Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

The Last Civil Rights March of the 60s: The March Against Fear March 12, 2017

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.

 

Girl Power! Girl Code! March 6, 2017

Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done, by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser, (March 2017, HarperCollins), $17.99, ISBN: 9780062472502

Recommended for readers 12+

Two teens attend NYC’s Girls Who Code Program, become friends, and create a viral video game that addresses the taboo of menstruation. It really happened, and they’re telling their story, hoping to inspire more girls to get involved in the tech space. More importantly, Andrea “Andy” Gonzalez and Sophie Houser talk frankly about the stress and the pressure of being in the spotlight; the sacrifices they made as they learned more about school, tech and entrepreneurship. They discuss the struggle to find a work-life balance. Girl Code is loaded with photos and includes an appendix with a glossary and coding exercises for both PC and Mac and is essential reading for anyone – particularly young women – interested in pursuing STEM careers.

I’ve been a big proponent of STEM for my library kids and for my own kids. I’ve run coding programs at my last library and am working on plans to bring one to my newest location. I urge the kids I see every day to get hands on, whether it’s toddlers playing with water tables to see what floats and what sinks, or tweens making BB-8 and R2D2 follow coding commands to move around a screen. Having two mentors like Sophie and Andy available on bookshelves is important, because they tell all: overcoming shyness and anxiety; encouraging kids to keep plugging away at code because it doesn’t always happen the first time, but perseverance gets results; and most importantly, that there are people out there that want you to succeed, but there are also people out there that will try to take the wind out of your sails once you do. Having two young women talk about their experiences is so much more important than me telling kids to stick two Scratch blocks together to run a command, because representation matters. I want readers to read these young women’s words and think, “I can do that.”

If you don’t have kids that are into code, give them this book anyway. Sophie and Andy take on the very taboo topic of being female in public. You read that right. Their game, Tampon Run, takes on the taboo of “icky girl stuff” – having periods – and puts it front and center, making it visible and real. It’s a big statement, and the thinking and reasoning behind the creation of this game is fascinating and inspiring reading.

 

Do you like to play? Animals do, too! March 2, 2017

animals-doAnimals Do, Too!, by Etta Kaner/Illustated by Marilyn Faucher, (May 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771385695

Recommended for ages 4-8

Do you like to dance? Do you like to play leapfrog? Play tag? Well, guess what: animals do, too! This fun book features pictures of families at play on one spread, and a corresponding spread on the next two pages, with a group of animals engaged in the same fun. The alternating question and answer format engages kids right away, and the activities that we humans do for fun, while animals do them to find food and care for their young will spark discussion with young learners.

Animals Do, Too! features animals that differ from the usual farm and jungle animals kids meet in their books. Sure, we’ve got bumblebees and frogs, but we also meet cattle egrets and marmosets, gazelles and leaf-cutter ants. A spread at the back of the book provides fast facts about each animal in the book.

There is some lovely watercolor work here, featuring lovely nature scenes. The families are enjoying one another, and the animals are playful while completing their everyday work. The parallels between humans and animals should engender interest and empathy in kids and will start some great conversations – ask the kids around you to think of animals they see every day: what does a cat do that a person does? (Stretching is a good one!) What does a dog do that a person does? (Jump and play!) You can create matching games that match the activity with the animal, for younger learners; bonus: they get to color.

The question and answer pattern of the text invites kids to interact with the text and gives them a chance to contribute before revealing the answer on the following spread. This is a good additional purchase for nature, life science, and animal collections.

 

Wild Animals of the South – beautiful animals, beautiful artwork March 1, 2017

wild_1Wild Animals of the South, by Dieter Braun/Translated by Jen Calleja, (March 2017, Nobrow), $35, ISBN: 9781909263970

Recommended for ages 5+

This gorgeous companion to Braun’s Wild Animals of the North (Nobrow, 2016) introduces readers to animals in the Southern hemisphere. Organized by continent: South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica, readers will enjoy the beautiful, colorful illustrations. The emphasis here is on the illustrations, making this a great starter book for younger children; caregivers can read the short passages on featured animals, which offer fun facts. For example, while most know that a male lion’s mane is his crowning glory, did you know that female lions prefer males with more beautiful and lustrous manes? And that other males will hold back when a male with a more impressive mane appears?

The art is stunning. Braun’s illustrations are geometric, with strong lines and rich colors. There is a wry sense of humor in some – the lion’s lush mane, for instance – while others, like the breaching humpback whale, are breathtaking. A waddle of penguins, under a snowy sky, stand in the stark shadow of glaciers. Braun captures habitats with the same beauty the he sees in the animals themselves.

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The $35 price tag may be a bit steep for some readers, especially those who are looking for more information than artwork (but that’s what libraries are for!), but this book is gorgeous for wildlife lovers and art lovers. For more of Dieter Braun’s illustrations, make sure to visit his website.

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Black History Month: The Youngest Marcher, by Cynthia Levinson February 14, 2017

youngest-marcherThe Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, by Cynthia Levinson/illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, (Jan. 2017, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481400701

Recommended for ages 5-10

In May 1963, children in Birmingham, Alabama, trained in peaceful, civil disobedience, marched to protest segregation. Nine year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks was the youngest marcher, fully invested in civil rights and aware that she would likely go to jail. She spent a week in juvenile hall with flimsy blankets and no toothbrush, but she persevered and made history. Nonfiction author Cynthia Levinson tells the story of the youngest marcher, with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton, here for younger audiences, assuring children that no one is too small, too young, to make a difference in the world.

I’ve been handing this book to kids coming in, looking for African-American biographies for their Black History Month reports for just this reason. I want children to see that they are important. They count. At a time when many feel marginalized, books like The Youngest Marcher, with its powerful words and images, offer representation and affirmation. Children have a voice, and with support and encouragement, they can use them and be heard.

Cynthia Levinson’s author website offers links to further resources, including curriculum guides and videos. Illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton was spotlighted by the WeNeedDiverseBooks initiative, for which she also created original artwork. For more information about the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, visit Biography.com or the Zinn Education Project, offering information about the award-winning documentary, Mighty Times.

 

 

Black History Month: Shackles from the Deep, by Michael Cottman February 10, 2017

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.

 

Time For Kids Presidents is a good desk reference for middle graders January 30, 2017

tfkpresidentsTime for Kids: Presidents of the United States, by Editors at Time for Kids, (Jan. 2017, Time for Kids), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1683300007

Recommended for ages 8-12

Time for Kids’ Presidents of the United States is a slim, backpack and desk-friendly reference guide for middle graders. Loaded with color photos and illustrations, there are facts about the Presidency, branches of government, political parties and why we have them, a spotlight on the First Ladies, and more. Each President receives a brief biography, fast facts, including birth and death dates, political party, Vice President, wife, children, key dates during his administration, and a Did You Know? fact. A 2016 election spotlight and President portrait gallery completes the volume, along with links to the White House website, Presidential homesteads and museums. The volume includes an index.

This is a helpful resource for middle graders – it will help with social studies and current events homework, and provides a quick, easy reading experience by chunking information into readable bites. A good buy for classroom libraries and social studies collections.