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

YA – When They Call You a Terrorist : A Story of Black Lives Matter and the Power to Change the World

Khan-Cullors, Patrisse & Asha Bandele. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Story of Black Lives Matter and the Power to Change the World. Wednesday Books, 2020. 978-1-250-19498-5. 272 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.           

Part memoir, part call to action, Khan-Cullors craftily tells her story of growing up during the drug war in LA, her personal experiences with police, untreated mental illness, and cold-hearted racism in the country she calls home. This puts the reader in such a position to question who else possibly could have created a movement as powerful as Black Lives Matter. Broken into two parts, Khan-Cullors’ family story and the reality of her childhood culminate into the first seven chapters, while a focus on the civil rights movement starting with her brother’s experience with the law and lack of access to mental health treatment resources follow during the last seven chapters. Complete with quotes from well known authors, activists, and politicians, photos, and reader questions in each chapter, this is more than the story of how Black Lives Matter came to be the movement of the century and more than Khan-Cullors own journey–this is a call to action and creates space for difficult thoughts and conversations to begin.

THOUGHTS: Buy it now and thank yourself later. This book should be on the shelves of all high school libraries for students to learn more about BLM’s beginnings and the pilgrimage of one individual discovering who she truly is. The reader questions and recommended reading and viewing alone could serve as guideposts for teachers, students, parents, and more to start the work.

323 Memoir          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

MG – Close Calls: How Eleven US Presidents Escaped from the Brink of Death

Spradlin, Michael P. Close Calls: How Eleven US Presidents Escaped from the Brink of Death. Bloomsbury, 2020. 978-1-5476-0023-6. 116 p. $18.99. Grades 5-8.

While many authors have told the stories of the untimely deaths of American Presidents, author Michael Spradlin has chosen to focus on the lesser known tales of Presidents who narrowly escaped death during their lifetimes in Close Calls. Each action-packed chapter focuses on an event when a President (or future President) nearly lost his life. Some examples of near misses include: George H.W. Bush being shot down and nearly captured during WWII, Andrew Jackson avoiding death when both(!) pistols an assassin shot at him misfired, and Theodore Roosevelt narrowly escaping death when an assassin shot him, only to have the bullet stopped by a folded speech Roosevelt was carrying. The text is supplemented by the inclusion of sidebars explaining historical events of the time(s) or biographical sketches of persons involved in the story. 

THOUGHTS: This engaging title is sure to be a hit with biography and history readers, as well as readers who enjoy action-packed, adventure-type stories. Highly recommended.

973 American History            Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

MG – Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem

Messner, Kate. Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem. Millbrook Press, 2020. 64 p. $24.04 978-1-541-55706-2 Grades 4-8.

Once native only to Asia, Burmese pythons have invaded Florida!  Researchers speculate that animals kept as pets were released and quietly flourished undetected in the lush, protected swamps of Florida. Native animals such as alligators and mink, herons, deer, possums and more, are being affected by the insatiable appetite of the pythons. “People will ask me what pythons eat. The question should be, What don’t they eat?” says Bartoszek (44). Kate Messner follows researchers Ian Bartoszek and his colleagues from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida as they explain the scope of the problem and their efforts to control it. Scientists can respond to an invasive species in four ways: prevention, eradication, containment, or control. The burmese python population in Florida, estimated to be in the tens if not hundreds of thousands, is well beyond the first three responses, and even controlling the population is proving difficult.  Bartoszek and colleagues track the pythons using radio telemetry, capture them for analysis and transmitter implantation, and try to better control the population. “Another big goal is to advance snake science in general. We kind of owe it to the pythons. We have tremendous respect for this animal, so we try to gather as much scientific information as possible” (44).  Each chapter includes segments on “How to Catch a Python” (some surprising stories and methods) as Messner shares lessons learned, “python CSI,” and the wonder of the undetectable python, even when standing atop one! The book includes QR codes showing python releases and telemetry flights, and extensive back matter.

THOUGHTS: A compelling look at an amazing animal and its effects on an ecosystem, this book will engage readers with an interest in animals, the environment, and scientific careers.  A top example of narrative nonfiction.

597.96 Burmese Pythons        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

YA – Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

Kolker, Robert. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family. Doubleday, 2020. 978-0-385-54376-7. 377 pp. $29.99. Gr. 10+.

