WHICH WAY TO THE WILD WEST?

Similar in format and style to King George: What Was His Problem? and Two Miserable Presidents (both 2008), Sheinkin offers another fast-paced, irreverent look at American history. The author, a self-described reformed textbook writer, chronicles America’s westward expansion, beginning with the Louisiana Purchase and ending with the Wounded Knee Massacre, which he refers to as the “last major fight between American soldiers and Native Americans,” a troubling mischaracterization in an otherwise well-written historical overview (the consensus among historians is that the action at Wounded Knee was a massacre, not a battle as it has often been mislabeled in the past). An engaging storyteller, the author uses humor and little-known anecdotes to make such subjects as Manifest Destiny, the Mexican-American War, the Gold Rush and Custer’s Last Stand entertaining for readers. His chatty, informal style can wear at times, but it will appeal to young readers turned off to history by stale textbooks. Robinson’s cartoons complement the text. Appendices include extensive source and quotation notes. Inevitably superficial due to its scope, this is nonetheless an accessible and engaging historical overview. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59643-321-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Flash Point/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2009

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Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of.

SCARED STIFF

50 PHOBIAS THAT FREAK US OUT

Part browsing item, part therapy for the afflicted, this catalog of irrational terrors offers a little help along with a lot of pop psychology and culture.

The book opens with a clinical psychologist’s foreword and closes with a chapter of personal and professional coping strategies. In between, Latta’s alphabetically arranged encyclopedia introduces a range of panic-inducers from buttons (“koumpounophobia”) and being out of cellphone contact (“nomophobia”) to more widespread fears of heights (“acrophobia”), clowns (“coulroiphobia”) and various animals. There’s also the generalized “social anxiety disorder”—which has no medical name but is “just its own bad self.” As most phobias have obscure origins (generally in childhood), similar physical symptoms and the same approaches to treatment, the descriptive passages tend toward monotony. To counter that, the author chucks in references aplenty to celebrity sufferers, annotated lists of relevant books and (mostly horror) movies, side notes on “joke phobias” and other topics. At each entry’s end, she contributes a box of “Scare Quotes” such as a passage from Coraline for the aforementioned fear of buttons.

Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of. (end notes, resource list) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-936976-49-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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JAM!

THE STORY OF JAZZ MUSIC

A busy page design—artily superimposed text and photos, tinted portraits, and break-out boxes—and occasionally infelicitous writing (“Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie became . . . bandleader of the quintet at the Onyx Club, from which bebop got its name”) give this quick history of jazz a slapdash air, but Lee delves relatively deeply into the music’s direct and indirect African roots, then goes beyond the usual tedious tally of names to present a coherent picture of specific influences and innovations associated with the biggest names in jazz. A highly selective discography will give readers who want to become listeners a jump start; those seeking more background will want to follow this up with James Lincoln Collier’s Jazz (1997). (glossary, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8239-1852-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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