Tag Archives: genre: nonfiction

Donner Dinner Party Review

NHHT_3Donner Dinner Party (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #3) by Nathan Hale

Amulet Books, 2013. 978-1419708565

Synopsis: The Donner Party expedition is one of the most notorious stories in all of American history. It’s also a fascinating snapshot of the westward expansion of the United States, and the families and individuals who sacrificed so much to build new lives in a largely unknown landscape. From the preparation for the journey to each disastrous leg of the trip, this book shows the specific bad decisions that led to the party’s predicament in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The graphic novel focuses on the struggles of the Reed family to tell the true story of the catastrophic journey. from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I’d been seeing this series on the shelves for a while, but I splurged on my own copy while I was at the comic shop.

Why I finished it: Westward Expansion was an exciting time in American history in which the country grew into what we now know as the contiguous United States. Stories of pioneers daring to leave the comfort of the East Coast and the Midwestern towns to journey into the unknown were always fascinating to me, especially considering how spoiled we are in the 21st century: we don’t have to boil water before we drink it, we don’t have to use a chamber pot to go to the bathroom, laundry can be done in a washing machine, we can go to a grocery store or a clothing store to buy food and things to wear, and advancements in modern medicine have made it possible to treat cuts and scrapes without the risk of losing a limb. The story of the Donner Party is arguably one of the more famous stories of a family moving West because of the tragedy and gore that surrounds it. As a student, I was grossed out by even the bare bones of details my teacher would give the class about the hardships that the Donner Party had to endure when they found themselves stranded in the mountains during the harsh winter months. Hale has done a fantastic job of expanding on the story we were given in history class, but keeps it tame enough for younger readers (because it’s so much MORE intense than our teachers ever gave it credit). He’s kept in a good chunk of the gorey bits – the story wouldn’t be much without it – but he also gives a voice to each of the members of the party so that we become more invested in their story of survivalism. Hale has also invested a great deal of detail in his art, carefully creating for us a snapshot of a wagon train and the daily life of the party as they came West. While it’s not the most definitive book on the Donner Party, it’s a fantastic read that is sure to become a great springboard into more research about the brave men and women who helped settle the American West.

Other related materials: Patty Reed’s Doll: The Story of the Donner Party by Rachel K Laurgaard, illustrations by Elizabeth Sykes Michaels; Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale; Big Bad Ironclad! (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #2) by Nathan Hale; Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood: A World War I Tale (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #4) by Nathan Hale; The Underground Abductor: An Abolitionist Tale About Harriet Tubman (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #5) by Nathan Hale; Alamo All-Stars (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #6) by Nathan Hale; Raid of No Return: A World War II Tale of the Doolittle Raid (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #7) by Nathan Hale; One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale; Guys Read: True Stories edited by Jon Scieszka; Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale

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The Survival Guide to Bullying Review

survival_guide_to_bullyingThe Survival Guide to Bullying: Written by a Teen by Aija Mayrock

Scholastic, 2015. 978-0545860536

Synopsis: The Survival Guide to Bullying covers everything from cyber bullying to how to deal with fear and how to create the life you dream of having. From inspiring “roems” (rap poems), survival tips, personal stories, and quick quizzes, this book will light the way to a brighter future.from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: Because I remembered being bullied in school and not feeling like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it.

