Tag Archives: biography

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman. April 18, 2017. Henry Holt & Co., 454 p. ISBN: 9780805093391.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900.

The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh shaped both brothers’ lives. Confidant, champion, sympathizer, friend, Theo supported Vincent as he struggled to find his path in life. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions. Meticulously researched, drawing on the 658 letters Vincent wrote to Theo during his lifetime, Deborah Heiligman weaves a tale of two lives intertwined and the love of the Van Gogh brothers

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Prostitution, Sexually transmitted diseases

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. Vincent van Gogh is perhaps one of the best-known artists today, but it’s likely he wouldn’t be nearly as famous had it not been for his brother Theo, an art dealer who supported his troubled brother and championed his paintings until his own untimely death, only months after Vincent’s. While each brother had a pivotal career in his own right, Heiligman (Charles and Emma, 2009) plumbs their correspondence, both to each other and beyond, and zeroes in on their relationship, which was fraught with a brotherly combination of competition, frustration, and, ultimately, adoration. Structured as a sort of gallery of key moments in the brothers’ lives, the book covers their childhood and the influence of their tight-knit family; Vincent’s peripatetic, sometimes scandalous pursuit of a vocation; Theo’s dogged commitment to not only his own career but cultivating Vincent’s; and their ultimate demises, both of which are heartbreaking in their own ways. In fittingly painterly language, Heiligman offers vivid descriptions of Vincent’s artwork and life, which grow more detailed and colorful as Vincent’s own artistic style becomes richer and more refined, particularly during the intense, almost manic flurry of work he produced in his last few years. This illuminating glimpse into the Van Goghs’ turbulent lives and historical period will add compelling depth to readers’ understanding of the iconic painter. Art-­loving teens will be captivated.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Heiligman (Charles and Emma, rev. 1/09) again examines the impact of a family member on her main subject, this time unpacking the friendship between artist Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo. After vividly setting the stage with brief sections that introduce Vincent and Theo near the end of their lives, Heiligman takes readers back to their beginnings. We learn of other siblings and of supportive parents; we gain a sense of their childhoods in their father’s parsonage. Structured as a walk through an art museum, the book proceeds through the years, each section a gallery: “Gallery Two: Dangers (1873–1875)”; “Gallery Three: Missteps, Stumbles (1875–1879).” We see Vincent moving restlessly from one job to another, at times acting and dressing oddly, walking huge distances when short on funds, coping with unrequited love, and slowly embracing the life of an artist. We see Theo, the art dealer, struggling with his own trials, consistently supporting Vincent throughout his life. Heiligman mostly employs a present-tense, purposely staccato narration that effectively heightens the brothers’ emotional intensity, their sufferings and pleasures (physical, emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual), and, most of all, Vincent’s wild and original art. The layout, which incorporates sketches, subheads, and a generous use of white space, is a calming counterpoint to the turbulent narrative. Documenting the author’s research involving visits to sites, along with academic and primary sources, the extensive back matter includes a list of significant people, a timeline, a bibliography, thorough citations, and an author’s note. The result is a unique and riveting exploration of art, artists, and brotherly love.

About the Author

Deborah Heiligman has been writing for children since she worked at Scholastic News soon after college. Since then she has written more than thirty books for children and teens. Her books include picture books, both fiction and nonfiction, and young adult nonfiction and fiction. Some titles: Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith, a National Book Award finalist; The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos, a Cook Prize Winner and Orbis Pictus honor; Intentions, a Sydney Taylor Award winner, and a picture book series about Tinka the dog. Her latest book is Vincent and Theo: The van Gogh Brothers.

Her website is www.deborahheiligman.com.

Around the Web

Vincent and Theo on Amazon

Vincent and Theo on Goodreads

Vincent and Theo on JLG

Vincent and Theo Publisher Page

A Soldier’s Sketchbook by John Wilson

A Soldier’s Sketchbook: The Illustrated First World War Diary of R.H. Rabjohn by John Wilson. March 7, 2017. Tundra Books, 112 p. ISBN: 9781770498549.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.0; Lexile: 990.

A unique First World War diary, illustrated with more than a hundred stunning pencil sketches, for children learning history and also for adults interested in a new perspective on the War and authentic wartime artefacts.

Russell Rabjohn was just eighteen years old when he joined up to fight in the First World War. In his three years of soldiering, he experienced the highs and lows of army life, from a carefree leave in Paris to the anguish of seeing friends die around him. Like many soldiers, he defied army regulations and recorded everything he saw and felt in a small pocket diary.

Private Rabjohn was a trained artist, and as such he was assigned to draw dugouts, map newly captured trenches, and sketch the graves of his fallen comrades. This allowed him to carry an artist’s sketchbook on the battlefield–a freedom he put to good use, drawing everything he saw. Here, in vivid detail, are images of the captured pilot of a downed German biplane; the horrific Flanders mud; a German observation balloon exploding in midair; and the jubilant mood in the streets of Belgium when the Armistice is finally signed. With no surviving veterans of the First World War, Rabjohn’s drawings are an unmatched visual record of a lost time.

