An intriguing but flawed attempt at narrative innovation.

BRINGING DOWN A PRESIDENT

THE WATERGATE SCANDAL

President Richard Nixon’s downfall as a result of the Watergate scandal is vividly recounted in a screenplay-style narrative.

In Balis and Levy’s narrative, contextual paragraphs identified as “Fly on the Wall” are separated from direct quotes taken from Nixon, his administration, the Watergate burglars, reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, and members of Congress. The purpose of choosing this narrative format is never explained, nor is it readily apparent. Many of Nixon’s lines and those of his staff come from transcribed Oval Office recordings. It’s inventive all right, but there are some odd inclusions. Is it necessary to know that Howard Hunt urinated in a whiskey bottle while hiding in a closet? What use is it to know what John Dean’s wife wore on each day during his weeklong testimony before Congress? Why do the authors need to identify who ate what when Nixon, John Mitchell, and Bob Haldeman met for lunch? Perhaps worse are the exclusions. In recounting Nixon’s political career, the authors note he made a name for himself “fighting communists with Senator Joe McCarthy,” but there is no explanation of how fraudulent and destructive McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade was, nor that it was specifically Nixon’s role in the Alger Hiss trial that got him noticed. In lieu of photographs and archival material are Foley’s interpretive black-and-white illustrations, which bring a graphic-novel–esque flair to the design.

An intriguing but flawed attempt at narrative innovation. (timeline, source notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17679-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Ultimately adds little to conversations about race.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK BOY

A popular YouTube series on race, “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man,” turns how-to manual and history lesson for young readers.

Acho is a former NFL player and second-generation Nigerian American who cites his upbringing in predominantly White spaces as well as his tenure on largely Black football teams as qualifications for facilitating the titular conversations about anti-Black racism. The broad range of subjects covered here includes implicit bias, cultural appropriation, and systemic racism. Each chapter features brief overviews of American history, personal anecdotes of Acho’s struggles with his own anti-Black biases, and sections titled “Let’s Get Uncomfortable.” The book’s centering of Whiteness and White readers seems to show up, to the detriment of its subject matter, both in Acho’s accounts of his upbringing and his thought processes regarding race. The overall tone unfortunately conveys a sense of expecting little from a younger generation who may have a greater awareness than he did at the same age and who, therefore, may already be uncomfortable with racial injustice itself. The attempt at an avuncular tone disappointingly reads as condescending, revealing that, despite his online success with adults, the author is ill-equipped to be writing for middle-grade readers. Chapters dedicated to explaining to White readers why they shouldn’t use the N-word and how valuable White allyship is may make readers of color (and many White readers) bristle with indignation and discomfort despite Acho’s positive intentions.

Ultimately adds little to conversations about race. (glossary, FAQ, recommended reading, references) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-80106-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

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Despite its not insignificant flaws, this book provides insights into the lives of important women, many of whom have...

SHE DID IT!

21 WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WAY WE THINK

Caldecott Medalist McCully delves into the lives of extraordinary American women.

Beginning with the subject of her earlier biography Ida M. Tarbell (2014), McCully uses a chronological (by birth year) structure to organize her diverse array of subjects, each of whom is allotted approximately 10 pages. Lovely design enhances the text with a full-color portrait of each woman and small additional illustrations in the author/illustrator’s traditional style, plenty of white space, and spare use of dynamic colors. This survey provides greater depth than most, but even so, some topics go troublingly uncontextualized to the point of reinforcing stereotype: “In slavery, Black women had been punished for trying to improve their appearance. Now that they were free, many cared a great deal about grooming”; “President Roosevelt ordered all Japanese Americans on the West Coast to report to internment camps to keep them from providing aid to the enemy Japanese forces.” Of the 21 surveyed, one Japanese-American woman (Patsy Mink) is highlighted, as are one Latinx woman (Dolores Huerta), one Mohegan woman (Gladys Tantaquidgeon), three black women (Madam C.J. Walker, Ella Baker, and Shirley Chisholm), four out queer white women (Billie Jean King, Barbara Gittings, Jane Addams, and Isadora Duncan; the latter two’s sexualities are not discussed), two Jewish women (Gertrude Berg and Vera Rubin), and three women with known disabilities (Addams, Dorothea Lange, and Temple Grandin).

Despite its not insignificant flaws, this book provides insights into the lives of important women, many of whom have otherwise yet to be featured in nonfiction for young readers. (sources) (Collective biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-01991-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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