Together with its companion, stimulating portraits of two colorful, driven historical figures.

HARRY HOUDINI

From the First Names series

The life and eye-widening feats of a showman who was “always hungry for adventure, challenges, fame, and success.”

Warning would-be imitators away as needed (“Absolutely Do Not Try This!”) Poskitt offers an animated account of Houdini’s career and lifelong devotion to topping his own seemingly impossible tricks and escapes, punctuating it with explicit side explanations of how many of them were done. Along with helpful diagrams and cutaway views, Ford adds frequent depictions of gobsmacked crowds, despairing rivals, and scenes of the “very strong and very bendy” performer hung about with shackles or posing with his closely knit family. (With the exception of the occasional child of color in a contemporary scene, characters depicted are white.) In line with the series premise and overall informal tone, the author refers to him throughout as “Harry” (his stage name). Andrew Prentice does likewise for his free-spirited subject in the co-published Amelia Earhart (illustrated by Mike Smith), taking “Amelia” (or, in childhood chapters, “Millie”) from homemade backyard roller coaster to final disappearance. Both profiles open with fictive but revealing introductory exchanges, and both focus as much on conveying the distinctive characters of their subjects as on their public achievements. Prentice adds a closing gallery of renowned women aviators, from African-American Bessie Coleman to Jerrie Mock, who, like Earhart, was white.

Together with its companion, stimulating portraits of two colorful, driven historical figures. (timelines, glossaries, reading lists) (Biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3862-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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DANCING WHEELS

A stereotype about people with disabilities is shattered by this introduction to a dance company known as Dancing Wheels, a group composed of “sit down” and “stand-up” dancers. The story begins with Mary Fletcher-Verdi, born with spina bifida, a condition that causes weakness in the legs and spine. Mary always wanted to dance, and, encouraged by a family who focused on what she could do rather than what she couldn’t, she studied the art and eventually formed a mixed company, some who dance on their legs, and some who dance in wheelchairs. What she accomplished can be seen in this photo journal of the group’s dance workshop in which beginners and experienced dancers study and rehearse. Along the way, McMahon (One Belfast Boy, 1999, etc.) intersperses the history of the group, some details about the dancers, their families, and the rehearsal process that leads up to the final performance. Three children are featured, Jenny a wheelchair dancer, Devin, her stand-up partner, and Sabatino, the young son of Mary’s partner. The focus on these youngsters gives the reader a sense of their personalities and their lives with their families. Godt’s (Listen for the Bus, not reviewed, etc.) color photographs detail every aspect of the story and show the dancers at home and in rehearsal, interacting with each other, having fun, and finally performaning. They convey the dancer’s sense of joy as well as the commitment to the dance as an art form felt by the adult directors and teachers. An excellent book for helping children and adults expand their understanding about the abilities of the “disabled.” (Nonfiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-395-88889-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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