Bootleg is a brilliant look at the prohibition era. It details life before prohibition and how it came about, life during prohibition and how it was repealed. There is a lot of good information here about the people of the time and what they wanted. I was fascinated to learn that many people thought of Prohibition as a social experiment, an experiment that ultimately failed. The “Drys” wanted to sober up the population and get rid of crime, they wanted to get kids back in school and make homes safer. The prohibition amendment was partially successful. The consumption of alcohol did decrease and more kids did go to school. But crime rates rose and Prohibition saw the influence of the gangster grow to unbelievable heights. Al Capone, Bugs Moran and others came to power during this era as they supplied the alcohol to a thirsty population. Blumenthal did a great job imparting the feelings of the people at that time. I love how she focused on the women who brought about Prohibition. She also provided a lot of additional sources at the end of the book. This is definitely a good first look at the Prohibition era and it makes you want to read more about these people and the time the lived.
Ice tells the story of how the ice business began and how it ended. It was a fairly short-lived business only lasting a little over 100 years. Ice began as a luxury item for those wanting cold drinks and treats during hot months. It also helped with the preservation of food. Two men were essential in making the ice business a mainstay of American life: Frederic Tudor and Nathaniel Wyeth. Tudor had the ideas and Wyeth had the mechanical inventions that made chopping ice easier and a big business. This book focuses on the ice business in New York mainly; it does mention other areas but only in passing. The most sought after ice came from Rockland Lack and the Knickerbocker Ice Company was formed to bring it to the people. Weather and the invention of the electric refrigerator put the ice business out of business.
This book was really informative and interesting. I can’t imagine not having ice, but it wasn’t that long ago that it was a complete luxury and one you might not be able to get year round. This book is filled with old photographs, advertisements and pictures of tools; it is very visually appealing.
When you think of migration you think of birds flying south for the winter. I never really thought about the northern migrations for the summer months until I read this book. This is a beautifully illustrated sparse look at migration to and from the Arctic. It starts with those animals like polar bears who spend all year long in the Arctic. They travel over the frozen tundra during the winter months. But once spring begins and plants start to break through the ice they are joined by more and more animals from birds to whales to caribou to wolves. In all 180 species migrate to the Arctic each year. There isn’t a whole lot of text on these beautiful pages, but there is enough to tell the story. I really appreciated the end matter at the back that gives a little more information on the animals and northern migration.
Sally Walker does a wonderful job explaining the discovery of Kennewick Man and what was discovered from his remains. She writes on a level that anyone can understand and she provides enough scientific and historical information to make the subject really interesting. I especially liked how she wove the discoveries of other Paleoamerican remains into the narrative. She also provides lots of information and documentation for the discovery with the back matter of the book.
Georges (the “s” is silent) and his parents move from their house to an apartment in Brooklyn when his dad loses his job. His mom, a nurse, decides to work a double shift at the hospital. His former best friend is now part of the “in-crowd” a group Georges or “Gorgeous” as most of the people in that group call him. Not only is Georges’s home life falling apart, his school life has also become barely tolerable. After noticing a random poster advertising a Spy Club in the basement of his apartment building, Georges, after encouragement from his dad, decides to take a chance and check it out. There he meets Safer, a boy around his age, and Candy, his younger sister. Just like the works of Georges Seurat, the painter he was named after, Georges learns from Safer how to look at the world bit by bit instead of always looking at the world as a whole. With that knowledge he is able to face his biggest fears and accept what is happening in his life.
Liar & Spy is a story that teaches readers of all ages. It teaches the value of mustering up the courage to stand up to bullies and the fears that threaten to drag you down. It teaches the value of understanding your friends and realizing they are more important to you than you think.
First we have Thomas Stevens, former minor, who decides to travel around the world on a high wheeler, the predecessor of the bicycle. It takes him two years, but he travels the world and introduces the bicycle to many who had never seen it.
Next is intrepid reporter Nelly Bly, who with the support of her newspaper decides to travel the world in less than 80 days. She meets Jules Verne, has several delays, but manages to make it home in 72 days.
Finally is Joshua Slocum, a retired sea captain, who fixes up an old boat and sails around the world alone. He has storms and pirates to contend with but in three years he makes it back home.
These were all real people and their stories were interesting to read and see. I thought Phelan did a particularly good job on the Stevens chapters. The illustrations really brought the story to life. I wasn’t as impressed by the Slocum section. I guess it was much darker and more introspective than the previous chapters; it had a lot of flashbacks to his previous journeys. I guess I didn’t feel it had the same feeling of joyous adventure as the others. But this is a great graphic read on people who have traveled the world.
This is a very interesting book about Thomas Jefferson’s legitimate and illegitimate families. It explores the controversy of the Sally Hemmings relationship through interviews with family members. Shannon Lanier is a descendant from the Sally Hemmings side of the family and wants to get to know all of his new cousins after the revelations about the relationship were announced and the family attended the reunion at Monticello. I found it fascinating to hear all the stories of this blended family, how many of them passed for white instead of black, how some have always know they were descendants of Jefferson and how some just found out. I found it sad that some of the descendants from Jefferson’s daughters deny there was any relationship between Jefferson and Hemmings. I have to admit that I believe there was a relationship between the two. It isn’t that hard to believe that Jefferson could love his slave. Her devotion to him seems indisputable. She tended his grave until she died and wouldn’t leave the area. I know some people find it hard to reconcile the Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Jefferson who had slaves, but he was a product of his time. Slavery was a part of life and he could not have done many of the great things he did without his slaves (build U.Va. and Monticello). He also educated his slaves and made sure they knew a trade, at least the ones that were his children. There are many twists and turns to this family’s history and it is all very interesting and fascinating to read about.
This book is an excellent example of how great Jim Murphy is at writing children’s nonfiction. His depiction of the events leading up, during and after the Blizzard of 1888 are fantastically detailed and easy to read and understand. He takes personal accounts, newspaper articles and photographs and makes this storm come alive. Hundreds of people were killed in this storm and many changes came about because of it. The National Weather Service was formed and weather forecasting was removed from the Army’s responsibility. It also became a 24 hour operation instead of taking the Sabbath off. Subways were created in New York and many other cities. Utility lines were placed underground instead of in the air above major cities. And most major cities created an emergency plan to deal with disasters of this sort. I really enjoyed the first-hand accounts and the period photos; I think they made the story come alive.
Really interesting look at the lives of the First Kids. Tells about their schooling, their antics, their social activities and what they thought about living in the White House. There is a lot of really interesting stuff in this book. I think I was most fascinated by the Roosevelt kids both FDR’s and Teddy’s. These kids seem like they actually enjoyed life in the White House.
Diego: Bigger than Life tells the story of Mexican artist Diego Rivera through a series of poems and illustrations. The entirety of his life is illustrated in the poems from birth to death. I loved that the poems conveyed all the emotion and actual situations of each subject. I feel like I learned all about Diego Rivera through these few poems. Everything from his upbringing, to his art to his many wives and mistresses were covered. I really enjoyed the illustrations as well, but I do wish that more of Rivera’s actual art could have been used.
Black Elk’s Vision is the true story of Lakota Medicine Man Black Elk. When he was young he had a vision of six grandfathers offering him the choice between a life of peace and a life of violence. Throughout his life he tried to tell people of his vision and bring it forth. Unfortunately, the White Men or Wha-shi-choos didn’t allow for a life of peace. Black Elk was part of many battles that wiped out the Indians and left them on reservations. He traveled with Wild Bill’s Wild West Show across the country and to Europe but he still didn’t find the peace for his people he sought. The imagery and story of this book suck you in from the very beginning. There are wonderful period photos and illustrations the highlight the story being told. Nelson does a great job of showing the freedom the Indians had and how it was taken away by the White Men. Wonderful book!
Truly fascinating look at the Battle for Vicksburg during the Civil War. Warren takes the lives of three children two in Vicksburg and Grant’s son with the Union Army and shows how the siege affected them. Lots of interesting details about the battle and the siege and lots of photographs and illustrations. The story isn’t just about the three children though; there are details about others who lived in Vicksburg. Lots of great information about this pivotal battle during the Civil War. I also loved all the back end stuff…what happened to the people in the book, details about the War, and lots of references. Well researched and written book.
There is a certain fascination with the dead and how they are treated and this book does a great job of looking at how cultures have buried their dead throughout history. Some are very elaborate like the Chinese and Egyptian and others are more simple. This book looks at a wide variety of tombs from prehistoric Neanderthals to modern day burials. Definitely worth the read.
