Book review: Bringing Down a President: The Watergate Scandal, by Andrea Balis and Elizabeth Levy, illustrated by Tim Foley

Balis, Andrea & Elizabeth Levy. Bringing Down a President: The Watergate Scandal. Illustrated by Tim Foley. Roaring Brook, 2019. $19.99. 222p. ISBN 978-1-250-17679-0. Ages 11-14. P5 Q9

In 1972, 47 years before the impeachment of Donald Trump, another president’s downfall began when five men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel to help the re-election of Richard Nixon, as the authors humorously describe to begin the book. The authors blend a wealth of quotations, explanatory matter, and analysis to track the ensuing disasters through the beginning crimes, the coverup, and “The Great Unraveling” in three parts, ending with an epilogue reporting where those people are when the book was written. Source materials show the extensive use of primary sources for the book.

Verdict: A spacious format combine with black and white sketches makes the reading easy, and the opening “Cast of Leading Characters” allows easy referencing to the participants in the scandal. A final timeline tracks the events from 1971 when Nixon secretly installed recording equipment in the Oval Office through 2005 when FBI agent Mark Felt acknowledged he was “Deep Throat,” who provided reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward with information for their investigation. The parallel between an event occurring almost five decades ago and the present provides fascinating reading. The conclusion of Nixon’s actions was that “nobody is above the law, not even the president … the country is ruled by laws, not by a king.” The question now is whether that conclusion will be upheld in the 21st century.

May 2020 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed

Saeed, Aisha. Amal Unbound. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018. 226 pgs. $17.9 ISBN: 978-0-399-54468-2. Gr. 6+. P8 Q9

Twelve year old Amal lives with her family in a small village in Pakistan. Amal dreams of becoming a teacher and studies hard to achieve this dream. Being the oldest in a family of girls comes with responsibilities. Her mother gives birth to a baby girl but does not rebound from the delivery. Amal must stay home taking on most of the household chores. A mishap in the streets with a local rich man puts her and her family in jeopardy. Amal’s dreams are dashed when she becomes a servant in the rich man’s home. She will be in service till he decides her debt is paid.  It is through Amal and those in service to the rich lord that the corruption is stopped and the War Lord is arrested.

Verdict: I loved this book which offers a window into the lives of the Pakistani people.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: An Uninterrupted View of the Sky, by Melanie Crowder

Crowder, Melanie. An Uninterrupted View of the Sky. Philomel Books, 2017. 289 pgs. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-399-16900-7. Gr. 9+. P8 Q8

In Bolivia, in 1999, Francisco is a young man in high school at this time. His father owns a car and runs a taxi service, his mother works and his younger sister attends elementary school. The day his father is arrested for a minor traffic violation is the day that all their lives change. Francisco’s father’s taxi is confiscated and he is thrown into prison. Days later the children wake up and their mother has abandoned them which leads to them going to the prison and living with their father. Every day they leave by the gates and go to school and at night they must return before the gates are locked. It is only at the end of the story that Francisco and his little sister are safe as they go into the mountains to live with their grandparents.

Verdict: A very realistic look into the corruption of the Bolivian government in 1999 and the impact it had on families.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.