A solid addition to the canon.

WRITE ON, MERCY!

Move over, Thomas Paine! Revolutionary War writer and activist finds fame! First biography for young readers published!

Mercy Otis of colonial Massachusetts did not attend college but studied at home with her father’s encouragement. After her marriage to James Warren, she began writing and joined the political discussions about breaking ties with Great Britain that were held in her home. As open rebellion grew closer, she wrote political plays, albeit unsigned. When fighting broke out, Warren began an ambitious project—a history of the American Revolution, concentrating on “radical thoughts and bold actions.” It was published in 1805 under her name. Woelfle’s lively and informative style keeps the narrative flowing. Wallner’s gouache paintings are colorful and spirited, with a good mix of full-page scenes and close-ups of prominent figures. In a nice touch, Mercy Otis Warren's Copley portrait hanging in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is reproduced. Decorative inserts excerpt her writings and those of her father and her husband. It is usually Abigail Adams who gets the nod whenever women of colonial and revolutionary-era America are mentioned, so this title certainly fills a niche.

A solid addition to the canon. (author’s note, timeline, bibliography, websites) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59078-822-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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Entirely inappropriate for children.

CONFEDERATE ALPHABET

Aimed less at children and more at Southern sympathizers, this alphabet book is an ill-conceived paean to the Confederacy.

Each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by an illustration and a short, often limping verse, most of which feature people and events that will be unfamiliar to today’s young readers (not to mention the general adult population, Civil War buffs notwithstanding). Unfortunately, the text lacks explanatory notes to give these items context and fails to provide an overarching narrative of the polemical version of the Civil War story it seems to take for granted. Take F, for example: “F is for the flags / Of the old Confederacy; / And for Nathan Bedford Forrest / A devil to every Yankee!” No further description of Forrest or his role in the war is forthcoming. Further, the narrator’s intense identification with the Confederate cause comes through clearly when he uses the first person (“D is for bright ‘Dixie,’ / A song we love to hear”) and in verses such as, “Y is for the Yankees, / The enemy in blue, / Invading beloved Dixie / To conquer and subdue.” Slavery is not mentioned in the text, yet the illustrations feature white and black soldiers fighting side by side for the Confederacy as well as a black woman comforting a white child as flames rage in the background. Absent historical context and competing perspectives, this far-from-center picture book lacks educational or entertainment value and is little more than propaganda designed to perpetuate “the South will rise again” mentality.

Entirely inappropriate for children. (song lyrics, timeline) (Nonfiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58980-760-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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Fold down the drawbridge and step through. Mind the mucky patches.

LIFT, LOOK, AND LEARN CASTLE

UNCOVER THE SECRETS OF A MEDIEVAL FORTRESS

Flurries of small-to-tiny flaps give good cause to linger at each stop on this buttery-to-battlements castle tour.

It’s not all typical 13th-century feasting and fighting on display either, as opening teasers warn of 16 anachronistic items (among them a pair of boxer shorts), a lost treasure and a spy—or maybe ghost—to spot along the way. Castle de Chevalier comes equipped with a lord and lady, mail-clad men at arms and servants of diverse sorts. There’s also a well-stocked torture chamber/dungeon and, as revealed in cutaway views and beneath the diminutive die-cut flaps, thriving populations of bats, rats and spiders…not to mention the occasional detached head. The visit ends with a tournament, where tents, spectators and jousting knights can be viewed in situ or rearranged to suit with separate punch-out versions. Except for an arrant disconnect on the chapel spread, Pipe’s flippant commentary supplies tolerable if rudimentary bits of plot and explication. Though not so maniacally awash in microbusiness as the illustrations in Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sections: Castle (written by Richard Platt, 1994), Taylord’s bustling cartoon scenes may well require a magnifying glass to make out all the detail. The same applies to the cutaways and Victorian-era rooms in the simultaneously published Lift, Look, and Learn Doll’s House.

Fold down the drawbridge and step through. Mind the mucky patches. (Informational novelty. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-78312-081-9

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Carlton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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