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Charming, warming girl power in early-20th-century immigrant New York.

Batya couldn’t be a woodcarver back in the old country, but maybe she can be one in the golden land of New York City.

In 1915 Russia, 12-year-old Batya isn’t allowed to apprentice to her woodcarver father. Her older brother, who lacks interest in the work, must nonetheless learn the trade. Batya’s life turns upside down when pogroms descend on their village, making it unsafe for her Jewish family to stay in Russia. After a journey that’s depressing and lovely by turns, Batya discovers she’s miserable in New York. Her baby sister’s gone deaf on the ship, the tenement they live in is ugly and cramped, and Batya struggles to learn English. Worst of all, there’s no time to whittle, and Papa can’t find a job carving, either. Eventually, Batya’s misery leads her into adventures that improve not only her life, but also her whole family’s. Her journey to become a woodcarver is framed from beginning to end with a lovely appreciation for the artistry of carousel horses. Some historical details are simplified, but for the most part these choices harmlessly ease the way for contemporary readers. Unfortunately, the narrative supports the urban legend that names were changed at Ellis Island by callous officials, which serves no storytelling purpose here. Non-English words are inconsistently italicized.

Charming, warming girl power in early-20th-century immigrant New York. (historical note, timeline, glossary) (Historical fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8667-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that...

Antics both instructive and embarrassing ensue after a mysterious package left on their doorstep brings a Founding Father into the lives of two modern children.

Summoned somehow by what looks for all the world like an old-time crystal radio set, Ben Franklin turns out to be an amiable sort. He is immediately taken in hand by 7-year-old Olive for a tour of modern wonders—early versions of which many, from electrical appliances in the kitchen to the Illinois town’s public library and fire department, he justly lays claim to inventing. Meanwhile big brother Nolan, 10, tags along, frantic to return him to his own era before either their divorced mom or snoopy classmate Tommy Tuttle sees him. Fleming, author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) (and also, not uncoincidentally considering the final scene of this outing, Our Eleanor, 2005), mixes history with humor as the great man dispenses aphorisms and reminiscences through diverse misadventures, all of which end well, before vanishing at last. Following a closing, sequel-cueing kicker (see above) she then separates facts from fancies in closing notes, with print and online leads to more of the former. To go with spot illustrations of the evidently all-white cast throughout the narrative, Fearing incorporates change-of-pace sets of sequential panels for Franklin’s biographical and scientific anecdotes. Final illustrations not seen.

It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that adds flavor without weight. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93406-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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“By March 5, 1770, it was dangerous to be a soldier in Boston.” In a few lines of terse prose illustrated with densely hatched black-and-white pictures, Decker lays out the causes of the tension between Bostonians and British troops, and then delivers a blow-by-blow account of events on that March night and the ensuing trials. Along with casting a grim tone over all, his dark, crowded illustrations capture the incident’s confusion and also add details to the narrative. Despite some questionable choices—he names most of the soldiers but none of the casualties, and except for a row of coffins in one picture, never mentions how many actually died—the author leaves readers with a general understanding of what happened, and with a final scene of John Adams (who defended the soldiers in court) pondering the necessity of protecting true Liberty from the “lawless mob,” some food for thought as well. (Informational picture book. 9-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59078-608-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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