A simplistic but good-hearted effort.

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT AMERICANS

A paean to Americans that features a heavy emphasis on diversity.

This fact is immediately indicated by the “It’s a Small World” cover illustration—jammed with people of seemingly every possible category, including a lad in a wheelchair, women in hijab, and an interracial female couple holding hands. Readers will soon max out on the overbusy and slightly caricatured illustrations that crowd each page, sometimes with a forced whimsy that defies rhyme and reason (Lady Liberty holds a huge ice cream cone). Depictions of Native Americans, presidents and patriots, Russian Jews, and robust mustachioed immigrant men fulfill customary stereotypes, and the author trots out the “apple pie” trope, informing readers that its roots are international (but fails to explain how apples got to North America from what is now Kazakhstan). The oversimplified text does a disservice to complicated issues: “Even if we make bad laws, we can always fix our mistakes.” Similarly, slavery is glossed over, citing only the fact that “enslaved people suffered and were denied every possible freedom.” With these caveats, the author’s apparent intention of celebrating immigration to the U.S. is a laudable one, and she hints that “rules” are prohibiting open access. A timeline provides an overview of landmark moments including the Iroquois Confederacy, Chinese Exclusion Act, and opening of Ellis Island.

A simplistic but good-hearted effort. (author’s note, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-524-73803-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...

ROSA PARKS

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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This mutual homage mutes the thrill of competition, yet there's much to love in this historic tale of female derring-do.

NELLIE VS. ELIZABETH

TWO DAREDEVIL JOURNALISTS' BREAKNECK RACE AROUND THE WORLD

The real-life story of two intrepid female journalists and their competition to circumnavigate the globe.

In 1889, daredevil American newswoman Nellie Bly was keen to improve on the journey described in Around the World in Eighty Days (1872). Though skeptical at first—“women are too delicate for adventures”—her editors eventually gave her the go-ahead. Little did she know that rival reporter Elizabeth Bisland was attempting the same record-breaking trip from the opposite coast of the USA. Hannigan recounts the hair-raising, breakneck race, including the challenges each woman faced—seasickness, late ships, surly sailors, and more. Direct quotes attributed to Bly, Bisland, and various newspapers that covered the escapade pepper the text, some raising more questions than they answer. Did Elizabeth really receive false information that her ship had refused to wait for her? On this point the book is mum. Although the narrative attempts to laud both women equally, the description of Bly as a “stunt journalist” who was “willing to go to outrageous extremes to catch a reader’s attention” minimizes her important work. The acrylic ink and colored pencil illustrations are colorful with fine details, if flat; they sometimes strain the reader’s credulity, as in a spread showing the two women joining hands and celebrating their wins together. Backmatter includes a marvelous “Timeline of Women Investigative Journalists” that is worthy of an entire book in and of itself.

This mutual homage mutes the thrill of competition, yet there's much to love in this historic tale of female derring-do. (author's note, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-68437-377-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Astra Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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