Category Archives: Nonfiction

Coming Up Clutch by Matt Doeden

Coming Up Clutch: The Greatest Upsets, Comebacks, and Finishes in Sports History by Matt Doeden. January 1, 2016. Millbrook Press, 64 p. ISBN: 9781512427561.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.4; Lexile: 980.

The sports world is full of epic comebacks, upsets, chokes, and clutch performances. The most memorable buzzer-beating baskets, double-digit comebacks, and unexpected meltdowns are all here alongside vivid photos and lively writing from award-winning sports author Matt Doeden. From racing legend Man o’ War’s only career loss in 1919 to the 2017 Super Bowl’s incredible finish, sports fans will have plenty to digest. Doeden also writes about the science behind clutch performances and asks if some athletes are more clutch than others, or if being clutch is just one of the stories fans tell themselves about their favorite sports.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 5-7. It’s no simple thing to explain being clutch. The term itself falls short of fully capturing the intangible quality of the moment—or sequence of moments—that it describes. The best way to explain is to show, which is what author Doeden does in this compendium of sporting highlights. He reviews upsets, comebacks, epic chokes, and memorable last-minute heroics, before examining the science and psychology of being clutch, such as it is. The book is heavily skewed to American sports, with a couple of European mentions. Player profiles and anecdotes that don’t quite fall into those categories are listed in side boxes, such as a 1982 college football game that ended with a receiver plowing into the opposing team’s band, which had entered the end zone for a premature celebration. There is a nice balance of recent glories and legendary triumphs, so even casual sports fans might be familiar with some of the events mentioned. While there is no consensus on clutch, there is plenty for fans to consider and debate.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
A collection of clutch performances—and a few epic flubs. This rich gathering of thrilling finishes in sports history are mostly of recent vintage and cover the range of sports, including professional, collegiate, and Olympian. There is horse racing (Man o’ War, by far the oldest entry here, way back a century ago), the famous victory of the United States over the Soviet hockey team, Doug Flutie’s “hail Mary” pass, Brandi Chastain’s World Cup soccer goal, the New England Patriots comebacks during Super Bowl performances. Then there are famous individual performances from such stunners as Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, and Simone Biles. Lest they be forgotten—as if they ever will—there are the world-class chokes such as Bill Buckner letting the ball go between his legs, Jean Van de Velde losing a three-point lead at the 1999 British Open on the last hole, Lindsey Jacobellis “showboating” to a loss in the Olympic snowboarding race in the final seconds. In the end, Doeden asks the question that nags at readers throughout the book. Are there just plain old clutch performers, or are they just the best players on the team doing what they do best—score? The answer, Doeden sensibly suggests, is in preparation and the handling of nerves. A fine collection of archival photographs accompanies Doeden’s fast-paced, colorful storytelling. As breezy a collection of sports stories as anyone could want on a lazy afternoon. (Nonfiction. 10-16)

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.

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Rising Out of Hatred by Eli Saslow

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow. September 18, 2018. Doubleday, 304 p. ISBN: 9780385542869.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the powerful story of how a prominent white supremacist changed his heart and mind

Derek Black grew up at the epicenter of white nationalism. His father founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the internet. His godfather, David Duke, was a KKK Grand Wizard. By the time Derek turned nineteen, he had become an elected politician with his own daily radio show–already regarded as the “the leading light” of the burgeoning white nationalist movement. “We can infiltrate,” Derek once told a crowd of white nationalists. “We can take the country back.” Then he went to college.

Derek had been home-schooled by his parents, steeped in the culture of white supremacy, and he had rarely encountered diverse perspectives or direct outrage against his beliefs. At New College of Florida, he continued to broadcast his radio show in secret each morning, living a double life until a classmate uncovered his identity and sent an email to the entire school. “Derek Black…white supremacist, radio host…New College student???”

The ensuing uproar overtook one of the most liberal colleges in the country. Some students protested Derek’s presence on campus, forcing him to reconcile the ugliness his beliefs for the first time. Other students found the courage to reach out to him, including an Orthodox Jew who invited Derek to attend weekly Shabbat dinners. It was because of those dinners–and the wide-ranging relationships formed at that table–that Derek started to question the science, history, and prejudices behind his worldview. As white nationalism infiltrated the political mainstream, Derek decided to confront the damage he had done.