Award-winning author John Wilson brings his skills as a historian and researcher to bear, carefully curating the diary to provide context and tell the story of Private Rabjohn’s war. He has selected each of the diary entries and the accompanying images, and has provided the background that modern-day readers need to understand what a young soldier went through a century ago. The result is a wonderfully detailed and dramatic account of the war as seen through an artist’s eyes.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Xenophobic epithets

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 7-10. Russell Hughes Rabjohn was only 18 when, in 1916, he enlisted in the Canadian armed forces to fight in WWI. Following some eight months of training, he was shipped to the French front. Already a trained artist, he was assigned to map trenches, draw dugouts, and sketch the graves of his fallen comrades. As Wilson notes, this gave him leave to carry a sketchbook to the front (soldiers were normally forbidden to sketch, paint, or photograph close to fighting). The more than 100 beautifully rendered pencil sketches contained in this fascinating book are, therefore, a rare visual record of one soldier’s vivid and often chilling experiences of war. The sketches are accompanied by excerpts from Rabjohn’s diaries, five of which Wilson serendipitously discovered in the Canadian War Museum. The entries are enhanced by Wilson’s contextual commentary, and each of the six sections into which the book is divided are introduced by his more discursive background information. The result is a captivating introduction to the realities of the Great War.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2017)
A young Canadian soldier’s reminiscences from the western front.In this unusual memoir, historian Wilson describes being shown Rabjohn’s diary, published privately in 1977, by Rabjohn’s Canadian great-niece. Wilson has transformed the diary into a compelling account of World War I, compiled from Rabjohn’s diary and sketchbooks and supplemented with contextual information about the war. Just 18 when he enlisted in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force in 1916, Rabjohn saw direct action in major battles, including the assault on Vimy Ridge, the Battle of Arras, and the muddy horror show that was the Third Battle of Ypres, or Passchendaele. The extracts from the diary describe intimate wartime experiences of death and destruction in gruesomely dispassionate terms. Apart from a blissful two-week leave in Paris, it’s a story of unmitigated horror, highlighting more than any textbook the futility of war. As a trained artist, Rabjohn was allowed to bring sketchbooks onto the battlefield and thus created a unique portfolio of accurate pencil sketches of trenches, dugouts, and graves. He also depicted scenes of soldiers, buildings, and devastated landscapes, which he reworked and supplemented when he came home. Endpaper maps of Western Europe and the parts of France and Belgium where Rabjohn saw action help situate readers. This unique compilation of firsthand impressions of the Great War will be a valuable resource for adults and teens with an interest in this turning point in world history. (index, timeline, further reading) (Nonfiction. 12-adult)

About the Author

John Wilson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and moved to Canada after university to work as a geologist. Eventually he began to write full time, and today he is one of Canada’s best-known authors of historical fiction and nonfiction for kids, teens, and adults. He’s published more than forty books, including several novels set during the First World War: Wings of War, Dark Terror, And in the Morning and Shot at Dawn. His books have won or been shortlisted for numerous prizes, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Text, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, the Red Maple and White Pine Awards, the Hackmatack Children’s Choice Award, the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize, and the prestigious Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction. John Wilson lives in Lantzville on Vancouver Island.

Her website is www.johnwilsonauthor.com.

Teacher Resources

World War I Resources from the NEA

Around the Web

A Soldier’s Sketchbook on Amazon

A Soldier’s Sketchbook on Goodreads

A Soldier’s Sketchbook on JLG

A Soldier’s Sketchbook Publisher Page

Strong Inside (Young Readers Ed.) by Andrew Maraniss

Strong Inside: The True Story of How Percy Wallace Broke College Basketball’s Color Line (Young Readers Edition) by Andrew Maraniss. December  20, 2016. Philomel Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9780399548345.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1170.

The inspirational true story of the first African American to play college basketball in the deeply segregated Southeastern Conference–a powerful moment in Black history.

Perry Wallace was born at an historic crossroads in U.S. history. He entered kindergarten the year that the Brown v. Board of Education decision led to integrated schools, allowing blacks and whites to learn side by side. A week after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Wallace enrolled in high school and his sensational jumping, dunking, and rebounding abilities quickly earned him the attention of college basketball recruiters from top schools across the nation. In his senior year his Pearl High School basketball team won Tennessee’s first racially-integrated state tournament.

