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

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. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017



A lighthearted recap of some of our oldest tales.

For her latest cartoon foray into ancient cultures, Williams concocts a brisk dash through Egyptian myth and history.

Drawing figures in traditional Egyptian style but with a more natural range of expressions and gestures, she constructs flat-planed scenes that range from small sequential strips to full-page images and even larger ones on double gatefolds. Her nine episodes begin with a creation myth, end with Cleopatra’s death and in between introduce a select set of major gods and Pharaohs. Large and small, each picture is decked with strings of hieroglyphic-like signs for atmosphere as well as side comments in dialogue balloons to go with the short, legible captions. Though she freely mixes legend and fact without distinguishing one from the other in the main going, a smaller strip running below provides a cat’s-eye view of the subject. The patterns of Egyptian daily life (“Cats are Egypt’s greatest wonder, followed by the river Nile”), how mummies were made (“Yes, we do cats, too!”), early technological advances and general cultural values receive tongue-in-cheek glosses. The colorful, briefly told stories provide nothing like a systematic overview but are easily enjoyed for themselves, and they may well leave young readers with a hankering to find out more about Isis and Horus, Zoser, Hatshepsut, Tutankhamen and the rest.

A lighthearted recap of some of our oldest tales. (map) (Picture book/folklore. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5308-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011



In a boyish three-day adventure, Teedie (Roosevelt) and Johnnie (Muir) dodge, if temporarily, the confines of more formal...

Theodore Roosevelt’s 1903 trip to the western parks included a backcountry camping trip—complete with snowstorm—with John Muir in the Yosemite Wilderness and informed the president’s subsequent advocacy for national parks and monuments.

In a boyish three-day adventure, Teedie (Roosevelt) and Johnnie (Muir) dodge, if temporarily, the confines of more formal surroundings to experience firsthand the glories of the mountains and ancient forests. (You can't ever quite take the boy out of the man, and Rosenstock's use of her subjects’ childhood names evokes a sense of Neverland ebullience, even as the grownup men decided the fate of the wilderness.) The narrative is intimate and yet conveys the importance of the encounter both as a magnificent getaway for the lively president and a chance for the brilliant environmentalist to tell the trees’ side of the story. Gerstein’s depiction of the exuberant president riding off with Muir is enchantingly comical and liberating. A lovely two-page spread turns the opening to a long vertical to show the two men in the Mariposa Grove, relatively small even on horseback, surrounded by the hush and grandeur of the giant sequoias, while in another double-page scene, after a photo of the two at Glacier Point, Muir lies on his back at the edge of the canyon, demonstrating to an attentive Roosevelt how the glacier carved the deep valley below. An author’s note explains that the dialogue is imagined and reconstructed from Muir’s writing as well as from other accounts of the meeting.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3710-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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