Book review: Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands, by Susan Goldman Rubin

Rubin, Susan Goldman. Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands. Chronicle, 2017. $17.99. 99p. ISBN 978-1-4521-0837-7. Ages 10-15. P7Q8

Although Lin was largely known as the architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when she was in college, her work has gone far beyond that one project to such works as a library for the Children’s Defense Fund and the Museum of Chinese in America. Chapters divided into artists’ materials such as granite, water, earth, glass, and celadon (a type of pottery) each concentrate on a specific project and include the reasons and background for her designs. Black and white photos of Lin’s family accompany color images of her designs during and after completion.

Verdict: The book has a stiff feel but still has an inviting layout with large-print text and wide variety of illustrations, and is about an important Chinese-American woman. Also interesting is Lin’s description of how she fought to guarantee that her vision of the Vietnam Memorial was unchanged.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.


Book review: Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, an Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids, edited by Elissa Brent Weissman

Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, an Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids. Ed. by Elissa Brent Weissman. Atheneum, 2017. $17.99. 208p. ISBN 978-1-4814-7208-1. Ages 8-12. P4Q9

Twenty-six living authors and illustrators in a mix of ethnic background, age, and gender share their creative childhoods. Each of the entries includes a photograph as a child, memoir, biography, and sample of childhood creative work. Weissman uses the order of beginning creative work from youngest, 7, to oldest, 16. Reflections range from humous to serious and sometimes provide tips on writing.

Verdict: Although aspiring writers and artists may find the book of interest, it may have more appeal in general to adults.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Journeys: Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives, edited by Catherine Gourley

Journeys: Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives. Ed. by Catherine Gourley. Candlewick, 2017. $9.99. 226p. ISBN 978-0-7636-9578-1. Ages 10+. P3Q9

Selections from thousands of letters sent to “Letters about Literature” for Grades 4 through 12 sponsored by the 40-year-old Book of the Library of Congress reveals how “hearts are inspired and at times healed by the power of an author’s words.” The 52 entries are divided into three age groups which are each subdivided into Destinations, Realizations, and Returning Home. Each young author shows how reading has made a difference to them in highly poignant and personal ways. The editor has been national director for the program for 25 years.

Verdict: The thoughtful entries will probably be of more interest to adults than youths.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Magellan: Over the Edge of the World, by Laurence Bergreen

 Bergreen, Laurence. Magellan: Over the Edge of the World. Roaring Brook, 2017. $19.99. 211p. ISBN 978-1-62672-120-3. Ages 11-14  P3Q6

The author adapts his adult book on Magellan’s journey, the first circumnavigation of the world, which began with his ambitions that led him from his native Portugal to its rival Spain. Magellan died before a few of his sailors straggled back to their starting point after three years, and his family lost all of his money while he was gone. Treachery, mutiny, illness, starvation—Magellan and his men experienced all these and worse before he was killed in the Philippines on his way to the Spice Islands.

Verdict: The dull prose doesn’t match the excitement of the adventures, and the illustrations and few maps are muddy and difficult to read. There is room for a more accessible book about the explorer.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Mars One, by Jonathan Maberry

Maberry, Jonathan.  Mars One.  Simon & Schuster, 2017.  ISBN 978-4814-6161-0.  $17.99.  448 pages.  Ages 12 and up.  Q9P8

A not-so-very futuristic novel where a group of candidates are chosen to colonize Mars.  When you pick up the book you think the novel is going to be about colonizing Mars, but it’s about the pressures faced by the people who have been chosen to go.  The training they endure and how much training they have to go through, from psychological to physical.  The book story highlights the “reality” the characters portray to their doting fans, and the moral question of whether we should colonize a planet when we cannot take care of the one we have.  The book also explores the psychological duress created by leaving loved ones behind and the pressure to be the first human to take a step on Mars.  What I like most about this book is also what I liked least: I picked up the book thinking the story would take place on Mars, when we only get to take the first step.

Google Mars One and there seems to be an actual project, or a very believable mock-up of this very idea.  I’m not sure which came first, the actual project, or the book.

Verdict:  Loved the detail behind the training, and what life would be like while traveling to another planet, that combined with the complexity of the social media world we live in and how it literally finances projects like this, makes this an eye-opening story.

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Lemons, by Melissa Savage

Savage, Melissa. Lemons. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9781524700126. 3 pages. Ages 8-12. P7 Q8

Lemons follows a girl named Lemonade from her home in San Francisco to Willow Creek, California. As she settles into her new home with her grandfather, whom she doesn’t know, she finds new adventures. There are fifty-three chapters in the book and each chapter is three to five pages long. With short chapters, children won’t feel overwhelmed by the length of the book. The author uses advanced vocabulary and describes things in detail, which adds depth to the story. The author is a child and family therapist who writes issue-driven books for young people, coupled with cryptozoology and the mystery of Big Foot. Lemons reflects the author’s knowledge of social work and how the system works. This book is realistic for children who have lost their parents and are moved by a social worker to another place to live.

Verdict: I highly recommend this book for children who love adventure and Big Foot. My daughter is a social work major and loves Big Foot. This book combines the two in an intriguing story that will keep the interest of readers.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny, by Rebecca Chace, illustrated by Kacey Schwartz

Chace, Rebecca. June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny. Illustrated by Kacey Schwartz. Balzer + Bray, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780062464989. 352 pages. Ages 8-12. P6 Q5

June’s parents died when she was three, leaving her with a lot of money. When she turns twelve, her fortune is lost. June is forced to leave New York and has to live in South Dakota. Along her journey, she learns to appreciate family. The book is not realistic. A child would not be living on her own, with only a housekeeper at the age of twelve. There are many things in the story that are not realistic. That being said, once I got into the story, it held my attention. I liked how the author emphasized family and friends. This chapter book has a table of contents and 26 short chapters.

Verdict: While the book is not realistic, I think it is easy to read and children will like the adventure that June has. Children who collect pennies will find the facts about pennies interesting. I recommend this book for libraries.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.