Awkward attempts to improve on an inherently interesting topic undermine this otherwise fine account

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TERRIBLE TYPHOID MARY

A TRUE STORY OF THE DEADLIEST COOK IN AMERICA

A creative approach, strong on vivid details and words that appeal to the senses, animates this biography of Typhoid Mary.

It opens like a novel, with a scene in 1906 of a wealthy woman firing her cook. In “a terrible fix” to find a new one, she hires an Irish immigrant named Mary Mallon, who, unknowingly, turns out to be a typhoid-fever carrier later dubbed Typhoid Mary. The chapter’s title, “In Which Mrs. Warren Has a Servant Problem,” and its final one-sentence cliffhanger, “Mary’s life was about to change forever,” reflect literary techniques typically found in fiction, while art nouveau typeface for chapter titles and a closing “Photo Album” create an old-fashioned tone. The chronological narrative quotes from such primary sources as contemporary newspapers and books and incorporates information about the disease and the fight to eliminate it. In trying to supplement limited personal sources about Mallon, Bartoletti bogs down her writing with language like “perhaps,” “most likely,” “must have,” and “may have.” Responsible though such introductions to supposition are, the result is a narrative that feels uncertain and may have readers wondering about unvoiced alternative scenarios. One section, meant to tie the past to the present, misinterprets a Gallup poll, incorrectly stating that most Americans don’t trust their local governments.

Awkward attempts to improve on an inherently interesting topic undermine this otherwise fine account . (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-31367-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Despite its not insignificant flaws, this book provides insights into the lives of important women, many of whom have...

SHE DID IT!

21 WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WAY WE THINK

Caldecott Medalist McCully delves into the lives of extraordinary American women.

Beginning with the subject of her earlier biography Ida M. Tarbell (2014), McCully uses a chronological (by birth year) structure to organize her diverse array of subjects, each of whom is allotted approximately 10 pages. Lovely design enhances the text with a full-color portrait of each woman and small additional illustrations in the author/illustrator’s traditional style, plenty of white space, and spare use of dynamic colors. This survey provides greater depth than most, but even so, some topics go troublingly uncontextualized to the point of reinforcing stereotype: “In slavery, Black women had been punished for trying to improve their appearance. Now that they were free, many cared a great deal about grooming”; “President Roosevelt ordered all Japanese Americans on the West Coast to report to internment camps to keep them from providing aid to the enemy Japanese forces.” Of the 21 surveyed, one Japanese-American woman (Patsy Mink) is highlighted, as are one Latinx woman (Dolores Huerta), one Mohegan woman (Gladys Tantaquidgeon), three black women (Madam C.J. Walker, Ella Baker, and Shirley Chisholm), four out queer white women (Billie Jean King, Barbara Gittings, Jane Addams, and Isadora Duncan; the latter two’s sexualities are not discussed), two Jewish women (Gertrude Berg and Vera Rubin), and three women with known disabilities (Addams, Dorothea Lange, and Temple Grandin).

Despite its not insignificant flaws, this book provides insights into the lives of important women, many of whom have otherwise yet to be featured in nonfiction for young readers. (sources) (Collective biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-01991-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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An important glimpse into the early civil rights movement.

THE GIRL FROM THE TAR PAPER SCHOOL

BARBARA ROSE JOHNS AND THE ADVENT OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT

Kanefield tells the story of Barbara Rose Johns, whose fight for equality in the schools of Farmville, Va., went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

In 1950, 15-year-old Barbara Johns was a junior at the all-black Robert R. Moton High School in rural Virginia, a crowded school using temporary classrooms that were little more than tar paper shacks, more like chicken coops than classrooms, with leaky roofs and potbellied stoves that provided little heat. Farmville High School, the white school, was a modern building with up-to-date facilities. Sick of the disparity, Barbara led a strike, demanding equal facilities in the schools of her town. Her actions drew the usual response from the white community: cross-burnings, white stores denying credit to black customers and criticism for their “ill-advised” actions. Although threats caused Barbara’s parents to send her to live with family in Alabama, where she graduated from high school, the Moton students’ case was eventually bundled with others, including Brown v. Board of Education. In an attractive volume full of archival photographs, informative sidebars and a clearly written text, Kanefield shares an important though little-known story of the movement. A one-page summary of “The Birth of the Civil Rights Movement” and a civil rights timeline connect Barbara’s story to the larger struggle; sadly, the bibliography offers no mention of the many fine volumes available for young readers who will want to know more.

An important glimpse into the early civil rights movement. (author’s note, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0796-4

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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