Readers hoping for alternatives to the dominant narratives will not find them here.

THE HUMAN RACE

Factoids about various “races” across time.

Across 46 double-page spreads, readers learn about international “races” that cover a range of topics, from actual contests such as the Olympic Games and the Tour de France to general firsts, such as to the top of Mount Everest and to discover radiation. Along the way, facts and information are dolloped out in small paragraphs that stimulate and tease readers’ interest. Sadly, the teasing happens too frequently, and information is provided with little context or supplemental information. For example, readers learn that two forerunners to the bicycle were the draisine and the penny farthing. But the draisine looks like a modern bicycle without pedals while the penny farthing is a vastly different (and scarier-looking) conveyance. What prompted the design of the penny farthing? The Eurocentric focus of the book is a significantly larger flaw, as White faces and White achievements dominate the facts and illustrations. Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay is appropriately given equal visual and textual focus to Edmund Hillary, a White New Zealander, but Japanese climber Junko Tabei, the first woman to summit Everest, is depicted fully covered behind snow goggles and oxygen mask in a far corner of the page. Likewise, the information about Africa focuses textually and visually on David Livingstone, and the only Indigenous Africans depicted are early Homo sapiens dressed in stereotypical animal furs. Figures highlighted in the science section include Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Isaac Newton—it’s the same old, same old. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.8-by-19.2-inch double-page spreads viewed at 81% of actual size.)

Readers hoping for alternatives to the dominant narratives will not find them here. (index) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7112-5668-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: QEB Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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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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DANCING WHEELS

A stereotype about people with disabilities is shattered by this introduction to a dance company known as Dancing Wheels, a group composed of “sit down” and “stand-up” dancers. The story begins with Mary Fletcher-Verdi, born with spina bifida, a condition that causes weakness in the legs and spine. Mary always wanted to dance, and, encouraged by a family who focused on what she could do rather than what she couldn’t, she studied the art and eventually formed a mixed company, some who dance on their legs, and some who dance in wheelchairs. What she accomplished can be seen in this photo journal of the group’s dance workshop in which beginners and experienced dancers study and rehearse. Along the way, McMahon (One Belfast Boy, 1999, etc.) intersperses the history of the group, some details about the dancers, their families, and the rehearsal process that leads up to the final performance. Three children are featured, Jenny a wheelchair dancer, Devin, her stand-up partner, and Sabatino, the young son of Mary’s partner. The focus on these youngsters gives the reader a sense of their personalities and their lives with their families. Godt’s (Listen for the Bus, not reviewed, etc.) color photographs detail every aspect of the story and show the dancers at home and in rehearsal, interacting with each other, having fun, and finally performaning. They convey the dancer’s sense of joy as well as the commitment to the dance as an art form felt by the adult directors and teachers. An excellent book for helping children and adults expand their understanding about the abilities of the “disabled.” (Nonfiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-395-88889-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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