YA – Just Our Luck

Walton, Julia. Just Our Luck. Random House. 2020,  978-0-399-55092-8. $17.99. 272 p. Grades 9-12.

Leonidas –Leo- quirky knitter and sensitive photographer, has been successful staying under the radar for most of his high school years. Then Drake Gibbons a wise-cracking, hyperactive jock punches him, and their consequences are enduring each others’ company in the counselor’s office until they become amicable. Leo’s mother died years ago and now with his Greek grandmother Yia Yia’s death, the silence in their Greek household is deafening and the relationship between him and his father even more distant. When his father insists his gentle son take a martial arts course to improve his pugilistic skills, Leo gets scared off and signs up for a yoga master certification course. Turns out, the person taking his registration is Evey Paros, from another Greek family who just happened to have cursed Leo’s many generations ago. Though she seems aloof, Evey has her own agenda. She’s been wronged by the biggest, richest, most popular dude at school, Jordan Swansea. After their breakup, Jordan sent out nude pictures of Evey over social media. She enlists Leo as her assistant in wreaking revenge. What ensues is a light romance with a touch of humor. Leo unexpectedly finds love, friends, and self confidence. A bonus is that Evey, too, finds a powerful alternative to thwarting Jordan besides sophomoric pranks.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, SD Philadelphia

THOUGHTS: Librarians should be aware this quick read has a lot of curses and little diversity (Drake’s girlfriend Jenn seems to be Latinx). However, the characters are humorous, and the plot discusses generalized anxiety, a condition today’s teens may recognize. Both Leo and Evey also have an interest in writing, and Leo delivers his first-person narrative in journal format. Pull for reluctant readers.

MG – Saving Savannah

Bolden, Tonya. Saving Savannah. Bloomsbury, 2020. 978-1-681-19804-0. $17.99. Grades 6-8.

A prolific writer of nonfiction, Tonya Bolden (Maritcha, Cause: Reconstruction America 1863-1877, Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During World War II to name a few) integrates her skill for facts into an interesting, less explored, narrative in Saving Savannah. Set in post-World War I Washington, D.C., the book focuses on Savannah Riddle, a fourteen-year-old Black girl whose family is part of the elite Black society. The story opens frivolously at a gala opulent with fashion and food and gradually builds to important period events and issues. This eye-opening ascent mirrors Savannah’s maturation from a popular, pampered schoolgirl to a woke young woman of substance. At a pivotal time, Savannah is searching for a more meaningful life connected to the world outside her social strata. She learns about Nannie Helen Burroughs’s School for Girls, a training school; and while volunteering there meets Lloyd, a young Black immigrant with socialist leanings. Lloyd introduces Savannah to the poverty and inequality suffered by some in her own city. She eventually gains the support and respect of her parents after the revelation of a family secret. Throughout Bolden’s book, her intense research is evident. Many of the locales and persons Savannah encounters are real or have a counterpart in reality. Saving Savannah shows the Black perspective during a tumultuous time that underscores discrimination in politics and society and culminates in the brutal riots of the Red Summer of 1919. Besides being a valuable history lesson about a period that resonates with the present, the main character’s transformation from a position of comfort to one of an invested citizen of the world and member of her race is a desire many of us hold today.

THOUGHTS: Like Harlem, Walter Dean Myers’s period piece, Saving Savannah allows students to experience the sights and people of a different time through the eyes of a likeable character. In a sizable appendix, the author supplies background with some photos on the significant movements and personages of the early 20th century Washington, D. C. Bolden touches on multiple issues: Woodrow Wilson’s color lines; the returning Black World War I veterans; the New Negro Movement spearheaded by Dr. Carter Woodson, Hubert Henry Harrison, and Marcus Garvey; the controversy around the Anthony Bill and women’s suffrage; colorism; and even cosmetics. Ideal companion piece for grade 8 American History classes. Teachers may want to use this book to approach discussions on racism and compare the historical perspective with current incidents.

Historical Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, SD of Philadelphia

Elem – My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer

Eszterhas, Suzi. My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer. Owlkids Books, 2020. 978-1-771-47407-8. 31 p. $17.95. Grades 2-5.

