Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Review of A Game of Birds and Wolves, by Simon Parkin

Monday, July 6th, 2020

A Game of Birds and Wolves

The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II

by Simon Parkin

Little, Brown and Company, 2020. 310 pages.
Review written April 23, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

A Game of Birds and Wolves is the story of how Great Britain used an elaborate war game to strategize and win the war against the U-boats during World War II.

I hadn’t realized how important the Battle of the Atlantic was. Britain came perilously close to starving. During World War II, 2,603 merchant ships and 175 naval vessels escorting merchant convoys were sunk. More than 30,000 merchant seamen and more than 6,000 Royal Navy sailors died in the Atlantic, mostly because of attacks from U-boats.

The subtitle is a little bit misleading. This book is mostly about the man, Gilbert Roberts, who developed the giant board game and taught it to British naval officers. But his staff, the people running the game, were indeed women, officers in the Wrens, the branch of the British navy for women.

I’ve been reading a lot of children’s nonfiction, so I did get impatient with the extreme level of detail in this book. We hear about the establishment of the Wrens, about specific ships getting sunk in the Atlantic, about the glamorous lives on shore of U-boat commanders, and how Gilbert Roberts had been rejected by the navy. It seemed like the first half of the book was establishing the many, many different characters and the situations for both the Germans and the British.

But the tension does heighten as the WATU – the Western Approaches Tactical Unit – begins deducing the strategies that U-boats were using and developing ways to combat it. At the same time, we read about an admiral asking for more U-boats and finally getting them. It all builds to a dramatic battle where one of the Wrens charting the position of the ships in a giant sea battle is aware that her fiancé is in the thick of things.

As a gamer, it made sense to me that playing strategy games helps admirals devise effective strategies in real-life scenarios. They developed a 6-day course and captains coming in from time at sea would go through the course. They simulated visibility at sea by putting the captains behind a canvas screen and plotting the positions of small models of ships on the linoleum floor. They used green chalk for the U-boats, which couldn’t be seen from an angle. They made a dramatic simulation before computers could be used to do it.

The Wrens on staff were responsible for moving the models and marking the courses of the ships and U-boats involved. I enjoyed the scene where they had a young Wren play a scenario against a high ranking naval officer. She was experienced with the game and soundly defeated him.

It all gives an interesting side of World War II that I’d never heard about before.

simonparkin.com
littlebrown.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 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 Strong Voices, introductions by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

Strong Voices

Fifteen American Speeches Worth Knowing

Introductions by Tonya Bolden
illustrated by Eric Velasquez
foreword by Cokie Roberts

Harper, 2020. 128 pages.
Review written April 9, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

This is a book of great American speeches, so it is by its very nature inspiring. I was familiar with more than half of them, but I’m happy to have made a new acquaintance with the rest, and this is a fine collection covering the scope of the history of our nation and the important issues we’ve faced.

Tonya Bolden has written a detailed introduction to each piece and the speaker, and the speeches are spread out nicely on the pages, beginning with a spread that includes a painting of the speaker. The attractive format of the book appropriately showcases the words.

The speeches chosen place an emphasis on rights and freedoms, but also on inspirational challenges. It begins with Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” in 1775, and finishes with Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” in 1995.

In between, of course we’ve got Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself,” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” but we’ve also got a speech in 1805 by the Native American Red Jacket, “We Never Quarrel About Religion,” Lou Gehrig’s “Farewell to Baseball,” and Fannie Lou Hamer’s “I Question America.”

There’s a Timeline at the back. At first I liked how it places all the speeches on the line with historical events marked as well, going from the Boston Tea Party in 1773 to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech in 1995. I also liked that it has a series of shaded dots next to the line for long time periods – various wars, as well as the Jim Crow laws. But then I noticed that the spacing between things on the timeline isn’t proportional at all. World War I, from 1914-1918, takes up five shaded dots, for example, but World War II, 1939-1945, takes up thirteen shaded dots. But the Vietnam War, 1955-1975, takes up 93 shaded dots. So it’s mainly to lay out the events and speeches in order, and they’re spaced out to read clearly, but not so much to reflect how long different things lasted. So the timeline makes it look like the speeches were spaced out evenly throughout American history, but actually six of the fifteen happened after 1950.

