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1. Review of Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War

sheinkin_most dangerousstar2Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret 
History of the Vietnam War
by Steve Sheinkin
Middle School, High School   Roaring Brook   361 pp.
9/15   978-1-59643-952-8   $19.99   g

Without a wasted word or scene, and with the timing and prowess of a writer of thrillers, Sheinkin takes on a spectacularly complex story—and makes it comprehensible to teen readers: how Daniel Ellsberg evolved from a committed “cold warrior” to an antiwar activist, and why and how he leaked the Pentagon Papers—“seven thousand pages of documentary evidence of lying, by four presidents and their administrations over twenty-three years”—which led to the Watergate Scandal, the fall of the Nixon administration, and, finally, the end of the Vietnam War. From the very beginning of his account, Sheinkin demonstrates the human drama unfolding behind the scenes; the secrecy surrounding White House and Pentagon decisions; the disconnect between the public and private statements of our nation’s leaders. Throughout, readers will find themselves confronted by large, timely questions, all of which emerge organically from the book’s events: Can we trust our government? How do we know? How much secrecy is too much? The enormous amount of incorporated primary-source documentation (from interviews with Daniel Ellsberg himself to White House recordings) means not only that readers know much more than ordinary U.S. citizens did at the time but that every conversation and re-enacted scene feels immediate and compelling. Sheinkin (Bomb, rev. 11/12; The Port Chicago 50, rev. 3/14) has an unparalleled gift for synthesizing story and bringing American history to life; here, he’s outdone even himself. Meticulous scholarship includes a full thirty-
six pages of bibliography and source notes; judiciously placed archival photographs add to the sense of time and place.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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2. Review of Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (Flash Point/Roaring Brook)
While comprehensive in his synthesis of the political, historical, and scientific aspects of the creation of the first nuclear weapon, Sheinkin focuses his account with an extremely alluring angle: the spies. The book opens in 1950 with the confession of Harry Gold — but to what? And thus we flash back to Robert Oppenheimer in the dark 1930s, as he and readers are handed another question by the author: “But how was a theoretical physicist supposed to save the world?” Oppenheimer’s realization that an atomic bomb could be created to use against Nazi Germany is coupled with the knowledge that the Germans must be working from the same premise, and the Soviets are close behind. We periodically return to Gold’s ever-deepening betrayals as well as other acts of espionage, most excitingly the two stealth attacks on occupied Norway’s Vemork power plant, where the Germans were manufacturing heavy water to use in their own nuclear program. As he did in the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner The Notorious Benedict Arnold (rev. 1/11), Sheinkin here maintains the pace of a thriller without betraying history (source notes and an annotated bibliography are exemplary) or skipping over the science; photo galleries introducing each section help readers organize the events and players. Writing with journalistic immediacy, the author eschews editorializing up through the chilling last lines: “It’s a story with no end in sight. And, like it or not, you’re in it.” Index.

From the November/December 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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3. On Elizabeth Bishop

She began with the idea that little is known and that much is puzzling.

coverSo begins Colm Tóibín”s wonderful little book, On Elizabeth Bishop. The book is one of those pocket-sized books, has generous margins, and is only 199 pages long. That probably doesn’t sound short, but believe me, it is. Because Tóibín has such a beautiful, smooth, creamy voice. He is thoughtful and meditative. And while he makes thought-provoking observations, they are delivered so softly that you find yourself wrapped up in them like a cozy blanket and mulling them over before you even realize how interesting it all is.

On Elizabeth Bishop is criticism but not of the academic sort. It is a book written by someone who loves Bishop’s poetry and wants you to love it too. He delves deeply into a number of poems but even if you haven’t read them he does not leave you lost. Because while he delves Tóibín also brings up patterns and images and techniques that range across Bishop’s work. He’ll say things like how what Bishop does not say in a poem is oftentimes as important as what she does say. And then we are looking at “The Moose” and Tóibín is picking it apart, pointing out the gaps, providing us with biographical information and context, and suddenly you understand why “The Moose” is one of Bishop’s most famous poems.

Tóibín also uses other poets and other forms of art as a way to see the poetry in a richer light. He writes of Marianne Moore, poet and mentor to Bishop, and the friction that would arise between them because Moore wanted Bishop to write like her but Bishop continued to develop her own style and voice. Tóibín compares the two writing of Moore’s poems:

They were close to certain pieces by Stravinsky, all brass and disturbed tones, unashamed of their own noise, or indeed paintings by Kandinsky, unashamed of their own swirling colors, whereas Bishop’s poems had the sad gaiety and inwardness and sparseness of Weborn or Mondrian or Klee.

And without reading either Moore or Bishop you get an idea of what their poetry is like and understand that Moore was never going to succeed in making Bishop into her very own Mini-Me.

The book has an overall effect of a long, intimate conversation, one you don’t want to end but reluctantly have to conclude. If you want to know more about Elizabeth Bishop, do read this book. Heck, if you are a fan of Tóibín’s you will probably like the book too and finish it wanting to read Elizabeth Bishop. And if you think he could never convince you to read poetry, allow me to say, Tóibín is very persuasive.


Filed under: Books, Nonfiction, Poetry, Reviews Tagged: Colm Tóibín, Elizabeth Bishop

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4. When Books Went to War

When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II. Molly Guptill Manning. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

Love to read? Love to read about reading, about books? Or perhaps you love to read about war, especially World War II? Or even perhaps you have an interest in the how-and-why of book publishing? of the history of book publishing? When Books Went To War may be the perfect--oh-so-perfect--book for you.

When Books Went to War is about two things really: a) the need and desire to supply American soldiers (troops) with reading material to keep up their morale b) the effect that the books--and the act of reading--had on soldiers. Both elements of the story are fascinating.

The opening chapters focus on a national book donation drive to supply soldiers with books. After a year--or perhaps two--it became apparent this wasn't the answer, or the best answer at any rate. Hardbacks are NOT practical for soldiers to carry. And you never know what you're going to get with book donations. The types of books--the genres or subgenres--and the condition of books. Sending soldiers books that are decades old, that are cast-offs to begin with. The books are probably unwanted for a reason. Not that every single book would have been disqualified, mind you. But all the donated books had to be gone through, evaluated and sorted. Many books were just not a good match. 

The remaining chapters focus on their new solution: the production of special paperback editions--ASE, Armed Services Edition--of selected titles. Paperbacks, at the time, weren't all that common in the field of publishing. Mass paperbacks hadn't really evolved quite yet in the market. The committee picked titles each month--28 to 40, I believe--in a wide range of genres, fiction and nonfiction. These editions were shipped all over the world wherever troops were stationed. And to say they were appreciated would be an understatement! Each book could fit in a pocket. And they could be taken anywhere--read anywhere. (The book does include a list of each title published from September 1943 through June 1947.)

Probably my favorite aspect of the book was reading about how these books impacted soldiers. Individual stories by soldiers on what these books meant to them, on what certain authors meant to them, on how reading helped them, kept them sane, meant so much to them. The book is full of WOW moments. Like soldiers writing to authors and corresponding with them.   

