MG – War and Millie McGonigle

Cushman, Karen. War and Millie McGonigle. Alfred A. Knopf, 2021. 210 p. 978-1-984-85010-2. $16.99.  Grades 4-6.

Mollie McGonigle is a twelve year old girl who lives with her family in San Diego. It is the autumn of 1941 and with war raging in Europe, Millie worries that the conflict will come to California. The young girl is grieving for her grandmother, who died on Millie’s birthday. Her grandmother’s gift was a diary, and she suggested that Millie “use [it] to remember the good things in this world…things that seem lost or dead-keep them alive and safe in your book.” Millie interprets this to mean that she should keep a list of dead things and explores the beach and neighborhood to find or hear about something to write down. When not looking after her younger asthmatic sister and energetic brother or doing chores, Millie finds time to be with her friend Rosie from Chicago, who is temporarily living with relatives. Then, Pearl Harbor is attacked, and Millie becomes even more alarmed about a possible invasion, as do others in the town. With Rosie’s help, Millie comes to terms with her anxiety about the world and the loss of her grandmother, realizing that “whatever is lost stays alive when we remember it.”

THOUGHTS: This novel explores the effects of grief and anxiety about a world turned upside down. The story is not all doom and gloom, as Cushman has included some comic relief in characters like Aunt Edna and MeToo. Millie is a likeable character and readers who enjoy books about sensitive issues and friendship will like this one.

Historical Fiction          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

YA – Conspiracy: Nixon, Watergate, and Democracy’s Defenders

Pearson, P. O’Connell. Conspiracy: Nixon, Watergate, and Democracy’s Defenders. Simon & Schuster, 2020. 978-1-534-48003-2. 277 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12. 

The Watergate scandal and resignation of President Nixon was a seminal moment in 20th century American History. Conspiracy relates information about the Watergate events and personalities in an accessible and straightforward manner that is highly readable. The book is arranged chronologically, starting with the Watergate break-in on June 17, 1972. Subsequent chapters follow the unfolding events and investigative process that ultimately revealed numerous abuses of power carried out by the Nixon administration. A major focus of the title is examining the role of Watergate heroes, individuals like reporters, judges, lawyers, elected officials, and average Americans, who worked to reveal the truth about Watergate-related criminal activity and cover-up attempts and to defend the rule of law. Key legal terms and governmental concepts/procedures are defined within the text. Back matter includes a bibliography, timeline of events, and cast of characters.

THOUGHTS: The Watergate scandal unfolded over a period of years and ultimately encompassed not only the Watergate break-in, but numerous crimes. Therefore, it can be a complex topic to explore and explain. Pearson does an admirable job in presenting these concepts in an accessible manner that will enable secondary students to gain a full understanding of the events and key players. Student researchers will find this book to be an invaluable resource, and it will also be of interest to history fans.

973.924 American History          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

YA – Blood and Germs: The Civil War Battle Against Wounds and Disease

Jarrow, Gail. Blood and Germs: The Civil War Battle Against Wounds and Disease. Calkins Creek, 2020. 978-1-684-37176-1. $18.99 Grades 7-12. 

Author Gail Jarrow (Poison Eaters, Red Madness) is back with Blood and Germs, another top notch medical-related non-fiction title for secondary students. This time, she has turned her focus to the American Civil War and the injuries and diseases suffered by soldiers as well as the medical practices of the period. Jarrow makes extensive use of primary source documents and photos (word of warning for the squeamish, the title contains B&W photos of injured soldiers as well as vivid descriptions of wounds, diseases, and medical procedures), to explore medical treatments of the time period. Readers will follow soldiers into camp and learn about the high rates of disease found within the armies, to the battlefield where thousands were wounded, to the field hospital where the wounded underwent treatment (often amputation), on to the hospital. Medical care in both Union and Confederate armies are presented. The role of African-American nurses and doctors and the medical treatment of African-American soldiers within the Union Army are also discussed. Readers will discover how the war led to treatment innovations, such as the concept of triage, the importance of competent nursing care, as well as an improvement in surgical treatments and sharing of medical knowledge. The role of women in the war, including their critical role as nurses is also presented, with several biographical sketches of key women included within the text. Backmatter includes a timeline, glossary, places to visit (in person and online), and an extensive bibliography.

THOUGHTS: This engaging title is sure to be a hit with students with an interest in the Civil War or in medicine. Students with research projects relating to Civil War medical care will find the book an invaluable resource. Highly recommended.

973.775 Civil War Medicine        Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Rossi, Veronica. Rebel Spy. Delacorte, 2020. 978-1-524-77122-5. 348 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12.

