A tale worth the telling, though the artistic license is considerably overstretched.

CHER AMI

BASED ON THE WORLD WAR I LEGEND OF THE FEARLESS PIGEON

A fresh tribute to the renowned avian wounded warrior.

Admitting in an afterword that she’s invented details to fill out the “legend,” the author recounts in simple language how the eponymous homing pigeon was trained to carry messages from the front during the First World War and, despite enduring wounds, most famously delivered one that saved almost 200 U.S. doughboys from friendly fire. Her daughter Giselle invents details, too—starting with depicting the bird as much more brightly colored and patterned than she actually was (which does have the effect of making her stand out on the page and among other pigeons) and, in a bit of revisionist history, portraying American soldiers both on and behind the line of battle in racially integrated units. Though similar to Robert Burleigh’s Fly, Cher Ami, Fly (2008, illustrated by Robert Mackenzie) both in the factual embroidery and in the manufactured quality of some of the drama (“Each boom and bang was deafening. Cher Ami was not afraid.”), this does tell the tale in a more complete way by including the feathered messenger’s subsequent doctoring and artificial leg in the main narrative rather than relegating it to a small-type appendix. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A tale worth the telling, though the artistic license is considerably overstretched. (source list) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-33534-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity.

HOOT AND HOWL ACROSS THE DESERT

LIFE IN THE WORLD'S DRIEST DESERTS

Creatively stylized images of flora and fauna native to some 15 deserts around the world.

Interspersing her examination with closer looks at camels and at sand dunes, the bird communities associated with acacia trees, and like intriguing sidelights, Tzomaka poses groups of select residents from all three types of desert (hot, cold, and coastal) against sere backdrops, with pithily informative comments on characteristic behaviors and survival strategies. But significant bits of her presentation are only semilegible, with black type placed on deep blue or purple backgrounds. And rarely (if ever) have desert animals looked so…floral. Along with opting for a palette of bright pinks, greens, and purples rather than natural hues for her flat, screen-print–style figures, Tzomaka decorates them with contrasting whirls of petals and twining flourishes, stars, scallops, pinwheels, and geometric lines or tessellations. Striking though these fancies are, artistic license has led her into some serious overgeneralizations, as she claims to be drawing on regional folk motifs for inspiration—justifying the ornate ruffs and borders on creatures of the Kalahari with a vague note that “African tribes make accessories and jewelry…decorated with repeated lines, circles and dots,” for instance, and identifying a Northwest Coastal pattern on an arctic fox as “Inuit.” Readers may find less shifty footing in more conventional outings like Jim Arnosky’s Watching Desert Wildlife (1998).

A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity. (map, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65198-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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