The world seemed to be opening up at just the right time, and when Vanderbilt University recruited Wallace to play basketball, he courageously accepted the assignment to desegregate the Southeastern Conference. The hateful experiences he would endure on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be the stuff of nightmares. Yet Wallace persisted, endured, and met this unthinkable challenge head on. This insightful biography digs deep beneath the surface to reveal a complicated, profound, and inspiring story of an athlete turned civil rights trailblazer.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts; Discrimination; Violence

 

Book Trailer

Interviews & Documentary

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. This is the inspiring true story of Perry Wallace, a member of Vanderbilt’s basketball team and the first black basketball player to play in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) during the 1960s civil rights era. The road was far from easy: he received aggressive fouls that went unchallenged, was kicked out of a church, lost his mother to cancer, and his best friend and teammate, also black, was forced to quit. Readers in today’s racially troubled times will recognize Wallace’s plight and the isolation and loneliness he experienced. But Wallace never gave up. After his signature slam dunk was outlawed, he forced himself to become a better player. Author Maraniss doesn’t shy away from the difficulties, not wanting to whitewash history by editing away the ugly epithets that plagued Wallace throughout his career. An author’s note about Wallace’s life after graduation, a bibliography, and black-and-white photos are all included (final source notes and index not seen). This moving biography, a young readers’ edition of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South (2014), is thought-provoking, riveting, and heart-wrenching, though it remains hopeful as it takes readers into the midst of the basketball and civil rights action. Readers will celebrate Wallace’s refusal to back down, and cheer as he succeeds in paving the way for future players.

School Library Journal (January 1, 2017)
Gr 7 Up-Vanderbilt University made a strong statement in 1966 when they recruited Perry Wallace, a local teen basketball star who was African American. Students may not be familiar with Wallace, but after reading this poignant biography, they will not forget him. Readers meet him as a child whose loving family provided him with the care and attention he needed to thrive academically, then follow him onto the court, where he yearned-and then learned-to dunk. Maraniss speeds through Wallace’s senior year at Pearl High, in Tennessee, where recruiters from schools across the country were eager to add him to their rosters. His years at Vanderbilt, where he broke the color barrier in the Southeastern Conference, receive the most attention, with great sports writing meeting heartfelt interludes of Wallace’s efforts to bring about change for his fellow black students. Maraniss does not shy away from the ultimate truth: Wallace experienced vicious racism and countless death threats as well as racial slurs, discrimination, and unfair treatment on and off the court. Wallace is quoted abundantly throughout the text, and the bibliography is packed with primary sources, offering ample research opportunities for those compelled to dig deeper into the civil rights struggle of Wallace and other black athletes. VERDICT This portrait of the fortitude of a young athlete will make a huge impact on teens and is guaranteed to spark serious discussion.-Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

About the Author

Andrew Maraniss is a partner at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations in Nashville, Andrew studied history at Vanderbilt University as a recipient of the Fred Russell – Grantland Rice sportswriting scholarship, graduating in 1992. He then worked for five years in Vanderbilt’s athletic department as the associate director of media relations, dealing primarily with the men’s basketball team. In 1998, he served as the media relations manager for the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays during the team’s inaugural season, and then returned to Nashville to join MP&F. Andrew was born in Madison, Wis., grew up in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, and now lives in Brentwood, Tenn., with his wife, Alison, and their two young children.

His website is www.andrewmaraniss.com.

Teacher Resources

Supplement to Strong Inside

Around the Web

Strong Inside on Amazon

Strong Inside on Goodreads

Strong Inside on JLG

Strong Inside Publisher Page

Girl With a Camera by Carolyn Meyer

Girl With a Camera: Margaret Bourke-White, Photographer by Carolyn Meyer. April 4, 2017. Calkins Creek, 352 p. ISBN: 9781629795843.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8; Lexile: 880.

In this historical novel, noted writer Carolyn Meyer deftly captures the daring and passionate life of photographer Margaret Bourke-White. Growing up, young Peggy White was interested in snakes and caterpillars and other unfeminine things. She intended to become a herpetologist, but while she was still in college, her interest in nature changed to a fascination with photography. As her skill with a camera grew, her focus widened from landscapes architecture to shots of factories, trains, and bridges. Her artist’s eye sharpened to see patterns and harsh beauty where others saw only chaos and ugliness. Totally dedicated to her work, and driven by her ambition to succeed, Margaret Bourke-White became a well-known and sought after photographer, traveling all over the United States and Europe. She was the first female war photojournalist in World War II and the first female photographer for Life magazine, which featured one of her photographs on its very first cover. A comprehensive author’s note provides additional information to round out readers’ understanding of this fascinating and inspiring historical figure.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes; Antisemitism; Racism and racist epithets; Extramarital affair