Quotes:
Librarians felt duty-bound to try to stop Hitler from succeeding in his war of ideas against the United States.They had no intention of purging their shelves or watching their books burn, and they were not going to wait until war was declared to take action. As an ALA publication observed in January 1941, Hitler's aim was "the destruction of ideas...even in those countries not engaged in military combat." Throughout late 1940 and early 1941, librarians debated how to protect American minds against Germany's amorphous attacks on ideas. The "bibliocaust" in Europe had struck a nerve. America's librarians concluded that the best weapon and armor was the book itself. By encouraging Americans to read, Germany's radio propaganda would be diluted and its book burnings would stand in marked contrast. As Hitler attempted to strengthen fascism by destroying the written word, librarians would urge Americans to read more. In the words of one librarian: if Hitler's Mein Kampf was capable of "stirring millions to fight for intolerance and oppression of hate, cannot other books be found to stir other millions to fight against them?" (15)
What the Army needed was some form of recreation that was small, popular, and affordable. It needed books. World War II would not be the first time the Army and Navy welcomed books into their ranks. Yet no other war--before or since--has approached the rate at which books were distributed to American forces in World War II. (24)
Charles Bolte, who was wounded in Africa, hospitalized, and distressed over his future as he faced the amputation of his leg, remembered a momentous day. A friend (who was being treated for a bullet wound) walked up to Bolte's bed, triumphantly waved a copy of Ernest Hemingway's The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories, which he had found in the hospital library. Bolte found comfort in a story about a hero who discovered that crying relieved the pain in his broken leg. Until then, Bolte had never dared cry. The story convinced him to cover his head with his blankets and give it a try. "It helped me, too." Bolte said. Although he endured multiple amputation surgeries, Bolte turned to reading throughout his hospitalization and credited books with helping him mend and move forward. "What happens during convalescence from a serious wound can sour or sweeten a man for life," Bolte remarked. For him, the latter occurred. "It was the first time since grammar school that I'd had enough time to read as much as I wanted to," he said. While there were many things that helped him heal, Bolte placed the dozens of books he read as among the most important. Tens of thousands of men would share Bolte's experience over the course of the war, finding in books the strength they needed to endure the physical wounds inflicted on the battlefield, and the power to heal their emotional and psychological scars as well. (46)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Don Brown,Emily Carroll, Zack Giallongo, and Ben Hatke


– From Ben Hatke’s Little Robot


 


– From Ian Lendler’s The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet, illustrated by Zack Giallongo


 


– From Marika McCoola’s Baba Yaga’s Assistant, illustrated by Emily Carroll


 


– From Don Brown’s Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans


 

This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got three new picture books from debut author-illustrators. Good stuff, these books. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I had a graphic novel round-up, so I’m following up today here at 7-Imp with a bit of art from each book — Don Brown’s Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, August 2015); Marika McCoola’s Baba Yaga’s Assistance, illustrated by Emily Carroll (Candlewick, August 2015); Ben Hatke’s Little Robot (First Second, September 2015); and Ian Lendler’s The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet (First Second, September 2015), illustrated by Zack Giallongo. To boot, I’ve got a bit of art from last year’s The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth.

Enjoy!



 

From Baba Yaga’s Assistant:


 



(Click each to enlarge)


 



 

From Little Robot:


 







 

From Drowned City:


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click each to enlarge)


 



 

From The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents
Romeo and Juliet
:


 




(Click each to enlarge)


 



 

From The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents
Macbeth
:


 



(Click each to enlarge)


 



 

* * * * * * *

BABA YAGA’S ASSISTANT. Text copyright © 2015 by Marika McCoola. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Emily Carroll. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

DROWNED CITY: HURRICANE KATRINA & NEW ORLEANS. Copyright © 2015 by Don Brown. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.

LITTLE ROBOT. Copyright © 2015 by Ben Hatke. Illustrations published by permission of the publisher, First Second Books, New York.

THE STRATFORD ZOO MIDNIGHT REVUE PRESENTS MACBETH. Text copyright © 2014 by Ian Lendler. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Zack Giallongo. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, First Second Books, New York.

THE STRATFORD ZOO MIDNIGHT REVUE PRESENTS ROMEO AND JULIET. Text copyright © 2015 by Ian Lendler. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Zack Giallongo. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, First Second Books, New York.

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6. Oh look, another newsletter

WMAG_narrative_nonfiction_728x144Look for The Horn Book’s new quarterly newsletter, WHAT MAKES A GOOD…? debuting on August 26th with “What Makes Good Narrative Nonfiction?” The issue features Five Questions for Steve Sheinkin, an essay about how to select NNF by the Junior Library Guild’s Deborah Brittain Ford, and brief reviews of our choices for the best narrative nonfiction published for kids and teens in the last few years. If you are already a subscriber to any of our newsletters you will receive this one automagically; otherwise you can sign up here. It’s free!

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7. Review of Daylight Starlight Wildlife

minor_daylight starlight wildlifeDaylight Starlight Wildlife
by Wendell Minor; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Paulsen/Penguin   32 pp.
5/15   978-0-399-24662-3   $17.99

In his signature representational artistic style — detailed, luminous, and pristine — Minor compares and contrasts diurnal and nocturnal animals. The opening double-page spread establishes the pattern. The creatures introduced are shown in a meadow, with half of them appearing in the daytime on the verso and the others bathed in soft moonlight on the recto. On the following pages, Minor depicts an animal (a butterfly, for example) or group of animals (such as woodchucks) active during the daytime hours; a corresponding illustration, most often on the facing page, shows a related animal or animals (such as a lunar moth or skunks) active at night. Minimal text echoes the movements in each of the gouache illustrations: “Chubby mother woodchuck and her cubs waddle out to munch in the meadow,” while in the nighttime counterpart, “Fearless mother skunk leads her litter through the field to find a midnight snack.” Diurnal animals are depicted first, then their nocturnal counterparts, except on the final double-page spread. Here, a horizontal illustration of nocturnal raccoons faces right to close the book, while below, daytime turkeys travel in the opposite direction. Readers have two options: either follow the raccoons and cut off the lights for bedtime, or follow the turkeys back to the beginning of the book and read it again. A list of “Fun Facts” about the featured creatures is appended.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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8. #723 – Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate

Layout 1
Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton
Written & Illustrated by Don Tate
Peachtree Publishers      9/01/2015
978-1-56145-825-7
32 pages       Age 4—8

“GEORGE LOVED WORDS. But George was enslaved. Forced to work long hours, he wqas unable to attend school or learn how to read. GEORGE WAS DETERMINED. He listened to the white children’s lessons and learned the alphabet. Then he taught himself to read. He read everything he could find. GEORGE LIKED POETRY BEST. While he tended his master’s cattle, he composed verses in his head. He recited his poems as he sold the fruits and vegetables on a nearby college campus. News of the slave poet traveled quickly among the students. Soon, George had customers for his poems. But George was still enslaved. Would he ever be free?” [inside jacket]

Review
Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is indeed remarkable. Author and artist, Don Tate, has written an amazing story which he illustrated—with gouache, archival ink, and pencil—beautiful scenes of Chapel Hill, North Caroline, circa mid-1800’s. George Moses Horton is a real person. Young George’s desire to read and write were so strong that he listened in on the white children’s lessons while working long hours for his master. With diligence and hard work, George mastered the alphabet and learned to read and then write. He loved the inspirational prose he found in the Bible and his mother’s hymnal, but most of all, George loved poetry. He wrote poems while working those long hours in the field, but without paper or pen, he had to commit each poem to memory.

Poet-interior-FINAL-page-004[1]At age 17, George and his family were split up and George was given to the master’s son. George found the silver lining in his situation while selling fruit on the University of North Carolina’s campus(where he was teased by students). George distracted himself from his tormentors by reciting his poetry. It was not long before George was selling his poetry, sometimes for money—25c—other times for fine clothes and fancy shoes. A professor’s wife helped George put his poetry onto paper and get it published in newspapers, making him the first African-American to be published. George often wrote about slavery and some poems protested slavery, which made his work extremely dangerous in southern states—some states actually outlawed slavery poems, no matter the author’s skin color. The end of the Civil War officially made George a free man, yet his love of words and poetry had given George freedom since he learned to read,

“George’s love of words had taken him on great a journey. Words made him strong. Words allowed him to dream. Words loosened the chains of bondage long before his last day as a slave.”

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is one of those “hidden” gems the textbooks forget about, but history should not. Tate’s picture book portrays George’s life with the grim realities of the era, yet there are moments of hope when the sun literally shines upon a spread. This is more than a book about slavery or the Civil War. Those things are important, because they are the backdrop to George’s life, but Tate makes sure the positives in George’s life shine through, making the story motivational and awe-inspiring.