When Frannie Tasker’s abusive stepfather announces it is time for her to take her dead mother’s place in the household, she knows she has to escape her brutal life with him as a salvage diver on Grand Bahama Island. Fate intervenes by way of a fatal shipwreck, and a dead young woman who looks similar to Frannie. A quick change of clothes, (and a bout of “trauma-induced” mutism until she can polish her vocabulary and manners) and she becomes Emmeline Coates, wealthy British heiress on her way to America, during the height of the Revolution. She gradually adapts to her new life, family and friends, and even catches the eye of a handsome British officer. But a chance encounter with American rebel Asa Lane, who befriended Frannie on the voyage to New York and coached her in the ways of society women, shakes her out of her comfortable lifestyle. Utilizing her position in Loyalist society, Frannie begins spying for the Americans, passing along information she overhears during teas and dinner parties. But spying is a dangerous game,and Frannie is risking everything, including her new life and persona. Will Emmeline, or Frannie, survive? Based on the unknown identity of a member of the famous Revolutionary War Culper spy ring, Rossi creates a story for female agent 355. Meticulous research brings to life events of the war, many less familiar than those learned in history class, highlighting the little-emphasized contributions of women patriots.

THOUGHTS: A well-constructed combination of mystery, romance, and history featuring a strong, intelligent female main character, Rebel Spy is perfect for historical fiction fans, readers seeking an adventure story, or period romance readers.

Historical Fiction          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

MG – Tangled History

Tangled History. Capstone Press, 2016-2020 (2020 Titles Listed). $24.54 ea. $588.96 set of 24. Grades 3-6.

Otfinoski, Steven. The Battle of Iwo Jima: Turning the Tide of War in the Pacific. 978-1-54357-258-2.
Burgan, Michael. The Battle of the Bulge: Nazi Germany’s Final Attack on the Western Front. 978-1-54357-259-9.
—. Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Atomic Bomings that Shook the World. 978-1-54357-256-8.
Otfinoski, Steven. Japanese American Internment: Prisoners in Their Own Land. 978-1-54357-257-5.

Part of the Tangled History series, Japanese American Internment uses the lives of a dozen individuals who were impacted to tell the story of of the Japanese American internment which took place after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and continued until March 1946, when the last of the detainees were released from Tule Lake internment camp in California. Harvey Itano was not present to receive the Gold Medal for Outstanding Student award at his graduation ceremony from the University of California, Berkeley because he and his family were sent to an internment camp. Isamu Noguchi was a well-known sculptor when he volunteered to go to Poston, Arizona and teach art to internees. Mine Okubo and her brother were to be separated when they arrived at the Tanforan Assembly Center in California, but Okubo insisted they be kept together. Their quarters were horse stables, and they were given bags of ticking to fill with straw for mattresses. These are just a few of the stories told about this shameful time in American history. Through their experiences, students will learn what internment meant to Japanese Americans, from the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing until the final detainees were released.

THOUGHTS:  Middle School students likely have little idea about this time in America’s past, and the stories of individuals and the included photos will help illuminate what that experience was like for those involved.  It is certainly a timely addition to a collection.

940.53  World War II          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD

Elem. – Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre

Weatherford, Carole Boston, and Floyd Cooper. Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre. Carolrhoda Books, 2021. 978-1-541-58120-3. unpaged. $17.99. Grades 3-6.

In 1921, the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a thriving Black community. A stretch of businesses known as “Black Wall Street” included restaurants, shops, salons, libraries, schools, and a hospital. But many white Tulsans resented these symbols of Black prosperity and wealth. When a nineteen-year old old shoeshine man was arrested for assaulting a white, female elevator operator, the simmering anger boiled over. Fearing that the young man would be lynched, thirty Black men clashed with two thousand white men outside the jail on May 31, 1921. The white mob then stormed Greenwood, looting and burning homes and businesses alike. Hundreds of Black people were killed and the neighborhood was completely destroyed. With spare, straightforward text, Carole Boston Weatherford presents the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre to a young audience. Floyd Cooper’s oil and erasure illustrations vividly portray the prosperity, hostility, devastation, and hope in turn. A combination of landscapes, bustling storefronts, fashions, and expressive body language indelibly portray a place in time. The Author’s and Illustrator’s Notes contain valuable insights into the events, including some information about the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in Tulsa.

THOUGHTS: Particularly with the one hundred year mark approaching in May, Unspeakable is an essential read about a too-little-known moment in U.S. history. For older readers who want to know more, Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham and The Tulsa Race Riot by Duchess Harris and A.R. Carser are recommended.

The John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Center in Tulsa has Curriculum Resources at https://www.jhfcenter.org/.

Picture Book          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

MG – In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks

Brown, Don. In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks. Etch / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. 2021. 978-0-358-22357-3. 121 p. $21.99. Gr. 6-9.

