Book review: Six Words Fresh off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America by Writers Famous and Obscure, edited by Larry Smith

 Six Words Fresh off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America by Writers Famous and Obscure. Edited by Larry Smith. Kingswell, 2017. $15.99. ISBN 978-136800838-9. 209 pgs. Ages 10-adult. P8/Q9

This book is a refreshing look into a complex subject. Six-word memoirs is a popular series where people are asked to describe their life in six words. This installment has an interesting twist where the focus is on immigration. Peppered through the book are poems, short stories, and anecdotes from immigrants and families of immigrants detailing their own experiences. The writers and producers of the new hit comedy, “Fresh off the Boat,” helped in the creation of this book and the levity is obvious. In a world where immigration is a fiercely contested and at times contentious subject hearing from those it directly affects is a great glimpse into what makes America truly diverse and amazing.

Verdict: Although initially I was apprehensive I found this book extremely enjoyable and easy to read. I gave it a popularity of 8 due to the series already being well known and well publicized. The quality to me is a 9 because instead of focusing on either the humor or the seriousness and at times sadness that immigration involves the editors were able to fuse both together in a way that would make this a great book for classrooms to help delve into the discussion of immigration. I also appreciated the information in the introduction regarding the available free teacher guide that you can download online. This book would be a great resource in middle and high school libraries as well as classrooms. I like the smaller size of the book and hardback binding. It feels sturdy in your hands but can be carried without being cumbersome. The use of multiple fonts and illustrations helped to break the book into section yet kept the flow of the book.

November 2017 review by Michelle Cottrell


Book review: Bernie Sanders Guide to a Political Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, illustrated by Jude Buffum

Sanders, Bernie. Bernie Sanders Guide to a Political Revolution. Illus. by Jude Buffum. Godwin/Holt,. 2017. $16.99. 226p. ISBN 978-1-250-13890-3. Ages 12-15. P5Q9

The title sounds far more than the content shows: the accessible, factual narrative covers much the same information as the presidential candidate delivered at his campaign rallies. The focus is on issues of the economy, healthcare, education, environment, and social justice, with a high concentration on fiscal problems in many of these.

Verdict: Based on Sanders’ book for adults, Our Revolution, Guide is an effective translation for youth, omitting biographical details, and a faster read for adults. Instead of a watered-down version of his first book, this one is a rewrite. The author’s high energy comes through the directness and simplicity of the writing accompanied by engaging charts and a layout that demonstrates strength. Many people may look at it as one-sided, but its facts and information cannot be refuted. A valuable addition to all libraries.

December 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Victoria: Portrait of a Queen, by Catherine Reef

Reef, Catherine. Victoria: Portrait of a Queen. Clarion, 2017. $18.99. 246p. ISBN 978-0-544-71614-8. Ages 12-16. P6Q9

Lush paintings and vintage photos illustrate this biography of the English queen who ruled for 63 years after her 18th birthday. Even her childhood was filled with intrigue as her mother tried to control Victoria with the help of her consort. As a queen, Victoria struggled with the vicissitudes of ruling and her desire to create a better world for her subjects while still bound to the class society in which she was reared. Reef describes her relationships with various prime ministers, her emotional response to the death of her beloved husband Albert when he was only 42, and her attachments to other men after he died. The Victorian Era covered most of the 19th century, a time of great technological and industrial change when the position of royal family was shifting into one of less authority.

Verdict: Although Reef aptly describes the queen’s personality, she sometimes glosses over some of Victoria’s flaws. The subject and treatment of it makes the book better for young readers interested in British history during this period of time. Victoria includes a list of British monarchs, Victoria’s family tree, source notes, and an extensive bibliography including newspaper articles from the 19th century.

December 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Pope Francis: The People’s Pope, by Beatrice Gormley

Gormley, Beatrice. Pope Francis: The People’s Pope. (A Real Life Story). Aladdin, 2017. $17.99. 264p. ISBN 978-1-4814-8141-0. Ages 11-14. P5Q5

As the first non-European and Jesuit to achieve the office, Jorge Mario Bergolio hit the world by storm when the quiet Argentine was named the leader of the Catholic Church in 2013. With adoration, the author follows his spiritual story from childhood throughout his career in the politically disturbed and sometimes violent nation as she emphasizes his compassion for the people and his determination to follow the religion’s directions. Most of the narrative covers his professional life with very little about his family and friends except for their religious connections.

