MG – History Smashers: Women’s Right to Vote

Messner, Kate. History Smashers: Women’s Right to Vote. Random House Children’s Books, 2020. 978-0-593-12035-4. 215 p. $13.99. Grades 5-8.

Messner delivers another hit with this second History Smashers book! This History Smasher book showcases the history of women’s voting rights with a combination of storytelling, comics, sidebars, and photographs from the time period. Messner delicately tackles the inequity that women faced with voting, but also addresses the difficulties of defining “women’s voting rights” – is it a right for all or just educated white women? Messner captures the struggle that spanned decades and highlights the various accomplishments of the women who played pivotal roles in the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Besides the story of these valiant women’s struggles, Messner also clearly explains procedures for adding amendments as well as calculating the number of votes needed to pass at each government and state level. This novel provides a look at the lesser known battles that were fought to truly make “all men are created equal” to include women!

THOUGHTS: I truly enjoyed reading this nonfiction book and look forward to more in the series! History Smashers is written in a kid friendly manner and provides an easy to understand look into historical events. The format is enjoyable and perfect for middle grade students. A great novel to teach history and make learning about the past exciting!

324.6 Voting Rights          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh 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

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

Elem. – The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins and her New Deal for America

Krull, Kathleen. The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins and her New Deal for America. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-481-49151-8. 48 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Readers may know author Kathleen Krull from her writings on important feminist leaders, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Louisa May Alcott. This book, in that same vein, is about a woman who was instrumental in FDR’s New Deal – but rarely given any credit. Frances Perkins learned from a young age to walk through any proverbial door that opened, and she lived by those words every day of her life. As a quiet girl growing up in New England, she observed and listened to the world around her. She saw the extreme inequities between the working class and upper class, even at a young age. Perkins observed working conditions in places like textile mills and bakeries. She helped people in need by fighting for better working conditions, a fight that intensified after she watched the smoldering fire at The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory claim the lives of 146 victims. Perkins knew that in order to make a real difference, she needed to enter the all-male world of politics. Luckily, President Theodore Roosevelt heard of her wonderful work and recommended her to head a committee on workplace safety. Although she was always the only woman in the room, her hard work and compassion allowed her to climb the ranks until she became President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s secretary of labor. Finally, she had a front row seat in the president’s cabinet of advisors; however, many men who worked with her despised answering to a woman and either quit or made snide remarks behind her back. Perkins did not let this deter her – she went on to author the ground-breaking New Deal and presented it to FDR himself.

THOUGHTS: This book is a reminder that even though our textbooks often credit white males for important events in American history, the real credit often goes to other people behind the scenes. Although Frances Perkins did not like the limelight and preferred not receiving credit for her incredible deeds, it is still critical that librarians expose young readers to all facets of historical events. This biographical book reads like a story and the bright, cartoon-like illustrations will capture elementary readers from the first page.

331 Women Social Reformers            Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD

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

New Biography and US History Stand-alone Nonfiction

assemblyrequired

Andrews, Arin with Joshua Lyon. Some Assembly Required. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014. 978-1-4814-1675-7. 248p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

In this easy to read memoir, Arin, a female-born, transgender teen, details his journey thus far.   Growing up, Arin always considered himself more of a tomboy and resisted his mother’s attempts to get him to wear dresses or compete in beauty pageants.  At first, Arin thinks he might be gay, and has his first romantic relationship with a girl in his dance class.  As he explores online the notions of gender and sexuality, Arin comes to the realization that he is transgender.  As with many LGBT youth, Arin struggles with peer bullying, depression and thoughts of suicide (all of which he openly recounts).  While his mother is initially upset and resistant, after a period of time, she supports her son.  Also key to strengthening their relationship during this time are regular appointments with a therapist and attending LGBT support group meetings.  Arin is very open in the memoir about his transition process and addresses issues such a surgical options and testosterone shots.  An appendix at the end includes resources ranging from books, movies and websites.

921; Biography       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

 

 

whitehouse

Sutcliffe, Jane. The White House is Burning: August 24, 1814. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2014. 978-1-58089-656-6. 120p. $19.99. Gr. 5-8.

Through the use of numerous primary source accounts, Sutcliffe re-creates a notorious date in American history—August 24, 1814.  It was on this date during the War of 1812 that British troops invaded Washington, D.C. after defeating American troops outside of town.  Finding the nation’s capital abandoned by the government (and many citizens), the British burned several government buildings, including the Capitol and the White House.  Sutcliffe takes readers nearly hour by hour through the day, introducing the prominent players on both sides and explaining military tactics of the time.  Firsthand accounts from a cross-section of Washingtonians (from First Lady Dolley Madison, to businessmen, a female young tourist, and slaves) help to make the story come alive and show how the invasion impacted all in the capital city.  The text is supplemented by numerous illustrations, paintings and maps.  A nice addition for American history research or for casual reader with an interest in history.

974; History  Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

 

 

boundaries

Walker, Sally M. Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line settled a family feud & divided a nation. Sommerville, MA: Candlewick, 2014. 978-0-7636-5612-6. 202p. $24.99. Gr. 8 and up.
While most tend to associate the Mason-Dixon Line with the Civil War era and the separation of North and South, its history actually extends back to the earliest days of colonial America.  In this comprehensive history, Walker first introduces readers to the Calvert (Maryland) and Penn (Pennsylvania) families, who were granted charters to start colonies in the New World.  Due to conflicting language in their land grants, boundary disputes soon arose between the two colonies.  In an effort to settle the matter, two astronomers, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, were hired to conduct a land survey.  The majority of Boundaries describes the arduous surveying task undertaken by the Mason and Dixon.  They not only had to conduct astronomical observations using the tools available at the time, they had to perform complex mathematical computations, and supervise a large crew of men who assisted them, blazed trails and set markers to mark the boundary.  Walker presents and explains the astronomical concepts and mathematical methods used by the two men during the survey process.  The book concludes with a look at the Line’s role in the pre-Civil War era as slaves crossed the line northward into freedom, perused by their owners or slave catchers.  The text incorporates numerous primary source accounts as well as pictures, maps, drawings and diagrams.

974; History                                                   Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS

 

As a native Pennsylvanian (and history buff), I found this an intriguing read.  Walker not only presented historical information regarding colonial politics and the need for the Mason-Dixon Line, she also did an admirable job of explaining the surveying process and the mathematics behind it (not easy concepts to make understandable to a layperson!).  If you don’t live far from the Mason-Dixon Line, this book might just inspire you to check it out.  I was able to locate a Line marker only 20 miles from my home.  A recommended purchase for schools not only near the Mason-Dixon Line, but schools that have a strong curriculum in Pennsylvania history.