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: 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: The Great American Foot Race: Ballyhoo for the Bunion Derby!, by Andrew Speno

Speno, Andrew. The Great American Foot Race: Ballyhoo for the Bunion Derby! Calkins Creek, 2017. $17.95. ISBN: 1629796026. 175p.  Gr. 4-12. P5 Q8

I guess I had a shallow knowledge of what “ballyhoo” meant and how it influenced U.S. media in the 1920’s, but I didn’t really understand the impact it had on the development of professional sports.  Speno does a bang-up job of showing the underbelly of ballyhoo in this book on the first US transcontinental foot race.  Readers will see how the roaring 20’s was a time when the US was hungry for heroes, especially in sports, and the runners of this race were no exception.  The background of many of the runners and the hardships they endured make this book engaging for younger readers. There’s also quite a bit of history presented on the development of the US interstate system, particularly US route 66. Contains maps, source notes, bilbiography, and index.

VERDICT: a good addition to a school library, where it would serve as inspiration for some interesting reports and research.

June 2018 review by Liz Fox.




[Editor’s note: Definition of ballyhoo

                    plural ballyhoos

     1 : a noisy attention-getting demonstration or talk
     2 : flamboyant, exaggerated, or sensational promotion or publicity
     3 : excited commotion
                                               –from Merriam Webster (


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: The Bridge: How the Roeblings Connected Brooklyn to New York, by Peter J. Tomasi, illustrated by Sara Duvall

Tomasi, Peter J. The Bridge: How the Roeblings Connected Brooklyn to New York. Illus. Sara Duvall. Abrams, 2018. $24.99. 201p. ISBN 978-1-4197-2852-5. Ages 8-13. P8Q9

Much more than an explanation of how the Brooklyn Bridge was built, this graphic narrative also deals with personal relationships, political problems, and restrictions on women in the 19th century. The story begins with the childhood of Washington Roebling, son of a German immigrant, and his inventive nature that led to creating pontoons during the Civil War when he was a soldier. The building of the longest suspension bridge in the world was marked by tragedy: the designer, John Augustus Roebling, died before construction began; his 32-year-old son and instigator of the bridge, Washington, was left to finish the massive structure. Washington became largely bedridden after he developed caisson disease (aka the “bends”) which left his wife, Emily, to manage the work site for the final eleven years of the fourteen-year construction period while her husband watched from the apartment through a powerful telescope. Yet she persisted, despite the objections of the press and politicians who believed that a woman should not be in this position. The fourteen years starting in 1869 were marked by corruption, fraud, deadly accidents, and other adversities, but Washington and Emily lived to cross the bridge.

Verdict: A bonus to the information about building is the personal aspect of a married couple’s collaboration as Tomasi brings Emily out of the shadows to become a valued part of the relationship and work. The crisp, colorful illustrations by a debut graphic novel illustrator quickly move the experiences of those who people this story behind the building of an icon. Highly recommended.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Sharks: Nature’s Perfect Hunter, by Joe Flood

Flood, Joe. Sharks: Nature’s Perfect Hunter. [Science Comics]. First Second, 2018. $12.99. 122p. ISBN 978-1-62672-788-5. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

Fascinating facts about type of sharks, animals that go back 400 million years, coupled with the colorful, exuberant drawings typical of this series. Information includes characteristics of different shark species from the gentle Nurse Shark to the Great White, their history, adaptations, anatomy, etc. The information loosely hangs on a story about the captain of a fishing boat searching for sharks and a passenger who corrects his errors. The introduction by marine conservation biologist David Shiffman discusses concern about sharks as an endangered species and  the story expands on the issue, dispelling some of the fears that people have about these animals.

Verdict: One of the most accessible books in the series with one of the most inviting topics.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: My Chickens and I, by Isabella Rossellini, photographs by Patrice Casanova

Rossellini, Isabella. My Chickens and I. Photo. By Patrice Casanova. Abrams, 2018. $24.99. 111p. ISBN 978-1-4197-2991-1. Ages 8-12. P8Q10

A book about chickens—their history, traits, behavior, personalities, etc.—doesn’t seem like a likely selection for young readers, but this work by a famous activist, actress, model, director, and daughter of a mid-20th-century illicit romance is one that be read over and over. Rossellini’s experience with the bits of fluff started when she ordered 38 of them for her Long Island farm, and the box arrived with a variety of heritage breeds. Her famous neighbor, portrait photographer Patrice Casanova, recorded their appearance and growth, and the project turned into a researched but funny look at the creatures that most of us regard only as food.

Verdict: Rossellini’s curious observations and quirky line drawings add to the delight of this book about an unlikely subject. Try it! It grows on you!

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.