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 6-9. Historical novelist Meyer introduces readers to groundbreaking American photographer and photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White. The middle child of a Catholic mother and a Jewish father (her father’s background was kept a secret from her until after his death), Margaret was a wallflower with high ambitions. At Barnard College, she took a photography class with Clarence H. White; from that point, her destiny was set. Noted for her fearlessness and innovation, her gender did not seem to present a huge barrier to her ambition, although a husband nearly derailed her dreams. Her work for Life, which featured one of her photographs on the cover of its very first issue, established her credentials as a storyteller with a camera. The novel spans 1916–42 and is written from Margaret’s point of view, giving it the feel of an autobiography. An author’s note provides details of Bourke-White’s later life. There are photographs throughout; more would have made the book even better. This solid fictionalized biography should prompt readers to seek out Bourke-White’s work.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971) was a well-known professional photographer at a time when most other women aspired to homemaking if they were not doing menial labor.Meyer has crafted an intimate biographical novel that mostly follows the facts of Bourke-White’s life but embellishes them with fictional details to flesh out the story. Bourke-White’s father was a nonpracticing Jew; references to contemporaneous negative perceptions of Jews are—realistically—included, as is use of the word “Negro.” The story begins with the most exciting episode, when the troopship Bourke-White was onboard in 1942 while working as a rare female war correspondent was torpedoed and sunk. Bourke-White’s quiet, first-person voice sounds authentic as she relates the minutiae, sometimes mundane, of the first 38 years of her life, including her unpopularity in school, failed marriages, and the bumpy beginnings of her photography career, peppered with encounters with the condescension of a largely male workforce. A smattering of her black-and-white photographs is included. Readers steeped in the process she used to craft them may wish for more. As with Meyer’s Diary of a Waitress (2015), this effort may appeal to those who have outgrown Dear America, but others may simply lose interest with the inclusion of too many minor details for engaging fiction. An insightful but sometimes (like life itself) bland story that is likely to hold appeal for a limited audience. (Historical fiction. 11-18)

About the Author

Carolyn Meyer is as versatile a writer as you will find. Along with historical fiction and realistic novels for young adults she has written nonfiction for young adults and books for younger readers on topics as diverse as the Amish, the Irish, Japanese, Yup’ik Eskimos, a rock band, rock tumbling, bread baking, and coconuts. And ten of her books have been chosen as Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association. In her most recent historical novels she has dealt with the young lives of Mary Tudor, Princess Elizabeth, Anastasia, and Isabel of Castilla, Spain.

Her website is www.readcarolyn.com.

Around the Web

Girl With a Camera on Amazon

Girl With a Camera on Goodreads

Girl With a Camera on JLG

Girl With a Camera Publisher Page

California Dreamin’ by Pénélope Bagieu

California Dreamin’ by Pénélope Bagieu. March 7, 2017. First Second, 272 p. ISBN: 9781626725461.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Before she became the legendary Mama Cass—one quarter of the mega-huge folk group The Mamas and the Papas—Cass Eliot was a girl from Baltimore trying to make it in the big city. After losing parts to stars like Barbra Streisand on the Broadway circuit, Cass found her place in the music world with an unlikely group of cohorts.

The Mamas and the Papas released five studio albums in their three years of existence. It was at once one of the most productive (and profitable) three years any band has ever had, and also one of the most bizarre and dysfunctional groups of people to ever come together to make music. Through it all, Cass struggled to keep sight of her dreams—and her very identity.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Drugs; Alcohol; Smoking; Nudity

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Before she was Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas, she was Ellen Cohen, whose parents ran a Baltimore deli and fostered her love of music. French graphic novelist Bagieu (Exquisite Corpse, 2015) tells Cass’ pre-fame story from the perspectives of many who knew her. Her little sister says it was her arrival that made Ellen eat and eat to please their parents. A classmate believes Ellen when, the day they met, she tells him she’s going to be a star. Later, Michelle Phillips wishes Cass saw her as a friend, not a rival, while John Phillips insists Cass has no place in their band—a fight he loses when a record executive declares it’s Cass who makes their sound complete. This testimonial approach—a woman’s story told by everyone but her—works, thanks to Bagieu’s fascination with her subject. Her pencil-sketched characters are distinctive and emotive (and occasionally high and big-eyed), while their lively world is storybook-cute and highly referential to the music Cass made so familiar. Have headphones at the ready.

Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Ellen Naomi Cohen (1941-74), the self-dubbed Cass Elliot, spread her beautiful contralto and extravagant personality across the pop music scene of the 1960s and 1970s as part of The Mamas and the Papas and, later, as a solo act. Here, Bagieu (Exquisite Corpse) packs in all the relationship drama, body shaming, and bouts of intoxication (in multiple senses) that fed into Elliot realizing her dream to be a superstar. Large in body and personality as well as in vocal charm, Elliot gained fan adulation more readily than friendship or love. Today, her persistence and self-confidence encourages women-and men-to mobilize their talent despite setbacks. Narrating from the viewpoints of those close to Elliot, Bagieu drew the entire story in free-spirited black pencil that metaphorically references the spontaneity of those decades. The sassy, fluid art creates a slightly fictionalized yet paradigm-shifting portrait of the star as she might have wanted to be remembered. VERDICT Elliot’s story will charm boomers who remember the original songs as well as younger ages who can easily identify with Elliot, her starry eyes, and her struggles.