Suzi Eszterhas always knew that she wanted to be a wildlife photographer. All of the hours she spent taking pictures of her cats in the backyard, observing squirrels and birds, and taking notes in her field book were great preparation for fulfilling that dream. Now, in a follow-up to her acclaimed 2017 release Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom, Eszterhas shares stories from over twenty years as a professional wildlife photographer. Two-page chapters on topics including “Prepping for Shoots,” “Living in the Field,” “Mothers and Babies,” and “Giving Back to Animals” feature plentiful full-color photographs. Meaningful captions add context and special behind-the-scenes information. In the final chapter, “Ask Suzi,” the author answers questions about the best part of her job, how to become a wildlife photographer, and her most memorable wildlife experiences. She also shouts out her organization, Girls Who Click, which helps girls fulfill their dreams of becoming wildlife photographers themselves. Moto and Me chronicled the year that Eszterhas spent fostering an orphaned serval and his growth from helpless kitten to independent cat. My Wild Life casts a wider net, featuring images of many different species and parts of the world.

THOUGHTS: With an eye toward conservation, Eszterhas presents a candid memoir of her wild life and career, acknowledging the challenges as well as the rewards. Young readers will love her story, and they will love her photographs even more!

770, Wildlife Photography          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – Leyla; Mr. Lemoncello’s All-Star Breakout Game; Why; Ginny Goblin Cannot Have a Monster For a Pet; Camp; Boy-Crazy Stacey; Find Momo Across Europe; A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Bernstein, Galia. Leyla. Abrams, 2019. 978-1-419-73543-1. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-3. 

Leyla is a little baboon with a big family. Her troop includes not only her mother and father but also nine aunts and twenty-three cousins! Since she has such a large family, there is always someone around. Someone to hug her, kiss her, and groom her. And, there’s always someone talking – even when it’s her naptime. One day, Leyla can’t take it anymore, and she runs away from all the noise and all the commotion. She runs until she finds total peace and quiet. In the quiet place, she befriends a lizard who shows her how to simply “be.” The meditation does Leyla good, but it also makes her realize that she misses her boisterous family. Promising to visit the lizard again when she needs some peace and quiet, Leyla returns to her family. They welcome her with open arms and lots of kisses. When life gets noisy again, Leyla remembers her afternoon with the lizard and their strategy for finding inner peace. 

THOUGHTS: This title would be a good fit for elementary morning meetings since it focuses on what to do when one is feeling overwhelmed. It also validates the idea of taking a break from life’s chaos and doing nothing for a while. Leyla’s cool-down strategies can easily be replicated in the classroom, and her dilemma of how to deal with her feelings of life sometimes being too much will be relatable for many children. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD


Grabeinstein, Chris. Mr. Lemoncello’s All-Star Breakout Game. Random House: 2019. 978-0-525-64644-0. 261 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.

Kyle and his friends at Alexandriaville Middle School are excited for the newest challenge from game mogul Luigi Lemoncello. The All-Star Breakout Game is limited to two teams from the middle school, and once again Kyle is pitted against arch-enemy Charles Chiltington, along with a team of stars from the Kidzapalooza TV network, in a contest to play their way out of Mr. Lemoncello’s fabulous library. The game features the library’s new Fictionasium, an interactive Virtual Reality world that allows the teams to create their own story as they collect clues to unlock five locks and be the first to escape the library. While much about this fourth entry in the entertaining Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series is familiar territory, Grabenstein also focuses on character development. As Kyle’s friend Sierra says, quoting Atticus Finch, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Kyle learns why Charles is driven to succeed at all costs, as well as gaining some insight into the lives of kid TV personalities. As always, Kyle’s loyalty to his friends and his innate fairness, contribute to the conclusion of the game. Grabenstein includes a game for readers as well: can you find the over 70 book titles mentioned throughout the novel? A complete list is at the end of the story and may lead readers to many other books.

THOUGHTS:  A high-energy ode to libraries and books. Purchase where other titles are popular. While this book works as a stand-alone, readers of the complete series will enjoy reconnecting with the characters.  

