Absolutely wonderful in every way.

THE SECRET SUBWAY

A long-forgotten chapter in New York City history is brilliantly illuminated.

In mid-19th-century New York, horses and horse-drawn vehicles were the only means of transportation, and the din created by wheels as they rumbled on the cobblestones was deafening. The congestion at intersections threatened the lives of drivers and pedestrians alike. Many solutions were bandied about, but nothing was ever done. Enter Alfred Ely Beach, an admirer of “newfangled notions.” Working in secret, he created an underground train powered by an enormous fan in a pneumatic tube. He built a tunnel lined with brick and concrete and a sumptuously decorated waiting room for passenger comfort. It brought a curious public rushing to use it and became a great though short-lived success, ending when the corrupt politician Boss Tweed used his influence to kill the whole project. Here is science, history, suspense, secrecy, and skulduggery in action. Corey’s narrative is brisk, chatty, and highly descriptive, vividly presenting all the salient facts and making the events accessible and fascinating to modern readers. The incredibly inventive multimedia illustrations match the text perfectly and add detail, dimension, and pizazz. Located on the inside of the book jacket is a step-by-step guide to the creative process behind these remarkable illustrations.

Absolutely wonderful in every way. (author’s note, bibliography, Web resources) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-375-87071-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off.

TINY LITTLE ROCKET

This rocket hopes to take its readers on a birthday blast—but there may or may not be enough fuel.

Once a year, a one-seat rocket shoots out from Earth. Why? To reveal a special congratulatory banner for a once-a-year event. The second-person narration puts readers in the pilot’s seat and, through a (mostly) ballad-stanza rhyme scheme (abcb), sends them on a journey toward the sun, past meteors, and into the Kuiper belt. The final pages include additional information on how birthdays are measured against the Earth’s rotations around the sun. Collingridge aims for the stars with this title, and he mostly succeeds. The rhyme scheme flows smoothly, which will make listeners happy, but the illustrations (possibly a combination of paint with digital enhancements) may leave the viewers feeling a little cold. The pilot is seen only with a 1960s-style fishbowl helmet that completely obscures the face, gender, and race by reflecting the interior of the rocket ship. This may allow readers/listeners to picture themselves in the role, but it also may divest them of any emotional connection to the story. The last pages—the backside of a triple-gatefold spread—label the planets and include Pluto. While Pluto is correctly labeled as a dwarf planet, it’s an unusual choice to include it but not the other dwarfs: Ceres, Eris, etc. The illustration also neglects to include the asteroid belt or any of the solar system’s moons.

A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-18949-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: David Fickling/Phoenix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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An evocative picture-book bildungsroman with equally atmospheric illustrations.

FARAWAY THINGS

A found “faraway thing” becomes a turning point in the life of a boy.

“Lucian live[s] with his mother on a windswept shore.” His father has been absent from their lighthouse home for long enough that Lucian worries his real memories of him are fading. After a storm, Lucian combs the beach for what his father had called “faraway things”—objects tossed up by the sea—and finds a cutlass. Thrilled, he plays with it, sweeping and slashing the air. The next day dawns foggy, but when it lifts Lucian spies a stranded sailing ship. As he watches, a rowboat is lowered from the ship and moves toward him. The captain steps ashore, wearing a sheath that matches the cutlass. He tells Lucian the cutlass belongs to him, but in trade, the captain will let Lucian select anything from his treasures. Lucian reluctantly realizes the cutlass belongs to the captain and agrees. At the ship, the captain shows Lucian wonderful things and advises him to “choose wisely.” Lucian does. This bildungsroman’s timeless and slightly otherworldly feel is underscored by its illustrations’ muted, effective palette of earth, sea, and sky tones. Unusual perspectives—an ingenious choice for a muted palette—create visual stimulation, showing views from both above and below the horizon line. Satisfyingly, the endpapers allegorically start and finish the story. The captain has dark skin; Lucian and the others have light skin.

An evocative picture-book bildungsroman with equally atmospheric illustrations. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49219-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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