Category Archives: Nonfiction

Serena Williams by Matt Christopher

Serena Williams by Matt Christoper. July 3, 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 144 p. ISBN: 9780316471800.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.1.

Discover the amazing achievements of sports legend Serena Williams–on and off the tennis court–in this exciting new biography.

Serena Williams has been ranked number one in the world for tennis singles, won twenty-two Grand Slam singles titles, and won four Olympic gold medals. She is a powerful player and a fierce competitor. Learn more about the record-breaking athlete in this comprehensive and action-packed biography, complete with stats and photographs.

Part of series: Legends in Sports

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination

 

About the Author

Matt Christopher is the writer young readers turn to when they’re looking for fast-paced, action-packed sports novels. He is the best-selling author of more than one hundred sports books for young readers.

His website is www.mattchristopher.com

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Serena Williams on Amazon

Serena Williams on Goodreads

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Serena Williams Publisher Page

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Artificial Intelligence by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson

Artificial Intelligence: Building Smarter Machines by Sammartino McPherson. September 1, 2017. Twenty-First Century Books, 104 p. ISBN: 9781512418262.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1170.

In 2011 a computer named Watson outscored two human competitors on the TV quiz show Jeopardy! and snagged the million-dollar prize. Watson isn’t the only machine keeping up with humans. The field of artificial intelligence (AI) is booming, with drones, robots, and computers handling tasks that once only humans could perform.

Read about the history of artificial intelligence from smart cars to drones and learn how the fields of AI and neurology work together to create “thinking machines.” You’ll also consider the pros and cons of AI and discover what lies ahead.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 8-11. The concept of artificial intelligence, or AI, shouldn’t be new to most young readers, since it’s a frequent feature of sci-fi movies, TV shows, and even the game show Jeopardy!, which famously featured a computer contestant, Watson, that beat its human competitors. There’s more to AI than a dystopian future of robot overlords, however, and McPherson cogently lays out the concept from its inception, with Lovelace and Babbage’s analytical engine, to contemporary research on the topic, including neural mapping, the ways AI is already integrated into current technology, and depictions in popular culture. In addition to laying out the basic research at hand, McPherson also raises critical questions, such whether we should allow computers to make ethical choices, given that those circumstances are so complicated that a simple algorithm likely wouldn’t suffice. On magazinelike pages packed with inset boxes and sidebars, as well as photos of scientists and their machines, McPherson’s straightforward, accessible text offers fascinating, thought-provoking, and up-to-date information on a high-interest, very relevant topic to contemporary teens. Extensive back matter includes further reading and source notes.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
McPherson presents the evolution of artificial intelligence—machines with the “humanlike ability to reason and solve problems.” That definition opens McPherson’s tour d’horizon of artificial intelligence, immediately placing readers on shaky ground. Philosophers have been debating “to reason” since long before Descartes. There is little doubt that McPherson richly explores the women and men who develop machines to do the drudge work of mechanical production and everyday life, but do either the amusingly crafty Watson, which took down the Jeopardy! game show champs, or Deep Blue, which humiliated Garry Kasparov, qualify as “a truly thinking machine, able to learn on its own and modify its own programming without human input”? The ability for a machine to reckon if/then is part of its programming. Sentience, which includes feeling, is stickier. How is it possible, as McPherson writes, that a machine programmed by humans “might not share human social and ethical values—such as notions of fairness, justice, and right and wrong”? Throughout, there’s too much supposition and not enough science; emblematic of this is a failure to convey exactly how Google Brain arrived at the concept of a cat without being commanded to: “All on its own, it had developed the concept of ‘cat.’ ” McPherson conveys the thrill of the possibility inherent in AI, but she’s frequently a giant step ahead of the game. (Nonfiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Stephanie Sammartino McPherson wrote her first children’s story in college. She enjoyed the process so much that she’s never stopped writing. A former teacher and freelance newspaper writer, she has written twenty-eight books and numerous magazine stories. She especially enjoys writing about science and the human interest stories behind major discoveries.

Stephanie and her husband, Richard, live in Virginia but also call California home. They are the parents of two grown children.

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Artificial Intelligence on Amazon

Artificial Intelligence on Goodreads

Artificial Intelligence on JLG

Artificial Intelligence Publisher Page

Older than Dirt by Don Brown

Older than Dirt by Don Brown. September 5, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 112 p. ISBN: 9780544805033.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 730.

