Humor and information combine in appealing nonfiction for middle-grade and middle-school readers.

THE LOWDOWN ON DENIM

A lighthearted look at the history of everyone’s favorite pants couched as a detention report written by a couple of middle-school pranksters.

With lively language and amusing anecdotes, Lloyd Kyi (50 Burning Questions, 2010, etc.) turns a product history into an engaging romp through time. From denim’s origins as durable material for mid-19th-century work clothes to the celebrity fashions of today, the author traces both our changing clothing needs and outside influences on what we wear. She gives credit not only to Levi Strauss but also to Nevadan Jacob Davis, who came up with the idea of seams reinforced with rivets. Hanmer’s cartoons place skateboarding storytellers JD and Shred in historical venues, but with modern reactions. Appropriately, Shred, a girl, wears skirts until the 1950s. Full-page, full-color cartoons begin each chapter. Smaller ones shaded with blues grace every page. Along with informative sidebars (printed on scraps of denim with the familiar brass rivets and orange stitching), they break up the text into accessible chunks. The inviting design begins with the cover illustration of baggy low-riders. Libraries that have already purchased Tony Johnston and Stacy Innerst’s Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea (2011) will also want this for older readers and for its more thorough account.

Humor and information combine in appealing nonfiction for middle-grade and middle-school readers. (further reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-55451-355-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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