AT HER MAJESTY'S REQUEST

AN AFRICAN PRINCESS IN VICTORIAN ENGLAND

Working from a packet of letters found in a London bookshop, Myers reconstructs the life of one Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a child of royal African descent who was rescued by a British sea captain from a sacrificial rite in Dahomey, became a goddaughter of Queen Victoria, and grew up in a succession of upper middle-class households. A celebrity in her day, Sarah, or Sally, as she was also known, visited the Queen regularly, traveled repeatedly between England and Africa, grew up to marry a West African businessman, named her first born Victoria, and died of tuberculosis in 1880, aged about 37. Filling in gaps with well-chosen passages from newspapers, memoirs, and the Queen’s diary, plus occasional speculations—“Snow! What must she have thought of snow?”—Myers (Angel to Angel, p. 498, etc.) creates a credible, perceptive picture of her probable experiences, adding for flavor detailed accounts of her wedding, a royal wedding she attended, and a general glimpse of London street life. He suggests that, although she may have felt caught between two worlds, and fully comfortable in neither, she had a lively intelligence and a gracious, forgiving nature. A generous selection of contemporary prints and photographs includes both British and African scenes, as well as portraits of Sarah and both Victorias. This solidly researched biography will enthrall readers, and ranks among Myers’s best writing. (Biography. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-48669-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1998

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Trots in all the tropes except the cherry tree, but the rosy glow may not be misplaced considering his predecessor.

JOE BIDEN

A BIOGRAPHY FOR YOUNG READERS

A hagiographic portrait of the United States’ newest president-elect.

Gormley begins with Biden’s working-class origins, then retraces his development as a “natural leader” from roguish, family-centered senior class president to responsible and still family-centered national one. Focusing as she goes on values or character-revealing anecdotes and sound bites (including multiple early predictions that he would grow up to be president), she turns his father’s motto “if you get knocked down, get up” into a thematic mantra. Gormley portrays his career as a heroic march to the White House past both political challenges and wrenching personal tragedies. The author mixes frank accounts of the latter with heartwarming family stories like the time his sons, then 6 and 7, sat him down in 1976 and told him to marry Jill Jacobs. The author presents Biden’s early positions on, for instance, same-sex marriage or crime as either evolving or errors acknowledged in retrospect, dismisses allegations of sexual harassment, and frames his verbal gaffes as just foibles: “Obama was ‘the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.’ Oops. Joe Biden had spoken without thinking.” Side looks at relevant topics from trickle-down economics to the Electoral College inelegantly interrupt the text but serve to fill in some of the historical background, and the tactics and failures of the Trump administration, particularly to address the Covid-19 pandemic, get a good airing. The narrative ends the weekend after Election Day with an analysis of the challenges ahead. No illustrations or index were seen.

Trots in all the tropes except the cherry tree, but the rosy glow may not be misplaced considering his predecessor. (source notes) (Biography. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7932-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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SHIPWRECKS, MONSTERS, AND MYSTERIES OF THE GREAT LAKES

Awash in mighty squalls, tales of heroism and melodramatic chapter headings like “The Lady Elgin: Death in the Darkness,” these marine yarns recount the violent ends of nine of the more than 6,000 ships that have “left the bottoms of Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior…littered with their wreckage and the bones of the people who sailed on them” over the past four centuries. For added value, Butts heads each shipwreck chapter with a photo or image of the unfortunate vessel. He then closes with so many Great Lakes monster sightings that they take on an aura of authenticity just by their very number, an effect aided and abetted by his liberal use of primary sources. Younger readers who might get bogged down in Michael Varhola’s more thorough Shipwrecks and Lost Treasures: Great Lakes (2008)—or turned off by its invented dialogue and embroidered details—will find these robust historical accounts more digestible and at least as engrossing. The bibliography is dominated by Canadian sources, as befitting the book’s origin, but there's plenty here to interest American readers. (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-77049-206-6

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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