THE LAST SYNAPSID

Twelve-year-old Rob Gates and his best friend Phoebe Traylor, 13, know something is amiss in their small town of Faith, Colo., when they discover Pinkie, an elderly white poodle, torn to pieces on a mountain path. The genuinely suspenseful, often wryly comical novel unfolds like a murder mystery in the friendly, youthful voice of the omniscient narrator: “The thought of some unknown bloodthirsty beast walking the streets of Faith at night, right outside their windows, was chilling and kind of great at the same time.” The mystery soon transmogrifies into a time-traveling cautionary tale—almost in the spirit of A Christmas Carol—when Rob and Phoebe meet “the last synapsid,” a doglike, tusked diictodon with an English accent who physically transports them to their past, present and future in hopes of convincing them to help him save the Earth. Mason effectively weaves emotionally resonant stories of seventh-grade angst (school teasing, absent fathers, mother conflicts and frissons of romance) with death-defying, planet-saving hijinks involving fanged, sometimes malodorous Permian-era beasts—not an easy feat. (Science fiction. 11 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-385-73581-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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A comprehensive and clear analysis of an important relationship.

HARRY AND IKE

THE PARTNERSHIP THAT REMADE THE POSTWAR WORLD

Chicago Sun-Times political columnist Neal (The Eisenhowers: Reluctant Dynasty, not reviewed) offers a detailed analysis of the 24-year association between Truman and Eisenhower, who worked in concert to safeguard Western democracy after WWII, until a falling-out in 1952.

President Truman and General Eisenhower’s early relationship was based on mutual respect formed soon after FDR’s death, the author asserts. Truman was impressed by Eisenhower’s military success in Europe, and the general admired the new Chief Executive for sanely assuming presidential duties suddenly thrust on him in a time of crisis. This amiability blossomed into a warm and intimate friendship, Neal demonstrates, as Truman entrusted Eisenhower with jobs of increasing responsibility, from military governor of Germany to supreme commander of the newly formed NATO, an internationally critical post. Harry hoped to recruit Ike as his successor on the Democratic presidential ticket, and Neal shows both political parties competing for the allegiance of the immensely popular Eisenhower before his personal beliefs coalesced and he declared himself a Republican. Neal argues that it was not so much Eisenhower’s decision to join the GOP as his willingness to campaign with the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy that ruptured his bond with Truman. (The Democratic president, who greatly valued loyalty, was particularly appalled that Eisenhower failed to defend his former superior officer, General George C. Marshall, against McCarthy’s vilification.) The 1952 presidential campaign included a cascade of vicious and personal attacks between Truman and Eisenhower that severed their friendship even as the West began to reap the benefits of security guaranteed by NATO, which they had both worked to establish. Neal suggests that this rift ultimately healed a decade later as the two ex-presidents together confronted their mortality and shared legacy on the eve of JFK’s funeral.

A comprehensive and clear analysis of an important relationship.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-85355-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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GIGANTIC!

HOW BIG WERE THE DINOSAURS?

O’Brien celebrates 14 prehistoric monsters by presenting each with a modern object or a human, thereby giving readers information about the size of these giants. Dinosaurs, in full-color and full-snarl, dominate the double-page layouts as they frolic and menace an airplane, fire truck, tank, automobile, and assorted people. For every creature, O’Brien provides the name, its meaning, and a brief line of text. Three of the creatures presented are not dinosaurs at all—Quetzalcoatlus, a pterosaur, Phobosuchus, a relative of the crocodiles, and Dinichthys, a bony fish—which the author mentions in the back matter. The illustrations are not drawn to scale, e.g., if Spinosaurus is really 49 feet long, as the text indicates, the car it is shown next to would appear to be 30 feet long. Readers may have to puzzle over a few scenes, but will enjoy browsing through this book, from the dramatic eyeball view of a toothy Tyrannosaurus rex on the cover to the final head-on glare from a Triceratops. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5738-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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