Elem. – Dear Librarian

Sigwarth, Lydia M. Dear Librarian. Farrar Straus Giroux. 978-0-374-31390-6. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

When Lydia and her large family move from Colorado to Iowa, she misses many things. Most of all, she misses having a home. In Iowa, she doesn’t have a home: just houses. Her family spends some days living at an aunt’s house, some days living at a cousin’s house, and some days living at her grandmother’s house. She doesn’t feel at home anywhere, until her mother takes her to the library. The library has sunny windows, rows of books, baskets of toys, and best of all, a kind librarian. The librarian takes time to listen closely, locate perfect books, read stories, and give warm hugs. In the library, Lydia finally finds her own special home. Even when her family eventually moves into their own house, Lydia continues returning to the library to see her special friend. Her many visits even inspired her current career as a children’s librarian. An introduction by Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life, details how Lydia Sigwarth’s story originally premiered on his radio show. Listeners liked it so much that Lydia decided to write her own version of the story, which is this autobiographical picture book.

THOUGHTS: The book’s final pages include an author’s note explaining that this story is based on what really happened to the author while she and her family were homeless for six months when she was a little girl. The note also details how in 2018, the author reconnected with her childhood librarian with the help of the radio show This American Life “664 The Room of Requirement Act Three: Growing Shelf-Awareness.” This gentle story describes one little girl’s experience with homelessness while also celebrating the power libraries have to create safe, welcoming spaces for all people. This title will serve as a memorable discussion-starter during elementary morning meetings.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

MG/YA – Sylvie

Kantorovitz, Sylvie. Sylvie. Walker Books, 2021. 346 p. $24.99 978-1-536-20762-0. Grades 7-12.

In this graphic novel, Artist Sylvie Kantoritz shares her life growing up in France, living in an envied apartment that was part of the small teaching college her father directed. She shows the personalities of her father (easy-going), her mother (never satisfied), and her younger brothers and sister. She strives to make everything work: to be the perfect student, daughter, sister, and friend, while feeling uncertain of where she is headed. As the years pass, she changes friends, finds a boyfriend, and always tries to find her own place. Her fascination with art continues to grow throughout her life, and her father encourages her to seek a future in teaching and art. Finally, Sylvie feels that she’s found her own way to a life of her choosing. She ends the memoir with this thought: “Finding out who we are, and not who others think we are or want us to be, is the most important search in life.” The characters’ expressions are endearing and revealing, through anger and surprise to dismay and joy.

THOUGHTS: Readers will enjoy following Sylvie’s life and growth in this quiet homage to the ups and downs of family life.

Graphic Novel          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – Dragon Hoops; Gold Rush Girl; Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor

Yang, Gene Luen. Dragon Hoops. First Second, 2020. 978-1-626-72079-4. 446 p. $19.99. Grades 7+.

Gene Luen Yang has always hated sports, but he loves stories, especially writing and drawing graphic novels. He’s in need of a new idea for his next book when he overhears students at Bishop O’Dowd (the Oakland, CA, high school where he teaches) talking about the biggest story on campus: the basketball team! Yang ventures across campus and gets to know Coach Lou, who graduated from Bishop O’Dowd in 1989 and played ball with the Dragons. He’s been to the state championship game once as a player and five times as a coach but has never brought home the trophy. There are two reasons this year might finally be the Dragons’ year: Ivan Rabb and Paris Austin. As Yang gets to know their stories, he realizes that they are every bit as thrilling as the comics he loves. But unlike a superhero story, in basketball there is no guarantee that the heroes will always win. Yang skillfully weaves high-energy, game-changing moments from the history of basketball with Coach Lou’s equally high-stakes 2015 season. This very successfully paces the drama and also helps readers better understand the action on the court during game scenes. Throughout Dragon Hoops, themes of breaking barriers, challenging one’s own limits, and literally changing the game (even at the risk of making a big mistake) are depicted with the motif of feet stepping and the word “STEP,” cueing the reader that a pivotal moment is at hand.