From the outside looking in, the Galvin family embodied the American Dream. After serving in World War II, Don Galvin took a job at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. There he and his wife Mimi began a family that would grow to include ten boys and two girls, spanning the Baby Boom generation. But deep within the minds of six of their children, something was terribly wrong. One by one, six of the boys fell ill with schizophrenia, most late in adolescence; they suffered from hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and an array of debilitating symptoms. As the boys cycled between mental institutions and the family home on Hidden Valley Road, Don and especially Mimi did their best to both care for their sick children and maintain outward appearances. The life of every child, well and sick alike, was touched by mental illness, particularly the two youngest, Margaret and Mary. Author Robert Kolker deftly blends the heart-wrenching story of the Galvin family with chapters on the medical side of the story: could a “multiplex” family like the Galvins, with so many cases of the disease, help scientists resolve the nature versus nurture debate that had always dominated schizophrenia research?

THOUGHTS: This is not a quick or easy read, but it is a propulsive one. Kolker’s ability to stitch extensive research into such a personal story, complete with details cementing the Galvins’ lives in a distinctive place and time, is a master class in nonfiction writing. Note the presence of scenes of abuse and trauma, which are very sensitively depicted.

616.89 Schizophrenia          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

YA Nonfiction – Shadow of Liberty; Rad Women; March Bk 3; This Land is Our Land

shadowofliberty

Davis, Kenneth C. In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2016. 978-162779-3117. $17.99 286 pp. Gr. 7-12.

Davis shines light on five lesser-known individuals of American history in In the Shadow of Liberty.  They were five enslaved persons (Davis explains the preference for enslaved person rather than slave) who were owned by four presidents who espoused liberty for all.  Billy Lee served as George Washington’s valet.  Ona Judge worked as Martha Washington’s maid and successfully escaped.  Isaac Granger served at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello all his life.  Paul Jennings worked at both James Madison’s Montpelier and the White House. Finally, Alfred Jackson served Andrew Jackson’s household.  Davis gives a succinct history of slavery and its profitability before detailing each person’s story.  Between chapters, he skillfully places timelines to explain national events and how slavery was affected.  The research is thorough and though Davis could be judgmental, he opts instead for a factual perspective.  “It would be…simple to condemn them…and to call them hypocrites and negate all they did…But history is never a simple tale.  The story…is a complicated one.  At times, some of them agonized…some of their views and behavior changed, though never enough to make a difference.  We must take these hard, cold facts into account” (261-262).  This is a finely written history of interesting people in difficult, at times horrifying, circumstances.  Davis’ writing pulls in the reader and gives life to these five little-mentioned people.  THOUGHTS:  This history gives fuller understanding of the times and (often contradictory) views held by early American leaders.  Social studies courses could include the entire text or portions of it (consider chapter one, with its succinct history of slavery) to better understand the wide impact of slavery on individuals and a nation’s psyche.  This is accessible reading for middle and high school to give another view of colonial life and the abolitionist fight.  It serves as a fantastic example of biography and narrative nonfiction.  This could also be paired with Albert Marrin’s A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery (2014).

973; American History      Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

radwomen

Schatz, Kate, and Miriam Klein Stahl (illustrator). Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2016. 978-0-399-57886-1. 104 pp. $15.99. Gr. 6 and up.

Rad Women Worldwide contains forty mini-biographies, representing all seven continents and describing the achievements of truly radical women in lively, conversational profiles. The very helpful map on the book’s front endpapers will orient readers to this journey through time and around the globe. Rad Women Worldwide covers contemporary women such as Malala Yousafzai, Venus and Serena Williams, and primatologist Biruté Mary Galdikas. There are also plentiful entries on historical figures: Enheduanna (the world’s oldest known author), Hypatia (the first known female mathematician and scientist), Queen Lil’uokalani of Hawaii, and many more. Each chapter is accompanied by an iconic papercut portrait, created by illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl using paper, pencil, and an X-Acto knife. “The Stateless,” a poetic ode to the world’s 60 million displaced people (almost 80% of whom are women and children) is a fitting conclusion to this excellent collective biography. One small complaint: if the map and Table of Contents included keywords such as Educator, Environmentalist, or Musician next to each woman’s name, Rad Women Worldwide would be even more accessible to browsers and student researchers. THOUGHTS: It’s a must-have for every teen library and a strong companion read to Schatz and Stahl’s 2015 collection Rad American Women A-Z.

