Tag Archives: history

Killer Style by Serah-Marie McMahon & Alison Matthews David

Killer Style: How Fashion Has Injured, Maimed, and Murdered Through History by Serah-Marie McMahon & Alison Matthews David. April 15, 2019. Owlkids, 48 p. ISBN: 9781771472531.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.3; Lexile: 1060.

The clothes we wear every day keep us comfortable, protect us from the elements, and express our unique style―but could fashion also be fatal? As it turns out, history is full of fashions that have harmed or even killed people. From silhouette-cinching corsets and combustible combs to lethal hair dyes and flammable flannel, this nonfiction book looks back at the times people have suffered pain, injury, and worse, all in the name of style. Historical examples like the tragic “Radium Girl” watchmakers and mercury-poisoned “Mad Hatters,” along with more recent factory accidents, raise discussion of unsafe workplaces―where those who make the clothes are often fashion’s first victims.

Co-authored by a scholar in the history of textiles and dress with the founder of WORN Fashion Journal, this book is equal parts fab and frightening: a stylishly illustrated mash-up of STEAM content, historical anecdotes, and chilling stories. Nonfiction features including sidebars, sources, an index, and a list of further reading will support critical literacy skills and digging deeper with research on this topic.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discussion of injuries

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. Fashion historians McMahon and David serve up looks that kill in this riveting exploration of the perils of fashion through the ages. Between lead paint, mercury-mad hatters, and exploding combs, this book is a succinct history of the hazards of fashion and cosmetic trends. But don’t be fooled; this book isn’t just macabre titillation. Though there is a healthy dose of the morbid and a quirky incorporation of myth, the authors give equal weight to the rightful debunking of tall tales. They also zero in on the dangerous business of fashion: the corner cutting and poor working conditions that caused factory fires and collapses, radiation exposure, and silicosis poisoning, all reminders of the hazards of “fast fashion.” The authors give well-researched consideration to non-Western fashion history, an inclusive take that is all too rare in surveys of this kind. Readable and well organized, the book incorporates primary-source illustrations, advertisements, and photographs into the information-rich pages, while Wilson’s quirky woodblock prints add some texture to the sleek design. The authors do an especially seamless job of using contemporary parallels as practical proof that even fashion history repeats itself. A fun, yet thoughtful look inside fashion perils past and present.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2019)
From lead-based cosmetics to radioactive wristwatches; from arsenic-green gowns to sandblasted denims: Fashion’s victims are sometimes the wearers and sometimes the creators. The introduction references Oscar de la Renta’s coining of the phrase “fashion victims,” noting that the pages to follow, while not ignoring his definition, will expand it to include more literal victims: “people who have suffered physical pain, injury, and worse, attempting to look more attractive, or to make others look more attractive.” Three luxuriously illustrated chapters tackle heads, middles, and legs, respectively. The first leads off with one of history’s more-famous tales of fashion-related occupational hazards: the use of mercury-cured felt by hatmakers from the 1730s into the 1960s. The text mentions the disturbing fact that, despite compelling evidence of mercury poisoning, England never banned its use; the dearth of currently ill milliners comes instead from felt’s having lost its fashion cachet. After exploring three other head-related tales, the book moves on to an entertaining history of corsets and their reputations, including a note about the 2016, Kardashian-promoted “waist trainer.” There is also an excellent double-page spread comparing two factory catastrophes: the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York and the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. The text uses puns, alliteration, and a conversational tone, but it never crosses the line into disrespect or sensationalism. Colorful, original silkscreens, historical photographs, and vintage art complement the magazine-style format. Accessible and informative. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

About the Authors

Serah-Marie McMahon founded WORN Fashion Journal and edited The WORN Archive, published by Drawn & Quarterly. She sells and writes about children’s books in Toronto, Ontario.

 

 

Dr. Alison Matthews David is an associate professor in the School of Fashion at Ryerson University. She holds a PhD in Art History from Stanford University. Her research on fashion victims examines how dress causes bodily harm to its makers and wearers. She has also published on military uniforms, and on representations of fashion in literature, notably in L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. She is also interested in colour theory and the aesthetic movement.

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The Edge of Anarchy by Jack Kelly

The Edge of Anarchy: The Railroad Barons, the Gilded Age, and the Greatest Labor Uprising in America by Jack Kelly. January 8, 2019. St. Martin’s Press, 320 p. ISBN: 9781250128867.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

The dramatic story of the explosive 1894 clash of industry, labor, and government that shook the nation and marked a turning point for America.