About the Author

Pénélope Bagieu, (born 22 January 1982 Paris), is a French illustrator and comic designer.

Penelope Bagieu graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economic and Social studies, she spent a year at ESAT Paris, then at the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris and then at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. Multimedia and entertainment, where she graduated in December 2006.

Her website is www.penelope-jolicoeur.com.

Around the Web

California Dreamin’ on Amazon

California Dreamin’ on Goodreads

California Dreamin’ on JLG

California Dreamin’ Publisher Page

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush by Peter Lourie

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush by Peter Lourie. March 28, 2017. Henry Holt & Co., 208 p. ISBN: 9780805097573.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.9; Lexile: 1120.

Here is a compelling middle grade nonfiction tale of how one classic writer drew upon a rugged life of adventure to create works of literature, punctuated by stunning black-and-white art by Wendell Minor and illustrative photographic material.

Swept up in the Gold Rush of 1897, young Jack London headed north to strike it rich in the Klondike and discovered something more precious than gold–the seeds of the stories that would flower into his classic novels The Call of the Wild and White Fang, and timeless short stories such as To Build A Fire. This gripping tale follows London as he treks up the ruthless Chilkoot Trail, braves the lethal Whitehorse Rapids, survives a bad case of scurvy, and conquers many more dangers of the Yukon during his quest for gold.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Suicide; Inhumane treatment of animals

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 4-8. Living in an economically depressed America in 1897, 21-year-old Jack London would become one of hundreds of thousands of stampeders who would try—and fail—to find gold in Canada’s Yukon Territory. In visceral descriptions, Lourie recounts the treacherous, backbreaking 500-mile trek up mountains and down rivers, on which London and his fellow cheechakos (a Native term for newcomers who were ignorant of the terrain and culture) risked their lives to reach the gold rush town of Dawson before winter. Once settled, London met more challenges in constant subfreezing temperatures as miners’ tempers flared, death took many forms, and hard work was met with disappointment. Yet Lourie tells how the budding writer countered the bleakness with observations of the Arctic land, animals, and people. Although London returned home one year later with only gold dust, Lourie explains how London’s real wealth was found in the characters and events that inspired White Fang, The Call of the Wild, and dozens of other books and short stories, making him the first author of the twentieth century to earn a million dollars from writing. Minor lends atmospheric sketches, but the numerous archival photos add a greater perspective of the time. Copious back matter, including information on First Nations of the area, provides more facts about London’s journey. Rich in details for social studies and language arts.
Publishers Weekly (January 9, 2017)
Lourie (The Polar Bear Scientists) delivers a vivid account of Jack London’s arduous trek, along with thousands of other Stampeders, to the heart of Canada’s Yukon Territory in 1897 in search of gold. London returned not with wealth but with the raw material for his best-known writings, which earned him both fortune and fame. Lourie intersperses his narrative with background on London’s boyhood, personality, and literary aspirations, and he quotes amply from the work of London and his contemporaries to convey the backbreaking rigors, awe-inspiring landscape, grime, isolation, dangers, and friendships of the journey. London’s mental and physical strength, sociability, and optimism seem at times almost superhuman: that winter, until felled by scurvy, he spent four hours a day collecting the wood needed to burn a fire to thaw eight inches of ground to dig for gold on his claim. Lourie’s captivating tale of the grueling experiences behind London’s crystalline prose testifies to his endurance. Minor’s windswept spot illustrations augment archival and modern photos and other supplemental material. Ages 8-12. Author’s agent: Susan Ramer, Don Congdon Associates.

About the Author

Peter Lourie was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grew up in New England, Ontario, Canada, and New York City. He holds a BA in classics from New York University, an MA in English Literature from the University of Maine, and an MFA in nonfiction creative writing from Columbia University. He has taught writing for many years (Middlebury College, Columbia College, University of Vermont), and now makes his living traveling, writing and photographing. He also visits schools to share his adventures with students and teachers. He lives in Vermont where he is now working on an ongoing NSF-funded digital story-telling project about the Arctic, Arcticstories.net. He has been traveling on a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker in the Beaufort Sea where he is recording multimedia stories for a National Science Foundation project. His new book for Henry Holt about Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush will be published in March, 2017. And he is just beginning to work on a biography of a Norwegian polar explorer.

His website is peterlourie.com.

Teacher Resources

Jack London Lesson Ideas

Klondike Gold Rush Lesson Plans from the National Park Service

Around the Web

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush on Amazon

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush on Goodreads

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush on JLG

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush Publisher Page

Alexander Hamilton by Teri Kanefield

Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America by Teri Kanefield. March 7, 2017. Harry N. Abrams, 208 p. ISBN: 9781419725784.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

The America that Alexander Hamilton knew was largely agricultural and built on slave labor. He envisioned something else: a multi-racial, urbanized, capitalistic America with a strong central government. He believed that such an America would be a land of opportunity for the poor and the newcomers. But Hamilton’s vision put him at odds with his archrivals who envisioned a pastoral America of small towns, where governments were local, states would control their own destiny, and the federal government would remain small and weak.

The disputes that arose during America’s first decades continued through American history to our present day. Over time, because of the systems Hamilton set up and the ideas he left, his vision won out. Here is the story that epitomizes the American dream—a poor immigrant who made good in America. In the end, Hamilton rose from poverty through his intelligence and ability, and did more to shape our country than any of his contemporaries.

Related subjects and concepts discussed in the book include:

Law and Legal Concepts
Due process
Bill of Rights
Freedom of Speech and the Press
Originalism / nonoriginalism (theories of Constitutional interpretation)

Government
Checks and Balances
Democracy
Electoral College
Republic

Financial Concepts
Capitalism
Credit
Inflation
Interest
Mercantilism
Securities: Stocks and Bonds
Tariffs
Taxes

Miscellaneous
Demagogues
Dueling
Pastoralism

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
The contributions and eventful life of founding father Alexander Hamilton are examined and explained.The enthusiasm for Broadway hit and cultural phenomenon Hamilton, The Musical shows little signs of abating, and its popular cast album has generated interest in the country’s first treasury secretary among all ages. This brief biography seeks to answer questions about the talented founding father whose background was so unlike those of his peers. Beginning and ending with Hamilton’s duel with then–Vice President Aaron Burr, the remainder follows his life, focusing on many of the highlights that brought him to prominence. Of course, his efforts to determine the country’s economic system and the rivalry they spawned with Thomas Jefferson are prominent. Kanefield provides necessary context for the differing worldviews of the two men, cogently explaining the strong distrust between growing mercantile interests and the planter class. In much the same way, she compares the similarities between Hamilton and Burr as well as the political differences that eventually drove them to the duel. Given the target audience, there is no mention of the sex scandal that tarnished Hamilton’s public reputation, but there is some sense of his complicated personality. The strength of the book is the generous use of Hamilton’s own words, including a section with samples of his writings. Illustrations and sidebars add clarity to the readable narrative. A solid introduction to a charismatic founding father. (timeline, chapter notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 10-14)

Publishers Weekly Annex (February 13, 2017)
Well-timed to tap into ongoing Hamilton-mania, Kanefield (The Extraordinary Suzy Wright) revisits America’s formative years in a lucid biography that illuminates the personality and politics of Alexander Hamilton, spotlighting his role in shaping the structure of the U.S. government and economy. Disinherited and shunned due to his illegitimate birth at a time when birthright paved one’s way to success, Hamilton emigrated from the island of St. Croix to New York City, determined to improve his financial and social status and find fame through his own achievements. Kanefield credibly reveals how Hamilton’s intelligence, high self-expectations, commitment to his beliefs, and skills as an orator and writer fueled his advocacy of a strong central government rooted in mercantilism and manufacturing. Details about Hamilton’s complex relationships with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson offer insight into the ideologies and character of all three statesmen, and add additional human dimension to this portrait of this nation’s beginnings. Excerpts from Hamilton’s writings, period art, and sidebars defining historical, political, and legislative terms further enhance this absorbing chronicle. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)

About the Author

Teri writes novels, short stories, essays, stories for children, nonfiction for both children and adults, and lots of appellate briefs.

Her stories and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Scope Magazine, The Iowa Review, Cricket Magazine, and The American Literary Review.

Teri’s law practice is limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings.

She lives in California near the beach.

Her website is www.terikanefield.com.

Teacher Resources

Alexander Hamilton “Grab and Go” Teaching Resources

Around the Web

Alexander Hamilton on Amazon

Alexander Hamilton on Goodreads

Alexander Hamilton on JLG

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Eyes of the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos. March 28, 2017. Henry Holt and Co., 304 p. ISBN: 9780805098358.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” –Robert Capa

Robert Capa and Gerda Taro were young Jewish refugees, idealistic and in love. As photographers in the 1930s, they set off to capture their generation’s most important struggle―the fight against fascism. Among the first to depict modern warfare, Capa, Taro, and their friend Chim took powerful photographs of the Spanish Civil War that went straight from the action to news magazines. They brought a human face to war with their iconic shots of a loving couple resting, a wary orphan, and, always, more and more refugees―people driven from their homes by bombs, guns, and planes.

Today, our screens are flooded with images from around the world. But Capa and Taro were pioneers, bringing home the crises and dramas of their time―and helping give birth to the idea of bearing witness through technology.