Adventure          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD


Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. Why? Neal Porter Books, 2019. 978-0-823-44173-0. Unpaged. $18.00. Grades PreK-2. 

Laura Vaccaro Seeger is well known to many of us, but this book’s illustrations stray from her typical fare as she uses lovely watercolors to show a curious rabbit with a never-ending stream of “Why?” questions. Friend bear patiently provides answers to rabbit’s questions focused on growing plants, beautiful summer weather, falling leaves, migrating birds, and other signs that seasons are changing in the forest. As snow starts falling and a sleepy bear reaches the end of his answers (and perhaps his patience!), rabbit begs bear not to go. “Why?” questions the bear, and roles reverse as rabbit explains that he will miss his friend. This story will surely resonate with parents of toddlers and curious kids with their own never-ending streams of why questions.

THOUGHTS: A simple friendship story with lots of discussion/prediction possibilities in a preschool or young elementary classroom. 

Picture book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Goodner, David. Ginny Goblin Cannot Have a Monster For a Pet. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-544-76416-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2. 

Ginny Goblin wants a pet. The problem? She loves goats. The narrator explains to readers that goats are smelly and perhaps we readers can help Ginny Goblin find a different pet. The new problem? Ginny employs her powers of cunning and creativity to take each search to the extreme, turning a beachside hunt for a hermit crab into a deep sea dive to find a giant kraken and birdwatching during a forest stroll into a haunted forest basilisk hunt. After several failed attempts to bring a monster home, Ginny Goblin suggests a smaller, cuter option. A goat, of course! Children will delight in Ginny’s silly antics during pet hunting and will certainly giggle at Ginny’s final bit of trickery.

THOUGHTS: Read this to some kindergarteners in need of a good giggle. 

Picture book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Miller, Kayla. Camp. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-1-725-42526-2. 213 p. $24.99. Grades 3-5. 

Fans of Kayla Miller’s Click and readers new to the series will love Olive’s new adventure in Camp. Olive and pal Willow head to Camp Acorn Lake for two weeks in the bunny bunk, and Olive brings her typical enthusiasm for new friends and diverse activities, from jewelry making to softball to video. Willow is more of an “indoor-kid,” camp speak for kids who aren’t so into sports and nature activities. Olive dives into camp life and makes lots of new friends while Willow is homesick and clings tighter and tighter to Olive as the days pass. Olive is torn between being a good friend to Willow and wanting to branch out and enjoy her own time and interests that might not include Willow. After an eruption at the Halfway Day dance, Olive and Willow spend a few days apart. Without Olive to cling to, Willow finds her own niche (the drums–who knew!) and actually enjoys her last few days at camp, and Olive gets to try out some new activities like skateboarding. Ultimately, however, they patch things up after an honest heart-to-heart. Miller excels at realistic friendship stories and upper elementary/early middle school students will surely find something relatable at Camp Acorn Lake. Bonus–extra pages in the back of the book show a map of Camp Acorn Lake and how-to’s for some of Olive and Willow’s favorite camp activities.

THOUGHTS: An excellent new graphic novel series, hand Camp to fans of the first book or readers who like Gale Galligan’s Baby-Sitters Club series for a surefire hit.  

Graphic Novel          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Galligan, Gale. Boy-Crazy Stacey (The Baby-Sitters Club). Graphix, 2019. 978-1-544-43492-6. 159 p. $25.00. Grades 3-6. 

Stacey and Mary Anne can’t wait to visit Sea City. They’re baby-sitting the Pike kids for two weeks while the family vacations in New Jersey, and that will mean fun on the beach, the boardwalk, and crazy days with lots of kids running around. It’s a baby-sitter’s dream! Unfortunately for Mary Anne, Stacey spies a cute lifeguard early in their trip and spends most of her time hanging around the stand talking to cute, older lifeguard Scott, leaving Mary Anne to do double baby-sitting duty. Two weeks fly by in a blur of Burger Garden dinners, boardwalk nights, sibling woes, and tension between the baby-sitters, but after Stacey spots Scott with another girl she snaps back to reality and realizes she’s been slacking. The baby-sitters patch things up and enjoy their last few days in Sea City with the kids and a few special new friends. Like the other books in the graphic novel series, Boy-Crazy Stacey holds true to Ann M. Martin’s original BSC book that many of us remember and love from years past, down to Stacey’s heart-topped i’s. Small updates make the book current–when Mary Anne gets terribly sunburned, the Pike kids bring items to help soothe her discomfort and Claire brings peanut butter (“It’s yummy”) rather than butter, an old-fashioned remedy for regular burns, which wouldn’t make much sense to kids in 2019. A solid addition to the series!

