MG – History Smashers: Women’s Right to Vote

Messner, Kate. History Smashers: Women’s Right to Vote. Random House Children’s Books, 2020. 978-0-593-12035-4. 215 p. $13.99. Grades 5-8.

Messner delivers another hit with this second History Smashers book! This History Smasher book showcases the history of women’s voting rights with a combination of storytelling, comics, sidebars, and photographs from the time period. Messner delicately tackles the inequity that women faced with voting, but also addresses the difficulties of defining “women’s voting rights” – is it a right for all or just educated white women? Messner captures the struggle that spanned decades and highlights the various accomplishments of the women who played pivotal roles in the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Besides the story of these valiant women’s struggles, Messner also clearly explains procedures for adding amendments as well as calculating the number of votes needed to pass at each government and state level. This novel provides a look at the lesser known battles that were fought to truly make “all men are created equal” to include women!

THOUGHTS: I truly enjoyed reading this nonfiction book and look forward to more in the series! History Smashers is written in a kid friendly manner and provides an easy to understand look into historical events. The format is enjoyable and perfect for middle grade students. A great novel to teach history and make learning about the past exciting!

324.6 Voting Rights          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

MG – #MOVEMENTS (Series NF)

#MOVEMENTS. ABDO Publishing, 2020. $20.95 ea. $125.70 set of 6 (library bound). 32 p. Grades 5-9.

Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. #MeToo: Unveiling Abuse. 978-1-532-11931-6.
Felix, Rebecca. #Pride: Championing LGTBQ Rights. 978-1-532-11933-0.
—. #WomensMarch: Insisting on Equality. 978-1-532-11934-7.
Rusick, Jessica. #IAmAWitness: Confronting Bullying. 978-1-532-11930-9.
Thomas, Rachel L. #BlackLivesMatter: Protesting Racism. 978-1-532-11929-3.
—. #NeverAgain: Preventing Gun Violence. 978-1-532-11932-3.

This new series takes a look at the hottest topics of 2020. The #movements series takes hashtags that are trending on social media and brings awareness to social justice issues such as bullying, racism, and more. Each title provides an overview of the topic and introduces people who are champions for social justice. The books provide a look into how these movements came into being and provide information regarding the reasons why we fight for certain rights.

THOUGHTS: This series would be a great addition to a middle school library. These titles can help the younger generation be champions for the future. The simple text is easy to read and comprehend, which would make it a great series for struggling readers who have an interest in social justice.

306.76 Culture & Institutions          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

MG – City of Secrets

Ying, Victoria. City of Secrets. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11448-3. 252 p. $22.99. Grades 5-8.

In the city of Oskar there is a switchboard that connects more than just phone calls. Ever Barnes, an orphan, hides in the switchboard building and protects a secret that not even he knows. When the owner of the switchboard brings his daughter Hannah to see how it works, she discovers Ever and is instantly intrigued. When a secret society threatens to kill Ever and take the secret for themselves, Hannah, Ever and a switchboard worker must go to great lengths to protect the secret and the city.

THOUGHTS: This graphic novel delivers a beautiful storyline and will captivate readers who love adventure and spy stories! Both of the children in the story play a vital role, and it is a breath of fresh air to see a girl protagonist. This graphic novel does not disappoint!

Graphic Novel          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

MG – Team Earth (Series NF)

Team Earth. ABDO Publishing, 2020. $22.95 ea. $137.70 set of 6 (library bound). 48 p. Grades 4-8.

Huddleston, Emma. Beneficial Insects: Bugs Helping Plants Survive. 978-1-532-19097-1.
—. Decomposers and Scavengers: Nature’s Recyclers. 978-1-532-10908-8.
—. Seed Dispersers: Poop, Fur, and Other Ways Animals Scatter Seeds. 978-1-532-19101-5.
—. Symbiotic Relationships: Animals and Plants Working Together. 978-1-532-19102-2.
London, Martha. Ecosystem Architects: Animals Building Incredible Structures. 978-1-532-19099-5.
—. Pollinators: Animals Helping Plants Thrive. 978-1-532-19100-8.

