Tag Archives: history

Alexander Hamilton by Teri Kanefield

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

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

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

Related subjects and concepts discussed in the book include:

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

Government
Checks and Balances
Democracy
Electoral College
Republic

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

Miscellaneous
Demagogues
Dueling
Pastoralism

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

She lives in California near the beach.

Her website is www.terikanefield.com.

Teacher Resources

Alexander Hamilton “Grab and Go” Teaching Resources

Around the Web

Alexander Hamilton on Amazon

Alexander Hamilton on Goodreads

Alexander Hamilton on JLG

Alexander Hamilton Publisher Page

Eyes of the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

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

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

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Antisemitism

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Authors

Marc Aronson has won many awards for his books for young readers and has a doctorate in American history. His lectures cover educational topics such as mysteries and controversies in American history, teenagers and their reading, the literary passions of boys, and always leave audiences asking for more.

His website is www.marcaronson.com.

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

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

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

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

Her website is www.marinabudhos.com.

Around the Web

Eyes of the World on Amazon

Eyes of the World on Goodreads

Eyes of the World on JLG

Eyes of the World Publisher Page

The Whydah by Martin W. Sandler

The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Martin W. Sandler. March 14, 2017. Candlewick, 176 p. ISBN: 978076368036.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.7.

The exciting true story of the captaincy, wreck, and discovery of the Whydah — the only pirate ship ever found — and the incredible mysteries it revealed.

The 1650s to the 1730s marked the golden age of piracy, when fearsome pirates like Blackbeard ruled the waves, seeking not only treasure but also large and fast ships to carry it. The Whydah was just such a ship, built to ply the Triangular Trade route, which it did until one of the greediest pirates of all, Black Sam Bellamy, commandeered it. Filling the ship to capacity with treasure, Bellamy hoped to retire with his bounty — but in 1717 the ship sank in a storm off Cape Cod. For more than two hundred years, the wreck of the Whydah (and the riches that went down with it) eluded treasure seekers, until the ship was finally found in 1984 by marine archaeologists. The artifacts brought up from the ocean floor are priceless, both in value and in the picture they reveal of life in that much-mythologized era, changing much of what we know about pirates.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Harsh realities of slavery and the slave trade; Murder

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 6-9. In December 1716, pirates led by Sam Bellamy captured the Whydah, a large, fast, and heavily armed slave ship. Loaded with treasure, it was a rich prize. Four months later, it sank in a storm off Cape Cod. In the 1980s, a team searching for the Whydah located the wreck on the ocean floor and began bringing the ship’s bell, cannons, gold bars, coins, and other artifacts to the surface. Just as intriguing as the ship’s story is Sandler’s description of the causes and practices of piracy. While acknowledging that pirates deserve their reputation for barbarous cruelty, he praises their spirit of democracy, noting that their captains were elected and all crew members, regardless of race or ethnicity, had an equal vote in decisions. The black-and-white illustrations include archival prints, maps, and documents as well as photos of the excavation process and the objects recovered. Though the text branches into side issues at times, Sandler’s broad research and his evident fascination with the subject result in a multifaceted story that many readers will find rewarding.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
Sandler tells the exciting true story of the only wrecked pirate ship ever found and the mysteries it revealed. Commissioned in 1715 in London and christened the Whydah after the West African slave-trading kingdom of Ouidah, the vessel was a galley ship configured as a heavily armed trading and transport ship for the Atlantic slave trade. In February 1717, the Whydah was attacked by pirates under the command of “Black Sam” Bellamy, who made the vessel his flagship. Bellamy and his newly captured ship menaced the coastlines of Colonial America until it was wrecked two months after capture in a nor’easter along the shoals of Cape Cod. The treasure-laden wreck was found in 1984 by marine archaeologists, and Sandler explains that 30 years of expeditions have “resulted in the discovery and retrieval of thousands of artifacts that increase our knowledge of the Whydah’s history and dramatically alter our perception of pirates and their way of life.” Sandler offers an insightful look at how different the realities of pirate life were compared to how it has been mythologized in popular culture. Instead of finding eye patches, wooden legs, rum bottles, and parrot remains, archaeologists discovered artifacts such as medical syringes, surprising for “an age when medical knowledge and practice were primitive at best.” A fascinating, vivid look at what one shipwreck reveals about the realities of the “Golden Age of Piracy.” (maps, photos, source notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Martin W. Sandler has written more than seventy books for children and adults and has written and produced seven television series. He has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and has won multiple Emmy Awards. He lives in Massachusetts.

