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

Upper Elem./MS NF – Crow Smarts; Military History

Turner, Pamela S. Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Smartest Bird. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2016. 978-0544-416192  $18.99.  73 pp. Gr. 5-9.
The latest in more than two dozen popular titles in the Scientists in the Field series, Crow Smarts follows crow scientist Gavin Hunt as he tracks and tests the crows of New Caledonia.  We meet several crows with individual personalities (Little Feather, Munin, Lefty, and even “The Crow We Never Got Around to Naming”), and we also meet a writer and researchers with a shared sense of humor.  One crow, “looks at me as though she’s attempting a Jedi mind trick.”  Combined with inviting and colorful page spreads, and beautiful photographs, this book draws readers into the story.    Author Turner has cared for baby crows until they’re ready to be released.  She observes of crows, “[Baby crows] are obsessively interested in everything. No newspaper goes unripped. No food goes unplayed with.  If one crow has something, the other crow wants it.  They are awesomely naughty” (65).  Turner believes more people should recognize the crows’ ability to use tools and to make tools, even specialized hooked tools.  This discovery has led to a re-definition of “human” (scientist Louis Leakey famously wrote that toolmaking was the “step which lifted ‘near-man’ from the purely animal level to that of human status” (8)).  Of the 1,371,500 known animal species, only five are known to make multiple kinds of tools (humans, chimps, orangutans, capuchin monkeys, and New Caledonian crows) and of those five, only two (humans and New Caledonian crows) are known to make hooked tools (39).  Turner’s writing is the perfect complement to the beautiful photographs that make the scientists’ work more clear.  THOUGHTS: Suitable for readers in grades 4-9, the entire Scientists in the Field series is excellent for promoting careers in science and an understanding of the wide variety of scientific work that is being done in the world.  Turner has a second title in the series, titled The Dolphins of Shark Bay.
598 Birds      Melissa Scott, Shenango High School  


McCarthy, Cecelia Pinto. The Science of Warriors. Minneapolis: ABDO, 2017. 978-1-68078-253-0. 48 p. $23.00. Gr. 3-6.

Hand this book to your students who can’t get enough books about weapons, battles, and the military. The Science of Warriors breaks down the history of weapons, protective devices, and vehicles to show how changing science has improved these areas within a warrior’s realm. Each section details early efforts by warriors through current practice, such as the use of armor made with animal skins to mail and plate armor through modern-day use of Kevlar, all influenced by science.  The text is interesting, factual but easy to read, and provides many sidebars with further information. There are also great photographs to enhance the text. The book contains a Table of Contents, glossary, index, and sections of Fast Facts and Stop and Think questions. THOUGHTS: This book is an interesting mix of history, science, and warfare. It will fly off the shelves.

355 Military History     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

YA NF – Bioluminescence; Vietnam


Zimmer, Marc.  Bioluminescence: Nature and Science at Work.  Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2016.  978-1-4677-5784-3. 72 p.  $26.00.  Gr. 7 and up.

This engaging title begins with an overview of bioluminescence in the animal kingdom, explaining its use as a communication, defense, and survival mechanism for animals, describing experiments that have been done on bioluminescent species, and explaining what we have learned about bioluminescence from these experiments.  Then, the author goes on to describe ways in which bioluminescence is being used in scientific studies.  For example, scientists who require sterile conditions for lab research use bioluminescence to test for the presence of bacteria; if bacteria is present, their lab surface will glow.  Scientists are also using bioluminescent proteins in medical studies to learn more about cancer, HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, malaria, and other viruses and diseases.  Color photographs, diagrams, and sidebars are dispersed throughout the text, and a glossary, source notes, bibliography, reading list, and index are all included.  A concise introduction to a complex topic, the author does an excellent job of presenting highlights about bioluminescence and explaining their applications and importance to the field of science.  THOUGHTS: Although I do not view myself as a science person, this book proved very interesting to me.  Not only were the concepts broken down so they were easy to understand, but there were many tidbits of information throughout the book that were actually very intriguing.  For example, I learned that females of some species of fireflies, unlike their male counterparts, do not have lucibufagin, a poisonous chemical that can be released when challenged by a predator.  To make up for this, they will actually eat a male firefly from a different species in order to take in his lucibufagin and increase their chances of survival. Full of interesting facts like this, this book would be a solid addition to any high school science collection.

572; Bioluminescence      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School



Freedman, Russell. Vietnam: A History of the War. New York: Holiday House, 2016.  978-0-8234-3658-3.150 p. $20.00. Gr. 7 and up.

In this concise overview of the Vietnam War, Freedman begins with an examination of Vietnam’s history, presenting its struggles for independence against the Chinese, the French, and the Japanese.  He then goes on to explain how America became involved in Vietnam.  Throughout this explanation, Freedman explores many key figures (such Ho Chi Minh and multiple U.S. presidents) and major events (such as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the My Lai massacre, the Kent State shootings, and more).  Freedman then concludes with a chapter on the relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam today and presents valuable lessons that were learned from America’s most controversial war.  Black and white period photographs are interspersed throughout the text, and a timeline, source notes, glossary, bibliography and index are included.   THOUGHTS:  Compared to much of the narrative nonfiction on the market these days, this title is very straightforward and even a little dry at times.  However, there have not been many excellent resources published on this topic in recent years, and the fact that this book comes from an author who has written many award-winning titles makes it all the more appealing.  Given that it is concise (yet thorough) and easy to understand, I feel that this would be a solid addition to any middle or high school library collection.

959.704; Vietnam War         Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School


Freedman, Russell. Vietnam: A History of the War. New York : Holiday House, 2016. 978-0-8234-3658-3. $20.00. 160 p. Gr. 6 and up.

A look back at the disastrous and divisive war America fought in Vietnam, Vietnam describes the turbulent history of the Vietnamese people under the rule of a long list of invaders and reviews the actions which led to the growing military involvement of the United States in Vietnam at the height of the Cold War along with the impact of the protests of the American people against the unpopular war.  The final chapter provides an update on the current positive political situation between the two nations. The book features many of the iconic photos of the war front and the protests at home. Includes chapter notes, timeline, bibliography, and index. THOUGHTS: Well-written and well-researched, a perfect choice for investigation into a turbulent period in American history. The narrative style makes a difficult topic readable for middle grades and older students.

U.S. History               Nancy Summers, Abington Senior High School