Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Review of Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story, by Caren Stilson

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Sachiko

A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story

by Caren Stilson

Carolrhoda Books, 2016. 144 pages.
Starred Review
2016 National Book Award Longlist
2017 Sibert Honor Book
2016 Cybils Award, Middle Grade Nonfiction
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 Children’s Nonfiction

This book is what the title says it is: The story of a survivor of the Nagasaki atom bomb.

Sachiko Yasui was six years old when the bomb fell on her city. The book first sets the stage, briefly explaining how the war was going and American attitudes toward the Japanese at the time. Throughout the book, background information is inserted with spreads on darker-colored pages, so it’s clear they are background. But we’re given a detailed, hour-by-hour account of what happened in Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

Of course Sachiko and her family lost their home. But one by one, she also lost all her family members.

The first to die was her two-year-old brother, who had a wooden stick go through his head in the initial blast. All of the girls Sachiko was playing with at the moment the bomb went off also died. Her other two brothers took longer to die of radiation sickness.

Fortunately, Sachiko had her parents to take her out of the city and to help her survive and to put her in school. Though years later, it was cancer that took their lives, a result of the radiation from the bomb.

Sachiko herself suffered from radiation sickness and was bullied in her new school because she lost her hair and had scaly skin. I do like the way the author weaves in stories of those who inspired Sachiko: Her father revered the teachings of Gandhi; Sachiko got to see Helen Keller when she visited Japan; and she was impressed by the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It was a long time before Sachiko was ready to tell her story, but since 1995, she has traveled around the world, especially speaking to students, and promoting peace.

Sachiko also tells young people that, as she was inspired by Helen Keller, she hopes to inspire them. “I’ll try to speak about how strong you can be as a human being when you encounter difficulties in the future.”

This book is illustrated with plenty of photographs and presents a powerful and important story, in a way that young people can understand and that will move anyone’s heart.

May her words be true: “What happened to me must never happen to you.”

hibakushastories.org
lernerbooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

hamilton_largeHamilton

The Revolution

Being the Complete Libretto of the Broadway Musical,
With a True Account of Its Creation,
And Concise Remarks on Hip-Hop, the Power of Stories, and the New America

by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Grand Central Publishing (Hachette), 2016. 288 pages.
Starred Review

This book is magnificent! Now I really need to figure out a way to get to see the musical.

This is not, however, a good choice for audiobook listening. That’s how I started it, hoping maybe they’d include some clips from the show. Nope. (Only some bars as an introduction.)

The book itself has wonderful material added to the text about the musical. It includes the complete libretto, with large photographs. Most pages of the libretto, in fact, are superimposed over or printed next to large format photos of the actors singing that particular song. The libretto is peppered with notes from Lin-Manuel Miranda.

They tried to include these things in the audiobook. There are two “additional” CDs. One includes pdf files – of the libretto, perhaps with photos. (I didn’t check.) The other is Lin-Manuel Miranda reading the notes. But since the notes are simply read – out of context, not in place in the libretto (Presumably where they go on the libretto is in the pdf.) – you’re going to want to read them, anyway.

Now, I had listened to the first two CDs before I went on vacation. While in California, my sister played for me the wonderful cast album, which gave much more context to what I had listened to. When I got back, my hold came in on the print form of the book – and I learned that the words of the songs are all written out – right next to the information about writing and casting that song. So I switched to the print form and read the words to all the songs, with notes and with pictures, in the right order along with the chapter about writing that song and what it meant in context.

The story of writing and casting the musical and all that it means in America today and why it’s such a phenomenon is the subject of this book.

Here’s a section from the Introduction where Jeremy McCarter explains the plan of the book.

