MG – And We Rise

Martin, Erica. And We Rise. Viking, 2022. 978-0-593-35252-6. 153 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

And We Rise is a debut poetry collection that centers on the Civil Rights Movement. The first poem focuses on 1877 and Jim Crow Laws, and goes through both small and large moments that happened in the Civil Rights Movement. There is an author’s note, as well as a timeline of the whole Civil Rights Movement. There is also a source list with some further reading included. The author also chose to put Martin Luther King Jr’s, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in full at the end of the book. The poems use the physical layout to tell the story as well as the poems themselves. 

THOUGHTS: This was an extremely powerful poetry book that is a must read for every middle school student. This book is highly recommended for every middle school collection. 

808 Poetry          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
323.1 Politics

Elem. – Time Capsule

Redniss, Lauren. Time Capsule. Random House Kids, 2022. Unpaged. $18.99. 978-0-593-42593-0. Grades 3-6.

Redniss (author of National Book Award finalist Radioactive) turns her attention to time capsules as a way to remember history. The book has two parts. The first is a story of a present-day girl adding objects to her time capsule (readers could create reasons why she includes dice, a marble, a ticket….then a nightmare (about a terrible storm) and a dream (about outer space)). The second part is a ten-page author’s note which reads like a history of time capsules, then concludes with a bibliography alongside instructions on how to make a time capsule. With these two parts, the book seems designed for use with older elementary students curious about time capsules. 

THOUGHTS: For students wondering about time capsules and what they would include in their own. This seems well-suited as an introduction to history and social science mixed in our memories.

Picture Book          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

YA – A Million Quiet Revolutions

Gow, Robin. A Million Quiet Revolutions. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2022. 978-0-374-38841-6. 319 p. $18.99. Grades 11+.

A Million Quiet Revolutions is a novel in verse told from the perspectives of two young trans men, Aaron and Oliver, as they explore themselves, each other, and their relationship. In the first third of the book, Aaron moves away, and this causes a shift in their relationship as well as in Aaron’s life. The reader is not told explicitly; however, it is implied that the family moved due to a scandal involving Aaron’s older brother and the priest at the local church. Oliver has a fascination with history, and he decides that when Aaron moves away they should write letters to each other like soldiers did during the Revolutionary War. The novel in verse follows the two characters as they write letters and decide to meet up at a Revolutionary War reenactment and what that means for their relationship with each other, as well as their families. 

THOUGHTS: This is a powerful, hard hitting novel in verse that will move anyone who reads it. There are so many beautiful moments between these two characters, and there is so much growth with these them as well. Also, the plot of this book is Kutztown, PA which is fun to see local attractions mentioned throughout the story. This is a must have for any high school.

Realistic Fiction          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

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

MG – Alice Austen Lived Here

Gino, Alex. Alice Austen Lived Here. Scholastic Books, 2022. 978-1-338-73389-1. 162 p. $17.99. Grades 4-12.

Seventh graders Sam and TJ are nonbinary students who come from supportive and loving homes on Staten Island. Sam lives in an apartment complex along with several other supportive friends and members of the LGBTQ community. Sam and TJ’s history teacher assigned them a project to nominate an individual in history that lived on Staten Island and contributed to the community. The winning entry will have a statue commissioned to face New York Harbor.  This is when the pair discovers Alice Austen who was a photographer and an important queer figure that lived and worked on Staten Island.

THOUGHTS: I read this book quickly and really enjoyed the character development. I love that Sam and TJ acted like middle schoolers. Their emotions and reactions felt genuine. I also enjoy reading about Alice Austen who was a new name to me.