The Edge of Anarchy by Jack Kelly offers a vivid account of the greatest uprising of working people in American history. At the pinnacle of the Gilded Age, a boycott of Pullman sleeping cars by hundreds of thousands of railroad employees brought commerce to a standstill across much of the country. Famine threatened, riots broke out along the rail lines. Soon the U.S. Army was on the march and gunfire rang from the streets of major cities.

This epochal tale offers fascinating portraits of two iconic characters of the age. George Pullman, who amassed a fortune by making train travel a pleasure, thought the model town that he built for his workers would erase urban squalor. Eugene Debs, founder of the nation’s first industrial union, was determined to wrench power away from the reigning plutocrats. The clash between the two men’s conflicting ideals pushed the country to what the U.S. Attorney General called “the ragged edge of anarchy.”

Many of the themes of The Edge of Anarchy could be taken from today’s headlines―upheaval in America’s industrial heartland, wage stagnation, breakneck technological change, and festering conflict over race, immigration, and inequality. With the country now in a New Gilded Age, this look back at the violent conflict of an earlier era offers illuminating perspectives along with a breathtaking story of a nation on the edge.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
In 1894, workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company near Chicago went on strike against their powerful employer, George Pullman. This set off the greatest labor action in U.S. history, one that threatened a true national strike. Kelly explores this event in all its conflict and confrontation. Workers, led by the indomitable Eugene V. Debs, rebelled against a company that had dictated their living conditions as well as their working conditions. George Pullman really believed he was a model employer, but he would not respond to workers’ grievances. Unrest spread from Chicago across the nation, particularly into California. Realizing the threat this posed to the economy if not the body politic itself, President Cleveland called out troops against the counsel of Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld. Yet even army troops’ loyalty was tested when they were asked to fire on their fellow countrymen. The strike may have failed and Debs was jailed, but legislation followed that protected worker rights. Kelly vividly portrays the personalities involved, from elected officials to labor leaders, and makes the tensions of the time quite contemporary.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
In which the robber barons earn their spurs—and their sobriquets.George Pullman (1831-1897) should be remembered as an innovator in the transportation sector. He was, as Kelly (Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal, 2016, etc.) writes, an entrepreneur who “knew how to gather resources, command men, and negotiate deals,” and even if credit for his long-distance railroad sleeper cars really goes to someone else, Pullman put it all together. At the height of the Gilded Age, he was well on the way to holding a monopoly, carving up the sector with other moguls. Put supply, demand, and sole ownership together, and you have a recipe for suppressed wages and labor unrest, personified here by firebrand organizer Eugene Debs, who called a strike when an economic recession shook the railroad industry, causing wages to fall. The railroad barons were quick to call on a reluctant President Grover Cleveland to intervene, while Debs scored early victories in the negotiations, and Pullman, who “had successfully fought against unions during his entire career,” found himself confronting a powerful movement to organize. As Kelly notes, there were many flashpoints during the unrest, as when strikes stranded trains in midcourse and “women and children were left for up to twenty hours with no water or food.” Debs renounced violence, but episodes of violence followed, most at the hands of law enforcement and the military. There are memorable moments throughout this fluid account, as when stock in the railyards of Chicago goes up in a wall of flames before which were, as one contemporary report put it, “men and women dancing with frenzy.” In the end, the strikes broken, workers’ families starved, Pullman refused to reduce his own salary: “ ‘We cannot,’ Pullman murmured, ‘do everything at once.’ ” He remained rich, but he is not well-remembered today, while Progressive Era reforms soon followed to reduce the barons’ power. Kelly’s vigorous narrative serves well to set down the facts of a turbulent, little-known history.

About the Author

Jack Kelly is a journalist, novelist, and historian, whose books include Band of Giants, which received the DAR’s History Award Medal, and Heaven’s Ditch. He has contributed to The Wall Street Journal, and other national periodicals, and is a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow. He has appeared on The History Channel and been interviewed on National Public Radio. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

His website is jackkellybooks.com

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The Electric War by Mike Winchell

The Electric War: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Light the World by Mike Winchell. January 22, 2019. Henry Holt & Company, 272 p. ISBN: 9781250120168.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The spellbinding true account of the scientific competition to light the world with electricity.

