Tag Archives: biography

The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi

The Red Bandanna: Young Reader’s Adaptation by Tom Rinaldi. August 29, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 162 p. ISBN: 9780425287620.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.8.

On a day that changed a nation, one young man found his calling.

Welles Crowther didn’t see himself as a hero. He was just an ordinary kid who played sports, volunteered for the fire department in his town, and eventually headed off to college and then to Wall Street to start a career. Throughout it all, he always kept a red bandanna in his pocket, a gift from his father when he was little.

On September 11, 2001, Welles was at his job on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center when the Twin Towers were attacked. What he did next would alter the course of many lives.

That day, the legend of the Man in the Red Bandanna was born.

Award-winning ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi brings Welles’s inspirational story of selflessness and compassion to life in this young readers’ adaptation of his New York Times bestselling book.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Terrorism, Graphic description of injuries

 

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Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
On Sept. 11, 2001, in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, a man wearing a red bandanna lost his life leading others to safety. This is his story, adapted for young readers from Rinaldi’s 2016 bestseller for adults. From an early age, Welles Crowther was obsessed with firefighters. He spent many hours hanging out at the firehouse, cleaning the rigs, and listening to his firefighter father’s tales. But after graduating from Boston College, Welles decided to follow another dream. He accepted a position as a junior associate in a finance firm. His office was on the 104th floor of the South Tower, but the call of his childhood obsession was strong. He confided to his father that he wanted to change careers and become a firefighter. But before he could realize that dream, tragedy struck. Welles kept his cool but lost his life leading others through the smoke to safety. Based on an ESPN documentary, this slim book chronicles the life and the legacy of one 9/11 hero. Readers of this youth version will be inspired by Welles’ dedication to school, sports, and his family, but they will also laugh at his mischievous side. Photographs of Welles’ life are sprinkled through the narrative. The real-life story behind The Man in the Red Bandanna. (Biography. 9-12)

School Library Journal (August 1, 2017)
Gr 6-8-Before leaving for church one day, Jeff Crowther gave his then seven-year-old son, Welles, a red bandanna to keep in his pocket, similar to his own blue bandanna. For the rest of Welles’s life, that red piece of fabric remained a constant reminder of his special bond with his father while also serving a variety of practical purposes-a handkerchief, a headband worn underneath a hockey helmet, and eventually a useful piece of life-saving equipment. Welles was working on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center when it was struck by a plane on the morning of September 11, 2001. Physically unharmed and able to escape, altruistic Welles chose instead to assist an estimated 18 people to safety using his junior firefighter training. To those he helped that day, he was known only as the man with the red bandanna, until, through newspaper reports from eyewitness accounts, his family was able to piece together his final moments of self-sacrifice and courage. At times a documentation of history, at others an emotional journey, this remarkable true story of bravery and heroism places readers directly inside the South Tower as events unfolded; Rinaldi’s writing heightens the senses capturing the smoke, heat, and smells, while also making the uncertainty, confusion, urgency, and raw human emotion very real-a feat not often accomplished in books for this age group. Drawing upon firsthand accounts from family members and friends, readers receive a sense of Welles’s optimism, leadership, perseverance, and his genuine desire to help others. VERDICT Impossible to read without an emotional response, this title is an essential purchase for nonfiction collections.-Rebecca Gueorguiev, New York Public Library

About the Author

Tom Rinaldi has been a national correspondent at ESPN since 2002. A recipient of ten national Sports Emmy Awards and five Edward R. Murrow Awards, he covers human-interest stories across all sports, including his famous feature story about Welles Crowther. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a native of Brooklyn, Tom now lives in New Jersey with his wife, Dianne, and their two children, Jack and Tess.

Around the Web

The Red Bandanna on Amazon

The Red Bandanna on Goodreads

The Red Bandanna on JLG

The Red Bandanna Publisher Page

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Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly

Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly. September 5, 2017. Drawn & Quarterly, 120 p. ISBN: 9781770462939.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 830.

A personal account of an Iraqi childhood

Poppies of Iraq is Brigitte Findakly’s nuanced tender chronicle of her relationship with her homeland Iraq, co-written and drawn by her husband, the acclaimed cartoonist Lewis Trondheim. In spare and elegant detail, they share memories of her middle class childhood touching on cultural practices, the education system, Saddam Hussein’s state control, and her family’s history as Orthodox Christians in the arab world. Poppies of Iraqis intimate and wide-ranging; the story of how one can become separated from one’s homeland and still feel intimately connected yet ultimately estranged.

