YA – Hood

Moke, Jenny Elder. Hood. Hyperion, 2020. 978-1-368-04745-6. 310 p. $15.69. Grades 7-12.

Follow teenager Isablle, who recently discovered she is the daughter of the infamous Robin Hood, as she travels with the Merry Men to meet her father for the first time. Isabelle is being hunted by the notorious Wolf who knows her true identity and has captured her mother. Traveling with the Merry Men after living in a priory her whole life is full of new experiences and daring acts. Will the Merry Men accept her after learning her true identity, and can her own skill with a bow and arrow live up to her father’s?

THOUGHTS: Adventure lovers will enjoy this new twist on a classic tale with its familiar characters, noble quest, and strong female antagonist.

Adventure          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

YA – Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Graphic Novel

Levinson, Cynthia, and Sanford Levinson. Art by Ally Shwed. Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Graphic Novel. First Second, 2020. 978-1-250-21161-3. $18.99. 279 p. Gr. 8 and up.

This graphic novel, which is an adaptation of a nonfiction book written in 2017 and part of the World Citizen Comics book series, tells the story of the United States’ Constitution, from its drafting and ratification through its many amendments over the last two centuries and right up to and including part of Donald Trump’s presidency. In a sort of dual timeline, the story goes back and forth between the framers making decisions about the Constitution and various points in American history where those decisions had problematic consequences. From the argument of balance of power between federal and state government in the infancy of the nation to the problems with the Patriot Act after the September 11 attacks, the back and forth plot clearly demonstrates how these men couldn’t possibly have predicted and accounted for occurrences 200-plus years in the future when they wrote this monumental document. This includes a particularly timely discussion of habeus corpus in 1787 that the book’s creators then tie to the Ebola crisis in 2014, which obviously strikes a chord with readers in 2020 dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. After telling the story of the Constitution’s history, the creators grade the document in several areas from “providing for the common defense” to “establishing justice” and give it an overall report card; the results are unsettling.

THOUGHTS: Take out the cartoons, and this book reads exactly like a history textbook. It is chock FULL of information, and it forces readers to ask some very serious questions. At times, though, readers may forget how serious the content is because of the fun simplicity of the cartoonish forefathers speaking in common 21st century vernacular. A highly recommended read for everyone, but reluctant readers in a Social Studies class will find this format extremely approachable. On a personal note, I read this book in the days following the insurrection at the US Capitol, and I am not exaggerating when I say that several lines of this book gave me chills – the opening, in particular, part of which reads, “It might be appealing to believe that, because the Constitution and our country have survived this long, they’ll always do so. But the framers were not so confident. Perhaps you shouldn’t be, either.”

Graphic Novel          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD
342.73 Constitutional law — United States

YA – Light For the World To See: A Thousand Words on Race and Hope

Alexander, Kwame. Light For the World To See: A Thousand Words on Race and Hope. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-0-358-53941-4. Unpaged. $14.99. Grades 6-12.

“We Can’t Breathe (from American Bullet Points).” Kwame Alexander needed to say something to shed some light on black lives and share some light of hope for the world. “Take a Stand (from Take a Knee).” Kwame Alexander saw those making a difference in sports and culture and politics, then he wrote about them in a way that reaches all of us in three simple, powerful, repetitive messages. “This is for the Undefeated (from The Undefeated).” Through this stylized reprinting of three recent poems, Kwame Alexander aims to make his words hit home for all ages, races, and people. Each of the three are short, thoughtful, visual, and effective in addressing the issues of race in our society and the need to keep that conversation and action moving – for the world to see a better future.

THOUGHTS: I have many thoughts about this small powerful book. First, read it out loud. Second, go find the videos of Kwame reading each for the Undefeated website. Next, go find someone to share, discuss, reflect on these thousand words. Finally, keep adding to your collections, reading diverse perspectives, and finding voice for those who need to be heard. This conversation and collection could really work for all ages with guidance, but perhaps the content is best for secondary grades. Highly recommended.

811 Poetry          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Flooded:  Requiem for Johnstown

Burg, Ann E. Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-54069-7. 313 p. $16.53. Grades 3-6.

