Grade 4-8-These more than 40 short poems, filled with humor high and low, don't really attempt to teach about the events, but they offer amusing commentary on them. Like fractured fairy tales, they are best read by those already familiar with the material referenced, in this case, U.S. history from the dinosaur age ("The first Americans who roamed the prairie/Were kind of big and kind of scary") to the present day (the close call election of 2000 shows George W. as a jack-in-the-box, popping out of a ballot box). The tone takes a serious turn at the Trail of Tears, both World Wars (although Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini are each described as being "worse than a movie meanie"), and the fall of the World Trade Center Towers. The poems may not be great literature, but there are more hits than misses, and the irreverent tone will appeal to older kids. A time line runs along the top of each page, covering items important (the Industrial Revolution) and intriguing (1938 states, "Radio drama of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds causes national panic"). Numerous pen-and-ink drawings add style and fun. Like all good cartoonists, Thompson knows how to do a lot with a little, and makes it look effortless as well. Creative teachers will find a multitude of uses for this book. Kids may enjoy writing their own poems about historical events. Recent studies show a general lack of interest in and knowledge of history. Brain Juice may help counteract this trend.
Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
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Carol Diggory Shields is both a poet and a librarian and has the perfect qualifications for compressing entire bodies of knowledge into 48 or fewer lines of verse. The author of the Animagicals series and Food Fight!, she lives with her family and assorted animals, including a pet rabbit, Elliott, in Salinas, California.
Richard Thompson is a political cartoonist whose work appears regularly in the Washington Post and US News & World Report. This is the first book he has illustrated for children. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife, Amy, and their two young children.