With a cast of characters ranging from Langston Hughes and George Orwell to Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, and packed with dramatic photos, posters, and cinematic magazine layouts, here is Capa and Taro’s riveting, tragic, and ultimately inspiring story.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Antisemitism

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 7-12. The team behind Sugar Changed the World (2010) presents a fascinating look at the evolution of photojournalism during WWII by getting behind the lens with photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro. Beginning with a dramatic account of Capa snapping pictures during the Normandy landings, the book then backtracks to the Spanish Civil War, “the prelude” to WWII, where Capa and Taro—a romantic and professional team—made names for themselves with their daring and insightful pictures. Reproductions of these powerful black-and-white photos appear on almost every page, depicting the times and the photographers’ individual styles; political posters and magazine spreads further enhance the text. Rather ambitiously, Aronson and Budhos address the escalating tensions between socialist and fascist regimes, the emergence of photographic news magazines and compact cameras, and the lives of Capa and Taro into one seamless discussion. Readers not only get a strong sense of who these photographers were as people, they will understand what made their pictures so special. Thoroughly researched and cited, the text offers a unique perspective on WWII by focusing on two expatriates unaligned with a specific country. Detailed appendixes help clarify the myriad political parties and historical figures who grace the text, as well as some controversial topics raised. Dense but never dull, this book exposes art and humanity in history.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2016)
This multilayered biography vividly introduces photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, setting their careers in the context of the Spanish Civil War, the run-up to World War II, and the birth of modern photojournalism. The prologue grabs readers with scenes of Capa risking his life to photograph Allied troops landing on D-Day. The narrative then moves back to Paris in 1934, when Capa and Taro first met. The chronological chapters quickly shift to Spain, where the couple repeatedly faced danger to capture the civil war in images, hoping to bolster the anti-fascist Loyalist cause while establishing themselves in their profession. Chapters labeled “interlude” discuss the dawn of modern photojournalism and the international participation in the war. Going beyond details of the two lives, the complex account also explores issues surrounding refugees of war, the relationship between journalists and soldiers, the nature of artistic collaboration, and the overlap of photojournalism and propaganda. The writing offers clarity while also evoking emotions and the senses. The present-tense narrative gives a sense of immediacy, although it also leads to sometimes-awkward juxtapositions with the past-tense quotations from those who knew the couple. Black-and-white photographs, many of which are described in the text, grace nearly every page. Captivating, powerful, and thought-provoking. (cast of characters, timeline, authors’ note, sources, notes, bibliography, resources, index) (Nonfiction. 13 & up)

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.

 
Marina Budhos is an author of award-winning fiction and nonfiction.

She has published the novels, Watched (Random House/Wendy Lam Books, 2016), Ask Me No Questions (Simon & Schuster, 2006), an ALA Notable and winner of the first James Cook Teen Book Award, The Professor of Light (Putnam, 1999), House of Waiting (Global City Press, 1995) and a nonfiction book, Remix: Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers (Henry Holt, 1999). She and her husband Marc Aronson coauthored the acclaimed Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom & Science (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin, 2010). Their latest joint endeavor, Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro & The Invention of Modern Photojournalism will be published in 2017 by Henry Holt & Co.

Her short stories, articles, essays, and book reviews have appeared in publications such as The Daily Beast, Quartz, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, The Literary Review, The Nation, Dissent, Marie Claire, Redbook, Travel & Leisure, Ms., Los Angeles Times, and in numerous anthologies.

Ms. Budhos has received an emma (Exceptional Merit Media Award), a Rona Jaffe Award for Women Writers, and a Fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts. She has been a Fulbright Scholar to India, given talks throughout the country and abroad, and is currently on the faculty of the English Department at William Paterson University.

Her website is www.marinabudhos.com.

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The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui. March 7, 2017. Abrams Books, 336 p. ISBN: 9781419718779.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 600.

An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui.

This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.

At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.

In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Racial taunts; War; Violence; Realistic depiction of childbirth; Stillbirth; Child abuse

 

Reviews

Library Journal – web only (January 27, 2017)
[DEBUT] With her debut graphic memoir, Bui captivates readers with her recounting of the struggle her family faced as they emigrated from Vietnam to the United States after the war, leaving behind their way of life. Now, as a new mother, Bui starts to contemplate her parents’ lives and what events led them to their current situation. The narrative then rewinds to the author’s childhood in California and her desire to understand why her parents fled their home in the Seventies. Spanning her own experience as well as that of her parents in the French-occupied and ultimately war-torn country, this oral retelling takes readers down the path of three generations, presenting a firsthand glimpse into the history of Vietnam. Uncovering deeper insight into her heritage, which resonates for her as an adult, Bui creates a seamless transition between past and present, making for an accessible read, along with beautiful artwork that draws us in with every panel. Verdict Be prepared to take your heart on an emotional roller-coaster journey with this thought-provoking account that completely satisfies as the story comes full circle. Highly recommended for teens and adults; an excellent choice for book clubs.-Laura McKinley, Huntington P.L., NY

