Book review: Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot, by Steve Sheinkin, illustrated by Neil Swaab

Sheinkin, Steve. Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot. Illustrated by Neil Swaab. (Time Twisters series, book 4.) Roaring Brook Press, 2019. $13.99. ISBN 9781250148995. 157 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7

Abby and Doc have the ability to go back in time through a cardboard box in the library where their mom works. However, the box works both ways and people from the past are able to come to the library as well. When Abby finds a pair of goggles where her glasses were, this starts an adventure to visit the owner of the goggles, Amelia Earhart. As the adventure continues, it is obvious that someone is messing with time, who could it be? There are twists and turns which will bring the reader to interesting places in history. The ending is especially delightful. The illustrations are line drawings and spread throughout the book. The end of the book includes a section titled “Untwisting history” where the author includes true facts about Amelia Earhart. This book is unique in that it is nonfiction/fiction all in one. Even though this book is the fourth in the series, it can stand alone. The author references adventures from past books in the series in this book, which may spark the readers interest and encourage them to read the rest of the series.

Verdict: Readers who are interested in past historical figures but also like adventures and imagination will enjoy this time travel book. This is a fun way for readers to learn about historical figures. I recommend this book.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team, by Steve Sheinkin

Sheinkin, Steve. Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team. Roaring Brook, 2017. $19.99. 280p. ISBN 9781596439542. Ages 12+. P7Q9

In 1912, 25-year-old Jim Thorpe was declared “the greatest all-around athlete in the world” at the Olympics; a year later he was stripped of all his gold medals because he had briefly played pro baseball for meager pay years earlier. The three-time National Book Award finalist and author of such superbly-researched books as Most Dangerous, the in-depth look at how Daniel Ellsberg leaked Vietnam War documents and rocked that nation, has produced another fine book, this one about the struggles of Native Americans at the turn of the 20th century and the racism that they faced. At the same time, Thorpe’s football team, under the coaching of Pop Warner, changed the direction of the game of football, setting the foundation for today’s football playing and rules. With Thorpe’s and Warner’s innovations, Carlisle defeated major college teams including those from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Army. In addition to describing these monumental achievements, Sheinkin tells about Thorpe as a teenager and his uneven progress that led him to the Indian school where whites tried to strip the “native” out of Native Americans by cutting their hair, preventing them from speaking their languages, and giving them Anglo names. Carlisle’s superintendent and founder made a vow to “Kill the Indian; Save the Man.”

Verdict: Extensive interviews and institutional records along with biographies provide the basis for this honest book from an inveterate researcher who presents his material in a highly accessible and well nuanced style, fascinating to readers who might lack an interest in football and far more complex than the title indicates. Black and white photographs add to the interest.

April 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, by Steve Sheinkin

Sheinkin, Steve. Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. Roaring Brook, 2015. $19.99. 370p. ISBN 978-1-59643-952-8. Ages 12-15. P7Q10

sheinkin-most-dangerousFor two years, Daniel Ellsberg supported the tragic “conflict” before he spent time in Vietnam as a State Department staff member and experienced the horrors that are graphically described in this book. Accompanying infantrymen into combat completely reversed his position, and in the next few years he became famous for leaking the Pentagon Papers—47 volumes of the war’s secret history. President Richard M. Nixon was so desperate to catch Ellsberg that he authorized break-ins, hoping to find discrediting information about Ellsberg’s visits to a psychiatrist. The terrifying account of the unnecessary war that killed almost 60,000 U.S. soldiers as well as millions of innocent people reads like a mystery as Ellsberg covertly copied the 7,000 pages of top-secret documents and kept them undercover until he distributed them throughout the nation’s media after courts kept The New York Times and Washington Post from completing their publication. The author shows how the Pentagon Papers revealed lies to explain unwarranted military intervention that led to deeper involvement in the war and further illegal attempts to silence opposition. The text also shows debates about publishing the papers with an epilogue about recent leaks from Edward Snowden.

Verdict: Although the events in the book started over a half century ago, the topic is timely because of recent leaks before and after the 2016 presidential election. Also an exciting read, Most Dangerous was National Book Award finalist and a winner of YALSA/ALA’s Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction. A thrilling page-turner and distillation of history, Most Dangerous is a must read.

January 2017 review by Nel Ward.