An attractive volume demonstrating that even words themselves have a story.

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NOAH WEBSTER'S FIGHTING WORDS

The story of Noah Webster, America’s original man of letters.

Noah Webster was concerned with letters, literally. With America formally separated from England, he wanted to break away from Great Britain in every way. As a classroom teacher, he saw that students didn’t learn American geography or American history or read American stories. And students used British grammar books. So, the same year the American Revolution ended, he published A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, and his spelling book became America’s first bestseller. Webster also believed in simplifying spelling, so that words would be spelled the way they sounded: center instead of centre, jail instead of gaol, iz for is, and hed for head. Though not every suggestion caught on, he changed the spellings of more English words than anyone ever had. Maurer, ever mindful of her own words and spelling every one carefully, has crafted a text that reflects Webster’s feisty personality and provides enough history to establish sufficient context for Webster’s work. Catusanu’s mixed-media illustrations combine child-friendly depictions of Webster, Benjamin Franklin, and others with period drawings and excerpts from period newspapers, books, and Webster’s own handwritten letters. Digitally collaged speech bubbles and the occasional obviously anachronistic image give the design a lively feel. Young readers encountering new words here will know where to find help—Webster’s dictionary!

An attractive volume demonstrating that even words themselves have a story. (author’s note, illustrator’s note, timeline, sources, bibliography, primary sources, more information) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4677-9410-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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A crisp historical vignette.

BEN'S REVOLUTION

BENJAMIN RUSSELL AND THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL

A boy experiences the Boston Tea Party, the response to the Intolerable Acts, and the battle at Breed’s Hill in Charlestown.

Philbrick has taken his Bunker Hill (2013), pulled from its 400 pages the pivotal moments, added a 12-year-old white boy—Benjamin Russell—as the pivot, and crafted a tale of what might have happened to him during those days of unrest in Boston from 1773 to 1775 (Russell was a real person). Philbrick explains, in plainspoken but gradually accelerating language, the tea tax, the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, and the quartering of troops in Boston as well as the institution of a military government. Into this ferment, he introduces Benjamin Russell, where he went to school, his part-time apprenticeship at Isaiah Thomas’ newspaper, sledding down Beacon Hill, and the British officer who cleaned the cinders from the snow so the boys could sled farther and farther. It is these humanizing touches that make war its own intolerable act. Readers see Benjamin, courtesy of Minor’s misty gouache-and-watercolor tableaux, as he becomes stranded outside Boston Neck and becomes a clerk for the patriots. Significant characters are introduced, as is the geography of pre-landfilled Boston, to gain a good sense of why certain actions took place where they did. The final encounter at Breed’s Hill demonstrates how a battle can be won by retreating.

A crisp historical vignette. (maps, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Historical fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16674-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Fold down the drawbridge and step through. Mind the mucky patches.

LIFT, LOOK, AND LEARN CASTLE

UNCOVER THE SECRETS OF A MEDIEVAL FORTRESS

Flurries of small-to-tiny flaps give good cause to linger at each stop on this buttery-to-battlements castle tour.

It’s not all typical 13th-century feasting and fighting on display either, as opening teasers warn of 16 anachronistic items (among them a pair of boxer shorts), a lost treasure and a spy—or maybe ghost—to spot along the way. Castle de Chevalier comes equipped with a lord and lady, mail-clad men at arms and servants of diverse sorts. There’s also a well-stocked torture chamber/dungeon and, as revealed in cutaway views and beneath the diminutive die-cut flaps, thriving populations of bats, rats and spiders…not to mention the occasional detached head. The visit ends with a tournament, where tents, spectators and jousting knights can be viewed in situ or rearranged to suit with separate punch-out versions. Except for an arrant disconnect on the chapel spread, Pipe’s flippant commentary supplies tolerable if rudimentary bits of plot and explication. Though not so maniacally awash in microbusiness as the illustrations in Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sections: Castle (written by Richard Platt, 1994), Taylord’s bustling cartoon scenes may well require a magnifying glass to make out all the detail. The same applies to the cutaways and Victorian-era rooms in the simultaneously published Lift, Look, and Learn Doll’s House.

Fold down the drawbridge and step through. Mind the mucky patches. (Informational novelty. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-78312-081-9

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Carlton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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