Publishers Weekly (December 5, 2016)
Tracing her family’s journey to the United States and their sometimes-uneasy adaptation to American life, Bui’s magnificent memoir is not unique in its overall shape, but its details are: a bit of blood sausage in a time of famine, a chilly apartment, a father’s sandals contrasted with his son’s professional shoes. The story opens with the birth of Bui’s son in New York City, and then goes back to Vietnam to trace the many births and stillbirths of her parents, and their eventual boat journey to the U.S. In excavating her family’s trauma through these brief, luminous glimpses, Bui transmutes the base metal of war and struggle into gold. She does not spare her loved ones criticism or linger needlessly on their flaws. Likewise she refuses to flatten the twists and turns of their histories into neat, linear narratives. She embraces the whole of it: the misery of the Vietnam War, the alien land of America, and the liminal space she occupies, as the child with so much on her shoulders. In this mélange of comedy and tragedy, family love and brokenness, she finds beauty. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Thi Bui was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States as a child. She studied art and law and thought about becoming a civil rights lawyer, but became a public school teacher instead. Bui lives in Berkeley, California, with her son, her husband, and her mother. The Best We Could Do is her debut graphic novel.

Her website is www.thibui.com.

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Isaac the Alchemist by Mary Losure

Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure. February 1, 2017. Candlewick Press, 176 p. ISBN: 9780763670634.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.4; Lexile: 1010.

A surprising true story of Isaac Newton’s boyhood suggests an intellectual development owing as much to magic as science.

Before Isaac Newton became the father of physics, an accomplished mathematician, or a leader of the scientific revolution, he was a boy living in an apothecary’s house, observing and experimenting, recording his observations of the world in a tiny notebook. As a young genius living in a time before science as we know it existed, Isaac studied the few books he could get his hands on, built handmade machines, and experimented with alchemy–a process of chemical reactions that seemed, at the time, to be magical. Mary Losure’s riveting narrative nonfiction account of Isaac’s early life traces his development as a thinker from his childhood, in friendly prose that will capture the attention of today’s budding scientists–as if by magic. Back matter includes an afterword, an author’s note, source notes, a bibliography, and an index.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 6-9. Isaac Newton is known as one of the most brilliant scientific minds in human history, so what was he doing studying alchemy? Losure (The Fairy Ring, 2012) paints a vivid picture of the lonely, curious young Isaac, who grew up with an insatiable appetite for reading (particularly about alchemy), which ultimately fueled his scholarly pursuits. While teaching mathematics and formulating his famous theories, for instance, he simultaneously pored over crucibles of mercury, hoping to transmute lead into gold. Of course, we know now that alchemy is nonsense, but in Isaac’s seventeenth-century existence, it was a serious scientific study and thought to be the key to unlocking the universe’s secrets. In Losure’s engaging narrative, she compellingly ties Isaac’s desire to solve the world’s mysteries through alchemy to his groundbreaking theories, which actually did lead to solving many of those mysteries. Snippets of Isaac’s notebooks and period illustrations further enliven Losure’s already fascinating, energetic writing. More than just a picture of Isaac Newton’s life, this illuminates the historical context for his work and the sea change his discoveries ushered in.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
In 1936, economist John Maynard Keyes bought a set of Isaac Newton’s manuscripts at auction only to discover that many of the pages had nothing to do with science, but rather alchemy. Newton, Keyes reasoned, “was not the first of the age of reasonâç¦He was the last of the magicians.” Indeed, Newton grew up in a world where it was very difficult to tell where one field of study ended and another began, a world where alchemy and “chymistry” (as it was then spelled) seemed to be related disciplines. Losure faithfully hews to this worldview, communicating the sense of awe and wonder about the natural world that Newton must have felt. This immersive experience is enhanced by historical documents that are reproduced throughout the text, along with several appendices of additional information. Perhaps even more impressive than her re-creation of Newton’s world, however, is her re-creation of the man himself–or rather, the boy who became the man–without embellishing the historical record with speculation and conjecture. Thus, the reader is left with the bare facts of Newton’s life–his difficult and troubled childhood, his prodigious talent at Cambridge, his prickly and reclusive nature, and his famous Laws of Motion–but more importantly, Losure has communicated his very essence, recalling Albert Einstein’s assertion that “imagination is more important than knowledge.” Source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Mary Losure, author of The Fairy Ring and Wild Boy, writes both non-fiction and fantasy for children. Before she was a children’s book author, she was an award-winning reporter for Minnesota Public Radio. A long-time contributor to National Public Radio, she also reported from Mexico and South America for the independent production company Round Earth Media. She lives in Minnesota.

Her website is www.marylosure.com.

Teacher Resources

Isaac the Alchemist Teacher’s Guide

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