THOUGHTS: BSC fans will gobble up Galligan’s latest offering. 

Graphic Novel          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD


Knapp, Andrew. Find Momo Across Europe. Quirk Books, 2019. 978-1-683-69106-8. 134 p. $14.95. Grades 3+.

Andrew Knapp and his excellent-at-hiding border collie, Momo, are back! This time, their adventures take them on an extended road trip across Europe. Knapp documents their travels with hide-and-seek photographs of Momo in and amongst some of Europe’s most beautiful scenery and iconic tourist attractions. Every chapter in their “Road Map” (each featuring two or three countries) opens with some background and dog-friendly highlights from their time in that region. Their stops include Portugal, Italy, Albania, Croatia, Wales, and more. Readers will delight in spotting Momo as he peeks out from behind bushes, boulders, and bicycles!

THOUGHTS: The Find Momo books are a delight for all ages. They are a great choice for struggling readers and avid readers alike. They work especially well as a breather in between more text-heavy selections, or as a book club option for groups with varying reading levels. There are even more interactive hide-and-seek photographs at letsfindmomo.com.

793 Picture Puzzles, Dogs          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD


Rogers, Fred.  A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers. Quick Books, 2019. 141 p.  978-1-683-69113-6. $19.99.  Grades PreK-1.

This work is a collection of 75 songs that were performed on the TV show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as seen on PBS.  Although the title names them poems, they are actually songs written by either Fred Rogers or Josie Carey, a host of children’s shows and another Pittsburgh native. Per the index, the songs cover such topics as self-esteem, curiosity, fears and worries, feelings, making mistakes, and being special. Mister Rogers strove to reassure young children that each one of us is special in our own way. Each poem is accompanied by colorful illustrations by Luke Flowers. Sometimes the rhymes seem forced, but that is probably because they are better sung. The book itself might have been even more impressive if a CD recording of Rogers’ singing these songs himself was part of the package.  With the coming of the Mister Rogers’ movie starring Tom Hanks, this text will be of more interest.

THOUGHTS: This collections of songs/poems will be useful to preschool and kindergarten teachers who can use them in their lessons and activities.

811.6 21st Century Poetry          Denise Medwick, Retired, West Allegheny SD

MS NF – Out of Wonder; Captured History; Quilts of Gee’s Bend

Alexander, Kwame and Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth. Out of Wonder: Celebrating Poets. Candlewick Press, 2017. 9780763680947. 41p. $16.99. Gr. 3-6.

A collection of poems by three different poets illustrated beautifully by Ekua Holmes. This compilation is separated into three different sections and all the poems are modeled after the author’s poet heroes. “Imitation is the highest form of flattery” as the saying goes, and this book has poems styled after legends from Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost to Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni. THOUGHTS: This is a diverse and modern collection to add to your poetry section. It would be a wonderful starting off point for a poetry unit to study any of the poets within.

Poetry          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Captured Science History. Compass Point, 2018. $25.99ea. $103.96 set of four. 64 p. Gr. 5-9.
Burgan, Michael. Finding the Titanic. 978-0-7565-5642-6.
Nardo, Don. Hubble Deep Field. 978-0-7565-5643-3.
Smith-Llera, Danielle. Double Helix. 978-0-7565-5642-6.
Smith-Llera, Danielle. Mars Rover. 978-0-7565-5641-9.
The goal of the Captured Science History series is to show how photography captures moments that can affect science, influence scientists and average citizens and change history. Each volume spotlights an important scientific find/event with historical significance. This reviewer had the opportunity evaluate Finding the Titanic: How Images from the Ocean Depths Fueled Interest in the Doomed Ship. This volume offers a brief history of the Titanic and examines the search for the vessel and it’s ultimate discovery in 1985. The science behind the search and the search ships and submersibles is also discussed. The book concludes with information about ongoing exploration of the Titanic and a discussion of the public’s continuing fascination with the ship. Numerous photographs accompany the text, including historic photos of the ship, photos from the 1985 search and discovery of the Titanic, as well as more recent images. THOUGHTS: These titles will appeal to readers with an interest in science or history (or both!). Each volume features attractive, high quality photos and illustrations. Recommended for secondary collections.
500s, 900s, Science, History        Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