Realistic Fiction          Victoria Dziewulski, Plum Borough SD

Sam is a nonbianary teen with a nonbianry best friend, TJ, and they often hang out with a lesbian couple, babysitting the couple’s new baby, in the same building. When Sam and TJ are challenged by a teacher to propose building a new statue to honor an important figure in Staten Island history, they immediately begin looking for someone that will represent their LGBTQ+ community. They find the perfect person in Alice Austen, a photographer who lived and worked in Staten Island in the late 19th and early 20th century. Sam and TJ also befriend an older woman who lives in their building, a former teacher, who helps them contextualize what they learn about Alice Austen during the course of their project. This story ultimately illustrates the value of studying the past, especially important issues and events in the LGBTQ+ community, while also moving forward in the present. 

THOUGHTS: Issues of queer identity and nonbinary identity are central to the book, but Sam and TJ also struggle with typical adolescent issues and friendships to which almost anyone will be able to relate. These thoughtful teens use the power of their voices and the support of their community to bring about positive change and highlight important people from the past who deserve recognition, especially since those historical figures lived in a time when the freedom to choose how you lived and who you loved was much more limited.

Realistic Fiction        Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD

Elem./MG – Why Longfellow Lied: The Truth About Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride

Lantos, Jeff. Why Longfellow Lied: The Truth About Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride. Charlesbridge, 2021. 978-1-58089-933-8. 134 p. $18.99. Grades 3-8. 

“Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is one of the most famous poems written by an American poet. Memorized by thousands of children (and adults) since its publication in 1860, the poem popularized Paul Revere and the story of the events on April 18 & 19, 1775, when riders traveled the countryside around Boston to warn citizens that British troops were on the move. While the average reader may accept the poem as fact, in actuality Longfellow took some artistic license in his retelling. Author Jeff Lantos examines the poem stanza by stanza, comparing the text of the poem to primary source accounts of the events. Readers will learn reasons Longfellow strayed from the historical record is his retelling, including the need to maintain pacing in the poem, removing details that might detract from the main storyline, and the need to give the poem a sense of drama. Numerous sidebars highlight historical facts and figures, and the text is enhanced by the inclusion of maps, photographs, paintings, and drawings. 

THOUGHTS: This fantastic title is a combination history lesson and literary analysis. The author is a retired teacher and has an engaging conversational tone that is sure to keep readers turning the page. An excellent choice for casual readers or those researching the events surrounding the beginning of the American Revolution, this title deserves a spot on library shelves.

811 Poetry          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

MG – Full Speed Ahead! America’s First Admiral: David Glasgow Farragut

Borden, Louise. Full Speed Ahead! America’s First Admiral: David Glasgow Farragut. Calkins Creek, 2021. 978-1-684-37905-7. 224 p. $18.99. Grades 5-9.

“Full speed ahead!”…it’s probably a phrase that most of us have heard before. Yet many may not know that this phrase became part of American popular culture after it was spoken in a Civil War naval battle by Union Rear Admiral David Farragut. Author Louise Borden chronicles Farragut’s life and career in her biography in verse Full Speed Ahead! Farragut first joined the navy as a midshipman at age nine. He steadily rose through the ranks and distinguished himself on missions around the world, including in the War of 1812, in the Caribbean, around Cape Horn, and in the Atlantic. When the Civil War broke out, Farragut devoted himself to the Union cause. He led the naval fleets that captured the Confederate strongholds of New Orleans and Mobile Bay. After the war, he was promoted once more and became the first ever Admiral in U.S. Naval history. The text is supplemented by numerous photographs, paintings, drawings, letters, and maps. 

THOUGHTS: A biography told in verse of a 19th century naval hero might not be the first choice of those browsing the library shelves, so some booktalking may be required for this title. But history buffs who take a chance on the title will be rewarded with an engaging life story of an American hero. An additional purchase for libraries with history fans. 

921 Biography          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

YA – Walls

Elliott, Laura, and Megan Behm. Walls. Algonquin, 2021. 978-1-643-75024-8. $19.95. 352 p. Grades 7-12.