Why I finished it: Being a kid is hard. It’s even harder when there are people in your social circle at school or work that seem to be mean to you and maybe a few others for no reason at all. It could be that we don’t fit into the ‘pretty, skinny, perfect’ mold. It could be that we don’t like the same movies or books as other people. It could be that we like a different food than everyone else. It’s never easy to pinpoint why you or someone else is being picked on; mostly, there’s an overwhelming feeling of being defective or faulty, being made to believe that there’s something wrong with you, being made to believe that you’re a bad person. Mayrock addresses many of these thoughts and feelings as she walks the reader through her own middle school and high school experiences with bullying, both in person and online. It’s refreshing for me to see/read about someone who has experienced the same nonsensical emotional beating and the different techniques they used to be able to fight their way out of the hole. While the writing can be cliched at times and knowing that all of the methods won’t work for everyone in every situation, it’s a great resource for getting young people to be able to recognize the problem and getting the help they need to stop the bullying and bring a boost back to their self-esteem. It can be hard to recognize that you need help; it’s easy to convince yourself that if you don’t confront the issue it will resolve itself; it’s easy to get caught up in an endless cycle of feeling alternatively worthy and worthless. There is a helpful list of websites and hotlines at the back of the book that can aid the reader in taking the first step toward breaking the cycle for themselves or for someone else. It’s an inspiring little volume that can be read as a whole or just as individual relevant chapters.

Other related materials: Be Confident in Who You Are (Middle School Confidential, Book 1) by Annie Fox, M.Ed.; Real Friends vs. the Other Kind (Middle School Confidential, Book 2) by Annie Fox, M.Ed.; What’s Up With My Family? (Middle School Confidential, Book 3) by Annie Fox. M., Ed.; Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig; My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig; Stick Up For Yourself!: Every Kid’s Guide to Personal Power and Positive Self-Esteem by Gershen Kaufman, Ph.D, Lev Raphael, Ph.D, and Pamela Espeland; Speak Up and Get Along!: Learn the Mighty Might, Thought Chop, and More Tools to Make Friends, Stop Teasing, and Feel Good About Yourself by Scott Cooper; Bullying Under Attack: True Stories Written By Teen Victims, Bullies, & Bystanders edited by Stephanie H. Meyer, John Meyer, Emily Sperber, and Heather Alexander; Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones; We Want You to Know by Deborah Ellis; The Weird! Series by Erin Frankel, illustrated by Paula Heaphy; The Drama Years: Real Girls Talk About Surviving Middle School – Bullies, Brands, Body Image, and More by Haley Kilpatrick with Whitney Joiner

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Primates Review

primatesPrimates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks

First Second, 2013. 978-1596438651

Winner of the 2014 Green Earth Book Award,

Winner of the 2014 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year

Synopsis: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas have become some of the biggest names in primatology during the 20th Century. Recruited by Louis Leakey, these women dared to go into the bush during a time when women were not yet taken seriously as scientists, and yet were considered better for field studies than men. Their work has influenced how the world now thinks about primates and about themselves.

Why I picked it up: A library colleague of mine highly recommended it.

Why I finished it: This book is every bit as amazing as I have been told it was. It’s a fun, funny, and inspiring look at how the study of primates has evolved (no pun intended) and even how women were able to make a name for themselves in what was still greatly considered to be a male dominated field. Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas all had a clear idea of what they wanted to do with their lives, and they found a largely uphill battle to be able to be with the animals for which they felt such a strong passion to understand. I was sitting on the edge of my seat through most of the book, living out these adventures with Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas and admiring their sheer gumption. It’s one thing to want to study gorillas or chimps or orangutans, but to do out and do the field work, live in the jungle, and truly immerse yourself in the research takes some definite guts. I’m truly in awe. And despite the stories about how awful it sometimes got, it makes me want to go out and do something groundbreaking. Ottaviani does a beautiful job of highlighting the major life events of these three women and the major breakthroughs they experienced that would enable them to present themselves as serious researchers. There is a little bit of fiction inserted into the plot, but I didn’t find that it affected the overall story – I mean, it’s pretty hard to even just fit one scientist’s life into a book, let alone three! Wicks art beautifully depicts each of the women’s lives and really bring to life each species of primate and their natural habitats. I loved that so many of the sequences were based on real photographs of Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas during the prime years of their research. It’s a truly inspiring read about some truly inspiring women that reminds us that we are never done fighting and that we must never back down from defending something in which we truly believe.

