Category Archives: Nonfiction

Apollo 8 by Martin W. Sandler

Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything by Martin W. Sandler. September 19, 2018. Candlewick, 176 p. ISBN: 9780763694890.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A nation in need of hope, the most powerful rocket ever launched, and the first three men to break the bounds of Earth: Apollo 8 was headed to the moon.

In 1957, when the USSR launched Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite to orbit Earth, America’s rival in the Cold War claimed victory on a new frontier. The Space Race had begun, and the United States was losing. Closer to home, a decade of turbulence would soon have Americans reeling, with the year 1968 alone seeing the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy as well as many violent clashes between police and protesters. Americans desperately needed something good to believe in, and NASA’s mission to orbit Earth in Apollo 8 and test a lunar landing module was being planned for the end of the year. But with four months to go and the module behind schedule, the CIA discovered that the USSR was preparing to send its own mission around the moon — another crucial victory in the Space Race — and it was clearly time for a change of plan. In a volume full of astonishing full-color photographs, including the iconic Earthrise photo, Martin W. Sandler unfolds an incredible chapter in U.S. history: Apollo 8 wouldn’t just orbit Earth, it would take American astronauts to see the dark side of the moon.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
Grades 6-10. With a computer less powerful than today’s handheld calculators, Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth’s orbit and circle the moon. Sandler captures Apollo 8’s significance on many levels with astonishing details and storytelling. Beginning with an overview of the Cold War and subsequent space race, he explains how Apollo 8’s original mission (to test a lunar lander capsule) was quickly changed to orbiting the moon, when the CIA learned that the Soviets were developing their own moon rocket. After introducing the three-man crew of Apollo 8 and the Saturn V rocket that would launch them, Sandler focuses on their flight, “the riskiest mission yet,” emphasizing that even the tiniest error could have trapped the astronauts in space forever. As the crew of Apollo 8 broadcast live from space on Christmas Eve 1968, they not only accomplished scientific and historical firsts but united the U.S. in wonder as a turbulent year came to an end. Stunning photographs, including the now iconic Earthrise, bring this awe to a new generation.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
In one of the most turbulent years in modern American history, the Apollo 8 mission to the moon served as a desperately needed morale boost for Americans. Sandler explains the historical significance of the mission in the broader context of the Cold War space race and the tumultuous events occurring in the United States. In 1968, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, riots in major cities across America, and growing protests against the Vietnam War left Americans needing something good to believe in. NASA’s mission to orbit the Earth in Apollo 8 and test a lunar landing module was scheduled for the end of the year, but this changed when the CIA discovered the Soviet Union planned to send its own mission around the moon. That would be another crucial victory for the USSR in the space race that began in 1957. Sandler describes how NASA decided Apollo 8 would be the first manned trip around the moon and offers a detailed chronicle of the difficult mission and the crew who successfully completed it. The book is abundantly illustrated with archival photographs, and a highlight of this informative, engaging text is Sandler’s discussion of the iconic Earthrise photograph and how it “became a symbol of the Earth’s fragility, a reminder of just how small and insignificant the Earth’s place in the universe truly is.” In its 50th-anniversary year, a compelling account of the historical significance of a lesser-known space mission. (photos, source notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Martin W. Sandler has written more than seventy books for children and adults and has written and produced seven television series. He has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and has won multiple Emmy Awards. He lives in Massachusetts.

 

Teacher Resources

Mission Highlights:

Christmas Message:

 

Exploring the Moon Educators Guide

Around the Web

Apollo 8 on Amazon

Apollo 8 on Barnes & Noble

Apollo 8 on Goodreads

Apollo 8 Publisher Page

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1968 edited by Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti

1968: Today’s Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change edited by Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti. September 11, 2018. Candlewick Press, 208 p. ISBN: 9780763689933.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1100.

Welcome to 1968 — a revolution in a book. Essays, memoirs, and more by fourteen award-winning authors offer unique perspectives on one of the world’s most tumultuous years.

Nineteen sixty-eight was a pivotal year that grew more intense with each day. As thousands of Vietnamese and Americans were killed in war, students across four continents took over colleges and city streets. Assassins murdered Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. Demonstrators turned out in Prague and Chicago, and in Mexico City, young people and Olympic athletes protested. In those intense months, generations battled and the world wobbled on the edge of some vast change that was exhilarating one day and terrifying the next. To capture that extraordinary year, editors Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti created an anthology that showcases many genres of nonfiction. Some contributors use a broad canvas, others take a close look at a moment, and matched essays examine the same experience from different points of view. As we face our own moments of crisis and division, 1968 reminds us that we’ve clashed before and found a way forward — and that looking back can help map a way ahead.