Poet-interior-FINAL-page-010[1]Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is about following your dreams and then taking your dream and yourself as far as you can go, never giving up on yourself, regardless of negative influences. For those who dream of a better life, especially writers and poets, George Moses Horton’s story makes it clear that the only thing that can truly get in your way is yourself. Schools need to get this book into classrooms. Stories such as George Moses Horton’s should be taught right along with the stories American history textbooks do cover.

POET: THE REMARKABLE STORY OF GEORGE MOSES HORTON. Text and illustrations (C) 2015 by Don Tate. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta, GA.

Buy Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton at AmazonBook DepositoryIndieBound BooksPeachtree Publishers.

Learn more about Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton HERE.
Find a Teacher’s Guide HERE.

Meet the author/illustrator, Don Tate, at his website:  http://dontate.com/
Find more picture books at the Peachtree Publishers’ website:  http://peachtree-online.com/

AWARDS
A Junior Library Guild Selection, Fall 2015
Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW
School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Also by Don Tate
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw
Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite
Hope’s Gift
She Loved Baseball
. . . and many more

.

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

.Full Disclosure: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate, and received from Peachtree Publishers, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Poetry Tagged: African-American History, American History, Civil War, Don Tate, George Moses Horton, Peachtree Publishers, Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, poetry, prose, slavery, University of North Carolina

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9. Terezin: Voices From the Holocaust

Terezin: Voices From the Holocaust. Ruth Thomson. 2011. Candlewick. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Terezin is a small fortress town in the Czech Republic. It was built in 1780 by the Austrian emperor Joseph II and named after his mother Maria Theresa. The town might forever have remained largely unknown to the rest of the world. Instead it attained notoriety. During the Second World War, the Nazis turned Terezin into a ghetto and renamed it Theresienstadt. Here, they imprisoned thousands of Jewish people--first Czechs, then Germans, and, later Danish and Dutch. Many were then sent to their deaths at Auschwitz.

Ruth Thomson provides readers with a short and concise history of Terezin (Theresienstadt) during World War II. Her narration does an excellent job piecing things together. The book is RICH in primary sources. You might be thinking that means diaries, journals, memoirs, interviews, and the like. And you'd be partly right. But it is also rich in artwork. There were talented--very, very talented--artists at work in the ghetto or camp. They drew--or painted--what the Nazis wanted or demanded. But they also worked secretly on their own pieces--pieces that document what life was really like there, the atrocities they faced daily. Through words and art--readers truly do get "voices from the Holocaust." The book provides a summary of what was going on in Europe starting with when Hitler first came to power in the early 1930s. The focus is on this one particular camp/ghetto, but, Thomson provides enough context to give readers a fuller picture of what was happening.

I have read many books about the Holocaust, about World War II. I haven't read as many about Theresienstadt, so this was a great introduction for me. I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. The Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857)

The Life of Charlotte Bronte. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1857/1975. Penguin Classics. 623 pages. [Source: Bought]

I should have read it years ago. I really should have. I simply loved, loved, loved Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Bronte. Yes, it's packed with information on the Brontes. But it's more than that. It's how this information is conveyed, it's how the story is written that makes it a compelling read. Not many biographies are impossible to put down. This one was. Gaskell, in many ways, let Charlotte Bronte speak for herself by sharing so many letters or excerpts from letters. One really gets a sense of "knowing" from reading it. And that isn't always the case with biographies, though it is sometimes the case with autobiographies. I appreciated Gaskell's narrative voice very much. It was a real treat. Anyone who loves Victorian literature should read this one. Or anyone who loves Jane Eyre or any other Bronte novel.

Quotes:
I read for the same reason that I ate or drank; because it was a real craving of nature. I wrote on the same principle as I spoke--out of the impulse and feelings of the mind; nor could I help it, for what came, came out, and there was the end of it. ~ Charlotte Bronte in a letter to Mr. Wordsworth, 1837
It is very edifying and profitable to create a world out of your own brains, and people it with inhabitants, who are so many Melchisedecs, and have no father nor mother but your own imagination. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1840
Some of my greatest difficulties lie in things that would appear to you comparatively trivial. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1841
Write to me often; very long letters. It will do both of us good. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1841
If I could, I would always work in silence and obscurity, and let my efforts be known by their results. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1841
They wanted learning. They came for learning. They would learn. Where they had a distinct purpose to be achieved in intercourse with their fellows, they forgot themselves; at all other times they were miserably shy. ~ Elizabeth Gaskell about Charlotte and Emily going to Brussells 
Any one who has studied her writings,—whether in print or in her letters; any one who has enjoyed the rare privilege of listening to her talk, must have noticed her singular felicity in the choice of words. She herself, in writing her books, was solicitous on this point. One set of words was the truthful mirror of her thoughts; no others, however apparently identical in meaning, would do. She had that strong practical regard for the simple holy truth of expression, which Mr. Trench has enforced, as a duty too often neglected. She would wait patiently searching for the right term, until it presented itself to her. It might be provincial, it might be derived from the Latin; so that it accurately represented her idea, she did not mind whence it came; but this care makes her style present the finish of a piece of mosaic. Each component part, however small, has been dropped into the right place. She never wrote down a sentence until she clearly understood what she wanted to say, had deliberately chosen the words, and arranged them in their right order. Hence it comes that, in the scraps of paper covered with her pencil writing which I have seen, there will occasionally be a sentence scored out, but seldom, if ever, a word or an expression. She wrote on these bits of paper in a minute hand, holding each against a piece of board, such as is used in binding books, for a desk. This plan was necessary for one so short-sighted as she was; and, besides, it enabled her to use pencil and paper, as she sat near the fire in the twilight hours, or if (as was too often the case) she was wakeful for hours in the night. Her finished manuscripts were copied from these pencil scraps, in clear, legible, delicate traced writing, almost as easy to read as print. ~ Elizabeth Gaskell about Charlotte Bronte's writing habits
Even at the risk of appearing very exacting, I can't help saying that I should like a letter as long as your last, every time you write. Short notes give one the feeling of a very small piece of a very good thing to eat,—they set the appetite on edge, and don't satisfy it,—a letter leaves you more contented; and yet, after all, I am very glad to get notes; so don't think, when you are pinched for time and materials, that it is useless to write a few lines; be assured, a few lines are very acceptable as far as they go; and though I like long letters, I would by no means have you to make a task of writing them. . . . ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1847
If "Jane Eyre" has any solid worth in it, it ought to weather a gust of unfavourable wind. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1847
If I ever DO write another book, I think I will have nothing of what you call 'melodrama;' I think so, but I am not sure. I THINK, too, I will endeavour to follow the counsel which shines out of Miss Austen's 'mild eyes,' 'to finish more and be more subdued;' but neither am I sure of that. When authors write best, or, at least, when they write most fluently, an influence seems to waken in them, which becomes their master—which will have its own way—putting out of view all behests but its own, dictating certain words, and insisting on their being used, whether vehement or measured in their nature; new-moulding characters, giving unthought of turns to incidents, rejecting carefully-elaborated old ideas, and suddenly creating and adopting new ones. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1848
Every one has a right to form his own conclusion respecting the merits and demerits of a book. I complain not of the judgment which the reviewer passes on "Jane Eyre." Opinions as to its tendency varied then, as they do now. While I write, I receive a letter from a clergyman in America in which he says: "We have in our sacred of sacreds a special shelf, highly adorned, as a place we delight to honour, of novels which we recognise as having had a good influence on character OUR character. Foremost is 'Jane Eyre.' ~ Elizabeth Gaskell on book reviews
I wish you did not think me a woman. I wish all reviewers believed 'Currer Bell' to be a man; they would be more just to him. You will, I know, keep measuring me by some standard of what you deem becoming to my sex; where I am not what you consider graceful, you will condemn me. All mouths will be open against that first chapter; and that first chapter is true as the Bible, nor is it exceptionable. Come what will, I cannot, when I write, think always of myself and of what is elegant and charming in femininity; it is not on those terms, or with such ideas, I ever took pen in hand: and if it is only on such terms my writing will be tolerated, I shall pass away from the public and trouble it no more. Out of obscurity I came, to obscurity I can easily return. Standing afar off, I now watch to see what will become of 'Shirley.' My expectations are very low, and my anticipations somewhat sad and bitter; still, I earnestly conjure you to say honestly what you think; flattery would be worse than vain; there is no consolation in flattery. As for condemnation I cannot, on reflection, see why I should much fear it; there is no one but myself to suffer therefrom, and both happiness and suffering in this life soon pass away. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1849
You say that you suspect I have formed a large circle of acquaintance by this time. No: I cannot say that I have. I doubt whether I possess either the wish or the power to do so. A few friends I should like to have, and these few I should like to know well. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1850
I have read Tennyson's 'In Memoriam,' or rather part of it; I closed the book when I had got about half way. It is beautiful; it is mournful; it is monotonous. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1850
It is my intention to write a few lines of remark on 'Wuthering Heights,' which, however, I propose to place apart as a brief preface before the tale. I am likewise compelling myself to read it over, for the first time of opening the book since my sister's death. Its power fills me with renewed admiration; but yet I am oppressed: the reader is scarcely ever permitted a taste of unalloyed pleasure; every beam of sunshine is poured down through black bars of threatening cloud; every page is surcharged with a sort of moral electricity; and the writer was unconscious of all this—nothing could make her conscious of it. And this makes me reflect,—perhaps I am too incapable of perceiving the faults and peculiarities of my own style. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1850
You charge me to write about myself. What can I say on that precious topic? My health is pretty good. My spirits are not always alike. Nothing happens to me. I hope and expect little in this world, and am thankful that I do not despond and suffer more. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1851
Even if it should turn out reasonably well, still I regard it as ruin to the prosperity of an ephemeral book like a novel, to be much talked of beforehand, as if it were something great. People are apt to conceive, or at least to profess, exaggerated expectation, such as no performance can realise; then ensue disappointment and the due revenge, detraction, and failure.~ Charlotte Bronte, 1852