Reading this book made me want to stand with these Americans and continue working for freedom and justice! I hope it will inspire children and teens the same way.

tonyaboldenbooks.com
ericvelasquez.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 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 Lights! Camera! Alice! by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Simona Ciraolo

Saturday, May 30th, 2020

Lights! Camera! Alice!

The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker

by Mara Rockliff
illustrated by Simona Ciraolo

Chronicle Books, 2018. 56 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#4 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

Who knew? One of the first people to create movies was a woman! This is from the note at the back:

Alice Guy-Blaché (1875-1968) was the first woman in the world to make movies – and one of the very first moviemakers, period. Long before Hollywood turned from silent films to “talkies,” Alice directed the first sound films ever made. She was also one of the first to film made-up stories instead of real events. (Some historians say she was the first, while others credit the Lumière brothers or Georges Méliès.) Between 1896 and 1920, Alice made over seven hundred movies, and her studio, Solax, produced hundreds more. She truly earned the title “Mother of the Movies.”

This picture book biography dramatizes Alice’s life without enormous amount of text and plenty of visuals. She grew up in France and got her start there, but came to America and made movies outside New York City. But the rise of Hollywood and the start of World War I meant her studio went out of business.

Each “episode” of her life has a “title card” like the old-fashioned title cards used in silent movies, and it turns out that each one is the title of a movie Alice made, with titles like “A Terrible Catastrophe,” “The Great Discovery,” “Starting Something,” “Imagination,” and “Her Great Adventure.”

There’s lots of back matter, and I took the time to look up one of Alice’s short films on YouTube. I was quite taken with this amazing woman I’d never heard of before – who changed the world.

mararockliff.com
chroniclekids.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 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 Pass Go and Collect $200, by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Steven Salerno

Friday, May 15th, 2020

Pass Go and Collect $200

The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented

by Tanya Lee Stone
illustrated by Steven Salerno

Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt and Company), 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 23, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

Everybody knows that Charles Darrow invented the game of Monopoly during the Great Depression and made lots of money, right? It’s even explained in the rules.

Turns out, that’s not actually the truth – he took credit – and got money – from a woman’s invention!

Okay, he did improve things. He did make his own boards and add a unique look to the game. But the basic idea of “The Landlord’s Game” was invented by a woman named Lizzie Magie – and she even filed some patents to prove it!

This picture book tells the real story and shows the early versions of Lizzie’s game. Parker Brothers Game Company didn’t buy her popular game, but her friends enjoyed the game and made their own changes and put names on the properties based on the cities where they lived.

The most lasting changes happened in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1930. Ruth Hoskins, a young Quaker teacher, and her friends renamed most of the properties after Atlantic City streets and neighborhoods. They were inspired by locations such as St. Charles Place, Ventnor Avenue, and Boardwalk. Someone else came up with color sequences and dividing the properties into groups of three. Atlantic City players added hotels to the game as well.

This was the set that Charles Darrow played.

Like many others, Charles Darrow began making his own boards to play the game. He even added some improvements. But it was the Great Depression, and instead of giving away the games he was making, he sold copies to his friends.

He also marketed the game and got sets he’d made stocked in department stores for Christmas. After they heard what a hit he was creating, Parker Brothers was finally willing to purchase the game from him.

To protect anyone from copying it, Parker Brothers needed a patent. Can you guess what happened next? Parker Brothers discovered Lizzie Magie’s patent. George Parker then remembered Lizzie trying to sell him her game years before. After having made an earlier claim that Monopoly was his brainchild, Charles Darrow admitted he had worked from an existing game, but he didn’t know who created it.

