Book review: Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights, by Deborah Kops

Kops, Deborah. Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights. Calkins Creek, 2017. $17.95. 224p. ISBN 978-1-62979-323-8. Ages 13-16. P5Q7

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton may have been far better known than Alice Paul, but she is the suffragist who most struggled for women’s right to the ballot box in her protests leading to force-feeding in prison, other brutal treatment in and out of jail, and illnesses that took a serious toll on her life until she died at the age of 92 in 1977. The book lacks very much personal detail because she seemed to have little personal life; almost everything she did was for the cause she identified early as a Quaker. Learning her activist while a graduate student in England during the early 20th century, she organized such events as the 2013 protest march in Washington and then formed the National Women’s Party in 1916 after the National American Woman Suffrage Association thought that she went too far in her fight for the vote. Paul was the author of the Equal Rights Amendment, designed to make discriminatory laws against women unconstitutional, which Congress has never passed.

Verdict: The narrative slows down in places, and the lack of personal details about Paul makes parts of the book a bit dry, but Paul needs to be better known. This book may help the lack of information about her for younger readers.

March 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Legalizing Marijuana: Promises and Pitfalls, by Margaret J. Goldstein

Goldstein, Margaret J. Legalizing Marijuana: Promises and Pitfalls. Twenty-First Century Books, 2017. $35.99. 104p. ISBN 978-1-4677-9243-1. Ages 10-16. P9Q8

With medical marijuana legalized in 38 states and recreational marijuana legal in eight of these states, the topic is an important one for youth even if they cannot legally use the substance. Because the drug has been rated on the same level as opioids, the United States has not done research into the herb’s medicinal value as other countries such as China and Israel have done. Goldstein addresses this problem as well as the racist reason for restrictions and the parallel between prohibition against alcohol and marijuana, both of which resulted in gang-related crimes. She includes the history of the plant’s cultivation and use and the progress toward legalization, including attitudes. Verdict: Careful research enhances this topic bound to be popular with youth. Unfortunately, the material is somewhat outdates regarding laws because states have moved forward rapidly in the past 18 months to legalize marijuana. Yet much of the book is up-to-date and provides an education for people who have not investigated the topic.

March 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: LGBTQ+ Athletes Claim the Field: Striving for Equality, by Kirsten Cronn-Mills

Cronn-Mills, Kirsten. LGBTQ+ Athletes Claim the Field: Striving for Equality. Twenty-First Century Books, 2017. $34.65. 104p. ISBN 978-1-4677-8012-4. Ages 12-16. P8Q7

This depiction of several LGBTQIA amateur and professional athletes covering a wide variety of sports is divided into five thematic chapters: prejudice against the athletes, their coming out, transgender and intersex athletes, regulations, and possible evolution of LGBT+ athletes in sports.

Verdict: The individuals in the book represent a balance of genders with photographs in both color and black and white. The delineation of topics is not always clear-cut, and sidebars don’t always fit the topic on the page. Yet the book covers an important topic for its audience, and a timeline at the end of the book gives a chronological feel for progress since 1932.

March 2017 review by Nel Ward.

[Editor’s note: Other reviews note that the book emphasies transgender athletes, but, despite the title, includes no information on bisexual or queer identified athletes.]

Book review: Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think,Talk, and Feel, by Nancy F. Castaldo

Castaldo, Nancy F. Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. $16.99. 160p. ISBN 978-0-544-63335-3. Ages 12-14. P5Q6

The author of The Story of Seeds examines the perceptions of animals through a series of studies of cognition.

Vertict: Although the title of this book promises an exploration of animals, it concentrates on mammals—specifically primates, dogs, and a bit of discussion about elephants and dolphins. She tosses out a few pages about earthworms, bees, and corvids (specifically magpies and crows) while rehashing older material about the brains of the larger mammals. Sidebars are out of sync with the text which goes from technical to simplistic. Colorful photographs makes flipping through the books better than reading it.