It tells the stories of two revolutions. There’s the American Revolution of the 18th century, which flares to life in Lin’s libretto, the complete text of which is published here, with his annotations. There’s also the revolution of the show itself: a musical that changes the way that Broadway sounds, that alters who gets to tell the story of our founding, that lets us glimpse the new, more diverse America rushing our way. The fact that Lin wrote the show largely in sequence means that this book can trace the two revolutions in tandem. The story of the show’s creation begins at the White House on May 12, 2009, when he performed the first song for the first time. It ends with opening night on Broadway, August 6, 2015, just after he completed the final scenes of the show.

The story is fascinating – both the story put into the musical and the story of the creation of the musical. I have now also placed a hold on Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, which inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Here’s a section from a chapter about Ron Chernow’s help in the writing of the musical:

He walked into a rehearsal studio in the Garment District and was, by his own admission, “shocked” by what he saw. The men who were going to sing the roles of Washington, Hamilton, and the other Founding Fathers were black and Latino. Not being a rap listener, Ron hadn’t given much thought to the fact that the people best able to perform the songs that Lin had been writing might look nothing like their historical counterparts.

Lin and Tommy saw no difficulty in making this imaginative leap. In fact, they raised it to a principle. As Tommy would state it again and again in the years that followed: “This is a story about America then, told by America now.”

Within five minutes, Ron was carried away by what he heard. He became what he calls a “militant” defender of the idea that actors of any race could play the Founding Fathers.

Just having all the words of the songs is by itself a reason to get the book – because the songs are packed with information. Having read the whole thing, I’m planning to buy myself a copy of the cast album and listen to it all again – I will catch so much more.

There’s all kinds of background information here about casting the show and putting it on, but one of my favorite chapters was about special performances they did for local high schools – and the energy that the teachers harnessed and brought back to the classroom. They included some exciting stories about the students engaging with the material.

Then they ended the chapter talking about what will happen when Hamilton is licensed to be performed in schools.

Its subject matter will appeal to history teachers, its array of juicy roles will appeal to young actors, and its mélange of musical styles will appeal to almost everybody. In a given school year, they imagine, that might mean 600 or 700 student productions around the United States.

What will it mean when thousands of students step into these roles at age 15 or 18 or 20 – roles that have changed the lives of the original cast members, who encountered them at a significantly later age? Leslie says that playing a Founding Father has made him feel newly invested in the country’s origins, something that always seemed remote from his life as a black man in America. “The empathy that requires, the connections you make, the lines you draw between the things you want and the things they wanted, that you love and they loved, I never found all that connective tissue before this show.”

Lin hopes those student productions will strive for the diversity of the original production, the ethnic mix that makes Hamilton look like a message beamed back from Future America. It means that whatever impact the show might have on Broadway, and however long it might run, the biggest impact won’t be in New York: It’ll be in high school and college rehearsal rooms across America, where boys learn to carry themselves with the nobility of George Washington, girls learn to think and rap fast enough to rip through “Satisfied,” and kids of either gender (Lin isn’t doctrinaire) summon the conviction of John Laurens, the freedom-fighting abolitionist, who sings, “Tomorrow there’ll be more of us.”

The book is framed by two performances for President Obama, and there are reflections at the end that communicate part of why this musical is so inspiring.

Unless Lin made the whole thing up – and nobody has said that he did – it suggests that however innovative Obama’s speeches and Lin’s show might seem, they are, in fact, traditional. They don’t reinvent the American character, they renew it. They remind us of something we forgot, something that fell as far out of sight as the posthumously neglected Alexander Hamilton, who spent his life defending one idea above all: “the necessity of Union to the respectability and happiness of this Country.” Obama’s speeches and Lin’s show resonate so powerfully with their audiences because they find eloquent ways to revive Hamilton’s revolution, the one that spurred Americans to see themselves and each other as fellow citizens in a sprawling, polyglot young republic. It’s the change in thought and feeling that makes all the other changes possible.

The Obama presidency will end in January 2017, but the show that shares so much of its spirit will keep running. At the Rodgers that night, the president all but anointed Hamilton as a keeper of the flame. His “primary message,” he said, was to remind people of the need to keep hoping and to work together, but “this performance undoubtedly described it better than I ever could.” The most important affinity that Hamilton will carry into its future isn’t a specific message, though, political or otherwise: It’s an underlying belief in stories, and their power to change the world.