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. #722 – (NatGeoKids) Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth by Steve Tomecek & Fred Harper

cover
Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth: All About Rocks, Minerals, Fossils, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, & Even DIRT!

Written by Steve Tomecek
Illustrated by Fred Harper
National Geographic Society      6/09/2015
978-1-4263-1903-7
128 pages      Age 8—12

“Geologist Steve Tomecek, aka The Dirtmeister, and his sidekick Digger unearth all kinds of amazing information in this comprehensive book about geology. Clear explanations of geologic processes will teach future geoscientists the fascinating topics while fun facts and simple experiments reinforce the concepts. So grab your shovel and get ready to play IN THE DIRT.” [back cover]

Review
Divided into ten relatively short, but in-depth, color-coded chapters, (such as “The Dynamics of Soil,” “How it (Earth) All Began,” and “Digging Old Dead Things”), Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth will teach kids a lot about geology and how it helps answer many questions. While very educational—teachers will love it—the kid-friendly book is equally entertaining. Kids are at the center of Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth. In fact, each chapter begins with a question put forth by a middle-grade-aged kid:

“Is that you down there, Dirtmeister?
I thought I recognized your dirtmobile.
My name is Richie and I have a quick
question . . . How did the Grand Canyon
get to be, you know, so grand?”
(Richie, in chapter 6, “What Goes Up Must Come Down”)

Other kids ask questions about such things as volcanoes, earthquakes, the shape of the continents, if can rocks make other rocks, and if dinosaurs are really extinct. The questions are interesting and the answers fascinating and fun. The Dirtmeister adds “cool” facts he calls “Dirtmeister’s Nuggets,” short biographies of important people, and simple experiments that let kids see geology at work. The illustrations are cartoonish and the images of Dirtmeister and his sidekick Digger are quite expressive. The art, especially the first spread of each chapter and its graphic novel layout, help draw in the reader and make the book feel personal, as if Dirtmeister is talking directly to the you. The remaining of the book is filled with photographs, illustrations, diagrams, and text that answers each question and then digs a bit deeper.

introI thoroughly enjoyed reading Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth from cover-to-cover. Being a National Geographic Kids publication I should have realized, even before turning to page 1, that I was in for a humorous, engaging, and educational read with incredible illustrations by Fred Harper. Geology, heck science of any kind, was never this easy to understand or could grab me from start to finish. I was amazed at geology’s reach. Topics included not just how to find Earth’s age, but how she came into existence.

The variety of subjects, tied into the Earth’s soil and its importance to humans, makes Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth ideal as an adjunct middle grade science text. I think elementary teachers could also find ways to utilize this book in their science classrooms. The entire book is kid-friendly and larger words are defined (in context). Home-schoolers should not miss a page of Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Earth. The author has correlated each chapter with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)* and STEM** Science Standards, both for grades 3 to 8. These follow the final chapter. There is also an extensive Index.

From volcanoes spewing hot lava and earthquakes splitting open Mother Earth, plus experiments such as designing rocks, building sediments, and simulating the Big Chill, Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth is probably the dirtiest middle grade book ever written—parents and teachers will approve. Oh, yeah, so will kids!

*NGSS was developed by the National Research Council and are based on the Framework for K—12 Science Education.  Website:  http://nextgenscience.org/

**STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. Teachers can find relevant information on STEM at the National Education Association (NEA), PBS, and at Teach.com.

DIRTMEISTER’S NITTY GRITTY PLANET EARTH:  ALL ABOUT ROCKS, MINERALS, FOSSILS, EARTHQUAKES, VOLCANOES, & EVEN DIRT! Text copyright (C) 2015 by Steve Tomecek. Illustrations copyright (C) 2015 by Fred Harper. Photographs copyrights vary and are listed in the book. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC.

You can buy Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth at AmazonBook DepositoryIndieBound BooksNational Geography.

Learn more about Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth HERE.
Information for Teachers and Librarians HERE and HERE.
National Geographic + Common Core is HERE.
More for Kids from National Geographic Kids HERE

Meet the author, Steve Tomecek, at his website:  http://www.dirtmeister.com/
Meet the illustrator, Fred Harper, at his website:  http://www.fredharper.com/
Find more books at the National Geographic Kids website:  http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/

ALSO BY STEVE TOMECEK
Dirt (Jump Into Science®)
Moon (Jump Into Science®)
Sun (Jump Into Science®)
Rocks and Minerals (Jump Into Science®)
Stars (Jump Into Science®)
Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids Everything)

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth: All About Rocks, Minerals, Fossils, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Even DIRT! by Steve Tomecek & Fred Harper, and received from National Geographic Society, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, NonFiction, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: Big Bang, Digger, dirt, Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth, earth, Fred Harper, geology, National Geographic Kids, National Geographic Society, Steve Tomecek, The Big Chill, The Dirtmeister

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12. How I Spent my Summer Vacation: A New Twist on an Old Essay

When I was in elementary school, we were assigned the classic back to school essay:


How I Spent My Summer Vacation.  

It was a good way to start pulling us away from the carefree days of our break and back to the task at hand.  This old essay is still a good way to start the school year.  It is a creative way for your students to write nonfiction that does not need any research.   And it is a way to get the creative juices flowing again.

Teachers hope to see more than just a laundry list of summer activities.  I like to encourage young writers to think about an original way to approach this essay. 

I connect with students by providing interactive videoconferences with schools all over the country.   One of my favorites is a program I titled

Where Ideas Come From:  
Brainstorming with a Nonfiction Author

Teachers and students like this session because it is helpful and lots of fun.  It is truly audience participation because I believe that to model what I’m teaching them about brainstorming-we need to actually brainstorm together.  Live and on the spot.  Yep, it is risky.  I never know what they will say-or worse if they will clam up and say nothing.   So far, so good.  Every time I’ve done this program the students had lots to say!  

What I want to do with my students is to model how they can take a mundane topic and put their own unique spin on it.   I encourage them to think “out of the box”.  Sometimes in this session students come up with amazing creative ideas.  Yessss!! The goal is accomplished!

