Choice insights into the larger notion of politics as expressed through government, but the road is long between discerning...



An optimistically presented introduction to politics, mostly American, for those who don’t even vote.

This thorough look (some might ungenerously call it wordy) at citizen participation in the political process has an emphasis on the United States but also draws examples from a few other countries. (It tends to shy away from getting explicit about tin-pot dictatorships and other authoritarian governments, rarely naming them.) Keenan writes that “this book will explain how politics works, the role you play, and how you can play that role really well,” and to some degree he is successful, as long as he confines himself to representative democracy. He covers such topics as levels of government; policy versus process; rhetoric’s expression of emotion, logic, and authority; the importance of navigating conflicts; polarization and selective perception; ideology and the tyranny of the majority; checks, balances, and activism. These are valuable and/or subtle concepts, critical to becoming involved in the next step of informed participation. If Keenan has a tendency to drone on, he also has the smarts to provide illustrative case studies and paints a pretty rosy picture of activism. He admits that politics can be messy, but critically, he fails to mention corruption, pork-barrel riders, and backroom bargaining that has little to do with representation.

Choice insights into the larger notion of politics as expressed through government, but the road is long between discerning nuggets. (glossary, sources, acknowledgments, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77147-068-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Ultimately adds little to conversations about race.


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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A slim volume big on historical information and insight.



A wide-ranging exploration of World War I and how it changed the United States forever.

Students who know anything about history tend to know other wars better—the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam. But it was World War I that changed America and ushered in a new role for the United States as a world political and economic leader. Two million Americans were sent to the war, and in the 19 months of involvement in Europe, 53,000 Americans were killed in battle, part of the staggering total death toll of 10 million, a war of such magnitude that it transformed the governments and economies of every major participant. Osborne’s straightforward text is a clear account of the war itself and various related topics—African-American soldiers, the Woman’s Peace Party, the use of airplanes as weapons for the first time, trench warfare, and the sinking of the Lusitania. Many archival photographs complement the text, as does a map of Europe (though some countries are lost in the gutter). A thorough bibliography includes several works for young readers. A study of World War I offers a context for discussing world events today, so this volume is a good bet for libraries and classrooms—a well-written treatment that can replace dry textbook accounts.

A slim volume big on historical information and insight. (timeline, source notes, credits) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2378-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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