Signs of an oppressive regime permeate a seemingly normal life: magazines arrive edited by customs; the color red is banned after the execution of General Kassim; Baathist militiamen are publicly hanged and school kids are bussed past them to bear witness. As conditions in Mosul worsen over her childhood, Brigitte’s father is always hopeful that life in Iraq will return to being secular and prosperous. The family eventually feels compelled to move to Paris, however, where Brigitte finds herself not quite belonging to either culture. Trondheim brings to life Findakly’s memories to create a poignant family portrait that covers loss, tragedy, love, and the loneliness of exile.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, War, Violence, Criminal culture, Terrorism, Religious fanaticism, Discussion of rape

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 5-8. Growing up in Mosul right before the reign of Saddam Hussein, memoirist Findakly recounts stories from her childhood in a country undergoing radical changes. Beginning with family picnics and short vignettes of her Iraqi father’s dental practice and her French mother’s slow acclimation to life in a country very different from hers, the focus shifts to more sobering tales: the casual censorship of everything from magazine articles to phone conversations; students being sent to mandatory work camps; a cousin being disfigured on the battlefield. Each story arc is punctuated by family photos and cultural notes that help bring the family to life and make their experiences personal. Findakly is never naive or sentimental, recounting her life in Iraq with the innocence of a child but the cognizance of an adult. The illustrations by her husband, acclaimed cartoonist Lewis Trondheim, complement that innocence, staying true to the political upheaval described, while keeping much of the trauma offstage. A moving tribute to familial love in times of war.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2017)
From the daughter of a French mother and Iraqi father comes a touching memoir of childhood in Iraq. Writing with her husband, Findakly strings together memories and facts from her family’s past and present as well as from Iraqi culture, as if she is sharing herself with readers over tea. She begins with happy childhood moments in Iraq and her school days, her parents’ backgrounds and how they met, and introductions to other family members and neighbors. Especially poignant are the portrayals of her French mother’s successful adjustment to Iraqi society over 23 years and Findakly’s own process of growing apart from Iraqi society after her father decides they should move to France when she is a teenager. Trondheim’s charming cartoon drawings, colored by Findakly, help readers envision the worlds the family straddles, while occasional pages of family photographs remind readers of the author’s historical reality. Readers feel they are getting an inside look into an impenetrable world with cultural and historical notes on pages titled “In Iraq” interspersed throughout the book. This personal portrayal of the impact of war and societal upheaval on one family will help many Western readers to see how the past half-century of conflict has devastated a region rich in ancient culture. Small in size but large in impact, this intimate memoir is a highly relevant and compassionate story of family, community, prejudice, and the struggle to love when the forces of the world push groups apart. (timeline) (Graphic memoir. 10-adult)

About the Author

Co-writer and colourist Brigitte Findakly was born in Mosul, Iraq, in 1959 and lived there until 1973. Cartoonist Lewis Trondheim was born in Fontainebleau, France in 1964. They have two children and live in the south of France.

Around the Web

Poppies of Iraq on Amazon

Poppies of Iraq on Goodreads

Poppies of Iraq  on JLG

Poppies of Iraq  Publisher Page

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough. September 5, 2017. Feiwel & Friends, 372 p. ISBN: 9781250123190.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1000.

Complex, passionate, brilliant, flawed―Alexander Hamilton comes alive in this exciting biography.

He was born out of wedlock on a small island in the West Indies and orphaned as a teenager. From those inauspicious circumstances, he rose to a position of power and influence in colonial America.

Discover this founding father’s incredible true story: his brilliant scholarship and military career; his groundbreaking and enduring policy, which shapes American government today; his salacious and scandalous personal life; his heartrending end.

