MG – Full Speed Ahead! America’s First Admiral: David Glasgow Farragut

Borden, Louise. Full Speed Ahead! America’s First Admiral: David Glasgow Farragut. Calkins Creek, 2021. 978-1-684-37905-7. 224 p. $18.99. Grades 5-9.

“Full speed ahead!”…it’s probably a phrase that most of us have heard before. Yet many may not know that this phrase became part of American popular culture after it was spoken in a Civil War naval battle by Union Rear Admiral David Farragut. Author Louise Borden chronicles Farragut’s life and career in her biography in verse Full Speed Ahead! Farragut first joined the navy as a midshipman at age nine. He steadily rose through the ranks and distinguished himself on missions around the world, including in the War of 1812, in the Caribbean, around Cape Horn, and in the Atlantic. When the Civil War broke out, Farragut devoted himself to the Union cause. He led the naval fleets that captured the Confederate strongholds of New Orleans and Mobile Bay. After the war, he was promoted once more and became the first ever Admiral in U.S. Naval history. The text is supplemented by numerous photographs, paintings, drawings, letters, and maps. 

THOUGHTS: A biography told in verse of a 19th century naval hero might not be the first choice of those browsing the library shelves, so some booktalking may be required for this title. But history buffs who take a chance on the title will be rewarded with an engaging life story of an American hero. An additional purchase for libraries with history fans. 

921 Biography          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

The Port Chicago 50


Sheinkin, Steve.  The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights.  New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2014.  978-1-59643-796-8.  200 p.  $19.99.  Gr. 7 and up.

During World War II, Port Chicago was a segregated naval base where black sailors loaded bombs and ammunition onto ships.  Having received no training on the proper handling of explosives, the sailors knew they were doing dangerous, albeit necessary, work.  Then, one fateful day in July of 1944, a massive explosion killed 320 servicemen and injured many more.  Shortly thereafter, in August of 1944, the remaining black servicemen were ordered to return to work loading bombs and ammunition at a new location.  Fifty of these men refused to return to this dangerous work unless working conditions were improved.  These fifty were charged with mutiny, threatened with death by firing squad, and brought to trial in a court-martial.  Fighting not only for their innocence, but also against the racial inequality that was prevalent in the U.S. military during WWII, these brave men helped to change policies and attitudes pertaining to African American servicemen.  Incorporating photographs, primary source reproductions, direct quotes from the sailors themselves, and the involvement of well-known civil rights activists like Eleanor Roosevelt and Thurgood Marshall, this book tells the story of 50 unsung heroes of the civil rights movement.

940.54; World War II                                                              Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

The author seems to have really done his research for this book.  He interviewed several of the sailors who were at Port Chicago when the explosion occurred, and his incorporation of their quotes makes the story come alive.  It reads almost like a fiction novel.  The book is an excellent addition to both World War II and civil rights collections.  I could see it being used in a social studies classroom to spark discussion on either of these topics.  Perhaps students could even set up a mock court-martial as they explore the rights of black sailors during WWII from both the white and black man’s perspective.