This is the story of chocolate from its beginnings in South and Central America to its trip across the pond into Europe. It is the story of how chocolate went from being a bitter, ceremonial and medicinal plant to the candy we all love today. The history of chocolate is complex with ties to colonialism, slavery, the industrial revolution and climate change. I really enjoyed the history of chocolate, but was less than thrilled by all the scientific information packed into the book. This is geared towards middle grade readers who I am not sure will care about the chemical make up or how those chemicals were found to affect humans. This is a pretty long book for the age it is geared towards as well. I think it could have been paired down a bit to focus more on the historical and modern parts of chocolate’s story which would have made it a little bit more readable for its audience.
I received this book from Netgalley.com.
This book is full of entertaining inventions that came from a need or was just dreamed of and followed through. Things like smittens, a toaster that will burn images in the side of your toast, or a baby cage that hangs out of your apartment window are just a few that are mentioned. This book will definitely make you smile.
Choosing Courage is a wonderful book filled with stories about Medal of Honor recipients. The book spans WWI through the present day. The story of how each recipient earned the Medal of Honor is told in detail. I was surprised at how many of the recipients received their Medal many years after the fact. Seems that even distinguished service and heroism could not overcome racism during our history. It was good to hear that Congress did extensive reviews and awarded the Medal of Honor to deserving minorities who were overlooked however. A common theme running through all the stories was the fact that the men and women believed they were just doing what they were supposed to do and what anyone else would have done. The fact that they were heroes and saved the lives of many of their comrades just made their selfless acts that much more heroic.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.
Sarah Rector was once famously hailed as “the richest black girl in America.” Set against the backdrop of American history, her tale encompasses the creation of Indian Territory, the making of Oklahoma, and the establishment of black towns and oil-rich boomtowns.
Rector acquired her fortune at the age of eleven. This is both her story and that of children just like her: one filled with ups and downs amid bizarre goings-on and crimes perpetrated by greedy and corrupt adults. From a trove of primary documents, including court and census records and interviews with family members, author Tonya Bolden painstakingly pieces together the events of Sarah’s life and the lives of those around her.
The book includes a glossary, a bibliography, and an index.
Description from Goodreads.com.
The history of sneakers is an interesting one. It is kind of hard to believe that they have only been around a bit over 100 years since they are a constant part of our lives now. Sneaker Century takes the reader through the history of sneakers from the very first ones in the 1800s to modern celebrity-designed ones today. I found the history fascinating. I know almost nothing about sneaker brands other than their names so this was definitely an education for me. I learned that two brothers started a shoe company in pre-WWII Germany and outfitted some of the Olympic runners. After WWII they fought and broke up the company into Adidas and Puma. I also learned that Keds are one of the oldest sneaker brands. The history of Nike and Reebok are also covered. The one thing I wish the book had more of is pictures. It mentions specific shoes or styles of shoes but doesn’t show what those shoes looks like. I think it would have been stronger with more pictures of actual sneakers.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Running Dry is a very interesting look at the water problems facing the world. The book details the importance of water to the human population, where it comes from and how it is used. Then it deals with the issues facing us in regards to water: pollution, over-use, increasing demand, and climate change. There is a lot of good information in this highly readable book. I found the parts about how much water farms and industry are using especially interesting and was shocked by the attitudes of bottled water companies who do not think clean water is a human right but a commodity with a price. I also thought it was interesting how different countries are dealing with the water shortages they are facing. This is an excellent resource for students and those interested in the issue.
I received this book from Netgalley.
John Brown is an interesting historical figure. Was he a terrorist, a patriot, a martyr? Albert Marrin explores these ideas in this book. He details the life of John Brown, how he came to feel so strongly against slavery and why he began his campaign to free the slaves and dissolve the union. Brown is a fascinating character who had very strong political and religious beliefs in regards to slavery. He had no qualms about committing violence in the name of what he felt was right and just and he also sacrificed the lives of some of his children in the process. Marrin does a great job on John Brown and his life. What he also does is pad this book with a lot of information that makes it less readable. There are several chapters on the history of slavery and several more chapters on the history of the Civil War. Neither are necessary in detailing Brown’s life. In fact, the chapters on Brown really only take up about half the book. I think this is going to turn kids off a bit. I know I skimmed/barely read a lot of the extra chapters because it was all stuff I knew or I didn’t think pertained to the story I was trying to read. I think this book would have been better if it had just focused on John Brown and left the rest to other books.
The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII seems like one of those issues that was swept under the carpet and little known until recently. It isn’t something you learn about during your history class on WWII or if it is it is barely mentioned. It is a tragic and disturbing part of our history and is a story that should be told. It seems especially important in the wake of the September 11 events and the treatment of Muslim Americans. Sandler does a great job of showing that the Japanese discrimination did not begin with Pearl Harbor. The Japanese were discriminated against from the moment they arrived in the U.S. They looked different, their language was incomprehensible, they had strange customs and they made people afraid. After Pearl Harbor it wasn’t long before that fear led to the imprisonment of all the Japanese living on the west coast. Executive Order 9066 called for the relocation of Japanese to camps throughout the United States. The Japanese were not given very long to get their affairs in order, sell their homes and business, leave their crops and belonging and move in to what was basically a concentration camp. Most of them were robbed of the value of their possessions as people took advantage of their need to get rid of stuff. Even though the order came about because of fear of sabotage and espionage, no such acts were ever committed or suspected. The Japanese took everything in stride with dignity and pride even though that was being taken away from them. They made the camps into homes and continued to educate their children and teach them to be proud Americans. They also distinguished themselves as heroes during the war with their actions in both Europe and the Pacific. It wasn’t until many years later that calls for restitution were finally answered and the United States apologized for their actions.
I am a big fan of history books like this. I love learning about things that I might not have known a lot about. This book is definitely readable and understandable for the middle grade audience. However, I did think the sidebar stories could have been better placed. Every chapter contains a secondary story that was just stuck in the middle of everything. It often broke up a sentence or paragraph and was very frustrating for the reader. I found that I just skipped the sidebar and finished the chapter then returned to the sidebar. My other issue with the book was actually the writing itself. While I personally agree with pretty much everything Sandler wrote about the horrific things done to the Japanese I found the writing to be very biased. For the most part, nonfiction is written from a neutral point of view even when the events being discussed are anything but neutral. Sandler’s language clearly shows that he is against what the U.S. did and firmly on the side of the Japanese. I agree but wish the language would have been more neutral. I sometimes felt like Sandler was pushing an agenda at times when it was not necessary. The events speak for themselves.
One Plastic Bag is the story of Isatou Ceesay and how she created an industry in Gambia where the women recycled plastic bags into bags and purses. Plastic bags were a huge environmental problem in Gambia and one day Isatou had enough. She cleaned the bags, made them into string and wove bags out of them. The new bags were sold and helped the people of her area. It is an inspiring story about how one person can make a difference.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Segregation and racism were alive and well during WWII. That didn’t stop thousands of young black men from joining the military to fight for their country. Almost all of these men were assigned menial jobs and deemed not fit for combat. In the Navy, that meant stateside duties instead of serving on ships. This book is about the group of men who loaded ammunition onto war ships at Port Chicago. They were all black with white officers. The men had no training in munitions or ship loading. The conditions were dangerous and that danger caught up to the port one evening. On July 17, 1944 the port exploded killing over 300 soldiers. It destroyed two ships and the entire port. Every man in the port area died. Those on the base that survived were not very happy about going back to work after the disaster. This is the story of the 50 men who refused to load ammunition again. They were charged with mutiny and went on trial. The trial found them all guilty of mutiny even though it didn’t seem like their actions fit the definition of mutiny. There were even men charged who refused to load munitions because they weren’t capable and had never loaded before: a cook, an injured man, an underweight man. Didn’t seem like it mattered why they refused the order they were still charged. Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP became involved in the case and tried to get the charges dropped on the basis of racism, but were unsuccessful. Even though this case made the Navy rethink its segregation policies and eventually led to the integration of the Navy, the men’s records were never cleared of the charges. It is a sad part of our history and one Sheinkin did a fabulous job covering. Highly readable with lots of interesting information.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias was a sports wonder. She excelled at pretty much any sport she attempted: basketball, running, high jump, bowling, golf. You name it and she probably tried it. She was a brash, outspoken, driven person who didn’t always make friends with her competitors or teammates. She had to overcome huge odds to make it in the sports world at a time when women were not thought to be athletically talented. I am not a sports person and had never heard of her before reading this book. I feel like I should have. She opened doors for women athletes and showed that women are just as good if not better than men!
Sniffer Dogs is a delightful little book about working dogs. Nancy Castaldo does a great job illustrating the different jobs a dog’s nose is perfect for. Dogs can be trained to sniff out bombs, arson, people, dead bodies, and even illness. I really enjoyed the stories about actual working dogs and their partners. This book is kid friendly with lots of pictures and pop-outs of dogs, short chapters and lively text.
Brown Girl Dreaming is Jacqueline Woodson’s wonderful novel in verse memoir of her childhood. She moves from her birthplace in Ohio to her mother’s people in South Carolina to New York. It is a story of leaving things behind as she leaves her father behind in Ohio and her beloved grandparents behind in South Carolina. It is a story of love and loss and hope and dreams. Woodson dreamed of creating stories and being a writer from an early age but struggled with a learning disability. The book also shows the struggle of Blacks during the Civil Rights era. We are shown what it means to be Black in South Carolina and how that is different in New York. Woodson’s story is beautiful and lyrical and a wonderful story to read. I’m not sure how much traction it will get with the elementary/middle school readers as novels in verse are sometimes a hard sell.
Soren and his band of owls, search for and find the Island of Hoole with the great Ga’Hoole Tree. This is a institution of learning similar to Hogwarts. Here they are divided into different “chaws” or teams that learn a specific skill. Soren and talkative Otolisa are placed in the colliering and weather in a chaw where they learn to transport hot coals to use in the smithy. Evenutally, a bunch of downed owls are discovered brought home to the GaHool tree among them is Soren’s sister Eglantine. These downed owls are in some weird mental state, that is disrupted with mirrors. I read this in disjointed bits and pieces over an extended period of time, thus I don’t have a great feel for how good of a read it really is.
This is a nice biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is a simple read that offers a lot of details on the Ingalls family and Laura’s life after she married Wilder. I didn’t realize just how often the Ingalls family moved during Laura’s childhood; it seemed like they were packing up and moving on every couple of years. There aren’t a lot of details in this story as it is geared towards younger readers, but it is a nice introduction to Laura Ingalls Wilder and gives some supplemental information not in the Little House series.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a graphic novel about WWI, but this one was fantastic. I think I learned more about the war than I have from any other source. The information is presented in a wonderfully reader friendly way that kids will gravitate towards. The story of the war is presented by a Revolutionary War era traitor named Nathan Hale who is telling the story to his hangman and the British officer responsible for hanging him. The countries of Europe are represented by various animals so you can easily tell them apart (although I will admit I had to look back to figure out which animal was which country several times). The causes of the war are clearly laid out as are the major battles and the results of those battles. My only big complaint was the size of the graphic frames. The book is on the smaller size which made the graphic frames smaller. I think it would have benefitted from a larger print size so you could see more of the details.
Rude Dude speaks in a language that I think kids will find appealing. He doesn’t talk like an adult or a kid but more of a mix of the two. He has lots of interesting history and facts about foods that kids like eating. He starts with chocolate and moves on to hamburgers and egg rolls and pizza. There are some really interesting facts about how these foods came to be favorites and how they came together. He also intersperses his historical facts with healthy eating facts that will hopefully motivate kids. Entertaining and just enough fun stuff to attract young readers.
The headline that shocked the nation: President Lincoln Shot by Assassin John Wilkes Booth! One of the most exciting stories in American history told with full color illustrations.
The fifth installment in Don Brown’s Actual Times series featuring significant days in American history covers the Lincoln assassination and the ensuing manhunt. In He Has Shot the President! both Lincoln and Booth emerge as vivid characters, defined by the long and brutal Civil War, and set on a collision course toward tragedy. With his characteristic straightforward storytelling voice and dynamic water color illustration, Don Brown gives readers a chronological account of the events and also captures the emotion of the death of America’s greatest president.
Deenie is a young lady who is beautiful and her mother thinks she is destined to be a model. It is discovered that she has scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) and will need to wear a back brace for about four years. This book showed the struggles of dealing with an overbearing mother, a disease, and friends who don’t know the best way to support each other. It was pretty good, but a few scenes would prevent me from recommending it to the younger set. Recommended for the older teen.