Book review: Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World, by Katherine Halligan, illustrated by Sarah Walsh

Halligan, Katherine. Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World. Illus. by Sarah Walsh. Simon & Schuster, 2018. $19.99. 112p. ISBN 978-1-5344-3664-0. Ages 8-12. P7Q8

Each woman receives a two-page spread with the same format with vivid gouache, colored pencil, and Photoshop illustrations surrounded on the white background by a text that simulates hand printing. Each begins with the subject’s birth and childhood and ends with the portion, “Shaking Up the World.” The five chapters highlighting leading, creativity, helping, problem-solving, and believing in change feature artists, writers, political leaders, scientists, and activists. Later entries demonstrate more progressive hope for the world, whereas some of the early female leaders demonstrated brutality in their methods. The book is heavy on the past: only four of the subjects were born in the past half century, and only four of them are still alive.

Verdict: Text-heavy, the book may be difficult for younger readers because of the lack of context for biographies. Some of the entries indicate that the subjects died young but don’t give the age or date of death. A two-page chronological addition gives both birth and death dates, but the readers must go back and forth to find the death dates.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.


Book review: Bonnie and Clyde, by James Buckley, jr.

Buckley, James Jr. Bonnie and Clyde. (History’s Worst). Aladdin, 2018. $18.99. 147p. ISBN 978-1-4814-9549-3. Ages 9-12. P7Q5

For three years, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow traveled throughout Texas and Oklahoma, robbing people and killing when they were cornered until they died in an ambush at the ages of 23 and 25. Buckley chronicles the childhood of the perpetrators, their meeting, their adventures, and the ending. A final chapter describes the media attention for the following 80 years.

Verdict: Earlier books in the series include Adolf Hitler and Jack the Ripper; this subject doesn’t fit with them as the Worst. Better choices for criminals in the 1930s might be Al Capone or Baby Face Nelson. Colloquial language and out-of-date slang intended to entice younger readers feels inappropriate. No index and incomplete list of resources according to those mentioned in the text. Cover artwork is distorted and unpleasant, and Buckley’s comparison to current times is sometimes inaccurate.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship: Stories from India, by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy

Soundar, Chitra. Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship: Stories from India. Illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy. Candlewick Press, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781536200676. 179 pgs. Ages 7-10. P6Q7

After eavesdropping on the daily court of his father, King Bheema, ten year old Veera and his best friend Suku are convinced they could hold court and govern as well as the king. When the king becomes ill and the opportunity actually arises, the two boys must put their heads together to preside with both wits and wiles. Some of the cases are easy to address, but others prove to be challenging. These eight folktales are fun stories all ending with a resourceful resolution. The friendship between Prince Veera and Suku, a farmer’s son, is a constant theme throughout the book. Suku is a touchstone for Veera, helping him to understand some of the problems the villagers encounter. They are a team, and make decisions together. While many readers will be unfamiliar with these tales, they are traditional Indian folktales that are well-known stories of India.

Verdict: This would be a good book read aloud to a primary grade level classroom. Each standalone tale ends with a lesson to be learned. There are references to Indian culture that could be explored as the book is read. Something missing from most of the stories is a female presence/perspective.

February 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices. Ed. by Wade Hudson & Cheryl Willis Hudson. Crown. 2018. $18.99. 88p. ISBN 9780525580423. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

Over 50 artists and authors for youth, their photos and brief biographies provided at the end of the book, contributed to these 30 encouraging messages for children of color distraught by the racist behavior from the current occupant of the White House Oval office. The introduction by the editors, publishers of Just Out Books, described the segregation of their youth and the decision to share encouraging advice on surviving the challenges of the current times. From Jacqueline Woodson, the 2015 Young People’s Poet Laureate, comes a letter, “Kindness Is a Choice,” in which she asks her children to ask themselves each morning, “What choice am I going to make today?”

Verdict: Through vivid colors and poignant images, the stunning artwork joins both poetry and prose to create hope in a time that has grown much darker for minorities. In a very personal way, the anthology encourages children faced with hatred and racism to learn from their history when young people “changed this world for the better.”

February 2019 review by Nel Ward.

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.