JOHN DEERE, THAT'S WHO!

An informative look at an inventor and his invention’s impact.

In 1836, John Deere—then a young, white Vermont father and blacksmith—moved to Illinois to settle debts brought on by two forge fires—and wound up inventing a superior plow.

Deere was an excellent blacksmith whose plow improvement was purely pragmatic: many of his farming customers were ready to give up on Illinois, and he needed their payments to bring his family to him from Vermont. Farmers accustomed to sandy soil discovered that the Midwest’s rich, black soil stuck to their easily pitted, heavy iron plows—causing frequent pauses to scrape off what they called “gumbo.” Deere tinkered with a discarded steel blade from a sawmill, thinking that a shiny, curved, lightweight plow might “slice through gumbo.” Soon overcoming skeptics by demonstrations and giving samples to farmers, John Deere’s “singing plow” became wildly popular. By 1838 he had moved his family to his side and had established a manufacturing company still in existence. The only missing piece in Maurer’s tale is a sudden leap from “steel was rare that far west and too pricey” to the big success story; readers must make their own deductions. Otherwise, the text is smoothly conversational and has just enough details to interest without overwhelming. The illustrations are gorgeous: semiprimitive paintings with deliberate crackling for an aging effect. The winding patterns of rivers and plows are especially noteworthy.

An informative look at an inventor and his invention’s impact. (glossary, additional facts, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-129-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN

Heartening.

One determined man brings two villages together with a hammer, chisel, and an iron will.

Deep in the heart of India, a mighty mountain separates two villages. Manjhi lives on one side, where nothing grows. On the other, rice and wheat flourish. The people there are affluent, while Manjhi’s village struggles with hunger. Manjhi climbs to the top of the mountain to ponder this problem. When he throws a stone, it triggers a sprinkle of powder, which gives him an idea. Manjhi trades his trio of goats for a hammer and chisel. Hurrying back to the top of the mountain, he positions the chisel and strikes it with the hammer. Powdered rock and tiny chips spray. He continues until he’s exhausted, but he’s also filled with hope. Even though people tell him he’s “crazy,” day after day Manjhi returns to the mountain. After a year, Majhi is a little stronger, and the hole he has made a little deeper. He perseveres and, when he returns to his task each day, notices that others have continued his work. It takes 22 years, but Manjhi lives to see the day that two villages become one, sharing water, hopes, and dreams. Churnin’s prose has an elegance appropriate for her inspiring tale, which is based on a true story. Popovich’s double-page illustrations use a warm palette and are nicely composed.

Heartening. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-939547-34-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creston

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

NELSON MANDELA

A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them.

An inspirational ode to the life of the great South African leader by an award-winning author and illustrator.

Mandela’s has been a monumental life, a fact made clear on the front cover, which features an imposing, full-page portrait. The title is on the rear cover. His family gave him the Xhosa name Rolihlahla, but his schoolteacher called him Nelson. Later, he was sent to study with village elders who told him stories about his beautiful and fertile land, which was conquered by European settlers with more powerful weapons. Then came apartheid, and his protests, rallies and legal work for the cause of racial equality led to nearly 30 years of imprisonment followed at last by freedom for Mandela and for all South Africans. “The ancestors, / The people, / The world, / Celebrated.” Nelson’s writing is spare, poetic, and grounded in empathy and admiration. His oil paintings on birch plywood are muscular and powerful. Dramatic moments are captured in shifting perspectives; a whites-only beach is seen through a wide-angle lens, while faces behind bars and faces beaming in final victory are masterfully portrayed in close-up.

A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-178374-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

Close Quickview