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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Spy fans and cryptographers will seek this one out.

ANNA STRONG AND THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR CULPER SPY RING

From the Spy on History series

A strong main character and an engaging story make for a revolutionary read.

The career of Anna Strong occupies a fascinating footnote in American history. Was she merely a farmer’s wife, or was she a member of one of the most daring spy rings in our country’s history? The pseudonymous author presents a fictionalized version of Anna’s life in the third volume of the Spy on History series. The examination begins during the throes of the American Revolution. After Anna’s husband is imprisoned and then freed, thanks to Anna’s family connections, and returns to patriot-controlled Connecticut, Anna is pulled into a plot to signal a fellow patriot and pass along information. The plan is simple: Anna uses a black petticoat and a series of handkerchiefs to relay a meeting place. “Alberti” pulls readers into the chaos of Anna’s life (and the war) through an omniscient narrator that documents Anna’s movements over the next year. Astute readers will also realize the dangers women faced from soldiers (and fellow countrymen) during this period. Terry’s loose, two-color illustrations depict an all-white cast and provide an additional sense of movement to the text. The trade edition includes a "Spycraft Kit" in the form of an enclosed envelope with inserts for solving a final coded mystery; the library edition publishes without these inclusions for ease of circulation. Backmatter explains the history of the Culper Spy Ring and its role in exposing Gen. Benedict Arnold.

Spy fans and cryptographers will seek this one out. (historical note, answers, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0216-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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THE 25 GREATEST BASEBALL PLAYERS OF ALL TIME

In no particular order and using no set criteria for his selections, veteran sportscaster Berman pays tribute to an arbitrary gallery of baseball stars—all familiar names and, except for the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, retired from play for decades. Repeatedly taking the stance that statistics are just numbers but then reeling off batting averages, home-run totals, wins (for pitchers) and other data as evidence of greatness, he offers career highlights in a folksy narrative surrounded by photos, side comments and baseball-card–style notes in side boxes. Readers had best come to this with some prior knowledge, since he casually drops terms like “slugging percentage,” “dead ball era” and “barnstorming” without explanation and also presents a notably superficial picture of baseball’s history—placing the sport’s “first half-century” almost entirely in the 1900s, for instance, and condescendingly noting that Jackie Robinson’s skill led Branch Rickey to decide that he “was worthy of becoming the first black player to play in the majors.” The awesome feats of Ruth, Mantle, the Gibsons Bob and Josh, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and the rest are always worth a recap—but this one’s strictly minor league. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4022-3886-4

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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