Richly informed by Hamilton’s own writing, with archival artwork and new illustrations, this is an in-depth biography of an extraordinary man.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, War, Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 7-10. Let’s face it: as a subject, Alexander Hamilton is hot, thanks to the wildly popular Broadway musical bearing his name. This brings a built-in audience to Brockenbrough’s ambitious biography, which follows Hamilton’s eventful life from his illegitimate birth in the West Indies to his appointment by George Washington as America’s first Secretary of the Treasury. Brockenbrough gives particular attention to Hamilton’s service in the Revolutionary War and to his role as Washington’s protégé, which gave him influence far beyond his rank. Those expecting a warts-and-all look, however, will be disappointed. The few flaws the author offers—Hamilton’s vanity, his recklessness, his ill-advised extramarital affair, his obsession with honor, which would be his undoing—are largely papered over or dismissed. By the same token, his adversaries, especially Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, are often strongly demonized. All this said, Hamilton’s life is an inspiration, a fact that Brockenbrough captures nicely in a well-written biography that fills a gap in the literature. Expect wide reader interest.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
Over 200 years after his death in a duel with former Vice President Aaron Burr, founding father Alexander Hamilton’s story is a major player in popular culture. Brockenbrough begins her narrative with a list of the contradictions of Hamilton’s life and then sets out to describe many of them in detail. Hamilton’s wretched childhood and struggles for survival and an education set a tone that depicts him as the consummate self-made man whose flaws damaged both his political career and personal life. Hamilton’s courtship and marriage to Elizabeth Schuyler, a daughter of one of the country’s most influential families, is a key part, along with prominent figures from American history. Sometimes the intricacies of Revolutionary War strategy and Constitutional Convention maneuvering slow things down, making the pace uneven. However, tidbits about Hamilton’s role in the episode with Benedict Arnold and his close relationships with fellow soldier John Laurens and his sister-in-law Angelica Church are intriguing. The story is targeted to an older audience than Teri Kanefield’s Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America (2017), so the sex scandal that derailed Hamilton’s political career is part of the story, as is, of course, the duel that ended his life. After the epilogue, the volume includes information on 18th-century medicine, attire, and warfare among other contextualizing topics ; the volume will be illustrated with archival material (not seen). With the demand for all things Hamilton still strong, this will resonate with many teen readers. (timeline, source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 12-18)

About the Author

Martha Brockenbrough draws on her diverse experience in journalism, research, nonfiction, and literary teen fiction to bring Alexander Hamilton to life. A powerful storyteller and narrative voice, Brockenbrough is the author of the critically acclaimed YA novels The Game of Love and Death and Devine Intervention. She enjoys reading Hamilton’s original correspondence, playing board games, and spending time with her family. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

Her website is marthabrockenbrough.com

Around the Web

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary on Amazon

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary on Goodreads

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary on JLG

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary Publisher Page

Pope Francis: The People’s Pope by Beatrice Gormley

Pope Francis: The People’s Pope by Beatrice Gormley. September 26, 2017. Aladdin, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481481410.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.2; Lexile: 1100.

Bea Gormley tells the story of Pope Francis, known as the People’s Pope, who has humbly said, “My people are poor and I am one of them.”

Ordained as Pope on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis became the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Known worldwide for his great humility and approachability, he is the first citizen from the Americas, the first non-European, and first Jesuit priest to be named Pope.

Gormley explores Bergoglio’s, his given surname, early years, growing up as the eldest of five children of Italian immigrants in Argentina, working as a chemical technician before venturing in the priesthood as a Jesuit novice. He went from Bishop to Archbishop to Cardinal—and gained a reputation for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism, and a commitment to social justice, which stands to this day.

Named Person of the Year by Time magazine in December 2013, Pope Francis remains outspoken in support of the world’s poor and marginalized people, and he has been involved actively in areas of political diplomacy and environmental advocacy.

Part of series: Real-Life Story

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Mass murder, Kidnapping, Torture, References to sexual abuse

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2017)
Pope Francis’ life story.  Pope Francis is the first non-European, Jesuit man to be ordained as leader of the Roman Catholic Church. This biography takes middle-grade readers on Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s spiritual and physical journey toward the papacy. Gormley charts Bergoglio’s spiritual development well, beginning with his grandmother, who sparked in him the importance of faith at a young age, and moving from there as political turbulence roiled Argentina. The author provides plenty of context for Argentina’s political and social discord but never loses focus on her subject. While Argentina’s story is important to Bergoglio’s history, it never overwhelms the man. Pope Francis’ reputation as the “People’s Pope,” a man honest about his background, interests, and past, helps the author paint a picture of her subject as a well-rounded, well-intentioned man. There are no grave missteps or shady secrets to reveal here, just a man who always did what he thought was best for the people around him and used his faith as his guide. It is a bit long-winded. The 257 pages of main narrative really hold only about 175 pages of essential story. The “and then this happened” structure of standard biographies is certainly felt, and while that works well for an educational text for children using this for a school project, those looking for a ripping yarn about the pope may want to keep looking. A serviceable biography that will serve the student who chooses Pope Francis as a subject well. (timeline, sources, photos) (Biography. 10-14)

About the Author

Born in Glendale, California, Beatrice grew up in Southern California. After graduating from Pomona College, she worked in publishing near San Francisco. There she met and married Robert Gormley, and they moved to Massachusetts. They have two daughters.

Since age 9 Beatrice had wanted to become a writer. But it wasn’t until after her children were born that she really focused on her writing. In 1981 her first book, Mail Order Wings,was published. Since then she’s written many popular novels and biographies for young people. Her most recent books are Friends of Liberty, a novel of the Boston Tea Party, and the biography Nelson Mandela: South African Revolutionary.

