Fact or Fiction? Book Reviews

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Series Made Simple, November 2015

On Eliot Ness, Robin Hood, The Tuskegee Airman, Buffalo Bill Cody, Audie Murphy, Wyatt Earp, The Buffalo Soldiers, and Francis Marion (Swamp Fox).

While some of the titles here will hold greater interest for young readers than others, all take on the challenge of weighing legend against the historical record. Buffalo Bill Cody and Audie Murphy are especially rich in historical connections. The Buffalo Soldiers addresses significant historical misconceptions. Each of the books concludes with a chapter measuring perceptions about the subjects against reliable facts, though the presentation and format are inconsistent from volume to volume. Illustrations are numerous and varied, including contemporaneous photos, woodcuts, film stills, and excerpts from newspapers. VERDICT Above-average research materials and good introductions to historical analysis.

Booklist, September 2015

On Eliot Ness, Robin Hood, The Tuskegee Airman, and Wyatt Earp

The Fact or Fiction? series looks at famous figures in history and asks readers to weigh documented facts against the myths often associated with them. In five brief chapters, each author presents the story known to most-typically popularized through movies, television, and books-before stepping back to reexamine it against factual information gleaned from historic documents, period photos, and scholarly sources. Each book concludes with a "Fact or Fiction?" section that recaps the common misconceptions surrounding the historic figure in question. Eliot Ness shines a light on the man who helped put Al Capone in prison, and how he may not be the daring figure portrayed on the screen and in books. The somewhat dry Robin Hood seeks to determine whether the prince of thieves was an actual person in history or simply a construct of folklore. Tuskegee Airmen discusses this brave African American WWII flying unit and its legendary claim to have never lost a bomber to enemy fire. Wyatt Earp expands the image of a quick-shooting lawman turned outlaw by presenting his life and career before and after the famed shootout at the O.K. Corral. This is a nicely researched and engaging series that promotes critical thinking and evaluative skills in young readers. We can only hope to see women represented in future installments.