THOUGHTS: Gene Luen Yang was the 2016-2017 Library of Congress’ National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (a position currently held by Jason Reynolds). His skill as both an artist and a storyteller is fabulously showcased in Dragon Hoops. Throughout the book, Yang debates whether or not to include Mike Phelps, retired O’Dowd teacher and Dragons coach, in the story. At the risk of a spoiler, Phelps resigned following a molestation charge that was never prosecuted. The charge is not described in detail but Yang includes it in the narrative.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Avi. Gold Rush Girl. Candlewick, 2020. 978-1-536-20679-1. 306 p. $17.99. Grades 3-7.

Victoria Blaisdell finds life as a thirteen-year-old young lady in Providence, Rhode Island quite boring. She desires action, independence, and adventure. This is not how young ladies act in 1848. Her sole escape is sneaking off to the library and checking out stacks of books to read in private. She adores her younger brother, Jacob, but realizes her parents are under the control of her domineering aunt. All this changes when her father loses his job in an economic panic. While her parents dither, Tory obtains a job. Then the news comes of a gold strike in California. Tory’s father sees this as the answer to his woes and determines he and Jacob will sail for California. Tory is just as determined to go along, eventually stowing away on the ship. Life in San Francisco is not at all what the Blaisdells expected to find. Eventually Tory and Jacob are left behind in their tent home in the muddy, crude city, while their father heads to the gold fields. Resourceful Tory finds construction work and other odd jobs to support herself and Jacob, but Jacob becomes bored and dissatisfied. Is Tory too enthralled with her freedom and new friends to notice Jacob’s unhappiness? When Jacob goes missing, she knows she must find him before her father returns and their mother arrives. Tory, a memorable female character, strong, intelligent, and independent, guides the reader through gold rush in San Francisco. The sprawling, brawling town is no place for a lady, but Tory makes it her own. Avi brings the era to life, from the muddy, miserable tent cities to the brutish practice of crimping – kidnapping men to work on ships whose crews have deserted to search for gold. While some readers may find the exposition in the first half of the book a bit slow, once Tory is on the hunt for Jacob the suspense keeps you reading until the very end.

THOUGHTS:  Another meticulous book from a master. Tory is a memorable young lady, and the images of gold rush San Francisco will remain long after the book is complete.

Historical Fiction           Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD
(1849 California Gold Rush)


Carter, Ally. Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-0-358-39370-2. 322 p. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

Carter brings the delightfully snappy writing, humor, and plot of her Gallagher Girls series to the middle grade set. April is used to moving from home to home, as she is temporarily without a parent (DON’T call her an orphan. Her mom is coming back for her. Someday. Soon.). She has experienced foster care, good and bad, as well as group homes. While on a field trip to the opening of the Winterborne Gallery, April is shocked to see the Winterborne family crest is identical to that on the one item she has from her mother, a key she wears on a chain around her neck. Everyone knows the tragic story of the wealthy Winterbornes. The perfect family was killed when their boat exploded, all except young Gabriel Winterborne. He, however, disappeared from sight on his 21st birthday, leaving the family fortune in limbo. Now the ancestral manor houses a select group of orphans, and after a small incident involving setting the museum on fire, April is invited to move to the home, joining Sadie, Violet, Tim, and Colin. April isn’t there long before she realizes someone is sneaking around the house at night. Utilizing spy skills that will surely earn her a scholarship to the Gallagher Academy, April, with the very able assistance of her new friends, begins to unravel the long buried secrets of the Winterborne family. And, along the way she discovers there are different kinds of family and home.

THOUGHTS: Young mystery fans will love this first book in a new series. Plucky characters, boo-worthy, villains and a fast moving plot will be sure to captivate readers.