In the mid-to-late-nineteenth century, a burgeoning science called electricity promised to shine new light on a rousing nation. Inventive and ambitious minds were hard at work. Soon that spark was fanned, and a fiery war was under way to be the first to light―and run―the world with electricity. Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of direct current (DC), engaged in a brutal battle with Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, the inventors of alternating current (AC). There would be no ties in this race―only a winner and a loser. The prize: a nationwide monopoly in electric current. Brimming with action, suspense, and rich historical and biographical information about these brilliant inventors, here is the rousing account of one of the world’s defining scientific competitions.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Cruelty to animals, Violence

 

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Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. Welcome to the late 1880s and the war of the currents, a furious battle over the viability and future of electricity. The combatants were, in one corner, the legendary inventor Thomas Edison, the inveterate champion of direct current (DC); in the other corner, the eccentric Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla and his partner, the formidable George Westinghouse, champions of alternating current (AC). It was an epic battle, for the stakes were enormous, being, in short, who would light and power America. It was a battle royal with the venerable Edison emerging as the villain of the piece. But will the good guys win? In his first book, Winchell does a fine job of investing his story with considerable drama; yes, his subject is occasionally a bit wonkish, but it will delight techies. As for his style: it’s serviceable but suffers when he reaches for colorful figures of speech; thus, a building “lit up like a mushroom on fire.” Nevertheless, readers will be electrified by his three main characters and further enlightened by numerous period photographs.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
The war of the currents and its larger-than-life personalities are illuminated by a flickering light. In the 1870s and 1880s, two competing systems of electrical current were backed by three very different men. Thomas Alva Edison, the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” advocated for direct current, while inventor Nikola Tesla, a Serbian immigrant, and George Westinghouse were leading proponents of alternating current. The potential for acclaim and riches was high, but it all came down to which system—direct or alternating current—would prevail. Edison had the name recognition but a flawed system, while Tesla and Westinghouse were confident in alternating current’s superiority, even when it was branded too dangerous in the press. It took a world’s fair, court battles, and worldwide financial panic to yield a winner in the war of the currents. Although the men and the historical events provide plenty of drama, Winchell (Been There, Done That: School Daze, 2016, etc.) blunts the impact by spending too much time at the beginning of the book on the development of the electric chair and its first victim. Black-and-white photographs and technical drawings supplement the text, which is based on extensive primary and high-quality secondary sources. There is unfortunately no mention of influential African-American inventor and Edison employee Lewis Latimer, who patented the carbon filament. The appeal of the events shines through despite a shaky start. (timeline, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Mike Winchell is a veteran English teacher with a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. He is the creator & editor of the BEEN THERE, DONE THAT anthology series, and the author of the middle grade narrative nonfiction GILDED AGE series, beginning with THE ELECTRIC WAR: EDISON, TESLA, WESTINGHOUSE, AND THE RACE TO LIGHT THE WORLD (January 22, 2019), and followed by THE ROUGH RODE: THE GILDED AGE RISE OF THE ROUGH RIDERS (2020).

He lives in upstate New York with his wife and two children. His website is www.mikewinchellbooks.com.

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The Perfect Horse by Elizabeth Letts

The Perfect Horse by Elizabeth Letts. February 12, 2019. Delacorte Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9780525644767.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.5; Lexile: 1080.

In this inspiring young readers adaptation of Elizabeth Letts’ New York Timesbestseller, one American troop will save the world’s most precious horses during the final stretch of World War II.

When a small troop of American soldiers capture a German spy, they uncover an unexpected secret: Hitler has kidnapped the world’s finest purebred horses and hidden them in a secret Czechoslovakian breeding farm. But, starving Russian troops are drawing closer and the horses face the danger of being slaughtered for food. With little time to spare, Colonel Hank Reed and his soldiers cross enemy lines to heroically save some of the world’s most treasured animals.

In this thrilling young readers’ edition of her New York Times bestselling book, Elizabeth Letts details the terrifying truth of Hitler’s eugenics program during World War II and shares the story of the courageous American troop dedicated to stopping it.

Highlighting bravery in the face of incredible odds, this tale will shed light on a little-known piece of our past and speak to history fans and animal lovers of every age.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Cruelty to animals

 