It is 1960, and Drew MacMahon and his family have recently relocated to West Germany. Drew’s mother is thrilled, since her family emigrated to the United States in 1934, and she is eager to reconnect with the great aunt, sister, and nephew that still live behind the “Iron Curtain” on the East Berlin side of the city. Drew has more reserved feelings about his family’s move; he is nervous about starting a new school and meeting his estranged extended East German family. Although he finds his cousin and aunts difficult to understand at first, he develops a tremendous amount of empathy for them and the harshness of life under Communist rule. Over the course of one tumultuous year, Drew tries to navigate his complicated new family members, the tensions of living so close to the border between East and West Germany, and problems of his new schoolmates.  At the end of the story, he and his cousin must make a terrifying decision that will change all their lives forever.

THOUGHTS: The family dynamics between Drew, his parents, his sisters, and his East German family are realistic and poignant in this book. Watching Drew’s character and sense of right and wrong, good and evil, and efforts to understand the motivations of his friends at school and the people on both sides of the Cold War was fascinating. The detailed photographs and captions at the beginning of each chapter help the reader gain much-needed context and a greater understanding of the cultural and political climate in the early 1960’s for this important historical novel.

Historical Fiction          Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD

Elem./MG – The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Fleming, Candace. The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun’s Tomb. Scholastic Focus, 2021. 978-1-338-59662-5. 304 p. $18.99. Grades 4-8. 

The discovery of the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922 made headlines all over the world. Soon, rumors of a curse on the tomb began to circulate. Author Candace Fleming takes readers on a journey back in time as archeologist Howard Carter and his partner and patron Lord Carnarvon embark on their hunt to find the tomb of Tutankhamun. The discovery of the tomb was the result of years of planning and earlier expeditions. Readers will follow along as Carter, Carnarvon, and their workers embark on their hunt and the thrill and excitement they felt when they made their amazing discovery. The work that went into removing treasures from the tomb, preserving them, and cataloging them is also discussed. Scattered throughout the text are short sections of several pages each that present some of the numerous curse stories surrounding Tutankhamun, his tomb, and it’s discovery. These sections help to add an element of mystery to the story and are sure to catch the attention of readers. At the end of the book, a chapter is devoted to examining the curse stories and separating fact from fiction. The text is enhanced by the inclusion of numerous period photographs of the amazing discoveries made within the tomb. 

THOUGHTS: This narrative non-fiction title is certain to keep readers engaged. Since the title reads somewhat like an adventure or thriller, it sure to be a hit with fans of these genres as well as those interested in history or Ancient Egypt. Highly recommended. 

932.014 Ancient Egypt        Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Word Travelers and the Taj Mahal Mystery

Haldar, Raj. Word Travelers and the Taj Mahal Mystery. Sourcebooks, 2021. 978-1-728-22205-9. 128 p. $5.99. Grades 1-3. 

Best friends Eddie and Molly-Jean (MJ) enjoy spending their Saturdays together playing games, watching movies, and having sleepovers. One day, a discussion about the meaning of the word “pajamas’’ leads the pair to discover an old book on word origins compiled by Eddie’s great-grandfather, a famous etymologist. When they open the book (which they nickname the Awesome Enchanted Book) to the entry on “pajama” they are magically transported to India, the country where the word originated. There they meet Dev, who is searching for an ancient family treasure in order to rebuild the local school, which was destroyed in a recent typhoon. Eddie and MJ team up with Dev to find the treasure. But they have competition–Mr. Raffles, the villain of the story, is also on the hunt for the riches! Working together, they decipher clues (with the help of the Awesome Enchanted Book, of course), race across the city, explore hidden passageways, and try to outsmart Mr. Raffles–but will they locate the treasure? Readers will learn about Indian culture as well as many words originating in the country. Bold words in the text can be found in a words origins glossary. The first volume in a projected series, readers will look forward to Eddie and MJ’s next adventure.

THOUGHTS: While readers may be drawn in by the mystery/adventure elements of the plot, they also will enjoy learning about the field of etymology and the origins and history of many words we use in everyday life. This series would be an ideal suggestion for fans of The Magic Treehouse books. Recommended.

Mystery          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD