Review of The Art of Miss Chew, by Patricia Polacco

The Art of Miss Chew

by Patricia Polacco

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012. 42 pages.
Starred Review

Patricia Polacco tells a personal story here about the art teacher who got her started as an artist.

It begins with another teacher, Mr. Donovan, who noticed that if he gave Patricia extra time, she could pass her tests with no trouble. He also sees that she’s a natural artist, and helps her get in with the high school art teacher, Miss Chew.

Miss Chew taught Patricia how to paint and how to see. She noticed that Patricia was seeing patterns instead of letters and got her in with a reading specialist. But especially, she valued Patricia’s art and gave her a featured place in the art show, the only non-high school student in the show.

This book is best read to be appreciated. I’ve long loved Patricia Polacco’s art, but the paintings in this book feel more warm and loving than ever. In the paintings themselves, you can clearly see how deeply grateful she still feels toward those two remarkable teachers. There’s also a sparkle in the pictures of young Trisha as she discovers true joy in making art.

A remarkable and memorable book.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely 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.

Review of A Walk in London, by Salvatore Rubbino

A Walk in London

by Salvatore Rubbino

Candlewick Press, 2011. 32 pages.

I wish this book had been written when we still lived in Europe! It would have been absolutely perfect to read to our boys (Let’s see, they were 5 and 11 years old) for our first family trip to London.

As a matter of fact, I would have liked to read it myself before my own trips to London. It gives a nice overview, with plenty of details, and I learned much about the city I didn’t know, even having been there.

The story is a little girl and her mother sight-seeing in London. They mostly talk about what they’re doing and what they’re seeing, like the girl running to climb on the lions in Trafalgar Square.

The largest text follows the girl and her mother, and smaller print tells about details in the background. There are lots of things to look at on every page, and the back cover asks if you spotted the Royal Family’s car, and gives the page numbers.

The pictures remind me a little bit of the illustrations of Paris in Madeleine, although these are more precise and more colorful. They definitely evoke London, without being photorealistic. You can tell what you’re seeing. There’s an interesting sense of depth, as it looks like he cut out sketches of people and things and placed them on top of one another, also using size to show distance.

If I ever get a chance to go to London again (and I definitely hope to do so), I will read this book before going. Eyewitness guides are fantastic, but this book a lovely way to imagine yourself taking a walk in London, and learning about the city while you’re at it.

This is not a book for group storytimes, but it would be a lovely book to share with one child at a time, taking time to catch all the details and, best of all, prepare them for a trip to London.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Charles and Emma, by Deborah Heiligman

Charles and Emma

The Darwins’ Leap of Faith

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2009. 268 pages.
Starred Review
2010 Winner YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award
2009 National Book Award Finalist
2010 Printz Honor Book

Okay, when this book first came out, I wasn’t too interested. I grew up in a conservative Christian family, and didn’t exactly see Charles Darwin as a hero. Then the book kept winning awards, and got strong comments from the judges in School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books. I thought I really should read it. Then I met Deborah Heiligman at the 2010 ALA Annual Conference. When I found out why she wrote it, I knew I had to read it. I purchased a book and got her signature. However, it still took me until this year, when I was taking a class on the Printz Award, to finally get it read.

Deborah explains in the Acknowledgments at the back of the book how her husband got her interested in the story that would become this book:

“Jon’s been writing about science and evolution since we met. I had just graduated from college with a major in religious studies. We started talking immediately — about science and religion and writing and pretty much everything else — and we haven’t stopped since.

“One day, about seven years ago, Jon said to me, ‘You know, Charles Darwin’s wife was religious.’ I looked at him. He continued, ‘And they loved each other very much. She was afraid he would go to hell and they wouldn’t be together for eternity.'”

Evolution is supposed to be opposed to Christianity, right? So how is it possible that Charles Darwin’s wife was deeply religious — and yet the two were very much in love.