Almost 14.5 billion years ago, it all started with a BIG BANG and what began as a cloud of gas, dust, and rock eventually took shape and bloomed into a molten sphere. Battered by asteroid collisions, ice ages, and shifting tectonic plates, our fledgling planet finally pushed forth continents. But if you think the earth has calmed down since then—think again! Geological activity continues to sculpt the earth’s landscape, sometimes with terrible consequences for its inhabitants: earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis.     In this one-of-a-kind, wild, but true history of Earth, the Sibert Honor medalist Don Brown takes on big concepts with humor and ease.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 5-8. In 100 fact-crammed but surprisingly zippy pages, nonfiction graphic novelist extraordinaire Brown covers 14 billion years of Earth’s development. From the big bang to our planet’s origin to landmass formation to the appearance of life, Brown and scientific consultant Perfit provide an astonishingly comprehensive overview and manage to humanize it with witty asides from the woodchuck and worm who serve as surrogate teacher and student, as well as quick visits with important historical scientists. Brown’s art—loose, easy lines but clear, vivid representations—also strikes a necessary balance between friendly accessibility and accurate portrayal. Comics are not a form naturally inclined to delivery of hard facts, and the speed with which information is conveyed here doesn’t make it ideal for, say, supporting a long-range science curriculum. But comics have always held a strong suit in high accessibility for young readers, and this could serve as a good beginning research source and will be a nifty opportunity for burgeoning geologists or anyone looking for a deeper way to explore the real world. A word of warning, though, that between climate change, gradual landmass upheavals, and the eventual cooking of the planet by the sun, things don’t wrap up on a particularly hopeful note. Appended with three helpful illustrated diagrams and extensive source notes.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
A groundhog and her worm sidekick offer a concise tour of the Earth’s history from the Big Bang to climate change with a glimpse of the bleak, sun-dried future to come—all lightened by frequent humorous asides. Born of the partnership between geology professor Perfit (Univ. of Florida) and prolific graphic novelist Brown, this highly engaging overview briefly introduces a broad range of scientific topics in a vivid and accessible way, for example describing magma as “rock that is so hot that it’s gooey, like chocolate fudge.” Clear illustrations effectively complement the text, rendering the array of subjects memorable and easy to grasp: a cross section of an apple indicates the relative thinness of the Earth’s basalt crust, while a plaid blanket hovering above the planet illustrates the effect on temperatures of excessive carbon dioxide. The groundhog is utterly endearing, and the worm is remarkably expressive considering the absence of limbs and most facial features. Readers will be entertained, informed, and inspired to learn more about whatever piques their curiosity, whether it is uranium, continental drift, glaciers, or one of the featured scientists, such as Marie Tharp. A lengthy bibliography and detailed source notes are an added bonus. A guaranteed hit with science lovers and a best bet for convincing skeptics that science is indeed a grand and exciting adventure. (Graphic nonfiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Don Brown is the award-winning author and illustrator of many picture book biographies. He has been widely praised for his resonant storytelling and his delicate watercolor paintings that evoke the excitement, humor, pain, and joy of lives lived with passion. School Library Journal has called him “a current pacesetter who has put the finishing touches on the standards for storyographies.”

He lives in New York with his family. His website is www.booksbybrown.com

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Older than Dirt on Amazon

Older than Dirt on Goodreads

Older than Dirt on JLG

Older than Dirt Publisher Page

The Quarterback Whisperer by Bruce Arians

The Quarterback Whisperer by Bruce Arians. July 11, 2017. Hachette Books, 256 p. ISBN: 9780316432269.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

What is an elite NFL QB and what separates that player from the others? One answer is the coach they share. In the recent history of the biggest game on earth, one man is the common thread that connects several of the very best in the sport: Peyton Manning; Ben Roethlisberger; Andrew Luck; and the resurgent Carson Palmer. That coach is Bruce Arians.

A larger than life visionary who trained under the tutelage of Bear Bryant, Arians has had a major impact on the development and success of each of these players. For proof beyond the stats, go to the sources.

