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.


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: 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.

Book review: Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women, by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Thimmesh, Catherine. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women. Illus. by Melissa Sweet. HMH, 2000, 2018. Updated edition. $17.99. 106p. ISBN 978-1-328-77253-4. Ages 8-12. P8Q9

From the popularity of Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Cookie recipe in 1930 to Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen’s Roominate, a toy to encourage girls to build and use circuits, these 15 profiles of women innovators describe how they made lives better through their curiosity and creations. The seven additions to the 2000 version include women and girls’ innovations in solar, waste management, cyberbullying prevention, and drought while eight earlier inventor such as windshield wipers and Kevlar are retained.

Verdict: The lively style of illustrations by a Caldecott Honor winner and accessible format have been retained with the advantage of more diversity of subjects in ethnic background and age that reflect fast-growing technology during the 21st century. Recommended for middle-school libraries.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin, by Matt Tavares

Tavares, Matt. Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin. (Candlewick Biographies). Candlewick, 2016. $14.99. 33p. ISBN 978-1-5362-0341-7. Ages 6-9+. P9Q8

The following review is for the original larger-format title from 2016: In the summers of 1859 and 1860, Jean François Gravelet, known as the Great Blondin, thrilled huge crowds when he made a one-fourth mile journey across the top of Niagara Falls from the U.S. to Canada—and back—on a three-inch rope. Each time, he added to the challenges, one time carrying a man on his shoulders. When his dangerous feats no longer attracted crowds, he left for other adventures. The author’s large gorgeous watercolors dramatically illustrate Blondin’s careful preparations and complexity of his bravery, and a gatefold provides a look into his tricks, including the use of stilts and a chair. A brief author’s note and list of resources completes the tale.

Verdict: The larger format is more suitable for the sweeping images; stick to that one.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

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.