Posted in Early Reader, History, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Cheer Up, Ben Franklin! There’s a party coming soon!

ben-franklinCheer Up, Ben Franklin!, by Misti Kenison, (July 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492652472

Recommended for ages 0-3

Poor Ben Franklin is sad! No one has time to fly kites with him today. George Washington’s rallying his troops, Betsy Ross is sewing a flag, Sam Adams is throwing a tea party in Boston, and Alexander Hamilton is too busy counting money. What’s a Founding Father to do? Ben’s friends are sure to pull through in the end, with a signing of the Declaration and a big fireworks party to cheer him up in this fun, adorable book by Misti Kenison.

This is the cutest book for budding historians (and the adults who love them: one of my best friends is an historian who wrote her thesis on Franklin, and she loves this book). It’s great for toddlers who understand what a drag it is when no one can play with them, and the artwork is adorable. Ape this book up in storytime! Ben’s giant, mournful eyes will get sympathy from anyone, and the big fireworks party at the end is a great way to celebrate with an Independence Day storytime. Thanks to Ms. Kenison for, to paraphrase Abigail Adams, remembering the ladies! Including Betsy Ross and Abigail Adams is important, to illustrate to readers that women were indeed a big part of founding the United States of America.

A timeline at the end of the book goes from 1773, when Sam Adams organized the Boston Tea Party, through 1801, when Jefferson became President. Each historical figure mentioned in the book is briefly profiled here, too. A must-add to libraries, schools, and personal collections, and also a perfect gift for the Hamilton fans in your life.

Misti Kenison is a web/graphic designer and author/illustrator of the Tiny Traveler series. Visit Misti at her Tiny Traveler site to learn more about her books, and download some fun printables!

Posted in History, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

The Last Civil Rights March of the 60s: The March Against Fear

The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power, by Ann Bausum, (Jan. 2017, National Geographic), $18.99, 978-1-4263-2665-3

Recommended for readers 12+

In June 1966, activist James Meredith set out to walk from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi. He called it his Walk Against Fear; he wanted to conquer his own fears of walking through his home state; he wanted to encourage fellow African Americans to become voters: the Voter Registration Act had passed the year before, but the majority of African Americans had not yet registered, still living in fear of consequences they faced. Two days into his walk, James Meredith was shot in an assassination attempt. While Meredith recuperated, his cause was taken up by civil rights leaders of the day: Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael, and the ensuing March Against Fear became an historic march that included 15,000 people, resulted in 4,000 black voter registrations in Mississippi, and saw the rise of the Black Power movement.

Author Ann Bausum, who has connections to this history, captures the strife in Mississippi as whites and blacks clashed over civil rights. She looks at Meredith’s frustration at how his private stand grew into a full-scale movement, and at the discord between Stokely Carmichael and Martin Luther King: Carmichael’s desire for Black Power frightened whites who saw the movement as a possible militant uprising; King wanted to promote a nonviolent, peaceful march. Bausum also looks at why this march, of all marches, seems to have disappeared from history books – I certainly never learned about this one in school – and how we are still “trying to establish the essential truth that Black Lives Matter”.

An essential read for everyone. An essential addition to history classes in high school and college.

For more information about The March Against Fear, check PBS’ American Experience page on the Civil Rights Movement and the National Archives webpage on James Meredith and March Against Fear.

The March Against Fear received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Posted in History, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Black History Month: Shackles from the Deep, by Michael Cottman

shackles-from-the-deepShackles from the Deep: Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship, a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy, by Michael Cottman, (Jan. 2017, National Geographic Society), $17.99, ISBN: 9781426326639

Recommended for ages 10-13

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Cottman investigates the wreck of a 17-century slave ship, the Henrietta Marie, and goes on a journey that will take him from the Caribbean islands, where the Henrietta Marie docked to unload hundreds of kidnapped Africans to be sold into slavery, to Africa, to see Goree Island – location of the Maison des Esclaves; House of the Slaves, and the Door of No Return; the last glimpse enslaved Africans would have of their homeland – with his own eyes.