Known around the game as the ‘quarterback whisperer’, Arians has an uncanny ability to both personally connect with his quarterbacks and to locate what the individual triggers are for that player to succeed. No two quarterbacks are the same. And yet with Arians they always share success. In this book Arians will explain how he does it

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking

 

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About the Author

Bruce Arians is currently the head coach of the NFC powerhouse the Arizona Cardinals. In three years he has taken the team from last place in their division to the NFC Championship. He has also guided quarterback Carson Palmer to the best results of his long career. He has twice been named the NFL’s Head Coach of the Year.

His website is www.ariansfamilyfoundation.com

Around the Web

The Quarterback Whisperer on Amazon

The Quarterback Whisperer on Goodreads

The Quarterback Whisperer on JLG

The Quarterback Whisperer Publisher Page

The Magician and the Spirits by Deborah Noyes

The Magician and the Spirits by Deborah Noyes. August 22, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 160 p. ISBN: 9780803740181.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.9; Lexile: 1250.

A century ago, the curious idea that spirits not only survive death but can be contacted on the “other side” was widespread. Psychic mediums led countless seances, claiming to connect the grieving with their lost relations through everything from frenzied trance writing to sticky expulsions of ectoplasm.

The craze caught Harry Houdini’s attention. Well-known by then as most renowned magician and escape artist, he began to investigate these spiritual phenomena. Are ghosts real? Can we communicate with them? Catch them in photographs? Or are all mediums “flim-flammers,” employing tricks and illusions like Houdini himself?

Peopled with odd and fascinating characters, Houdini’s gripping quest will excite readers’ universal wonderment with life, death, and the possibility of the Beyond.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Murder, Suicide

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 5-8. Plenty has been written about Houdini’s iconic escape routines and stage magic, but in this biography, Noyes focuses on a lesser-known facet of his career: his mission to debunk spiritualists. After his mother died, Houdini wanted to believe in the possibility of contact from beyond the grave. But his career gave him singular insight into tricks mediums deployed during seances, and, angered by the thought of mediums swindling grief-stricken people, he became determined to reveal the fakery of spiritualism. While describing Houdini’s campaign to unmask fraudulent mediums, Noyes offers compelling tidbits about the many ways spiritualists performed their tricks, and helpful historical context for the popularity of spiritualism. Houdini’s feud with avowed spiritualist Arthur Conan Doyle is particularly fascinating, though the details of their clash get a bit lost. Still, there’s plenty of intriguing information here, often in eye-catching inset boxes with additional background, and Noyes’ attention to Houdini’s outsize personality—a key component of his campaign against spiritualists—adds compelling depth. A worthwhile addition to any nonfiction section, and ideal for kids intrigued by historical oddities.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
There was a time, not long ago, when many people believed that death was no barrier to staying connected with loved ones. The idea was enthusiastically embraced by none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the logically minded Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle saw nothing illogical in the ability of psychic mediums to connect the grief-stricken with their lost relations. A true believer and zealous evangelist for spiritualism, Conan Doyle believed such phenomena as automatic writing, frenzied trances, disembodied voices, levitating tables, ghost photography, and oral expulsions of ectoplasm were real and perfectly rational. Conan Doyle’s friend Harry Houdini was dubious. The most renowned magician and escape artist of his time knew plenty about tricking audiences, and his investigations into these spiritual phenomena convinced him that mediums used trickery and illusion to dupe people like his friend. Noyes’ engaging narrative explores how Houdini’s public crusade to expose spiritualism as bunk and mediums as frauds strained his relationship with Conan Doyle. The account is illustrated with archival material and densely populated with odd, outrageous characters such as D.D. Home, whose levitation acts saw him sailing out windows feet first, and Eva C. who expelled “ectoplasm” from her mouth during séances. Sidebars take readers down numerous, entertaining detours. A compelling true story of magic, ghosts, science, friendship, deception, feuding, and sleuthing told with great flair. (photos, source notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Deborah Noyes is the author of nonfiction and fiction for young readers and adults, including Ten Days a MadwomanEncyclopedia of the End, One Kingdom, and The Ghosts of Kerfol. She has also compiled and edited the short story anthologies Gothic!, The Restless Dead, and Sideshow. 