They ended up buying Lizzie’s patent for $500 (the equivalent of almost $9,000 today) for the rights to publish the game. And then the company went on to make millions from it.

This is how the main text of the book finishes up, leaving the reader to decide:

Today, we know that without Lizzie Magie, there likely never would have been a game called Monopoly for us to play and love. Her initial idea is the heart of the game. And without Charles Darrow, Monopoly might not have become America’s favorite board game. All the other folks who added their ideas along the way helped make it great, too.

So who wins in this story? What do you think? Did Lizzie Magie make a wrong move? Did Charles Darrow? How would you have played it? In any case, there is no doubt that millions of people all over the world adore Monopoly.

How nice to have a book that sets the record straight!

tanyastone.com
stevensalerno.com
mackids.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 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 The Faithful Spy, by John Hendrix

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

The Faithful Spy

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

by John Hendrix

Amulet Books, 2018. 176 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 1, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher
2019 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award Finalist
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#2 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

This book isn’t quite a graphic novel – but every page is covered with art and the text is arranged on the art. Some pages do have panels and/or speech bubbles, but most just have an arrangement of text. There are many diagrams and some maps, and every spread has some kind of graphic element.

The story is true. This book tells about a German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and his spiritual journey, which eventually led him to get involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

The book also explains the rise of Hitler in an easy-to-understand way. In fact, I feel like I understand it much better than before. I hadn’t put it all together and understood that he took power completely legally and how he pulled that off.

A really striking part was when Dietrich went to seminary in New York City in 1930 and became close friends with a black man. He did some traveling in the South and was appalled when he saw how Blacks were treated, even by pastors. This part was chilling:

But there was something oddly familiar about what he was seeing. It reminded him of the rhetoric of that young nationalist upstart, Adolf Hitler, and his Nazi party, who had tried to seize control of the government a few years earlier.

It was, of course, nothing to the level of what was happening in the United States.

To think that something like this kind of repulsive segregation could come to his Germany was impossible.

But of course it did come, and Dietrich became part of the “Confessing Church” – the first public religious opposition to Nazi policies of discrimination. He even opened his own rebel seminary, which operated under the radar as long as they could.

Another striking moment in the book was that Dietrich and a friend went to visit Martin Niemöller just minutes after he’d been arrested – and were taken into custody, but released that night. This is striking because Martin Niemöller was the one who wrote:

First they came for the socialists,
and I did not speak out –
because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I did not speak out –
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak out –
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak for me.

Honestly, this book was hard to read in September 2018! It wrestles with how a Christian should act under a corrupt regime. What should they do? How can they simply stand by? Is speaking up enough? What if speaking up brings danger to your loved ones and relatives?

Dietrich had to really wrestle with himself to join the group (composed of some relatives high in the military) who were plotting Hitler’s assassination. They made three attempts – and were very close to success each time. And it feels strange as you’re reading this book to wish that the assassinations had worked!

Dietrich also was a spy. He was supposedly a spy for the Abwehr, but was actually working as a double agent, trying to get some foreign support for the group planning the assassination.

There were times during the war and just before the war when Dietrich had a chance to get out of Germany, including a chance to escape after he’d been arrested and was in prison. But for the sake of his country, which needed people working to do what’s right, and for the sake of his loved ones, who would be sure to suffer if he escaped, Dietrich stayed until the end. He was killed just before the end of the war.

It’s all very dramatic and thought-provoking and laid out in a visual way, making it easier to understand.

Because of the heavy nature of the topic, this is probably more for high school students. But since it’s in such a visual format, some middle school kids will want to read it, too. I highly recommend it for adults as well. I feel much more knowledgeable about World War II and the rise of Hitler than I did before I read it. And I’m thinking hard about what a Christian should do when they see their government pursuing evil policies, infiltrating the church, and making people suffer.

johnhendrix.com
amuletbooks.com

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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.

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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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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.

