This watery biography of the Italian dictator is so sloppy that it translates duce (in English, leader), Mussolini's famous title, as duke. Moreover, in a summation of World War I, Lyttle omits the Russian Empire from the list of key nation-combatants, and describes the war as ``basically'' pitting England and France against Germany and Austria-Hungary. These are only some of the obvious and astounding mistakes in this book. In addition to such factual errata, there is a problem of historical interpretation: too often Lyttle exaggerates in a simplistic way. For example, when Mussolini took power in the early 1920s, Lyttle would have readers believe that the ruling class wasn't interested in its fate: ``Influential Italians, busy trying to take advantage of prosperity, did not pay much attention to changes in government.'' Lyttle provides only a handful of direct quotations and breezes over Mussolini's byzantine personal life. Il Duce was a complex, doubt-filled political figure who led a tumultuous lifea marvelous subject for biographybut Lyttle avoids delving into Mussolini the man and prefers to describe his actions weakly and from afar. Ages 12-up. (October)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up A straightforward, well presented biography that will provide a good introduction to Mussolini and Facism. Mussolini's life is presented chronologically from his childhood as a bully and trouble maker; through his rise to power; his years as the dictator of Italy, controlling yet uncertain of himself or his direction; and finally to his fall from power, weak attempt at escape, and execution. Lyttle presents a relatively unbiased and perceptive portrait with enough background information interwoven to make the Italian political scene comprehensible to most young readers. The book's end seems as abrupt as Mussolini's. Having become involved with Italian politics and Mussolini's family, readers may feel the need for a tying up of loose ends, but perhaps this will lead them to do further reading. The lack of a map of Italy is a minor flaw. Jules Archer's Twentieth Century Caesar, Benito Mussolini (Messner, 1964; o.p.) is more fictionalized. Many children's books, both fiction and nonfiction, are available on Germany's role in World War II, but there are few on the Italian involvement. Il Duce will help to fill the gap. Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, N.J.