She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her website is www.deborahnoyes.com

Around the Web

The Magician and the Spirits on Amazon

The Magician and the Spirits on Goodreads

The Magician and the Spirits on JLG

The Magician and the Spirits Publisher Page

Sinking the Sultana by Sally M. Walker

Sinking the Sultana by Sally M. Walker. October 10, 2017. Candlewick Press, 208 p. ISBN: 9780763677558.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.1.

The worst maritime disaster in American history wasn’t the Titanic. It was the steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River — and it could have been prevented.

In 1865, the Civil War was winding down and the country was reeling from Lincoln’s assassination. Thousands of Union soldiers, released from Confederate prisoner-of-war camps, were to be transported home on the steamboat Sultana. With a profit to be made, the captain rushed repairs to the boat so the soldiers wouldn’t find transportation elsewhere. More than 2,000 passengers boarded in Vicksburg, Mississippi . . . on a boat with a capacity of 376. The journey was violently interrupted when the boat’s boilers exploded, plunging the Sultana into mayhem; passengers were bombarded with red-hot iron fragments, burned by scalding steam, and flung overboard into the churning Mississippi. Although rescue efforts were launched, the survival rate was dismal — more than 1,500 lives were lost. In a compelling, exhaustively researched account, renowned author Sally M. Walker joins the ranks of historians who have been asking the same question for 150 years: who (or what) was responsible for the Sultana’s disastrous fate?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, War, Violence, Criminal culture, Graphic descriptions of burn victims

 

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Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 7-12. It may surprise many to learn that the worst maritime disaster in American history was not the sinking of the Titanic. It happened 47 years prior, but the story begins during the Civil War, when the prisoner exchange system ended and the Andersonville prison camp swelled with Union soldiers. Once the war ended, these prisoners needed to be returned home, and transporting troops became a lucrative business for steamboats along the Mississippi River. Walker sets the scene for the Sultana disaster as she describes the captain’s greed (allowing 2,400 passengers when the legal capacity was 376), the chief engineer’s decision to repair rather than replace a deteriorating boiler, the flooded river, and other factors that would come into play. She tells the story through the lens of select soldiers and paying passengers, who each met different fates aboard the steamer. The author not only relates the aftermath of the tragedy that claimed 1,537 lives but also why it was almost forgotten. History buffs, and even adults, will be the biggest fans of this crossover YA title.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2017)
The worst maritime disaster in American history, one that could have been easily prevented, is comprehensively recounted in this briskly paced narrative. On April 27, 1865, the Sultana, a Mississippi River side-wheel steamboat, exploded just north of Memphis on the Mississippi River. The boat, which had a capacity of 376, was carrying over 2,000 passengers, most of them Union soldiers recently released from prisoner-of-war camps. When the Sultana’s boilers exploded, passengers were bombarded with red-hot iron fragments, burned by scalding steam or fire, and flung overboard into the cold, churning Mississippi River. Despite rescue efforts, over 1,500 lives were lost. The narrative focuses on five survivors. Walker chronicles their experiences in battle and as prisoners of the Confederates, their ordeals in the disaster and rescue, and what became of them after. She also discusses the official investigation into the disaster. The cause of the explosion was a damaged boiler that had not been properly repaired. Bribery was responsible for the gross overcrowding aboard the Sultana, but no one was ever held responsible or punished. In addition to archival illustrative material, Walker makes extensive use of primary sources, such as diaries and newspaper reports, although it is surprising more use is not made of the survivors’ recollections Chester Berry collected and published in 1892. Quibbles aside, a finely detailed, well-researched chronicle of a little-known disaster. (maps, glossary, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Sally M. Walker is the author of the Sibert Medal winner Secrets of a Civil War Submarine as well as many other nonfiction books, including Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation. Sally M. Walker lives in Illinois.

Her website is sallymwalker.com

Teacher Resources

Sinking the Sultana Discussion Questions

Sinking the Sultana Teachers’ Guide

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Sinking the Sultana on Amazon

Sinking the Sultana on Goodreads

Sinking the Sultana on JLG

Sinking the Sultana Publisher Page

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore. May 2, 2017. Sourcebooks, 480 p. ISBN: 9781492649359.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 980.

The incredible true story of the women who fought America’s Undark danger.