Cottman’s journey is as personal as it is professional. He struggles with anger at the slavers themselves, and with the manufacturers of the shackles, discovered by African-American diver Captain Demostenes “Moe” Molinar, in 1972. Cottman discovers that many of the men behind the Henrietta Marie were members of their parishes, even philanthropists in their own communities, and yet turned a blind eye to the suffering of countless men, women, and children caught up in the slave trade. He wonders if the spouses and children of these men knew that their comfortable lifestyle came at the expense of human misery, and he agonizes as he tries to understand, and forgive.

Adapted for younger readers from Michael Cottman’s 1999 book, The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie, Shackles from the Deep introduces readers to the aftereffects of slavery, centuries later. Entire families have been lost to history; people feel unrooted, to some degree, to this day. Imagine wondering your ancestors endured the brutal conditions of slavery, and never being able to find out the answer? By personalizing his story, Michael Cottman makes this already important book vital reading for middle school students and above.

We are still dealing with the fallout from centuries of slavery. It is personal, and by adding his story to the story of the Henrietta Marie, Michael Cottman invites readers to look at events that may seem so long past through different eyes. What we also get, unexpectedly, is a call to action for young divers of color to continue exploring the waters of our planet to learn more about our collective past, and our future.

An important book for libraries and nonfiction collections, Shackles from the Deep has received a starred review from Booklist. There are four pages of full-color photos; an index, and further resources on deep-water exploration, shipwrecks, and slave ships.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History has a comprehensive booklet on the Henrietta Marie, from their 2000 expedition at the West Virginia State Museum. It would be an excellent companion to any social studies unit on slavery and an accompaniment to Shackles From the Deep.

Posted in History, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Women's History

Women in the Old West: Frontier Grit

frontier-gritFrontier Grit, by Marianne Monson, (Sept. 2016, Shadow Mountain), $19.99, ISBN: 9781629722276

Recommended for ages 12+

Monson profiles 12 pioneer women who lived life on the frontier as America expanded into the West. From a freed slave who watched her husband and children sold in front of her to a woman who rescued Chinese girls from human trafficking, every woman profiled in this book withstood hardships, overcame obstacles, and thumbed their noses at nay-sayers to change the world. There are entrepreneurs, doctors, politicans, and activists, all here to inform and inspire a new generation.

Frontier Grit gives us a new batch of women in history that many of us would otherwise never have heard of; while the research is well done and comprehensive, the writing is simplified, more for a middle school audience than the 18+ age group suggested by the publisher. An author summary at end of each profile relates what each woman personally means to the author, detracting from the scholarship of the overall book and relegating it to the territory of history report. Each woman’s impact could more effectively be communicated by making it less personal, more definitive; the lasting impact of each woman on all women.

Each profile includes photos (or drawings, where applicable), notes and sources. A reasonable purchase if you need additional women’s biographies, particularly as they relate to the American frontier or women’s suffrage.

Posted in History, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Great desk reference for kids: Time for Kids 2017 Almanac

tfkTime for Kids 2017 Almanac, by the Editors of Time for Kids, (May 2016, Time for Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1618934154

Recommended for ages 8-12

The latest TFK Almanac presents facts, news, current events, and information, curated from previous issues of Time for Kids magazine in one fun, interactive volume that’s a great desk reference for middle graders. The almanac covers the following subject areas: A Look Back (covering the previous years’ current events); Animals; Arts; Body and Health; Books; Calendars and Holidays; Computers and Games; Countries; Energy and the Environment; Entertainment; Geography; History; Inventions and Technology; Science; Space; Sports, and The United States. There are over 600 photos, quizzes and activities at the end of each section, and maps and timelines throughout the book. Kids will get a kick out of the year’s entertainment and world events wrap up and benefit from reference resources like the breakdowns of the world’s countries, which includes literacy rates, languages, currencies, and capitals; a breakdown of the branches of our government, listing of the states and Presidents, and walkthrough of the scientific method.