Other related materials: Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists by Jim Ottaviani, Linda Medley, and Donna Barr; Two-Fisted Science: Stories About Scientists by Jim Ottavini, Mark Badger, Donna Barr, Colleen Doran, and Rob Walton; Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks; Girls Who Rocked the World: Heroines from Joan of Arc to Mother Teresa by Michelle Roehm McCann, Amelie Welden, and David Hahn; Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists by Jeannine Atkins, illustrated by Paula Conner; Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey; The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter; Dian Fossey: Friend to Africa’s Gorillas by Robin S. Doak; Light Shining Through the Mist: A Photobiograhy of Dian Fossey by Tom Matthews; Dian Fossey: Among the Gorillas by Wil Mara; Among the Orangutans: The Birute Galdikas Story by Evelyn Gallardo; Orangutan Odyssey by Birute M.F. Galdikas; Mary Leakey: Archaeologist Who Really Dug Her Work by Mike Venezia; Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby

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Samurai Rising Review

samurai_risingSamurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner, illustrations by Gareth Hinds

Charlesbridge, 2016. 978-1580895842

Synopsis: When Yoshitsune was just a baby, his father went to war with a rival samurai family—and lost. His father was killed, his mother captured, and his brothers sent away. Yoshitsune was raised in his enemy’s household until he was sent away to live in a monastery. He grew up skinny and small. Not the warrior type. But he did inherit his family pride and when the time came for the Minamoto to rise up against their enemy once again, Yoshitsune was there. His daring feats, such as storming a fortress by riding on horseback down the side of a cliff and his glorious victory at sea, secured Yoshitsune’s place in history and his story is still being told centuries later. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I developed an interest in Asian history in college and I have been fascinated with samurai ever since.

Why I finished it: Exploring Japanese culture has become somewhat of a passion for me since my introduction to anime in college – a friend showed me Samurai X, introducing me into the world of the samurai. Before I picked up this book (and even when I was studying Asian history), I hadn’t come across Yoshistune and the Minamoto/Taira civil war. It stunned me to realize that I knew more about the decline of the samurai class than I did about its origins. The Japanese culture is rife with tradition: its mythology, its religions, its economies, all seem so grand in their scale and in their longevity. The stories and historical accounts from this period survive perhaps because of the fantastic, almost larger-than-life element to them. Yoshistune’s story is inspiring: he was a great commander and strategist who may not have fit the typical western stereotype of ‘hero’, but his brazen and bold decisions helped to establish many of the nuances that we today associate with the samurai. Hinds’ illustrations pay tribute to the painting tradition most closely associated with Asian art. The contrast between sweeping and short brush strokes convey a sense of beauty and danger in any given illustration, a theme that is present throughout the book. It’s a story that engages the reader in the history and gives us insight into the notion that we all have the potential to make our mark on history, if we are bold enough to step up.

Other related materials: Japan in the Days of the Samurai by Virginia Schomp; Life in Ancient Japan by Hazel Richardson; The Most Daring Raid of the Samurai by Stephen Turnbull; The Samurai Sourcebook by Stephen Turnbull; Japanese Mythology A to Z by Jeremy Roberts; Hands-On History! Ancient Japan by Fiona MacDonald; How to Be a Samurai Warrior by Fiona MacDonald; The End of the Shoguns and the Birth of Modern Japan by Mark E. Cunningham and Lawrence J. Zwier; Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun by Rhoda Blumberg; Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus; The Samurai’s Tale by Erik C. Haugaard; In The Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton, illustrations by Barry Moser

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Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine Review

ada_byron_lovelace_and_the_thinking_machineAda Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu

Creston Books, 2015. 978-1939547200

Synopsis: Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world’s first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: In addition to Darlene Beck-Jacobson having featured the book on her blog, I’m an avid supporter of books that promote math and science and women in technology.

