YA – The National Parks: Preserving America’s Wild Places

Koch, Falynn. The National Parks: Preserving America’s Wild Places. First Second, 2022. 978-1-250-26587-6. 120 p. $19.99. Grades 7-10.

A friendly Sasquatch is our guide through The National Parks, a recent entry in First Second’s History Comics series of graphic nonfiction for middle grade and teen readers. Today, our parks and national monuments successfully blend tourism with conservation of unique ecosystems (as well as history), but getting here was a circuitous path. When Congress established the National Park Service in 1916, it was in charge of thirteen national parks. Today the National Park System encompasses over 60 national parks and hundreds of additional federal park sites. In this conversational history of “America’s best idea” to preserve our wild places, author and illustrator Falynn Koch colorfully portrays the visionaries, politicians, Native Americans, wildlife, and occasional scoundrels who contributed to the evolution of our park system. She also addresses the forced removal of indigenous people from land that would eventually be parks: “If we don’t reexamine the past and face these grim truths, we can’t learn from them and make a better future” (92).

THOUGHTS: Rich with historical anecdotes and images of our varied parks, this one will have readers thinking, “The mountains are calling & I must go” (~ John Muir).

333 National Parks          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem./MG – Fred & Marjorie: A Doctor, a Dog, and the Discovery of Insulin

Kerbel, Deborah. Fred & Marjorie: A Doctor, a Dog, and the Discovery of Insulin. OwlKids Books, 2021.  56 p. 978-1-771-47411-5. $18.95 Grades 3-6.

Fred & Marjorie follows the story of Frederick Banting and his partner Charles Best who conducted research towards finding a cure for childhood diabetes. The doctors decide to use street dogs to test their theories on, and this graphic novel shows the successes and the failures of their scientific journey. The illustrations are well done and add to the story as the reader goes through. There is also an extensive authors note at the end of the book, along with a list of sources the author used for the graphic novel. This book brings up the issues surrounding the use of animals for scientific research, and after the author’s note there is a section that discusses animal testing in more detail. This book is a great introduction to a topic that many readers might not be aware of and gives just enough information to make the reader want to learn more.

THOUGHTS: Overall, this would make a great addition to any other nonfiction graphic novels you have in your collection.

Graphic Novel          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter School

MG – In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks

Brown, Don. In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks. Etch / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. 2021. 978-0-358-22357-3. 121 p. $21.99. Grades 6-9.

Don Brown excels at creating graphic nonfiction that introduces pivotal events in U.S. history to young readers. His previous titles explore the 1918 flu pandemic, the Dust Bowl, Hurricane Katrina, and more. Now, with the twenty-year mark approaching, In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers captures the tragedy, heroism, and aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. Panels depicting the day of the attacks feature chalky, muted tones that represent the ash covering “Ground Zero” and the smoky hallways of the Pentagon. Bright orange flames also appear throughout. Expository text accompanies the artwork, along with first-person speech bubbles from eyewitnesses, first responders, George W. Bush, soldiers, and survivors. As the subtitle suggests, the author’s timeline incorporates the months and years after 9/11, including the grim victim recovery efforts, the massive clean-up, and the invasion of Afghanistan. Highly controversial topics, such as “enhanced interrogation” of suspected terrorists, are also briefly mentioned.

THOUGHTS: Don Brown’s books leave readers wanting to know more, which is a good thing; they are introductory overviews of events that will hopefully lead young readers to further, more comprehensive sources.