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Review of Fry Bread, written by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Friday, April 17th, 2020

Fry Bread

A Native American Family Story

written by Kevin Noble Maillard
illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Roaring Brook Press, 2019. 44 pages.
Starred Review
Review written February 11, 2020, from a library book
2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Winner
2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor

Since this book won the Sibert Award, I’m going to list it on my Children’s Nonfiction page, but this book is really two things – a picture book with simple text and an informational book when you read the detailed eleven-page Author’s Note (with a recipe) at the back.

The picture book part is lovely. These spreads all begin with a caption “Fry Bread Is….” Fry bread is food, shape, sound, color, flavor, time, art, history place, nation, everything, us, and you. The pictures show a loving and joyful intergenerational group of American Indians making fry bread together. They’re a diverse group in appearance and skin tone, and have parents and elders guiding them and telling stories.

The pictures are joyful and evocative. I like the picture on the page “Fry Bread Is Sound” where you can almost hear the dough frying. The words are simple and could work in a story time.

Fry Bread Is Time

On weekdays and holidays
Supper or dinner
Powwows and festivals
Moments together
With family and friends

The Author’s Note brings it all together and explains the background and significance of the carefully-chosen details in the illustrations.

He begins the Author’s Note like this:

The story of fry bread is the story of American Indians: embracing community and culture in the face of opposition. It is commonly believed that the Navajo (Diné) were the first to make fry bread over 150 years ago. The basic ingredients may appear simple – flour, salt, water, and yeast – yet the history behind this community anchor is anything but.

Despite colonial efforts throughout American history to weaken tribal governments, fracture Indigenous communities, and forcibly take ancestral lands, Indian culture has proven resilient. In strange, unfamiliar lands, exiled Natives strived to retain those old traditions and they created new ones, especially for food. Survival meant adapting, and those ancestors, isolated from familiar meats, fruits, and vegetables, got by with what they had. Without the familiar indigenous crop of corn, historic farming practices and dietary traditions drastically changed.

Many tribes trace the origin of modern Indian cooking to this government-caused deprivation. From federal rations of powdered, canned, and other dry, government-issued foods, fry bread was born.

Then the note goes page by page, and along the way we learn that different tribes and different regions have different recipes and different traditions for fry bread.

Fry bread reflects the vast, deep diversity of Indian Country and there is no single way of making this special food. But it brings diverse Indigenous communities together through a shared culinary and cultural experience. That’s the beauty of fry bread.

There’s so much in this picture book. A story to enjoy combined with so much to learn about and celebrate.

kevinmaillard.com
juanamartinezneal.com
mackids.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 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 Resurrecting Easter, by John Dominic Crossan & Sarah Sexton Crossan

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

Resurrecting Easter

How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision

by John Dominic Crossan & Sarah Sexton Crossan

HarperOne, 2018. 213 pages.
Review written March 3, 2020, from a library book

I’d originally checked this book out and tried to read it in 2018, but eventually gave up. (I was busy with Newbery reading, anyway.) But after Richard Rohr referred to it in The Universal Christ, I checked it out again and this time made a concentrated effort to read the whole thing.

It’s a very academic work, so that’s why it’s hard to get through, but becomes fascinating the more you pay attention to what the authors are saying. It’s a book about early Christian art portraying the Resurrection of Christ – and how it developed in two different directions.

But instead of just talking about it, the authors show you exactly what they’re talking about. They have traveled the world to collect photos of the art, and they’re on display in color on the large pages of this beautiful book. The authors also tell about their travels to old churches with mosaics and to monasteries with old manuscripts. We come to understand the timeline as they carefully date each picture and show how the iconography progressed.

As they lay out the two categories of images of Christ’s Resurrection – Individual and Universal, they also show us the different types within each category, and show how the types developed.