 

Teacher Resources

National Geographic Video:

The Whydah Lesson Plan

Around the Web

The Whydah on Amazon

The Whydah on Goodreads

The Whydah on JLG

The Whydah Publisher Page

Motor Girls by Sue Macy

Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly Into the Twentieth Century by Sue Macy. February 7, 2017. National Geographic Children’s Books, 96 p. ISBN: 9781426326981.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.8.

Come along for a joy ride in this enthralling tribute to the daring women Motor Girls, as they were called at the turn of the century who got behind the wheel of the first cars and paved the way for change. The automobile has always symbolized freedom, and in this book we meet the first generation of female motorists who drove cars for fun, profit, and to make a statement about the evolving role of women. From the advent of the auto in the 1890s to the 1920s when the breaking down of barriers for women was in full swing, readers will be delighted to see historical photos, art, and artifacts and to discover the many ways these progressive females influenced fashion, the economy, politics, and the world around them.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Publishers Weekly (November 14, 2016)
Macy builds on Wheels of Change, which examined the connections between women’s rights and the mobility offered by the bicycle, as she chronicles the history of the automobile and the paths that led women to become motorists. Against a backdrop of captivating archival photographs and excerpts from periodicals, she introduces several “Motor Girls” who made strides behind the wheel. In 1909, Alice Ramsey became the first woman to drive a car across the United States; she was followed by numerous other cross-country female drivers and racers. A section on WWI demonstrates how the war necessitated that women pilot ambulances and other automobiles, further solidifying that woman could, and wanted to, drive vehicles. Using the lens of automotive history to inform a greater narrative about women’s liberation, Macy capably shows how threads of the past are intertwined. Ages 10-up.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
Well-documented proof that, when it came to early automobiles, it wasn’t just men who took the wheel. Despite relentlessly flashy page design that is more distracting than otherwise and a faint typeface sure to induce eyestrain, this companion to Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (2011) chronicles decided shifts in gender attitudes and expectations as it puts women (American women, mostly) behind the wheel in the first decades of the 20th century. Sidebar profiles and features, photos, advertisements, and clippings from contemporary magazines and newspapers festoon a revved-up narrative that is often set in angular blocks for added drama. Along with paying particular attention to women who went on the road to campaign for the vote and drove ambulances and other motor vehicles during World War I, Macy recounts notable speed and endurance races, and she introduces skilled drivers/mechanics such as Alice Ramsey and Joan Newton Cuneo. She also diversifies the predominantly white cast with nods to Madam C.J. Walker, her daughter, A’Lelia (both avid motorists), and the wartime Colored Women’s Motor Corps. An intro by Danica Patrick, checklists of “motoring milestones,” and an extended account of an 1895 race run and won by men do more for the page count than the overall story—but it’s nonetheless a story worth the telling. Macy wheels out another significant and seldom explored chapter in women’s history. (index, statistics, source notes, annotated reading list) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

About the Author

Sue Macy is the award-winning author of Winning Ways: A Photohistory of American Women in Sports and A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Both were named ALA Best Books for Young Adults and NCSS-CBC Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies. She lives in Englewood, NJ.

Her website is www.suemacy.com.