Deborah Heiligman tells the love story of Charles and Emma Darwin beautifully. It’s clearly a work of nonfiction — she relies heavily on letters and journals and notebooks written by the two of them — but it reads like a novel. Of course, in a story book, the marriage probably wouldn’t have worked. I found it especially interesting that Charles’ father advised him not to tell his new wife about his doubts about religion. But Charles couldn’t hide them from her. And she loved him anyway and even edited his books, including The Origin of Species.

This book tells the story of how Charles Darwin’s scientific theories developed, but it especially shows us the man who loved his wife and children very much. And whatever your views, you can’t help but fall for the man presented here, and the wife who provided exactly what he needed to be such a distinguished scientist.

This book is wonderfully presented. I like the quotations at the head of each chapter and the way Deborah Heiligman has arranged the facts in such an interesting manner. This book presents a compelling story that is all the more amazing because it’s true.

“You will be forming theories about me & if I am cross or out of temper you will only consider ‘What does that prove.’ Which will be a very grand & philosophical way of considering it. — Emma to Charles, January 23, 1839”

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 my own book, purchased at ALA Annual Conference and signed by the author.

Review of Heart and Soul, by Kadir Nelson

Heart and Soul

The Story of America and African Americans

by Kadir Nelson

Balzer & Bray, 2011. 108 pages.
2012 Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner
2012 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
2012 Battle of the Kids’ Books Contender
Starred Review

Kadir Nelson’s paintings, as usual, are stunningly beautiful in this book. His use of light makes the people seem warm and alive.

In this book, he takes the voice of an old woman whose family has been in America from the start. She talks about the slaves who fought in the Revolutionary War. Then she talks about her grandfather, Pap, who was born in Africa, captured in 1850 when he was only six years old, and brought to America. She traces all the changes Pap saw — The Civil War, Reconstruction, moving West, the Great Migration, and through the Depression and the Second World War. She talks about the Civil Rights Movement as she saw it herself, and finishes up with an Epilogue that includes these paragraphs:

“Forty-five years after Dr. King spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I marched my old legs to the polls along with millions of other Americans to vote in an historic election. It was the first time that an African American — Barack Obama — had won the Democratic nomination and appeared on the national ballot for president of the United States. As I cast my vote, I thought about my grandfather Pap, who didn’t live to see this moment, and my three children and two brothers, who did; I thought about my mother and father, and my aunts and uncles; I thought about Abe Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman; I thought about presidents Kennedy and Johnson, Dr. King, Thurgood Marshall, the Freedom Riders, the marchers, and all the people who lived and died so that I might walk into this booth and cast my vote. I thought about them all and smiled; and as I walked away, I closed my eyes and said, ‘Thank you.’

“Our centuries-long struggle for freedom and equal rights had helped make the American promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness a reality for all Americans. We have come a mighty long way, honey, and we still have a good ways to go, but that promise and the right to fight for it is worth every ounce of its weight in gold. It is our nation’s heart and soul.”

The words alone of this book make a grand, sweeping story of African-American contributions to American life, but combined with the paintings, this book has majesty.

Kadir Nelson’s art continues to be breathtaking. He shows you the dignity and beauty of his subjects.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Bootleg, by Karen Blumenthal


Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition

by Karen Blumenthal

Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2011. 154 pages.
Starred Review
2012 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist

Before I read this book, I thought I knew about Prohibition. This book opened my eyes to how much I didn’t know. While keeping the story moving, the author shows us all the things that led up to Prohibition, how it worked out and didn’t work out, and what led to its repeal. She also talks about after effects.

I had no idea how, when our country was founded, rum was even used to pay wages. Even the Puritans were fond of it! (Who would have thought?) The Continental Army got a daily ration of hard liquor.

“In the years between 1800 and 1830, Americans drank more hard liquor than at any other time in their history, each imbibing on average roughly nine gallons a year, or about four gallons of pure alcohol, about twice the level of the previous generation. Beer and wine still had a place at the table, but less so than before.