 

Rubin, Susan Goldman. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017. $21.95 56 pp. 978-14197-21311  Gr. 5 and up.

For the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, quilting has always been a part of life.  Rubin shares the history of the Pettway family from slavery in 1845, through tenant farmers striving for just-out-of-reach land ownership, through the Civil Rights Movement, to current day descendants of those farmers.  In each generation, quilts were made and often individually designed with skill–for remembrance and for warmth.  Materials included anything at hand: denim work shirts, flour sacks, corduroy couch cushions, and scraps of anything; “when I was growing up, you threw nothing away” (6).  Some quilters followed patterns such as “Housetop,” “Log Cabin,” “Bricklayer,” or “Star.”  Others designed based on what fabrics they had: “You find the colors and the shapes and certain fabrics that work our right, kind of like working a puzzle” explains quilter Mary L. Bennett (14).  In 1998, collector Bill Arnett saw a photo of a Gee’s Bend quilt and was determined to learn more.  The artistry of the works astounded Arnett, who founded a nonprofit “to collect and preserve the quilts” and in 2002 created an exhibit to show the quilts.  Soon, sales of the book brought income and pride to the quiltmakers.  Rubin has managed to succinctly tell a fascinating history that includes quilters’ words and time period photographs.  But it is the photographs of the quilts themselves that takes your breath away.   Bold colors, intricate designs, inventive shapes and varied fabrics make for stunning visuals.  Rubin includes simple instructions for how to make a quilt square, furthering this shared artistic endeavor.  THOUGHTS: An interesting and beautifully presented book that leaves the reader wanting to see more of the quilts.  Luckily for us, Rubin closes with notes and bibliography leading to more research.  

746 Quiltmaking     Melissa Scott, Shenango Area School District

YA NF – Fred Korematsu; Factory Girls; Strong is the New Pretty; Escape from Alcatraz

Atkins, Laura and Stan Yogi.  Fred Korematsu Speaks Up. Ill. Yukota Houlette.  Heyday Books, 2017. 978-159714-3684. $18.00. 103 pp. Gr. 5-12.  

Born in 1919, Toyosaburo Korematsu was the third of four sons born to his parents, immigrants to America from Japan.  He took the name “Fred” from a first grade schoolteacher who could not pronounce his name.  The Japanese immigrants (Issei) and their children (Nisei) faced discrimination which exploded following the 1941 Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.  All Issei and Nisei were forced from their homes and their lives into “ ‘Assembly Centers.’ Really prisons.” (26). When Fred’s family was relocated, Fred had a strong sense of his own rights of citizenship and decided to leave California rather than report to the prison camp (26).  He was soon arrested and sent to the camp with his parents.  In this camp, he found no support, for the others worried how Fred’s rebellion would affect the rest of them.  ACLU lawyer Ernest Besig believed in Fred’s case and agreed to represent him for free.  Fred waited, through limited job and living opportunities, for the case to go to trial.  In 1944, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against Fred, basing their decision on the military’s assertion that Japanese relocation was a “military necessity” (58).  Years went by.  Fred married, had two children, and only explained his story to his children when his daughter learned about it in school.  In 1982, professor Peter Irons approached Fred with evidence that the government’s lawyers had lied to the Supreme Court, and in 1983, Fred’s case was reopened.  This time, Fred was cleared of charges and hailed as a hero.  Fred’s daughter leads the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and is fighting for January 30 (Fred’s birthday) to be named a national holiday known as “Fred Korematsu Day.”  The book ends with ideas for how to speak up for your rights, source notes, bibliography, index.  THOUGHTS:  A strong pairing of verse history and illustrations which highlight key moments in Fred’s life, interspersed with helpful 2-4 pages spreads on the camps, the court decisions, and more.  This would pair well with World War II history, civil rights cases, and modern day heroes.

