A slippery jumble but not without plenty of thrills.




A scramble into the wild world of rock climbing.

In 2017 free solo climber Alex “The Hon” Honnold climbed Freerider, a route with a ridiculously high hazard rating, without a safety line past fantastically tricky sections with deceptively mild names like the Boulder Problem, 3,000 feet up Yosemite’s slick El Capitan in just under four hours. Readers who stay the course will not only come away with a command of climbing jargon and glimpses of the community of free-range souls who speak it, but will experience a penetrating character study of a full-time rock climber who spends his days going from one challenge to another in locales ranging from Borneo to Chad. Slimming down her author husband’s more detailed account—adding a personal introduction, toning down the language—the adapter tries to position Honnold and his colleagues less as thrill-seekers than athletes pushing human limits. What remains is a patchwork, composed as much of the author’s autobiographical reminiscences about his own early attachment to dangerous feats as anecdotes about Honnold. Young readers may find speculations about whether Honnold has Asperger’s and/or an atypical amygdala more eye-glazing than illuminating. Considering his risky lifestyle, the Hon makes chancy role model material, but his seemingly paradoxical mix of impulsivity and obsessive attention to physical and mental preparation adds nuance and drama to his exploits.

A slippery jumble but not without plenty of thrills. (glossary, sources, photo credits) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20392-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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In this companion to Portraits of War: Civil War Photographers and Their Work (1998), Sullivan presents an album of the prominent ships and men who fought on both sides, matched to an engrossing account of the war's progress: at sea, on the Mississippi, and along the South's well-defended coastline. In his view, the issue never was in doubt, for though the Confederacy fought back with innovative ironclads, sleek blockade runners, well-armed commerce raiders, and sturdy fortifications, from the earliest stages the North was able to seal off, and then take, one major southern port after another. The photos, many of which were made from fragile glass plates whose survival seems near-miraculous, are drawn from private as well as public collections, and some have never been published before. There aren't any action shots, since mid-19th-century photography required very long exposure times, but the author compensates with contemporary prints, plus crisp battle accounts, lucid strategic overviews, and descriptions of the technological developments that, by war's end, gave this country a world-class navy. He also profiles the careers of Matthew Brady and several less well-known photographers, adding another level of interest to a multi-stranded survey. (source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7613-1553-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Millbrook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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