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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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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A SHOT IN THE ARM!

From the Big Ideas That Changed the World series , Vol. 3

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) narrates this entry in the Big Ideas That Changed the World series, presenting the story of the development of vaccines.

Lady Mary, an intelligent, lovely White Englishwoman, was infected with smallpox in 1715. The disease left her scarred and possibly contributed to the failure of her marriage, but not before she moved with her husband to the Ottoman Empire and learned there of what came to be called variolation. Inoculating people with an attenuated (hopefully) version of smallpox to cause a mild but immunity-producing spell of the disease was practiced by the Ottomans but remained rare in England until Lady Mary, using her own children, popularized the practice during an epidemic. This graphic novel is illustrated with engaging panels of artwork that broaden its appeal, effectively conveying aspects of the story that extend the enthralling narrative. Taking care to credit innovations in immunology outside of European borders, Brown moves through centuries of thoughtful scientific inquiry and experimentation to thoroughly explain the history of vaccines and their limitless value to the world but also delves into the discouraging story of the anti-vaccination movement. Concluding with information about the Covid-19 pandemic, the narrative easily makes the case that a vaccine for this disease fits quite naturally into eons of scientific progress. Thoroughly researched and fascinating, this effort concludes with outstanding backmatter for a rich, accurate examination of the critical role of vaccines.

Essential. (timeline, biographical notes, bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5001-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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