This series explores the ways in which animals and insects help each other within the ecosystems we live in. Each title explores the roles each organism plays – whether as a seed spreader, a decomposer, or a beneficial bug – within delicate ecosystems. The pages are filled with beautiful photographs, fun facts, and easy to read text. Each title provides a glimpse into the ways that humans can help protect our environment and allows readers a glimpse into parts of our world we often overlook.

THOUGHTS: A high interest series for students in grades 3-6 that have an interest in science and are looking to learn more about the relationships between animals, plants, and insects. The format of the text is student friendly and organized in an easy to read fashion. The QR codes in the back offer additional information for students looking for further information.

632.9 Plant Injuries, Diseases, & Pests          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

MG – Hidden History/Hidden in History (Series NF)

Hidden History/Hidden in History. Crabtree Publishing, 2020. $15.96 ea. $95.76 set of 6. 48 p. Grades 5-9.

Custance, Petrice. Women Writers. 978-0-77877309-2.
—. Women Inventors. 978-0-7787-7305-4.
Eason, Sarah. Women Rulers. 978-0-7787-7299-6.
—. Women Warriors. 978-0-7787-7308-5.
O’Brien, Cynthia. Women Scientists. 978-0-7787-7300-9.
Rodger, Ellen. Women Explorers. 978-0-7787-7304-7.

The Hidden in History series introduces middle grade readers to lesser known women inventors, writers, rulers, warriors, scientists, and explorers through informational text and full color photos. Pages brimming with historical information are enhanced with brightly colored text boxes, illustrations, and images. Each of the five chapters is divided into a theme. Chapter one focuses on the hidden aspect of women in history while the following four provide biographical information on women who lived in Asia, America, Europe, and Africa. In Women Inventors, readers will learn about the women who invented paper bags, home security systems, coffee filters, and the Wing Chun style of kung fu. Readers also will learn about the lives of extraordinary women who were business tycoons like Madam C.J. Walker along with contemporary scientists such as Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal and other women inventors who have made revolutionary advances in science. In Women Writers, readers will learn about Amelia Lanyer, the woman some think may have been the real Shakespeare. Additionally, readers will learn about feminist writers around the globe who used their pens despite all odds to speak out in favor of suffrage, to condemn systemic racism, and to tell stories of marginalized communities. Women through all periods of history from ancient times through the 21st Century are featured. An index and glossary can be found at the back of each book.

THOUGHTS: This series is a great resource for any middle or intermediate school library. The colorful pages will make these attractive to readers who are interested in learning more about women throughout history.

920 Collective Biography          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD
609.2 Biography of Inventors
809 History of Literatures

MG – Black Brother, Black Brother

Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Black Brother, Black Brother. Little, Brown and Company, 2020. 978-0-316-49380-2. 239 p. $16.99. Grades 4-8.

Donte Ellison is a biracial 7th grader at the exclusive Middlefield Prep. Treated unjustly because of his skin color, he is suspended from school for something he did not do. His older brother Trey is beloved at the school, and many wish Donte could be more like his lighter skinned brother. Looking for a place to belong, Donte joins a local youth center where he meets a former Olympic fencer, Arden Jones, who runs the programs for the kids. Donte, who has never been an athlete, starts training with Jones, and soon finds his niche as a fencer. But when Donte and his team have to compete against his school’s team, and the racist captain of the team whose family is the school’s largest donor, Donte has to confront his emotions, his bully, and the racism that surrounds his sport.

THOUGHTS: This book addresses many tough issues in a way that is completely appropriate for middle grade readers.  At times I felt the book did not delve into the topics as much as I would have liked, but I think middle grade readers would not feel the same. Parker Rhodes is becoming a must purchase middle grade author!