Author Talk

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 7))
Grades 4-8. In this young-readers’ edition of her New York Times best-seller, Letts captivates readers from beginning to end. Even before WWII, Hitler’s Nazi agenda to make everything German “the best” involved confiscating champion horses from countries in Eastern Europe. Thoroughbred Arabians and Lipizzaners were especially prized. Under the leadership of Gustav Rau, Hitler’s choice for leading a eugenics horse-breeding program, the horses were held in Hostau, Czechoslovakia. As the war’s end approached, the Germans in charge of the horses realized that in order to protect them they must surrender the horses to the Americans. The glitch in this arrangement was that the Americans couldn’t cross into Czechoslovakia, but, under the command of Colonel Hank Reed (with General George Patton’s tacit approval), they did. Letts traces the dangerous mission of rescuing the horses, transporting them to the U.S., and transferring the horses to the Department of Agriculture, after which they were sold to private owners. This account of the heroism and cooperation of unlikely people to protect these horses is spellbinding. The author’s impeccable attention to detail and exhaustive sources make this a must-read.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
Letts adapts her bestselling 2016 work of the same title for young readers. As World War II sweeps across Europe, the fates of several master horsemen become entwined. In Poland, Andrzej Kristalovich, head of the national stud farm, sees his life’s work disappear when Russian soldiers capture his horses. Nazi Germans, invading next, restore some of the animals in order to breed them for the Third Reich. Meanwhile, in Vienna, Olympic medalist Alois Podhajsky is desperately trying to care for the Lipizzan stallions at the famed Spanish Riding School even as the invading Germans capture the Lipizzan stud farms and move most of the horses to Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, at an American Army base in Kansas, Maj. Hank Reed is overseeing the cavalry’s transition from horses, no longer useful in warfare, to mechanized vehicles. These threads come together at the end of the war when Reed orchestrates a complex rescue of both sets of horses. This is not a particularly successful adaptation. It’s shorter than the original, but both the storyline and timeline are fragmented, making it difficult for the putative audience of 8- to 12-year-olds to follow, and extraneous details fail to advance the main narrative. Aside from a map and archival images (both not seen), there is no timeline or other visual aid to help organize the narrative. Characters are all white. If readers can make sense of this story, they’re likely able to tackle the original instead. (author’s note, characters, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Elizabeth Letts is an award winning and bestselling author of both fiction and non-fiction. The Perfect Horse was the winner of the 2017 PEN USA Award for Research Non-fiction and a #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller. The Eighty-Dollar Champion was a #1 New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2012 Daniel P Lenehan Award for Media Excellence from the United States Equestrian Foundation. She is also the author of two novels, Quality of Care and Family Planning, and an award-winning children’s book, The Butter Man. She lives in Southern California and Northern Michigan.

Her website is www.elizabethletts.com

Teacher Resources

The Perfect Horse Discussion Questions

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This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy. January 8, 2019. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9781681198521.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3.

In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen year old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann–clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students—found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group. But what about just being a regular teen? This is the heartbreaking and relatable story of her four months thrust into the national spotlight and as a trailblazer in history. Based on original research and interviews and featuring backmatter with archival materials and notes from the authors on the co-writing process.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
Grades 5-9. Students of school-desegregation history know of the Little Rock 9, but probably fewer are familiar with the Clinton 12, who integrated a Tennessee high school a full year earlier, in 1956. Boyce, one of the 12, recounts her story in a series of moving narrative poems that detail mid-twentieth-century segregation practices in the South; introduce her family and their place in the town; describe the early, relatively civilized integration of the school; and explain how the introduction of outside agitators heightened tensions and led to violence. Boyce’s positive attitude about her experiences invites reader identification. Yes, she and others endured unrelenting pressure and threats, but the cause was important and the results worthwhile. The poems (mostly free verse with a sprinkling of other forms) personalize this history, and interspersed newspaper headlines and quotes situate the response of the larger world. Generous back matter includes additional information about the Clinton 12, a time line, period photos, sources, and further reading. Engrossing, informative, and important for middle-grade collections.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2018)
An autobiographical account in verse of a teen pioneering school desegregation in the South. Jo Ann Allen lives up on a hill with the other black residents of Clinton, Tennessee. They travel to Knoxville to attend the black schools, but in 1956, two years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, a judge in Knoxville tells Clinton officials that they must integrate immediately. Jo Ann is one of 12 black students who enroll in the all-white Clinton High School. With co-author Levy, she tells her story of that year in poems grouped by her relationship to her town (“Mine, Theirs and Ours”; “Fear,” etc.). Most of the white people who support the black students do so only out of civic duty to obey the law. Still, there are moments of hope, as when her white classmates elect her vice president of their homeroom; it seems she might make friends. But then hatred and violence overtake the town of Clinton, necessitating federal law enforcement to keep the peace. Readers will empathize with Jo Ann’s honest incredulity: “Mouths spewing insults. / (Do these mouths sing hymns on Sunday? / Do they say ‘I love you’?)” One timely poem remembers a local election in which “every single / white supremacist/ segregationist / candidate / lost.” Such gems relevant to today’s politics, along with the narrator’s strong inner voice, make this offering stand out. Powerful storytelling of a not-so-distant past. (epilogue, authors’ notes, photos, timeline, sources, bibliography, further reading) (Verse memoir. 9-14)

About the Authors

Jo Ann Allen Boyce was one of 12 students to desegregate Clinton High School in 1956. She has worked as a professional singer and a nurse. She lives in Los Angeles.