“With more hard drink available, the number of taverns and tippling houses multiplied, as did seedier dramshops and gin houses. Not surprising given the amounts ingested, drunkenness also increased and with it, hardships for families affected by a father’s drinking.”

So in the 1830s, the temperance movement began to grow. She writes about Carrie Nation, who attacked saloons with an ax. There is a picture of a boy carrying a beer pail home and another of several young children sitting on barrels, drinking and smoking. I understand better now why the prohibitionists got so worked up.

Karen Blumenthal also explains the political situation that made those against Prohibition think the amendment would never get ratified — so they didn’t put nearly the energy into the campaign that the Prohibitionists did.

But then, after Prohibition passed, she outlines all the ways people got around the law, even as high up as the White House. She talks about law enforcement efforts and non-efforts, and tells the story of Al Capone.

Particularly interesting is her final chapter, “Success or Failure?” She shows us that this is a complex question.

“The men who helped launch the prohibition era and the one who filled it with machine-gun fire left a complex legacy. On the surface, an amendment that was passed and then repealed must have been a colossal failure, an embarrassing splotch in America’s history.

“But prohibition, short-lived though it was, was actually successful in some significant ways. The number of arrests for drunkenness and alcohol-related diseases, like cirrhosis of the liver, fell dramatically. The total consumption of alcohol slid to the lowest level in the nation’s history, especially during World War I and the first few years under the Eighteenth Amendment. Although drinking crept back up in the later 1920s and early 1930s, the amount of alcohol consumed per person each year actually remained fairly low for decades, and didn’t return to pre-prohibition levels until the 1970s, more than fifty years after prohibition took effect.

“In the course of nearly fourteen years of actual prohibition, aided by technology and other developments, Americans became more educated, more urban, and enjoyed far more entertainment. Radios and radio programs became widely available, and almost half the nation became avid listeners. Movie theater attendance doubled after films began to talk in 1926. With one car for every five people, more families headed for national forests and parks. The number of golf courses increased sevenfold. Saloons, the dirty and dangerous blight on the urban landscape, all but disappeared. Even young people had better things to do than hang out in a bar. . . .

“Where prohibition failed most, perhaps, was on a more personal level. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse remain significant social problems, affecting more than 17 million American adults and their families. Today’s problem of persistent homelessness, often linked to substance abuse and mental illnesses, has the same roots as the problem of drunkenness in the nineteenth century. Parents still worry about protecting their children, especially when government statistics show that an estimated 5,000 young people under the age of twenty-one die each year from alcohol-related car crashes or injuries.”

Her final summing up says it well:

“Today, each of us is accountable for our own behavior, and adult drinking is a matter of choice and personal responsibility. The days of outright prohibition are gone and likely will never return. But the powerful experience of prohibition continues to color our laws, our debates, and our personal lives. And the problems that brought us the Eighteenth Amendment — the pain that substance abuse inflicts on families, the devastation of alcoholism, and the impact of drinking on young people — remain a challenge to current and future generations.”

So in this book you’ve got an even-handed look at Prohibition that also manages to be gripping and fascinating. It’s written for children and young adults, but I think most adults will also find themselves learning a lot from this book.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 I received at the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Awards Reception and had signed by the author.

Review of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Harper, 2011. 256 pages.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana tells the story Kamila Sidiqi and how she kept her family of sisters — and many of their neighbors — going when the Taliban came.

Kamila got her teaching certificate in 1996, just before the Taliban came. She’d gone to classes despite the war. But with the Taliban in charge, she couldn’t teach. Her father and oldest brother had to leave Kabul, for fear of getting targeted by the Taliban. She and her sisters had to stay inside, and could only leave the house in full chadri with a male relative escort. The situation in Kabul got worse and worse.

