Really just a jumble—but expertly designed as browser bait.

TOP SECRET

A wide-ranging skulk down hidden byways of spycraft, history, nature, food, archaeology, and more.

The title reflects only the general drift of the contents. Along with quick introductions to codes and ciphers, ninjas, secret agents, tiny cameras, and the like, the authors chuck in spreads on the U.S. president’s armored car, the infrastructure of Rome’s Colosseum, great white sharks, the Rosetta Stone, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and other foods with secret formulas, women who “dressed as dudes” to disguise their sex, and dozens of other tangential, if crowd-pleasing, topics. Readers eager for mentions of, say, Gitmo, QAnon, or the deep state will be disappointed, but there is an interview with an actual CIA agent as well as some lesser-known spy stuff headed by an entertaining account of a “psychic arms race” between the Cold War rivals. The illustrations, a strong point as usual, mix sharply reproduced photos of people, places, and gear with close-ups of children playing spy—the last an invitation to follow the directions for several “tradecraft”-related projects like making invisible ink or setting up a network of secret informants (all in fun, of course). Human figures in the pictures are diverse of age, sex, and race. Each chapter presents readers with an encoded riddle, answers to which are revealed at the end.

Really just a jumble—but expertly designed as browser bait. (index) (Nonfiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3912-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A valuable introduction to a vanished North American people, told with nuance, engagement, and rue.

TUNIIT

MYSTERIOUS FOLK OF THE ARCTIC

Before the Inuit came to the Arctic, there were the Tuniit.

The Qitsualik-Tinsleys offer readers an introduction to this prehistoric people, twining scientific findings with Inuit legend and even Inuktitut grammar to provide a window on the early Arctic. Without going into anthropological specifics, the husband-and-wife team, who include Inuit, Cree, and Mohawk in their combined heritage, introduce the notion that the Tuniit may not have been human before going on to say that they lived in settlements, originated the intricate stone cairns known as inuksuit, and were short, strong, and shy. They introduce snippets of traditional lore that claim supernatural powers for the Tuniit and that build a strong case for the eventual assimilation of the Tuniit by the encroaching Inuit. Anthropological discoveries validate the existence of the Tuniit and their disappearance as a distinct culture and genotype. Bigham contributes moody oil paintings and ink drawings; shifts in typeface seem to indicate corresponding shifts in mode that highlight the persistence of the Tuniit in Inuit legend, though this is not consistent. The authors clearly wrestle with the understanding that Inuit ancestors displaced an earlier indigenous people, introducing real poignancy to their exhortation that their readers respect the Tuniit by remembering them: "We remember a fate that no culture should have to endure."

A valuable introduction to a vanished North American people, told with nuance, engagement, and rue. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-927095-76-8

Page Count: 60

Publisher: Inhabit Media

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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