In theory, a fun, STEAM-filled story idea; in execution, not so much.

THE DISCOVERY OF FIREWORKS AND GUNPOWDER

From the Asian Hall of Fame series

In this follow-up to The Discovery of Ramen (2018), Dao the red panda takes Emma and Ethan on another adventure.

On a visit to Chinatown, Emma (with light brown hair and brown eyes), and Ethan (who has Asian features) witness firecrackers exploding and are intrigued by the display. Dao appears and whisks them back to ancient China to learn about gunpowder, the key ingredient in fireworks. During the Han dynasty, alchemists working on a “magic pill” made a substance that created a “bigger bang” when heated. The recipe—two parts sulfur, three parts charcoal and 15 parts saltpeter—was gunpowder, also used in mining, to build roads, and in war. Then, in the 1800s, the Italians added metallic salts to the gunpowder recipe to create the different-colored fireworks we see today. This picture book is filled with fascinating facts (but no bibliography) that should intrigue any child who has seen a fireworks display, and it has many likable elements. These include kid-friendly characters and tidbits of chemistry, physics, and history. Furthermore, Calle’s dynamic animation-inflected illustrations keep pages turning. However, the stiff, teacherly text and incongruous storyline make it difficult to follow. Perhaps with a little effort, an adult can make sense of the historical events and chemical reactions that led to the development of the modern-day fireworks display.

In theory, a fun, STEAM-filled story idea; in execution, not so much. (glossary) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59702-142-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Immedium

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few...

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT FREEDOM

Shamir offers an investigation of the foundations of freedoms in the United States via its founding documents, as well as movements and individuals who had great impacts on shaping and reshaping those institutions.

The opening pages of this picture book get off to a wobbly start with comments such as “You know that feeling you get…when you see a wide open field that you can run through without worrying about traffic or cars? That’s freedom.” But as the book progresses, Shamir slowly steadies the craft toward that wide-open field of freedom. She notes the many obvious-to-us-now exclusivities that the founding political documents embodied—that the entitled, white, male authors did not extend freedom to enslaved African-Americans, Native Americans, and women—and encourages readers to learn to exercise vigilance and foresight. The gradual inclusion of these left-behind people paints a modestly rosy picture of their circumstances today, and the text seems to give up on explaining how Native Americans continue to be left behind. Still, a vital part of what makes freedom daunting is its constant motion, and that is ably expressed. Numerous boxed tidbits give substance to the bigger political picture. Who were the abolitionists and the suffragists, what were the Montgomery bus boycott and the “Uprising of 20,000”? Faulkner’s artwork conveys settings and emotions quite well, and his drawing of Ruby Bridges is about as darling as it gets. A helpful timeline and bibliography appear as endnotes.

A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few misfires. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54728-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Timely and stirring.

ENOUGH!

20 PROTESTERS WHO CHANGED AMERICA

A shoutout to heroes of nonviolent protest, from Sam Adams to the Parkland students.

Kicking off a proud tradition, “Samuel threw a tea party.” In the same vein, “Harriet led the way,” “Susan cast her vote,” “Rosa kept her seat,” “Ruby went to school,” and “Martin had a dream.” But Easton adds both newer and less-prominent names to the familiar roster: “Tommie and John raised their fists” (at the 1968 Summer Olympics, also depicted on the cover), for instance; “John and Yoko stayed in bed”; “Gilbert sewed a rainbow” (for San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day parade in 1978); “Jazz wore a dress”; and “America [Ferrera] said, ‘Time’s up.’ ” Viewed from low or elevated angles that give them a monumental look, the grave, determined faces of the chosen subjects shine with lapidary dignity in Chen’s painted, close-up portraits. Variations in features and skin tone are rather subtle, but in general both the main lineup and groups of onlookers are visibly diverse. The closing notes are particularly valuable—not only filling in the context and circumstances of each act of protest (and the full names of the protesters), but laying out its personal consequences: Rosa Parks and her husband lost their jobs, as did Ruby Bridges’ first-grade teacher, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos were banned for life from Olympic competition. Pull quotes in both the art and the endnotes add further insight and inspiration.

Timely and stirring. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984831-97-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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