Rising Out of Hatred tells the story of how white-supremacist ideas migrated from the far-right fringe to the White House through the intensely personal saga of one man who eventually disavowed everything he was taught to believe, at tremendous personal cost. With great empathy and narrative verve, Eli Saslow asks what Derek’s story can tell us about America’s increasingly divided nature. This is a book to help us understand the American moment and better understand one another.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism

 

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Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
As the son of infamous white supremacist Don Black, Derek Black was a rising star among white nationalists, preaching racial separatism from his own radio-show pulpit by the age of 19. After enrolling at the leftist-leaning New College of Florida in 2010, where Black reasoned he could work his subversive influence from the inside, his views about racial tolerance underwent a radical shift away from his elders’ philosophy. Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Saslow’s decision to recount Black’s transformation with politically neutral detachment makes his story no less captivating. Saslow notes that Black, unlike his father and fellow racist cohorts, chose to strip his rhetoric of inflammatory language and cleverly reframe the movement in terms of white persecution by Jews and minorities. Yet, while Black’s unearthed presence at the New College quickly triggered protests, his growing friendships with a Hispanic roommate and a Jewish student forced him to reexamine his formative indoctrination and eventually break with his family. Amid the current swirling controversies around racial issues, Saslow’s work is both timely and encouraging.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2018)
Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Saslow (Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President, 2011) delivers a memorable story of a prodigal son who broke with white supremacy thanks to the kindness of strangers.It is a small irony that Derek Black abandoned the nationalist, white power movement at just about the time that a president entered the White House who consciously put white nationalist rhetoric at the center of his campaign. Black came by his race hatred naturally, following his father’s ideology as the founder of Stormfront, the neo-Nazi clearinghouse, and that of his godfather, KKK stalwart David Duke. From his father, Black carried the urgent message that whites were being made victims of cultural genocide in their own country, a grievance of the loss of privilege. However, he had a different vision in which hooded, hidden supremacists would become respectable, persuading his father to outlaw “slurs, Nazi insignia, and threats of violence or lawbreaking” from the Stormfront website. Thus Charlottesville, with its clean-cut, polo shirt–wearing torchlight parade marchers. By then, though, Derek was long gone. Bright, well-read, and skilled in debate, he had gone off to college in Florida, and there, his home-schooling parents’ worst nightmare was realized: He formed a bond with a Jewish girl, though he continued his agitating, and when his identity as a white nationalist was exposed, a Jewish conservative invited him to exchange ideas. Black’s eventual renunciation of the nationalist cause threw his parents into turmoil; as Saslow writes, his father hoped that “maybe Derek was just faking a change in ideology so he could have an easier life and a more successful career in academia.” But absent widespread changes of heart, Black’s story is an anomaly, if an instructive one—and one that closes with a dark message that conflict is looming as the white nationalist movement appears to be mushrooming. A sobering book that deserves a wide audience among politics-watchers in an age of reaction.

About the Author

Eli Saslow is an author and a staff writer for The Washington Post, where he travels the country to write in-depth stories about the impact of major national issues on individual lives. He won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for a series of stories about the rise of food stamps and hunger in the United States. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing in 2013, 2016 and 2017. An occasional contributor to ESPN the Magazine, four of his stories have been anthologized in Best American Sportswriting. He grew up in Denver, graduated from Syracuse University and now lives in Portland, Or., with his wife and three children.

Her website is www.elisaslow.com

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Anne Frank’s Diary by Ari Folman

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by Ari Folman. October 2, 2018. Pantheon Books, 160 p. ISBN: 9781101871799.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

The only graphic novelization of Anne Frank’s diary that has been authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation and that uses text from the diary–it will introduce a new generation of young readers to this classic of Holocaust literature. 

This adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl into a graphic version for a young readership, maintains the integrity and power of the original work. With stunning, expressive illustrations and ample direct quotation from the diary, this edition will expand the readership for this important and lasting work of history and literature.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Strong sexual themes

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Grades 8-12. Adapting a remarkable primary source like Anne Frank’s diary is no small feat. How do you summarize and visualize such a remarkable document of the Holocaust? As if that weren’t challenge enough, how can you capture the inside of a young girl’s head, her insecurities, dreams, and fears? This graphic novel adaptation takes many risks. The first of many, and its saving grace, is its loyalty to Anne’s own voice. Often witty, ironic, even snarky, Anne’s writing has an acerbic sense of humor. This adaptation is first and foremost a remembrance of that Anne who, despite living a life marred by tragedy, tried by indignities, always held true to herself. Light touches of historical context, woven in through diary entries, provide necessary background without coming across as overly didactic. The whimsical nature of Polonsky’s illustrations, which play upon Anne’s active imagination during her time in hiding, are unexpectedly moving; though we never lose sight of the gravitas of Anne’s story, these forays into fantasy, which show Anne escaping from the harsh present into a future that will never come, serve to remind us of the truly human face of genocide. This is an exceptionally graceful homage to a story that deserves to be told for years to come.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
An illustrated abridgement of the Nazi-era classic.  Anne Frank (1929-1945) as graphic-history heroine? Adapter and composer Folman and illustrator Polonsky (Animation and Illustration/Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design) worked together on the Oscar-nominated, animated documentary Waltz with Bashir. According to Folman, they were approached by the Anne Frank Foundation about adapting the diary into both “an animated film for children” and a graphic novel that would introduce it to a new generation of readers. He then faced a “significant challenge”—to render the whole diary in graphic form might take a decade to complete and some 3,500 pages, while a more manageable “edit” could feature only 5 percent of the original text. Though he opted for the latter course, the abridgment retains the spirit of the whole as the perceptive and increasingly self-aware teenager navigates the usual tensions of adolescence—puberty, romance, family issues—within a nightmarish retreat from the Nazi atrocities intensifying outside their secret hideout. She feels guilty about any everyday cheerfulness she experiences in the face of so much death and destruction, and she succumbs to bouts of depression despite her typical resilience. “Even deep sleep brings no redemption,” she writes. “The dreams still creep in.” Those dreams bring out the best of the illustrations amid the depictions of the everyday confinement in which Anne, her family, and others are hiding. They were captured toward the end of the war, after the end of the diary, when the gas chambers were on the eve of being dismantled. Though she wasn’t aware of her fate, Anne writes with much awareness of not only herself, but a potential readership, with the literary aspirations of someone who feels she has “one outstanding character trait…a great deal of self-knowledge. In everything I do, I can watch myself as if I were a stranger.” A different format distills and renews Frank’s achievement.

About the Author

Ari Folman is an Israeli film director, screenwriter and film score composer.

He witnessed the aftermath of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre as a 19 year old Israeli soldier. This would serve as the basis of Waltz with Bashir. The film follows his attempt to regain his memories of the war through therapy as well as conversations with old friends and other Israelis that were present in Beirut around the time of the massacre.

Since 2006 he has been the head writer of the Hot 3 drama series Parashat Hashavua.

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Something Rotten by Heather L. Montgomery

Something Rotten: A Fresh Lok at Roadkill by Heather L. Montgomery. October 16, 2018. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 176 p. ISBN: 9781681199009.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.2; Lexile:.

When Heather L. Montgomery sees a rattlesnake flattened on the side of the road, her first instinct is to pick it up and dissect it–she’s always wanted to see how a snake’s fangs retract when they close their mouths, and it’s not exactly safe to poke around in a live reptile’s mouth. A wildlife researcher with a special penchant for the animals that litter the roadways, Heather isn’t satisfied with dissecting just one snake. Her fascination with roadkill sets her off on a journey from her own backyard and the roadways of the American South to scientists and kids in labs and homes across the globe. From biologists who use the corpses of Tasmanian devils to investigate cures for a contagious cancer, to a scientist who discovered a whole new species of bird from a single wing left behind, to a boy rebuilding animal bodies from the bones up, to a restaurant that serves up animal remnants, Heather discovers that death is just the beginning for these creatures.