341.6; Japanese-American Internment; US Supreme Court      Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

 

Seifert, Christine. The Factory Girls: A Kaleidoscopic Account of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.  Zest Books, 2017. 978-1942186-458.  $14.99. 176 pp.  Gr. 7-12.

It’s 1911 in New York City, quitting time on this Saturday evening.  Imagine a fire starting on the 8th floor of a building.  Imagine 500 people in that building with one elevator, one rickety fire escape that stops at the 2nd floor, and one exit blocked by a locked door.  Some got out; 146 did not.  For many, it was a choice of jump or face the flames. The horrors of that day left many scarred for life and incited many to work for change in workers’ safety regulations.  Seifert begins her investigation by describing “Five Brave Girls” who worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and who were there the day of the fire: 16-year-old, American-born Annie Miller; 19-year-old, Russian immigrant Bessie Gabrilowich; 17-year-old, Austrian-born Rose Rosenfeld; 21-year-old Fannie Lansner, alone without her Russian family; and 14-year-old, Italian-American Kate Leone in her first month on the job. Seifert waits to tell us their individual fates from March 25, 1911, and in between, showcases the history of American industry and birth of advertising amid the pressure of immigration and millions struggling to work and survive in a place and with a language wholly new to them.  The Gilded Age brought opportunity and socio-economic pressure to every group, leading to exploitation, excess, and greed.  Seifert explores the era that saw such tremendous change in fashion, community, wealth distribution, and industry.  She discusses the corrupt politics of Tammany Hall and the workers’ courageous fights for unionization, and how the fire became a turning point in changing public perception and passing safety laws.  Seifert wisely adds a chapter devoted to the current state of factory workers worldwide, and what the reader can do to affect change in the world.  THOUGHTS: A thorough look at an event that changed a nation.  Highly recommended for grades 7-12.  

974.7 American History; Workers Rights; 1900s      Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

 

Parker, Kate T. Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves. Workman Publishing, 2017. 978-15235-00680. $30.00. 250 pp. Gr. 3 and up.

This book came from Parker’s work as a photographer and mother, noticing her daughters’ strengths were their beauty, and so began a blog, then this book, of 200 girls being…themselves.  Parker divides the photos into nine categories, highlighting that Confidence, Wild, Resilient, Creative, Determined, Kind, Fearless, Joyful, and Independent….is Strong.  Many individual photographs are powerful, showing individual girls or teammates, before, during, after games and performances and simple days.  Zari, age 11, with tennis racket, says “I am blessed with gifts and talents and can’t wait to show the world” (21).  Alice, age 7, says “I have a little bit of a temper” (43).  Natalie, age 15, says, “Last year I chose to move to a different lunch table instead of being ignored by people who I thought were my friends” (87).  Parker, age 10, says, “I give it my all, always, even when nobody is watching.  My mom says that is what integrity is all about” (116).  Not every photograph or quote hits its mark, and some captions seem cliche (“I am fearless”), but the overall effect of seeing girls at their proudest is encouraging.  THOUGHTS: A wonderful book to share, browse, and contemplate, for girls ages 3-103.  

779; Photography     Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

 

Braun, Eric. Escape From Alcatraz: The Mystery of the Three Men Who Escaped From the Rock.  Capstone Press, 2017.  978-15157-45525 (paper) $7.95 112 pp.  Gr. 4-8.

