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.
A sweet tale told at the end of Mrs. Poole’s, the cat’s, life about growing up on a sailing ship, travels, shipwreck, but then most of the time is spent with Griffin, the son of the lighthouse keeper. Griffin is tender and different, just like his Uncle Daniel was. I’m guessing this to be a metaphor for being gay. Griffin’s mother loves her son, and through that love is able to reconcile herself with her brother who has also always been different. Charming, though Not as delightful as Rutledge’s Diary of a Cat. Next up Rutledge’s Cats Love Letters.
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.
Strike!: The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights details the history of the farm workers struggle that started in California with the grape workers. These workers were generally migrants who travelled northward through California as the grape harvest came in. The Filipino and Chicano workers were not paid very much and their living conditions were deplorable. In the 1960s, two dynamic leaders started organizing the workers and trying to get them better working conditions. Cesar Chavez worked with the Chicano workers and Larry Itliong worked with the Filipino. They eventually banded together to form the United Farm Workers of America Union and led a successful strike and boycott of the industry. Their efforts took many years, but they showed through peaceful, nonviolent means that they could accomplish their goals. This book is an excellent source for kids to learn about the creation of unions and the conditions workers had to endure. It offers a wonderful historical perspective on what was going on in the agriculture sector during the 20th century.
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.
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.
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.
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, Meillin bonded with a giant Panda, and Rollan a street urchin bonds with a falcon. This was a fast-paced enjoyable story.
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.