Realistic Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick, Waldron Mercy Academy

MG – The Queen Bee and Me

McDunn, Gillian. The Queen Bee and Me. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020. 978-1-681-19751-7. 279 p. $16.99. Grades 5-7

Meg has always been joined at the hip of best friend Beatrix, except for the times when Beatrix freezes her out. Afraid of angering Beatrix and losing the benefits of being her friend, Meg decides to follow along while Beatrix plots to bully new student Hazel and her mom out of town. When Meg and Hazel get partnered up for a bee project in a science elective, Meg struggles between following her passion for science and doing whatever it takes to keep Beatrix from getting angry. It turns out Meg and Hazel have a lot in common, and they have fun together. Can Meg stand up to Beatrix even if it means risking years of friendship and the comfort of having a best friend? By the end of the story, Meg faces many of her fears, including a fear of bees, oral reports, and standing up to Beatrix which makes a sweet, but predictable, ending. 

THOUGHTS: As an adult reader, I had trouble finishing the book due to the predictable storyline. I anticipate young readers enjoying and relating to this story once they have the book in their hands and time to read.

Realistic Fiction          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

YA – Punching the Air

Zoboi, Ibi and Yusef Salaam. Punching the Air. Balzar + Bray, 2020. 978-0-062-99648-0. 400 p. $19.99. Grades 9-12. 

Punching the Air follows Amal Shahid, a talented art student who is seen as disruptive in a prestigious school based on the color of his skin. Early in the book, you learn that he has been caught up in an altercation with other boys, and he ends up being convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to jail. Amal turns to words to convey what he’s feeling, even if he doesn’t understand what he’s feeling. This novel is told through poetry which makes it feel so much more powerful than if it was told in a regular novel format. Readers feel so much empathy for Amal and his situation, and there were many points where readers will want to reach through the book and hug him. The lyrical writing gives insight into how young people feel in our justice system: the hopelessness, the fear, as well as the anger. 

THOUGHTS: This is a must read and a must own for every upper middle and high school library. Just be aware of the themes of racism, as well as the descriptions and discussion of jail.  

Novel in verse          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy

MG – Lifting As We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box

Dionne, Evette. Lifting As We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box. Viking, 2020. 9780451481542. 176 p. $19.99. Grades 5 and up. 

Evette Dionne’s Lifting As We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box is a historical account of the struggle for the right to vote. Covering the lesser-learned about but powerful figures in history, the book provides a comprehensive look at the path it took to get where we are today. Activists Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Barrier Williams, and Alice Paul (among many others) played key roles in the fight to vote but are frequently left out from the history books. Their arduous battle to earn the right to vote was fraught with struggles and setbacks from still on-going voter suppression to lynchings and voter intimidation. While suffragettes succeeded and the nineteenth amendment was ultimately ratified, voting rights are still jeopardized by unfair practices making this an extremely timely and relevant look at the way our country has and continues to function.

THOUGHTS: A succinct yet complete account, Lifting As We Climb highlights many lesser known figures in the fight for voting equality making this a key piece for any collection. 

323.34 Women’s History          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

MG – Show Me a Sign

LeZotte, Ann Clare. Show Me a Sign. Scholastic Press, 2020. 269 p.  978-1-338-25581-2. $ 18.99. Grades 4-7.

Part Historical Fiction and part Thriller, this story is set in 1805 Martha’s Vineyard and follows 11 year old Mary. Mary is one of the many deaf inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard who descended from a small town in England. This genetic abnormality passes over some, yet inflicts others. However, life on the island is normal for the deaf and hearing alike. Most inhabitants speak their own form of island sign language as well as English. Life is normal until a young scientist from Boston comes to the island to study this abnormality. In trying to uncover the cause of deafness, Andrew captures Mary as his specimen and absconds with her to mainland Boston. Tortured by her captor, and realizing that she is different for the first time, Mary must find a way to escape and return to her family. Follow Mary as she escapes with the help of some Vineyard friends and finds her way home to her family and friends. The afterword includes a short history of deafness on Martha’s Vineyard, Sign Language, and the Wampanoag Tribe.

THOUGHTS: Such an interesting and unforgettable story that is rooted in history. LeZotte is deaf herself and does a fantastic job of bringing you into the world of Mary.

Historical Fiction          Krista Fitzpatrick, Waldron Mercy Academy

Tags: Deafness, Kidnapping, Sign Language