“This is what I have to figure out, Kamila thought to herself. I need to find something I can do at home, behind closed doors. I need to find something that people need, something useful that they’ll want to buy. She knew she had very few options. Only basic necessities mattered now; no one had money for anything else. Teaching school might be an option, but it was unlikely to earn her enough money, since most families still kept their girls at home out of fear for their safety. And she certainly didn’t want her income to depend on an improvement in the security situation.

“Kamila spent long days thinking about her options, considering which skills she could learn quickly that would also bring in enough afghani to make a difference for her family. And then it came to her, inspired by her older sister Malika, who, along with being a great teacher, had over many years developed into a talented — and sought-after — seamstress. Women from her neighborhood in Karteh Parwan loved her work so much that Malika’s tailoring income now earned her almost as much as her teacher’s salary. That’s it, Kamila thought. I’ll become a seamstress.

“There were many positives: she could do the work in her living room, her sisters could help, and, most important of all, she had seen for herself at Lycee Myriam that the market for clothing remained strong. Even with the Taliban in power and the economy collapsing, women would still need simple dresses. As long as she kept quiet and didn’t attract unnecessary attention, the risks should be manageable.

“Kamila faced just one major obstacle: she had no idea how to sew.”

This book tells the compelling story of how Kamila faced that, and many other obstacles that were by no means minor, and built a thriving business that even helped other neighboring families without men in charge.

I like the author’s summary at the end of why Kamila’s story is so important:

“Brave young women commit heroic acts every day, with no one bearing witness. This was a chance to even the ledger, to share one small story that made the difference between starvation and survival for the families whose lives it changed. I wanted to pull the curtain back for readers on a place foreigners know more for its rocket attacks and roadside bombs than its countless quiet feats of courage. And to introduce them to the young women like Kamila Sidiqi who will go on. No matter what.”

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Radioactive, by Lauren Redness


Marie & Pierre Curie

A Tale of Love and Fallout

by Lauren Redniss

!t Books (HarperCollins), 2011. 205 pages.
Starred Review

This book is amazing, and like no book I’ve ever read before. It’s a biography, a record of love and scientific discovery, but it’s also a work of art.

There are striking images on almost every page. The artist used cyanotype printing, which she explains in a note at the back.

“Using this process to create the images in this book made sense to me for a number of reasons. First, the negative of an image gives an impression of an internal light, a sense of glowing that I felt captured what Marie Curie called radium’s ‘spontaneous luminosity.’ Indeed, the light that radium emits is a cyan-like, faint blue. Second, because photographic imaging was central to the discovery both of X-rays and of radioactivity, it seemed fitting to use a process based on the idea of exposure. Last, I later learned, Prussian blue capsules are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a “safe and effective” treatment for internal contamination by radioactive cesium and radioactive thallium. (After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, cyanotype ingredients were spread on the grass in North Wales to safeguard grazing animals.)”

The story told in the book is also fascinating. She tells how Marie met Pierre Curie and their progress in science together. She tells about Pierre Curie’s tragic death and Marie’s life afterward and continued distinguished work. Throughout the story, she provides images and clips and stories about things that happened with radioactivity later, such as Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl.

I had no idea how radium was touted and marvelled over when it was first developed. The Curies did not patent their findings, but others were not so scrupulous.

“A fictitious Dr. Alfred Curie was hatched to shill Tho-Radia face cream. Radium-laced toothpaste, condoms, suppositories, chocolates, pillows, bath salts, and cigarettes were marketed as bestowers of longevity, virility, and an all-over salubrious flush.