The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive – until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Clinical description of the results of radium poisoning

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
In 1917, the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation willingly employed young women, paid far better than most businesses, and had many enticing perks—including the glow. Radium girls, most in their teens and early twenties, painted watch dials with a luminescent paint mixed with radium dust, which clung to their hair and clothes and produced a telltale glow about them as they walked home each evening. At the time, radium was used in cancer treatments and touted in expensive tonics, so the girls didn’t question smoothing the radium-laden paintbrushes in their mouths, as instructed, or even painting their nails with them. But the women would soon suffer horrific pain and grotesquely shattered bones and teeth, and the company, it would be discovered, had known better. In 1928, just eight years after women had earned the right to vote, a group of former radium girls brought suit against the companies whose knowledge of radium’s hazards, and careless disregard for them, had endangered and harmed them. This timely book celebrates the strength of a group of women whose determination to fight improved both labor laws and scientific knowledge of radium poisoning. English author Moore, who directed a play about the girls, writes in a highly readable, narrative style, and her chronicle of these inspirational women’s lives is sure to provoke discussion—and outrage—in book groups.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
British author Moore (Felix the Railway Cat, 2017) takes a slice of ugly American history from nearly a century ago, telling a compelling narrative that could be ripped from recent headlines.A few years ago, while living in London, the author went online to search for “great plays for women,” and she found These Shining Lives, a play by Melanie Marnich about the radium poisonings and subsequent workplace-related deaths of factory employees, primarily in Ottawa, Illinois, and Newark, New Jersey, in the 1920s and 1930s. Eager to learn more, Moore traveled to the United States to research the deaths. She found two narrowly focused, quasi-academic books about the saga but nothing for general audiences. Deciding to focus on the employers, the United States Radium Corporation in New Jersey and the Radium Dial Company in Illinois, Moore alternates chapters focusing on more than 15 women employed in Newark and a dozen women in Ottawa. Each one of them became sick from their piecework painting numerals on clock faces using a radium-infused radioactive substance that allowed the products to glow in the dark. Many of the employees died while in their 20s and 30s after years of agonizing illnesses. The employers, as well as the scientists and physicians attending to the women, denied liability for the suffering and deaths. At first, the employers claimed that the radium was benign. Later, when the toxicity had been documented, the employers blamed the women workers for careless use even though the women were observing workplace protocols. Moore clearly separates the heroines from the villains throughout this deeply researched book, and she never masks her outrage. A handful of physicians, public health investigators, and lawyers obtained some monetary awards for the victims, but the money was far from sufficient for adequate justice.Moore offers such vivid portraits of suffering that certain passages can be difficult to read, but this is an important story well told.

About the Author

Kate Moore is a New York Times best selling writer with more than a decade’s experience writing and ghosting across varying genres, including memoir, biography, and history. In 2015 she directed a critically acclaimed play about the Radium Girls called ‘These Shining Lives.’ She lives in the UK.

Her website is www.kate-moore.com

Teacher Resources

The Radium Girls Reading Guide

The Radium Girls Discussion Questions

Around the Web

The Radium Girls on Amazon

The Radium Girls on Goodreads

The Radium Girls on JLG

The Radium Girls Publisher Page

Trashing the Planet by Stuart Kallen

Trashing the Planet: Examining Our Global Garbage Glut by Stuart Kallen. August 1, 2017. Twenty-First Century Books, 104 p. ISBN: 9781512413144.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1200.

On a global scale, humans create around 2.6 trillion pounds of waste every year. None of this trash is harmless—landfills and dumps leak toxic chemicals into soil and groundwater, while incinerators release toxic gases and particles into the air. What can we do to keep garbage from swallowing up Earth? Reducing, reusing, recycling, and upcycling are some of the answers. Learn more about the work of the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Ocean Cleanup Array, the zero waste movement, and the many other government, business, research, and youth efforts working to solve our planet’s garbage crisis.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 8-12. It is easy to forget about the refuse that people discard once it’s in the garbage can, but this book seeks to draw the attention of young readers to an ever-growing problem: the tremendous amount of trash polluting the earth. This puts modern ecological issues in historical context, explaining the impact of the Industrial Revolution on human consumption and the genesis of the environmental movement. Color photographs of some of the most polluted areas drive home the severity of the global garbage problem, while charts, maps, and diagrams support understanding of fundamental STEM concepts. Additionally, the topic lends itself to discussions of global politics and international relations, as well as the economic differences between underdeveloped and developed nations. Soundly researched and carefully sourced, the text speaks to the complexity of the issue, while offering suggestions for action in readers’ own backyards. Kallen hits the right balance of informative, cautionary, and alarmist, helping young readers grasp the urgency of the global garbage issue and be inspired to act on it.