With contributions by: 
Jennifer Anthony
Marc Aronson
Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Loree Griffin Burns
Paul Fleischman
Omar Figueras
Laban Carrick Hill
Mark Kurlansky
Lenore Look
David Lubar
Kate MacMillan
Kekla Magoon
Jim Murphy
Elizabeth Partridge

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Harsh realities of war, Marijuana, Racism, Strong language, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 7-10. Authors explore the tumultuous global events of 1968 in this anthology. Covering protests, assassinations, racism, scientific discoveries, world politics, and even the state of humor, these contributions, written in a range of styles, offer a wide variety of perspectives on the year. Some essays, such as personal recollections of being a teenager in 1968, are less successful than the entries informed by in-depth research, but taken together, they present a nuanced picture. For instance, Kate MacMillan’s account of being a student protester in Paris in 1968 contrasts sharply with Lenore Look’s incisive essay about the impact of the Cultural Revolution on China’s poor, rural population. Even though all the essayists have essentially the same perspective—the Vietnam War was a mistake; civil rights protesters were doing immense good—the differences in their backgrounds make for a vivid, dynamic account of the complicated, intersecting politics behind brief accounts in history books. With an approach promoting critical thinking, this collection will likely help illuminate a deeply important year in world history and encourage fresh thinking about our current contentious moment.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2018)
Fourteen authors, including Omar Figueras, Lenore Look, and editors Aronson and Bartoletti, write about the tumultuous events of 1968. On the 50th anniversary of the year that saw the continuation of the war in Vietnam, the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and riots in Paris, Prague, and Chicago, some writers recollect their childhoods while others tackle events that occurred before they were born. Biracial (black/white) author Kekla Magoon writes of King’s and Kennedy’s deaths from the perspective of the black community, describing the Black Panthers’ community service programs and discussing why the Students for a Democratic Society, an anti-war protest organization run by privileged white college students, did not represent black interests. Laban Carrick Hill, who grew up in an abusive white family in Memphis, remembers how even at age 7 his uncle’s racist response the day after King’s assassination made him start to question his family’s credibility since he knew firsthand what real violence was. Other chapters tell of African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ protest at the Mexico City Olympics and their support from white Australian Peter Norman; the Chinese Cultural Revolution; the beginning of the end of Communism; and the origins of the computer age. The book’s strength lies in the way different voices and different angles come together into an integrated whole. Fascinating and accomplished. (author’s notes, source notes, bibliography, index)(Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Authors

Marc Aronson has won many awards for his books for young readers and has a doctorate in American history. His lectures cover educational topics such as mysteries and controversies in American history, teenagers and their reading, the literary passions of boys, and always leave audiences asking for more.

His website is www.marcaronson.com.

 

Susan Campbell Bartoletti is an American writer of children’s literature. She was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but eventually the family ended up in a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. Susan started as an English teacher and inspired many students before deciding to pursue writing in earnest. She sold her first short story in 1989. Three years later in 1992 she published her first picture book, Silver at Night. She held a rigid routine, awaking early in the morning in order to write before she left to teach. In 1997 she turned to writing full time. Susan has since returned to inspiring future writers. She teaches writing classes at a number of MA and MFA programs, among them Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky, and Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Her website is www.scbartoletti.com/

Around the Web

1968 on Amazon

1968 on Barnes & Noble

1968 on Goodreads

1968 Publisher Page

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice (adapted for young adults) by Bryan Stevenson. September 18, 2018. Delacorte Press, 277 p. ISBN: 9780525580041.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1130.

In this young adult adaptation of the acclaimed bestselling Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson delves deep into the broken U.S. justice system, detailing from his personal experience his many challenges and efforts as a lawyer and social advocate, especially on behalf of America’s most rejected and marginalized people.

In this very personal work–proceeds of which will go to charity–Bryan Stevenson recounts many and varied stories of his work as a lawyer in the U.S. criminal justice system on behalf of those in society who have experienced some type of discrimination and/or have been wrongly accused of a crime and who deserve a powerful advocate and due justice under the law.

Through the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), an organization Stevenson founded as a young lawyer and for which he currently serves as Executive Director, this important work continues. EJI strives to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, working to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture, Mild sexual themes, Racism

 

Author Video

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Stevenson brought the topic of mass incarceration to the forefront in his critically acclaimed, Carnegie Award–winning Just Mercy​ (2014). In this adaptation for young people, Stevenson once again describes the difficult work he’s faced as a lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, based in Mobile, Alabama. As he focuses on the case of Walter McMillian, a poor African American man wrongfully convicted of capital murder, he brings to light alarming racial and socioeconomic disparities in the criminal-justice system, particularly the overwhelming number of poor and black prisoners without adequate legal representation and on death row. The author also weaves in stories of mistreated prisoners with mental illness, female prisoners abused by male guards, and other atrocities. The stories that will resonate most with adolescent readers, however, are those of teens, even as young as 13 and 14, sentenced to life in prison in adult facilities. While calling out needs for prison reform, Stevenson asks readers to consider a just mercy for the prisoners mentioned in the book and those like them. A just mercy would see prisoners as human beings, taking into consideration their often trauma-filled backgrounds, realistic sentences for young teens, and rehabilitative services upon release, among other changes. Classrooms and book groups will find plenty to discuss and debate. Compassionate and compelling, Stevenson’s narrative is also unforgettable.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2018)
“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done,” proclaims Stevenson’s adaptation for younger audiences of his 2014 New York Times bestseller, a deeply moving collage of true stories dedicated to transforming the U.S. criminal justice system. The story begins in 1983, when 23-year-old Stevenson, a Harvard Law intern, found the moral resolve to join the pro bono defense team of a capital punishment case in Georgia. Throughout his journey, he highlights numerous cases that demonstrate unfair policies and practices throughout our criminal justice system. These examples form an incisive critique of mass incarceration resulting from state and federal policy changes in the late 20th century. He continues to lead the Alabama-headquartered Equal Justice Initiative, whose mission it is to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable. Stevenson argues that, “The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” These important stories put a human face on statistics and trends and give us tested strategies to reverse the oppressive consequences of racial and economic injustice in our country. This inspiring book will ignite compassion in young readers and show connections between the history of slavery, Reconstruction, and the present day. This is required reading, embracing the ideals that “we all need mercy, we all need justice, and—perhaps—we all need some measure of unmerited grace.” (notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Teacher Resources

Just Mercy Discussion Guide

Around the Web

Just Mercy on Amazon

Just Mercy on Barnes & Noble

Just Mercy on Goodreads

Just Mercy Publisher Page

Talking to My Daughter About the Economy by Yanis Varoufakis

Talking to My Daughter About the Economy by Yanis Varoufakis. May 8, 2018. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 224 p. ISBN: 9780374272364.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

In Talking to My Daughter About the Economy, activist Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s former finance minister and the author of the international bestseller Adults in the Room, pens a series of letters to his young daughter, educating her about the business, politics, and corruption of world economics.

Yanis Varoufakis has appeared before heads of nations, assemblies of experts, and countless students around the world. Now, he faces his most important―and difficult―audience yet. Using clear language and vivid examples, Varoufakis offers a series of letters to his young daughter about the economy: how it operates, where it came from, how it benefits some while impoverishing others. Taking bankers and politicians to task, he explains the historical origins of inequality among and within nations, questions the pervasive notion that everything has its price, and shows why economic instability is a chronic risk. Finally, he discusses the inability of market-driven policies to address the rapidly declining health of the planet his daughter’s generation stands to inherit.

Throughout, Varoufakis wears his expertise lightly. He writes as a parent whose aim is to instruct his daughter on the fundamental questions of our age―and through that knowledge, to equip her against the failures and obfuscations of our current system and point the way toward a more democratic alternative.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Talk

About the Author

Yanis Varoufakis is a former finance minister of Greece and a cofounder of an international grassroots movement, DiEM25, that is campaigning for the revival of democracy in Europe. He is the author of the international bestseller Adults in the RoomAnd the Weak Suffer What They Must?, and The Global Minotaur. After teaching for many years in the United States, Great Britain, and Australia, he is currently a professor of economics at the University of Athens.

His website is www.yanisvaroufakis.eu.

Around the Web

Talking to My Daughter About the Economy on Amazon

Talking to My Daughter About the Economy on Goodreads

Talking to My Daughter About the Economy Publisher Page

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. April 24,  2018. First Second, 256 p. ISBN: 9781626724440.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 360.

In Be Prepared, all Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.

Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Body humor, Bullying; Sexual harassment

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 16))
Grades 6-9. Vera feels too Russian for her friends in Albany. She can never quite get the hang of sleepover birthday parties, and she’ll never have expensive toys like they do. So when she hears about a summer camp just for Russian American kids, she’s sure she’s finally found her place. But she’s much younger than her tent-mates, and—impossibly—she’s not Russian enough to fit in. She stumbles over the language, doesn’t know all the songs, and generally can’t quite get a handle on roughing it. But what’s more Russian than suffering? With fantastic pacing and poignant emotional turns, Brosgol’s winsome graphic memoir hilariously captures the lengths kids go to in order to fit in as well as the author’s growth from a girl desperate for a place to belong into someone confident enough to stand up for herself. Brosgol’s pitch-perfect art varies between serene, contemplative snapshot-like images of nature and comedic scenes between Vera—cartoonishly drawn with huge, goggle-eyed glasses—and her friends and campmates, all of whom appear in a relatively realistic style. Even though it’s rendered only in black, white, and olive green, Brosgol’s artwork has immense depth, from the facial expressions and gestures to the spot-on visual gags, and she strikes a perfect balance between heartfelt honesty and uproarious, self-deprecating humor. Perfect for fans of Shannon Hale’s Real Friends (2017), this will easily lodge a place in readers’ hearts, even as it has them rolling in the aisles.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
“This book is a true story. And also made up.” Brosgol’s (Anya’s Ghost, rev. 7/11; Leave Me Alone, rev. 9/16) fictionalized graphic memoir captures the ups and downs (let’s be honest—mostly downs) of a stint at a Russian Orthodox summer camp. Feeling like an outsider at school, Russian American preteen Vera is initially thrilled to attend camp with other Russian kids. Once there, however, she struggles to adjust to the strict rules, lack of modern electricity and plumbing, and drama involving her significantly older tentmates. The story’s visual narrative, exposition, and dialogue are in balance as inky illustrations fill smartly placed panels. The tone is accessible, vulnerable, and hilariously kid-centric (there are plenty of potty references). Angle brackets in the speech bubbles indicate dialogue spoken in Russian, and untranslated words and signs build atmosphere. A monochromatic palette using shades of army green reinforces the natural setting, and a cliffhanger ending leaves the door open for a sequel. Gaps between fiction and reality are clarified in an author’s note, which also includes primary documents: real-life photographs and a letter written by Vera to her mom (“Love, and homesick and crying, Vera. P.S. My stomach hurts every night. It does right now, too”). The story, both culturally specific and universal, is a welcome addition to the growing canon of comics by talented women cartoonists (Raina Telgemeier, Tillie Walden, Zeina Abirached, Cece Bell, and many others) based on their own lives. elisa gall

About the Author

Vera Brosgol was born in Moscow, Russia in 1984 and moved to the United States when she was five. She received a diploma in Classical Animation from Sheridan College, and currently works at Laika Inc. in Portland, Oregon drawing storyboards for feature animation.

She has done illustration work for clients such as Nickelodeon, Sony Computer Entertainment, and Simon & Schuster. Her first graphic novel, Anya’s Ghost, was published in 2011 by First Second Books.

She loves knitting, baking, and trying not to kill her plants. She hopes you are enjoying looking at her drawings!

Her website is verabee.com

Around the Web

Be Prepared on Amazon

Be Prepared on Goodreads

Be Prepared Publisher Page

The World Cup by Matt Doeden

The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes by Matt Doeden. January 1, 2016. Millbrook Press, 64 p. ISBN: 9781512427530.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.0; Lexile: 1030.

After the Civil War (1861-1865), the earliest seeds of professional baseball began to sprout. While racism was rampant, some early teams featured black and white players competing side by side. But by 1900, segregation forced African Americans to form their own teams. Black players traveled around the country on barnstorming tours, taking on all challengers. In 1920, baseball’s Negro leagues started, and for more than three decades, they offered fans a thrilling alternative to Major League Baseball. Explore the riveting history of the Negro leagues, including some of baseball’s greatest (and most unheralded) players, biggest games, and wildest moments.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 5-8. After WWI, the competitive Negro leagues emerged, along with some of the greatest and most entertaining players in baseball history. This informative volume offers a thoughtful introduction to the players, teams, and leagues, which were formed in response to the segregation of professional baseball in the U.S. during the late 1800s. From the Spectacular Sports series, which includes Doeden’s The World Series (2014) and The College Football Championship (2015), the book has a large, square format that offers ample space for text and sidebars as well as archival photos of teams, players, and managers. Presenting a concise and very readable history of the Negro leagues, Doeden’s account is particularly strong in placing events within the broader social context of racial intolerance, segregation, and gradual integration, and his chapter on legendary players is not to be missed. The many well-chosen quotes are sourced in the back matter, which also includes a short list of books for further reading. This well-researched book will be a worthwhile addition to any baseball collection.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
A broad survey of African-Americans in baseball, from the end of the Civil War to the era of Jackie Robinson and the last of the barnstormers.Though far from “unsung” considering Kadir Nelson’s soaring We Are the Ship (2008) and the plethora of both general histories and individual biographies available, black players from Robinson, Satchel Paige, and Josh Gibson to less-prominent ground breakers such as Moses Fleetwood Walker, Rube Foster, and Toni Stone certainly merit another tip of the cap. Unlike Nelson, Doeden doesn’t pull readers out onto the field of dreams. Instead, mixing in notable games and spotlight player profiles, plus plenty of team and individual photos, Doeden offers a fluent if standard-issue chronicle of the rises and falls of significant Negro Leagues and independent teams in the wake of professional baseball’s exclusion of African-Americans. (Other minorities get no more than a few references and an intriguing group portrait of a diverse “All Nations” team from around 1915.) Also, in a closing “Legacy” chapter, he brings his account up to the present by analyzing, albeit in a superficial way, the modern decline in the percentage of African-Americans in the ranks of the modern major leagues. It’s conventional fare, but it’s systematic and at least a little broader in scope than older titles. (notes, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Matt Doeden was born in southern Minnesota and lived parts of his childhood in Golden Valley, Minnesota, and Madison, Minnesota. He studied journalism at Mankato State University, where he worked at the college newspaper for three years. In his senior year, he served as the paper’s Sports Editor, which put him in charge of the entire sports section, the sports writers, and the photographers. He covered mostly college sports, but also the Minnesota Vikings, who held training camp at MSU.

Teacher Resources

Lesson plans from the Negro Leagues Baseball eMuseum

Around the Web

The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes on Amazon

The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes on JLG

The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes on Goodreads

 

 

Calling All Minds by Temple Grandin

Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor by Temple Grandin. May 15, 2018. Philomel Books, 240 p. ISBN: 9781524738204.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 1060.

From world-renowned autism spokesperson, scientist, and inventor Temple Grandin — a book of personal stories, inventions, and facts that will blow young inventors’ minds and make them soar.

Have you ever wondered what makes a kite fly or a boat float? Have you ever thought about why snowflakes are symmetrical, or why golf balls have dimples? Have you ever tried to make a kaleidoscope or build a pair of stilts?

In Calling All Minds, Temple Grandin explores the ideas behind all of those questions and more. She delves into the science behind inventions, the steps various people took to create and improve upon ideas as they evolved, and the ways in which young inventors can continue to think about and understand what it means to tinker, to fiddle, and to innovate. And laced throughout it all, Temple gives us glimpses into her own childhood tinkering, building, and inventing.

More than a blueprint for how to build things, in Calling All Minds Temple Grandin creates a blueprint for different ways to look at the world. And more than a call to action, she gives a call to imagination, and shows readers that there is truly no single way to approach any given problem–but that an open and inquisitive mind is always key.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 16))
Grades 4-7. Grandin, renowned as a scientist, author, and adult with autism, has created a miscellany in which she claims to share “the soul of invention.” To do this, she integrates anecdotes from her life as a curious tinkerer with stories of important inventions and activities, such as pairing the history of paper and scissors with instructions for making paper snowflakes. Organized by broad categories (“Things Made of Wood,” “Things That Fly,” etc.), the book touches on ideas such as the Fibonacci sequence and optical illusions, encourages creativity by making a water bomb or a plant stand, and provides short background on additional inventions from crayons to hydraulic jacks. Famous inventors are profiled, from Gutenberg to the Wright brothers, who she thinks “might today be diagnosed as somewhere on the autism or Asperger’s spectrum.” To all of that, she tosses in references to the Flying Nun and golf ball dimples. The design is dull, dated, and distant, with reproductions of patents and portraits of dead white men, but the myriad topics and personal text are certainly mind-expanding.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2018)
Celebrated inventor Grandin shares her experiences and insights into her processes of tinkering and building, offering excellent advice to aspiring young inventors for realizing their own innovative ideas. Grandin explores the history of inventions from the ancient to the contemporary, the science behind them, and the steps various people took to create and improve upon ideas as they evolved, and she also suggests ways in which young inventors can think about and understand what it means to innovate. What makes Grandin’s narrative particularly engaging are the many anecdotes she shares about her own childhood fascination with questioning, investigating, building, and inventing. She shares how her autism enabled her to see things in unique ways, paving the way for her innovative work in animal behavior. Grandin describes herself as a visual, “bottom-up thinker,” the type of scientist who gathers data and then arrives at a hypothesis. She passionately encourages young people to use their imaginations, stressing inquisitiveness and open-mindedness as the keys to problem-solving as well as the importance of tactile experiences and hands-on experimentation. Included in the text are 25 kid-friendly projects to help develop those skills. Mixing history, science, and memoir makes for an occasionally digressive narrative that is sometimes unwieldy but never boring. An impassioned call to look at the world in unique ways with plenty of practical advice on how to cultivate a curious, inquiring, imaginative mind. (diagrams, photos, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., didn’t talk until she was three and a half years old, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. She tells her story of “groping her way from the far side of darkness” in her book Emergence: Labeled Autistic, a book which stunned the world because, until its publication, most professionals and parents assumed that an autism diagnosis was virtually a death sentence to achievement or productivity in life.

Even though she was considered “weird” in her young school years, she eventually found a mentor, who recognized her interests and abilities. Dr. Grandin later developed her talents into a successful career as a livestock-handling equipment designer, one of very few in the world. She has now designed the facilities in which half the cattle are handled in the United States, consulting for firms such as Burger King, McDonald’s, Swift, and others.

Dr. Grandin presently works as a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She also speaks around the world on both autism and cattle handling.

Her website is www.templegrandin.com/

Around the Web

Calling All Minds on Amazon

Calling All Minds on Goodreads

Calling All Minds Publisher Page

Thrilling Thieves by Brianna DuMont

Thrilling Thieves: Liars, Cheats, Double-Crossers Who Changed History by Brianna DuMont. October 3, 2017. Sky Pony Press, 192 p. ISBN: 9781510701694.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.0.

Caution: don’t look for the good guys in here.

What do Mother Theresa, Honest Abe, and Mahatma Gandhi have in common? They’re all too good for this book, that’s what.

Sure, you’ll find some familiar faces like Queen Elizabeth I and Thomas Edison in here, but you’ll learn that behind their angelic smiles were cunning con artists who stole their way to gold and greatness.

Follow the trail of twelve troublemakers to learn what really made the Mona Lisa the most iconic painting in the world, meet the most powerful pirate from history (it’s probably not who you’re expecting), and watch empires rise and fall with the theft of a simple tea plant. Turns out our world owes a lot to those who dabble on the dark side.

If you’re not scared of crooks and criminals, take a peek at this new side of history . . .

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence, Drugs, Racism, Irreverent humor

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 21))
Grades 4-8. Just as she did in Fantastic Fugitives (2016), DuMont offers another exciting look at criminals—this time, thieves—throughout history. Beginning with the Venetians, she continues chronologically with 11 individuals, including Chinese pirate Madame Cheng, Thomas Edison, and spy Klaus Fuchs. In a conversational style, emphasized by over-the-top humor, each profile relates the time period, the thief’s conquest, and the thievery’s impact on history. For instance, when Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, the painting was only a “B-list celebrity.” Its incredible return years later made it the star it is today—and, of course, influenced art museum security around the world. (Its first thief, Napoleon, is also featured in the book.) The term thief is used loosely with other individuals, such as Englishman Robert Fortune, who “stole” the tea trade from China in the 1800s and gave it to British-controlled India. And helping to steal the show in this rousing read are funny cartoons, period photos, reproductions, and interesting sidebars. Even reluctant nonfiction readers will become history buffs.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2018)
Thieves of the highest magnitude—think Napoleon—get a good tattling from DuMont in a continuation of her Changed History series. These are thieves who really did change history by moving the stolen items around the globe, sometimes in a small span, around Paris, for example, and sometimes from one continent to another. DuMont starts with the Venetians, who not only stole St. Mark’s body, but made alarming gains during the Crusades. She moves on to Francisco Pizarro and his conveyor belt of gold and silver from the Incan Empire to Spain. It took Francis Drake six days to empty one of King Philip’s Spanish treasure ships of its gold and silver. That is the same Drake to whom Queen Elizabeth gave “more ships to cram more Africans aboard to sell in the West Indies.” DuMont can come off as glib, but for the most part she is just throwing sauce in the face of egregious greed. There is also one heroic con man: Robert Smalls, an African-American pilot who ran the Confederate blockade of Charleston to take freedom for himself and a good number of slaves. DuMont also names secondary characters, which is particularly satisfying, as in introducing Vivant Denon, Napoleon’s choice to direct his growing art hoard and inventor of the modern museum. A sassy, historically sound visit with some of the more (mostly) rudely audacious characters who have taken what wasn’t theirs. (Nonfiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Brianna DuMont is the award-winning author of numerous nonfiction books for middle grade readers and enjoys exposing the forgotten bits in history. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband, two kids, and two cats.

Her website is www.briannadumont.com

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Thrilling Thieves on Amazon

Thrilling Thieves on Goodreads

Thrilling Thieves Publisher Page

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies by Joyce Sidman

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman. February 20, 2018. HMH Books for Young Readers, 160 p. ISBN: 9780544717138.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 1110.

Bugs, of all kinds, were considered to be “born of mud” and to be “beasts of the devil.”  Why would anyone, let alone a girl, want to study and observe them?

One of the first naturalists to observe live insects directly, Maria Sibylla Merian was also one of the first to document the metamorphosis of the butterfly. In this visual nonfiction biography, richly illustrated throughout with full-color original paintings by Merian herself, the Newbery Honor–winning author Joyce Sidman paints her own picture of one of the first female entomologists and a woman who flouted convention in the pursuit of knowledge and her passion for insects.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 4-7. Considered by many to be the world’s first ecologist, Maria Merian broke ground through her meticulous observations of insects and beautiful depictions of them within their natural habitats. Born in seventeenth-century Germany, Maria was the daughter of famed engraver and printer Matthäus Merian and stepdaughter to a successful still-life painter, allowing her to study both art and nature from a young age. Sidman’s writing radiates Maria’s passion and curiosity for the natural world, and it is as absorbing as fiction. As Maria’s primary interest was in caterpillars—she worked diligently to discover their origins and connection to moths and butterflies, charmingly called “summer birds”—Sidman begins her book with a glossary of butterfly terminology and later reveals how Maria became the first person to discover and present the complete life cycle of these insects. Colored inserts give further historical and cultural context to Maria’s life, noting such things as the limitations placed on women during the seventeenth century and how the era’s curiosity cabinets lead to the creation of museums. A fantastic array of illustrations embellish the text with photos of butterflies, caterpillars, and chrysalises, and lovely images of Maria’s artwork and that of her father’s. Meanwhile, exceptional captions identify and establish each illustration’s relevance to Maria’s life. A vibrant, wonderfully rounded biography on a pioneering and prodigiously talented woman.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2018)
Sidman introduces readers to Maria Merian, a seventeenth-century German naturalist whose illustrations of the life cycles of butterflies and moths included groundbreaking scientific details, such as the inclusion of eggs in the insect life cycle and the portrayal of the ecological interdependence of plants and animals. Excellent reproductions of the gorgeous botanical prints allow readers to appreciate their accurate scientific detail and artistry. Merian’s story, from childhood through her often unconventional and adventurous adult life, is told in twelve chapters, each titled with a stage in a butterfly’s life cycle; photographs illustrating each of the butterfly stages were taken by the author, who was inspired to raise the creatures herself. Merian was a prolific diarist, and the inclusion of numerous excerpts from her journals, along with historical illustrations and maps, gives the reader glimpses into this period of history and of the talented women who lived in it. A timeline, a glossary, sources, additional readings, and an informative author’s note are included. danielle j. ford

About the Author

The Newbery Honor winner Joyce Sidman is today’s foremost nature poet for children.  Accolades for her books include two Caldecott Honors, a Lee Bennet Hopkins Award, winner of the Claudia Lews Award, and many stars and best of lists.  For her award-winning body of work, she won the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. She lives in Wayzata, Minnesota.

Her website is www.joycesidman.com

Teacher Resources

Maria Merian Lesson Plan

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The Girl Who Drew Butterflies on Amazon

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The Future of Humanity by Michio Kaku

The Future of Humanity by Michio Kaku. February 20, 2018. Doubleday Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9780385542760.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 1190.

