Book review: Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow, by Olugbemisola Rhyday-Perkovich

Rhuday-Perkovich, Olugbemisola. Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow. Feiwel and Friends, 2018. $19.99. 153p. ISBN 978-1-250-30846-7. Ages 12+. P8Q8

Based on the documentary of the same name, this book follows NASA since its establishment in 1958 with its accomplishments, challenges, and possibilities in the future. Sidebars provide profiles of people, “fast facts,” information about how equipment such as telescopes work, etc

Verdict: Highly colorful photographs would have benefited from better cutlines to identify the subject, but young readers interested in space travel will be entranced. Libraries may want to purchase this as an accompaniment to the film.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.


Book review: Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator, by Catherine Reef

Reef, Catherine. Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator. Clarion, 2018. $18.99. 212p. ISBN 978-1-328-74005-2. Ages 10-14.

The daughter of feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft led an unorthodox life from the time of her widowed father’s remarriage when she was four years old to her death at the age of 53 and her son’s discovery that she had kept what was assumed to be her husband’s heart after his cremation. In between, she ran away from home at 16 with the charismatic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, lost all except one of four children at early ages, and traveled throughout Europe until she returned to England after her husband’s drowning when she was 24. Well educated, Shelley suffered terrible losses but managed to write seven novels. Small black and white vintage illustrations have been added to the text.

Verdict: By omitting the stressful relationship between Mary and her stepmother and attributing childhood issues to her father, Reef has restructured the biographical information and left out part of the impetus for Mary running away. The book is also somewhat slow. A better view of Mary Shelley is Lita Judge’s Mary’s Monster.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book reviews: Alexander Hamilton, by Teri Kanefield

Kanefield, Teri. Alexander Hamilton. (The Making of America Series). Abrams, 2018. $7.99. 203p. ISBN 978-1-4197-2943-0. Ages 10-13. P6Q8

From Hamilton’s early life as an orphaned illegitimate child to his untimely end in a duel, he demonstrated great drive and principles that led him to a prominent place in the Revolutionary War and the ensuing formation of a government. Kanefield uses a comparison with Aaron Burr, the man who killed him, to show Hamilton’s belief in a strong central government and a federal bank to stabilize the new country’s economy. Her narration brings such luminaries as Thomas Jefferson to life, complete with many of his flaws. Liberally sprinkled throughout are quotes from Hamilton and the black and white illustrations are copies of those from the 18th and 19th centuries. Parts of his writing are included at the end of the book. Verdict: The popular Broadway hit Hamilton may create interest in the first of this series, and Kane has written a personal view of the subject. She has also done an excellent job presenting the battle between lawmakers’ difference of opinion between an agrarian society with local governments and an urban structure that could be strengthened.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Spooked! How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America, by Gail Jarrow

Jarrow, Gail. Spooked! How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America. Calkins Creek, 2018. $18.95. 139p. ISBN 978-1-62979-776-2. Ages 12+. P7Q8

No other radio program may have had more impact on the people of the United States than Orson Welles’ Halloween-eve production of H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel on Mercury Theater. Within minutes of its beginning, hundreds of thousands of people accepted the fictionalized program as fact, and the media reported their mass hysteria. Jarrow combines the lead-up to the program and its aftermath, including consideration of government censorship, with chapters detailing a description of the production with bold red-tinged sepia SF drawings. Black and white photographs highlight people involved in Welles’ life and events surrounding the program.

Verdict: Inviting language and layout provide an excellent view of a major hoax in U.S. history, one that is continued today with conspiracy theories on the internet.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.


Book review: Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create like an Inventor, by Temple Grandin with Betsy Lerner

Grandin, Temple with Betsy Lerner. Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create like an Inventor. Philomel, 2018. $18.99. 230p. ISBN 978-1-5247-3820-4. Ages 11+. P6Q8

Despite her autism, Grandin has become a famous author, scientist, and inventor. Her book for youth incorporates history, diagrams, and useful learning tips for a diversity of inventions from levers to optical illusions with practical activities such as making paper, stilts, kites, and a solar system diorama. The epilogue explains her “squeeze machine” that helped her cope with autism.

Verdict: Diagrams are sometimes complex but clear, and the directions for the projects can easily be followed. Grandin’s approach to her subjects makes the book useful for understanding autism, understanding how other people think, and understanding all the topics that she tackles. It is a book to be poured over, not something that it read and returned to the library.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Cyrus Field’s Big Dream: The Daring Effort to Lay the First Transatlantic Telegraph Cable, by Mary Morton Cowan

Cowan, Mary Morton. Cyrus Field’s Big Dream: The Daring Effort to Lay the First Transatlantic Telegraph Cable. Calkins Creek, 2018. $19.95. 223p. ISBN 978-1-62979-556-0. Ages 12+. P7Q9

Almost one and a half centuries before the world-wide popularity of the internet, messages from one continent to another had to be relayed by ship, a time-consuming process. In the middle of the 19th century, a wealthy New Yorker met a visionary Englishman who convinced the businessman to invest in his dream of a telegraph cable laid on the ocean floor. Part of the book describes Field’s childhood and incessant drive during his adulthood; the remainder details continuing failures of the project as workers and leaders of the attempt made one mistake after another until success after ten years. Blue-tinged sepia diagrams, paintings, and vintage photographs add to the information presenting in an inviting layout.

Verdict: As Cowan relates the steps—both forward and backward—of this monumental attempt, she also points out the waste of money from the men’s stubbornness when they refused to follow directions or think through the process. At times, the narrative becomes almost comical in their lack of common sense. The illustrations and accessible writing make the book an inviting read.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition, adapted by Rebecca Stefoff, illustrated by Teagan White

Stefoff, Rebecca. On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition. Illustrated by Teagan White. Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018. $25.99 ISBN 9781481462495. 160 pgs. Ages 10 up. P8Q10

This beautiful book is based on the first edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, published in 1859; and while it contains much of the same information, it has been adapted in several ways. It is a big book, with bold titles, colored text, and plenty of captions with added explanation. The text has been simplified although much of Darwin’s original language is used. While attempting to read the original may seem daunting, this book is easy to read from start to finish.  Some chapter titles have been changed. For instance chapter eight is Hybridism in the original, and in this version it is Rules and Mules. The original book contains one illustration, a diagram. Each page of the young readers edition is filled with vivid photography and captivating images. Just like the original, this edition concludes with a glossary. Verdict: I think this book is fantastic for young and old. This book belongs in libraries, classrooms, and homes too. A must have for anyone who loves science!

November 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.