I have never heard of Pellagra or the fact that it was an epidemic in this country in the first half of the 20th century. After reading this book I am pretty happy that it is not a disease we need to worry about any longer. This book was so very interesting. I love learning about new things; I also really like reading about disgusting things. Pellagra is a disease that was around Europe for hundreds of years before appearing in the United States in the 1900s. It was believed the disease was caused by eating bad corn products which is why it affected mostly poor people in the South. They lived on grits and cornmeal and little else. Pellagra caused the four Ds: dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death. It killed between 1 in 10 and 6 in 10 people affected. It took almost 40 years of investigations by multiple doctors to figure out what really caused Pellagra and how to treat it. Dr. Joseph Goldberg worked on the Pellagra problem for over 15 years and was the one who discovered that it was a lack of niacin in the diet that caused the problem. Because of his work with the Public Health Services that our grain products are now fortified with vitamins and minerals to decrease the chances of diseases caused by dietary deficiencies. This was a truly fascinating book.

In 1986, the Chernobyl Reactor 4 exploded and spewed radioactive material over a wide swath of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. The people were relocated from numerous towns and villages. There is controversy over how many people exposed to the radiation suffered from it. The area around Chernobyl was cordoned off and became the Exclusion Zone. Today the Exclusion Zone is a place empty of humans except for a few people who went back to their homes and scientists studying the effects of radiation on the animals and plants in the area. Some animals seem to have adapted to the radiation while others have abnormalities caused by the radiation. This book is an honest look at a couple of the studies done on animal populations in the Exclusion Zone. It is extremely readable and informative.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

When you think about the Arctic you probably see an icy expanse with polar bears hunting seals and the occasional ice breaking ship making its way through the treacherous waters. In reality the Arctic ice is melting with little hope of renewal to previous levels. This is opening up the Arctic to all kinds of things from ship traffic to oil wells. Nations around the north pole are trying to stake their claim on these new areas and resources and environmentalists and native peoples are concerned for the Arctic way of life. Arctic Thaw does a fabulous job of explaining what is happening in the Arctic and providing information on what may happen in the future. It is a well-balanced look at an area that has seen little exploration or development.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

downloadimages (12 Bassahs7  This is a short biography of a African American born into slavery, then emancipated with his family, who loved working with horses, and ended up owning his own stables and showed horses at major events.  Bass was able to overcome a number of racial barriers because of his great skill with horses, and because other people, whites, stood up for him.  He was a quiet, gentle man, and one wonders if an African American with a different temperament would have succeeded in his place.

I liked the fact that so much of the story took place here in Mid-Missouri, in Columbia, Boonville, etc.  download (1) download (2) images

09. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags:

Wild Born: Spirit Animals Bk1 by Brandon Mull, read by Kira, on 09/06/2014

In
images Spirit Animals_thumb[4] Animal_spirits_squares_black_detail AnimalSpiritCircle The beginning of the Spirit Animals series.  At the start of the adventure, 4 11-yr olds drink the special honey liquid and are able to call spirit animals.  But Not just any spirit animals appear to these 4, rather the Great 4 Fallen, who died in the old battle with the Destroyer.  Each youth is from a different country on Erdras and from a different segment in society.

 

This is a fast moving, action filled adventure.

indeximg-thing 6a00e54efdd2b38834015393b5f173970b A delightful set of guidelines on how to live your life, especially if you live within fairy tales.  Some of the wisdom applies to our reality on this earth as well.

23. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

Hunted by Maggie Stiefvater , read by Kira, on 08/23/2014

I love Maggie Stiefvater’s work.  So when I discovered that she had written one of the stories in the Spirit Animal series, I had to read it.  In the series, some individuals are able to bond with animals at their 11th birthday.  4 young children have bonded not just with any animals but with the great beasts from the legends.  Abeke has bonded with a leopard, Connor a shepherd boy bonded with a giant wolf, Meillinthb82245f4ab30dd370f3e95ec7e3954eeeeth kh Animal Spirit Guides 2-T 9th rrth bonded with a giant Panda, and Rollan a street urchin bonds with a falcon.llth eth the This was a fast-paced  enjoyable story.

30. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg, read by Angie, on 07/29/2014

How They Choked explores the failures of fourteen historical figures. Obvious failures like Anne Boleyn and Benedict Arnold and George Custer are compared to some less obvious failures like Susan B. Anthony and Isaac Newton and Thomas Edison. I am not sure you can compare the failure of Montezuma to realize Cortez wasn’t a god which led to the death of his people to the fact that Susan B. Anthony failed to get women the vote in her lifetime. Some of the facts were really interesting however. I knew Amelia Earhart hadn’t learned how to read her instruments correctly, but I had no idea she wasn’t really that great of a pilot and had crashed a lot. I don’t think I even realized that Magellan hadn’t actually made it all the way around the world but had died in the Philippines. I think fans of gruesome history will enjoy this one as well as those who like to learn obscure trivia about people. Definitely not as interesting as How They Croaked, but a fun read nonetheless. 

25. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Informational Book, NonFiction

Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead by Vicky Alvear Shecter, read by Angie, on 07/24/2014

I really enjoy this series by Vicky Alvear Shecter. The Anubis one was certainly entertaining and this Hades follow-up is just as fun. Hades takes us on a personal tour of the Land of the Dead. He is sarcastic and funny and very informative. In between tales of how his younger brother Zeus causes him no end of misery, he imparts all kinds of historical stories from Greek and Roman times. There is a lot of humor mixed in with all the historical information. I think kids will appreciate the fact that they are being entertained and educated at the same time. I can’t wait to see who comes next in this series. 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

21. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming, read by Angie, on 07/20/2014

Everyone knows the story of the doomed Romanov family. How they were all murdered during the Bolshevik Revolution. How there were claims that Anastasia or Alexei still lived. How once the tsar fell the country became communist under Lenin and Stalin. What you might not have known were the events leading up to the revolution and the murders. Or how truly oblivious Tsar Nicholas was to what was happening around him. Candace Fleming does a wonderful job telling this story. She gives us insight into the imperial family through historical details and primary sources. She gives us details about what the common people were going through both before and during WWI. She also shows the politics behind the revolution and the rise of Lenin. What surprised me most about this book was how doomed the Romanov’s seemed from the beginning. Nicholas and Alexandra were so wrapped up in themselves and their children and Rasputin that they really had no idea what was happening in their country or how their actions set them on the path of destruction.

The Triple Nickles were the first black paratroopers in the American military. During WWII many Blacks joined the military; unfortunately, they were mostly relegated to labor positions and not allowed to fight for their country. This gradually changed as an all-Black tank unit and infantry units were established. Soon Blacks were being trained as pilots at Tuskegee. It wasn’t until 1944 that the Triple Nickles were established. They trained throughout the end of the war always ready to be called up to fight. However, military brass wasn’t quite as ready to integrate as the president was. The Triple Nickles never saw combat during WWII. While the white soldiers were fighting and dying they were sent to the Northwest to be the some of the first smokejumpers. It wasn’t until they were integrated into another paratrooper unit that these brave men would see combat. 

This is an important story to tell. It is amazing to me how we treated people in all walks of life just because the color of their skin was different from our own. This racism is still there today even if it might not always be targeted at Blacks. It took a lot of perseverance and courage on the part of these Black soldiers to break through the racial intolerance of the military leaders. They should be applauded.

14. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation by Sally M. Walker, read by Angie, on 07/13/2014

Sure everyone has heard of the Mason Dixon line. A lot of people may know that it was used to divide the country into slave and nonslave states. Few people might know that it all started because of a boundary dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland. I had some vague knowledge about the Mason Dixon line before reading this book, but I really had no idea about its true origins. Mason and Dixon were hired to survey the true boundaries between Pennsylvania and Maryland because no one really knew what they were. It took them years to do the survey, but the border lines are still those used today. 

Obviously the information in this book was really interesting and I am a big fan of Sally Walker; however, I felt the execution of this book fell short. The first big issue is the side bars. Children’s nonfiction always has sidebar information which is usually little tidbits about different aspects of the subject discussed. I love them and wholeheartedly think they should be in children’s nonfiction. They generally add a depth to the information that was missing. However, the sidebars in this book are terrible. Instead of being nicely separated by a box or off in the margins they are just big block paragraphs in italics. To make things even worse they are always placed in the middle of text; sometimes in the middle of a paragraph that splits between pages. It was horribly distracting and a terrible way to set up a book. 

The second issue was how technical this book got which made it boring! I really enjoy history and this was a story I wasn’t aware of. The bits about William Penn and George Calvert and why they founded their colonies was interesting. The story of Mason and Dixon was interesting. The long paragraphs about how you measure by the stars and what the instruments did was boring. It got so technical that my eyes glazed over. I found myself skimming long paragraphs of technical crap until the story picked up again. If I can’t take it then I am sure the intended audience of kids won’t be able to either. 

I had high hopes for this book and was soundly disappointed. Thankfully I did learn something from it.

08. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, read by Angie, on 07/07/2014

The KKK was set up after the Civil War by white Southerners who felt they needed to protect their way of life from the Northern Reconstructionists and the uppity Blacks. They used intimidation, fear, beatings and murder to try and get what they wanted, which was for blacks to go back to being subservient to whites. Bartoletti takes a hard look at how the KKK was started, what precipitated its creation, how they grew to include so many members and what those members did. She also details the reaction to the KKK by Southern Blacks, Northern Whites and the governments of both the North and the South. President Grant was successful in disbanding the KKK, but he was not successful in creating equality in the South. It is sad that the same practices of the KKK during Reconstruction existed for many up until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The KKK was truly a terrorist group and it is pretty scary that some people today don’t see them that way. 

08. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

The World Made New: Why the Age of Exploration Happened and How It Changed the World by Marc Aronson, John W. Glenn, read by Angie, on 07/07/2014

The Age of Exploration began with Columbus “discovering” America in 1492. After his trip many other explorers set out to discover the riches America had to offer. Their expeditions brought many things to Europe: the potato and tomato, spices, gold and silver and new ways of life. These explorers changed the world in both good and bad ways. They opened up trade routes and new lands for exploration, but the native peoples suffered greatly as their way of life came to an end. The explorers were generally not friendly to the natives. They saw them as savages to be tamed with riches to be taken. They brought death and disease and destruction to the natives. This book provides a good overview of why these explorations took place, what they found and the consequences of their discoveries. 

This is an excellent overview of the history of women serving in Congress. It begins with Jeannette Rankin in 1917 and goes through the present day roster of women in the House and the Senate. It’s interesting that the majority of the women who broke ground in Congress came into their positions through a husband or father dying. The congressman died and the women were able to fill the seat. I like the fact that the book also give the political and social background of what was happening at the time of each woman entering Congress. This book is very readable and entertaining. There is not a lot of information on the different congresswomen, but it is a good starting point. 

03. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Pure Grit: How WWII Nurses in the Pacific Survived Combat and Prison Camp by Mary Cronk Farrell, read by Angie, on 07/02/2014

Pure Grit tells the story of the American nurses in the Philippines during WWII. These nurses join the Army and the Navy because there were a lot of opportunities, but they never expected to actually be part of the war. We are taught a lot about WWII and the battles that took place in Europe. Unfortunately, a lot of history books minimize the war in the Pacific, which was just as deadly as the European front. I had no idea that hours after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor they attacked the Philippines. I had no idea that American forces were forced to surrender and became prisoners of war. The nurses that were on the island were also forced to surrender and be placed in internment camps. The nurses continued to care for their patients both before and after the surrender with dwindling supplies of both medication and food. They agonized over leaving gravely injured patients to the mercies of the Japanese. Once the war was over the nurses received little to no recognition for their efforts and suffered life-long physical and mental disabilities. It wasn’t until recent years that their history has come to light and they have been recognized for their heroics. This was a very readable book, in fact it was hard to put down. The story is gripping and because it is true very moving. I would definitely recommend it. 

This is the first in a series of four books that explore unexpected animal bonds. In this book you’ll meet four unlikely pairings, including Billy and Lilly. Billy the boxer adopted Lilly the goat when she was abandoned by her mother. Billy and Lilly are rarely apart since Billy has taken on the role of Lilly’s protector, caretaker, and constant companion. This and the other stories in this book will enchant readers and empower them to devour the more text-heavy “grown up” style of the book, while still keeping the story easily digestable for a hestitant reader.

National Geographic supports K-12 educators with ELA Common Core Resources.
Visit www.natgeoed.org/commoncore for more information.

29. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Buried Beneath Us: Discovering the Ancient Cities of the Americas by Anthony Aveni, Katherine Roy, read by Angie, on 05/28/2014

This book takes a look at the cities of four American cultures: Cahokia, Inca, Aztec, and Maya. The author goes over what cities are, how they developed, what life was like and the religions of these cultures. I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The author gives us a lot of good information, but unfortunately the organization of the book makes it very difficult to distinguish when the city changes. I think it might have better served the reader to perhaps do a chapter on each culture and its cities instead of breaking the chapters up like they were. I also thought the illustrations were horrible. There are no actual pictures of the ruins of these cities or their artifacts instead all the illustrations are a horrible gray block type that is a bit too abstract for the audience to appreciate. This is a fascinating subject that wasn’t served well by this book.

27. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin, read by Angie, on 05/24/2014

What did I know about Benedict Arnold before reading this book? Very little. I knew he was a traitor, but I had no idea what he had actually done or who he was other than that. Turns out Benedict Arnold was a hero before he was a traitor and if he had been treated a little better history may have remembered him as the former instead of the latter. Benedict Arnold was a successful business man before the Revolutionary War. When the colonies decided to rebel against Britain he was one of the first to sign up and fight. He became a general in the army and led many successful campaigns. However, he was not well liked by some of the military authorities or by the colonial government. He was passed over for promotions, accused of crimes and even forced to stand trial. This was all partially his own fault as he was reckless and went against authority. He became embroiled in the plot to give Westpoint to the British because of the poor treatment he received. While his accomplices may have been caught, Arnold made it to British territory and eventually to England. His treatment was not all that much better however and his treachery may have been for naught. This book reads like an action/adventure novel. It is a bit long, so younger readers might find its size daunting. However, I think they would enjoy it once they get into it. Fans of history and adventure will enjoy this nonfiction work.

For most of human history people believed the earth was the center of the universe and the sun, planets and stars all revolved around the earth. There were many different ideas of how the universe was set up but all of them followed the Biblical teachings that the earth was the center of everything. Then came some radical thinkers who tried to reconcile what they had learned with what they observed about the universe. They couldn’t get the two to match up. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton all used science and observation to try and understand the universe. They and others like them were also persecuted by the Church and other scientists who believed the earth-centric configuration of the universe. I thought this was a very well-organized and interesting book. It was easy to follow and understand and I think it is perfect for kids starting to learn about the universe. I did think the last chapter on groups who still believe the earth is the center of the universe was a little less scientific explanation and a little more preachy, but other than that it was a great read.