 

I (Debbie Levy) write books — nonfiction, fiction, and poetry — for people of all different ages, and especially for young people. Before starting my writing career, I was a newspaper editor; before that, I was a lawyer with a Washington, D.C. law firm. I have a bachelor’s degree in government and foreign affairs from the University of Virginia, and a law degree and master’s degree in world politics from the University of Michigan. I live in Maryland with my husband. We have two grown sons. Besides writing, I love to kayak, boat, fish, and otherwise mess around in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Her website is www.debbielevybooks.com

Teacher Resources

This Promise of Change on Common Sense Media

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Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar & Kathleen Van Clive

Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. January 8, 2019. Aladdin, 272 p. ISBN: 9781534416178.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.0.

In this incredible narrative, Erica Armstrong Dunbar reveals a fascinating and heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at the Washingtons’ when they were the First Family—and an in-depth look at their slave, Ona Judge, who dared to escape from one of the nation’s Founding Fathers.

Born into a life of slavery, Ona Judge eventually grew up to be George and Martha Washington’s “favored” dower slave. When she was told that she was going to be given as a wedding gift to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Ona made the bold and brave decision to flee to the north, where she would be a fugitive.

From her childhood, to her time with the Washingtons and living in the slave quarters, to her escape to New Hampshire, Erica Armstrong Dunbar (along with Kathleen Van Cleve), shares an intimate glimpse into the life of a little-known, but powerful figure in history, and her brave journey as she fled the most powerful couple in the country.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Violence

 

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Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
A young enslaved woman successfully escapes bondage in the household of George and Martha Washington. Ona Judge was the daughter of a white indentured servant, Andrew Judge, and an enslaved woman, Betty, on the Mount Vernon plantation, growing up to become Martha Washington’s personal maid. When George Washington was elected president, it was up to Martha to decide who among their enslaved would go with them. “The criteria were clear: obedient, discreet, loyal slaves, preferably of mixed race.” After the seat of government moved to Philadelphia, the Washingtons were subject to the Gradual Abolition Act, a Pennsylvania law that mandated freedom for any enslaved person residing in state for more than six months. The Washingtons chose to rotate their enslaved out of the state to maintain ownership. In 1796, Martha Washington decided to give Ona as a wedding present to her granddaughter—but Ona made her escape by ship to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, setting up years of attempts by allies of Washington to return Ona to slavery. Despite poverty and hardship, Ona Judge remained free, thwarting the most powerful man in America. Dunbar, whose adult version of this story was a National Book Award finalist, and co-author Van Cleve have crafted a compelling read for young people. Ona Judge’s determination to maintain control over her life will resonate with readers. The accessible narrative, clear context, and intricately recorded details of the lives of the enslaved provide much-needed understanding of the complexities and contradictions of the country’s founding. Necessary. (Biography. 9-13)

School Library Journal (January 1, 2019)
Gr 5 Up-This young readers edition of Dunbar’s National Book Award-nominated title details the account of Ona Judge, who ran away from the household of George and Martha Washington. Born into slavery at Mount Vernon, Judge began working directly for Martha Washington by the age of 10. When the Washingtons left Mount Vernon for George’s political career, Judge was chosen to make the trip north, visiting and eventually living in Pennsylvania and New York. Away from the sheltered world of Virginia, Judge encountered free black people for the first time and learned about laws such as the Gradual Abolition Act in Pennsylvania. The Washingtons went to great lengths to prevent those they enslaved from benefitting from this law. In May of 1796, then 22-year-old Judge walked out of the Washington’s mansion in Philadelphia and onto the deck of a ship that would take her to New Hampshire. Although she was never able to live comfortably, she refused to go back to a life of slavery-no matter how determined George and Martha Washington were to reenslave her. This well-written story has been skillfully reconstructed from the sparse historical record available and delicately adapted for middle schoolers. Dunbar and van Cleve effectively and consistently convey the realities of being enslaved-and invite readers to empathize with Judge. VERDICT A brilliant work of U.S. history. Recommended for all collections.-Kristy Pasquariello, Westwood Public Library, MA

About the Author

Erica Armstrong Dunbar is the Charles and Mary Beard Professor of History at Rutgers University. She also serves as Director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Her first book, A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City was published by Yale University Press in 2008. She is also the author of Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave Ona Judge.