Here’s how the authors explain the Universal Resurrection Tradition in their Prologue:

Instead of arising alone, Christ raises all of humanity with him. He reaches out toward Adam and Eve, the biblical parents and symbols for humanity itself, raises them up, and leads them out of Hades, the prison of death.

This is presented in contrast to the Individual Resurrection Tradition, where Christ is pictured rising alone in splendor and triumph. The authors give two reasons for spending more time on the Universal Resurrection Tradition:

One is that the individual version becomes, by the second millennium, the official Easter icon of Western Christianity. As such, it is the one we know best as Westerners, and we may even presume, mistaking part for whole, that it is the only one present throughout Christian history. In this book, therefore, the emphasis is on universal over individual iconography for Christ’s Resurrection as remedial education for Western Christians. During the last fifteen years, it has been precisely that for us.

Another – and much more important – reason for emphasizing the universal resurrection tradition is based on these two final questions as the fourth and fifth themes of Resurrecting Easter. We emphasize them here and now, and we ask you to keep them in mind throughout the book, but we will only answer them at the very end of the book.

First, is the individual or universal vision in closer continuity with the New Testament’s understanding of “Resurrection” and in better conformity with the Gospels’ conception of Easter? For example, when Paul speaks of Christ’s Resurrection, is he imagining it as individual or universal? Or again, when 1 Corinthians 15:20 and Matthew 27:52 refer, using the same Greek term, to the resurrection of “those who have fallen asleep,” who exactly are those sleepers?

Second, whether you understand Christ’s Resurrection as a historical event or a theological interpretation; whether you accept it as myth or parable, symbol or metaphor; and whether you accept it religiously or reject it absolutely, what does it claim and what does that mean? How can someone or something that happens once at a certain time and in a specific place influence or change the whole human race – not just forward to the end of time, but backward to its start?…

What does it mean, whether or not it is credible, to depict Christ’s Resurrection as humanity’s liberation from death – all humanity, past, present and future?

So that gives you a feel for what’s explored in this book. Besides being a beautifully photographed book, it’s a major work of scholarship, gathering images made of Christ’s Resurrection from as early as the 700s, and placing them in chronological order and historical context.

As a universalist myself, I wouldn’t have minded if the authors had drawn more conclusions. But I personally took comfort in this confirmation that my belief that Christ redeemed all of humanity and “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” — that this belief is bolstered by Christian art created centuries ago. Beautiful and inspiring.

ResurrectingEasterBook.com
harperone.com

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Review of This Promise of Change, by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

This Promise of Change

One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality

by Jo Ann Allen Boyce
and Debbie Levy

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 310 pages.
Review written January 20, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor

Jo Ann Allen was one of the “Clinton 12” – black children who went to the white high school in Clinton, Tennessee, in 1956 when the Supreme Court so ordered. It started out calmly enough, but things got worse and worse.

The main story is told in Jo Ann’s voice, in verse. Many are free verse, but many are also in rhyme, using poetic forms. There’s an immediacy about the poems, and we get the story of how it felt to be Jo Ann in the middle of such big events. I wouldn’t have necessarily liked an author making this up, but I like that Jo Ann herself was an author of this book, so we can trust that she got the feelings right.

Between the poems are headlines from all over the country talking about the events that Jo Ann was part of. There are photos at the back of Jo Ann and her classmates.

Because this book is in verse, it’s all the more readable, and helps the reader understand how it felt to be there.

I think my favorite poem in the book is this one toward the end:

A REAL VICTORY
(THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6)

The day before yesterday,
the same day
we went down the Hill with Reverend Turner
and all that happened
happened,
there was also an election.
Not an election for president
(that was in November; Ike won again)
but for local officials
like the mayor and the city aldermen.

The results are in and

I don’t know if people voted
after hearing what happened at school.
I don’t know if people felt
things have gone too far.

I don’t know if A led to B but –
every single
white supremacist
segregationist
candidate
lost.

Before all this,
before all that happened
happened,
I thought there was nothing I could do
about segregation.
I’m just a girl, I thought,
one girl who tries
to look at the good side of things,
because there’s nothing I can do
about the bad.
I’m still that good-side-looking girl,
but now when I see the bad, I’ll think –
I’ll know
there’s something I can do about it.

debbielevybooks.com
Bloomsbury.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 Infinite Hope, by Ashley Bryan

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Infinite Hope

A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace

by Ashley Bryan

A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book (Atheneum Books for Young Readers), 2019. 108 pages.
Review written January 20, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
A 2020 Capitol Choices selection
2020 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor

Infinite Hope is visually stunning. The extra large pages are filled with sketches, copies of letters, and photographs, all from the author’s service during World War II.

I was relieved when I realized that all the handwritten letters are transcribed into print. There’s not a whole lot to read on each page, but there is so much to see.

Ashley Bryan is a distinguished Black writer and illustrator of children’s books. World War II came as he was getting started in art, having won a scholarship to art college. His art career was interrupted when he was drafted to serve in World War II, but he spent the whole war sketching what he saw. This book tells his story, illustrated by the actual sketches.

It’s a story of discrimination. Ashley Bryan wasn’t used to discrimination, having grown up in the Bronx, but that was how things worked in the U. S. Army. When they got to Europe, though, they found something different.

The Scottish people were warm and welcoming to all of us Black GIs. For some of the Southern men in our company, this was their very first experience of open, friendly encounters with white people. The Scots offered us unquestioned acceptance as equals, a level of immediate friendship that we rarely received at home.

This did not please our white company officers, who were determined to enforce the US Army policy of segregation. Their general attitude that Blacks were beneath them – that “we do not treat them like that!” prevailed. So they began to circulate terribly demeaning stories about Black people, saying that we would hurt them, that we had tails that would come out at night. Their goal was to make the Scottish people fearful so that they would avoid us.

To the officers’ great annoyance, their efforts did not change the way the people of Glasgow viewed us. The Scots did not have the institution of racism – they weren’t socialized against Blacks. Despite the officers’ attempts to sway them, the Scots trusted our actions and friendliness rather than the officers’ words.

Ashley Bryan even got permission to take classes at the Glasgow School of Art.

The fellows in my company never held it against me that I was free to leave camp to go to the art school, even when they were restricted. I had always shared my artwork with them and had helped some of them write letters to loved ones at home, so they were glad for me, glad that I had a chance to get better at something I loved. For while they were playing cards or dice, I was drawing, drawing, drawing. They also took it as my way of going over the head of our company officer, and cheered me on.

He tells about taking part in D-Day and its aftermath – and throughout it all, he kept on sketching. He stored all those sketches after the war (having regularly mailed batches back to his parents), and now was finally ready to pull them out. I like when he talks about preparing the sketches for an exhibit and turning some into paintings.

Fifty years ago, those paintings would have been dark – grays and blacks. But in really looking at those sketches now, I saw a beauty there – the beauty of the shared human experience. And I was able to face these sketches, face these memories and emotions, and turn them into the special world created by the men. I think of the men who were in the unit with me – I had such respect for what they could do, things I was so inept at. I remember their generosity toward me. I can never give them more than they gave me, so I would paint them in full color, filled with the vibrancy and life I had put into my garden paintings. I was ready.

I chose to paint from sketches of the soldiers playing cards or dice. This was a world they created, sheltered from the segregation and racism they endured. Sheltered from all sorts of war. I look now at the color, open form, and rhythm of those paintings. To me, they seem to have come out of my Islesford garden paintings rather than the drab colors of Omaha Beach! They have that surprise of discovery and invention that comes from seeing a well-known theme anew. They open the door to many other unexpected possibilities – because what is life, if not a voyage of endless discovery.

And so Ashley Bryan takes his sketches and inside story of World War II and makes it a thing of beauty and hope.

ashleybryancenter.org
simonandschuster.com/kids

Buy from Amazon.com

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