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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Ocasio-Cortez may be a “trailblazer” who “walks her talk,” but this is addressed to readers who already know that.



An alphabetic double fanfare for the 116th Congress’ youngest elected member.

In a misapplied apparent effort to reach two tiers of future voters, Wilson runs through the alphabet twice, assigning a character trait or, more often, broad issue to each letter—“Democracy” and “Jobs” on up to “Xenophobia” and, finally, “Zeal”—and unpacking it…briefly at first, then later, on a second go-round, in slightly more detail but at the same general reading level. Thus, under A for “Advocate,” readers learn that “Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez works to enact laws that will change lives for the better” in her community, and then, in the second alphabet, that she has a progressive platform and a Green New Deal. Unfortunately, the author renders moot her own argument that AOC is a true “Revolutionary” rather than just a “reformer” by describing how she won election to “Congress” by gathering “Grassroots” support, backs at least most of her chosen party’s policies, and places high value on “Teamwork.” Aside from mentions of the Afro-Latinx representative’s Bronx childhood and Jewish forebears, her family and private life remain largely unexplored. Leaving the second alphabet a set of boxed narrative blocks, Quiles illustrates the first with scenes of Ocasio-Cortez dancing, speaking, or hanging out with racially diverse supporters in urban settings.

Ocasio-Cortez may be a “trailblazer” who “walks her talk,” but this is addressed to readers who already know that. (endnotes) (Informational picture book. 10-12, adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-49514-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

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In no particular order and using no set criteria for his selections, veteran sportscaster Berman pays tribute to an arbitrary gallery of baseball stars—all familiar names and, except for the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, retired from play for decades. Repeatedly taking the stance that statistics are just numbers but then reeling off batting averages, home-run totals, wins (for pitchers) and other data as evidence of greatness, he offers career highlights in a folksy narrative surrounded by photos, side comments and baseball-card–style notes in side boxes. Readers had best come to this with some prior knowledge, since he casually drops terms like “slugging percentage,” “dead ball era” and “barnstorming” without explanation and also presents a notably superficial picture of baseball’s history—placing the sport’s “first half-century” almost entirely in the 1900s, for instance, and condescendingly noting that Jackie Robinson’s skill led Branch Rickey to decide that he “was worthy of becoming the first black player to play in the majors.” The awesome feats of Ruth, Mantle, the Gibsons Bob and Josh, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and the rest are always worth a recap—but this one’s strictly minor league. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4022-3886-4

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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