Book review: Boying Up: How To Be Brave, Bold, and Brilliant, by Mayim Bailik

Bailik, Mayim.  Boying Up: How To Be Brave, Bold, and Brilliant. Philomel Books, 2018. $18.99. ISBN 9780525515975. 200 pages.  Ages 12+. P7 Q9

The journey through puberty can be awkward, embarrassing, and confusing. Do you wish you had a handbook to guide you through it? Well now you do! Bailik writes in a simple relatable way, but at the same time, she packs the book full of helpful information. She covers how boys’ bodies work, how they grow, learn, love, cope, and matter. She includes the importance of education and why school is valuable, but at the same time she validates a variety of paths boys can take after high school including college, military, trade school, and work. I appreciate the fact that she emphasizes that boys need to have consent before they engage in sex, which is important. Illustrations include realistic simple sketches of a variety of penises and scrotums, the male and female reproductive systems, and different body types. This book is very well rounded. While scientific, it is still easy to read and understand. The last chapter delves into how boys’ matter, featuring six men who matter and how they made the world a better place. Bailik writes, “Part of the process of Boying Up and becoming a young man who is compassionate, kind and confident involves finding ways to make impacting others in a positive way a significant part of your life.”

Verdict: I don’t know if boys would actually pick up this book and read it, but if they did, it would provide them with valuable information. Parents may want to read it with their boys as they are starting the journey through puberty. I highly recommend this book for personal libraries, middle school and high school libraries along with the public library.

May 2018 review by Tami Harris.


Book review: Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles, edited by Jessica Burkhart

Burkhart, Jessica, editor. Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles. Simon Pulse, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781481494649. 309 pages. Ages 14+. P7 Q8

We know what goes on inside our minds, but what goes on inside others minds? What challenges do they go through and how can that help us? Life Inside My Mind contains 31 authors’ essays on their struggles with mental health and how it effects their lives. Since each chapter is written by a different author, the book contains a wide variety of writing styles. Some stories are well written, other stories are simple and don’t have as much substance. Each chapter is 4-10 pages long. This book is helpful for youth who struggle with mental health issues or have family or friends who struggle. The authors simply tell their story and provide encouragement to others who suffer for similar issues. I think youth who struggle with mental health issues will find comfort from this book, realizing they are not alone and others deal with the same things. The essays can start the discussion on how to help loved ones with mental health issues, takes the shame away and brings hope. The essays are relatable, making mental illness not seem as scary.

Verdict: I highly recommend this book for high school libraries and public libraries. The essays cover a wide variety of mental health issues, including PTSD, anxiety, addiction and more.

May 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The World Cup: Soccer’s Global Championship, by Matt Doeden

Doeden, Matt. The World Cup: Soccer’s Global Championship. (Spectacular Sports series.) Millbrook Press, 2018. 64 pgs. Includes glossary and index. $26.66. ISBN: 978-1-5124-2755-4. Gr. 6+. P10 Q8

I am always looking for soccer books as it is becoming a very popular sport in our community.  This book was one that I will include in my library. In 1900 soccer was played in the Olympics for the first time. “Soccer was on its way to world domination,” the author states. In 1930, the World Cup, soccer’s international championship tournament, was created. Wanting to be the place it was held also became a great honor, an honor that was often won through bribes to the officials of those on the championship board. The history of the sport, women’s competition, players, and even trophies were just some of the topics that were presented. There are black and white photographs which helped show the history of the sport. The color photographs are clear action shots of players in several games and World Cup championships.

Verdict: This book should be included in all public and middle and high school libraries. The information is presented in clear, easy to understand language. It does not read like a text book.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki, by Kevin Crossley-Holland, illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love

Crossley-Holland, Kevin. Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki. Illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love. Candlewick Press, 2017. $27.99  ISBN: 0763695009. 225p.  Gr. 4-8. P4 Q8

Writing at a level that even young children can comprehend, Crossley-Holland has written yet another great book, retelling Viking folklore.  Love’s acrylic and ink illustrations add drama and help clarify the text and make the characters even creepier.  Contains a dictionary of terms.

VERDICT: Norse Myths are pretty odd to begin with and this book – which at times is disjointed and convoluted – pays homage to the weird.  Teachers would find this book helpful, however, for quickly summarizing some of the myths and the illustrations are engaging enough to make this a book preteens would like.

June 2018 review by Liz Fox.

[Editor’s note: Stark black and white illustrations add to the grim atmosphere and power of these Norse myths retold from the post-Christian Prose Edda.  Comparing this retelling with Neil Gaiman’s recently released Norse Myths finds this work more violent and lacking much of the humor often found in the stories, while Gaiman’s more conversational storytelling softened the raw power of the myths. Both titles are highly recommended for school and public library collections.]

Book review: Understanding Suicide: a National Epidemic, by Connie Goldsmith

Goldsmith, Connie. Understanding Suicide: a National Epidemic. Twenty-First Century Books, 2017.  $35.99  ISBN: 1467785709. 112p.  Gr. 8+. P5 Q8

At first glance, this book looks like just another dull reference; the cover is understated and a flip-through the pages shows text riddled with sidebars, tables, maps, and photos.  However, Goldsmith’s treatment of this topic, while rooted in research and fact, is hardly dull.  She has presented facets of this complicated topic with real-life accounts, which makes it infinitely more readable and relatable to even young and reluctant readers. Also contains source notes, bibliography, a list of resources, and an index.

VERDICT: this is an important, much-needed book for any library collection that serves adolescents.

June 2018 review by Liz Fox.

Book review: Chasing King’s Killer: the Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin, by James L. Swanson

Swanson, James L. Chasing King’s Killer: the hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin. Scholastic Press, 2018.   $19.99. ISBN: 0545723337. 373p. Gr. 7-up. P5 Q7

This was the first time I have read one of Swanson’s “assassin” series books, so I was intrigued by the concept that a whole book might center on capturing a killer.  Swanson beefs the story line up so much that the actual manhunt is only a small part of the book.  He brings in so much background for the reader, educating them in the civil rights struggles of that era and how that set the stage for the assassination that the profile of killer James Earl Ray is actually secondary.  While I don’t know if Swanson meant the title to be a hook to engage reluctant readers, I could imagine it might have that effect.  There’s just enough scintillating storyline to keep them reading, and the photos, maps, and other figures make this “big book” less daunting for younger readers.

VERDICT: Swanson’s meticulous research and engaging presentation paid off; this is a book that readers of all ages would enjoy and learn from.

June 2018 review by Liz Fox.

Book review: Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide, by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña

Quintero, Isabel. Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide. Illus. by Zeke Peña. J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018. $19.95. 95p. ISBN 978-1-947440-00-5. Ages 13+. P7Q8

In this graphic biography, black and white drawings with digitally-added grays are combined with the author’s brief poetic narratives to each chronological section and over two-dozen of Iturbide’s unstaged feminist—and sometimes disturbing—photographs. As a child, Iturbide tried to follow the traditional lifestyle of her conservative Catholic family in Mexico, but her drive to be a writer and the loss of her daughter led her to photography. She travelled the world, engaging with diverse cultures as the book follows her for over 50 years. A common theme pervading the book comes from the use of birds, frequently appearing in backgrounds apart from the graphic panels.

Verdict: This startling look at indigenous communities through the eyes of an artist who experiences them can engender discussions and shifts in critical perspectives.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.