March 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and His Sacrifice for Civil Rights, by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace

Wallace, Rich & Wallace, Sandra Neil. Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and His Sacrifice for Civil Rights. Calkins Creek, 2016. $18.95. ISBN 9781629790947. 352 pgs. Ages 12+. P7Q9

wallace-blood-brotherBlood Brother is an outstanding biography of a figure in the civil rights movement that many of us have never heard of. The book is packed full of primary source materials (photos, drawings, posters, handwritten notes) that make the already interesting story even richer. The authors have done solid, thorough research on the life of this interesting man. The book begins with Daniels’ childhood and college life, and shows how his awareness of inequality and racism developed. During his time in seminary, training to become an episcopal priest, he became increasing alarmed about the racial turmoil in the country, and his heart led him to join John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Alabama. There, he became deeply involved in the protest movement and in the lives of local people, and began to really understand the devastating effect of systematic racism and poverty. On August 20, 1965, during a day of protest, Daniels was gunned down while shielding 17 year old black activist Ruby Sales. It was a Booklist Editor’s Choice, received a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and was a Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Award Honor Book.

VERDICT: This is an excellent addition to a young adult or higher level juvenile nonfiction collection. Lower level readers will find the large font size and plentiful illustrations helpful, and more proficient readers will be carried along with the clean, strong writing.

March 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Climate Migrants: On the Move in a Warming World, by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Hirsch, Rebecca E. Climate Migrants: On the Move in a Warming World. Twenty-First Century Books, 2017. $35.99. ISBN 9781467793414. 88 pgs. Ages 10+. P7Q8

hirsch-climate-migrantsHirsch talks about some of the big concepts in climate change- the difference between weather and climate, the greenhouse effect, feedback loops, and carbon emissions. These ideas are laid out in a simple, well-organized way that will be helpful for young readers who are doing research for a report or class assignment.The book’s main focus is on the human consequences of climate change. Hirsch looks at how weather change is bringing catastrophic changes to people all over the world, from hurricanes on the south coast of the US, to villages in Alaska and islands in the South Pacific that will soon be washed away by rising sea levels, to droughts in Africa and California. She talks about these crises and how people are being forced to move their homes to be safe, and often finding a place to go is very difficult. She says that by 2050, more than 25 million people will be on the move, trying to find a place to go. This subject is very pertinent today in Trump’s America- many of the refugees and immigrants coming to this country are being pushed by natural disasters and the associated poverty and sometimes violence in their countries to find a new home elsewhere.  Hirsch offers some suggestions- climate change can’t be stopped, but it can be slowed and our planet and population can be protected from some of it’s more serious effects by taking action- using less energy, recycling, restoring desert areas into “green zones,” using non-fossil fuel sources, and implementing new technologies like carbon capture methods are discussed. The text is supported with photos, graphs and charts, and there is a table of contents, glossary, source notes, and bibliography.

VERDICT: I think this book would be valuable in school and public libraries. It is a great source for students who are researching climate change and learning about the growing refugee situation around the world.

March 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer, by Heather Henson, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Henson, Heather. Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop: Slave-Explorer. Bryan Collier, Ill. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. ISBN 9781481420952. Ages 4-8. P7Q8

henson-lift-your-lightHenson guides us through Mammoth Cave, Kentucky with the words of the slave/cave explorer Stephen Bishop. Bishop came to Mammoth Cave as a slave when he was a teenager, and lived his whole life there, learning the extensive cave system, mapping it, and guiding tourists through it. Henson’s imagination of what Bishop might have said to a group of tourists in the dark of the cave is poetic and eloquent, as Bishop was reputed to be. The illustrations by Bryan Collier are done in watercolor and collage. They’re dark and rich, and are very appropriate for the subject matter. I loved the tone of the story- Bishop was a slave, bought and owned along with the cave system, but in his work he was a man- an expert and a guide, leading crowds safely in and out of the cave. There are author’s notes, illustrator’s notes, and resources at the end of the book.

VERDICT: Older children learning about slavery in America will find this story very interesting and different from what they have probably read before. I love how the author and illustrator focused on the dignity and humanity of Bishop.

March 2017 review by Carol Schramm.