Book review: Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles, edited by Jessica Burkhart

Burkhart, Jessica, editor. Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles. Simon Pulse, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781481494649. 309 pages. Ages 14+. P7 Q8

We know what goes on inside our minds, but what goes on inside others minds? What challenges do they go through and how can that help us? Life Inside My Mind contains 31 authors’ essays on their struggles with mental health and how it effects their lives. Since each chapter is written by a different author, the book contains a wide variety of writing styles. Some stories are well written, other stories are simple and don’t have as much substance. Each chapter is 4-10 pages long. This book is helpful for youth who struggle with mental health issues or have family or friends who struggle. The authors simply tell their story and provide encouragement to others who suffer for similar issues. I think youth who struggle with mental health issues will find comfort from this book, realizing they are not alone and others deal with the same things. The essays can start the discussion on how to help loved ones with mental health issues, takes the shame away and brings hope. The essays are relatable, making mental illness not seem as scary.

Verdict: I highly recommend this book for high school libraries and public libraries. The essays cover a wide variety of mental health issues, including PTSD, anxiety, addiction and more.

May 2018 review by Tami Harris.


Book review: Understanding Suicide: a National Epidemic, by Connie Goldsmith

Goldsmith, Connie. Understanding Suicide: a National Epidemic. Twenty-First Century Books, 2017.  $35.99  ISBN: 1467785709. 112p.  Gr. 8+. P5 Q8

At first glance, this book looks like just another dull reference; the cover is understated and a flip-through the pages shows text riddled with sidebars, tables, maps, and photos.  However, Goldsmith’s treatment of this topic, while rooted in research and fact, is hardly dull.  She has presented facets of this complicated topic with real-life accounts, which makes it infinitely more readable and relatable to even young and reluctant readers. Also contains source notes, bibliography, a list of resources, and an index.

VERDICT: this is an important, much-needed book for any library collection that serves adolescents.

June 2018 review by Liz Fox.

Book review: Chasing King’s Killer: the Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin, by James L. Swanson

Swanson, James L. Chasing King’s Killer: the hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin. Scholastic Press, 2018.   $19.99. ISBN: 0545723337. 373p. Gr. 7-up. P5 Q7

This was the first time I have read one of Swanson’s “assassin” series books, so I was intrigued by the concept that a whole book might center on capturing a killer.  Swanson beefs the story line up so much that the actual manhunt is only a small part of the book.  He brings in so much background for the reader, educating them in the civil rights struggles of that era and how that set the stage for the assassination that the profile of killer James Earl Ray is actually secondary.  While I don’t know if Swanson meant the title to be a hook to engage reluctant readers, I could imagine it might have that effect.  There’s just enough scintillating storyline to keep them reading, and the photos, maps, and other figures make this “big book” less daunting for younger readers.

VERDICT: Swanson’s meticulous research and engaging presentation paid off; this is a book that readers of all ages would enjoy and learn from.

June 2018 review by Liz Fox.

Book review: Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide, by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña

Quintero, Isabel. Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide. Illus. by Zeke Peña. J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018. $19.95. 95p. ISBN 978-1-947440-00-5. Ages 13+. P7Q8

In this graphic biography, black and white drawings with digitally-added grays are combined with the author’s brief poetic narratives to each chronological section and over two-dozen of Iturbide’s unstaged feminist—and sometimes disturbing—photographs. As a child, Iturbide tried to follow the traditional lifestyle of her conservative Catholic family in Mexico, but her drive to be a writer and the loss of her daughter led her to photography. She travelled the world, engaging with diverse cultures as the book follows her for over 50 years. A common theme pervading the book comes from the use of birds, frequently appearing in backgrounds apart from the graphic panels.

Verdict: This startling look at indigenous communities through the eyes of an artist who experiences them can engender discussions and shifts in critical perspectives.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein, by Lita Judge

Judge, Lita. Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein. Roaring Brook, 2018. $21.99. 312p. ISBN 978-1-62672-500-3. Ages 13+. P9Q9

Born in 1797, Mary Godwin led a happy life with her philosopher anarchist father and older sister Fanny after the death of her feminist mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, until her father marries a grim, cruel woman who makes Mary’s life miserable. At the age of 15, Mary spends two peaceful years with friends of her father in Scotland but is forced back home again into the same situation she left. She begins a romance with the married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the couple runs away with Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont to travel Europe. Judge fictionalizes Mary’s words in free verse as she struggles through pregnancies and temporary loss of Shelley’s love to her stepsister. During her first few years with Shelley, the teenage girl wrote her famous book about Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, sewn from cadaver parts and brought to “life” with electricity. The monster finishes Judge’s tale: “Her spirit whispers eternally through me.” Brief biographies of people in the book and a bibliography are at the end of the book.

Verdict: The charcoal-style black and white watercolor wash highlights the Gothic atmosphere of Mary Shelley’s early life and tragic relationships that made her an outcast in the early 1800s. Young readers will wallow in the sordid, dismal details in this part romance and part thriller about Shelley’s life and her struggles with writing and publishing a book in a time that lacked any rights for women.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Dress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They Wore, edited by Sarah Massey, Ashley Albert, and Emma Jacobs

Dress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They Wore. Ed. by Sarah Massey, Ashley Albert, and Emma Jacobs. Abrams, 2018. $24.99. 224p. ISBN 978-1-4197-2992-8. Ages 12+. P8Q8

Hundreds of Getty photographs from servants in the early 20th century to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in the 21st century demonstrate clothing women in different cultures wear in the workplace during the past century and highlight the freedom that manual labor allowed some female workers to escape the stereotypical requirements of dress. A foreword by Roxanne Gay describes the mandates for women’s costumes, some of which still exist. As she writes, “To dress like a woman is to dress in very prescribed ways that enhance a rigid brand of femininity and cater to the male gaze.” Vanessa Friedman explains how necessity in work, such as female factory workers during the world wars, allowed more freedom that led to changing styles that broke gender requirements. (Photographs are weighted toward these factory workers.) The narrative of the book comes from brief captions.

Verdict: The brief narrative describes impediments to women from dress restrictions, for example how students could not wear pants to school even in sub-zero weather until a few decades ago. The lack of chronology can sometime be disconcerting, but it also provides interesting juxtapositions. Young people will enjoy pouring over the variety of women’s accomplishments and dress during the past century.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.