The motivational agenda definitely outpaces the storytelling, but readers will be swept along to the finish line.

FINISH STRONG

SEVEN MARATHONS, SEVEN CONTINENTS, SEVEN DAYS

A veteran marathoner recalls an around-the-world race in 2018.

Still hoofing along after literally Running Across America (2019), McGillivray offers another autobiographical outing. This one sends him over “26.2 cold, crunchy miles” in Antarctica, “26.2 miles of out-and-back loops along the Persian Gulf,” and like distances on five other continents in a single week as a participant in the annual World Marathon Challenge. Though his terse accounts of places, faces, and races along the way are more snapshots than a connected narrative, they add up to some vivid memories, and he builds climactic suspense by describing how he powers through an increasingly painful injury to finish the final leg. Every experience, though, leads to an explicit inspirational slogan: “Set goals, not limits”; “Your greatest accomplishment is your next one”; “Never underestimate your own abilities”; “Finish strong…or weak. Just finish!” The lessons continue as he goes on to describe how a later diagnosis of heart disease (“Just because you’re fit, doesn’t mean you’re healthy”) led to surgery and—because a “comeback is always stronger than the setback”—a run in the Boston Marathon six months later. If that last bit seems aimed more at adults than kids, he goes for a more general audience with a final page of alternative “marathons,” like “Read! 26 Books” and “Reach Out! 26 Acts of Big-Hearted Kindness” modeled on a St. Louis initiative. Staid illustrations place the White author front and center in stylized foreign settings, occasionally with racially diverse groups of onlookers or fellow runners in the background.

The motivational agenda definitely outpaces the storytelling, but readers will be swept along to the finish line. (Picture book/memoir. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64741-039-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nomad Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Despite choruses praising Ride’s persistence, her life is inexplicably portrayed as lacking struggle.

SALLY RIDE

From the She Persisted series

Sally Ride: from tennis-playing schoolgirl through astronaut and educator to entrepreneur.

Sally Ride stars in this entry to the chapter-book series spun off from Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger’s picture book She Persisted (2017). Long before she becomes the first woman to go to space, Sally is an athlete, a White girl born in California in 1951. She’s a tennis whiz but an inconsistent scholar, attending a prestigious private school on an athletic scholarship. Though the narrative a little ostentatiously tells readers that “Sally persisted,” the youth presented here—a child who rolls her eyes at boring teachers, a college student who drops out to play tennis, an excellent tennis player who “just did not enjoy” the effort of becoming a professional—shows the opposite. Sexism is alluded to, but no barriers are portrayed as blocking young Sally herself. Though her amazing achievements aren’t downplayed, the groundbreaking Sally Ride, in this telling, becomes simply someone who applied for a job and excelled once she liked what she was doing. Sally’s partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, is mentioned as such, but the text avoids using any pronouns for O’Shaughnessy, which, along with her gender-neutral name, may leave many young readers ignorant that Ride silently broke sexuality barriers as well.

Despite choruses praising Ride’s persistence, her life is inexplicably portrayed as lacking struggle. (reading list, websites) (Biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11592-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Disappointingly lackadaisical.

WHEN SPARKS FLY

THE TRUE STORY OF ROBERT GODDARD, THE FATHER OF US ROCKETRY

Punctuated—unsurprisingly—by explosions, an account of the groundbreaking rocketeer’s childhood and first experiments.

Fueled by an early interest in hands-on science nurtured by his parents and sparked by reading The War of the Worlds, Goddard’s ambition to “build something that would soar to space” led to years of experimentation and failure analysis. Finally, in 1926, a brief but successful flight pointed the way to “every shuttle that has blasted into space, every astronaut who has defied gravity, and every man who has walked on the moon.” Fulton occasionally skimps on scientific details (in one childhood trial Robert “emptied a small vial of hydrogen into a pan”; even in the backmatter, there’s no explanation why, as he notes in his journal, “Hydrogen and oxygen when combined near a flame will ignite”). Still, she highlights the profound curiosity and determined, methodical effort that ultimately earned her subject a well-deserved place in the pantheon of scientists and inventors. Scientific gear in Funck’s cartoon illustrations often looks generic, and in one scene he depicts a rocket that is markedly different from the one described in the adjacent narrative. Moreover, his explosions look like fried eggs, and most come with oddly undersized if all-capped onomatopoeia (“BOOM!”; “POP!”) that underplays both the melodramatic potential and the real danger to which Goddard must have exposed himself. Goddard and his family are white.

Disappointingly lackadaisical. (afterword, list of sources) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6098-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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