Her website is ericaarmstrongdunbar.com

Kathleen Van Cleve teaches creative writing and film at the University of Pennsylvania. She has written three books, including the award-winning middle grade novel Drizzle and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and sons.

Her website is www.kathyvancleve.com

Teacher Resources

Never Caught Curriculum Guide

Never Caught on Common Sense Media

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The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel

The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History: The Story of the Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel. January 29, 2019. Scholastic Nonfiction, 333 p. ISBN: 9781338251197.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1200.

Robert M. Edsel brings the story of his #1 NYT bestseller for adults The Monuments Mento young readers for the first time in this dynamic, narrative nonfiction project packed with photos.

Robert M. Edsel, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Monuments Men, brings this story to young readers for the first time in a sweeping, dynamic adventure detailing history’s greatest treasure hunt.

As the most destructive war in history ravaged Europe, many of the world’s most cherished cultural objects were in harm’s way. The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History recounts the astonishing true story of 11 men and one woman who risked their lives amidst the bloodshed of World War II to preserve churches, libraries, monuments, and works of art that for centuries defined the heritage of Western civilization. As the war raged, these American and British volunteers — museum curators, art scholars and educators, architects, archivists, and artists, known as the Monuments Men — found themselves in a desperate race against time to locate and save the many priceless treasures and works of art stolen by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Grades 7-12. While Adolf Hitler and his Nazi officers were organizing the genocide of Jews, they also orchestrated the looting of millions of pieces of art and culturally significant items from museums, churches, and private collections throughout Europe. Although dubbed the Monuments Men, about 350 men and women from 14 nations volunteered in the Allied armies’ Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Program from 1943 to 1951 to help preserve a shared cultural heritage. In this young readers edition of The Monuments Men (2009), Edsel focuses on 10 Monuments Men and Rose Valland, an art historian and member of the French Resistance. With precise details, incredible adventure, and mounting intensity, the author describes the responsibilities of these artists, architects, curators, and historians. Arriving in damaged cities, they tried to salvage important documents, art, and buildings. Their biggest role, however, was as art detectives endeavoring to locate the Nazi’s stash of hidden treasure, while racing against time. Although they didn’t serve on the front lines, booby traps, snipers, and other dangers made their mission risky—and even deadly. Complemented by rarely seen images of WWII, these amazing stories from history not only depict true heroes but also encourage readers to question the value of art throughout humanity and civilization. Monumental, indeed.

Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2018)
During World War II, a team of so-called Monuments Men was formed to search for and recover the enormous collection of art treasures that Hitler and his minions looted from museums, churches, and private collections all across Europe. The tale is focused on a small, although representative, number of the approximately 350 men (and women) who served up until 1951, locating hoards of some of the world’s best loved and most culturally significant art, much of it stashed in damp tunnels scattered across Germany. Edsel’s backstories of the 10 Monuments Men covered in the tale help breathe life into these scholarly—and highly driven—men. Although the war is presented mostly as a backdrop to their energetic detective work, enough information on the struggle is included to keep the quest in context and to remind readers that these unlikely soldiers were often in peril. Based primarily upon his adult work The Monuments Men (2009) along with two others on the same subject (Rescuing Da Vinci, 2006; Saving Italy, 2013), Edsel’s effort for younger readers is still lengthy. Numerous well-placed photographs (many more than in the adult version) are included and appear on most pages. Although the book is richly engaging and highly informative, its audience may be limited to those readers who already have some awareness of the extent of Nazi thievery and the nearly inconceivable danger the art was placed in. Figures profiled all seem to be white. Excellent backmatter is included. A high-interest work on an important topic. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Robert M. Edsel is the best-selling author of Saving ItalyThe Monuments Men and Rescuing da Vinci and co-producer of the award-winning documentary film The Rape of Europa. Edsel is also the founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation, a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, and a trustee at the National WWII Museum. After living in Florence for five years, he now resides in Dallas, Texas.

Her website is www.monumentsmenfoundation.org

Teacher Resources

The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History Educator’s Guide

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Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden. January 8, 2019. Bloomsbury YA, 272 p. ISBN: 9781681198071.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In a searing historical novel, Tonya Bolden illuminates post-Reconstruction America in an intimate portrait of a determined young woman who dares to seize the opportunity of a lifetime.