Known as “The Rock” for its rock-like island appearance just outside of San Francisco, Alcatraz was once home to only the worst criminals.  From the 1930s to 1967, Alcatraz held prisoners, and it held secrets.  Some attempted escape, but the cold waters surrounding the island, and the minimum of 2.5 miles to swim to the California shore, always defeated the escapees.  Could it be done?  In 1962, three men did escape from Alcatraz: Frank Morris, the mastermind, and brothers John and Clarence Anglin.  In what Braun reveals was an elaborate plan taking months of effort, the men created dummy-heads to fool the guards at roll call, dug through semi-concrete walls with improvised tools (like spoons), created rafts from raincoats, studied Spanish, and much more.  They escaped, but whether they lived is a matter of debate.  Relatives of the Anglin brothers maintain the men survived and made it to Mexico then Brazil.  No bodies have ever been found, and the case is certainly unsolved.  This book gives many details about the men, their plan, life on Alcatraz, and what may have happened after that night.  THOUGHTS: At a short 112 pages, with plenty of photographs of the men, their equipment, and the prison, this is a winner for reluctant readers.

365; Crime      Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

YA NF – Killers of the Flower Moon; The Photo Ark

Grann, David. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. Doubleday, 2017. 978-0-385-53424-6. 338 pp. $28.95. Gr. 10 and up.

In the 1920s, members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma were among the world’s wealthiest people thanks to the “subterranean reservoir of black gold” beneath their rocky reservation land. Small checks for oil leases and royalties grew to many millions of dollars payable to people on the Osage Roll. These coveted mineral rights could not be bought or sold, only passed on through inheritance. Not trusting the Osage with such vast wealth, the government appointed guardians to steward the money safely into bank accounts and investments. Many unscrupulous guardians swindled the Osage out of their rightful payments. Compounding the troubles of the Osage, more than twenty people suffered untimely deaths through seemingly unconnected causes: gunshots, poison, and even a bombing. Under the guidance of J. Edgar Hoover, a newly restructured FBI was tasked with solving these bizarre, brutal crimes. At the heart of this powerful page-turner is the woman who lost most of her family and nearly her own life, the agent who represents the changing face of law enforcement, and the reporter who discovered an even deeper, darker layer within the Osage Reign of Terror. THOUGHTS: Killers of the Flower Moon is terrific narrative nonfiction that will appeal to readers who are interested in true crime, American history, and the “truth is stranger than fiction” facets of this maddening case.

An interesting book trailer may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__SSyQz7wPY. For further insights, listen to David Grann’s April 17, 2017, interview on NPR’s Fresh Air at http://www.npr.org/2017/04/17/524348264/largely-forgotten-osage-murders-reveal-a-conspiracy-against-wealthy-native-ameri or view the CBS Sunday Morning feature at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enjZe3Bq8tA.

976.6 (History)        Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

 

Sartore, Joel. The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals. National Geographic, 2017. 978-1-4262-1777-7. 399 pp. $35.00. Gr. 7 and up.

At the current rate, half of all species on Earth could go extinct by 2100. Photographer Joel Sartore’s goal is to record images of all of the world’s approximately 12,000 species under human care before they are gone forever. The Photo Ark collects hundreds of his most striking images in one uniquely browsable volume. The book is organized into five sections: Mirrors, Partners, Opposites, Curiosities, and Stories of Hope. Each arresting two-page spread features pairs or groups of animals with a visual, environmental, or thematic connection (e.g., the owl and the pussycat). Deep black and clean white backgrounds make the animals the visual focus of each photograph. Accompanying abbreviations indicate each species’ risk of extinction. “Heroes” sidebars feature researchers and conservationists working tirelessly to protect vulnerable animals. Aspiring photographers will especially love the “Behind the Scenes” sections. THOUGHTS: This is a breathtakingly beautiful book that’s equal parts virtuosic artistry and call to action; every image is an invitation to learn (and do) more. It’s an essential purchase for every library, and an outstanding choice for readers of Wild at Heart by Terri Farley and Moonbird by Phillip Hoose.

For more insight into Joel Sartore’s mission and process, visit www.natgeophotoark.org. For even more detail, listen to his February 27, 2017, interview on NPR’s Fresh Air at http://www.npr.org/2017/02/27/517481473/photographer-builds-a-photo-ark-for-6-500-animal-species-and-counting.

779 (Photography)      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

Series NF for Grades 6-12 – People of America; Captured History

sioux

Peoples of North America. Mankato, MN: Creative Education, 2016. $26.95 ea. 48p. Gr. 7 and up.