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
A taut overview of humans’ environmentally shameful impact on the face of the Earth—plus its subsurface and supersurface.From the “first flush”—that is, when Los Angeles experiences its first cleansing (read: deeply polluting) rain in autumn—to the “twenty-three thousand pieces of orbital debris larger than 4 inches (10 cm) across” currently being tracked by NASA, Kallen describes in aching detail the abuse we humans have heaped upon our nest. Scattered with sharp, supporting photographs, the text is a litany of malfeasance: landfill issues, incineration issues, chemicals and plastics degrading everything they touch except themselves, planned obsolescence, the petrochemical fiasco, the two-edged sword of recycling—stores offer free e-waste recycling, for instance, the better to lure in consumers to purchase new products. He dots the narrative with boxed items of especial infamy, such as “Black Monday,” the day in 1943 when downtown Los Angeles smog became a blackout. The one misstep in Kallen’s otherwise strong treatment of the topic is that he is, frankly, a downer. The tone is somber, and while there are examples of people taking positive steps, there aren’t enough to counter the gathering darkness. We have met the enemy and it is us. But unless humans go extinct and nature goes her healing ways alone, we are the solution, a message grimly driven home. (Nonfiction. 10-16)

About the Author

Stuart A. Kallen has written more than 350 nonfiction books for children and young adults. His books have covered a wide arc of human history, culture, and science.

Kallen is also an accomplished singer-songwriter and guitarist in San Diego, California.

 Around the Web

Trashing the Planet on Amazon

Trashing the Planet  on Goodreads

Trashing the Planet d on JLG

Trashing the Planet  Publisher Page

Girls Who Code by Reshma Saujani

Girls Who Code by Reshma Saujani. August 22, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 176 p. ISBN: 9780425287538.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 990.

Part how-to, part girl-empowerment, and all fun, from the leader of the movement championed by Sheryl Sandberg, Malala Yousafzai, and John Legend.

Since 2012, the organization Girls Who Code has taught computing skills to and inspired over 40,000 girls across America. Now its founder, Reshma Saujani, wants to inspire you to be a girl who codes! Bursting with dynamic artwork, down-to-earth explanations of coding principles, and real-life stories of girls and women working at places like Pixar and NASA, this graphically animated book shows what a huge role computer science plays in our lives and how much fun it can be. No matter your interest–sports, the arts, baking, student government, social justice–coding can help you do what you love and make your dreams come true. Whether you’re a girl who’s never coded before, a girl who codes, or a parent raising one, this entertaining book, printed in bold two-color and featuring art on every page, will have you itching to create your own apps, games, and robots to make the world a better place.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Online))
Grades 6-10. Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code (a national nonprofit organization that educates young women with computing skills), is on a mission to close the gender gap in technology. With the help of multicultural girls, represented in appealing tween- and teen-friendly cartoon images, the author introduces the concept of coding, some of its terminology, and its problem-solving process. Using a conversational tone and easy-to-understand examples (such as comparing coding to stringing different patterns of beads), she also explains numerous real-world applications of coding, including digital art, websites, mobile apps, animation, video games, and robots. The text does not teach specific coding skills or languages (although they are represented graphically), but readers who are studying these on their own will benefit from chapters on design, debugging, and other related topics. Particularly eye-opening are interviews with current female coders in high-tech fields and with the featured multicultural girls, all of whom describe projects on which they’ve worked. Above all, this book makes coding less intimidating and more inspiring to today’s young women.