As a young black woman in 1880s Savannah, Essie’s dreams are very much at odds with her reality. Ashamed of her beginnings, but unwilling to accept the path currently available to her, Essie is trapped between the life she has and the life she wants.

Until she meets a lady named Dorcas Vashon, the richest and most cultured black woman she’s ever encountered. When Dorcas makes Essie an offer she can’t refuse, she becomes Victoria. Transformed by a fine wardrobe, a classic education, and the rules of etiquette, Victoria is soon welcomed in the upper echelons of black society in Washington, D. C. But when the life she desires is finally within her grasp, Victoria must decide how much of herself she is truly willing to surrender.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. In her follow-up to Crossing Ebenezer Creek​ (2017), Bolden explores what happened to those who survived that journey, through the character of Essie, a young black woman in 1880s Savannah, Georgia. When presented with the chance to start over, Essie becomes Victoria and moves to Baltimore to learn how to become a society lady, eventually ending up living the good life in Washington, D.C. Though she vows to say goodbye to her past, Victoria finds it’s easier said than done. The novel’s short introductory chapters give background to her story and invite readers into Victoria’s life, but their nonlinear arrangement can be hard to follow. Only after several flashbacks and flash-forwards does the book finally settle in real-time narration. The story, as described in Bolden’s author’s note, seeks to illuminate “an often-neglected aspect of black history: the black middle class and black aristocracy of the past.” The rich descriptions of people and life in early America will fascinate readers as the book introduces them to this widely overlooked population in history.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2018)
In 1880s Savannah, an African-American girl seizes the opportunity to enter a different life. Essie has many questions about the life she’s lived with her mother, her “aunties,” and the white men who visit, feeling closer to their cleaner, Ma Clara—but tough as life is, she knows it’s better than the times of slavery. It is Ma Clara who urges Essie’s Mamma to send her to school. When she leaves home for a housekeeping job, her mother furiously accuses Essie of snobbery, revealing that Essie’s father was a white Union soldier. At the boardinghouse, Essie does her tasks and delights in reading books from the parlor. A guest, Dorcas Vashon, takes an interest in Essie, offering her the chance to start a new life in Baltimore. The lessons that will turn Victoria, Essie’s new chosen name, into a member of the emerging African-American elite are demanding. She meets noteworthy figures such as Frederick Douglass, falls in love, and wonders if she can marry without revealing her past. This unique work seamlessly weaves aspects of black history into the detailed narrative. Essie’s desire for a life she can be proud of is palpable; as Victoria, she emerges as a fully realized character, a product of all her experiences. The depiction of Washington, D.C.’s African-American elite is rich and complex, never shying away from negatives such as colorism and social climbing. A compelling and significant novel. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Tonya Bolden is a critically acclaimed award-winning author/co-author/editor of more than two dozen books for young people. They include Finding Family which received two starred reviews and was a Kirkus Reviews and Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year; Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl, a Coretta Scott King honor book and James Madison Book Award winner; MLK: Journey of a King, winner of a National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children; Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty, an ALSC Notable Children’s Book, CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and winner of the NCSS Carter G. Woodson Middle Level Book Award. Tonya also received the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC’s Nonfiction Award. A Princeton University magna cum laude baccalaureate with a master’s degree from Columbia University, Tonya lives in New York City.

Her website is www.tonyaboldenbooks.com

Teacher Resources

Inventing Victoria on Common Sense Media

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Inventing Victoria on Amazon

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Inventing Victoria Publisher Page

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library Book by Susan Orlean. October 16, 2018. Simon Schuster, 310 p. ISBN: 9781476740188.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Libraries pulse with stories and not only those preserved in books. When creative nonfiction virtuoso Orlean (Rin Tin Tin, 2011) first visited Los Angeles’ Central Library, she was “transfixed.” Then she learned about the 1986 fire, which many believed was deliberately set and which destroyed or damaged more than one million books and shut the library down for seven years. Intrigued, Orlean embarked on an all-points research quest, resulting in this kaleidoscopic and riveting mix of true crime, history, biography, and immersion journalism. While her forensic account of the conflagration is eerily mesmerizing, Orlean is equally enthralling in her awestruck detailing of the spectrum of activities that fill a typical Central Library day, and in her profiles of current staff and former head librarians, including “brilliant and forceful” Tessa Kelso, who ran into censorship issues, and consummate professional Mary Jones, who was forced out in 1905 because the board wanted a man. Orlean widens the lens to recount the crucial roles public libraries have played in America and to marvel at librarians’ innovative and caring approaches to meeting diverse needs and cutting-edge use of digital technologies. She also attempts to fathom the truth about enigmatic Harry Peak, the prime arson suspect. Probing, prismatic, witty, dramatic, and deeply appreciative, Orlean’s chronicle celebrates libraries as sanctuaries, community centers, and open universities run by people of commitment, compassion, creativity, and resilience.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down. In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all. Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

About the Author

Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She is the author of seven books, including Rin Tin TinSaturday Night, and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award–winning film Adaptation. She lives with her family and her animals in upstate New York.

