THE PIG WAR

HOW A PORCINE TRAGEDY TAUGHT ENGLAND AND AMERICA TO SHARE

“This is a true tale about two mighty nations, an ill-fated pig, and a most unusual war. It is also a story about sharing.”

That opening, in black, sans-serif lettering, is followed by further text that’s broken up by red-inked headings for date, setting, characters, and mood. Continuing a jaunty, lighthearted tone that proceeds throughout the text, it informs readers that the mood is “About to change, for the worse.” The verso sports an antique-looking map of the Western Hemisphere with a detail of San Juan—a Pacific Northwest coast island of, in 1859, ambiguous provenance inhabited both by British employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company and a few American settlers. (The original, Indigenous residents are relegated to a parenthetical mention in the author’s note and figure not at all in the story.) As the story begins, an American named Lyman Cutlar angrily kills Brit Charles Griffin’s pig as it eats from Cutlar’s potato patch. Cutlar apologizes and offers to pay for the pig but then refuses to pay Griffin’s exorbitant asking price. Enter authorities from both nations in an escalation that eventually involves scores of warships. When war seems inevitable, Gen. Winfield Scott is sent by President James Buchanan to mediate. The text is true to its introduction, and it also pursues the idea that hotheadedness leads to disastrous consequences. Vocabulary, verbosity, and content suit this for older elementary, independent readers. The storytelling goes a bit flat at the end, when Cutlar is mentioned but not Griffin. Colorful, stylized art against apparently distressed surfaces is an impeccable complement. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 42.6% of actual size.)

Weirdly fascinating. (photographs, timeline, resources, artist’s note) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-171-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity.

HOOT AND HOWL ACROSS THE DESERT

LIFE IN THE WORLD'S DRIEST DESERTS

Creatively stylized images of flora and fauna native to some 15 deserts around the world.

Interspersing her examination with closer looks at camels and at sand dunes, the bird communities associated with acacia trees, and like intriguing sidelights, Tzomaka poses groups of select residents from all three types of desert (hot, cold, and coastal) against sere backdrops, with pithily informative comments on characteristic behaviors and survival strategies. But significant bits of her presentation are only semilegible, with black type placed on deep blue or purple backgrounds. And rarely (if ever) have desert animals looked so…floral. Along with opting for a palette of bright pinks, greens, and purples rather than natural hues for her flat, screen-print–style figures, Tzomaka decorates them with contrasting whirls of petals and twining flourishes, stars, scallops, pinwheels, and geometric lines or tessellations. Striking though these fancies are, artistic license has led her into some serious overgeneralizations, as she claims to be drawing on regional folk motifs for inspiration—justifying the ornate ruffs and borders on creatures of the Kalahari with a vague note that “African tribes make accessories and jewelry…decorated with repeated lines, circles and dots,” for instance, and identifying a Northwest Coastal pattern on an arctic fox as “Inuit.” Readers may find less shifty footing in more conventional outings like Jim Arnosky’s Watching Desert Wildlife (1998).

A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity. (map, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65198-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Despite choruses praising Ride’s persistence, her life is inexplicably portrayed as lacking struggle.

SALLY RIDE

From the She Persisted series

Sally Ride: from tennis-playing schoolgirl through astronaut and educator to entrepreneur.

Sally Ride stars in this entry to the chapter-book series spun off from Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger’s picture book She Persisted (2017). Long before she becomes the first woman to go to space, Sally is an athlete, a White girl born in California in 1951. She’s a tennis whiz but an inconsistent scholar, attending a prestigious private school on an athletic scholarship. Though the narrative a little ostentatiously tells readers that “Sally persisted,” the youth presented here—a child who rolls her eyes at boring teachers, a college student who drops out to play tennis, an excellent tennis player who “just did not enjoy” the effort of becoming a professional—shows the opposite. Sexism is alluded to, but no barriers are portrayed as blocking young Sally herself. Though her amazing achievements aren’t downplayed, the groundbreaking Sally Ride, in this telling, becomes simply someone who applied for a job and excelled once she liked what she was doing. Sally’s partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, is mentioned as such, but the text avoids using any pronouns for O’Shaughnessy, which, along with her gender-neutral name, may leave many young readers ignorant that Ride silently broke sexuality barriers as well.

Despite choruses praising Ride’s persistence, her life is inexplicably portrayed as lacking struggle. (reading list, websites) (Biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11592-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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