Mystery          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

MG – Dream within a Dream; My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich; Child of the Dream; Best Friends

MacLachlan, Patricia. Dream within a Dream. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2019. 978-1-534-42959-8. 119 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Thirteen year old Louisiana and her ten year old brother Theo are spending the summer on Deer Island with their grandparents. Louisa, who loves to write, would rather be with her parents on their latest bird watching expedition, but her brother wants to stay on the island forever and read books. Grandfather Jake is losing his vision and is trying to etch faces into his memory before he loses it completely. Louisa meets other inhabitants of the island, including 14 year old George and his family. She experiences her first kiss with George, and the theme of romantic love is peppered throughout the story. George’s parents say that romance helped pass the time during a severe storm, Louisa’s grandparents enjoy slow dancing without music, and George touches his fingers to Louisa’s lips and dances close to her in the water. The plot deals more with feelings than events. The only real conflict in the story occurs when the parents return to the island intending to take their children on the next expedition. The parents are surprised and somewhat saddened to learn that the siblings want to stay on the island with their grandparents.

THOUGHTS: Hand this one to readers who prefer relationship books without much plot development and to fans of MacLachlan’s other books.

Realistic Fiction          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD


Zoboi, Izi. My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich. Dutton, 2019. 978-0-399-18735-3. 250 p. $16.99  Grades 4-8.

Ibi Zoboi’s (American Street) historical fiction middle grade novel with a sci-fi vibe features Ebony-Grace Norfleet Freeman, or, as she likes to call herself, E-Grace Starfleet. Ebony-Grace hails from Huntsville Alabama, where she lives with her mother and, up until recently, her beloved grandfather, one of the first Black engineers at NASA. When trouble brews, Ebony-Grace is sent to Harlem for what is supposed to be a few weeks with her father. Southern girl Ebony-Grace does not take to the hustle and bustle of New York City, which she calls “No-Joke City.” Harlem in 1984 is a vibrant place, but Ebony-Grace finds hip-hop, breakdancing, and double-dutch more unfamiliar and alien than outer space. As weeks drag into an entire summer, she retreats into an imaginative world fed by her love of Star Trek, Star Wars, and NASA. The girls in the neighborhood think she is crazy: they tell her she has no “Flava,” and nickname her “ice cream sandwich.” Ebony-Grace never completely assimilates, but more importantly, she starts to appreciate people and perspectives different from her own. The story, setting, themes, and characters are all unique and compelling, but the narrative thread is often difficult to follow. There is a thin line between the bizarre stories going on in Ebony-Grace’s head and the actual goings-on of 126th St. in Harlem that results in an overarching sense of hyperreality. Some cartoon panels illustrating Ebony-Grace’s fantasies are included throughout.

THOUGHTS: A fascinating but flawed book. Many readers are likely to find My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich too frustrating to finish (even if the awesome cover draws them in), but the book may find an appreciative audience among young teens and tweens who love Star Trek and Star Wars, and, like Ebony-Grace, sometimes feel like aliens in the real world. A possible purchase for middle school libraries where science fiction is popular. 

Historical Fiction          Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD

Ebony-Grace’s world knows no bounds. Her beloved grandfather, a pioneering black engineer with NASA, has shared his love of space with her and encouraged her dreams.  Her imagination has conjured up a universe populated with villains and heroes where she and her grandfather battle evil so good can triumph. When a hushed up crisis with her grandfather erupts, Ebony Grace is sent to New York City to spend time with her father. Harlem of 1984 is a whole different galaxy from Huntsville, Alabama. The Harlem girls are doing double-dutch, playing in the fire hydrants, rapping and breakdancing. Her New York friend, Bianca, no longer wants to act out make believe space missions, telling Ebony-Grace to grow up. Ebony longs to go home, and to talk to her granddaddy, but she is continuously redirected from contact with him. The truth of her grandfather’s trouble is needlessly mystified. There are hints of a possible scandal, amplified when Ebony learns he no longer works at NASA. Only at the end of the book does the reader discover the truth, that he is dying in the hospital. Throughout her Harlem summer, Ebony tries to balance her true self with the kids in Harlem, locking away her “imagination place,” as she attempts to figure out how to be part of a very different crew. Near the end of the book Ebony makes a friend who shares her passion for space and returns to Huntsville more knowledgeable about dealing with alien life forms in their home environment, and a more mature understanding of her imagination and dreams. 