Her website is www.susanorlean.com

Teacher Resources

The Library Book Discussion Questions

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Standing Up Against Hate by Mary Cronk Farrell

Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Changed the Course of WWII by Mary Cronk Farrell. January 8, 2019. Harry N. Abrams, 208 p. ISBN: 9781419731600.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4.

Standing Up Against Hate tells the stories of the African American women who enlisted in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in World War II. They quickly discovered that they faced as many obstacles in the armed forces as they did in everyday life. However, they refused to back down. They interrupted careers and left family, friends, and loved ones to venture into unknown and sometimes dangerous territory. They survived racial prejudice and discrimination with dignity, succeeded in jobs women had never worked before, and made crucial contributions to the military war effort. The book centers around Charity Adams, who commanded the only black WAAC battalion sent overseas and became the highest ranking African American woman in the military by the end of the war. Along with Adams’s story are those of other black women who played a crucial role in integrating the armed forces. Their tales are both inspiring and heart-wrenching. The book includes a timeline, bibliography, and index.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 8))
Grades 5-8. Throughout history, women have often faced limited futures. Before WWII, most women were encouraged to get married and have children. Often, educated women were allowed careers only as teachers; for black women, teaching in underfunded segregated schools was a bleak, monotonous future. With war came opportunity: though they would not make rank or receive equal pay, women were encouraged to join the military, and they began bringing about a change in perception as to what women were capable of achieving. The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was begun to help usher in this new change, though, unfortunately, it brought about more problems—segregation and racism ran rampant among the officers and enlisted. Still, black women enlisted by the droves, leaving their children with relatives in order to build them a better future. Extensive back matter, which includes a time line and notes on the primary sources used, will help guide readers as they explore how black women took advantage of these opportunities to help drive integration forward. An adventurous ride through the history of black women pioneers.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2018)
African-American women fought for freedom at home and abroad as they served their country during World War II.When the United States Army found itself in need of personnel who could do work that would free men to report to combat, it established first the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps and then the Women’s Army Corps. Black leaders were already encouraging more wartime opportunities for African-Americans and sought to use this innovation to help end segregation. Civil rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune pushed for integration of the corps, but the country’s official “separate but equal” policy stood, although a quota of black women received officer’s training. The women who responded to the call were well familiar with the racial mores of the times, but the insults they endured hurt. Nevertheless, they worked and trained hard and put forth every effort to succeed, sometimes risking court martial for standing up for themselves. When they were called for overseas duty, the 6888th Central Postal Battalion performed their duties so well in Birmingham, England, that they went on to another assignment in France. Importantly, Farrell brings in the voices of the women, which provides clarity and understanding of what they experienced. She also highlights the role of black newspapers in keeping the community informed about the difficulties they often faced. The text is richly supported with archival photographs. The importance of this story is amplified by the inspiring forward by Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson, Army (Ret.), who makes a direct link between the determined struggles of those described and the achievements of African-American women in today’s U.S. military. The stories in this valuable volume are well worth knowing. (author’s note, glossary, timeline, source notes, bibliography; index and forward not seen) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

I’m an award-winning author of Children’s/YA books and former journalist with a passion for stories about people facing great adversity with courage. Writing such stories has shown me that in our darkest moments we have the opportunity to discover our true identity and follow an inner compass toward the greater good.

Both my fiction and non-fiction titles feature little-known true stories of history based on thorough research. Most include an author’s note, bibliography and further resources, but they are not dry, scholarly tomes! Confronting grief, adversity and failure in my own life, enables me to write stories with an authentic emotional core.

My books have been named Notable Social Studies Book for Young People, SPUR Award for Best Juvenile Fiction about the American West, Bank Street College List of Best Children’s Books, and NY Public Library Best Books for Teens. My journalistic work has received numerous awards for excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists and two Emmy nominations.

Her website is www.marycronkfarrell.net.

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