Archive for the ‘Teen Nonfiction’ Category

Review of The Grand Escape, by Neal Bascomb

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

The Grand Escape

The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century

by Neal Bascomb

Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), 2018. 275 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 27, 2018, from my own copy, sent by the publisher
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#7 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

This nonfiction book reads like a thriller. It covers a breakout from a prisoner of war camp in Germany during World War I.

The book gives us background first about how the war was going, and we meet several individuals important in planning the escape. Most of them had some earlier attempts at escape.

One particularly heart-wrenching attempt was a guy who almost made it to the border – and then he saw a town that matched the name of the Dutch town on his map. Well, it turned out there were two towns with the same name on either side of the border. He was in the German town, and got taken back to camp.

The grand escape of the title happened from Holzminden Camp and involved digging a long tunnel. It was a long, involved process, and we learn all about it in this book.

Usually I read nonfiction slowly, a chapter at a time, and break it up with fiction books in between. But this book was mesmerizing. I wanted to know how they would pull it off and which of these men would make it.

IReadYA.com
arthuralevinebooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/grand_escape.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 book sent by the publisher.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Attucks! by Phillip Hoose

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

Attucks!

Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team That Awakened a City

by Phillip Hoose

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018. 212 pages.
Starred Review
Review written November 14, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#6 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

I am not a fan of sports books. Ho hum. Who really cares?

So I was completely surprised to be mesmerized and pulled into this story of an all-black high school in Indianapolis that built a championship basketball program, despite discrimination.

Phillip Hoose puts a special note at the front of the book about an interview he did with Oscar Robertson in 1986 about basketball fever in Indiana.

One scrap from that conversation inspired the book you’re reading now.

“You know,” Oscar said, “when the Ku Klux Klan started our school, they really didn’t understand what they were doing.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“They did something they couldn’t foresee by making Attucks an all-black school. The city of Indianapolis integrated because we were winning. All the black guys, the really great players, went to Attucks. We were winning all those games, and the coaches didn’t like it. And then a lot of black kids started going to other schools . . .”

What could he be talking about? A high school in a major American city – in the North – started by the Ku Klux Klan? And a basketball team integrating that city?

Oscar wasn’t laughing.

Could it be true?

So Phillip Hoose is telling the story of winning basketball teams, building a championship basketball program, and one of the greatest high school basketball players ever – but he does all that against the backdrop of overcoming racism and the whole city of Indianapolis building pride in the championship team at the all-black high school.

There are spoilers in the note at the front. The author doesn’t hide that Oscar Robertson led the Attucks team to state championships in 1955 and 1956. But how they got there – That’s a story!

The Prologue actually begins before Oscar was even in high school – with the game where his big brother had an amazing game-winning shot with seven seconds left.

Then the main text goes back to the founding of Cristpus Attucks high school in 1927 – yes, it was started by the Klan in order to separate the black kids who had been moving to Indianapolis from the south. He carefully gives us several threads to follow, including how the basketball program developed as well as Oscar’s childhood, obsessed with basketball from an early age.

The first basketball coach at Attucks was concerned that his players not offend anyone – which doesn’t make for the toughest team. But even when they got an excellent coach, the larger white schools wouldn’t play against them, and they weren’t even allowed in the statewide tournament until 1942.

The author includes several seasons, including some with real heartbreaker games. He highlights many of their great players (not just Oscar, the Big O). It all builds to a breathtaking finish and a description of their undefeated season when they became state champions.

And I should probably stop saying that I don’t like sports books. This one was outstanding.

philliphoose.com
fiercereads.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/attucks.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 book sent by the publisher.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Reawakening Our Ancestors’ Lines, gathered and compiled by Angela Hovak Johnston

Monday, May 11th, 2020

Reawakening Our Ancestors’ Lines

Revitalizing Inuit Traditional Tattoing

gathered and compiled by Angela Hovak Johnston
with photography by Cora De Vos

Inhabit Media, Ontario, Canada, 2017. 70 pages.
Review written May 11, 2020, from a library book
2020 American Indian Youth Literature Young Adult Honor
Starred Review

I read this book because it won a 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor in the Young Adult category, and I’m glad I did.

This book tells the story of the Inuit Tattoo Revitalization Project, an effort begun by Angela Hovak Johnston to revive the traditional tattooing of the Inuit people. Here’s a small part of her explanation in the Introduction:

This eight-year project began with my personal journey to permanently ink myself with the ancient symbols that were worn by my Inuit ancestors. The last known Inuk woman in the Nunavut area with tattoos done the traditional way passed away in 2005; that is when my passion grew. Knowing she was the last inked Inuk woman, I strongly believed tattoos couldn’t become just another part of history that we only read about in books, so I pushed forward with my dream of having tattoos. I knew I had a role to play. It took me years of hard research and finding the right tattoo artist to do these markings on my face. Not giving up, in 2008, I finally had my first facial tattoos. Inuit traditional tattoos, almost lost as a result of missionaries and residential schools, have come back. While tattoos skip three generations in some families, through this project, we thankfully had the pleasure of inking a family of women who carried three generations of new tattoos.

This book documents a part of the project where Angela and her team met for five days in April 2016 at the Kugluktuk Heritage Visitor Centre in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, and gave traditional tattoos to the Inuit women who came.

The photographs by Cora De Vos, an Inuk photographer, make this book exceptional. Each participant gets a spread. On one side the woman explains the significance to her of the tattoos she received along with various pictures of receiving the tattoos or modeling the tattoos. On the opposite side, there’s a portrait of the woman with the finished tattoos, often in traditional Inuit clothing, and always looking beautiful and strong.

Each woman speaks for herself, which makes the text a little bit repetitive, since receiving the tattoos meant similar things to many of the women. But I did appreciate that all were given a voice and a moment to shine. All the women are truly beautiful and this project brings that out in such a lovely way.

The photos are so gorgeous, readers might be tempted to try to get similar tattoos for themselves, so there is an Author’s Note about cultural appropriation at the back – this project is going to focus on giving Inuit women the opportunity to receive the traditional tattoos first.

The book is full of hope and joy about Inuit women reclaiming their history and traditions. You can see their emotion in the photographs and hear the pride in their voices. This is a lovely thing for anyone of any ethnicity to witness, and I’m very glad I discovered this beautiful book.

inhabitmedia.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/reawakening_our_ancestors_lines.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 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 An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

for Young People

by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese

Beacon Press, 2019. 270 pages.
Review written April 28, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 American Indian Youth Literature Awards Young Adult Honor

I read this book because of the Honor it won at this year’s awards, and wow, it was an uncomfortable but eye-opening read. I’ve sometimes read adaptor Debbie Reese’s observations on her American Indians in Children’s Literature blog, and I’ve sometimes thought she was overreacting. But reading an entire book of United States history from the perspective of Native Americans – I hope that it helped me realize how biased my perspective was. It no longer seems like anything she has to say is overreacting.

It was an uncomfortable read. I like the version of history better that talks about the nobility of my “pioneer” ancestors, rather than about squatters who settled on land that didn’t belong to them.

Maybe I didn’t exactly like stories I’ve heard of Indians scalping innocent settlers, but I sure didn’t like to hear that the U. S. government paid hunters for every Indian they killed, and an easy way to prove their kills was to collect scalps. I sure didn’t like hearing that it was common to make souvenirs out of body parts of Native Americans slaughtered.

I recently read a book about the migration of wildebeests in Africa, the greatest land migration of animals on earth – now that the American buffalo herds have been decimated. In this book, I read about the systematic hunting of buffalo in an effort to also wipe out the Indigenous peoples who managed the herds and depended on them for their livelihood. A picture of a man on top of a mountain of buffalo skulls graphically illustrated this loss.

And the whole assumption that Indian lands were a wilderness not being used, available for anyone who wanted them, that assumption was shaken. When reading this book, I learned there was already a network of roads before the Europeans showed up, as well as sophisticated agricultural techniques, land management, and government.

When Europeans arrived on the continent, they often seemed unaware that many conditions that were useful to them were the result of Indigenous peoples’ stewardship of the land. Some early settlers remarked that in many places they could easily have driven carriages between the trees. Others commented about large clearings in the forests, some with well-tended gardens and cornfields. They did not seem to recognize that for thousands of years Native people had been making roads and clearing spaces to make trading, hunting, and agriculture easier. Willfully or not, they depicted the land as empty, devoid of “civilized” peoples – and theirs for the taking.

In the Introduction, we learn about the Doctrine of Discovery that influenced the first Europeans to come to this continent – and continued to influence the government of the United States.

In the late fifteenth century, as European explorers sailed to unfamiliar places, their actions and beliefs were guided by the Doctrine of Discovery – the idea that European nations could claim the foreign lands they “discovered.” The Doctrine of Discovery was laid out in a series of communications from the pope, leader of the Catholic Church, who was extremely influential in European politics at the time. It asserted that indigenous inhabitants lost their natural right to that land as soon as Europeans arrived and claimed it. People whose homelands were “discovered” were considered subjects of the Europeans and were expected to do what the “discoverers” wished. If they resisted, they were to be conquered by European military action. This enabled Columbus to claim the Taino people’s Caribbean home for Spain and to kidnap and enslave the Indigenous peoples. Similarly, the Pilgrims and the Puritans, the first groups from England to settle in what became the United States, believed they had a covenant with God to take the land. The Doctrine of Discovery influenced the policies of the young United States and directly affected the lives and the very existence of Native people. However, history textbooks for young people rarely invite students to question or think critically about that part of the US origin story.

“Free” land, with all its resources, was a magnet that attracted European settlers to the Americas. The word settler is used so frequently that most people do not recognize that it means more than just a person who settles down to live in a new place. Throughout history it has also meant a person who goes to live where, supposedly, no one has lived before. More often than not, “settlers” have gone to live somewhere that is already home to someone else. They are important to a nation – like Britain or Spain – when it plans to set up colonies in an area. Colonization is the process of taking political and economic control of a region, and colonizers are the people or institutions that are part of that process: the military, business interests, people who go there to live, and sometimes representatives of religious institutions. Because of their key role in establishing and populating a colony, settlers may be called colonizers. Settlers who came to what is currently known as North America wanted land for homes, farms, and businesses that they could not have in their home countries. Settlers who used the labor of enslaved Africans wanted limitless land for growing cash crops. Under their nations’ flags, those Europeans fought Native people for control of that land.

The Introduction also explains the meaning of such terms as genocide and white supremacy. Throughout the book, we see where the official policy toward the Indigenous people of America was indeed genocide. We see again and again treaties made with Indians that are officially the law of the land (designated so in the United States Constitution), but then are changed without ever consulting Native Americans.

I’m not sure I’m convincing anyone to read this book. It’s certainly not comfortable reading. But it is eye-opening and got me listening to a perspective that I don’t think I’d ever fully considered before. I’m not proud that this is new information, but I’m glad I finally tackled that new information. I’m putting the adult version of the book on hold, and I’m glad that a young people’s edition exists, as maybe this will encourage teens to consider these things at a much earlier point in their lives than I have.

beacon.org
americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/indigenous_peoples_history.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 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?