The #1 bestselling author of The Future of the Mind traverses the frontiers of astrophysics, artificial intelligence, and technology to offer a stunning vision of man’s future in space, from settling Mars to traveling to distant galaxies.

Formerly the domain of fiction, moving human civilization to the stars is increasingly becoming a scientific possibility–and a necessity. Whether in the near future due to climate change and the depletion of finite resources, or in the distant future due to catastrophic cosmological events, we must face the reality that humans will one day need to leave planet Earth to survive as a species. World-renowned physicist and futurist Michio Kaku explores in rich, intimate detail the process by which humanity may gradually move away from the planet and develop a sustainable civilization in outer space. He reveals how cutting-edge developments in robotics, nanotechnology, and biotechnology may allow us to terraform and build habitable cities on Mars. He then takes us beyond the solar system to nearby stars, which may soon be reached by nanoships traveling on laser beams at near the speed of light. Finally, he brings us beyond our galaxy, and even beyond our universe, to the possibility of immortality, showing us how humans may someday be able to leave our bodies entirely and laser port to new havens in space. With irrepressible enthusiasm and wonder, Dr. Kaku takes readers on a fascinating journey to a future in which humanity may finally fulfill its long-awaited destiny among the stars.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2018 (Online))
Kaku, the noted theoretical physicist and popular-science writer (The Future of the Mind, 2014), takes us on an adventure of the imagination. Colonization of other worlds used to be the domain of science fiction, but, at an ever-increasing pace, it’s becoming science fact. Leaving Earth, the author tells us, may no longer be optional, not if we want to survive as a species. In this deeply fascinating and energetically written book, Kaku explores how, exactly, we might go about colonizing other planets. Drawing on the work of a multitude of experts—Murray Gell-Mann, Buzz Aldrin, Gregory Benford, Fritjof Capra, and Jared Diamond, to mention just a small handful—Kaku lays out a detailed and entirely plausible plan for moving out into the solar system and—even beyond—into the stars. Kaku’s writings have garnered a reputation for combining hard science with clever speculation, and his latest book continues that winning trend. A breathtaking voyage through what is almost certainly the next major period in the history of humanity.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
Enthusiastic scientific speculation on the future of space travel.Acclaimed science popularizer Kaku (The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind, 2014, etc.), the co-founder of string field theory, confines his expertise to physics, but the 226 experts listed in the acknowledgements have plenty to offer on a variety of scientific disciplines. Alert readers will notice that the stirring words “we are entering a new golden age of space travel when exploring the universe will once again become an exciting part of the national agenda after decades of neglect” are not the author’s. That statement applies to China, the single nation with an active national manned space program and leaders eager to mortify the United States, its superpower rival. Having accomplished the feat of the Apollo moon landing in 1969, the U.S. government, it seems, feels no pressure to keep up with the Chinese. National rivalries aside, our current technology, writes the author, will get us to Mars. However, making Mars as habitable as Earth (“terraforming”), traveling to far planets and their moons, mining precious metals from asteroids, and voyaging to the stars will require technical advances that are well underway and a revolution in energy that, sadly, is not. Computer efficiency has increased astronomically since World War II, and rocket motor efficiency has perhaps tripled. Always optimistic and undaunted, Kaku delivers a fascinating and scattershot series of scenarios in which humans overcome current obstacles without violating natural laws to travel the universe. The author digresses regularly into related areas of study, including extrasolar planets, radical life extension, intelligent robots, and the details of settling other worlds. An exhilarating look at the future, although American readers may yearn for a Chinese bombshell (à la Russia’s launch of Sputnik in 1957) to stimulate the U.S. government to achieve at least one marvel during their lifetimes.

About the Author

Dr. Michio Kaku is an American theoretical physicist at the City College of New York , best-selling author, a futurist, and a communicator and popularizer of science. He has written several books about physics and related topics of science.

He has written two New York Times Best Sellers, Physics of the Impossible (2008) and Physics of the Future (2011).

Dr. Michio is the co-founder of string field theory (a branch of string theory), and continues Einstein’s search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified theory.

Kaku was a Visitor and Member (1973 and 1990) at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and New York University. He currently holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics at the City College of New York.

His website is www.mkaku.org

Around the Web

The Future of Humanity on Amazon

The Future of Humanity on Goodreads

The Future of Humanity Publisher Page