Good community organizer that he is, the president knows that stories can be an engine for empathy, and a way to show people what they share. It’s why he introduced himself, in that first big speech in 2004, by telling his own story. In the years to come, some of the many, many kids who are going to see and even perform Hamilton will be newly inspired to tell their stories too. Every time they do, the newly kaleidoscopic America will understand itself a little more.

“I can do that,” they’ll say. And if they’re like Alexander Hamilton, they’ll add, “And I can do it better.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of We Will Not Be Silent, by Russell Freedman

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

we_will_not_be_silent_largeWe Will Not Be Silent

The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler

by Russell Freedman

Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2016. 104 pages.

Here’s a large-format nonfiction book, with photographs on every spread, about a group of German students who defied Hitler by writing and distributing pamphlets that denounced him. The original founders of the group were executed for their “crimes.”

The Preface neatly summarizes what this book covers:

In 1942, when World War II was in its third year, leaflets began to appear mysteriously in mailboxes all over Nazi Germany. Someone would open an envelope, pull out a leaflet, take one look, then turn and glance around nervously to make sure no one was watching. A person could not be too careful. Anyone caught with a seditious leaflet was marked as an enemy of the state and could land in a concentration camp, or worse.

Neatly typed, run off on a mimeograph machine, these documents were headed “Leaflets of the White Rose.” They assailed the Nazi “dictatorship of evil,” denounced Adolf Hitler as a liar and blasphemer, and called on the German people to rise up and overthrow the Nazi regime.

Where were these inflammatory leaflets coming from? Who was the White Rose? Was more than one person involved? The Nazi secret police, the Gestapo, organized a special task force to hunt down those responsible. A reward was offered for information leading to their “speedy arrest.”

I like when a nonfiction book for children has information I don’t know myself. I’d never heard the story of Hans and Sophie Scholl and the movement they founded. It’s good to read about Germans who didn’t fall for Hitler’s lies. These ones gave their lives for it.

In a gruesome note, I’ve read a lot about concentration camps, but I hadn’t realized that Hitler’s favorite method of execution of his enemies was the guillotine. These students were actually beheaded when they were caught – but their movement continued. Today there is a memorial and museum about them at Munich University, where they were students.

This book is accessible to kids, with so many relevant photographs throughout the book. It also presents a wealth of information for anyone of any age who’s interested in true acts of heroism.

hmhco.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Symphony for the City of the Dead, by M. T. Anderson

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

symphony_for_the_city_of_the_dead_largeSymphony for the City of the Dead

Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

by M. T. Anderson

Candlewick Press, 2015. 456 pages.
Starred Review
2016 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist

I’m not sure why this book is marketed for young adults rather than old adults, except that it’s super interesting, contains lots of photographs, and isn’t written in tiny print. The story doesn’t pull any punches or hide any of the horrors of war, nor does it focus on the time in Shostakovich’s life when he was a young adult. But yes, it’s interesting for young adults, as any well-written narrative nonfiction would be.

The book begins with a prologue that piques the reader’s curiosity. The first scene is of a Russian agent smuggling a small box of microfilm to an American agent in 1942. The microfilm has come through Tehran, Cairo, and Brazil on its way to New York City. The contents of the microfilm? The Seventh Symphony, the Leningrad Symphony, by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Why had the Soviet government arranged so carefully for this piece to be shipped to the West across battle lines, across a Middle East that was swarming with Fascist tanks, across seas festering with enemy subs? How could it possibly be worth it?

And who was the composer of this desperately sought-after score? Dmitri Shostakovich spent the first several months of the Siege of Leningrad trapped in that city under fire, writing much of his Seventh Symphony in breaks between air raids. He had first announced that he was working on the piece over the radio in September 1941, just a few weeks after the Germans had started shelling the city. . . .