This engaging narrative nonfiction is an eye-opening and irreverent look at the dead and dying animals that we pass by without a second thought–as well as a fascinating insight to the scientific research process.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 4-7. Adding new dimension to the notion of recycling, Montgomery relates her own encounters with road-killed animals, sometimes with the explicitness of a trained biologist, while asking researchers and others, “How do you use roadkill?” She introduces readers to curators of “wet” and “dry” natural history museum collections, a New York “rogue taxidermist” who turns specimens into art, workers at a wounded wild animal rehab center, and, yes, a dedicated roadside forager. She also describes how roadkill is put to reuse as compost or zoo food and highlights efforts to cut down on the slaughter with fences and culverts. The author discourages readers from messing with dead creatures, but in context, her admonitions seem rather halfhearted. Though there are (for better or worse) no actual recipes, she does close with suggestions for some reasonably safe projects, as well as heaps of annotated leads to print and online resources. “The book is not,” she writes, “for squeamish souls.” But budding naturalists or eco-activists will find it a smashing read.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2018)
The discoveries that arise from our flattened fauna will amaze you! Montgomery’s story—part memoir, part scientific overview—begins with a squashed snake and follows her as she learns more and more about the animals she finds run over on the side of the road. Animals explored range from snakes to coyotes and deer, and although some international animals are discussed, the primary focus remains on those squished Stateside. For all the literal blood and guts, the tone of the book is light and slightly irreverent, but it never mocks either the animals or the scientists and volunteers who work with roadkill. Footnotes abound to help explain the occasional tangent or help readers understand more complex issues that are alluded to in the text. O’Malley’s black-and-white illustrations are peppered throughout the text, sometimes illustrating a moment from the text, sometimes providing a visual description of an animal, tool, or related object. The icing on the cake is the wealth of backmatter, which is divided into three sections: “Simple Acts Save Lives,” which provides practical tips for readers on how they can make an ecological impact; an annotated bibliography that’s divided by chapter, allowing browsers to find out more info on their specific interests; and an index. There’s nothing rotten about this book—it’s a keeper. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Heather L. Montgomery writes about science and nature for kids. Her subject matter ranges from snake tongues to spider silk to snail poop. With a B.S. in Biology and a M.S. in Environmental Education, Heather’s passion for nonfiction comes out in her writing and presentations. When she is not writing, Heather can be found climbing a tree, hiking to a waterfall or paddling a river.

Her website is www.HeatherLMontgomery.com

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Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman

Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling by Philip Pullman. September 18, 2018. Knopf Publishing Group, 480 p. ISBN: 9780525521174.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From the international best-selling author of the His Dark Materials Trilogy, a spellbinding journey into the secrets of his art—the narratives that have shaped his vision, his experience of writing, and the keys to mastering the art of storytelling.

One of the most highly acclaimed and best-selling authors of our time now gives us a book that charts the history of his own enchantment with story—from his own books to those of Blake, Milton, Dickens, and the Brothers Grimm, among others—and delves into the role of story in education, religion, and science. At once personal and wide-ranging, Daemon Voices is both a revelation of the writing mind and methods of a great contemporary master, and a fascinating exploration of storytelling itself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: 

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2018)
Reflections both practical and philosophical on the craft and purview of tale telling, from the creator of the His Dark Materials trilogy.Rather than dish out amusing quotes from fan letters or standard-issue author talk, Pullman (La Belle Sauvage, 2017, etc.) offers meaty but always lucidly argued ruminations on the nature of story. He explores folktales and why they endure and matter, parallels and differences between literary and visual arts, and, a central theme in HDM (which is not, he insists, fantasy but “a work of stark realism,” daemons and armored bears notwithstanding), the profound conflicts between the reductive, authoritarian Christian “Kingdom” and the freer, more ideologically spacious “Republic of Heaven.” Amid animated tributes to Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, Milton, Blake, the “vast original energy” of Dickens, and others, Pullman draws from the language of subatomic physics to discourse on the “Fundamental Particles of Narrative,” each carrying a “metaphorical charge,” and how, for writers, each event in a new story creates a “phase space” within which all subsequent ones lurk. This is all saved from earnest or recondite lit-crit not only by the author’s evident intelligence and respect for his readers, but also a gift for dandy one-liners: “If you want to write something perfect, go for a haiku”; “No man is a hero to his novelist”; “What you think ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is about when you’re six is not what you think it’s about when you’re forty”; “I strongly approve of original sin.” Published or presented between 1997 and 2014 and arranged in loose thematic order, these articles, talks, and introductory essays consistently demonstrate that Pullman—for all that his gaze is avowedly white and male—is as fine a thinker as he is a storyteller. It’s almost not fair. A collection of pieces infused with abundant wisdom, provocative notions, and illuminating insights.

