A stirring example of “grace under fire” (writes the author, mangling another meme), commemorated in rhapsodic but not...

THE BRAVEST MAN IN THE WORLD

A tribute to Wallace Hartley, the bandleader who played on as the RMS Titanic was sinking.

When young Jonathan complains that piano practice is “sissy stuff,” his grandfather responds with the tale of how, as a 9-year-old stowaway on the Titanic, he was taken in by the friendly Hartley—who was so impressed by the lad’s talent that he arranged an onboard audition before John Jacob Astor that later led to a life in music. First, though, comes that night to remember (or as Polacco unoriginally puts it, a “date that would live in infamy”), with its rending collision, general panic…and tearful separation as the child reluctantly boards a lifeboat while Hartley remains on deck, playing “Nearer, My God, to Thee” for those doomed to stay behind. “Can you imagine the majesty and harrowing strength…the limitless bravery in that man’s heart,” the storyteller declaims. The musicians who, with like courage, joined Hartley on that fateful night are just dim figures in the background, but the illustrations bring the disaster’s terror and tragedy into sharp focus on the expressive faces of the young stowaway and other passengers and crew (all white). Readers will come away appreciating Hartley’s fortitude and may be equally moved by the closing note (with photos) that his violin, miraculously, was later recovered along with his body.

A stirring example of “grace under fire” (writes the author, mangling another meme), commemorated in rhapsodic but not unsuitable language. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9461-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Moving and accessible.

BEAR AND FRED

A WORLD WAR II STORY

A bear and his boy survive the Holocaust.

A stuffed bear tells the story of his life with a young Dutch Jewish boy as World War II engulfs the Netherlands. The bear’s words are never maudlin or precious. Rather, he is an observer with keen eyes and ears and a loving heart. Fred, the boy, lives with his parents and brothers in Delft but is then taken to Amsterdam to stay with his grandfather. Fred is warned to keep silent about his family. After Grandpa sews a yellow star onto Fred’s coat, Mama returns, rips off the star, and takes Fred to live with a “nice lady.” The war ends, and Fred and his family are all happily united. In her author’s note, Argaman describes how she saw the bear at Yad Vashem, Israel‘s Holocaust museum, and exchanged letters with Fred Lessing, now living in America, because she wanted to share the story. Translated from Hebrew, it reads seamlessly and beautifully presents a family caught up in war as seen from the perspective of a caring but historically naïve eyewitness. Without in any manner diminishing the actual horrors of World War II or any current fighting, the author enables a child to grasp in some small manner the impact of conflict on a family. Loose-lined, simply colored illustrations focus attention on the titular characters.

Moving and accessible. (author’s note, photograph) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1821-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

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May Ra the Mighty (and friends) solve many more ancient mysteries.

THE GREAT TOMB ROBBERY

From the Ra the Mighty series , Vol. 2

The Pharaoh’s pampered cat loves his snacks, his naps, and many other royal privileges.

Ra the Mighty is also lazy, vain, and entirely self-centered. He once solved a mystery and is exceedingly proud to have done so, considering himself a Great Detective (Ra the Mighty: Cat Detective, 2018). But he has no burning desire to become involved in a case now, especially if it would interfere with those naps and snacks. But a Great Mystery is thrust upon him when he travels to Thebes to be measured for his place in Pharaoh’s planned tomb. The tomb of Pharaoh’s ancestor—and of Ra’s own forebear—has been robbed. Reluctantly, Ra and his more-eager cohorts, Miu the kitchen cat and Khepri the scarab beetle, narrow their list of suspects and discover clues amid daring deeds and dastardly betrayals. To add insult to injury, Ra is mistaken for an ordinary cat when the evil Vizier sends a substitute to Pharaoh, and he must make do with ordinary food and a great deal of dirt and discomfort, complaining all the way. Of course innocents are saved, guilty ones are punished, and the Great Detectives triumph. Greenfield keeps the action fast-paced, seamlessly weaving in much information about ancient Egypt, and the interactions among the distinctive and delightful characters are hilarious. Horne’s elongated and exaggerated black-and-white illustrations add to the fun.

May Ra the Mighty (and friends) solve many more ancient mysteries. (glossary of names, note, author’s note) (Historical fantasy/mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4240-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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