This is a tale of microfilm canisters and secret police, of Communists and capitalists, of battles lost and wars won. It is the tale of a utopian dream that turned into a dystopian nightmare. It is the tale of Dmitri Shostakovich and of his beloved city, Leningrad. But at its heart, it is a story about the power of music and its meanings – a story of secret messages and doublespeak, and of how music itself is a code; how music coaxes people to endure unthinkable tragedy; how it allows us to whisper between the prison bars when we cannot speak aloud; how it can still comfort the suffering, saying, “Whatever has befallen you – you are not alone.”

M. T. Anderson does tell the story of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony and thoroughly explains why it was so important and why symphony orchestras all over the world wanted to perform it. But more than that, he tells the life story of Dmitri Shostakovich and the story of St. Petersburg, the city of his birth, later called Leningrad. This story requires telling the story of Communism coming to Russia, with the rise of Lenin and Stalin. And then it tells the story of World War II, and how at the outset Stalin believed Hitler’s promises and eliminated Russian military leaders who told him otherwise.

The majority of the book, though, is about the Siege of Leningrad, during which Shostakovich wrote his Seventh Symphony. This siege lasted 872 days – the longest siege in recorded history. Hitler had decided he didn’t need to attack the city – it could be starved.

The story is not pretty. The author doesn’t shy away from the deaths – and the cannibalism. Shostakovich was evacuated from the city before the end of the siege, but the author still fills us in on what was happening in Leningrad where Shostakovich’s sister was still living. Especially poignant is the story of the musicians who were still alive in Leningrad assembling to perform the Seventh Symphony.

Eliasberg [the conductor] remembered that night for the rest of his life. (It was to be the high point of his career.) “People just stood and cried. They knew that this was not a passing episode but the beginning of something. We heard it in the music. The concert hall, the people in their apartments, the soldiers on the front – the whole city had found its humanity. And in that moment, we triumphed over the soulless Nazi war machine.”

Naturally, while reading this book, especially the description of the symphony, I had to look up a performance on the internet and listen. Knowing the background made it far more meaningful.

Notes in the back explain the difficulties associated with piecing together this story. As M. T. Anderson asks, “How do we reconstruct the story of someone who lived in a period in which everyone had an excuse to lie, evade, accuse, or keep silent?” This book is an amazing piece of scholarship wrapped up in a gripping narrative and sprinkled with an abundance of photographs.

If you are at all interested in the life of Dmitri Shostakovich, the fate of musicians and artists under the Soviets, the rise of Communism in Russia, World War II and the Russian Army, or the City of Leningrad, you can’t find a more absorbing way to learn more than reading this book.

candlewick.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation, by Peggy Thomas and Stacy Innerst

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

thomas_jefferson_grows_a_nation_largeThomas Jefferson Grows a Nation

by Peggy Thomas
illustrations by Stacy Innerst

Calkins Creek (Highlights), Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 2015.

I expected this picture book to be about Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase. Yes, that’s included. But what I didn’t expect was all the information about Thomas Jefferson as a farmer and as a scientist studying agriculture.

There’s an amazing and amusing extended story right toward the beginning. Thomas Jefferson got into a sort of competition with a French naturalist, Count Buffon, who wrote a book claiming that America’s very wildlife showed it to be an inferior continent.

The wildlife was inferior, he said. “Shrivelled.” “Diminished.” Sheep were “meagre, and their flesh less juicy.” A jaguar was no bigger than a beagle, and dogs were “mute.” The New World, he argued, had nothing as grand as an elephant, and the weather produced an infestation of lowly reptiles and insects.

Thomas Jefferson worked hard to set the record straight. He even had a moose carcass shipped to him in France!

The book also covers Jefferson’s many experiments with different plants for farming, and his study of invasive pests. He practiced crop rotation and was interested in the science of farming. He even won a gold medal from the French Society of Agriculture for a device that improved plows.

