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History that tries way too hard to be hip.

Short biographies of six ancient women rulers for a generation of readers accustomed to plucky heroines.

Thanks to the bridging colloquialisms among marginalized populations and the global vector that is the internet-driven media culture, the current language is enriched with a vocabulary of surviving—if not at times vanquishing—the interlocking systems of oppression, from “fierce” to “slay” and “not on my watch” to “arm up and kick butt.” Author Shecter employs the very same language here. Hatshepsut the pharaoh queen—whose pivotal reign beginning at age 15 or 16 was nearly buried by the misogyny of her own stepson, Thutmose III, and centuries of neglect—starts off the chronology of exploits. It goes on to cover the Persian-allied Greek queen Artemisia I’s military derring-do; the Nubian (now Sudan) queen Amanirenas’ martial and diplomatic prowess; and the Trung sisters’ joint rule of Vietnam, during which they initially drive out Han Dynasty–era China with an 80,000-person army. Britain’s Boudicca and Palmyra’s Zenobia round out the collection. These are all stories worth knowing. Unfortunately, the author bogs them down with the aforementioned slang in a seeming desire to appeal to her middle-grade readers: “So how did [Amanirenas] succeed in her mammoth smackdown?” Mayer’s busy, Greek vase–inspired illustrations don’t add to the stories nearly as much as the occasional photographs pertaining to each woman’s narrative.

History that tries way too hard to be hip. (source notes, bibliography, index) (Collective biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62979-679-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Unassuming of aspect but judicious and illuminating of content.

Modest production values add appeal to this carefully researched account of “a life of courage, passion, and adventure.”

Young readers already have a plethora of Tubman titles to choose from, including the author’s own 1992 Picture Book of Harriet Tubman for younger readers, illustrated by Samuel Byrd. This one, though, offers an unusually coherent picture of her character as well as her place within both the major events of her times and the work of the Underground Railroad. Laying stress on her religious faith and her selfless nature, Adler covers her career as Union spy and nurse as well as “conductor” in deep-enough detail to make mention of her later involvement in a money swindle and her ambiguous relationship with “niece” (daughter? kidnap victim?) Margaret Stewart. Sheaves of small, period black-and-white portrait photos or engravings, plus occasional atrocity reports or editorials clipped from African-American newspapers give the pages a staid look overall. This is underscored by a typeface that, intentionally or otherwise, sometimes looks battered or too-lightly inked. Tubman’s exploits and struggles make absorbing reading nonetheless.

Unassuming of aspect but judicious and illuminating of content. (endnotes, bibliography, personal note about the author’s family in the Civil War) (Biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2365-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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A portrait of a courageous and admirable young voice for change—but no substitute for the book that is its major source.

A cursory introduction to the Pakistani teenager who earned international attention (and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination) after surviving a Taliban gunman’s assassination attempt.

Doeden draws largely from Yousafzai’s 2013 autobiography and a handful of news reports to craft his account. He explains how she, as the eldest daughter of a dedicated founder of girls schools in Pakistan and co-author (at the age of 11) of a personal blog sponsored by the BBC Urdu, became a public face for Muslim girls’ education—and therefore a Taliban target. Silenced only temporarily by a bullet to the head in 2012, she has gone on not only to become an even more vocal advocate for equal (not to say any) education, but to challenge President Barack Obama face to face about the use of military drones in her country. It’s a straightforward account geared to those who aren’t ready to tackle longer, richer resources. Most of the cramped color photos, and all of the unhelpful pull quotes, serve to fill space more than anything else.

A portrait of a courageous and admirable young voice for change—but no substitute for the book that is its major source. (map, endnotes, bibliography) (Biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4677-4907-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Lerner

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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