THOUGHTS: Ebony Grace is a spunky protagonist whose lively imagination shines. Readers will identify with Ebony not knowing how to fit in and will root for her to follow her dreams. 

Realistic Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich follows Ebony-Grace who lives in Alabama in 1984. When the book opens, she is headed to New York City to spend the summer with her father which she is not happy about. Ebony-Grace and her grandfather share a love of space and Star Trek, and she feels like an alien coming to New York City. This place is nothing like her hometown, and she misses her family and her grandfather especially. Ebony-Grace struggles to make friends and fit into the new life that she is forced into. It is never stated that Ebony-Grace has a disability, but there is something going on as you read through the novel. There is also something going on with her grandfather, but that is never directly addressed or even dealt with. The book mainly focuses on Ebony-Grace trying to make friends and trying to fit into New York City.

THOUGHTS: I have read the other two books published by Ibi Zoboi (Pride and American Street) and those were geared for Young Adult audiences; meanwhile, this book is clearly for middle grade readers. The main character feels like she has some form of autism, or Aspergers, but there is nothing stated within the book. The main character is extremely well created and thought out; her friendships and problems with getting friends feels realistic and true to life. I really enjoyed this book and hope that Ibi Zoboi writes more middle grade.

Realistic Fiction          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy


Robinson, Sharon. Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963. Scholastic Press, 2019. 978-1-338-33113-4. 240 p., $16.99. Grades 4-7.

Sharon Robinson tells of her coming awareness of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s when she is thirteen. After his retirement from baseball her famous father, Jackie Robinson, is active in the civil rights movement, but has sheltered his children from the harsher realities. They live very comfortably outside of New York City in mostly white suburban Stamford, Connecticut. Although her parents have their children join Jack and Jill of America, an organization which is dedicated to leadership development in young African Americans, the children feel isolated as there are few African Americans in town. When she hears the speech by George Wallace, declaring “segregation now, segregation, tomorrow, segregation forever,” Sharon begins to wonder where her place is in this struggle. Her parents realize that they need to expose their children to more. During 1963 the Robinsons host fundraisers at their home to help support the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and attend the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Shortly after this triumphant summer of activism, the four young girls were killed when a bomb blew up at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Sharon and her family were overcome with sadness but found strength to carry on.

THOUGHTS: This is a well-rounded story in that Sharon blends her activism with other teenaged concerns such as the first dances, boys, riding her horse, and getting along with her brothers. The importance of this book shows that even though she has lived a privileged life, she wants and needs to be connected with the people who are still struggling for equal rights.

973.92, 92, Autobiography, Memoir, Civil Rights         Jeannie Bellavance, Retired


Hale, Shannon. Best Friends. Roaring Brook Press (First Second). 2019. 978-1-250-31745-2. 239 p. $21.99. Grades 4-7.

Shannon’s looking forward to 6th grade and is thrilled that she has become one of the popular girls but learns that navigating the social tract can be very tricky.  Today’s cool songs and TV shows can be out-of-date by tomorrow. She finds that there are traps and petty power plays as the “rules” change seemingly arbitrarily.  Shannon gets upset when her friends try to trick her, or she realizes that she is falling into some of the same habits as the “mean” girls. Shannon begins to question her so called friendships as she starts to decide what she wants. Does she really want to be nasty and hurt others? To help herself cope with different situations, Shannon is writing a fantasy about Alexandra a lonely rich girl who is going through some of the same issues. Shannon also struggles with her teacher who accuses her of not paying attention. It is another teacher who recognizes Shannon’s skills, boosting her confidence. When it is time to select courses for seventh grade, Shannon has the self-understanding and courage to choose what she wants, her own direction.