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2017)
A guide to get girls into coding, written by Saujani, the founder of the Girls Who Code organization, with Hutt’s assistance. Rather than serving as a manual for a specific coding language, this book has two focuses: encouraging girls that coding is something they can do and guiding them to entry points that will make programming relevant to their specific interests. Internalized societal messages about girls’ STEM abilities and the pressure on girls to be perfect are addressed head-on through spotlights on women in programing history and interviews with impressive women working in programming (such as Danielle Feinberg of Pixar, who tells how a bug in her code created an amazing new effect). After obligatory computer history, the chapters are organized first with programming logic and theory that will serve regardless of the programming language used (including creative prompts to nurture new ideas and give young programmers confidence), and then into the fun to be had programming applications—apps, games, digital art, robots, etc. These segments feature interviews with real Girls Who Code teams speaking of how they created successful projects, and a multicultural cartoon cast appears in comic strips working on specific projects. Having demonstrated what projects each programming language is for, the resources at the end direct girls to code tutorials so they can start their own projects. Final art not seen. An encouraging supplementary resource for young coders. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 9-16)

About the Author

Reshma Saujani is the former NYC Deputy Public Advocate and the founder of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that prepares underserved girls for careers in science and technology. She ran for U.S. Congress in New York’s 14th District as a Democrat in 2010.

Her website is www.reshmasaujani.com.

Teacher Resources

The Girls Who Code Organization homepage

Around the Web

Girls Who Code on Amazon

Girls Who Code on Goodreads

Girls Who Code on JLG

Girls Who Code Publisher Page

42 Is Not Just a Number by Doreen Rappaport

42 Is Not Just a Number by Doreen Rappaport. September 5, 2017. Candlewick Press, 128 p. ISBN: 9780763676247.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.9.

An eye-opening look at the life and legacy of Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball and became an American hero.

Baseball, basketball, football — no matter the game, Jackie Robinson excelled. His talents would have easily landed another man a career in pro sports, but such opportunities were closed to athletes like Jackie for one reason: his skin was the wrong color. Settling for playing baseball in the Negro Leagues, Jackie chafed at the inability to prove himself where it mattered most: the major leagues. Then in 1946, Branch Rickey, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, recruited Jackie Robinson. Jackie faced cruel and sometimes violent hatred and discrimination, but he proved himself again and again, exhibiting courage, determination, restraint, and a phenomenal ability to play the game. In this compelling biography, award-winning author Doreen Rappaport chronicles the extraordinary life of Jackie Robinson and how his achievements won over — and changed — a segregated nation.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Racism and racist language

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 5-7. Early on, young Jackie Robinson was taught to fight back when faced with racial slurs and prejudice, and he did, first as one of the few black kids in his neighborhood and later as one of the few black officers on his army base. But those injustices and the indignities he endured while playing for Negro league baseball were dwarfed by the hostility shown by many white players and fans when he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. While children’s books on Jackie Robinson are plentiful, this well-researched, concise biography clearly shows the extraordinary burdens he carried and recognizes his significance as an agent of change within American society. A Dodgers fan as a child during the Robinson years, Rappaport offers an engaging account of the man’s life and presents enough background information about American racism during the 1930s and 1940s to help young readers understand the depth of his courage and the magnitude of his achievement as “a one-person civil rights movement.”

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
A tribute to a man who spoke out forthrightly against racial injustice—until, on a larger stage, he let his deeds do the talking.Beginning with a childhood exchange with a neighbor (she hurls the N-word at him thrice; he responds with “cracker”), Rappaport focuses on her subject’s refusal to stay silent in the face of prejudicial treatment in youth and during his military career. This has the effect of underscoring the strength of character he displayed in controlling his reactions to the vicious provocations of fans and fellow players once he broke professional baseball’s color line, setting readers up for a nicely contextualized understanding of his career. Unfortunately, she ends her account with the 1947 World Series and in a cursory summation barely mentions the rest of Robinson’s achievements in baseball and after. This, along with the lack of photos or even a stat box in the backmatter, gives the profile a sketchy feel next to Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, by his daughter, Sharon Robinson (2004)—a title that is included in the perfunctory list of suggested further reading—or any of the several more complete, better packaged appreciations of his life, times, and legacy available. A pinch hitter, at best, behind a strong lineup of competitors. (timeline, endnotes, index) (Biography. 10-13)

About the Author

Doreen Rappaport is the author of more than fifty books for children, including Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust; Lady Liberty: A Biography, illustrated by Matt Tavares; and Martin’s Big Words, illustrated by Bryan Collier. Doreen Rappaport lives in upstate New York.

Her website is dorreenrappaport.com

Teacher Resources

42 Is Not just a Number Discussion Guide

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