one occasion to give depth to such circumstances as rules governing the behavior of nonbelievers and how the plague was spread by Mongols catapulting their dead soldiers—along with their attendant fleas—into cities under siege.

A rangy but concise slice of history, it’s likely to encourage readers to take the next step in learning about medieval times. (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55451-553-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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An inventive introduction to a fascinating historical figure.

Another collaborative effort by the team that created The Poet King of Tezcoco: A Great Leader of Ancient Mexico (2007) chronicles the life of a controversial figure in pre-colonial Mesoamerica.

The indigenous woman who would serve as Hernán Cortés’ interpreter and companion was born in the early 1500s as Malinali and later christened Marina. She is now called La Malinche. Besides serving as translator to the Spaniard, she also gave him advice on native customs, religious beliefs and the ways of the Aztec. While Marina’s decision to help the Spanish in their often brutal quest for supremacy has led to many negative associations, others see her as the mother of all Mexicans, as she and Cortés had the first recorded mestizo. Although many of the details surrounding the specifics of Marina’s life were unrecorded, Serrano strengthens the narrative with quotations by her contemporaries and provides a balanced look at the life of a complicated, oft-maligned woman. Headers provide structure as events sometimes shift from the specific to the very broad, and some important facts are glossed over or relegated to the timeline. Reminiscent of pre-colonial documents, the illustrations convey both Marina’s adulation of Cortés and the violence of the Spanish conquest, complete with severed limbs, decapitations and more.

An inventive introduction to a fascinating historical figure. (map, chronology, glossary, sources and further reading) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55498-111-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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An insightful glimpse into a key period in Alcott’s life and women in nursing.

During the Civil War, Louisa May Alcott served as a volunteer nurse, caring for Union soldiers in Washington, D.C., between December 12, 1862, and January 21, 1863. This well-researched biographical vignette explores the brief but pivotal episode in Alcott’s life.

An abolitionist, Alcott longed to fight in the Union Army, but she did her part by serving as a nurse. Alcott met the female nursing requirements: She was 30, plain, strong and unmarried. Krull describes her challenging solo journey from Massachusetts by train and ship and her lonely arrival in Washington at the “overcrowded, damp, dark, airless” hospital. For three weeks she nursed and provided “motherly” support for her “boys” before succumbing to typhoid fever, forcing her to return to Massachusetts. Krull shows how Alcott’s short tenure as a nurse affected her life, inspiring her to publish letters she sent home as Hospital Sketches. This honest account of the war earned rave reviews and taught Alcott to use her own experiences in her writing, leading to Little Women. Peppered with Alcott’s own words, the straightforward text is enhanced by bold, realistic illustrations rendered in digital oils on gessoed canvas. A somber palette reinforces the grim wartime atmosphere, dramatically highlighting Alcott in her red cape and white nurse’s apron.

An insightful glimpse into a key period in Alcott’s life and women in nursing. (notes on women in medicine and the Battle of Fredericksburg, sources, map) (Picture book/biography. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8027-9668-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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