My session goes something like this:
When asked to brainstorm for ideas on an essay on How I Spent My Summer Vacation, most students will come up with the usual suspects:

I was out of school
I slept late
I went swimming
I went on a trip
I visited family
I watched TV and movies

All these are great places to start.  Now let’s take these ideas to the next level.  Reality is that in classrooms there are kids with a wide variety of experiences.  Some vacationed on sandy beaches while others stayed home alone all summer.  

Great writing doesn’t depend on having extraordinary life experiences. . .
it depends on putting a unique spin on 
ordinary life experiences.  
Carla Killough McClafferty

Let’s start with the students who stayed home all summer and played basketball in their own neighborhood.   If they wanted to write about this, the  following questions could generate something to focus on in an essay. 

Did you learn a new basketball skill?
How did you learn it? 
Did someone teach you? 
A new friend?  An old friend?  A brother, uncle, father, sister?
Did you win a game against someone for the first time?
Did you have a hot streak and make many baskets in a row?
 
For a student who played ball all summer, suddenly their essay could include friendship, family relationships, competition, or how they improved their skills.     

www.morgefile.com



How about the student who traveled to the beach?  A little brainstorming could bring up some possibilities on how to go a different direction with their essay.    

Did you travel by car, plane, or train?
Did something interesting happen on the way there?
Did you make up your own travel games?
Did you devise a way to keep your brother from bothering you?
Did you get car sick? 
Did you see a dolphin? A shark?  
Did you walk on the beach and find a neat shell, or stone, or glass?
Did you learn to swim?
Or try to surf?
Build a sandcastle?
Find a tidal pool?

Suddenly, the essay can be more than going on a trip to the beach.  It could be about family relationships, building a fort in the sand, watching a sand crab, walking on the beach at night, or learning to do something new. 

www.morguefile.com


No matter what, students can bring something unique to their own essay because each one is unique.  

So with a fresh school year upon us, let's brainstorm! 


If you want to learn more about my videoconferences, contact me through carlamcclafferty.com
or go to inkthinktank.com

  
Thanks to my fellow TAs for beginning our back to school posts with a bang.   Esther Hershenhornreviewed Kate Messner’s book Real Revision which sounds like a great way to get the creative juices flowing as the back to school season begins. 

JoAnn Early Macken started it off with a post about how to Write a Poem Step by Step.   And don’t forget to enterthe book giveaway.  You might be the lucky winner of a copy of this excellent book by JoAnn Early Macken. 

Carla Killough McClafferty




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13. The Argonauts

cover artLocal independent publisher Graywolf Press is on a winning streak. Over the past several years they have been publishing some really fantastic stuff. They make me feel both proud and lucky to live in Minneapolis! One of their 2015 publications, The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson is another winner. Nonfiction to be sure but not one of those books that fits into a neat category.

The volume is slim, only 143 pages. The book is written in thought chunks. I have no idea what else to call them, these paragraphs of varying lengths separated by a band of white space much wider than a regular paragraph break. Each chunk is complete but the chunks flow together too to develop an idea or make an argument or tell a story. Then there are slightly wider bands of white space that indicate a change in direction or the beginning of a new story. It makes for a meditative mood and works like thinking or conversation where you circle around things, go off on a tangent and then come back then leap to something that seems completely unrelated but turns out to be associated in some way or another. I very much liked this style and it suits the subjects Nelson writes about as well her exploratory approach.

The Argonauts themselves, you may remember them from mythology, were those who sailed with Jason on his ship the Argo to get the Golden Fleece. They had other adventures too, of course, but that is the one they are chiefly known for. So before even knowing what the book is about, we are given the signal that it is an adventure, and exploration of some kind. Within a few pages of the book we are provided further explanation:

I sent you the passage from Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes in which Barthes describes how the subject who utters the phrase ‘I love you’ is like ‘the Argonaut renewing his ship during its voyage without changing its name.’ Just as the Argo’s parts may be replaced over time but the boat is still called the Argo, whenever the lover utters the phrase ‘I love you,’ its meaning must be renewed by each use, as the ‘very task of love and of language is to give one and the same phrase inflections which will be forever new.’

The “you” Nelson is addressing is her spouse, artist Harry Dodge, who is gender fluid and does not fully identify as either male or female. Though over the course of the book Dodge begins taking testosterone and has a mastectomy. That information alone might give you an idea about how “Argonauts” applies in an even broader sense than Barthes’ original intention.

Nelson also writes about her pregnancy and motherhood and all of the cultural complications it entails as well as the physical and mental changes it brings. She writes about giving birth and how it felt like she was falling to pieces and sometimes like she was melting. She writes about her postpartum body and how she is supposed to immediately get to work according to all the magazines, and lose the baby weight, get back to her career, get back to a sex life and being sexy, pretty much as if nothing happened at all and there was no pregnancy and no baby. And she writes of her need and desire to define a boundary between her and baby:

I’ll let my baby know where the me and the not me begin and end, and withstand whatever rage ensues. I’ll give as much as I’ve got to give without losing sight of my own me. I’ll let him know that I’m a person with my own needs and desires , and over time he’ll come to respect me for elucidating such boundaries, for feeling real as he comes to know me as real.

The Argonauts is beautifully intimate without being confessional. Nelson balances out the personal with the scholarly, quoting Barthes and Derrida, Judith Butler, Jaques Lacan, Lucille Clifton, even Ralph Waldo Emerson gets a quote. She explores the broader social landscape and the effects it has on her and her family as well as the effects her “genderqueer” family has on society.

Nelson comes to no firm conclusions about anything. She accepts being in a state of constant change, living with ambiguity and having no real closure. Any time she gets near to being able to create some kind of closure, she refuses to do so. This seems to be a theme in a number of nonfiction books I have read in the past year or so and I must say I like it very much. Nelson acknowledges that ambiguity and refusing closure is uncomfortable for a good many people, but being willing to live with uncertainty creates a space for discovery and transformation. One could say it is the demesne of the Argonauts.


Filed under: Books, Nonfiction, Reviews Tagged: Graywolf Press

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14. This is my life

Memoirs capture moments in time, those events that are formative or emblematic or otherwise meaningful for their subjects. Surprising, intimate, cathartic — Brown Girl Dreaming, El Deafo, Becoming Maria (see Randy Ribay’s interview with Sonia Manzano), the new books below, and these recommended by the Horn Book Guide, for example — memoirs offer glimpses into the larger picture of a life.

gantos_trouble in meFourteen-year-old Jack Gantos was a “drifty kid who was lost at sea…easily led off course.” Bored with his own life, he tried to be somebody else and fell into the orbit of juvenile delinquent neighbor Gary Pagoda. In The Trouble in Me, Gantos effectively narrates his own story, reviewing portions of his life to identify what led him to abandon his “better self” in favor of later becoming a drug smuggler who ended up in a federal penitentiary. As explained in the afterword, this volume acts as a preface to Hole in My Life, and readers who read both will experience the full arc of Jack’s wild behavior, severe consequences, and, ultimately, redemption. (Farrar, 14 years and up)

jimenez_taking holdIn Taking Hold: From Migrant Childhood to Columbia University — the fourth volume of Francisco Jiménez’s memoir series (starting with The Circuit) — the author delivers a moving account of his graduate school years at Columbia University during the turbulent 1960s, paying particular attention to those friends and mentors who helped shape his intellectual pursuits and academic career path. He also relates his courtship and marriage to his college sweetheart, Laura, and the birth of their two children. Throughout it all, Jiménez never forgets his beginnings as the child of migrant farm workers, frequently alluding to and briefly recapitulating events from earlier volumes. His ingratiating storytelling—who else could make these years of adulthood such a compelling read for teens?—makes us root for him to succeed. (Houghton, 14 years and up)

engle_enchanted airAuthor and poet Margarita Engle explores her own past in Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir, a collection of emotionally rich memory poems. The daughter of a Don Quixote–obsessed American artist of Ukrainian Jewish descent and a beautiful homesick Cuban émigrée, Engle describes joyful visits to her mother’s homeland as a child. She then vividly contrasts the smoggy air of sprawling Los Angeles with the enchanted air of that small, magical-seeming island, and at first going between the two cultures is fairly seamless. But then there’s the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and suddenly all is different. Engle’s personal reverie gives young readers an intimate view of a complicated time and life. (Atheneum, 12–16 years)

From the August 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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15. Where Did My Clothes Come From?