Why I finished it: The literary world needs more books like this one that promote math and science to a female audience. Both fields have been heavily dominated by men – and for the most part, still are – and it is important to promote the contributions of female mathematicians and scientists because their stories are inspiration for the new generations. Lovelace grew up and lived in an era where women did not often stray beyond the role of wife and mother, and like those before and those who would follow her, she found a way to make a name for herself and to challenge the notions of what it meant to be a woman. She is celebrated as the first programmer, a title I feel she deserves: the algorithms she wrote in the 19th century pre-date the computer, but when her work was applied to the modern ‘thinking machine’, it was nearly perfect. Wallmark’s story may be marketed as a children’s book, but the story she tells can be appreciated by readers of all ages. It’s about perseverance and the power of ideas, a message that transcends age and gender. Chu’s illustrations lovingly capture the Victorian era and the world of numbers that entertained Lovelace. The attention to detail lets the reader linger a moment on the pictures that accompany the text, to more fully appreciate the forward thinking minds that unknowingly created computer programming. It’s an inspiring read that can be read and shared over and over again.

Other related materials: Ada Lovelace: The Computer Wizard of Victorian England by Lucy Lethbridge; Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley, illustrated by Jessie Hartland; Lauren Ipsum: A Story about Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno; Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts; Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas; If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers by David J. Smith, illustrated by Steve Adams; Hedy Lamarr and a Secret Communication System by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Cynthia Martin; Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby; Girls Who Rocked the World: Heroines from Joan of Arc to Mother Teresa by Michelle Roehm McCann and Amelia Welden, illustrated by David Hahn; Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Hasley and Sean Addy; Cool Engineering Activities for Girls by Heather E. Schwartz; Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen, PhD; Cool Physics Activities for Girls by Suzanne Slade

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Happy Veterans Day 2015!

indexHappy Veteran’s Day!

If you see a Veteran or an active service member today (or really, any day), thank them for their service to our country. Freedom was won for us by soldiers, and it is important to remember to thank the brave men and women who have put their lives on the line to ensure that we can still have the freedom we enjoy.

I’ve compiled a short list of children’s books that talk about Veteran’s Day and why it’s important. And if you have an interest in further supporting our troops: uso.org, Wounded Warrior Project, Disabled American Veterans, and Homes for Our Troops are just a few of the charities that help support veterans and active service members.

Their sacrifice is our gain; don’t let what they’ve done be forgotten.

Veteran’s Day by Jacqueline S. Cotton; 978-0516274997

Veterans Day: Valuing the Sacrifice of Veterans by Arlene Worsley; 978-1605969329

Veterans: Heroes in Our Neighborhood by Valerie Pfundstein, illustrated by Aaron Anderson; 978-0578135106

The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara Walsh, illustrated by Layne Johnson; 978-1590787540

Remembering Our Heroes: Veterans Day by Kelly Rodgers; 978-1433373633

From A to Z What a Veteran Means to Me! by David Rabb, illustrated by Isha Gupta; 978-0989002622

The Wall by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler; 978-0395629772

America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Mike Benny; 978-1585362165

A Tale of Two Heroes by Jody Davids, illustrated by Anita Miller; 978-0578162867

My Two Great Grandfathers: A Story of Remembrance by Dolores H. Lee and James T. Lees

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Happy Guy Fawkes Day 2015!

Remember, Remember!/the fifth of November….

indexHappy Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night, once again!

Since Guy Fawkes Day is about rebelling against the government (among other things) and we have a presidential election coming up this next year, I thought I would put together a list of books about the American government and Democracy. It’s important to be a well-informed citizen, and part of being a well-informed citizen is knowing how the government works and our role in it.

It may not seem like ordinary people have that big of a role in determining what goes on in this country, but that’s not actually true. Taking the time to learn about the issues and going out and voting (if you’re old enough) does impact what issues get addressed and which ones don’t. Don’t ever think that your voice doesn’t count!

