Krensky spins a wisp of history into a diaphanous tale that's accompanied by arty illustrations that fail to add substance or even a sense of period. Thanks to the popularity of an actual series of reported sightings of “man-bats,” intelligent beavers and other strange life forms on the Moon that ran in the tabloid New York Sun in 1833, fictional newsboys Jake and Charlie enjoy temporary prosperity—meaning they can buy meals, and sleep in a bed rather than an alley at night. Jake’s imagination is fired with the idea that words, “even if they’re not quite true, ... can make us see amazing things,” but the hope that the paper will continue to offer such sensationalistic “news” for them to peddle each day is plainly the sharper concern. Krensky concentrates on conveying the newsboys’ hand-to-mouth existence; the stories themselves and the unsurprising later revelation that they were a hoax draw only brief references and quotes in the narrative. These are supplemented by clipped fragments of illegible printing held by the crudely drawn, sometimes anachronistically dressed figures in Bisaillon’s scraped, mud-colored collages. Don Brown’s Kid Blink Beats the World (2004) brings the life of 19th-century newsboys into sharper focus, and when it comes to examining popular hoaxes, Meghan McCarthy’s Aliens Are Coming! (2006) sets the bar. (afterword) (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5110-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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Rockliff and Bruno’s playful approach buoys solid science and history.



Ben Franklin’s several years in France during the American Revolution included an occasion on which he consulted on a scientific matter for the French king.

Louis XVI commissioned a study when he became concerned about the number of complaints he was hearing from French doctors about a German—Dr. Franz Mesmer—who seemed to wield a powerful, mysterious method of healing. Among the scientists and doctors asked to report was the American emissary Benjamin Franklin. In Rockliff’s account, Franklin observes Mesmer’s colleague, Charles D’Eslon, at work, then tinkers with Mesmer’s “animal magnetism” technique by blindfolding and misdirecting D’Eslon’s subjects. Franklin’s hypothesis—that results were accounted for by the subject’s imagination and not an external force—is quickly proved. Text displayed in ribbons, a couple of late-18th-century typefaces and other flourishes create a sense of time and place. The endpapers are brightly hypnotic. Bruno’s digitally colored pencil art lightly evokes period caricature and gently pokes fun at the ornate clothing and hair of French nobility. The tale is nicely pitched to emphasize the importance of a hypothesis, testing and verification, and several inset text boxes are used to explain these scientific tools. Rockliff points out that Franklin’s blind-test technique is in use today for medical treatments, and both the placebo effect and hypnosis are studied today.

Rockliff and Bruno’s playful approach buoys solid science and history. (author’s note, sources) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6351-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Though based on a real-life exhibit, this outing lacks the fear factor.


From the Haunted States of America series

Alejandro and his eighth grade classmates take a field trip to visit the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida, where they encounter the titular doll.

The museum hosts a glass-encased exhibit of a “haunted” toy by the name of Robert the Doll. The tour guide shares the story of the doll’s history and his weirdly devoted adult owner. The guide explains that taking Robert the Doll’s photo without permission brings bad luck that will lift only with a written apology. Naturally, Al breaks the rule. Not even a few minutes into the bus ride from the museum begins a string of bad luck for Alejandro. Al ultimately takes his apology letter to the museum to rid himself of this curse. The plot is predictable and, despite its content, lacks real suspense, as the author relies on horror tropes that demand a completely credulous audience for success. In the era of Stranger Things, which amps kid-horror to a captivating level of scary, all but the very newest to the genre will find this story lacking in tension, imagination, and originality. Continuing the series’ tour of actual, supposedly haunted U.S. locales, three other entries publish simultaneously: Phantom of the Tracks (New Jersey), A Starlet’s Shadow (California), and Swamp of Lost Souls (Louisiana).

Though based on a real-life exhibit, this outing lacks the fear factor. (Horror. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63163-348-5

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Jolly Fish Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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