Anne Frank has been memorialized properly—elsewhere.

THE TREE IN THE COURTYARD

LOOKING THROUGH ANNE FRANK'S WINDOW

Nature watches as humans wage war.

A personified horse chestnut tree witnesses history as it grows, “reach[ing] skyward in peace. Until war came.” So begins the story of military “strangers” who enter a city. Soon after, eight solemn-faced people—five adults, two girls, and one boy—come to live in the nearby factory annex, and the tree watches as one of the young girls sits by the attic window and writes in her diary, never leaving the building. The tree blooms “extra bright” the spring after the young girl and boy kiss. Then the people are taken away, and the “tree ke[eps] a vigil.” Years later, the tree dies, only to have her seeds replanted in many cities. The book’s nameless war is, of course, World War II, and the unnamed soldiers were German troops. By avoiding specifics, Gottesfeld seems to be trying to universalize the story of Anne Frank, and in doing so, he diminishes the terrible truth of the Holocaust and Hitler’s Final Solution, during which, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1 million or more Jewish children perished. Giving the tree human sentiments is a further misstep. McCarty’s brown ink drawings on a white background are suitably sober and evocative, with scenes that are photographic images capturing stark moments.

Anne Frank has been memorialized properly—elsewhere. (afterword) (Informational picture book. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75397-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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A quiet reminder that the stars are not out of reach, with work and well-timed help.

CLEAR SKIES

Increasingly severe symptoms of claustrophobia threaten to derail 11-year-old Arno’s dreams of becoming an astronomer.

It’s 1961, the space race is on, and it seems everyone has stars in their eyes. Being a confirmed sky watcher with an eye-rolling habit of rattling off astro-facts at the drop of a hat, Arno is at first over the moon when he wins an invitation to the opening of a new observatory nearby. But then the thought of the dark and the crowds—and a panic attack in a movie theater—dim all the claustrophobic boy’s hopes. At the same time Arno’s friend Buddy finds his own hopes of becoming an astronaut dashed after he realizes why he can’t see that Mars is red. Though their personalities clash by day, a confessional nighttime meeting in Arno’s backyard brings out their better natures, as Arno offers Buddy telescopic views of astronomical wonders, and Buddy suggests coping techniques for Arno drawn from the astronaut-training program. Budding chemist Mindy leads a supporting cast that, like the protagonist and his family, defaults to white. Writing in a believably childlike third-person, Kerrin adds period details and handwritten pages of “Deep Thoughts” from Arno’s astronomy notebook to her low-key tale, and she closes with notes on the space program’s later history…including a mention of Roger Crouch, a colorblind payload specialist.

A quiet reminder that the stars are not out of reach, with work and well-timed help. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-240-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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

MESMERIZED

HOW BEN FRANKLIN SOLVED A MYSTERY THAT BAFFLED ALL OF FRANCE

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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