This is one of those references that deserves space on students’ desks, right next to their dictionary and thesaurus. It’s a big homework help, with a little extra fun to keep things interesting. I’ll keep one copy in Reference and one or two on the shelves here at the library.

Posted in History, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Titanic survivor stories: 10 True Tales

titanicTitanic: Young Survivors (10 True Tales), by Allan Zullo, (Dec. 2015, Scholastic), $5.99, ISBN: 9780545818391

Recommended for ages 10-12

Another solid addition to the 10 True Tales series, Allan Zullo researched survivor stories of the kids who survived the Titanic sinking and told their stories. With heartbreaking statistics – only 86 of about 195 young people under age 17 survived – and tear-jerking stories of children saying goodbye to their fathers as they were lowered into lifeboats, these stories are tough to read, but create an emotional link between readers and the kids who survived the tragic sinking of the luxury liner over 100 years ago. It’s a good additional book to add to nonfiction collections; one that will go beyond the facts and straight to the heart of the people and what they lost. Each story includes a brief epilogue that details what happened to the survivors after arriving back in New York, and any information about the recovery of the survivor’s family members.

If Allan Zullo’s name is on it, I buy it. He’s written over 100 nonfiction books for kids, and knows how to write series nonfiction that reads like page-turning fiction. He knows the subject matter that kids like to read about, from war heroes to surviving sharks, and he makes sure to get a kids’-eye view with books like Kid Pirates and Teens at War. He puts the real face of history into nonfiction text by telling the stories of people affected by world-shattering events.

The book includes a glossary, and Zullo mentions several reliable Web resources, including Encyclopedia Titanica, Titanic-Titanic, and the Titanic Inquiry Project.

Allan Zullo’s author webpage offers more information about his books and an FAQ that features questions kids have asked him.

Posted in History, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

A Weird and Wild Beauty tells the story of Yellowstone

yellowstoneA Weird and Wild Beauty: The Story of Yellowstone, the World’s First National Park, by Erin Peabody¬†(Feb. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-63450-204-7

Recommended for ages 12+

A beautiful book with stunning photo and a powerful ecological and historical message, Erin Peabody’s A Weird and Wild Beauty tells the story of the founding of Yellowstone National Park. She tells us about the hard journey and oftentimes grueling expedition West; about the lives of the men who explored and risked their lives to bring the natural beauty of Yellowstone to the rest of the post-Civil War United States; and provides breathtaking photos and paintings of the natural wonder that is Yellowstone.

More than just a book on the beauty of Yellowstone, readers will discover that there was a fight to keep Yellowstone’s lands untouched: from Jay Cooke, a robber baron who wanted to build a transcontinental railroad that would cut through the lands, to the Native American tribes who wanted their tribal homelands to remain untouched.

A welcome addition to tween and teen nonfiction, A Weird and Wild Beauty is a lovely addition to collections in classrooms, libraries, and homes. I’ll have to booktalk this one to let the kids know it’s on the shelf – nonfiction, especially in the YA area, tends to go unnoticed – but with summer vacation coming, I could pick any picture out of this book and talk about dream destinations. History fans will love the narrative storytelling voice Peabody assumes, and art fans need to know about this book because of the stunning work by the expedition’s photographer, William H. Jackson, and the painter, Thomas Moran. Readers will learn the complex processes behind each photo – there were no negatives in the early days of photography, so photographers (and their poor pack animals) had to carry hundreds of pounds of equipment, including glass plates of different sizes to capture different images – and painting, or woodcut. It’s a beautifully artistic book that art students should not miss.

"Crater of the Giant Geyser", illustration from "The Wonders of the Yellowstone"; NP Langford; May/June 1871 issue of Scribner's Monthly
“Crater of the Giant Geyser”, illustration from “The Wonders of the Yellowstone”;
NP Langford; May/June 1871 issue of Scribner’s Monthly, from Yellowstone’s Photo Collection

The book includes maps, a guide to Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features, complete endnotes, sources, photo credits, and an index. Make sure to consider this beautiful resource for your collections.