When he was President and responsible for the Louisiana Purchase, it was only natural that he was also behind Lewis and Clark’s expedition, cataloguing the plants and animals of the new territory.

This is a nontraditional look at Thomas Jefferson, and made all the more interesting with the illustrations. Although it’s a picture book, there is plenty of text on each page, more suitable for upper elementary school readers. A fascinating presentation of the life of someone I thought I already knew about.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Tiny Stitches, by Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Colin Bootman

Friday, July 15th, 2016

tiny_stitches_largeTiny Stitches

The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas

by Gwendolyn Hooks
illustrated by Colin Bootman

Lee & Low Books, New York, 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Tiny Stitches is the story of Vivien Thomas, the African-American medical researcher who developed the surgical procedure that saved the life of blue babies during the days of segregation and despite overwhelming prejudice.

Vivien always wanted to be a doctor. He saved money for medical school even as a child working with his father as a carpenter. But they lost all their savings in the Great Depression.

It wasn’t through going to medical school that Vivien got his opportunity. He interviewed for a job with medical researcher Dr. Alfred Blalock, and impressed him with his knowledge and intelligent questions. He got a job assisting Dr. Blalock, who gave him more and more research of his own.

Vivien’s surgical techniques improved with each operation. Just as he had learned to fit pieces of wood together seamlessly, Vivien learned to suture, or sew, blood vessels together seamlessly. Dr. Blalock was impressed by Vivien’s tiny stitches. Sometimes Vivien assisted Dr. Blalock with an experiment. On other days, Dr. Blalock assisted Vivien.

Vivien was happy working as a researcher, until he learned that his official job description was janitor. White men with the same duties and skills as Vivien were called research technicians and earned more money. Vivien was insulted. He was not a janitor. He told Dr. Blalock that he would not continue working unless he was paid the same as the other technicians. A few days later, Vivien noticed his paycheck was much better. He now earned about the same as the white technicians.

In 1941, Dr. Blalock became Chief of Surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He took Vivien Thomas with him, where Vivien faced even more discrimination.

In 1943, Dr. Helen Taussig approached them with the problem of blue babies – babies born with a heart defect so that their blood didn’t get enough oxygen, and they died. Dr. Blalock assigned Vivien to research a method for operating on the babies.

Vivien had to develop new needles small enough to use on babies, and he tried the procedure out on animals. Dr. Blalock assisted Vivien only once during his experiments.

On November 29, 1944, Dr. Blalock tried the procedure Vivien had developed on a blue baby patient named Eileen. Dr. Blalock asked Vivien to stand on a stool behind him and guide him through the operation.

After that operation and others (also assisted by Vivien) were successful, Dr. Blalock and Dr. Taussig were highly acclaimed.

As news spread of Dr. Blalock’s success, two or three operations a week soon became two or three operations a day. Patients came from as far away as Europe to have the procedure. Vivien remained standing on the stool behind Dr. Blalock, coaching him through more than one hundred fifty operations.

The last double-page spread has a picture of Vivien in full academic regalia up on stage.

Vivien Thomas was not publicly acknowledged for his brilliant research and surgical talents until more than twenty-six years after the first blue baby operation. On February 27, 1971, the Old Hands Club, a group of doctors who had trained under Vivien, presented a formal portrait of him to Johns Hopkins Hospital. It is displayed across from Dr. Blalock’s portrait. In 1976, Johns Hopkins University awarded Vivien an honorary doctorate degree and appointed him to the faculty as Instructor of Surgery.

Although he never had the chance to attend medical school, Vivien’s research pioneered open-heart surgery on children. Today about forty thousand children are born each year with heart problems. Because of Vivien Thomas, these children now have a chance to live full and healthy lives.

This book isn’t flashy. The prose tells the story without frills. The pictures show a doctor at work. There’s nothing surprising or startling here.

But the story tells about a remarkable man who did outstanding work and saved lives – even without recognition.

gwendolynhooks.com
colinbootman.net
leeandlow.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Watch Out for Flying Kids! by Cynthia Levinson

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

watch_out_for_flying_kids_largeWatch Out for Flying Kids!