We think of George Washington as the president on the dollar bill or the quarter; little do we realize that those pictures really do not show the true face of George Washington. This book follows the progress of the creation of three statues of Washington during various phases of his life: as a surveyor, as the General during the Revolutionary War and as President. The book tells us what he was doing during those times and explains the process of recreating his face. There are some really interesting things in this book. I liked knowing more about Washington since I don’t feel like I knew a whole lot about him before the Revolution. I do have to admit that while the process of creating the statues was interesting it got a little long-winded and tedious for me. But the results were fabulous and it is nice to know what Washington really looked like.
Smile is the true story of Raina Telgemeier’s journey through orthodontia. It was not a pleasant or a short journey. It began with an overbite and a fall resulting in the loss of her two front teeth. The journey consisted of false teeth, braces, surgeries, headgear, and four years worth of visits to various dental professionals…all during junior and high school. Poor Raina! Throughout it all Raina is also dealing with boys, pimples, friends, mean girls, and all the other trials and tribulations of high school. She comes through it stronger and happier, but it is not an easy journey.
As someone who has had braces and retainers (thankfully not four years worth) I completely sympathized with Raina. They are an invented torture to make our teeth look perfect. They work but are definitely not pleasant. I winced with her when her braces were being tightened and when all she could eat was mashed potatoes. I think Raina definitely remembers this time of her life perfectly and she really captured it on the pages of Smile. The story and illustrations embody the torture of braces and the agony of middle and high school. I would recommend this to just about anyone.
Russell Freedman really knows how to write nonfiction for kids and he does the story of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass justice in this book. This book takes the story of their lives and shows how they intertwined to lead to a friendship. They only physically met three times, but they ended up having a lot in common. This book shows the common threads of their lives and the differences. It shows that they were not always on the same path to equality and in fact Douglass frequently criticized the pace Lincoln set in regards to the rights and freedoms of Blacks. But they had a lot in common even down to the book that changed the way they looked at things, The Columbian Orator. If I have one quibble with this book, I wish it would have spent more time with Douglass. At times it seemed more like a biography of Lincoln than a shared story of the two men. But it is an excellent glimpse into a turbulent time and the lives of two great men.
From Cover to Cover is an excellent resource for anyone who talks about, reviews or purchases children’s books. It has clear and concise chapters on every type of children’s book: nonfiction, poetry, chapter books, picture books, etc. While the subtitle states this book is about evaluating and review, the majority of the book is on evaluating books. Reviewing doesn’t come in until the final chapter. Not that it is a bad thing. The information in the evaluating chapters is great. Horning goes into the history of the literature, the different parts, what you should look at and how to evaluate it. She even gives examples of excellent books in each genre. Great resource and very helpful.
This is a very brief view of what happened during the Midwest Floods of 1993. This informational picture book is aimed at younger readers so the text is very simplified. There is not a lot of detail so researchers will have to look elsewhere. However, the text is very concise and easy to understand. It gives the big picture of the floods and their aftermath. There is also a very nice glossary and timeline as well as additional resources in the back of the book.
As someone who lived through the floods of 1993 I really wanted more detail, but I am not the target audience for this book. I think this will appeal to kids and lead them to more information.
Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust tells the story of the Terezin concentration camp in the Czech Republic. The story is told through first hand accounts and art work from the people who were imprisoned in the camp. Terezin was a camp the Nazis used to show off to organizations like the Red Cross. They would fix it up and prove that their camps were not bad places. Unfortunately, Terezin was just like all the other concentration camps. Most of the Jews imprisoned there were transported to other camps like Auschwitz and killed. Only about 3000 of the 86000 survived Terezin.
The first hand accounts really make this book powerful. The innocence of the Jews when they are first sent to the Terezin Ghetto, the strength of the Elder Council as it tried to protect its citizens, the heartbreak of the Jews as they lost their battle to survive. Their own words are heartbreaking.
Wonderful book on evolution for elementary age students. This book has clear and concise chapters on everything from DNA to continental drift to fossils to diseases. The illustrations are wonderfully clear and bright and really fit the text. Of course, there is so much covered by the book (basically everything that falls under evolution) that it only skims the surface on each topic. But there are a lot of wonderful tidbits of information in here that I wasn’t aware of. I never thought of the study of diseases and drug-resistant bacterias as evolution but it is. I didn’t realize there were 60 different kinds of honeycreepers in Hawaii and that they all came from finches. There is lots of good info in this book and all of it is a good jumping off place for the study of evolution.