It is amazing how much Ben Franklin did in his long life. I am not sure there is any part of life that he did not explore and conquer. He was an inventor, a scientist, a statesman, a diplomat, an educator, an author and so much more. Many of the things we use in every day life can be attributed to Franklin. Many of the institutions and concepts we rely on were first suggested by Franklin. If there is any man who is responsible for our way of life it might be Franklin. He is an amazing historical figure. This biography does a great job of breaking his life down into its most important eras. I loved all the information and the sidebars the author provided not just about Franklin, but life during his time period.
This book was a Sibert Honor Book and an Orbis Pictus Honor Book in 2013.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were two of our founding fathers. They could not have been more different yet they believed in the same thing…an independent America. Together they helped this country become free and were both presidents. They even died on the same day. I think their story is an interesting one and this book does a great job of illustrating the time period and their friendship. The illustrations are wonderful and very child friendly. The entire book read like a Saturday morning special…School House Rocks maybe. 2013 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children honor book.
Pearl is a young lady who lives with her mom and grandma as a group of three. At school, she believes that she is a group of one, but through a series of events she realizes that her group of one has expanded to include classmates. This is a heart wrenching story written in verse through Pearl’s viewpoint as she struggles with rhyming in school when her grandma taught her that free unrhymed verse can tell a story much more effectively, sometimes. This story really touched my heart as the little girl has to deal with her grandma’s decline. I recommend reading it with a kleenax ready!
After repeatedly hearing what a great book this is from several people, and most importantly my 10 year old son, I decided to read it out loud to my 8 year old daughter. Neither of were prepared for the emotional impact his book would have on us and for me, it lingers in my mind to this day. Meet Melody. She is a 5th grader who suffers from cerebral palsy. Although Melody has never spoken a single word or walked one step, she is one brillant young girl. Her mind is always working overtime! This book is about assumptions….the ones we make about people who are different than us, especially people with disabilites. Everyone in Melody’s world assumes just because her body doesn’t work that her brain doesn’t either. This book is told in Melody’s unsentimental voice, and she tells it exactly how it is! With the exception of her parents and another caregiver, she is considered invisible and incapable of interaction, let alone actually being able to learn something or contribute in a classroom setting. She is literally going “out of her mind” from boredom and frustration and the inability ot express herself. She is wasting away in school classes that don’t even begin to quench her thirst for learning….until a special teacher sees her potential. Soon after, with the help of her devoted after-school care giver, Melody acquires a medi-talker (a machine that gives her a voice) and a whole new world is opens up to her….but it isn’t necessarily an accepting one. Melody still struggles against preconceived notions about her and her disability….even from teachers! This book is a must read for 3-6 graders, and is a Mark Twain nominee with a strong chance of winning this year’s award. My money is on Sharon Draper! This is a great book with a tough, but realistic ending.
Bad Girls is the perfect foil to the book I just read about women who changed the world. While Girls who Rocked the World was about scientists, activists, and heroes who made the world a better place, Bad Girls is about women who made their mark in a different way. There are blood baths, axe slayings, fallen women, and outlaws. Mata Hari, Typhoid Mary, Catherine the Great, and Salome. Yolen and her daughter and co-author Stemple debate in asides between the chapters whether the women were really as bad as history paints them or were there other circumstances to consider. Fun read and who doesn’t love a bad girl?
When the tomb of St. Tancred is opened at a village church in Bishop’s Lacey, its shocking contents lead to another case for Flavia de Luce, where greed, pride and murder result in old secrets coming to light, along with a forgotten flower that hasn’t been seen for half a thousand years.
Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) leads a quiet life in the village of St. Mary, England, until his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But will their relationship survive in a society that considers Ali a foreigner?
People around the world know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up, but not many know the story of his creator, J. M. Barrie. Barrie’s young childhood was marked by sorrow, but also held great adventure. His adult life and relationship with the Davies family brought about a second childhood that helped him to create his lasting triumph. Masterfully illustrated by Steve Adams and using Barrie’s own words, Jane Yolen tells the story of the author and the boys who changed his life.
Recounts the events surrounding the 1957 photograph taken by Will Counts that captured one of nine African-American students trying to enter an Arkansas high school while being taunted by an angry white mob and discusses how the photo brought the civil rights movement to the forefront of the nation’s attention.
Nine African-American students made history when they defied a governor and integrated an Arkansas high school in 1957. It was the photo of one of the nine trying to enter the school- a young girl being taunted, harassed, and threatened by an angry mob- that grabbed the world’s attention and kept its disapproving gaze on Little Rock, Arkansas. In defiance of a federal court order, Governor Orval Faubus called in the National Guard to prevent the students from entering the all-white Central High School. A chilling photo by newspaper photographer Will Counts captured the sneering expression of a girl in the mob and made history.
What a wonderful book! This book has Martin Luther King Jr.’s I have a dream speech and tells you what he meant. I love how the speech is broken down and translated for today’s young readers. The translation let’s you know what King was saying and what was going on at the time of the speech. Wonderful introduction to the civil rights movement.
The story of the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for several months captured the world’s attention. It was an amazing rescue effort and their story is a fascinating one. Unfortunately, I don’t think this book does their story justice. This is more the story of the rescuers than the miners. We hardly learn anything about the miners and what they went through while they were trapped. We don’t get personal anecdotes or first hand accounts of what life was like for them. It had to be harrowing…they were surviving on a cap full of tuna every three days! Don’t get me wrong; the rescue effort was interesting and impressive. But I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that it is the miners who are the real interest. Aronson did a good job describing the rescue efforts, but he had a tendency to go off on tangents. There were whole sections on the Greek gods and bronze and how the earth was made. I could have cared less. It had nothing to do with the story at hand and seemed really misplaced. I am sure there are other books out there that describe this event and hopefully they are more entertaining and informative.
This little gem of a book tells the story of what happened in Salem during the craziness of the witch trials. Schanzer does a great job portraying the events as they happened. Her narrative shows the ignorance of the people involved and the greed and determination to proceed no matter what. She relies on historical information, including actual trial transcripts, to reveal the events. It is sad that so many innocent people died and those that perpetrated their accusations felt no consequences.
Over the course of history men and women have lived and died. In fact, getting sick and dying can be a big, ugly mess-especially before the modern medical care that we all enjoy today. How They Croaked relays all the gory details of how nineteen world figures gave up the ghost.
This was a most interesting and enjoyable book to read, and I am not one to read nonfiction, for the most part. It held my interest and will hold the interest of probably most kids. It was factual and informational and just gory enough for those wanting gore. The entries were short, usually one or two pages, with larger print, which appeals to a lot of kids. The accompanying facts were also very interesting to read. I will be recommending this one.
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.
Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days inspired many adventurous souls to take up the challenge and circumnavigate the globe. Matt Phelan tells the stories of three of these adventurers.
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.