An intriguing read that will encourage children to question simplistic historical narratives.

PEARL HARBOR

From the History Smashers series , Vol. 3

History is rarely clean cut.

The third book in the History Smashers series offers readers more truths about an important event in history, weeding out tall tales they may inadvertently have absorbed through popular culture. In this installment, Messner challenges the belief that the attack on Pearl Harbor came out of nowhere. The author describes how Japan opened up to the outside world following an 1853 confrontation with Commodore Perry of the U.S. Navy, eventually militarizing and searching for foreign conquests. Next, she shows how, after years of colonialism, the U.S. had become largely isolationist, wary of entanglement in foreign countries and conflicts. Then, the background to the Second World War on both the European and Asian fronts is set, and the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor unfolds, shown to have occurred after a series of miscommunications and mistaken assumptions. The subsequent imprisonment of Japanese Americans is addressed, highlighting injustices perpetrated because of racism and fear. Presenting history through a blend of engaging narrative, graphics, black-and-white illustrations, and photos, Messner explains complex issues in a way that is accessible to young readers. Occasional text boxes provide helpful background information, such as about the history of Hawaii. Wartime contributions by African Americans, Native Americans, and Japanese Americans are described.

An intriguing read that will encourage children to question simplistic historical narratives. (timeline, author’s note, bibliography, image credits, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12037-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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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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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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