A solid retread of familiar ground marred by the frequent evocation of a tired trope.

THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY

UNCOVERING TUTANKHAMUN'S TOMB

The oft-told story of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb is framed around the purported curse of the pharaohs.

In 1906, in British-occupied Egypt, the wealthy, occult-loving Earl of Carnarvon hunted treasure in the Valley of the Kings. He met Howard Carter, a mildly disgraced archaeologist, and the two began a long partnership that started with the meager excavation of picked-over sites and culminated with the most glamorous discovery in all of Egyptology. The two Englishmen who dug up the people of ancient Egypt were professionals and aristocrats who dined in luxury on crystal and china while their Egyptian workers remained unnamed, their opinions unheard. But the 1922 discovery of the lush treasures of King Tut’s tomb, described in loving, fascinating particulars and illustrated in well-chosen photographs, is situated here amid something Carter and Carnarvon barely noticed: the nationalism of interwar Egypt and rising anger toward the colonial British occupiers who allowed them access to the tomb. Unfortunately, each chapter concludes with a section that opens with “it was said” and proceeds to detail bad omens and terrible events that befell people who had even tangential connections to the tomb or its treasures. A final chapter states that the mummy’s curse doesn’t exist, but the earlier maunderings feed into Orientalist tropes and don’t fit with the overall historical narrative—a straightforward telling of Carter’s excavations.

A solid retread of familiar ground marred by the frequent evocation of a tired trope. (author’s note, map, timeline, bibliography, source notes, photo and illustration credits, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-59661-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic Focus

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care.

OIL

In 1977, the oil carrier Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into a formerly pristine Alaskan ocean inlet, killing millions of birds, animals, and fish. Despite a cleanup, crude oil is still there.

The Winters foretold the destructive powers of the atomic bomb allusively in The Secret Project (2017), leaving the actuality to the backmatter. They make no such accommodations to young audiences in this disturbing book. From the dark front cover, on which oily blobs conceal a seabird, to the rescuer’s sad face on the back, the mother-son team emphasizes the disaster. A relatively easy-to-read and poetically heightened text introduces the situation. Oil is pumped from the Earth “all day long, all night long, / day after day, year after year” in “what had been unspoiled land, home to Native people // and thousands of caribou.” The scale of extraction is huge: There’s “a giant pipeline” leading to “enormous ships.” Then, crash. Rivers of oil gush out over three full-bleed wordless pages. Subsequent scenes show rocks, seabirds, and sea otters covered with oil. Finally, 30 years later, animals have returned to a cheerful scene. “But if you lift a rock… // oil / seeps / up.” For an adult reader, this is heartbreaking. How much more difficult might this be for an animal-loving child?

Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3077-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Go adventuring with a better guide.

50 ADVENTURES IN THE 50 STATES

From the The 50 States series

Find something to do in every state in the U.S.A.!

This guide highlights a location of interest within each of the states, therefore excluding Washington, D.C., and the territories. Trivia about each location is scattered across crisply rendered landscapes that background each state’s double-page spread while diminutive, diverse characters populate the scenes. Befitting the title, one “adventure” is presented per state, such as shrimping in Louisiana’s bayous, snowshoeing in Connecticut, or celebrating the Fourth of July in Boston. While some are stereotypical gimmes (surfing in California), others have the virtue of novelty, at least for this audience, such as viewing the sandhill crane migration in Nebraska. Within this thematic unity, some details go astray, and readers may find themselves searching in vain for animals mentioned. The trivia is plentiful but may be misleading, vague, or incorrect. Information about the Native American peoples of the area is often included, but its brevity—especially regarding sacred locations—means readers are floundering without sufficient context. The same is true for many of the facts that relate directly to expansion and colonialism, such as the unexplained near extinction of bison. Describing the genealogical oral history of South Carolina’s Gullah community as “spin[ning] tales” is equally brusque and offensive. The book tries to do a lot, but it is more style than substance, which may leave readers bored, confused, slightly annoyed—or all three. (This book was reviewed digitally with 12.2-by-20.2-inch double-page spreads viewed at 80% of actual size.)

Go adventuring with a better guide. (tips on local adventuring, index) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7112-5445-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Wide Eyed Editions

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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