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 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...



A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Spy fans and cryptographers will seek this one out.


From the Spy on History series

A strong main character and an engaging story make for a revolutionary read.

The career of Anna Strong occupies a fascinating footnote in American history. Was she merely a farmer’s wife, or was she a member of one of the most daring spy rings in our country’s history? The pseudonymous author presents a fictionalized version of Anna’s life in the third volume of the Spy on History series. The examination begins during the throes of the American Revolution. After Anna’s husband is imprisoned and then freed, thanks to Anna’s family connections, and returns to patriot-controlled Connecticut, Anna is pulled into a plot to signal a fellow patriot and pass along information. The plan is simple: Anna uses a black petticoat and a series of handkerchiefs to relay a meeting place. “Alberti” pulls readers into the chaos of Anna’s life (and the war) through an omniscient narrator that documents Anna’s movements over the next year. Astute readers will also realize the dangers women faced from soldiers (and fellow countrymen) during this period. Terry’s loose, two-color illustrations depict an all-white cast and provide an additional sense of movement to the text. The trade edition includes a "Spycraft Kit" in the form of an enclosed envelope with inserts for solving a final coded mystery; the library edition publishes without these inclusions for ease of circulation. Backmatter explains the history of the Culper Spy Ring and its role in exposing Gen. Benedict Arnold.

Spy fans and cryptographers will seek this one out. (historical note, answers, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0216-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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