Tag Archives: biography

Chasing Space: Young Reader’s Edition by Leland Melvin

Chasing Space: Young Reader’s Edition by Leland Melvin. May 23, 2017. Amistad, 240 p. ISBN: 9780062665928.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.6; Lexile: 1020.

Meet Leland Melvin—football star, NASA astronaut, and professional dream chaser.

In this inspiring memoir, adapted from the simultaneous version for adults, young readers will get to learn about Leland Melvin’s remarkable life story, from being drafted by the Detroit Lions to bravely orbiting our planet in the International Space Station to writing songs with will.i.am, working with Serena Williams, and starring in top-rated television shows like The Dog WhispererTop Chef, and Child Genius.

When the former Detroit Lion’s football career was cut short by an injury, Leland didn’t waste time mourning his broken dream. Instead, he found a new one—something that was completely out of this world.

He joined NASA, braved an injury that nearly left him permanently deaf, and still managed to muster the courage and resolve to travel to space on the shuttle Atlantis to help build the International Space Station. Leland’s problem-solving methods and can-do attitude turned his impossible-seeming dream into reality.

Leland’s story introduces readers to the fascinating creative and scientific challenges he had to deal with in space and will encourage the next generation of can-do scientists to dare to follow their dreams. With do-it-yourself experiments in the back of the book and sixteen pages of striking full-color photographs, this is the perfect book for young readers looking to be inspired.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism, Hazing, Murder

 

Book Trailer

Author Talk

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
Memoir of an astronaut whose road to space took an unusual twist—through the National Football League.Rewritten for younger audiences, this version of Melvin’s simultaneously publishing memoir for adults not only retraces his development from “a skinny black kid” who wanted to be the next Arthur Ashe to an engineer who flew on two space-shuttle missions, but is even capped with a trio of science projects. Though he pushes the conventional platitude that “hard work and dedication are all you need to succeed,” his experiences point more to the value of being ready to take full advantage of second chances when they come along—which they did in his (brief) NFL career, in college after he was suspended for (inadvertent, in his view) cheating, and later at NASA in the wake of a training injury that left him partially deaf. He has also enjoyed a second career as a speaker, educator, TV host, occasional poet, and songwriter with Pharrell and other musicians. Religious faith and racism sound occasional notes in his account, the latter underscored by a picture of his otherwise all-white astronaut class in one of the two photo sections, but he devotes warmer attention to tributes to his mentors, colleagues, role models—and, oddly, his dogs, whose lives and deaths make up much of what he has to say about his adult private life. A detailed picture of astronaut training and work, threaded on a decidedly unusual storyline. (Memoir. 11-14)

About the Author

A former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, Leland Melvin is an engineer and NASA astronaut. He served on the space shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist and was named the NASA Associate Administrator for Education in October 2010. He also served as the cochair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Task Force, developing the nation’s five-year STEM education plan. He is the host of the Lifetime show Child Genius and a judge for ABC’s BattleBots. He holds four honorary doctorates and has received the NFL Player Association Award of Excellence. He lives in Lynchburg, Virginia.

His website is www.lelandmelvin.com

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How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana

How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana. May 16, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062470140.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

In this powerful memoir, Sandra Uwiringyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tells the incredible true story of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.

Sandra Uwiringiyimana was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. The rebels had come at night—wielding weapons, torches, machetes. She watched as her mother and six-year-old sister were gunned down in a refugee camp, far from their home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The rebels were killing people who weren’t from the same community, the same tribe. In other words, they were killing people simply for looking different.

“Goodbye, life,” she said to the man ready to shoot her.

Remarkably, the rebel didn’t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped into the night.

Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York.

In this profoundly moving memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, and of her hope for the future.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Discrimination, War, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Graphic description of refugee-camp massacre, Racism

 