Where Did My Clothes Come From? Chris Butterworth. Illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti. 2015. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: Wouldn't it be great if you could wear your favorite clothes ALL the time? But you need different clothes for different weather and for doing different things.

Premise/plot: A nonfiction book written for children to answer two questions: 1) What are your clothes made of? 2) Where did they come from? Readers learn about what jeans, sweaters, silk/satin dresses, soccer uniforms, fleece jackets, and rain boots. Several pages tell the story of each item. (Think "Bert's Blanket" but without the singing. Actually the comparison isn't exactly fair, the subject is treated seriously and factually.)

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I did. I found it interesting. I had no idea, for example, that fleece jackets are made from recycled plastic bottles. "It takes about 12 bottles to make your fleece jacket." The information is presented well: clearly, step by step. I definitely appreciated that. This one is easy to recommend.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Divorce is the Worst - a review

Higginbotham, Anastasia. 2015. Divorce Is the Worst (Ordinary Terrible Things). New York:The Feminist Press at CUNY.


I didn't think I'd like this book, and I didn't; I loved it. It is honest; it is practical; it is a beautifully artistic rendering of a sorrowful event.  If you know a child in need of a divorce book, look no further; this is it.

Please, do watch the trailer.

 ...


Today is Nonfiction Monday.  See what else is new on the Nonfiction Monday Blog.


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17. What I’m Doing at Kirkus (and Chapter 16) This Week, Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Shane Evans and James Ransome


“We worked together a lot. But we played a lot, too. We really loved to go fishing. Sometimes I would complain when I didn’t get a bite right away,
but my granddaddy always said, ‘Patience, son, patience.'”
– From
Granddaddy’s Turn
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“As long as Lillian still has a pulse, she is going to vote—and so she keeps on climbing, keeps on seeing, this time the second march from Selma.
This march also ends on the bridge, in a prayer ….”
– From
Lillian’s Right to Vote
(Click to enlarge spread)


 

This morning over at Kirkus, I write about two new Asian picture book imports. That link will be here soon.

Also, over here at Chapter 16, I talk to Deanna Caswell, the author of Beach House (Chronicle, May 2015), illustrated by Amy June Bates.

* * *

Last week I wrote here about two new picture books that celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Voting Rights Act — Michael S. Bandy’s and Eric Stein’s Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box (Candlewick, July 2015), illustrated by James E. Ransome, and Jonah Winter’s Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Schwartz & Wade, July 2015), illustrated by Shane W. Evans.

Today I’ve got a bit of art from each book. Enjoy.



 

From Granddaddy’s Turn:


 


“When we finally go to the front of the line, my granddaddy proudly signed a paper and was handed a ballot. He clutched the ballot to his chest and said, ‘Son, this is the happiest day of my life.’ I took the camera from him and said, ‘Smile, Granddaddy.’ ‘Now, come on—let’s go vote,’ he said.”
Click to enlarge spread)


 



 

From Lillian’s Right to Vote:


 


“… Lillian sees her great-great-grandparents Elijah and Sarah.
They are standing side by side on an auction block. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“For Lillian sees the funeral procession for a man named Jimmie Lee Jackson,
a twenty-six-year-old shot by a policeman over
nothing more than taking part in a peaceful protest. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)

* * * * * * *

GRANDDADDY’S TURN. Text copyright © 2015 by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by James E. Ransome. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

LILLIAN’S RIGHT TO VOTE. Text copyright © 2015 by Jonah Winter. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Shane W. Evans. Illustration reproduced by permission of the publisher, Schwartz & Wade Books, New York.

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18. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, by Peter Sís -- setting personal stories in the context of history (ages 9-16)

How do you help children understand family stories in the context of history? Our lives are impacted by the social and political climates in which we live--and these impact the stories we tell our children about our own family's lives. Peter Sís wrestles with these questions in his memoir The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, telling the story of growing up in Communist Czechoslovakia during the Cold War.

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
by Peter Sís
Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007
Sibert Award for Nonfiction, 2008
Caldecott Honor, 2008
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-16
Sís begins with a short introduction, giving context to the historical events. And then he starts his memoir by saying how he loved to draw for as long as he can remember. Throughout, he tells parallel stories of childhood and the political circumstances in Czechoslovakia. At home, he was able to draw whatever he wanted, but as soon as he started school, he was influenced by the state controlled propaganda.
"The Communists take control of the school. Russian-language classes--COMPULSORY.
Joining the Young Pioneers, the Communist youth movement--COMPULSORY."
"After drawing whatever he wanted to at home, he drew what he was told to at school."
Sís conveys the historical context while giving his personal experience at the same time. The short chunks of text with small panel illustrations helps make the information more accessible and immediate. I find that kids like reading this more than one time, as they notice different details each time.

After the liberation of Prague Spring in 1968, the Soviets imposed strict controls once again. But Czechs found ways to push back and share ideas.
"Phones are bugged again, mail opened, people watched... Banned books are secretly translated, copied, and circulated as samizdat."
Sís struggled to keep his artistic identity and independence. He describes both in his journal entries how he was pressured to join the party. And yet, as he wrote, "he had to draw. Sharing the dreams gave him hope." The journal entries (a sample is below) help give even more immediacy and details to how the political climate impacted his life.
"To get a permit to have a studio in my own house, I have to prove that I am an artist in good 'social standing,' that is, a member of the Community Party."
My family and I recently visited the Czech Republic, meeting with several members of the university who have developed a program to honor my great-uncle, George Placzek (a long article about his scientific legacy is in the Cern Courier, the International Journal of High Energy Physics). I was fascinated to hear about how the Communist era impacted their lives, much as it had for Peter Sís. They faced limitations on their professional careers, and even brought a samizdat to show me.

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain provides a fascinating way to combine visual storytelling, memoir and political history. I am grateful to Peter Sís, not only for persevering to follow his art, but also for telling this story. I know, from my own family history, the pressure to move forward and put difficult times behind you--and the Czech Republic is blossoming once again. But this history, both personal and political, is important to share with our children. Kirkus Review sums it up:
"A masterpiece for readers young and old."
Illustrations ©2007 Peter Sís; used with permission from the publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux / Macmillan. The review copy comes from our personal library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


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19. The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A handbook for girl geeks by Sam Maggs, 2015
Read by Holly Conrad, Jessica Almasy
5 hrs.


Although it is essentially a book about fandoms of all types (Trekkers, Potterheads, cosplayers, and the like), The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy it is also a motivational book that entreats young women to embrace their fangirl passions without apology.

Here's a link to the audiobook review that I wrote recently for AudioFile Magazine. http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/101132/





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20. The Armstrong Girl (2015)

The Armstrong Girl: A Child for Sale: The Battle Against the Victorian Sex Trade. Cathy Le Feuvre. 2015. Lion. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 I loved, loved, loved Cathy Le Feuvre's The Armstrong Girl. I think you might love it too.

Do you enjoy reading nonfiction? Do you enjoy biographies?
Do you enjoy reading about the Victorians--fiction or nonfiction?
Do you love history books RICH in primary sources?
Do you like to read about law cases and the legal system?
Looking for a good--true--story about women's rights?
Have an interest in journalism, reporting, and publishing?
Have an interest in learning more about the history and/or origins of The Salvation Army?
Do you enjoy compelling narratives? How about complex ethical dilemmas?