Library Journal (September 1, 2018)
Pullman (His Dark Materials trilogy) gathers in this volume 30-plus essays covering philosophy, the writer’s craft, folk and fairy tales, William Blake’s enduring power, children’s literature, film, TV, theater, education and its relevance to story, and other topics. Few contemporary writers of imaginative fiction are able to explore large ethical and moral issues authoritatively, accommodating both intellect and emotion. Reminiscent of the late Harlan Ellison and Ursula K. Le Guin, Pullman achieves this without abandoning personal responsibility. Collections of this size, like symphonies, refrain themes. Pullman addresses this by front-listing recurring subjects and grouping them with essay titles in which they are discussed. The author doesn’t suffer gladly those offering unoriginal and/or tedious questions aimed at sussing “meaning” from his art, instead reminding that he’s “not in the message business; [but] in the ‘once upon a time’ business.” -VERDICT Introduced by author Simon Mason, this wide-ranging excursion maintains impressive coherence and is bound to satisfy devoted Pullman readers curious about his illuminating observations and why the appetite for-and value of-fiction is universal, from fire-lit cave to seminar room.-William Grabowski, McMechen, WV

About the Author

In 1946, acclaimed author Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England, into a Protestant family. Although his beloved grandfather was an Anglican priest, Pullman became an atheist in his teenage years. He graduated from Exeter College in Oxford with a degree in English, and spent 23 years as a teacher while working on publishing 13 books and numerous short stories. Pullman has received many awards for his literature, including the prestigious Carnegie Medal for exceptional children’s literature in 1996, and the Carnegie of Carnegies in 2006. He is most famous for his “His Dark Materials” trilogy, a series of young adult fantasy novels which feature freethought themes. The novels cast organized religion as the series’ villain. [He wants] to emphasize the simple physical truth of things, the absolute primacy of the material life, rather than the spiritual or the afterlife.” He argues for a “republic of heaven” here on Earth.

His website is www.philip-pullman.com

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Taking Cover by Nioucha Homayoomfar

Taking Cover: One Girl’s Story of Growing Up during the Iranian Revolution by Nioucha Homeyoomfar. January 1, 2019. National Geographic Society, 160 p. ISBN: 9781426333675.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

This coming-of-age memoir, set during the Iranian Revolution, tells the true story of a young girl who moves to Tehran from the U.S. and has to adjust to living in a new country, learning a new language, and starting a new school during one of the most turbulent periods in Iran’s history.

When five-year-old Nioucha Homayoonfar moves from the U.S. to Iran in 1979, its open society means a life with dancing, women’s rights, and other freedoms. But soon the revolution erupts and the rules of life in Iran change. Religion classes become mandatory. Nioucha has to cover her head and wear robes. Opinions at school are not welcome. Her cousin is captured and tortured after he is caught trying to leave the country. And yet, in the midst of so much change and challenge, Nioucha is still just a girl who wants to play with her friends, please her parents, listen to pop music, and, eventually, have a boyfriend. Will she ever get used to this new culture? Can she break the rules without consequences? Nioucha’s story sheds light on the timely conversation about religious, political, and social freedom, publishing in time for the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Use of the word “whore”

 

About the Author

An international citizen from a young age, Nioucha Homayoonfar was born in Brussels to an Iranian father and French mother, spent her earliest years in Pittsburgh, and became a teenager in Tehran. Homayoonfar grew up caught between two worlds: a free and Western life lived indoors, and a repressive life lived outside the confines of the family home. The family finally left Iran when Nioucha was nearly 17 years old. In the U.S., she studied art history and Spanish at the University of Pittsburgh. She now lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband, author and journalist Stew Magnuson, and their two children.

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All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. October 2, 2018. Catapult, 240 p. ISBN: 9781936787975.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

What does it mean to lose your roots―within your culture, within your family―and what happens when you find them?

Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hope of giving her a better life, that forever feeling slightly out of place was her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as Nicole grew up―facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and as a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from―she wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth.