How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community

by Cynthia Levinson

Peachtree, Atlanta, 2015. 216 pages.
Starred Review

I booktalked this book in local elementary schools this year. It’s a story about real kids, with a large format and lots of pictures — and everything in it is true.

A section of the Prologue neatly explains why this is an important book:

Watch Out for Flying Kids spotlights a little-known corner of this universe: youth social circus.

As the first word of the name suggests, “youth circus” refers to programs in which the performers are children. The nine performers featured in this book are teenagers.

The word “social” refers to the mission of bringing together young people who would not ordinarily meet — or, if they did, might fear or oppose each other. The two organizations portrayed in this book — the St. Louis Arches and the Galilee Circus — bring together young people from vastly different backgrounds and cultures through training in circus arts. The goal of both groups is to replace fear with respect and opposition with trust, changing the world one acrobat, contortionist, and flyer at a time.

Why wouldn’t these kids meet if it weren’t for circus? Why might they even fear or mistrust one another? The three white and two black troupers who are Arches live in different neighborhoods and go to different schools in St. Louis, Missouri, a city that is segregated by race and income level. The two Arabs and two Jews who perform with the Galilee Circus in northern Israel live in towns segregated by religion, ethnicity, language, and history. They represent groups that have been violently at odds with each other for hundreds of years.

Watch Out for Flying Kids shows what happens when all of them get together. That is, it demonstrates how they learn to juggle their responsibilities, fly above the fray, balance schoolwork and circus work, unicycle circles around people who doubt them, tumble gracefully through life — even when injured — and walk the tightrope of politics and friendship.

This book looks at the two circuses, the St. Louis Arches and the Galilee Circus, over the years 2005 to 2014. Nine kids in particular are highlighted and their journey described.

Performing in a circus is tremendously difficult, and the hard work and dedication required is conveyed well. The two circuses got to visit each other’s countries and perform together, and the book also shows us the challenges of working together across cultures.

This is a wonderful, inspiring and informative book about a group of kids working hard, forming a community, and putting on a great show.

cynthialevinson.com
peachtree-online.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Fearless Flyer, by Heather Lang and Raúl Colón

Monday, June 13th, 2016

fearless_flyer_largeFearless Flyer

Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine

by Heather Lang
illustrated by Raúl Colón

Calkins Creek (Highlights), Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 2016. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Did you know that in 1916, the person to set the American longest nonstop flight record was a woman? This picture book tells the story of Ruth Law, an early American aviator.

100 years ago, flying was dangerous and primitive. The pictures speak volumes, with Ruth Law bundled up in layers of coats with only her feet protected from the elements, steering the plane using two levers. She navigated with a little scrolling six-inch map she strapped into her lap. She had to hold the right lever with her knee while she turned the knobs on the map box.

Early on, the book explains why Ruth Law was so successful:

Few aviators dared to fly cross-country in their flimsy flying machines. If an engine had trouble, by the time the aviator realized it, there was often nowhere to land.

Ruth had a secret weapon. She knew every nut and bolt on her machine.

“I could anticipate what would happen to the motor by the sound of it.”

The text in this book is straightforward, interspersed with quotes from Ruth. The story is of her plan to fly from Chicago to New York City and to show that what men can do, a woman can do.

Raúl Colón’s beautiful pictures evoke the time period beautifully. By seeing pictures, you realize just how early in the history of aviation were Ruth’s adventures. Her record-breaking flight happened in November 1916.

She didn’t have a radio or any instruments but a compass. She didn’t even have a cockpit. With two levers and a map box perched on a rickety-looking set of wings, Ruth Law broke the boundaries of what could be done.

“The sky was my limit and the horizon my sphere. It’s any woman’s sphere if she has nerve and courage and faith in herself. She’s got to have faith in herself.”