“Radium was also touted as a replacement for electric lighting. Early electric light was both brilliant and blinding. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, ‘Such a light as this should shine only on murders and public crime, or along the corridors of lunatic asylums, a horror to heighten horror.’ Even after the development of softer, incandescent bulbs, some lamented that electric light would ‘never allow us to dream the dreams that the light of the living oil lamp conjured up.’ The fragile glow of radium, on the other hand, offered a retreat into forgiving shadows and candlelit intimacy. Radium let the wistful romantic pose as champion of scientific advance. A chemist named Sabin von Sochocky concocted a luminous goulash of radium and zinc sulphide, with dashes of lead, copper, uranium, manganese, thallium (a neurotoxin discovered by chemist and Spiritualist William Crookes), and arsenic, and sold it to the public as ‘Undark Paint.’ Undark was marketed for use on flashlights, doorbells, even ‘the buckles of bedroom slippers.’ ‘The time will doubtless come,’ von Sochocky declared, ‘when you will have in your own house a room lighted entirely by radium. The light thrown off by radium paint on walls and ceilings would in color and tone be like soft moonlight.'”

The story is fascinating and surprising. The images are stunning and memorable. This book is definitely not for children, but if it were, I would think this was a sure winner of the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book providing a visual experience. Spend a little time gazing at the pages of this book, and you will be amazed. Spend a little time reading the pages of this book, and you will be intrigued.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Energy Island, by Allan Drummond

Energy Island

How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World

by Allan Drummond

Frances Foster Books (Farrar Straus Giroux), New York, 2011. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Energy Island is a nonfiction picture book about an island in Denmark that uses only renewable energy generated on the island. The island is very windy, so wind power is a major source of energy on the island, and you can see the effects of the wind in all the illustrations and the repeated cry of “Hold on to your hats!”

The story is told well, beginning with the Danish Ministry of Environment and Energy sending a teacher named Soren Hermansen to the island of Samso to try to help the island become independent of nonrenewable energy. The book shows the resistance to the idea, and then the small and large beginnings. A breakthrough happened when a storm knocked out the off-island sources of energy, but the wind turbines that had been installed on the island still provided power.

The inspiring story is told quite simply, with exuberant illustrations. Sidebars give more detailed explanations of the concepts involved for those who want to know more.

This isn’t necessarily a book for school projects, so I hope that it doesn’t get buried in the nonfiction section. I hope children find it, because it tells a beautiful, inspiring — and true — story.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Amelia Lost, by Candace Fleming

Happy Independence Day! I’m posting this review today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today by Bookmuse.

Amelia Lost

The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

by Candace Fleming

Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House), New York, 2011. 118 pages.

I’ve been impressed with Candace Fleming’s exceptional ability to make biographies come alive ever since I read Ben Franklin’s Almanac. Reading The Lincolns only confirmed her brilliance.

Like those others, Amelia Lost makes good use of photographs and other supplementary materials to really give you a taste of what Amelia Earhart must have been like.

In this book, she weaves through the book stories from people in the continental United States who heard Amelia Earhart broadcasting while the search for her was going on. That helps us understand the tragedy behind this paragraph later in the book, as Amelia is preparing for her around-the-world flight attempt:

“She needed more practice with her radio equipment, too. Joseph Gurr, who had been hired to install the plane’s communication system, was eager for Amelia to learn how to use her radio and direction-finding equipment. He wanted to show her how to tune the receivers and how to operate the transmitters; to teach her correct radio procedures and help her understand what her radio system could and could not do. But every time Gurr begged her to come for a lesson, she put him off. She was too busy, she said. Her schedule was full. Finally — just weeks before her departure — she turned up at the airport hangar. Relieved, Gurr assumed he had all day to teach her everything about her radio. But after only an hour, Amelia left for an appointment. Gurr was stunned. ‘We never covered actual operations such as taking a bearing with the direction finder, [or] even contacting another radio station,’ he recalled. This very brief lesson was Amelia’s only formal instruction in the use of her communication system. And it would be her gravest mistake. Wrote one aviation expert, ‘The solution to Amelia’s future communication problems was right at her fingertips — if only she had understood how her radio worked.'”