The-Power-of-One-Does-a-Single-Vote-Matters1General Books about Government

Forms of Government by Peter Benoit; 978-0531258262

Kids’ Guide to Government books by Ernestine Giesecke

The Everything American Government Book: From the Constitution to Present-Day Elections, All You Need to Understand Our Democratic System by Nick Ragone; 978-1593370558

Americapedia: Taking the Dumb Out of Freedom by Andisheh Nouraee, Daniel Ehrenhaft, and Jodi Lynn Anderson; 978-0802797933

How the U.S. Government Works by Syl Sobel, J.D.; 978-0764147920

How to Build Your Own Country by Valerie Wyatt; illustrated by Fred Rix; 978-1554533107

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights

In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America’s Bill of Rights by Russell Freedman; 978-0823415854

A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy Maestro, illustrated by Guilio Maestro; 978-0688101923

The Bill of Rights: Protecting Our Freedom Then and Now by Syl Sobel, J.D.; 978-0764140211

A Kid’s Guide to America’s Bill of Rights: Curfews, Censorship, and the 100-Pound Giant by Katherine Krull, illustrated by Anna DiVito; 978-0380974979

Constitutional Law for Kids: Discovering the Rights and Privileges Granted by the U.S. Constitution by Ursula Furi-Perry; 978-1627220231

God and Government: The Separation of Church and State by Ann E. Weiss; 978-0395549773

Branches of Government

Our Government: The Three Branches by Shelly Buchanan; 978-1433373657

A Woman in the House (and Senate): How Women Came to the United States Congress, Broke Down Barriers, and Changed the Country by Ilene Cooper, illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley; 978-1419710360

Our Supreme Court: A History with 14 Activities by Richard Panchyk; 978-1556526077

The U.S. Congress for Kids: Over 200 Years of Lawmaking, Deal-Breaking, and Compromising by Ronald A. Reis; 978-1613749777

Guilty?: Crime, Punishment, and the Changing Face of Justice by Teri Kanefield; 978-0544148963

The Supreme Court and the Judicial Branch by Bryon Giddens-White; 978-1403466082

Checks and Balances: A Look at the Powers of Government by Kathiann M. Kowalski; 978-0761385585

The President, Vice President, and Cabinet: A Look at the Executive Branch by Elaine Landau; 978-0761385639

The Congress: A Look at the Legislative Branch by Robin Nelson and Sandy Donovan; 978-0761385592

Judges and Courts: A Look at the Judicial Branch by Kathiann M. Kowalski; 978-0761385622

The Presidency

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be President: A Young Person’s Guide to Understanding the Presidency of the United States by Linda M. Eccelston; 978-1442165977

So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small; 978-0399243172

If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier, illustrated by Lynne Avril; 978-0807535448

The New Big Book of U.S. Presidents: Fascinating Facts about Each and Every President, Including an American History Timeline by Todd Davis and Marc Frey; 978-0762448807

Smart About the Presidents written and illustrated by Jon Buller, Susan Schade, Maryann Cocca-Leffler; Dana Regan, and Jill Weber; 978-0448433721

Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Douglas B. Jones; 978-0618971435

Elections/Activism

The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics by Edward Keenan, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin; 978-1771470681

It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going! by Chelsea Clinton; 978-0399176128

It’s Your World–If You Don’t Like It, Change It: Activism for Teenagers by Mikki Halpin; 978-0689874482

Election!: A Kid’s Guide to Picking Our President by Dan Gutman; 978-1453270660

The Kid’s Guide to Social Action by Barbara A. Lewis; 978-1575420387

Vote (DK Eyewitness Books) by DK Publishing; 978-0756633820

Vote! by Eileen Christelow; 978-0547059730

The Future Is Ours: A Handbook for Student Activists in the 21st Century edited by John W. Bartlett; 978-0805047875

See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by Elwood Smith; 978-1599908977

How Political Campaigns and Elections Work by Kevin Cunningham; 978-1624036330

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