With warmth, candor, and startling insight, Nicole Chung tells of her search for the people who gave her up, which coincided with the birth of her own child. All You Can Ever Know is a profound, moving chronicle of surprising connections and the repercussions of unearthing painful family secrets―vital reading for anyone who has ever struggled to figure out where they belong.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
Chung’s insightful memoir reveals her carefully considered ambivalence about adoption. Born extremely prematurely into a family that had immigrated from Korea, she was adopted by a white couple who lived in a small town in Oregon, where she was one of few nonwhite residents. Often mocked by her classmates, and feeling out of sync with her adoptive family, she clung to a belief that everyone involved was motivated by a desire to give her the best possible life. Once she was married and living on the East Coast, she began to investigate her origins, and she found a more complicated story than the one she had imagined. Her tentative reconciliation with her birth family and the touching bond she formed with her older sister are tempered by her persistent questions about the way her life would have differed had she not been put up for adoption. Chung’s clear, direct approach to her experience, which includes the birth of her daughter as well as her investigation of her family, reveals her sharp intelligence and willingness to examine difficult emotions.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
An essayist and editor’s account of her search for and reconnection with the parents who gave her up for adoption.Chung, the editor-in-chief of Catapult magazine, had always been obsessed with the Korean birthparents she had never met. Her adoptive mother and father told her a story that emphasized the birthparents’ loving selflessness and how “[t]hey thought adoption was the best thing for me.” But the “legend” they created was not enough to sate Chung’s curiosity about the past or ease her occasional discomfort at being the Korean child of white parents in a largely Caucasian Oregon community. A year after she graduated from college, Chung discovered a way to work around the legalities of what had been a closed adoption to find out more about her birthparents. However, it was not until she became pregnant a few years later that she decided to make contact. Eager to know why she had been given up for adoption but troubled that she was betraying the trust of her adoptive parents, the author quietly moved forward with her quest. Much of what she learned—e.g., that she had been born premature and had two sisters—she already knew. Other details, like the fact that her parents had told everyone she had died at birth, raised a host of new questions. Just before Chung gave birth, her sister Cindy made contact. She revealed that their mother had been abusive and that their father had been the one who had decided on adoption. Fear of becoming like her birth mother and anger at both parents gradually gave way to the mature realization that her adoption “was not a tragedy” but rather “the easiest way to solve just one of too many problems.” Highly compelling for its depiction of a woman’s struggle to make peace with herself and her identity, the book offers a poignant depiction of the irreducibly complex nature of human motives and family ties. A profound, searching memoir about “finding the courage to question what I’d always been told.”

About the Author

Nicole Chung has written for The New York TimesGQLongreadsBuzzFeedHazlitt, and Shondaland, among other publications. She is Catapult magazine’s editor in chief and the former managing editor of The ToastAll You Can Ever Know is her first book.

Her website is www.nicolechung.net

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Fakers by H.P. Wood

Fakers: An Insider’s Guide to Cons, Hoaxes, and Scams by H.P. Wood. October 2, 2018. Charlesbridge Publishing, 176 p. ISBN: 9781580897433.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 1040.

From the Trojan horse to fake news, scams have run rampant throughout history and across the globe. Some con artists do it for fun, others for profit. . . and every once in a while, a faker saves the world.

In this era of daily online hoaxes, it’s easy to be caught off-guard. Fakers arms kids with information, introducing them to the funniest, weirdest, and most influential cons and scams in human history. Profiles of con artists will get readers thinking about motivation and consequence, and practical tips will help protect them from falsehoods. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is–except in the case of this book!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 5-8. In a world where tricksters are always in the news, even as the word fake is bandied about indiscriminately, a book exposing cons and making young readers aware of how to approach schemes is essential. Luckily, Wood’s nonfiction title is also an entertaining read, with chapters divided up in ways that separate and link everything from Ponzi schemes to spoon benders to mass-media hoaxes. Any type of deceptive con one can think of is included. Want to know about shell games? It’s covered. War tricks like the Trojan horse? It’s here. Cartoonlike pictures emphasize the fun in funny business, slyly featuring everything from sleight-of-hand hieroglyphs to chunky, pizza-eating rats. Extensive chapter notes and resources, as well as a long index, lend the work gravitas. As the author points out, even computer-savvy young people are easily deceived, and she wants readers to not be “one of the guys and gals getting gotten.” If they take this book as a guide, they should have a head start in preparedness.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2018)
In this lively look at the history of human trickery, Wood takes readers on a tour of cons, frauds, hoaxes, impersonations, and scams. The swindle is as old as history. The shell game, once called cups and balls, originated in ancient Rome. One example of a newer type of fakery, the “long con,” is the pyramid scheme, and Wood recounts the scams used by two of its most infamous practitioners, Carlo Ponzi and Bernie Madoff. No book about fakery would be complete without a discussion of P.T. Barnum’s many famous humbugs. Wood also reveals the tricks behind such carnival games as the ring toss, ball toss, and guessing games. Scientists have fallen prey to or helped perpetrate such hoaxes as the Rabbit Woman, the Lying Stones, and the Piltdown Man, but a long time passed before skeptical scientists were convinced the platypus was not a hoax. Deceptive practices in medicine have undoubtedly caused many injuries and deaths, but Wood recounts one medical hoax that saved dozens of Italian Jews when doctors in a Rome hospital convinced Nazis the Jews were afflicted with a dangerously infectious disease called Syndrome K and better kept in quarantine. These and more are all covered in lively prose that’s delivered with a healthy sense of irony. Clark’s full-color cartoons match Wood’s tone and are augmented by archival illustrations and photographs. A delightfully revealing look at scammers and their scams. (further reading, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