Book Info

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 8-10. As America’s doors threaten to shut against refugees, this memoir could not be timelier. As a 10-year-old in 2004, Uwiringiyimana (pronounced oo-wee-ring-GEE-yi-mah-nah) and her family fled conflict in their native Congo for a U.N. refugee camp over the border in Burundi. The stay, overcrowded and miserable as the sanctuary was, proved short-lived: on the night of August 13, armed rebels attacked the camp, slaughtering 166 people. Uwiringiyimana’s narrative starts with a terrifying moment-by-moment account of that horrific event. Her ability to summon the chaos and terror is extraordinary, but then, so is she. Plagued by PTSD and severe, recurrent depression in the years since—the U.N. succeeded in bringing the surviving members of her family to the U.S. in 2007—she has emerged as a powerful spokesperson for the plight of the dispossessed. Her account of the family’s first few years in upstate New York, where she was made to feel again unwanted and alien at school, is almost as heartbreaking as the memory of that one world-shattering night.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2017)
Congolese refugee Sandra Uwiringi-yimana recounts life before, during, and after war. At ten, Sandra sees her sister gunned down along with others at the camp where she and her family were temporarily staying. Before readers can find out which of Sandra’s family members survived, she takes us back to her life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where, as Banyamulenge people, they were considered stateless foreigners. Despite the discrimination, Sandra spent much of her childhood in a comfortable middle-class home, although frequent civil unrest would require the family to enter refugee camps for a time and then return home. After the night her sister was murdered, she and her surviving family members began the long process of applying for asylum in the United States. From there, Sandra recounts her American adolescence, trying to make sense of what race means in America and how she fits in as an African but not an African American. The prose may be workmanlike, but the politically and culturally complex picture of Africa that the author paints is welcome, and the complexities of black identity for recent immigrants versus that of diasporic black people are not often touched upon in YA literature. sarah hannah gómez

About the Author

Sandra Uwiringiyimana is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

She came to America as a refugee with her family, and started middle school in New York. She has shared the stage alongside Charlie Rose, Angelina Jolie, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Tina Brown at the Women in the World Summit. She also addressed the United Nations Security Council. She is a graduate of Mercy College.

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How Dare the Sun Rise on Amazon

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Hostage by Guy Delisle

Hostage by Guy Delisle. April 25, 2017. Drawn & Quarterly, 436 p. ISBN: 9781770462793.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

How does one survive when all hope is lost?

In the middle of the night in 1997, Doctors Without Borders administrator Christophe Andre was kidnapped by armed men and taken away to an unknown destination in the Caucasus region. For three months, Andre was kept handcuffed in solitary confinement, with little to survive on and almost no contact with the outside world. Close to twenty years later, award-winning cartoonist Guy Delisle (PyongyangJerusalemShenzhenBurma Chronicles) recounts Andre s harrowing experience in Hostage, a book that attests to the power of one man s determination in the face of a hopeless situation.

Marking a departure from the author s celebrated first-person travelogues, Delisle tells the story through the perspective of the titular captive, who strives to keep his mind alert as desperation starts to set in. Working in a pared down style with muted color washes, Delisle conveys the psychological effects of solitary confinement, compelling us to ask ourselves some difficult questions regarding the repercussions of negotiating with kidnappers and what it really means to be free. Thoughtful, intense, and moving, Hostage takes a profound look at what drives our will to survive in the darkest of moments.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Discrimination, War, Violence, Alcohol, Harsh realities of being held hostage

 

Author Interview

 

About the Author

Born in Quebec, Canada, Guy Delisle studied animation at Sheridan College. Delisle has worked for numerous animation studios around the world, including CinéGroupe in Montreal.

Drawing from his experience at animation studios in China and North Korea, Delisle’s graphic novels Shenzen and Pyongyang depict these two countries from a Westerner’s perspective. A third graphic novel, Chroniques Birmanes, recounts his time spent in Myanmar with his wife, a Médecins Sans Frontières administrator.

His website is www.guydelisle.com

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Hostage on Amazon

Hostage on Goodreads

Hostage on JLG

Seriously Shifted Publisher Page

The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek

The Children of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Hope and Survival During World War II by Mona Golabek. March 28, 2017. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 213 p. ISBN: 9780316554886.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.2.

Fourteen-year-old Lisa Jura was a musical prodigy who hoped to become a concert pianist. But when Hitler’s armies advanced on pre-war Vienna, Lisa’s parents were forced to make a difficult decision. Able to secure passage for only one of their three daughters through the Kindertransport, they chose to send gifted Lisa to London for safety.

As she yearned to be reunited with her family while she lived in a home for refugee children on Willesden Lane, Lisa’s music became a beacon of hope. A memoir of courage, survival, and the power of music to uplift the human spirit, this compelling tribute to one special young woman and the lives she touched will both educate and inspire young readers.

