Once again, the individual Native Americans are lost in history.


Persecuted by the U.S. government, many Navajo children were forced to give up their language in boarding schools established in the 19th century and designed to eradicate Native American culture.

Ironically this language would be used during World War II as a secret code by American military forces in the Pacific. Although other Native Americans became Code Talkers, the Navajo were the largest in number (about 420). Their unusual achievement was kept a secret until 1968, when new technologies superseded Navajo code-talking and “the heroic story of the People could be told.” This powerfully illustrated large-format informational picture book provides the outline of both that story and the code itself, which used Navajo words to represent Roman letters, employing them as substitutes for English words, such as chay-da-gahi (“tortoise”) to mean “tank.” Illustrated samples are given in the text, but it still may not be enough for all readers to fully understand how the code worked. The somber pastel drawings are striking, and the ironic situation—a language once vilified that becomes an almost magical weapon—is made evident, but it is too bad readers aren’t given glimpses of the men who participated in this endeavor. The only people named are Philip Johnston, “an Anglo missionary’s son who had grown up with the Navajo” and who suggested the idea, and Marine Maj. Howard Connor, a white officer.

Once again, the individual Native Americans are lost in history. (endnotes, artist’s notes, selected bibliography) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56846-295-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Satisfying fare for the culturally myopic.



Unusual for its ambition if nothing else, this selective encyclopedia of “world” historical, cultural and scientific highlights offers at least a few unexpected choices but rarely looks beyond Europe and North America.

Arranged in chronological order, the 180 entries begin with the appearance of the first humans (“descended from apes,” as the authors inaccurately put it) about 6 million years ago and end with the 2011 earthquake near Japan. In between, they cover inventions from the plow to MP3 files, people from Confucius to Barack Obama, and events of diverse scale, from the “Rise of Greece” to the publication of the first Harry Potter book. Entries fill up a third of a page to a full spread; each features a date (with “BCE” appended for all before the year 1, justified by the optimistic claim that “it is acceptable to all peoples”), and most include both an informally drawn watercolor illustration and a quick, boxed comment on historical “ripples” that spread from the event or invention. This Canadian publication’s focus on its own national history is so close (not to mention Eurocentric: “1608: Champlain establishes permanent settlement in Canada”) that the American Civil War gets just two quick mentions—which is more notice than most African, Asian and Indian histories or cultures receive.

Satisfying fare for the culturally myopic. (index, no bibliography) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55453-775-4

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Nothing to roar over but a pleaser for fans of all things big, toothy, and extinct.



An illustrated overview of life’s history on Earth, moving backward from now to its beginnings 3.5 billion years ago.

Zoehfeld begins with the present epoch, using the unofficial Anthropocene moniker, then skips back 12,000 years to the beginning of the Holocene and so back by periods to the Ediacaran and its predecessors, with pauses along the way to marvel at the widespread End-Cretaceous and End-Permian extinctions. Along with offering general observations about each time’s climate and distinctive biota, she occasionally veers off for glances at climate change, food webs, or other tangential topics. In each chapter she also identifies several creatures of the era that Csotonyi illustrates, usually but not always with photographic precision in scenes that are long on action but mostly light on visible consumption or gore. If some of the landscape views are on the small side, they do feature arresting portraits of, for instance, a crocodilian Smilosuchus that seems to be 100% toothy maw and a pair of early rodents resembling fierce, horned guinea pigs dubbed Ceratogaulus. Though largely a gimmick—the chapters are independent, organized internally from early to late, and could be reshuffled into conventional order with little or no adjustment to the narrative—the reverse-time arrangement does afford an unusual angle on just how far deep time extends.

Nothing to roar over but a pleaser for fans of all things big, toothy, and extinct. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-912920-05-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: What on Earth Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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