Book review: Rocks, by Claudia Martin

Martin, Claudia. Rocks (Discover our World series). Quarto Publishing, 2018. $26.65. ISBN 9781682973974. 24 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7

Have you ever wondered how rocks are formed? The reader will learn about rocks, sand, caves, minerals, metals, gems and fossils. Text boxes with facts are set in photographs showing a visual of the facts, engaging the reader and enlightening them further. The reader can move from chapter to chapter based on their interest, the book does not need to be read straight through. This format makes the book easier for children to read. In the Discover our World series, this book includes an index, table of contents and glossary.

Verdict: For children who are interested in rocks, this book provides many facts and photographs that will broaden their knowledge. I recommend this book for elementary school and public libraries. Teachers and homeschool families will find this book valuable.

November 2018 review by Tami Harris.

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Book review: Blacklisted: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment, by Larry Dane Brimner

Brimner, Larry Dane. Blacklisted: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment. Calkins Creek, 2018. $17.95. 171p. ISBN 978-162091-603-2. Ages 12+. P6Q9

Eighty years ago, the House Un-American Activities Committee of the U.S. Congress attacked the beliefs of individual screenwriters and entertainers on the pretext of ferreting out Communists, but actually to destroy unions. Nineteen men, mostly screenwriters, were called to testify in a House hearing in violation of their First Amendment rights, an event which destroyed their careers. Black and white photographs highlight the people involved in the destruction of Constitutional rights, many of them becoming the nation’s leaders including President Richard Nixon.

Verdict: Careful research, extensive quotes, and strong visuals highlight the narrative of a tragedy that the U.S. is beginning to relive in its current anti-union ideology. The Sibert-winning author has written another book to show the dark belly of democracy during the 20th century, adding to earlier information books on black voter suppression and the fight for workers’ rights. Noteworthy is his note at the end, discussing the loyalty oath that he and millions of other U.S. citizens were forced to sign as a requirement of state employment, including teaching, a requirement that has lasted for almost 70 years.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts, by Leah Tinari

Tinari, Leah. Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts. Aladdin, 2018. $19.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5344-1855-4. Ages 9-12. P7Q6

Each large, full-page graffiti-style face is accompanied by quotes of each woman to show boys that “women could be role models or heroes for them.” Each gouache drawing in black on white background is highlighted by a neon color—pink, green, blue, and orange. Brief biographies for these women born in the 19th and 20th centuries complete the book.

Verdict: Some of the quotes about the women are by men, and the book lacks diversity with the majority cis, straight, white, and not disabled. More of a coffee-table book, it is more useful for flipping through because the quotes don’t provide background information.

December 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything, by Martin W. Sandler

Sandler, Martin W. Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything. Candlewick, 2018. $24.99. 159p. ISBN 978-0-7636-9489-0. Ages 11-15. P7Q8

Competing with the Soviet Union’s push to land a person on the moon, NASA sent three human lunar landers for testing on an untried Saturn V rocket. The Apollo 11 moon landing is far better publicized, but The Apollo 8 journey offers a nerve-wracking adventure when the three men on the spacecraft—Bill Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell—lose communication with Earth. Photographs in both color and black & white include the famous 1968 shot of “Earthrise,” the first view of earth from space. The narrative, including first-person perspectives from the three travelers, are helped by sidebar histories and background that describe events of the time, the naming of moon features, people involved in the mission, and rocketry history. Also engaging are technical information about the navigation and the importance of the space travel’s cultural impact.

Verdict: The insets that sometimes cover several pages slow the pacing of the reading, but the book will be enjoyable for both studying the text and skimming through for the photographs. World events surrounding the mission such as the Vietnam War, protests, and the Cold War make this useful for a look of history during the second half of the 20th century.

December 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, by Carla Killough McClafferty

McClafferty, Carla Killough. Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Holiday House, 2018. $24.99. 158p. ISBN 978-0-8234-3697-2. Ages 10-14. P5Q9

“The father of his country” who “led the fight for American freedom” owned ten slaves when he was only eleven years old and didn’t free any of the 123 slaves that he personally owned during his lifetime. McClafferty describes the lives of and experiences of six: William Lee, Christopher Sheels, Caroline Branham, Peter Hardiman, Ona Maria (Oney) Judge, and Hercules. They cared for Washington and his wife, Martha, sewed their clothes, made shoes, fought in the Revolutionary War, guarded his papers, and cooked for the hundreds of guests. The book finishes with the search for unmarked graves of slaves on the grounds of Mount Vernon, Washington’s home.

Verdict: This thought-provoking and meticulously research view of a usually ignored part of American history points out the ways that slaves and indentured servants eased the lives of their owners, who would go to any lengths to keep them enslaved. The archeological reclamation adds to the chapters about the six slaves along with drawings, maps, and documents. Oney Judge was featured in two recommended fictional books for young people, Ann Rinaldi’s Taking Liberty and Emily Arnold McCully’s The Escape of Oney Judge.

December 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Flying Colors: A Guide to Flags from around the World, by Robert G. Fresson

Fresson, Robert G. Flying Colors: A Guide to Flags from around the World. Cicada, 2017. $22.95. 109p. ISBN 978-1-908714-46-6. Ages 8-12. P5Q9

History and culture of different countries are highlighted in this vexillology—a study of flags—that groups these emblems of different countries by color, elements, or design, i.e., tribands, crescent moons, stars, and red, white, and blue. The glossary at the beginning of the book, after a brief history of flag development, makes for easy reference, for example if the reader forgets the definition of fimbriation. Six whimsical creatures, each dressed in a different color, help provide explanations of the flags’ designs. The colorful vintage digitized illustrations provide landscapes across the bottom of the page in a few instances. Nine maps at the end of the book show all the countries of the world.

Verdict: The clarity of the text adds to the fascination of these facts, for example Afghanistan changing its flag 21 times, more than any other country. Although the book lacks an index, the table of contents lists the primary countries listed under each chapter. This is a book that people will pore over, learning new information with each reading. Highly recommended.

December 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The American Indian Rights Movement, by Eric Braun

Braun, Eric. The American Indian Rights Movement. Lerner, 2019. $27.99. ISBN 9781541523333. 32 pgs. Ages 8-12. P7Q7

This small book is a basic introduction to the American Indians’ struggle for rights through our nation’s history.  In short chapters that are illustrated with photographs (with informative captions), the main points of the development of the American Indian Movement (AIM) are described. Sections like Meet a Major Player which introduce us to individuals who played important roles, and A Moment in the Movement which focus on key episodes and distributed throughout. I especially liked the information given on relatively recent events- the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline protests are given reasonable coverage. There is a timeline, glossary, source notes, and further information at the end of the book, as well as an index. I can see this book being useful to middle school teachers (especially when used with more detailed recent news articles and social media).

VERDICT: While this isn’t a comprehensive history of the AIM, it will make a basic introduction to the subject for young readers and will be useful in our collection. I did find a typo in one of the captions.

December 2018 review by Carol Schramm.