Featuring line art throughout and B&W photos.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Antisemitism, Xenophobic epithets

 

Book Trailer

 

About the Author

Ms. Golabek is the founder and president of the non-profit organization Hold On To Your Music. She is an author, recording artist, radio host and internationally acclaimed concert pianist. Ms. Golabek was taught by her mother, Lisa Jura, who, along with Lisa’s mother Malka, is the subject of Ms. Golabek’s book, The Children Of Willesden Lane. The work of Ms. Golabek and her sister, the late concert pianist Renee Golabek-Kaye, has been inspired by the words their grandmother uttered to her daughter at the Vienna train station as Lisa boarded the Kindertransport for safety in London at the outset of World War II. “Hold on to your music,” Malka told her, “It will be your best friend.”

A Grammy nominee, Ms. Golabek has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Avery Fisher Career Grant and the People’s Award of the International Chopin Competition. She has been the subject of several PBS television documentaries, including More Than the Music, which won the grand prize in the 1985 Houston Film Festival, and Concerto for Mona, featuring Ms. Golabek and conductor Zubin Mehta. She has appeared in concert at the Hollywood Bowl, the Kennedy Center, Royal Festival Hall and with major orchestras and conductors worldwide.

Around the Web

The Children of Willesden Lane on Amazon

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Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights by Deborah Kops

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights by Deborah Kops. February  28, 2017. Calkins Creek, 216 p. ISBN: 9781629793238.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1050.

Here is the story of leader Alice Paul, from the women’s suffrage movement—the long struggle for votes for women—to the “second wave,” when women demanded full equality with men. Paul made a significant impact on both. She reignited the sleepy suffrage moment with dramatic demonstrations and provocative banners. After women won the right to vote in 1920, Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would make all the laws that discriminated against women unconstitutional. Passage of the ERA became the rallying cry of a new movement of young women in the 1960s and ’70s. Paul saw another chance to advance women’s rights when the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 began moving through Congress. She set in motion the “sex amendment,” which remains a crucial legal tool for helping women fight discrimination in the workplace. Includes archival images, author’s note, bibliography, and source notes.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Racism, Antisemitism

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. You might say that American Alice Paul (1885–1977) was born a feminist. Raised in the Quaker tradition, which from its outset embraced gender equality, she was further radicalized as a sociology doctoral candidate in England when she first heard suffragist Christabel Pankhurst address a hostile crowd. “I want to throw in all the strength I can give to help,” Paul determined. That she did in a pitched battle spanning six decades, from the struggle to pass the Nineteenth Amendment through the Second Wave attempt to append the still unrealized Equal Rights Amendment. Paul and her cohorts came up with ingenious means of infiltrating the bastions of power: in London, she and an ally disguised themselves as cleaning women in order to disrupt a guildhall banquet with shouts of “Votes for women!” The gambit occasioned her first imprisonment, leading to a hunger strike and forced feeding—a horrendous procedure rendered here factually and without sensationalism. Her health compromised by three such ordeals, Paul soldiered on, creatively. Young activists could learn a lot from this clear, engaging biography, which makes excellent use of primary sources and contains a number of black-and-white photographs. An extensive bibliography provides further resources for students interested in digging up more on the secret of Paul’s success: keep changing the delivery method while holding fast to the message.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2016)
Alice Paul lacks the name recognition of fellow suffragists Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but this lucid, inspiring portrait reveals her noteworthy contributions to women’s rights. Paul absorbed the principle of gender equality during her Quaker childhood. While pursuing graduate studies in England, Paul joined the Women’s Social and Political Union, a militant suffrage group. Arrested repeatedly during demonstrations, Paul was treated brutally while serving three jail terms. After returning to the United States, Paul participated in National American Woman Suffrage Association rallies. She reignited the somnolent suffrage movement, creating provocative banners and organizing dramatic events, such as a 1913 protest march in Washington, which drew thousands of marchers from around the country. Disagreement over strategies and methods led Paul to break with NAWSA and formethe National Woman’s Party in 1916, which she led for 50 years. Following ratification of the 19th Amendment, Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, which would make unconstitutional all laws discriminating against women. Kops’ engaging narrative is as insightful about the history of the fight for women’s rights as it is about Paul’s many remarkable achievements. She makes liberal use of primary-source material, giving Paul and her contemporaries voice and including plentiful photographs to accompany her account. A rich, fascinating, and inspiring account of a tireless champion for women’s rights. (photos, source notes, bibliography) (Biography. 11-18)