THOUGHTS: Sixth grade can be a time of growth, but it can also be very stressful as preadolescent girls (and boys) try to discover who they are. At one point being part of a group is important, but does it come at a cost? Through her own experience Shannon Hale offers insight and guidance.  

Graphic Novel          Jeannie Bellavance, Retired

YA NF – How Dare the Sun Rise; March Against Fear; Martin Luther; American Fire

Uwiringiyimana, Sandra, and Abigail Pesta. How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child. Katherine Tegen Books, 2017. 978-0-06-247014-0. 288 pp. $19.99. Gr. 9 and up.

This excellent memoir relates how one “war child” went from stateless refugee to leading activist. Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sandra Uwiringiyimana enjoyed a happy childhood in a large, loving family. Her parents strongly valued education and envisioned a life for their daughters beyond an arranged marriage; her siblings were both her playmates and protectors. However, the possibility of war was a constant cloud on the horizon. When she was ten, Sandra’s family fled to a refugee camp in Burundi that was attacked by a rebel militia. With a gun to her head, Sandra said goodbye to life, but the rebel spared her and she escaped into the darkness. Miraculously, after the massacre she reunited with some of her family, and together they began a journey that would ultimately bring them to Rochester, New York. Sandra’s challenges continued as she learned to navigate American culture, race relations, and her flashbacks to the Gatumba massacre. Sandra’s passion for education and human rights have driven both her activism and her quest to heal from the trauma she suffered. THOUGHTS: Sandra Uwiringiyimana has written a moving account of her harrowing years as a child of war, and the strength and support she found to rebuild her life. It stands alongside other standout titles such as Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara, Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee, and A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah.

In her closing Information and Resources section, the author highlights three organizations:

  • Jimbere Fund, whose mission is to revitalize distressed communities in rural Congo (www.Jimberefund.org)
  • The Maman Shujaa, a women’s movement for peace, women’s rights, rights of the indigenous, and nature (www.HeroWomenRising.org)
  • RefugePoint (www.RefugePoint.org) helps refugees in life-threatening situations find safety and rebuild their lives

92, Autobiography    Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

 

Bausum, Ann. The March Against Fear. National Geographic, 2017. 978-1-4263-2666-0. $19.99. 144p. Gr. 7 and up.

The March Against Fear is the story of the last great, but sometimes forgotten, civil rights march. James Meredith was one of the first wave of recruits into the newly integrated Air Force, and he was the first African American to successfully integrate the University of Mississippi. It was that courage and determination that gave him the idea of marching across his home state of Mississippi to encourage African Americans to register to vote. A year earlier the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed but still a majority of African Americans had not registered to vote. Meredith thought that fear of retaliation was holding people back from registering, and this Walk Against Fear would be the thing to inspire them to register. On the second day of the march Meredith was shot. Fortunately, he didn’t die, but with the shooting his walk turned into a march and his cause was taken up by civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Stokely Carmichael. This march and the violent confrontations that the people who took part in it endured pitted King’s nonviolent response with Carmichael’s demand for “black power.” Following the march, all across the country there was growing unrest and frustration with racism and protests were held in at least 20 major cities. The media focused on what they thought was Carmichael’s call to violence and “black power” became the legacy of the March Against Fear.  THOUGHTS: Ann Bausum spoke to our students in support of the publication of this book. Our students and some teachers were mesmerized by this bit of history that they had never heard of. This book has powerful quotes and engaging photographs on solid black backgrounds that make it a pleasure to read. It would be an excellent book to use for Social Studies book clubs at the 7th through 9th grade level.

323.1196; Civil Rights      Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

 

Ciponte, Andrea Grosso and Dacia Palmerino.  Renegade: Martin Luther, The Graphic Biography. Plough Publishing House, 2017.  9780874862072. 160 p. $19.95. Gr. 8 and up.