Don Brown excels at creating graphic nonfiction that introduces pivotal events in U.S. history to young readers. His previous titles explore the 1918 flu pandemic, the Dust Bowl, Hurricane Katrina, and more. Now, with the twenty-year mark approaching, In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers captures the tragedy, heroism, and aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. Panels depicting the day of the attacks feature chalky, muted tones that represent the ash covering “Ground Zero” and the smoky hallways of the Pentagon. Bright orange flames also appear throughout. Expository text accompanies the artwork, along with first-person speech bubbles from eyewitnesses, first responders, George W. Bush, soldiers, and survivors. As the subtitle suggests, the author’s timeline incorporates the months and years after 9/11, including the grim victim recovery efforts, the massive clean-up, and the invasion of Afghanistan. Highly controversial topics, such as “enhanced interrogation” of suspected terrorists, are also briefly mentioned.

THOUGHTS: Don Brown’s books leave readers wanting to know more, which is a good thing; they are introductory overviews of events that will hopefully lead young readers to further, more comprehensive sources.

973 American History          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD
Graphic Nonfiction

Elem. – The Voice That Won the Vote: How One Woman’s Words Made History

Boxer, Elisa. The Voice That Won the Vote: How One Woman’s Words Made History. Sleeping Bear Press, 2020. Unpaged. 978-1-534-11049-6. $16.99. Grades 2-5.

This picture book biography tells the lesser known story of an important contributor to women’s suffrage. Since 1848, women had been lobbying for voting rights and finally in 1918, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. The final step in the process was state ratification and by 1920, it all came down to one last state-Tennessee. State lawmakers there were under pressure to reject the amendment, and one woman decided to do something about it. Febb Burn was a college educated woman from Tennessee, who loved to read and study lawmaking.  She knew the vote was close, so she wrote a letter to her son Harry, who was a state lawmaker. She asked him to support the amendment and not to “keep them in doubt.” Although Harry Burn had voted no in the first round, he surprised everyone by breaking the tie with his Aye vote, thus “freeing seventeen million women from political slavery.” By using her own voice, Febb Burn helped women gain the right to vote so their voices could be heard. The back matter contains details about the letter and a timeline of the suffrage movement. The author discusses the similarities between the anti-slavery movement and women’s fight for equality. Mildenberger has created charming illustrations with a folk art quality and includes a photograph of Febb in one of them.

THOUGHTS: Since 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, this story is especially relevant. This book could be used in social studies or civics units to spark discussions about the Constitution and civil rights and would be a good read aloud during Women’s History Month. A worthwhile purchase.

324.623 Voting Rights          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
Suffrage, Voting and Electoral Process
921 Biography

MG – Iconic America (Series NF)

Iconic America. ABDO Publishing, 2020. $23.00 ea. $138.00 set of 6. 48 p. Grades 5-8.

Burling, Alexis. Hollywood. 978-1-532-19090-2.
Kallio, Jamie. The National Mall. 978-1-532-19091-9.
Decker, Michael. New Orleans. 978-1-532-19092-6.
Ventura, Marne. New York City. 978-1-532-19093-3.
Decker, Michael. US Route 66. 978-1-532-19094-0.
Ventura, Marne. Walt Disney World. 978-1-532-19095-7.

Walt Disney World is the history behind not only Disneyworld and Disneyland but also the history and story of Walt Disney himself.  This book follows Walt Disney from growing up until he came up with the idea for the amusement parks, as well as how the parks have grown and changed over the years from the time it was created until today. The book features photos with clearly labeled captions, as well as further evidence sections where students can go to a website to find more information. The further evidence sections also ask the students questions related to what the chapter was about, which can be helpful to assist the students in continuing their research. The book features a timeline, a stop and think section, glossary, as well as online resources and an index.

THOUGHTS: Overall this is a great book for students to use for research. The information is clearly laid out and easy to follow along with additional information found throughout. Highly recommended for students.

791.06 amusement parks    Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball

Bryant, Jen, and Frank Morrison. Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-4197-4108-1. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 3-6.

“Whenever Elgin played, people stopped what they were doing and watched.” Elgin Baylor had that kind of effect on the game of basketball, but that was not all. As he grew and played, he also learned and watched what was happening in the world around him. He saw civil rights leaders bravely and peacefully standing up (or sitting down) for change. When Elgin finally made the NBA, he was still facing many forms of discrimination, and now it was his turn to act. “Sometimes you have to sit down to stand up.” The lessons from this poetic biographical picture book by the stellar Jen Bryant are sure to land with young sports fans; meanwhile, the stretched artistic oil paintings portray a man that seemed larger than life in an ever changing time. Just watch and see the impact this book could have on your young readers!

THOUGHTS: Elgin Baylor may not be a household name for young fans, but if they stop and discuss it, they will see how the work of LeBron James, Jackie Robinson, and others are intertwined with his leadership and talent. The timeline at the end offers its own intertwined path between civil rights events and Elgin’s career. A very worthy addition to picture book biographies.

Biography          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD