YA – Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America 1619-2019

Kendi, Ibram X. and Blain, Keisha N. Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America 1619-2019. One World, 2021. 978-0-593-13404-7. 528 p. $32.00. Gr. 11-12+.

Despite being a hefty tome, this book belongs on all high school shelves to start to fill the gap of curriculum on race and inclusive historical views of America. Ninety writers and two editors provide different perspectives throughout the four-hundred year span. Each writer takes on a five year period with a different approach and technique to tell the story of Africans in America. The purpose of including so many voices was start to release the stereotype of African American monoliths that is still present in many minds today. The diversity and unique assemblance of this book provides so many teachable moments in all classrooms. Although a large book on its own, it can easily be broken down into bite sized pieces for classroom content or slow reading.

THOUGHTS: If you are responsible for book acquisition and work in a high school library, this needs to be at the top of your list. Once in the library, the value of the book should be highlighted with teachers and students alike.

973 United States History          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

YA – Illegal

Stork, Francisco X. Illegal. Scholastic, 2020. 978-1-338-31055-9. 291 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12. (Book 2 in Disappeared series)

Brother and sister Emiliano and Sara Zapata must flee from Mexico and the nefarious unnamed boss pursuing them. They cross the border into the United States, then split up.  Sara requests asylum, and Emiliano nearly dies in the desert before being picked up by an American rancher, then reunited with his father in Chicago. Emiliano carries the cell phone of a member–perhaps the leader–of a human trafficking organization that Sara has worked so hard to bring to justice. Neither Emiliano or Sara is safe, and conditions only worsen as Sara is separated and threatened in the detention facility, and Emiliano is tracked down in Chicago. Neither Emiliano or Sara is able to trust anyone immediately, and each must trust that the other will do “the right thing”–but the right thing for the victims of the human trafficking organization could be exactly the wrong thing for Sara and Emiliano. Both realize repeatedly that their lives are expendable and meaningless to others. Sara and Emiliano share one phone call in which Sara (in code) urges him to remember what he learned from Brother Patricio. Through his work for a neighbor of his father’s, Emiliano learns of a retired policeman who may help him. But Sara is to be moved to another facility–code for ‘lost’ or ‘terminated’–and both realize that time is running out.

THOUGHTS: Stork continues Sara and Emiliano’s stories (from Book 1, Disappeared), this time in the US. The various characters show human strength and frailty, stereotypes, hopes, and hatred. A must-purchase where the first novel was popular, though this novel can stand on its own.

Realistic Fiction          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area 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

Elem. – Kamala Harris Rooted in Justice

Grimes, Nikki. Kamala Harris Rooted in Justice. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-534-46267-0. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-2. 

Kamala Harris Rooted in Justice follows Kamala Harris from growing up as a young girl in Oakland until she ran for President of the United States in 2019. The biography of Kamala is backed by the story of a young girl named Eve who is talking with her mom about an incident that happened at school.  Eve’s story helps drive the story of Kamala Harris’s life, and you easily can follow Eve’s narrative as it is in a different font compared to Kamala’s. The illustrations show Kamala’s life and mirror the story, as well as showing Eve and her mother throughout the story. The book ends right when Kamala Harris dropped out of the 2020 Presidential race, and does not include her becoming Joe Biden’s Vice President nominee. The illustrations are beautiful and give extra detail to the story as the reader goes through.

THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful addition to an elementary school biography collection that I highly recommend!

Biography          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter
Picture Book

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

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

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

Picture Books – They Saw a Cat; Fly Guy; Wet Cement; Elizabeth Started All…

Wenzel, Brendan. They All Saw a Cat. New York: Chronicle Books, 2016. 978-1-45215-013-0. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. K-3.

The cat walked through the world with its whiskers, ears, and paws…” and every being that sees the cat has a very different picture of that creature. To a child, the cat looks friendly and fluffy. To a fish, the cat looks enormous and blurry, the result of being separated by a glass bowl. To a bird, the cat is a small brown object with a red stripe (collar) as seen from a great distance above. Every animal has a different perspective so the cat becomes many different things. This book is a 2017 Caldecott Honor Medal award winner, and it is easy to see why  Each illustration displays a new style and helps readers experience a new perspective and feeling about how we all see the world differently. A note at the book’s end explains, “The illustrations in this book were rendered in almost everything imaginable, including colored pencil, oil pastels, acrylic paint, watercolor, charcoal, Magic Marker, good old number 2 pencils, and even an iBook.” THOUGHTS: Brendan Wenzel created a lovely book with lots of discussion possibilities and illustrations that will spark imaginations.

Picture book     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary School

 

Arnold. Tedd. Fly Guy Presents the White House. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-91737-7. 32pp. $3.99. Gr. K-2.

In this nonfiction book, Buzz and his pet, Fly Guy, make a trip to Washington DC to visit the White House. On their tour, they learn a lot about the people who live and work in this famous building. From the President, First Lady, and their family, to the Secret Service agents, advisors, speech writers, chefs, butlers, maids, and gardeners, it’s a full house! The writing style and facts presented in this title are perfect for the youngest readers. Pronunciation guides are provided when new vocabulary words are introduced, and Tedd Arnold’s trademark squiggly illustrations are supplemented by captioned photographs of the White House’s many rooms, former Presidents, and pets that have lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  THOUGHTS:  My students love Fly Guy books (both the fiction and nonfiction titles), and this has been a huge hit in my library’s browsing basket. It’s also a great tie-in to units about government, American history, or discussions about our nation’s capital. The mix of cartoon-style illustrations and real photographs adds interest and makes readers feel like they are accompanying Buzz and Fly Guy on their White House tour.

Nonfiction        Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

 

Raczka, Bob. Wet Cement. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-62672-236-1. $17.99. 48 pp. Gr. K-3.

In the introduction to this collection of 21 poems, Raczka describes how he likes to think of poems as word paintings, and he believes the poet’s job is to use words to paint pictures inside the reader’s head. In his concrete poems, also known as shape poems, he arranges the words in the shape of the poem’s subject, adding an additional layer of meaning. In this collection, he also goes one step further, arranging the individual letters in the poem’s titles to paint an image with a single word. His subjects include airplanes, clocks, the Big Dipper, dominoes, fireflies, and icicles, so readers are sure to find something they can relate to. The poems are printed on uncluttered white or black backgrounds, so the arrangement of the letters and words takes center stage.  THOUGHTS:  This title is a strong addition to elementary poetry collections. While students will enjoy pouring over the poems’ unique shapes, the poems also lend themselves to teaching other skills such as metaphor, homophones, rhyme, and onomatopoeia.

Poetry     Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary, Southern York County

 

Rappaport, Doreen. Elizabeth Started All the Trouble. New York: Disney/Hyperion, 2016. 978-0-7868-5142-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. 1-4.

Beginning with the signing of the Constitution (during which Abigail Adams encouraged her husband to “remember the ladies”), this title chronicles the progression of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the U.S. through the years.  It highlights significant figures and events, including the Seneca Falls convention, the abolition of slavery, the role of women during the Civil War, the 1913 Women’s Suffrage March in Washington, D.C., the imprisonment of suffragists, and the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment.  The book is organized chronologically and details events in language that is accessible even to young readers.  The illustrations give faces to reformers mentioned in the text and add context to the writing.  Brief biographies of key figures, important dates, and additional resources are provided at the end of the book.  Overall, a solid addition to any elementary history and/or biography collection. THOUGHTS: It is worth noting that the author has received several starred reviews, honors, and awards for past biographical works, including Martin’s Big Words, Abe’s Honest Words, and To Dare Mighty Things.  Like those works, this title also celebrates a noble, heroic life.  It does not, however, focus solely on Elizabeth Cady Stanton (as the title would indicate).  Rather, other female social reformers (such as Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Abigail Adams, Lucretia Mott, and Lucy Stone) are also mentioned.  This overview of the women’s movement would pair well with Tanya Lee Stone’s Elizabeth Leads the Way.  While Stone’s title provides a better biographical sketch of Elizabeth, Rappaport’s work gives a more extensive overview of this tumultuous chapter in women’s history.  An inspiring read for young girls who desire to leave their mark on the world.

Picture Book      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

Monumental History…a new series from Capstone

lincolnmemorial

Monumental History (series). North Mankato: Capstone Press, 2015. 32 p. $26.65. Gr. 4 and up.

 Clark, Katie. The Lincoln Memorial: Myths, Legends, and Facts. 978-1-4914-0205-4.

Gunderson, Jessica. The Alamo: Myths, Legends, and Facts. 978-1-4914-0204-7.

Gunderson, Jessica. Mount Rushmore: Myths, Legends, and Facts. 978-1-4914-0203-0.

Murray, Robb. The Washington Monument: Myths, Legends, and Facts. 978-1-4914-0206-1.

Have you ever wondered if there are hidden messages in the architecture of the Lincoln Memorial, in the number of marble steps, or in the positioning of Lincoln’s hair? Are Lincoln’s hands placed to spell his initials, L.A., in sign language? This unique series addresses these rumors and legends in the context of a factual account of the inspiration, design, and construction of America’s most famous monuments. The Lincoln Memorial covers the long road from Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 to the memorial’s construction in 1914, and eventual dedication. Colorful pages, word definitions, and captioned photos all enhance the text’s readability. The last chapter touches on historic events that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial, such as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 speech on its steps. Critical thinking questions that are correlated to the Common Core and a link out to FactHound.com (using the book’s ISBN) complete the back matter. These books are great selections for students who enjoy history, trivia, and conspiracy theories!

975; American Memorials and Monuments            Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

I can imagine these books inspiring students to one day visit these amazing monuments in person! They would also make a great introduction to researching presidents, debunking myths, citing evidence to support your claims, and taking a virtual field trip via sites such as http://www.nps.gov/featurecontent/ncr/linc/interactive/deploy/index.htm#/introduction.

We Shall Overcome…a new series about the Civil Rights movement

freedomriders

We Shall Overcome (series). North Mankato: Capstone Press, 2015. 32 p. $26.65. Gr. 4 and up.

Krumm, Brian. The Little Rock Nine: A Primary Source Exploration of the Battle for School Integration. 978-1-4914-0225-2.

Schwartz, Heather E. The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Primary Source Exploration of the Landmark Legislation. 978-1-4914-0224-5.

Schwartz, Heather E. Freedom Riders: A Primary Source Exploration of the Struggle for Racial Justice. 978-1-4914-0222-1.

Schwartz, Heather E. The March on Washington: A Primary Source Exploration of the Pivotal Protest. 978-1-4914-0225-2.

This wonderful new series for upper elementary and middle grade readers covers landmark events in Civil Rights history with a focus on primary source material. Short, reader-friendly chapters cover the background, the event itself, and its impact with text, archival photographs, fact boxes, and special bolded vocabulary defined on the page and in the Glossary. For example, Freedom Riders features a photo of a drinking fountain in a segregated streetcar terminal, definitions of “integrate” and “intimidate,” and a 1961 editorial praising the police treatment of Freedom Riders who had been jailed and beaten. Throughout the text, primary source quotes appear in blue, italic typeface to cue the reader that they are reading a quote or excerpt from the time period. Overall, these books make complicated events both clearly understandable and highly interesting. A Selected Bibliography, critical thinking questions that are linked to the Common Core, and a link out to FactHound.com (using the book’s ISBN) round out the back matter.

323.1; American History, Civil Rights            Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

I reviewed Freedom Riders, but based on this title alone, I will definitely purchase the complete series for my library. Using series such as this one, which is designed for younger students, is a great way to differentiate research materials for struggling teen readers. This series definitely fills in some holes in my collection with accessible coverage of these topics.