Beautifully illustrated and well researched, this graphic novel follows the life of Martin Luther, the man who challenged the Catholic Church and inspired the Protestant Revolution. It is a fast read that captures the tumultuous times in Germany at the beginning of the 16th century, a time of poverty, plague and suffering. Martin was the son of hard working, strictly religious family. He excelled in school and was granted the opportunity to study at the University in Erfurt with the hopes of becoming a lawyer and improving his family’s lot. When caught in a violent storm, Martin has an epiphany which brings him to the church. Obsessed with salvation and faith he pores over the scriptures as he seeks to reconcile his growing doubts with the practices of the Holy Catholic Church. His major complaints against the Church over the sale of indulgences and the true meaning of faith and grace lead him to post the infamous 95 Theses on the door of the Cathedral. The novel presents Luther’s reasoning on the questions of faith, his friends and foes in his struggle to clarify his theology, and his efforts to bring the word of God closer to the people of Germany.  The good the bad and the ugly of Luther’s life is exposed, including his end of life tirades against Jews, Anabaptists and the peasants of Germany.  Ciponte’s drawings are gorgeous and colorful – evocative of some of the great masterpieces of the Renaissance.  THOUGHTS: Could be used as a companion text for students of world history to bring this revolutionary time period to life. Having a degree of background knowledge would help the reader understand the events in this retelling.

92, Graphic Biography               Nancy Summers, Abington SD

 

Hesse, Monica. American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land. Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2017. 978-1-63149-051-4. 255 pp. $26.95. Gr. 10+.

Monica Hesse, author of the excellent young adult WWII mystery Girl in the Blue Coat, returns with a compulsively readable true crime case study. In American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land, Hesse relates the story of Accomack County, part of Virginia’s Eastern Shore peninsula, where dozens of abandoned buildings were set ablaze in 2012 and 2013. The story hinges less on whodunnit (the arsonists are already serving time) than why-dunnit. American Fire’s subtitle teases the answer, which Hesse reveals through depictions of the county’s cultural history, the crime of arson itself, the painstaking efforts of law enforcement, and an intense but ill-fated love story. THOUGHTS: American Fire is narrative nonfiction at its best. Written for adults, it’s also a perfect choice for teens who are listeners of the S-Town podcast, readers of David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon, or simply enjoy puzzling out a seemingly random crime spree. One gripe: an Eastern Shore map would have been helpful! Hopefully one will be included when the paperback edition is released.

364.16; Crime     Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

MS/YA Nonfiction – Krysia; Rocks Minerals & Gems

Mihulka, Krystyna and Krystyna Poray Goddu. Krysia: A Polish Girl’s Stolen Childhood during World War II. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2017. Print. 978-1613734414. 192 p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Since many lessons taught about the European Front during WWII are focused on the experience of individuals in the Holocaust, this is an interesting title to share with both classroom teachers and students as an example of what happened to Polish non-Jews during the war. Krysia lived a happy childhood in Poland with her mother, father, and brother, before the start of WWII. When the Soviets take over her area of Poland, the family is forced to share their home with Russians, and her father must go into hiding because of his previous occupation with the Polish court system. Soon, Kyrsia, her mother, and brother are forced to leave their home and board a cattle car for unknown lands. They live as political prisoners in Kazakhstan, struggling to survive bitter cold, snowy winters and plagued by diseases and malnutrition. The story is well-told and fast-paced, perfect for the younger audience for which it is intended. The authors include a glossary of Polish terms, a map of Krysia’s journey, and photographs of her family throughout the text. THOUGHTS: This is an excellent addition to memoirs of WWII, and can easily be incorporated in lessons about the experiences of children during the war years.

Autobiography (WWII)     Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

I truly enjoyed this story, as it shared a part of the War that I had not previously studied or knew much about. Krysia is a strong and resilient young girl, and I think that many middle school and high school students will be interested in reading her story. I am eager to learn more about the Polish experience during WWII, and the path they were forced to take to eventual freedom.