This book was an interesting contrast to Chris Van Allsburg’s Queen of the Falls. Both books were biographies of women who, in the early 20th Century, sought fame and fortune through daredevil acts, and then telling about them on the lecture circuit. Amelia managed to achieve that fame and fortune, partly because she was young and good-looking, partly because she never rested on her laurels, but kept trying to top herself, and partly because she had a savvy publicist who eventually married her. But unfortunately, Amelia’s most lasting fame came from the trip where she didn’t return.

Another top-notch biography from Candace Fleming. This book is absorbing reading and extremely informative. I will be very happy to find it for the next child needing a biography “over 100 pages.” This is not one of those boring books written to help kids write a school report — but it has all the information they would need for a school report, and is presented in such a way that they are even sure to remember it.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Sugar Changed the World, by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

Sugar Changed the World

A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science

by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

Clarion Books, Boston, 2010. 166 pages.
Starred Review

I have two more books to review from School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books. At least two that I’ve read. I also have two holds that have just come in for books that I decided to read because of the coverage in the Battle.

Sugar Changed the World was knocked out in the first round, but it was up against the eventual winner, so that loss was no disgrace. Judge Adam Rex had some glowing things to say about it:

SCtW is my kind of history book. Relatively uninterested in kings and politicians, this is more of a Howard Zinn-style people’s history, albeit one which far more gently grinds its axe. Christopher Columbus gets mentioned, for example, on three separate pages. The longest passage by far is only fifty-seven words. Readers will learn far more about Olaudah Equiano, an enslaved African taken to Barbados to work in sugar, or even Thomas Thistlewood, a white overseer who wrote with a kind of nauseating jocularity about the cruelties he inflicted on his charges. They’ll also learn about the university of Jundi Shapur, which flourished fifteen hundred years ago in what is now Iran and which sounds so wondrous I can’t believe I’d never heard of it before. They’ll learn that the “whitest and purest” sugar of the ancient world came from Egypt of all places. Suddenly those sugar cube pyramids we all built in grade school are elevated above the level of busywork to some kind of totemic historical metaphor.

“It would be easy to call this a bitter book about a sweet spice, and there are unquestionably some difficult truths in Sugar Changed the World. There were also, for me, odd moments of pride–it was interesting to discover that the slave trade was focused so heavily in the Caribbean and South America, for example, and when I learned that only four percent of the slaves taken from Africa ended up in North America, and that these slaves had a comparatively low death rate, I chanted the feeblest U-S-A of my life. So why did I come away from this book inspired? A section on Gandhi didn’t hurt. Likewise sections on new (to me) heroes like the Haitian leader Toussaint, and English abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, a contemporary of William Wilberforce. This is an ultimately hopeful book, and I hope it finds a place in the classroom.

“Excellent period illustrations and photos abound, including sample pages from a grim old children’s picture book that painstakingly details how sugar got from the West Indies to your sweet shop, and unintentionally details everything that was wrong about the Victorians. The back matter of SCtW contains a great set of appendices that include, among other things, a timeline, a web guide to additional images, and an essay aimed at parents and teachers that explains how the book was researched.”

I had already purchased a copy of this book for myself. The reason was another blog from School Library Journal, Heavy Medal. They had a Mock Newbery committee vote among their online followers — but they wanted people to vote only if they’d read the books on the shortlist. My library didn’t have a copy of Sugar Changed the World, so I ordered myself a copy, and was not sorry. If I had read it in 2010 (I didn’t; I read it after the New Year.), I would have included a category in my 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs for Children’s Nonfiction, because this book is outstanding.

This is children’s nonfiction at its finest. And highly recommended reading for adults as well. You’ve got a huge topic — how sugar changed the world — and the authors cover it with great depth and good documentation, and they bring in the personal element, making it memorable. Any reader, child or adult, will come away from this book having learned a lot. But these aren’t dry, dull facts. You will be fascinated by what you learn.

I like the way the authors talk about looking at their own family histories and discovering how each of them was hugely affected by, of all things, sugar. They are not exaggerating when they say this is a story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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.