Less mesmerizing than Wilder’s prose but similar in its simple sentences that convey big ideas.

LITTLE AUTHOR IN THE BIG WOODS

A BIOGRAPHY OF LAURA INGALLS WILDER

This condensation of the long, peripatetic life of Laura Ingalls Wilder will intrigue fans of the Little House series.

After scant pages of prologue and the early life of Wilder’s mother, the text begins a straightforward chronology with a mind-numbing parade of temporary homes, hardships and triumphs, and many, many descriptions of building construction. (No wonder Ma always seemed so tired.) Those who have read the Little House series will recognize names, places and incidents that went straight from Wilder’s memory into her novels—more so than most works of fiction, as the text notes. (Readers will eventually learn the reason: Wilder initially expected to publish an autobiography for adults). Quotes from Wilder are interspersed with facts about her life, and a few facts are noted as different from her fiction. Ironically, the text sometimes reads like a lifeless summary of episodes that sparkle in the novels. However, there is a noteworthy emphasis on literacy—especially for girls—and on the values of three generations of “strong, smart women.” Also, the biography extends Wilder’s life far beyond the chronological boundaries of her books and into her writing career, relationship with daughter Rose and final years. The illustrations are lovely pencil drawings that pay homage to Garth Williams’ work while maintaining originality.

Less mesmerizing than Wilder’s prose but similar in its simple sentences that convey big ideas. (author’s note, epilogue, craft project, recipes, list of books by Wilder, glossary, further reading) (Biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9542-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care.

OIL

In 1977, the oil carrier Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into a formerly pristine Alaskan ocean inlet, killing millions of birds, animals, and fish. Despite a cleanup, crude oil is still there.

The Winters foretold the destructive powers of the atomic bomb allusively in The Secret Project (2017), leaving the actuality to the backmatter. They make no such accommodations to young audiences in this disturbing book. From the dark front cover, on which oily blobs conceal a seabird, to the rescuer’s sad face on the back, the mother-son team emphasizes the disaster. A relatively easy-to-read and poetically heightened text introduces the situation. Oil is pumped from the Earth “all day long, all night long, / day after day, year after year” in “what had been unspoiled land, home to Native people // and thousands of caribou.” The scale of extraction is huge: There’s “a giant pipeline” leading to “enormous ships.” Then, crash. Rivers of oil gush out over three full-bleed wordless pages. Subsequent scenes show rocks, seabirds, and sea otters covered with oil. Finally, 30 years later, animals have returned to a cheerful scene. “But if you lift a rock… // oil / seeps / up.” For an adult reader, this is heartbreaking. How much more difficult might this be for an animal-loving child?

Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3077-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Involving from "the end of my lovely world" to the end of exile (when the Rudomins, as Jews, were jeered in Poland), this is...

THE ENDLESS STEPPE

GROWING UP IN SIBERIA

To Esther Rudomin at eleven Siberia meant the metaphor: isolation, criminals and cruel punishment, snow and wolves; but even in Siberia there is satisfaction from making a friend of a prickly classmate, from seeing a Deanna Durbin movie four times, from earning and studying and eventually belonging.

Especially in Siberia, where not wolves but hunger and dirt and cold are endemic, where shabbiness and overcrowding are taken for granted, where unselfishness is exceptional. At the heart of Mrs. Hautzig's memoir of four years as a Polish deportee in Russia during World War II is not only hardihood and adaptability but uniquely a girl like any other. Abruptly seized in their comfortable home in Vilna, Esther and her family, are shipped in cattle cars to Rubtsovsk in the Altai Territory, work as slave laborers in a gypsum mine until amnesty, then are "permitted" lobs and lodging in the village--if someone will take them in. After sleeping on the floor, a wooden platform is very welcome; after sharing a room with two other families, a separate dung hut seems a homestead. Then Esther goes to school, the greatest boon, and, to her mother's horror, wants to be like the Siberians....Deprivation does not make Esther grim: the saddest day of her life is her father's departure for a labor brigade at the front, her sharpest bitterness is for the bland viciousness of individuals.

Involving from "the end of my lovely world" to the end of exile (when the Rudomins, as Jews, were jeered in Poland), this is a beautiful book with no bar to wide acceptance (and a rich non-juvenile jacket by Nonny Hogrogian). (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 15, 1968

ISBN: 978-0-06-447027-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: T.Y. Crowell

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1968

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