The Armstrong Girl is set in England around 1885. One man--with a good amount of help--sets out to right some wrongs. He is upset--and rightly so--that young girls--young virgins--are being sold into prostitution and sometimes even trafficked out of the country into foreign brothels. He wants to prove that it is relatively easy to find a young girl--thirteen or so--to buy for immoral purposes. He goes undercover himself to prove that this is so. Now, for the record, his intentions are to save her once he's bought her. To place her safely among friends in The Salvation Army so that she is not sold again. Who is he? He's William Thomas Stead of the Pall Mall Gazette. His series of stories about child prostitution and sex trafficking were called The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. His big goal was to strongly encourage--compel, force--parliament to raise the age of consent from 13 to 16.
Here is how he 'warned' his readers:
Therefore we say quite frankly today that all those who are squeamish, and all those who are prudish, and all those who prefer to live in a fool's paradise of imaginary innocence and purity, selfishly oblivious to the horrible realities which torment those whose lives are passed in the London Inferno, will do well not to read the Pall Mall Gazette of Monday and the three following days. The story of an actual pilgrimage into a real hell is not pleasant reading, and is not meant to be. It is, however, an authentic record of unimpeachable facts, "abominable, unutterable, and worse than fables yet have feigned or fear conceived." But it is true, and its publication is necessary. 
The first half of the book focuses on the articles he wrote and the legislation that resulted from his reporting. The second half of the book focuses on the legal aftermath of his reporting. He is arrested and placed on trial. Others who helped him--knowingly or unknowingly--are put on trial as well. Will he be found guilty? How about the others, will they be found guilty as well?


I loved this book. I found it fascinating. It was well-written. It was compelling--complex and detailed, full of oh-so-human characters. It was rich in primary sources: excerpts from the articles, testimonies from the trial, journal entries and letters from some of the participants, etc. It was just an absorbing read.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Bee Dance - a review

9780805099195Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski(Henry Holt, 2015)

Suitable for sharing with a story time group, Bee Dance is presented as a conversational entreaty to bees,

Waggle faster, honeybee! Buzz louder! Your dance points the way to the prairie."
Bee Dance is lyrical nonfiction with large, bright, cut-paper illustrations.  An author's note contains additional facts and the author's source material.


  • You can watch an actual "waggle dance" below.




It's STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

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22. Daniel Harmon: Creating Nonfiction For Teens and Young Adults

Daniel Harmon has been working in book publishing since 2003—first developing history projects at Greenwood/ABC-Clio, then acquiring pop culture books for Praeger Publishers, and most recently overseeing the publishing program at Zest Books, an independent publisher of nonfiction books for teens and young adults.

Since joining Zest in 2012, Daniel has acquired Zest’s first book to sell in excess of 25,000 copies, developed Zest’s first three projects to receive starred reviews, and launched Pulp, a new imprint for older readers. He is also the author of the book Super Pop! (which Kirkus called “weird, witty, and endlessly entertaining”).



Daniel shares that the Zest approach to publishing is

franker

fun, and

from cover to last word, working to keep teen readers interested.

He speaks of how they've moved into doing more middle grade, and doing books for all ages. Their tagline is

Books for young adults of all ages.

Explaining what "all ages means," he says

Doing books explicitly for teens is a great way to make sure you get no teen readership.

They're trying to create books teens will want to pick up and adults will want to pick up, too.

He explains their efforts to add art (primary source materials, photos, infographics...), try to figure out where their books will be placed in bookstores, if it's librarian-bait or more tailored for the gatekeeper/blogger world, their new imprint Pulp that's aiming more new adult, their teen advisory board and much more.

Talking us us through a variety of Zest's titles, he explains that

"You don't need to dumb things down to make it teen-friendly."








Two upcoming titles:


Unslut
the author's middle school diary of being bullied and shamed for being the school "slut" alongside her contemporary perspective, and



Plotted
A literary atlas, literary maps of treasured books, like Huck Finn and Watership Down.

"Really what we're trying to do is stay surprised ourselves. Doing a book that actually adds something."


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23. Gut

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Most Underrated Organ. Giulia Enders. Illustrated by Jill Enders. 2014/2015. Greystone Books. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

Words to describe this one: Thrilling, Fascinating, Informative, Fascinating.

Gut by Giulia Enders is a compelling, action-packed nonfiction read that I found almost impossible to put down. I read it in two sittings. And I found myself stopping only to share little bits of information with others. My goal: to try to get everyone to read this one! Why? Because I think people NEED to know how the body works, and how ESSENTIAL gut-health is for HEALTH.

Yes, primarily, the book is about "the gut" (digestion from start to finish), but, it is also about how the whole body functions or malfunctions.

 The last third of the book focuses on microbes, or gut flora. This section of the book is so absorbing and enlightening. And part of what makes it so exciting is how much is still not known, how NEW this research still is, and how promising it looks to be. There is still so much we don't know, don't understand, about how our bodies function, and what causes things like diseases and obesity. The link between gut microbes and obesity is certainly attention-grabbing.

From start to finish, I found Gut to be a great read. The jacket copy says that the narrative has "quirky charm" and I quite agree. You can watch this video as well.

Table of Contents:

Gut Feeling
  • How Does Pooping Work? And Why That's An Important Question
  • The Gateway to the Gut
  • The Structure of the Gut
  • What We Really Eat
  • Allergies and Intolerances
The Nervous System of the Gut
  • How Our Organs Transport Food
  • Reflux
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • The Brain and the Gut
The World of Microbes
  • I Am An Ecosystem
  • The Immune System and Our Bacteria
  • The Development of the Gut Flora
  • The Adult Gut Population
  • The Role of the Gut Flora
  • The Bad Guys--Harmful Bacteria and Parasites
  • Of Cleanliness and Good Bacteria

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. A Visit with Artist Keith Mallett


“And let’s say one day when you were a little older,
you sat right down at a black piano and you commenced to play …”


 

There’s a new picture book biography on shelves, Jonah Winter’s How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, June 2015), illustrated by Keith Mallett (pictured right). The book opens in a tremendously inviting way:

Here’s what could’ve happened if you were born a way down south in New Orleans, in the Land of Dreams a long, long time ago.

Let’s say you had a godmother, and she put a spell on you because she was a voodoo queen. …

Voodoo queen? Hoo boy, my attention is piqued.

Author and illustrator go on to lay out the musician’s early life and rise to fame, as well as his contributions to jazz. They address the whole who-invented-jazz conundrum—“And, to tell the truth of it, maybe Mister Jelly Roll didn’t invent jazz, not exactly, ’cause it took a lot of cooks to make that stew … but he sure did spread it around the towns”—and in an informative closing author’s note [“How Jelly Roll Morton (Might Have) Invented Jazz”], Winter goes into more detail about this and what distinguished Morton from his fellow musicians. Robin Smith captured the book well in the Horn Book’s review: “Much like jazz itself, Winter has created a book filled with ebbs and flows, rhythm and rhyme, darkness and light, shadow and sunshine.”

This is Mallett’s first picture book, though he’s been an artist and designer for more than thirty years. His acrylic paintings in this bio, bustling with energy and filled with beguiling shadows, are rich and reverent. He’s visiting today with some art (sans text) and early sketches from the book — and to talk a bit about his work. He even shares a bit of other art (not from this biography). I thank him for visiting.

* * *

Keith: From the time that I first saw Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, I dreamed of illustrating a children’s book. But my career took me in a different direction. I became an artist working mainly in the fine art print industry. About ten years ago I was asked to illustrate a children’s book, but I realized the time it would take, so due to my busy schedule I had to decline.

Once I retired, I had plenty of time, so when Neal [Porter] reached out to me to illustrate Jonah Winter’s new book, I was thrilled.

 


“And let’s say that when you were a baby, your godmother brought you to an old saloon and set you down on top of the bar, which is not a place for a little baby. Let’s say that some trouble broke out, and she got arrested and thrown in jail,
and you got tossed in the can as well.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 

When I first read Jonah’s unconventional manuscript, I felt a little intimidated. The script was beautifully written, kind of like a jazz riff with some linear storytelling, some rhyming, and even a bit of stream-of-consciousness thrown in. Both Neal and Jennifer [the art director] pointed out that, because the story was so unusual, I would have a lot more freedom with my interpretation. So I dove in.


