Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hope, Compassion, Loyalty: The Brothers Kennedy by Kathleen Krull

John Kennedy loved to tease his brother Joe. When Joe wasn't looking, John would steal the frosting off Joe's slice of cake.

Instantly a fist fight would start and John would lose. But John never stopped teasing Joe, thinking that one day he would win. It just wasn't in him to give up.

Award-winning biographer Kathleen Krull takes on the difficult task of writing the interwoven life stories of the Kennedy brothers. Focusing first on the funny and prophetic episodes in the early lives of the four brothers, she shows the rivalry and loyalty that caused the brothers, each in turn, to take on the leadership role of their older sibling--Joe who died in World War II, John and Robert assassinated in middle life at pivotal moments in history, and Teddy, who overcame personal failures to become one of the longest-serving senators in American history.

Krull's theme, "Hope, compassion, and loyalty," are explained in anecdotes from the brothers' childhoods and from their development in their later lives. Telling three partially simultaneous life stories for early readers is not easy to do, but as Krull has shown in her Lives of..... series, and such noted picture biographies as Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman and Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, she is up to the task. Her latest, The Brothers Kennedy: John, Robert, Edward (Simon & Schuster, 2010), has a highly readable text which captures the flavor of the Kennedys' dramatic lives, and Amy Bates' watercolor and gouache drawings add to the humor of the early life anecdotes without falling into caricature of the famous Kennedy brothers. With a handy timeline and other helpful backmatter appended, this is an admirable addition to biographies for the early grades.

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