Verdict: Highly one-sided, the book can be used for Catholic teachings in a typical middle-school format.

December 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Eye of the Storm: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code, by Amy Cherrix

Cherrix, Amy. Eye of the Storm: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code. (Scientists in the Field series). Houghton, 2017. $18.99. 73p. ISBN 978-0-544-41165-4. Ages 13-17. P6Q8

In 2014, NASA adapted a high-altitude drone from the Air Force to research hurricane behavior with a sample flight over Hurricane Edouard. In her first book for young readers, author Amy Cherrix focuses on hurricanes, from the personal, to the scientific, to the political aspects. She also describes how disastrous weather can change geopolitics, using as an example the formation of a new country, Bangladesh, following the 1970 Bhola cyclone in the Indian Ocean. Includes glossary, bibliography and index.

Verdict: Although the book begins with a family in danger because they ignored Superstorm Sandy, the remainder of the book concentrates more on unfamiliar technical terms and acronyms. The book will be of greater interest for youth with scientific background and interest. It is also somewhat dated with no mention of the three massive hurricanes from last summer.

December 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961, by Larry Dane Brimner

Brimner, Larry Dane. Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961. Calkins Creek, 2017. $18.95. 111p. ISBN 978-1-62979-586-7. Ages 9-15. P8Q9

Black and white backgrounds alternate by page in the chronicle of thirteen activists—a mix of young and old, men and women, black and white—board two different commercial buses in Washington, D.C. bound for New Orleans. Their intent was to break the illegal color barrier in the South, and their trip became increasingly dangerous as they went deeper into the South, facing severe beatings in Alabama from angry white people despite the nonviolence of the Freedom Riders. Stories of the individuals on the trip are accompanied by a multitude of photographs, often full page, as Brimner shows the peril of their journey, for example when angry whites fire-bombed one bus and tried to keep the people inside the burning vehicle while the police stood by and watched. The Sibert Honor-winning author tells about the arrests when blacks tried to use areas identified as “Whites Only” despite laws desegregating the nation.

Verdict: The clear depiction of struggles to overcome “Jim Crow” demonstrate the necessity for the Civil Rights movement and the life-threatening experiences of those who fought for black rights. Students may be interested in doing further research about the Freedom Rides, including this article on the first one:

December 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photography, by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

Aronson, Marc & Marina Budhos. Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photography. Holt, 2017. $22.99. 294p. ISBN 978-0-8050-9935-8. Ages 12-17. P6Q10

“Dreams matter.” That is Aronson’s theme in this book by the noted author/editor/columnist and his wife in a blended history of the Spanish Civil War, photography, and the event’s famous chroniclers. It is a story of communism and socialism versus fascism that led up to the explosion in Europe of World War II as both sides of the precursor to Adolf Hitler’s destruction were fronted by horrific leaders who tried to enforce their philosophies through war crimes. “Interludes” explains the history of photojournalism, and the book discusses war refugees and other tragedies. The authors’ passionate writing extends to the love affair between two Jewish refugee photographers and explaining the war’s events through action-filled black and white photographs, a task so important that 27-year-old Gerda Taro lost her life after being run over by a tank. The image-filled book includes explanations of the pictures from writers who understand the art of photography and finishes with an unbiased clarification of the factions on both sides of the battles and the unlikely allies that brought each side together. A detailed timeline ties in the war’s events with related occurrences, and both authors relate reasons for their writing the book and the methods of their collaboration. Seventeen years after Taro’s death, Capa stepped on a landmine in Indochina while filming the Vietminh. Omaha Beach on D-Day tells more about Capa’s life with many of his photographs.

Verdict: The authors’ strong feelings for their subject shine in the beautiful writing, and the clear detailing and description of the Spanish Civil War is superb. Both photographs and narrative give history and biography a sense of immediacy with its bonuses of romance and excitement. A must for libraries.

December 2017 review by Nel Ward.