 

About the Author

Deborah Kops has written more than twenty nonfiction books for children and young adults. Her most recent work, The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919(Charlesbridge), was a finalist for the 2013 Boston Authors Club’s Young Reader’s Prize, was on the National Council for the Social Studies’ list of Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People for 2013, and was also named to the New York Public Library’s 2012 list, 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Her website is deborahkops.com

Teacher Resources

Women’s Suffrage Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights on Amazon

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights on Goodreads

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights on JLG

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights  Publisher Page

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders. April 1, 2017. University of Nebraska Press, 224 p. ISBN: 9780803285309.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 920.

Making My Pitch tells the story of Ila Jane Borders, who despite formidable obstacles became a Little League prodigy, MVP of her otherwise all-male middle school and high school teams, the first woman awarded a baseball scholarship, and the first to pitch and win a complete men’s collegiate game. After Mike Veeck signed Borders in May 1997 to pitch for his St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, she accomplished what no woman had done since the Negro Leagues era: play men’s professional baseball. Borders played four professional seasons and in 1998 became the first woman in the modern era to win a professional ball game.

Borders had to find ways to fit in with her teammates, reassure their wives and girlfriends, work with the media, and fend off groupies. But these weren’t the toughest challenges. She had a troubled family life, a difficult adolescence as she struggled with her sexual orientation, and an emotionally fraught college experience as a closeted gay athlete at a Christian university.

Making My Pitch shows what it’s like to be the only woman on the team bus, in the clubhouse, and on the field. Raw, open, and funny at times, her story encompasses the loneliness of a groundbreaking pioneer who experienced grave personal loss. Borders ultimately relates how she achieved self-acceptance and created a life as a firefighter and paramedic and as a coach and goodwill ambassador for the game of baseball.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Sexist verbal abuse, Sexual harassment

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Beginning in middle school, Ila Borders played on all-male teams and was the first woman to receive a baseball scholarship to college, where she continued shattering gender barriers as a left-handed pitcher. In 1988, she became the first female pitcher to win a professional men’s baseball game. Her résumé included playing for the St. Paul Saints, Duluth-Superior Dukes, Madison Black Wolf, and Zion Pioneerzz. Besides being a fascinating sports story, this is also a moving biography of a closeted gay athlete pursuing her dreams while struggling with her own identity. Her faith as a Christian helped her navigate the insurmountable challenges. Borders endures taunts from the stands (“Go home, you don’t belong here”) that switched to requests for autographed baseballs when her prowess became obvious. Cowritten with noted baseball writer Ardell (Breaking into Baseball, 2005), this is a welcome contribution to women’s sports biographies. Baseball fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes details of life in the minors and numerous game highlights; gay athletes will connect to her struggles. A worthy companion to Jennifer Ring’s A Game of Their Own (2015) and an important addition to baseball-history and LGBTQ collections.

Library Journal (April 1, 2017)
The story of Ila Jane Borders (b. 1975), the first woman to win a men’s college baseball game and a pioneer for women in professional baseball, has faded into history. Twenty years ago, she signed a minor league contract with an independent men’s baseball team, proving herself in the clubhouse as well as on the pitcher’s mound. While we are still waiting for the first woman to appear on a major league roster, Borders made meaningful progress, maintaining her poise and sense of humor, despite teammates and fans who wanted to test her resolve, even enduring stalkers and death threats. A difficult childhood and struggles with her sexual orientation gave her the inner fortitude to endure the isolation of being far from home in an often hostile environment, and her personal history, as chronicled here with the help of Ardell (Breaking into Baseball), is related with painful honesty. Borders’s conversational style and intriguing life story make this title a winner for both public and academic libraries. VERDICT An inspiring and important account, told with grace and self-awareness that will appeal to baseball and sports fans along with readers interested in LGBTQ memoirs.-Janet Davis, Darien P.L., CT

About the Author

Ila Jane Borders is the first woman to win a men’s professional baseball game. She has been honored twice at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and was inducted in 2003 into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals.

Her website is www.ilajaneborders.com.

 

Around the Web

Making My Pitch on Amazon

Making My Pitch on Goodreads

Making My Pitch on JLG

Making My Pitch Publisher Page

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

 

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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.

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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