Her website is www.beatricegormley.com

Around the Web

Pope Francis on Amazon

Pope Francis on Goodreads

Pope Francis on JLG

Pope Francis Publisher Page

Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Avakening by Manal al-Sharif. June 13, 2017. Simon & Schuster, 289 p. ISBN: 9781476793023.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 990.

A ferociously intimate memoir by a devout woman from a modest family in Saudi Arabia who became the unexpected leader of a courageous movement to support women’s right to drive.

Manal al-Sharif grew up in Mecca the second daughter of a taxi driver, born the year fundamentalism took hold. In her adolescence, she was a religious radical, melting her brother’s boy band cassettes in the oven because music was haram: forbidden by Islamic law. But what a difference an education can make. By her twenties she was a computer security engineer, one of few women working in a desert compound that resembled suburban America. That’s when the Saudi kingdom’s contradictions became too much to bear: she was labeled a slut for chatting with male colleagues, her teenage brother chaperoned her on a business trip, and while she kept a car in her garage, she was forbidden from driving down city streets behind the wheel.

Daring to Drive is the fiercely intimate memoir of an accidental activist, a powerfully vivid story of a young Muslim woman who stood up to a kingdom of men—and won. Writing on the cusp of history, Manal offers a rare glimpse into the lives of women in Saudi Arabia today. Her memoir is a remarkable celebration of resilience in the face of tyranny, the extraordinary power of education and female solidarity, and the difficulties, absurdities, and joys of making your voice heard.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
In 2011, Manal Al-Sharif was arrested and jailed for driving a car in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Her imprisonment attracted international attention to the country’s restrictions on women. Manal’s memoir chronicles her evolution from a fiercely religious young woman into a champion of women’s rights and the face of the Women2Drive movement. Though there is no legal statute barring women from driving, Saudi culture enforces strict customs that force women to rely on hired drivers and male relatives to get around. Without reliable transportation, many women are unable to work, run basic errands, or even seek medical attention in emergencies. After her arrest, Manal was slandered in the national press, received death threats, and was denounced by religious leaders. In addition to her driving, Manal’s experiences as a young woman highlight the many other barriers for women, such as the requirement to have a male guardian’s permission for most decisions. Her memoir is an intimate look at life for women growing up in Saudi Arabia and the challenges of seeking major social change.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
Inside the walls of segregation and oppression dictating the lives of Saudi women.Arrested and imprisoned for “driving while female” in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, in 2011, Saudi author and activist al-Sharif, formerly an information security expert at the Aramco oil company, chronicles her long path to feminist activism within a deeply conservative Islamic culture. From forced circumcision at age 8, condoned by her largely uneducated parents, to extreme segregation between the sexes in her poor community of Mecca, including separate entrances, covered windows, high walls, and the necessity for a guardian or close male relative to accompany women anywhere and sign any legal documents, the author found emancipation very gradually, a process she compares to the experience of those involved in the American civil rights movement. Indeed, in Saudi Arabia, the dictates of religious culture, rather than law, were and are iron-clad regarding women; al-Sharif required the permission of her father to pursue everything from education at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah (considered a scandalously “liberal, progressive city”) to her first job at Aramco (the only IT woman employed during her 10 years there) to marriage. The author’s decision to drive emerged from a long frustration with getting around via hired drivers and costly taxis, as all Saudi women were consigned to do: in a kind of perverse logic, al-Sharif had bought a car for her hired driver to use. Yet after a liberating work trip in America, where she got an actual license, she convinced her brother to help her drive and sympathetic women friends to video the great moment behind the wheel, which led to her arrest and harassment by the religious police. Ultimately, al-Sharif’s appalling conclusion is that, in her country, “if you want to race with men, you’d have to do it with your hands and legs cut off.” An intimate and powerful book from what is hopefully only the first of many Saudi voices to speak out.

About the Author

Manal al-Sharif is a women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia who was imprisoned in 2011 for driving a car. She has been lauded by Foreign PolicyTimeForbes, and the Oslo Freedom Forum. Daring to Drive is her first book.

