Captivating glimpses of children’s lives.

A photographic celebration of American childhood.

Culled from more than 2,000 images, this book by journalist and historian Brewster brings together more than 200 photographs from museum collections (Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Public Library, New York Historical Society), Getty images, flea markets, antiques stores, eBay, and his own family’s trove to tell a visual history of the life of American children. Spanning 250 years, the photos document children at home and school, sitting primly or playing exuberantly, dressed formally or in costume or play clothes. They range from babies to teenagers, a diverse assortment of youngsters: Black, White, Asian, Native American, urban and rural. There’s a 12-year-old drummer boy who served in the Civil War and a 13-year-old Freedom Rider arrested in 1961. Brewster, who founded the Center for Oral History at West Point, dispenses with chronological or thematic organization in favor of juxtaposing pictures “simply because I liked how they looked or because together they delivered an ironic or telling message.” The result is like paging through an album from a sprawling, blended family. Brewster contextualizes the images in historical essays about childhood as well as about photography. “In the 1910s and 1920s,” he notes, “the camera becomes portable and we start to see the lives of children in their environments, and even in movement—playing, going to school, dancing, competing in sports.” These contrast with the solemn daguerreotypes and staid family portraits of earlier times. It’s amusing to see childhood photos of celebrities: 4-year-old Stephen King, Lucille Ball at 2, Thomas Edison at 5, and the future Lady Gaga at 4. Not surprisingly, there’s a photo of Shirley Temple. There’s also one of Truman Capote, smiling winningly, and another of Ernest Hemingway, at 12, writing during a fishing trip. Brewster argues that Americans invented childhood and, sadly, will oversee its demise due to insidious forces such as social media and school shootings. Childhood, he exults, is “the original adventure.”

Captivating glimpses of children’s lives.

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9781501124884

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006


An instructive history with a disturbing coda: If you want to learn about evolution, go to college.

Fox News commentator Jarrett’s account of the iconic 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial turns out to be a satisfying traditional history that celebrates the good guys.

Although widely derided, the flurry of post–World War I state laws forbidding public schools from teaching evolution enjoyed a great deal of popular support. Concerned about the effect on academic freedom, the American Civil Liberties Union ran a news release seeking a volunteer to test the newly enacted Tennessee law. The trial took place in the small town of Dayton only because local boosters believed it “would put [the town] on the map.” They persuaded high school teacher John Scopes to offer himself as defendant. News of the case made headlines, and a mass of journalists descended on the city along with celebrities, including William Jennings Bryan and legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow. With a churchgoing jury and biased judge who began the proceedings by declaiming the first chapter of Genesis, the outcome was never in doubt, but Jarrett remains firmly for the defense, praising Darrow’s and colleagues’ arguments in favor of First Amendment freedoms and opposing religious bigotry and government interference in education. To Darrow’s frustration, the judge ruled that the trial was solely to determine whether Scopes broke the law, so he refused to allow the defense to call scientists and theologians to inform the jury that evolution was not equivalent to atheism. After several frustrating days, Darrow grew discouraged, and many reporters left before he hit the jackpot cross-examining Bryan, who had volunteered to prove the literal truth of everything in the Bible and did a terrible job. Despite an upbeat conclusion, Jarrett admits that there is less in Darrow’s triumph than meets the eye. Disbelief in evolution remains common, so school boards (and publishers anxious to sell them science textbooks) treat the subject with kid gloves.

An instructive history with a disturbing coda: If you want to learn about evolution, go to college.

Pub Date: May 30, 2023

ISBN: 9781982198572

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023