Callery, Sean and Miranda Smith.  Rocks Minerals & Gems: The Definitive Visual Catalog of the Treasure Beneath Your Feet. Gary Ombler, Photographer. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-94719-0. $19.99. 224 pp. Gr. 5-8.

This is a stunning addition to any middle school science collection.  Each page includes beautiful, full color photos of various rocks, minerals, and gemstones in varying degrees of formation.  Text boxes and captions include information about the rock, mineral, or gem presented on the page including, but not limited to, formation information, usage (historic and present), varying degrees found in nature, location, general information, such as group, formula, color, form, luster, etc., and fun facts.  For instance, did you know that “[m]any objects are misnamed and the Emerald Buddha […] is carved from jade” (165) or “[c]innabar is the chief ore of mercury” (83).  THOUGHTS:  Rocks Minerals and Gems is a fabulous addition to any middle school (and high school) science collection.  The photographs are gorgeous and the information is very user-friendly.  This is a must-have text (and an affordable one).

552; Science    Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area MS-HS  

New YA Nonfiction…Historical Disasters and Art

bombsoverbikini

Goldsmith, Connie. Bombs Over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2014. 978-14677-16123 88 p. $26.00 Gr. 7-Adult.

Post-World War II, in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the race was on to increase scientific knowledge of nuclear bombs and radiation, and to outmaneuver enemies with the knowledge.  Plans were made, locations investigated, and the Marshall Islands were deemed the ideal locale for detonations.  “Would you be willing to sacrifice your island for the welfare of all men?”  So asked a Commodore of the U.S. Navy of the Bikini Islanders in 1946.  The answer was yes, and the people left with hopes of returning.  But it was not to be.  Author Connie Goldsmith investigates these events and details in-depth how three bombs in particular were detonated, how the islands and people were affected, and how the government either knew very little or kept it hidden or both.  She presents A-bombs Able and Baker, detonated in 1946, and H-bomb Bravo, detonated in 1954.  The immediate devastation was powerful, and the long-term hazards of radiation were staggering.  In the 1980s the Marshallese were promised compensation but have received very little.  This is a powerful look at a tumultuous time, and students can weigh the moral and military, ethical and scientific.  Well-written, with engaging sidebars and purposeful black-and-white photos and an intriguing title, this book will pull in readers.  Source notes, Glossary, Selected Bibliography, Further Information, Index.

623.4; Disasters                      Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

leavingchina

McMullan, James. Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014. 978-161620-2522 113 p. Gr. 7-Adult.

James McMullan today is a distinguished artist, designer and children’s book award winner (for I Stink! with wife Kate), but his early life was wonderfully complex.  Born in 1934, McMullan lived the early years of his life in Cheefoo, China, as a privileged, hesitant (much to his father’s distaste) boy.  The grandson of missionaries who built a successful orphanage and resultant fabric business, his parents continued the work—and lifestyle—as esteemed foreigners.  That is, until World War II, when the Japanese took control of China.  His parents hoped to stay in the life they knew, but with increasing loss of freedoms and increasing fear, his parents opted for a dangerous leave.  In order to freely go, they left the vast majority of their material wealth and, importantly for James and his mother, any sense of stability.  While James and his mother returned to her Canadian family, but eventually skip-hopped the globe (Shanghai, San Francisco, Darjeeling, and so on), his father devoted himself to soldiering with the Allied Forces and for three years did not see his wife or son.  James artfully recalls standout memories of his life from 1934-1946 on double-page presentations, an exquisite watercolor opposite the description of the event and emotions.  He shows many ups and downs, from stability with his aunt and uncle, to the humiliation of “failing” at being the strong, sturdy son his father clearly wished him to be.  The striking artwork conveys both the preciseness and ethereal quality of a life lived learning to enjoy space and place, when neither was guaranteed.  A treat for budding artists or anyone interested in the worldwide effects of World War II.

741.6 Art; Autobiography                Melissa Scott, Shenango High School