A buoyant gallery, up to date, handsomely framed, and, in this particular election year, timely too.

GROVER CLEVELAND, AGAIN!

A TREASURY OF AMERICAN PRESIDENTS

Humanizing portraits of the 43 men who have served as president of the United States.

Burns stresses that even though all but one president has been both white and male, the diversity of their backgrounds, occupations, experiences, and characters amply proves that anyone (born in the U.S. and 35 or older) can rise to the office—despite even physical disabilities (FDR) or learning differences (Wilson, possibly the second Bush). Each president through Barack Obama gets a double-page spread (Grover Cleveland gets two: thus the title) illustrated with both a small official portrait and a looser, much larger view by Kelley of the incumbent at some pivotal or intimate moment. Other than a few significant omissions (Sally Hemings, most notably) or spins (Ford “never lost the respect of the American people”), the accompanying overviews and selected anecdotes present sunny but not entirely disingenuous views of each office holder. Often some balance is at least attempted even for egregious faults, by acknowledging Jackson’s racism but also his adoption of a Creek orphan, for instance, or countering scandal-plagued Harding’s habit of giving his “worst friends” government jobs by also mentioning his anti-lynching efforts. Side ribbons with dates, family members and histories, nicknames, and pets serve as continuing reminders that all had personal as well as public lives.

A buoyant gallery, up to date, handsomely framed, and, in this particular election year, timely too. (glossary, list of historic sites) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-39209-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

50 IMPRESSIVE KIDS AND THEIR AMAZING (AND TRUE!) STORIES

From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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