Gertrude Quinn is a spirited young school girl, looking forward to singing at Decoration Day.  Daniel Fagan is planning a summer spent outdoors, maybe even sneaking a swim in at the private late at the top of King’s Mountain. Monica Fagan is looking forward to traveling the world, especially if it means she’ll leave Daniel and his pranks behind. Joe Dixon is waiting for the perfect moment–the perfect moment to tell his father he isn’t working at the company store but instead bought a newsstand, and the perfect moment to propose to his true love, Maggie. William James has been collecting words for a long time, and he’ll get a chance to use them when he reads an original poem at Decoration Day. George Hoffman wishes his pa would let him quit school so he can go to work to help his family of 10. In Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown, Ann E. Berg tells a tale of the lives that were being lived before the disaster on May 31, 1889, that took the lives of more than 2,200 people, including 99 entire families and 396 children. We follow six main characters as they prepare for the Decoration Day celebration, disappointed by the rain but oblivious to the calamity about to unfold. We see the flood as experienced by these characters, and we also witness the aftermath. The flood is the catalyst, but it is not the main character. Instead, Burg has chosen to tell a tale of lives lived, lost and saved.

THOUGHTS: The character development and storytelling will attract students who may not know about the Johnstown flood, and it will likely encourage students to read more about this catastrophe.

Historical Fiction        Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD

YA – Stamped

Reynolds, Jason, and Ibram X. Kendi. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-316-45369-1 320 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12. 

Re-evaluate everything you learned or think you know about history in this text that is “NOT a history book.” Broken down by various time periods, Reynolds adapts Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning for a teen audience. Reynolds explains that everyone fits into a category – racist, antiracists, or assimilationist – often moving from one to another or being associated with one but really fitting into another. Various leaders throughout time are analyzed for their words and actions, causing readers to reconsider what they think they know about history.

THOUGHTS: Teen readers will appreciate Reynolds’ open and honest voice which asks them to question the educational system – what they have been taught, by whom, and why. Instead of accepting what they are told, readers will want to prove their history texts (and teachers) wrong. teachers should appreciate the opportunity to encourage students to rewrite history with a more open, honest, and true version. This is a must have nonfiction title for every secondary library.

305.80 Racial, ethnic, national groups          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

This “not history, history book” (how Reynolds references this book) describes how racism has been around in one form or another for centuries. It shows how racist ideas are interwoven into our nation’s history and acknowledges that the only way to change our future narrative is to accept and understand our racist past, and move forward from here. This book is called a “remix” of  Stamped from the Beginning, written by American University professor Ibram X. Kendi. Includes an extensive Further Reading section, Source Notes, and an Index.

THOUGHTS: Told in Jason Reynolds conversational style, this book is a must read (must teach) title for students by the time they graduate from high school. Racist history is shocking, and how it continues to thrive in our culture is shocking.  This book could be an important step in opening student’s eyes to the reality of their lives.

305          Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy

“This is not a history book. I repeat, this is not a history book” (1) thus begins Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds, adapted from Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. In this adaptation, Reynolds shares the history of racism and antiracism in the United States through an easily approachable, conversational tone. Beginning by defining segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists and continuing to revisit these terms throughout history, Stamped looks at the development of racism beginning in Europe through today. Each section of the book focuses on a different period of history and the important players during that period. It connects little known racists, segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists like Gomes Eanes de Zurara, John Cotton, Richard Mather, Phillis Wheatley, and Marcus Garvey to well known figures like Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., and Angela Davis. It examines uplift suasion and the white savior, explores popular culture like Tarzan and boxing legend, Jack Johnson, and forces the reader to consider how history portrays and defines racism.

THOUGHTS: With an introduction and afterword by Ibram X. Kendi, this adaptation truly begins the necessary conversation about racism in the United States for young people and forces readers to not only question the history they know, but also the present in which they live. This is a must-have for all middle school and high school libraries and is a welcome addition to ELA and social studies curriculum. It’s also a fabulous read for adults. Included with the text is “Further Reading,” “Source Notes,” and an index. The audiobook is read by Jason Reynolds and truly feels like you are having a conversation with him. It is possibly more impactful than the text itself because of his voice.

305.8 Social Sciences          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Elem. – Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball

Bryant, Jen, and Frank Morrison. Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-4197-4108-1. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 3-6.

“Whenever Elgin played, people stopped what they were doing and watched.” Elgin Baylor had that kind of effect on the game of basketball, but that was not all. As he grew and played, he also learned and watched what was happening in the world around him. He saw civil rights leaders bravely and peacefully standing up (or sitting down) for change. When Elgin finally made the NBA, he was still facing many forms of discrimination, and now it was his turn to act. “Sometimes you have to sit down to stand up.” The lessons from this poetic biographical picture book by the stellar Jen Bryant are sure to land with young sports fans; meanwhile, the stretched artistic oil paintings portray a man that seemed larger than life in an ever changing time. Just watch and see the impact this book could have on your young readers!