920; Collective Biography       Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School Library

 

marchbook3

Lewis, John and Andrew Aydin. March Book 3. Art by Nate Powell. San Diego, Top Shelf Productions, 2016. 978-1603094023. 256 p. $19.99. Gr. 9 and up.

March Book 3 is a powerful conclusion to Congressman John Lewis’s graphic memoir of his experiences during the Civil Rights movement. Books One and Two focused on the lunch counter sit-ins and the March on Washington, respectively. The plot of the third book centers around the events and marches in Selma, Alabama.  Lewis also shares his experiences traveling to Africa and meeting Malcolm X, and the struggles within the different groups pushing for change at that time. The art, drawn in careful detail by Nate Powell, propels the story forward at a fast clip and engages the audience with stark black and white scenes. This series should be required reading in all high schools, not only because it is engaging in a way that textbooks generally are not, but also because the themes and events are, sadly, exceptionally relatable to the events occurring in our world today. THOUGHTS: Students and educators alike will be fascinated by Lewis’s story and experiences. This series should be in all high school libraries.

Graphic Novel; Memoir      Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy Senior School

I have eagerly awaited the final installment of this series, and it did not at all disappoint. Reading John Lewis’s graphic memoir has opened my eyes to the power of this form of literature, and how it can be used to engage readers and teach about different eras in history. I also had the opportunity to attend an event with Congressman Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. The Congressman gave one of the most powerful speeches I have ever witnessed. Hearing his story in person, and the story behind the graphic novel, made me appreciate the venture even more than before. I hope that more famous and influential individuals will use this genre to tell their stories in order to reach a whole new audience and generation.

 

land

Osborne, Linda Barrett. This Land is Our Land: A History of American Immigration. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-1-4197-1660-7. 124p. $24.95. Gr. 7 and up.

Focusing on American immigration from the 19th century to the present, this title presents the experiences of immigrants who came to America to start new lives and examines the way Americans have responded to these immigrants over time.  Surprisingly, attitudes towards immigrants have remained remarkably similar and consistent throughout the history of America.  Osborne offers context and reasons for these attitudes while at the same time highlighting the benefits that immigrants have brought to our country and encouraging fairness and compassion towards all.  Numerous period photographs and quotes from immigrants themselves adds a personal touch to the work.  A timeline of immigration history, source notes, bibliography, and index are also included.  Overall, this is a very thorough and objective account of American immigration throughout history.  THOUGHTS: With the upcoming presidential election, immigration is a very timely topic.  This title provides a wonderful introduction to the topic and could spark excellent discussions about attitudes and responses towards immigration.  Another option would be to pair this title with fictional accounts of the immigrant experience, such as Melanie Crowder’s Audacity or Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Uprising.

304.8; Immigration      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

The Prisoners of Breendonk – New Narrative NF for Teens

breendonk

Deem, James M. The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal histories from a WWII concentration camp. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. 978-0-544-09664-6. 340 p. $18.99. Gr. 9 & up.

Breendonk was never officially designated a concentration camp by the Nazis, but its status made it no less horrifying for its prisoners.  At first, Jews and non-Jews who had committed petty crimes were held in this Belgian prison, forced to perform mindless, backbreaking labor on starvation rations.  Later in the war, resistance members were brought here for brutal torture and executions.  Except for the testimony and writings of former prisoners, little was known about Breendonk until the author began researching its history.  Deen presents a thorough account of prison life and delves into the backgrounds of many of the prisoners.  Background information about the Belgian resistance movement gives context.  The book is interspersed with valuable primary sources, such as photos, letters and drawings.  An afterword tells readers what happened to many of the prisoners featured in the book.  THOUGHTS:  This would be a solid addition to any library with high interest in the Holocaust or where curriculums delve into this subject.  The sketches by an artist imprisoned at Breendonk are most fascinating; I’ve never seen any Holocaust resource with anything so unique.

Holocaust         Kristen Rowe, Plum Senior High School