I expect this picture book will inspire more girls and boys to take to the sky.

heatherlangbooks.com
boydsmillspress.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Two Friends, by Dean Robbins

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

two_friends_largeTwo Friends

Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass

by Dean Robbins
illustrated by Sean Qualls & Selina Alko

Orchard Books (Scholastic), New York, 2016. 32 pages.

Here’s a simple picture book telling a story from history about Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. The two were friends and both lived in Rochester, New York. There’s a statue there showing the two of them having tea. This picture book dramatizes one such occasion, mostly using it as an opportunity to talk about both of their lives and how similar they were.

The language is easy for children to understand:

As a girl, Susan wanted to learn what boys learned.
But teachers wouldn’t let her. . . .

Susan wanted something more.
She read about rights in the United States.
The right to live free.
The right to vote.
Some people had rights, while others had none.
Why shouldn’t she have them, too?

Susan taught herself to give speeches.
Some people liked her ideas about rights for women.
Others didn’t.

The similar language used about Frederick Douglass highlights their similarities.

Frederick grew up as a slave in the South.
Slaves had to do everything the master said, but Frederick wanted something more.
He secretly learned to read and write.
New ideas thrilled him.

Frederick read about rights in the United States.
The right to live free.
The right to vote.
Some people had rights, while others had none.
Why shouldn’t he have them, too?

Frederick escaped from his master and headed north.
He taught himself to give speeches.
Some people liked his ideas about rights for African Americans.
Others didn’t.

Beyond this, there’s basic information about how the two supported each other and were friends. And the pictures are marvelous.

A lovely introduction to the topic of equal rights for young readers.

deanrobbins.net
seanqualls.com
selinaalko.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/two_friends.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of This Bridge Will Not Be Gray, by Dave Eggers and Tucker Nichols

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

this_bridge_will_not_be_gray_largeThis Bridge Will Not Be Gray

story by Dave Eggers
art by Tucker Nichols

McSweeney’s, San Francisco, 2015. 104 pages.
Starred Review

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray is a picture book about the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a long picture book, but otherwise fits picture book format. Every spread has a cut-paper pictorial background, and no spread has more than a few paragraphs of text, if that.

This isn’t the fancy, realistic-looking cut paper of Steve Jenkins. This is simple, with basic shapes. People are shown as heads of various colors (such as blue and green and red). But the simple style does work. Dave Eggers takes us through the design process of the Golden Gate bridge, beginning with the beautiful bay itself.

It is interesting to me that the reason the Golden Gate Bridge ended up reddish-orange in the first place was that was the color they painted onto steel when it was shipped to make it rust-proof.

They hadn’t actually decided what color to paint the bridge, but plans were to paint it gray.

When Irving Morrow was on the ferry one day, he watched this orange steel being assembled, and he had a thought. He thought that this color was beautiful.

And when Irving was asked what color he thought the bridge should be, he said, Why not leave it this color? And people said, What? And they said, Huh? And they said, Irving, you are nuts. No bridge had ever been orange. Who had ever heard of an orange bridge? No one had, because no bridge had ever been this color. This is true: no bridge in known human history had ever been orange.

And for a good portion of the human race, because something has not already been, that is a good reason to fear it coming to be.

But as the debate continued about the color of the bridge, an interesting thing happened. Other people noticed the same thing Irving had noticed: that this accidental orange somehow looked right.

That gives you an idea of the conversational style of the book. The simple graphics accompany it and add up to a lovely and informative story of how one of the most beautiful bridges in the world was built.

The Golden Gate Bridge, which is orange, is the best-known and best-loved bridge in the world.

It is best-known because it is bold and courageous and unusual and even strange. It is best-loved because it is bold and courageous and unusual and even strange. And it is all these things because Irving Morrow, and thousands of others said:

“This bridge will not be gray!”

It is especially fitting that the author, the illustrator, and the publisher live and work near the Golden Gate Bridge.

mcsweeneys.net

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/this_bridge_will_not_be_gray.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?