H. P. Wood is the granddaughter of a mad inventor and a sideshow magician. Instead of making things disappear, she makes books of all shapes and sizes. She has written or edited works on an array of topics, including the history of the Internet, the future of human rights, and the total awesomeness of playing with sticks.

She lives in Connecticut with a charming and patient husband and a daughter from whom she steals all her best ideas. Her website is www.hpwood.net

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Endurance by Scott Kelly

Endurance: My Year in Space and How I Got There (Young Readers Edition) by Scott Kelly. October 16, 2018. Crown Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9781524764258.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.5; Lexile: 1070.

Newly adapted for young readers from the New York Timesbestseller comes the awe-inspiring memoir from NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a record-breaking year in space. 

How does a boy struggling in school become an American hero and a space pioneer?

Daredevil behavior? Check. Whether it is sailing leaky boats in the Atlantic Ocean or joining an ambulance corps to race to the rescue, living on the edge is required behavior for an astronaut.

Sibling rivalry? Check. An identical twin brother who both cheers you on and eggs you on is the perfect motivator.

Inspiration? Check. Finding the right book can unexpectedly change the course of your life by providing a dream and a road map for achieving it.

Courage? Check. Mastering skills that could mean the difference between life and death as a fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut takes bravery.

Endurance? Check. The grit and can-do spirit that enables you to get up every time you’re knocked down and fuels the power to meet each challenge head-on and then ask, “What’s next?”

Scott Kelly believes, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” This checklist put Scott on a rocket that launched him into space, allowed him to break a record during his inspiring year aboard the International Space Station, and showed human beings the qualities needed to go from Earth to Mars–and beyond.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Alcoholism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
Grades 6-9. Kelly, the author of My Journey to the Stars (2017), an autobiographical picture book, now presents a young readers’ edition of Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery (2017). Like the original book, it traces Kelly’s childhood, his initially unpromising academic background, and what motivated him to change. But mainly, it focuses on his years as an astronaut and the accomplishment for which he’s best known, living for almost a year continuously on the International Space Station (ISS). Few people have such an unusual story to tell, and Kelly makes the most of his experiences as an astronaut, offering vividly detailed accounts of daily life in orbit, anecdotes about hair-raising moments during space walks and reentry, and heartening stories of cooperation between Russians and Americans working and living together on the ISS. Black-and-white photos appear throughout the book, and a 16-page insert offers color photos. While the amount of detail may be daunting for some readers, those who are intrigued by space travel will find this a fascinating book.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
Kelly recalls piloting space shuttles and living aboard the International Space Station. Pared down from the 2017 version for adults, stripped of its profanity, and rearranged into a linear narrative, this memoir still manages to be slow off the launch pad, woodenly conventional (if infused with deadpan humor), and anticlimactic at the close. Kelly begins with his very earliest memories and traces his youth from an epiphanic encounter with Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff (“I closed the book that night a different person”) to military-style nautical training (“a different person”) and graduation from New York’s Maritime College (“a completely different person”). Experiences as a U.S. Navy test pilot led to astronaut training, two shuttle flights, and two ISS gigs. In an apparent bid for attention from young readers he comes off throughout as positively obsessed with space toilets and the diapers American astronauts wear when bathroom trips are not an option. Of (perhaps) greater interest are his memories of working and living with colleagues from Russia and other countries after the space shuttle program ended. These are enlivened by comments about space food (“The Russians also have something called ‘the Appetizing Appetizer,’ which it is not”) and other details seldom if ever found in other astronaut biographies. He closes with a tally of general-issue life lessons. Finished photos and backmatter not seen. Occasionally amusing, rarely fresh, this expands the author’s picture-book account, My Journey to the Stars (illustrated by André Ceolin, 2017), without adding much significant. (Memoir. 10-16)

