A delightful volume that deftly and wittily balances learning with humor and approachable perspective.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CAVEMAN, A QUEEN AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

HISTORY AS YOU'VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE

Human history is told in a series of bite-size, point-of-view cartoons covering lots of ground.

What if the Age of Enlightenment were encapsulated by Isaac Newton's cat, Spithead? What if a Greek vase could talk, providing insight into ancient pottery making? This delightful, informational, and necessarily loopy book tackles history in three parts: “Ancient History,” “The Middle Ages,” and “The Modern Age.” The book goes in strange directions, giving inanimate objects, locations, and animals the same weight as, say, a day in the life of a “movie writer” from 1927 or the queen of England. As with the duo's previous book, A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu and You (2020), pages featuring panels are intercut with “Bigger Picture” spreads, fictional diaries, and “Newsflashes” that detail other events happening around the same time. Those features break up what might otherwise be an exhausting read, not because the energetic, playful writing and versatile drawings aren't entertaining but because there is so much factual material being covered in between Game of Thrones references, talking poop, and on-point critiques of, for instance, Christopher Columbus’ inhumane treatment of Indigenous people. The book is worth returning to again and again for new nuggets of knowledge (“Neolithic humans used flint axes and wedges to work me into shape,” says a Standing Stone from 2100 B.C.E., “Talk about a 'splitting' headache!”). Characters range in skin tone throughout.

A delightful volume that deftly and wittily balances learning with humor and approachable perspective. (glossary, “About Mike and Jess”) (Graphic nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-78055-713-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Buster Books

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care.

OIL

In 1977, the oil carrier Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into a formerly pristine Alaskan ocean inlet, killing millions of birds, animals, and fish. Despite a cleanup, crude oil is still there.

The Winters foretold the destructive powers of the atomic bomb allusively in The Secret Project (2017), leaving the actuality to the backmatter. They make no such accommodations to young audiences in this disturbing book. From the dark front cover, on which oily blobs conceal a seabird, to the rescuer’s sad face on the back, the mother-son team emphasizes the disaster. A relatively easy-to-read and poetically heightened text introduces the situation. Oil is pumped from the Earth “all day long, all night long, / day after day, year after year” in “what had been unspoiled land, home to Native people // and thousands of caribou.” The scale of extraction is huge: There’s “a giant pipeline” leading to “enormous ships.” Then, crash. Rivers of oil gush out over three full-bleed wordless pages. Subsequent scenes show rocks, seabirds, and sea otters covered with oil. Finally, 30 years later, animals have returned to a cheerful scene. “But if you lift a rock… // oil / seeps / up.” For an adult reader, this is heartbreaking. How much more difficult might this be for an animal-loving child?

Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3077-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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