THOUGHTS: Elgin Baylor may not be a household name for young fans, but if they stop and discuss it, they will see how the work of LeBron James, Jackie Robinson, and others are intertwined with his leadership and talent. The timeline at the end offers its own intertwined path between civil rights events and Elgin’s career. A very worthy addition to picture book biographies.

Biography          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents

Messner, Kate, and Adam Rex. The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents. Chronicle Books, 2020. 978-1-452-17488-4. 42 p. $18.99. Grades 3-6.

Now that one contentious election is over, perhaps it is time to look ahead even further to The Next President. Kate Messner takes a unique look at this esteemed position by focusing less on politics and more on the timeline of where upcoming presidents were at key years through our history. Starting with 1789 and president #1, she states that there were already 9 future presidents alive; some were in politics, or law, and a few were just youth who didn’t yet know their future careers. Other benchmark years of 1841, 1897, and 1961 show a similar pattern. There are text boxes briefly highlighting a fact for each president at these moments, and Adam Rex does his splendid best with illustrations realistic and humorous to capture the historical moments. Several snapshot moments break up the narrative a bit and focus in on one particular story, such as presidential pets or Teddy Roosevelt’s adventures. The end result is an inspiring realization that the youth of today are likely among the future leaders of tomorrow, and they may be “listening, learning, and getting ready to lead” our country into a new, changing world.

THOUGHTS: Extra facts in the notes highlight the past presidents’ birthplaces, the requirements to take office, and the changing face of the office as previous barriers are broken for women and people of color. This was before the election, but makes a great discussion point about the potential of the office beyond party affiliation and within the grasp of elementary students. Could easily be paired with So You Want To Be President by Judith St. George, and then some online database sites for further inquiry. Highly recommended.

973 American History    Dustin Brackbill    State College Area 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 Literature

This series aims to uncover the lesser known extraordinary lives of women leaders in history. Women featured include Liluokalani who was the first Hawaiian Queen, a samurai named Tomoe who is famous in Japanese culture, and Queen Hanbe of the Amazons who had a mighty female army. Each book is organized by chapters featuring European, Asian, American, and African women. The books are full of photographs, colorful illustrations, maps, and captions that provide additional facts. An extensive glossary of terms and “Learning More” section helps the reader understand the content and learn more.

THOUGHTS: These books are a good starting place for students who are unaware of the role women have played in history. I think the series accomplishes its goal of uncovering the ignored or forgotten achievements these women have made throughout history. Readers will need to explore additional sources to learn more in-depth information about the road blocks these women have faced and the time-periods in which they lived.

Collective Biography          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

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

Elem. – Great Races (Series NF)

Great Races. Momentum, The Child’s World, 2020. $20.95 ea. $167.70 set of 8. 32 p. Grades 3-6.

Ford, Jeanne Marie. Race Around the World. 978-1-503-83219-0.
Havemeyer, Janie. Race to Mount Everest. 978-1-503-83223-7.
Hutchinson, Patricia. Race to Space. 978-1-503-83220-6.
Maurer, Gretchen. Race to the Bottom of the Ocean. 978-1-503-83224-4.
Perdew, Laura. Race to Discover Energy Independence. 978-1-503-83222-0.
—. Race to Renewable Energy. 978-1-503-83226-8.
Rea, Amy C. Race to Develop the Atomic Bomb. 978-1-503-83225-1.
—. Race to the Poles. 978-1-503-83221-3.

Author Amy C. Rea taps into touchstones of world history in these concise overviews. Race to the Atomic Bomb provides the highlights of the creation of the atomic bomb, starting with brief background of founding scientists and ending with a mention of the post World War II proliferation of nuclear weapons. Aimed at a young audience, the thirty-two page book traces the development of the atom bomb from the British James Chadwick’s discovery of the neutron in 1935 to Albert Einstein’s prodding Franklin Delano Roosevelt to form the Manhattan Project to the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Black and white photographs of major scientists and scenes give context for young readers. The book concludes with probing critical thinking questions. Includes contents, glossary, resources, index.

THOUGHTS: Young readers who need some knowledge of these topics may benefit from this series. Though the facts are true, they just skim the surface. For example, Harry Truman’s decision to drop the atom bomb merits a few lines. Relaying the number of deaths and including Truman’s reflection on the dreadfulness of the atom bomb does not convey the impact of such devastation. This series seems directed at a younger audience who are just learning about these events.

355.8 History          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia