Perfect for gift shops across Philadelphia. Less so for readers.



Explore the beginnings of America’s first circulating library with Ben and Billy Franklin.

In 1739, William “Billy” Franklin, son of printer (and future statesman) Benjamin Franklin, starts his studies in earnest with a tutor. Joining Billy’s (somewhat reluctant) academic endeavors is his cousin James. While James is bored with the tutor’s stories, Billy’s imagination goes wild picturing the tales from long ago. Seeing his son’s delight, Ben introduces Billy to the Leather Apron Club library, a library founded by 12 tradesmen like Ben who value education and learning. It’s through this story that readers are introduced to what eventually grew into the first library open to members of the public (provided those members could pay the subscription fee, as the backmatter points out). Billy narrates the meandering story, which may be of more interest to adults than the intended audience. “The men debate Politics and History and Books. / They drink Cider, eat Cake, and debate more— / Mathematics and Geography and Finance. / Though the discussion is above me, / I feel as if I am in Heaven,” he rhapsodizes. The static watercolor illustrations of the virtually all-White cast do little to entice readers. The backmatter does an admirable job summarizing Franklin’s fraught relationship with an adult Billy and addresses his complex relationship with slavery.

Perfect for gift shops across Philadelphia. Less so for readers. (bibliography) (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-58089-719-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Though based on a real-life exhibit, this outing lacks the fear factor.


From the Haunted States of America series

Alejandro and his eighth grade classmates take a field trip to visit the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida, where they encounter the titular doll.

The museum hosts a glass-encased exhibit of a “haunted” toy by the name of Robert the Doll. The tour guide shares the story of the doll’s history and his weirdly devoted adult owner. The guide explains that taking Robert the Doll’s photo without permission brings bad luck that will lift only with a written apology. Naturally, Al breaks the rule. Not even a few minutes into the bus ride from the museum begins a string of bad luck for Alejandro. Al ultimately takes his apology letter to the museum to rid himself of this curse. The plot is predictable and, despite its content, lacks real suspense, as the author relies on horror tropes that demand a completely credulous audience for success. In the era of Stranger Things, which amps kid-horror to a captivating level of scary, all but the very newest to the genre will find this story lacking in tension, imagination, and originality. Continuing the series’ tour of actual, supposedly haunted U.S. locales, three other entries publish simultaneously: Phantom of the Tracks (New Jersey), A Starlet’s Shadow (California), and Swamp of Lost Souls (Louisiana).

Though based on a real-life exhibit, this outing lacks the fear factor. (Horror. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63163-348-5

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Jolly Fish Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Admiration for Anne’s writings is always good to see, but this fanciful cat’s-eye view minimizes the events and the...


The Holocaust through the eyes of a cat.

When Peter joins the Frank family in the Secret Annex, he brings his cat along and it is this cat, named Mouschi, who is the storyteller, narrating in a stylized voice. Mouschi is drawn to Anne and her diary, and unlike the people in hiding, he can explore the Amsterdam neighborhood where he sees “armed Black Spider Soldiers and Dogs patrol, snarl, bark.” The authors reference this description of the swastika to a line spoken by one of the von Trapp children in the movie The Sound of Music. In addition, Mouschi refers to Jews as “Yellow Stars,” which the authors deem “a fine feline fit.” Digitized ink, acrylic, and pencil illustrations use an intense blue for the hideout but present a colorful city and brightly lit nighttime windows, all this despite blackouts enforced during World War II. Brief but inspiring quotations from Anne’s diary are hand-lettered. The authors gloss over the exact horror of the deportations and killings even though, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 107,000 Jews were deported to concentration camps from the Netherlands, with 5,200 surviving. Or as the author’s note unfortunately says: “Many Jews were forced into labor or killed.”

Admiration for Anne’s writings is always good to see, but this fanciful cat’s-eye view minimizes the events and the systematic annihilation. (sources) (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4150-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet