Inspiring, informative, and entertaining.



This biography of a groundbreaking cryptanalyst is entwined with crucial episodes in U.S. history.

Thorough research and accessible, enthusiastic writing create a page-turning read as thrilling as a spy novel. The text begins with Elizebeth Smith’s childhood: born in Indiana in 1892 to a Civil War veteran father and a former teacher mother, both devout Christians, she was determined to attend college despite her father’s opposition. She succeeded, finding her way to Chicago, where a library visit led to a research job working for eccentric millionaire Col. Fabyan at his estate, Riverbank. There she met a Russian-born fellow employee, her future husband, William Friedman. They eventually comprised Fabyan’s Department of Ciphers and married despite both families’ religious objections (William was Jewish). Almost unbelievable adventures ensued as the couple practiced their craft and plotted their escape from Riverbank’s maniacal owner. Elizebeth’s skills enabled the prosecution of alcohol-smuggling criminals during Prohibition. The couple’s work also saved lives and helped capture spies during both world wars. Between the wars, they threw elaborate code-breaking parties. Sadly, they also contended with antisemitism, misogyny, and William’s mental health issues; nonetheless, the tone overall is compelling and upbeat. Nearly every chapter about this intrepid, intelligent, energetic woman ends with a cliffhanger whose promise is fulfilled in the following one. Elizebeth’s life unfolded against a backdrop of some of the 20th century’s most pivotal events, and this riveting title is a fine tribute to her accomplishments.

Inspiring, informative, and entertaining. (bibliography, notes) (Biography. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12719-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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Small but mighty necessary reading.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Best enjoyed by preexisting fans of the author.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Deaf, trans artist Man meditates on his journey and identity in this brief memoir.

Growing up in conservative central Pennsylvania was tough for the 21-year-old Deaf, genderqueer, pansexual, and biracial (Chinese/White Jewish) author. He describes his gender and sexual identity, his experiences of racism and ableism, and his desire to use his visibility as a YouTube personality, model, and actor to help other young people like him. He is open and vulnerable throughout, even choosing to reveal his birth name. Man shares his experiences of becoming deaf as a small child and at times feeling ostracized from the Deaf community but not how he arrived at his current Deaf identity. His description of his gender-identity development occasionally slips into a well-worn pink-and-blue binary. The text is accompanied and transcended by the author’s own intriguing, expressionistic line drawings. However, Man ultimately falls short of truly insightful reflection or analysis, offering a mostly surface-level account of his life that will likely not be compelling to readers who are not already fans. While his visibility and success as someone whose life represents multiple marginalized identities are valuable in themselves, this heartfelt personal chronicle would have benefited from deeper introspection.

Best enjoyed by preexisting fans of the author. (Memoir. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-22348-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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