Book review: The Tree and Me, by Deborah Zemke

Zemke, Deborah. The Tree and Me. (Bea Garcia series, book 4). Dial Books for Young Readers. 2019 $16.99. ISBN 9780735229419. 154 pages. Ages 6-9. P7Q8

Bea Garcia is on a mission to save the beloved tree, which she has names Emily, that sits right outside her classroom window. Problem is, a particularly annoying classmate has turned the tree into a potential hazard and Bea is determined to show everyone how valuable Emily is. Bea takes on the role of activist and enlists her classmates in the cause, and in the end must find a way to reach out to the obnoxious boy who started the whole mess. Together, they show the reader that you are never to young to make a difference. Each page contains both text and pencil sketch pictures illustrating the story, with lots of bubble dialogue between Bea and her classmates.

Verdict: A perfect beginner chapter book with eleven short chapters and illustrated pages. Young elementary classrooms can benefit from the message that working together, even with kids who get on your nerves, results in great outcomes. A wonderful book for the library too.

September 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book reviews: Kids Who Are Changing the World, by Sheila Sweeny Higginson, illustrated by Alyssa Peterson

Higginson, Sheila Sweeny. Kids Who Are Changing the World. Illustrator Alyssa Peterson. (Ready to Read series, level 3). Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534432154. 47p. Ages 6-9. P7Q8.

Kids Who Are Changing the World is an informative book describing the inspirational stories of four children who make an extraordinary impact on our world. The reader follows Jahkil Jackson, 10 years old, as he created ‘blessing bags’ for homeless people; Natalie Hampton, a 7th grader, as she combated bullying by creating an app, Sit With Us, to connect isolated or bullied students; Gitanjali Rao, 11 years old, as she built a device that detected lead in water; and Joris Hutchison, 6 years old, as he helped save and nurture the cheetah population in Africa. Readers also encounter important historical figures and the positive inventions that have positively impacted our world. The story ends with a scientific look at how the act of kindness creates a healthy reaction in our bodies.

Verdict: This will be an inspirational addition for any 1st grade-3rd grade classroom or library.

April 2019 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: What Do You Do with a Voice like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, by Chris Barton, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Barton, Chris. What Do You Do with a Voice like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Illus. by Ekua Holmes. Beach Lane Books, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-4814-6561-8. Ages 7-10. P7Q9

Often overlooked by as an activist, Jordan’s brief career, cut short by multiple sclerosis, expressed a powerful voice in the U.S. House of Representatives during the volatile time soon after the Civil Rights Act and when Richard Nixon was trying to cover up his administration’s fraud. Her strong drive for justice and equality made her a role model as a patriot in the current times when bravery and protests are being denigrated. Barton wrote that his response to the news of the day is “What would Barbara Jordan do?” He gives a template for her believes, her drive, her honesty, and her willingness to work hard. The vivid mixed-media illustrations add to the bold statement of the book.

Verdict: This excellent book adds to the youth biographies about leaders of the past who should be emulated today.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Walking in the City with Jane: A Story of Jane Jacobs, by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Valerie Boivin

Hughes, Susan. Walking in the City with Jane: A Story of Jane Jacobs. Illus. by Valerie Boivin. Kids Can Press, 2018. $18.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-77138-653-1. Ages 7-10. P5Q5

As a child, Jane Jacobs was curious about her surroundings, and as an adult she was an activist who explored the ecosystems of cities and tried to preserve them. One of her success stories is keeping an expressway from invading a Manhattan community.

Verdict: The book lacks a sense of place or time. Although it begins in the early 20th century, the clothing styles don’t reflect the era. The dress worn by Jane’s elementary school teacher is almost identical to the one Jane wears decades later. The colored photoshop illustrations with grotesque faces have a flat feel as does the narration that gives no sense of her character. Hughes concentrates more on her activism to the detriment of any understanding about her personality, and the gaps in her personal life, for example little information about her marriage. The font is also very small for that proposed age of readership.

March 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Mercy: The Incredible Story of Henry Bergh, Founder of the ASPCA and Friend to Animals, by Nancy Furstinger, illustrated by Vincent Desjardins

Furstinger, Nancy. Mercy: The Incredible Story of Henry Bergh, Founder of the ASPCA and Friend to Animals. Illus. Vincent Desjardins. Houghton, 2016. $16.99. 192p. 9780544650312. Ages 10-14. P8Q8

Furstinger MercyFor the first 50 years of his life, Bergh was a playboy—traveling the world, writing unsuccessful plays, and living off his parents’ money. Watching animal abuse during a visit to Russia in 1863, however, he became one of the strongest advocates for neglected and abused creatures from pigeons to the workhorses of Manhattan for his last 25 years. Through activism in this area, he affected public health, urban issues, circuses, child labor, euthanasia, and rampant political corruption throughout the second half of the 19th century. Color illustrations add to the interest level of the book, and vignettes of animal cruelty, while difficult to read, will involve readers beginning with the dramatic beginning in which Bergh tries to stop a dogfight. Despite ridicule from the press and sometimes the public, Bergh persevered, even fighting child abuse. Included in the book are period photographs, timeline, and list of resources.

April 2016 review by Nel Ward.