About the Author

Scott Kelly is a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and NASA astronaut. Kelly retired from the Navy at the rank of captain after twenty-five years of service. A veteran of four spaceflights, Kelly commanded the space shuttle Endeavour in 2007 and twice commanded the International Space Station. He has spent more than 520 days in space and holds the record for the longest single mission by a U.S. astronaut. He lives in Houston.

Her website is www.scottkelly.com

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Extreme Longevity by Karen Latchana Kenney

Extreme Longevity: Discovering Earth’s Oldest Organisms by Karen Latchana Kenney. August 1, 2018. Twenty First Century Books, 104 p. ISBN: 9781512483727.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1100.

Meet the science experts who study specimens of extreme longevity in both the plant and animal kingdoms, such as the 80,000-year-old root system of Pando (a colony of male quaking aspens), 11,000-year-old deep-sea sponges, and 400-year-old sharks. Learn about technologies used to determine age and longevity, including DNA sampling, growth rings, and radiocarbon dating. See how scientists located these long-lived species were and why and how they resist disease and aging. And delve into how scientists are using what they know about aged plants and animals to research how we can promote longevity in humans.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 8-10. Did you know that the longest-living human on record died in 1997 at age 122? This well-researched and informative book includes intriguing facts about the world’s longest-living organisms. Familiar ones, like giant tortoises, sequoias, and bristlecone pines are described, as well as lesser ones, like hydras, stromatolites, creosote bushes, and quahogs. Scientists are eagerly studying these long-lived organisms to see how they can help extend human longevity and prevent diseases—fluids from clamlike ocean quahogs, for example, who can live to be hundreds of years old, may help scientists prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The book describes the methods scientists use to determine various organisms’ life spans. In 2007, biologists were able to calculate a captured bowhead whale’s age (approximately 130 years) by analyzing the age of the antique harpoon fragment found still embedded in it. Fourteen scientists were consulted by the author in the writing of this book, which also includes a comparative time line, source notes, glossary, bibliography, further information, and index. Readers will enjoy learning about these amazing organisms.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2018)
Immortality may still be the stuff of legend for humans, but it’s a real possibility for a jellyfish native to the Mediterranean Sea. Biologists are studying specimens of flora and fauna that live extraordinarily long lives. The longest living human on record is Jean Louise Calment, a Frenchwoman who lived 122 years and 164 days, but that’s nothing compared to the Greenland shark that may live over 500 years. In an accessible, informative text, Kenney (Healing Plants, 2018, etc.) introduces biologists and geneticists who study examples of extreme longevity in the plant and animal kingdoms, such as the possibly 80,000-year-old root system of a colony of male quaking aspens. One potentially immortal specimen is the hydra, a small freshwater animal described as “a simple tube without internal body organs”; the secret to its longevity is that its body is made of stem cells that repair and replace damaged body parts. Kenney discusses the technologies scientists use to determine age and longevity, including DNA sampling, growth rings, and radiocarbon dating, and how scientists are using their discoveries about aged plants and animals to research drugs to promote longevity in humans. High-quality color photographs and clear diagrams help explain the material. Useful for reports or reading for pleasure, this is an engaging and informative volume. An intriguing look at some of world’s oldest organisms and the scientists who study them. (timeline, source notes, glossary, bibliography, further information, index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

About the Author

My favorite book as a child was an educational book titled I Want to Be a Reporter. It was about the job of a reporter and described the skills needed to tell stories in writing. I asked my mom to read it to me every night. It was fascinating to me! Since discovering that book, I have loved the idea of writing for a living.

As a K-12 educational writer and editor, I get to work on books and teaching materials that inform and inspire students. I have written about everything from the underwater home of a spider to the history of hip-hop music and WWI history. While I love researching and writing about all kinds of subjects, my experience so far has been mostly in science, social studies, biographies, music, and arts and crafts topics.

Her website is latchanakenney.wordpress.com.

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