973 American History          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD
Graphic Nonfiction

Don Brown has done a fine job of bringing to light current events and injustices through his graphic expository non-fiction works (Hurricane Katrina, Syrian refugee crisis). In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers is no exception. With his characteristic realistic monochromatic drawing style, he sketches out the horror of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, for a generation who have not lived through it. The action at the start relies heavily on what took place, rather than the cause. Brown takes the readers through the first strikes, the search and rescue and recovery efforts, and the United States government’s retaliation for the attacks. When possible, he names significant people to the event, like the film-maker Jules Naudet, who just happened to be creating a documentary on firefighters that fateful day. The author relates the courage and anxiety of the first responders, the survival and deaths of the victims, and the anguish of their families. He mentions the attacks on the Pentagon and the crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, but goes into more detail for his title theme. In brief, easily understandable prose, Brown describes President Bush’s and the American government’s decision to retaliate against al-Qaeda, the agency they believe to be responsible for the attacks. Throughout, the author remains objective and factual, whether reporting on the inhumane torture of the government’s main suspect in an effort to find Osama bin Laden or in the inconclusive report of “weapons of mass destruction.” The book includes the rebuilding of Ground Zero and the year anniversary memorial. In an afterword, Brown records information about America’s embroilment in a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the capture of Osama bin Laden in 2011, and lists of statistics on those involved in the tragedy at the World Trade Center. This carefully researched, concise report on 9/11 and its aftermath would be an apt companion to Alan Gratz’s Ground Zero, a fictionalized account of the attack on the Twin Towers. Though it tells of a horrific event in American history, it also shows the resilience, hope, and kindness of humanity.

THOUGHTS:  Brown’s even-handed approach to the 9/11 tragedy and his insertion of human connections (like the names of the police officers buried and the photo of a missing victim) make this book both factual and poignant. Even younger readers can grasp what happened in this graphic text, and older readers can use the extensive source notes to nudge them to find out more.

Graphic Nonfiction          Bernadette Cooke, SD Philadelphia

Middle School Nonfiction – Scientists in Action (series); Child Soldier (NF GN)

robotbuilder

Scientists in Action! (series). Broomall, PA: Mason Crest, 2016. 48 p. $20.95. each. Gr. 5-8.

Cassriel, Betsy R. Robot Builders! 978-1-4222-3426-6.

Kelley, K.C. Astronauts! 978-1-4222-3418-1.

Bailey, Diane. Biomedical engineers! 978-1-42223-420-4.

Glenn, John. Civil engineers! 978-1-42223-421-1.

Kelley, K.C. Marine biologists! 978-1-42223-425-9.

Rich, Mari. Big-animal vets! 978-1-42223-419-8; Cyper spy hunters! 978-1-42223-424-2,

Sutinis, Beth. Crime scene techs! 978-1-42223-423-5.

Thompson, Clifford. Archaeologists! 978-1-42223-417-4; Climatologists. 978-1-42223-422-8.

Icons draw attention to vocabulary, research projects and text-dependent questions in this new series from Mason Crest. Text is supported with catchy headings and colorful images. Just as Star Wars inspired scientist Dr. Dennis Hong to learn about robots, this series exposes readers to careers that they may have yet to consider. Readers will learn that robots are able to help soldiers in battle, safely explore the ocean and also assist doctors with surgery. If students have a passion for space, they can learn what they can do so they are prepared to apply to become an astronaut or a scientist in the field while learning first hand experiences of space related scientists. A listing of books and websites to read and learn additional facts and a series glossary of key terms and an index conclude each book. Thoughts: The series presents the many opportunities found in science while inspiring the possibilities that students invision for their future.

Careers and Occupations; Science  Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 

childsoldier

Humphreys, Jessica Dee and Michel Chikwanine. Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War. Illustrated by Claudia Davila. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2015. 978-1-77138-126-0.  48 p. $17.95 Gr. 5-8.

This SLJ star reviewed graphic novel is a harrowing nonfiction memoir that provides an overview of the Democratic Republic of Congo leading up to the story beginning in 1993. Children craft their own soccer balls of paper and plastic bags. During a soccer game, rebel militia arrive. Michel is hopeful that his father, a civil rights lawyer, won’t let the rebels succeed, but there is nothing that can be stopped at the time.  The kids are taken and later cut with a knife while the rebels place “brown brown” (gunpowder and cocaine mixture) in the wound. After being blindfolded, five year old Michel is ordered to kill his best friend. The book is powerful and the resources provide ways that children can make differences in the world.   THOUGHTS: Consider cataloging this book with the graphic novels. Students that enjoy graphic novels might not find the book in the 300’s and they might gain a great deal by reading this graphic novel. This book provides a story of growing up that may be unknown to students.

NF Graphic Novel; Children and War   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School