Bodden, Valerie. Apache. 978-1-60818-550-4.

Bodden, Valerie. Cherokee. 978-1-60818-551-1.

Bodden, Valerie. Navajo. 978-1-60818-553-5.

Bodden, Valerie. Nez Perce. 978-1-60818-554-2.

Bodden, Valerie. Sioux. 978-1-60818-555-9.

Potts, Steve. Iroquois. 978-1-608181-552-8.

Peoples of North America focuses on the importance of various tribes of North America, a subject not often covered for junior high and high school students.  Each title in this series focuses on a different tribe and includes the history of the tribe, lifestyle, traditions and culture, and the changes the tribe has faced due to westward expansion and the development of the United States (historically and today).  A traditional story from the tribe ends each title, which also includes end notes, a selected bibliography, information for further research, and an index.  The inclusion of photographs, both color and black and white, and illustrations enhance reader understanding of the importance of each tribe to American history and culture.  THOUGHTS:  Not many books are written about Native Americans for high school students, and it seems that these people, who are most important to our history, are often overlooked or quickly taught.  This is series is excellent for research projects and general reading to find out more about Native Americans and their impact in history and today.

American History; Native Americans      Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City

 

shadowcatcher

Captured History. North Mankato, MN: Compass Point Books, 2015. $25.49 ea. 64p. Gr. 6 and up.

Burgan, Michael. Shadow Catcher: How Edward S. Curtis Documented American Indian Dignity and Beauty. 978-0-7565-4992-3.

Nardo, Don. The Golden Spike: How a Photograph Celebrated the Transcontinental Railroad. 978-0-7565-4991-6.

Captured History is one of the best series for middle and high school students.  Begun in 2011, this year’s additions, Shadow Catcher and The Golden Spike, only reinforce the importance of this series to support curriculum, research, and curiosity.  Each title in this series explores a specific aspect of American history through the photographs (by a specific photographer) from the situation and/or period.  Titles are broken into four chapters focused on the history, the event, and the impact on society today along with a timeline, glossary, additional resources, source notes, a selected bibliography, and index.  The use of border white-space enhances the text and photographs in order to fully grasp the event being explained.  The photography is beautiful and is a great way to help teach primary sources and visual reading.  The two new titles are especially important because they focus on historic events that are often overlooked or quickly taught in U.S. History courses: Native Americans and the Transcontinental Railroad.  THOUGHTS:  Captured History is a MUST-HAVE series for all school libraries.

American History      Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City

Nocturne

nocturne

Scott, Traer. Nocturne: Creatures of the Night. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2014. 978-1-61689-288-3. 126 p. $19.95. Gr. 6+.

This is a beautiful, rare glimpse into the lives of nocturnal animals from Traer Scott, who is also the author/photographer of Shelter Dogs. Working with wildlife rehabilitation centers, educational facilities, and conservation-oriented zoos, Scott used a “Little Black Box” made of foam core to photograph smaller animals and insects. Larger animals required a more creative approach, and the results are uniformly stunning and intimate. Included here are exotic animals such as a snow leopard, red panda, serval, and small-eared galago. There are more familiar faces, too, such as a raccoon, beaver, hedgehog, and domestic cat. Scott captures a remarkable range of both personality and pathos in the eyes of these elusive creatures of the night. Each photo spread is accompanied by a paragraph of text that explains the animal’s characteristics, habitat, and challenges to survival. The author notes that many of the animals seen in Nocturne were injured or orphaned, and they now serve as “wildlife ambassadors,” inspiring people (especially children) to care about nature. She concludes the book with a brief overview of the critical threats nocturnal animals face (habitat loss, poaching, and light pollution), and organizations that work to protect animals and their habitats through conservation. It’s a deceptively simple book that will support STEM curriculum, inspire research on endangered species, and catch the interest of casual browsers in the nonfiction section.

Science          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

After reading this book, I was inspired to “adopt” a fennec fox through the World Wildlife Federation as a Christmas gift for my best friend. Doing a small fundraiser and adopting one of the featured animals would make for a fun, rewarding enrichment activity for a Biology class!