Enjoyable and educational.

KIDSTORY

50 CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE WHO SHOOK UP THE WORLD

Explore the lives of young people who have changed our world.

Readers will recognize a few names in this collective biography that samples from a range of backgrounds and disciplines, including visual arts, science, activism, drama, and music. The book is divided into five topical sections. Within, each young subject is profiled in a double-page spread that delves into their life and accomplishments. Colorful illustrations are scattered across each spread, often joined by photographs when possible. The diversity in passions is matched by the diversity in geography, time period, and race; several had or have disabilities. Readers will discover contemporaries (Greta Thunberg and Marley Dias) as well as young people who made an impact long ago (Pocahontas and Blaise Pascal). The language throughout is straightforward, and analogies and explanations are written with an age-appropriate tone. For example, when explaining the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in a piece on Dutch environmental activist Boyan Slat, the text relates, “Ocean currents constantly move the waters in the seas around the world. Rubbish gets carried by these currents but ends up gathering together in a few calm spots on the planet, a bit like all the rubbish in your bedroom ending up under your bed”—a simple and child-friendly explanation. Sadly, some facts, such as Pocahontas’ real name, Matoata, are omitted. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.5-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Enjoyable and educational. (timeline, glossary, index) (Collective biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8515-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A detail-rich picture book best for readers who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in history or science.

COUNTING THE STARS

THE STORY OF KATHERINE JOHNSON, NASA MATHEMATICIAN

This biography of renowned mathematician Katherine Johnson featuring illustrations by Colón aims for elementary-age readers.

Cline-Ransome (Finding Langston, 2018, etc.) traces Johnson’s love of math, curiosity about the world, and studiousness from her early entry to school through her help sending a man into space as a human computer at NASA. The text is detailed and lengthy, between one and four paragraphs of fairly small text on each spread. Many biographies of black achievers during segregation focus on society’s limits and the subject’s determination to reach beyond them. This book takes a subtler approach, mentioning segregation only once (at her new work assignment, “she ignored the stares and the COLORED GIRLS signs on the bathroom door and the segregated cafeteria”) and the glass ceiling for women twice in a factual tone as potential obstacles that did not stop Johnson. Her work is described in the context of the space race, which helps to clarify the importance of her role. Colón’s signature soft, textured illustrations evoke the time period and Johnson’s feeling of wonder about the world, expressed in the refrain, “Why? What? How?” The text moves slowly and demands a fairly high comprehension level (e.g., “it was the job of these women computers to double-check the engineers’ data, develop complex equations, and analyze the numbers”). An author’s note repeats much of the text, adding quotes from Johnson and more details about her more recent recognition.

A detail-rich picture book best for readers who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in history or science. (Picture book/biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0475-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A great collection of harrowing, true survivor stories.

SURVIVORS

A large-format hardcover gathers together true stories of adventure and survival.

Two that are well-known, at least to adults, are Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition and the ordeal of Aron Ralston, who cut off his own arm with a dull pocketknife in order to extricate himself from a dislodged boulder that trapped him in a narrow canyon, the subject of the film 127 Hours. Lesser known is the story of Poon Lim, who survived 133 days alone in the South Atlantic when the merchant ship he was serving on was sunk by a U-boat. At one point, he caught a shark several feet long, pulled it aboard his raft, beat it to death, and proceeded to suck its blood and eat it raw for nourishment. Seventeen-year-old Juliane Koepcke, the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Peruvian rain forest, relied on survival lessons taught by her parents. During her nine-day ordeal, she poured gasoline on her wounds, which succeeded in removing 35 maggots from one arm. In a skiing accident, Anna Bågenholm was trapped under freezing water for so long her heart stopped. Four hours later, medics managed to warm her blood enough to revive her. The attractive design features a full-page or double-page–spread color illustration depicting a pivotal moment in each well-told story. Entirely absent are such standard features as table of contents, source notes, bibliography, or index, pegging this as an entertainment resource only.

A great collection of harrowing, true survivor stories. (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-571-31601-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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