“And let’s say you just wouldn’t stop crying unless all the roughnecks sharing your cell commenced to singing—’cause music was the only thing that calmed you down.”


 


Early sketch
(Click to enlarge)


 

Doing the research for Jelly Roll was fun. I loved reading about early New Orleans and the dawn of the Jazz Age. The Library of Congress was a great resource for the architecture of New Orleans at the turn of the century; I also scoured the Internet in search of the clothing styles of the late 1800s. Jennifer helped me understand the importance of accuracy in interpreting details, even as small as the style of an early New Orleans police badge.

 



Early sketch and final art: “… and you learned to play so well that soon you were playing with grown-ups, sneaking out when the evening sun went down, playing in bars, surrounded by lowlifes and dangerous people and folks who loved to hear you play,
and making more dollars a night than you knew what to do with.”

(Click each to enlarge)


 

I chose to do the book using acrylic paints because of their fast drying time. They allow you to quickly do numerous glazes and easily build up texture. I also like printing aquatint etchings on my press.

I’d love to do another book. It was fun illustrating this one.

 


“… and only one thing, just one thing in the world, could make the crying stop: And this is why and this is how a thing called JAZZ got invented by a man named Jelly Roll Morton. Leastwise, that’s what I thought I heard Mister Jelly Roll say. Sing it …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 



Early sketch and final art: “If you’d been Jelly Roll Morton you would’ve known that the only way to rise up and fly away was one piano at a time. One piano note at a time you’d show the folks in New Orleans who was the best. You’d show the folks in
New Orleans how it was done—jazz, that is.”

(Click sketch to enlarge)


 



 


Above: One of Keith’s aquatint etchings


 


Above: One of Keith’s open edition fine art prints


 



 

* * * * * * *

HOW JELLY ROLL MORTON INVENTED JAZZ. Copyright © 2015 by Jonah Winter. Illustrations © 2015 by Keith Mallett. Published by Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Keith Mallett and the publisher.

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25. Looking for nonfiction?

People write to me asking about the merits of this or that nonfiction book or series, which one(s) I recommend, etc. Keeping up with them, and/or writing a comprehensive review is daunting, and something I have not done. A lot of nonfiction has photographs that I like. For example, Marcia Keegan's books (listed below in the not recommended section) are about Pueblo people. I like the photos! The captions... not so much. I'm pretty sure Pueblo kids would like those photos, too, and I'd love to sit with them and write new captions for the photos. Maybe we'd use a Sharpie! And we could re-write problematic text, too! That would be an excellent activity, showing them that books have errors--that, in this case, the kids know more than the author... that books are not perfect. 

Though I've not done any reviews of series, I can offer this:

In A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children edited by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin, you'll find a section titled "Reviews: Photoessays of Indian Children." 

I strongly encourage you to buy A Broken Flute and read the reviews in their entirety. You'll learn a lot from studying those reviews. That study will help you in your collection development (decisions on what to get/what to weed) in the future. Here's my sorting of the reviews into three categories, recommended/recommended, but some parts uneven/not recommended and in two parts. First are books that stand alone, and second are books in a series. 

Recommended

Ancona, George:
  • Earth Daughter: Alicia of Acoma Pueblo
  • Mayeros: A Yucatan Maya Family
  • Pablo Remembers: The Fiesta of the Day of the Dead
  • Powwow

Jenness, Aylette and Alice Rivers. In Two Worlds: A Yup'ik Eskimo Family

LaDuke, Winona and Waseyabin Kapashesit. The Sugar Bush

McMillan, Bruce. Salmon Summer

Rendon, Marcie. Powwow Summer: A Family Celebrates the Circle of Life

Rose, LaVera. Grandchildren of the Lakota

Thompson, Sheila (Carrier). Cheryl Bibalhatsl/Cheryl's Potlach


Recommended, but some parts uneven 

Brown, Tricia. Children of the Midnight Sun: Young Native Voices of Alaska. 

Gravelle, Karen. Growing Up: Where the Partridge Drums Its Wings 

Kendall, Ross. Eskimo Boy: Life in an Inupiaq Eskimo Village

Sola, Michele. Angela Weaves a Dream: The Story of a Young Maya Artist

Wolf, Bernard. Beneath the Stone: A Mexican Zapotec Tale


Not recommended

Garcia, Guy. Spirit of the Maya: A Boy Explores His People's Mysterious Past

Hazen-Hammond, Suzan. Thunder Bear and Ko: The Buffalo Nation and Nambe Pueblo

Hoyt-Goldsmith, Diane.
  • Apache Rodeo
  • Arctic Hunter
  • Buffalo Days
  • Cherokee Summer
  • Day of the Dead: A Mexican-American Celebration
  • Lacrosse: The National Game of the Iroquois
  • Potlatch: A Tsimshian Celebration
  • Pueblo Storyteller
  • Totem Pole

Keegan, Marcia
  • Pueblo Boy: Growing Up in Two Worlds
  • Pueblo Girls: Growing Up in Two Worlds

Mott, Evelyn Clarke. Dancing Rainbows

Reynolds, Jan. Frozen Land: Vanishing Cultures

Wood, Ted, with Wanbli Numpa Afraid of Hawk. A Boy Becomes a Man at Wounded Knee


SERIES

Recommended, but parts uneven

"My World: Young Native Americans Today"
Published by Beyond Words, in association with the National Museum of the American Indian
  • Belarde-Lewis, Miranda. Meet Lydia: A Native Girl from Southeast Alaska
  • Secakuku, Susan. Meet Mindy: A Native Girl from the Southwest
  • Tayac, Gabrielle. Meet Naiche: A Native Boy from the Chesapeake Bay Area

"We Are Still Here"
Published by Lerner
  • Braine, Susan. Drumbeat... Heartbeat: A Celebration of the Powwow
  • Hunter, Sally. Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition
  • King, Sandra and Catherine Whipple. Shannon: An Ojibway Dancer
  • Mercredi, Morningstar and Darren McNally. Fort Chipewyan Homecoming: A Journey to Native Canada
  • Nichols, Richard and D. Bambi Kraus. A Story to Tell: Traditions of a Tlingit Community
  • Peters, Russell M. Clambake: A Wampanoag Tradition
  • Regguinti, Gordon. The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering
  • Roessel, Monty. Kinaalda: A Navajo Girl Grows Up
  • Roessel, Monty. Songs from the Loom: A Navajo Girl Learns to Weave
  • Swentzell, Rina and Bill Steen. Children of Clay: A Family of Pueblo Potters
  • Wittstock, Laura Waterman and Dale Kakkak. Ininatig's Gift of Sugar: Traditional Sugarmaking
  • Wittstock, Laura Waterman and Dale Kakkak. Sugar Bush: Ojibway Maple Sugarmaking
  • Yamane, Linda. Weaving a California Tradition: A Native American Basketweaver


Not recommended

"The Library of Intergenerational Learning: Native Americans"
Published by PowerKids/Rosen

Kavasch, E. Barrie. 
  • Apache Children and Elders Talk Together
  • Blackfoot Children and Elders Talk Together
  • Crow Children and Elders Talk Together
  • Lakota Sioux Children and Elders Talk Together
  • Seminole Children and Elders Talk Together
  • Zuni Children and Elders Talk Together

"The World's Children" (exception is Grandchildren of the Lakota by LaVera Rose)
Published by Carolrhoda/Lerner

Hermes, Jules. Children of Guatemala

Pitkanen, Matti A. The Grandchildren of the Incas

Staub, Frank. 
  • Children of the Sierra Madre
  • Children of the Tlingit
  • Children of Yucatan

One more thing!

Another reason to get a copy of A Broken Flute is its guide to evaluating photo essays! Here's a photo of the top part of it:





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