 

Teacher Resources

Manal al-Sharif TED Talk

Daring to Drive Reading Guide

Around the Web

Daring to Drive on Amazon

Daring to Drive on Goodreads

Daring to Drive on JLG

Daring to Drive Publisher Page

Serena Williams by Matt Christopher

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

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

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

Part of series: Legends in Sports

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination

 

About the Author

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

His website is www.mattchristopher.com

 Around the Web

Serena Williams on Amazon

Serena Williams on Goodreads

Serena Williams on JLG

Serena Williams Publisher Page

The Magician and the Spirits by Deborah Noyes

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

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Murder, Suicide

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

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

Around the Web

The Magician and the Spirits on Amazon

The Magician and the Spirits on Goodreads

The Magician and the Spirits on JLG

The Magician and the Spirits Publisher Page

42 Is Not Just a Number by Doreen Rappaport

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Racism and racist language

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

Her website is dorreenrappaport.com

Teacher Resources

42 Is Not just a Number Discussion Guide

Around the Web

42 Is Not just a Number on Amazon

42 Is Not just a Number on Goodreads

42 Is Not just a Number on JLG

42 Is Not just a Number Publisher Page

Our Story Begins edited by Elissa Brent Weissman

Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids edited by Elissa Brent Weissman. July 4, 2017. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 208 p. ISBN: 9781481472081.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 930.

From award-winning author Elissa Brent Weissman comes a collection of quirky, smart, and vulnerable childhood works by some of today’s foremost children’s authors and illustrators—revealing young talent, the storytellers they would one day become, and the creativity they inspire today.

Everyone’s story begins somewhere…

For Linda Sue Park, it was a trip to the ocean, a brand-new typewriter, and a little creative license.
For Jarrett J. Krosoczka, it was a third grade writing assignment that ignited a creative fire in a kid who liked to draw.
For Kwame Alexander, it was a loving poem composed for Mother’s Day—and perfected through draft after discarded draft.
For others, it was a teacher, a parent, a beloved book, a word of encouragement. It was trying, and failing, and trying again. It was a love of words, and pictures, and stories.

Your story is beginning, too. Where will it go?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 4-7. The best authors and artists make their work seem so effortless that it’s easy to assume they’re all preternaturally gifted; it’s easy to forget the inevitable time and labor that went into their work, and this collection is the perfect remedy to that misapprehension. In short sections, kidlit luminaries offer essays about their early artistic efforts and snippets of their early work. Caldecott winner Dan Santat writes about his comically off-the-mark belief that Norman Rockwell was “about a thousand years old,” and therefore had tons of time to practice. Gordon Korman’s essay is, perhaps, less helpful, since he signed his first book contract at the unbelievable age of 13(!). Some of the presented stories are surprisingly good, and more are realistically amateurish, but the main takeaway, of course, is that practice, as well as a lot of inevitable failure, is always part of honing a craft. A sweet, inspirational anthology for any kid who dreams of having their own name on the cover of a book.

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
Twenty-six notable authors and illustrators of children’s books—including the book’s editor—introduce themselves via their childhood memories.The short, straightforward introduction begins with the editor sharing her inspiration for the book: reading through her oldest writings, stored in “a box in a basement,” and reflecting that other creators have similar boxes. Two years of interviewing, collecting, and collating produced the accessible, enjoyable text that follows. Each creator shares a childhood photograph, a brief memoir, a short biography, and a photographed sample of a creative work from childhood. The order of presentation is determined by the age at which the creative work was accomplished, ranging from 7 to 16. The art and writing samples from childhood are occasionally exciting but more often typical of the age represented—and thus encouraging rather than intimidating to young creatives. The memoirs—all (unsurprisingly) engaging—range from humorous to serious, and some slip in good advice, both about the tools of the craft and about self-marketing. There is a wide diversity of ages and backgrounds, from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor to Alex Gino, from Eric Rohmann to Rita Williams-Garcia. Thanhhà Lai is especially memorable; as a Vietnamese refugee, she had no box of writings: “But it turns out, I don’t need tangible objects. I have my memories.” Her recollection of an oral prose poem from age 8 is one that stands out because it is indeed remarkable for one so young. Good for aspiring writers and artists. (Collective memoir. 8-12)

About the Editor

Elissa Brent Weissman is an award-winning author of novels for 8-to-12-year olds. Her most recent books, Nerd Camp 2.0 and Nikhil and the Geek Retreat are sequels to the popular Nerd Camp, which was named a best summer read for middle graders in The Washington Post. The Short Seller, about a seventh grade stock-trading whiz, was a Girls’ Life must-read and featured on NPR’s “Here and Now.”

Named one of CBS Baltimore’s Best Authors in Maryland, Elissa lives in Baltimore, where she teaches creative writing to children, college students, and adults. Her website is www.ebweissman.com

Around the Web

Our Story Begins on Amazon

Our Story Begins on Goodreads

Our Story Begins on JLG

Our Story Begins Publisher Page

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

 

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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

Around the Web

Chasing Space on Amazon

Chasing Space on Goodreads

Chasing Space on JLG

Chasing Space Publisher Page