 Around the Web

Motor Girls on Amazon

Motor Girls on Goodreads

Motor Girls on JLG

Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell

Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell. January 31, 2017. Chronicle Books, 260 p. ISBN: 9781452125909.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

From acclaimed author Patricia Hruby Powell comes the story of a landmark civil rights case, told in spare and gorgeous verse. In 1955, in Caroline County, Virginia, amidst segregation and prejudice, injustice and cruelty, two teenagers fell in love. Their life together broke the law, but their determination would change it. Richard and Mildred Loving were at the heart of a Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between races, and a story of the devoted couple who faced discrimination, fought it, and won.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Racism and racist language

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 7-10. Readers meet sixth-grader Mildred Jeter, known to her family as String Bean, walking to school in 1952. Descended from African slaves and Indians, the kids in the Jeter family attend segregated schools, though in their small, racially mixed rural Virginia community, all enjoy music and square dancing together. Richard Loving enters her life as a white friend of her older brothers. As the years go by and Mildred grows up, the couple’s story becomes one of love, courtship, marriage, tribulation, and triumph. The local sheriff hauls them off to jail in 1958 for violating a statute prohibiting interracial marriage. After court battles, the law is overturned in the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision known as Loving v. Virginia. Written in free verse, Powell’s novel unfolds in a series of concise, evocative first-person narratives alternating between Richard and Mildred. Placing their personal stories within the broader context of the major events of the civil rights movement happening at the time, occasional sections feature archival photos as well as significant quotes. Powell’s thorough research includes 10 interviews. Not seen in final form, Strickland’s expressive illustrations draw on a mid-twentieth-century style. Fine, dramatic storytelling in a memorable verse format.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2016)
A powerful and riveting account of an American couple in love when that love was ruled illegal in many American states.In the early 1950s a boy and a girl in rural Virginia fell in love and got married. Her family was “descended / from African slaves. / And their owners.” He was white. Their love was scorned and against the law in their state. The couple, Mildred and Richard Loving, alternate and sometimes join together to tell their stories in beautifully rendered free verse. Love, children, marriage, jail, flight to Washington, D.C., long court battles, and final unanimous vindication in 1967 from the Warren Supreme Court fill the pages, detailing every particle of their strong feelings for each other and the equally strong bigotry of the local sheriff and state judicial system. Full-page photographs of school segregation and civil rights demonstrations clearly set the time frame. Excerpts from court decisions, period headlines, and quotations from Dr. King strengthen the learning curve for readers. Strickland’s blue-, gray-, and yellow-toned illustrations have a strong retro feel and tenderly reinforce the written words. A song of love vs. a cacophony of hate—all in a beautiful model of bookmaking. (timeline, bibliography, credits and sources) (Historical verse fiction. 11-18)

About the Author

Patricia Hruby Powell’s previous book, Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, won a Sibert Honor for Nonfiction, a Coretta Scott King Honor, and five starred reviews. She lives in Illinois with her husband and tree walker hound, Lil.

Her website is talesforallages.com.

Teacher Resources

The Loving Story from Teaching Tolerance

Loving vs. Virginia Teaching Guide

Around the Web

Loving vs. Virginia on Amazon

Loving vs. Virginia on Goodreads

Loving vs. Virginia on JLG

Loving vs. Virginia Publisher Page

Krysia by Krystyna Mihulka

Krysia: A Polish Girl’s Stolen Childhood During World War II by Kystyna Mihulka. January 1, 2017. Chicago Review Press, 192 p. ISBN: 9781613734414.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

As German troops and bombs descended upon Poland, Krysia struggled to make sense of the wailing sirens, hushed adult conversations, and tearful faces of everyone around her. Within just days, the peaceful childhood she had known would disappear forever.

Krysia tells the story of one Polish girl’s harrowing experiences during World War II as her beloved father was forced into hiding, a Soviet soldier’s family took over her house, and finally as she and her mother and brother were forced at gunpoint from their once happy home and deported to a remote Soviet work farm in Kazakhstan.

Through vivid and stirring recollections Mihulka details their deplorable conditions—often near freezing in their barrack buried under mounds of snow, enduring starvation and illness, and witnessing death. But she also recalls moments of hope and tenderness as she, her mother, her brother, and other deportees drew close together, helped one another, and even held small celebrations in captivity. Throughout, the strength, courage, and kindness of Krysia’s mother, Zofia, saw them through until they finally found freedom.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Xenophobia; Harsh realities of war; Starvation

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 5-8. Krystyna Mihulka was only nine when Germany bombarded her hometown in eastern Poland; soon after, Russian Communists took over the territory. After her beloved father was forced into hiding, she and her mother and younger brother, deemed political prisoners, were herded onto a cattle car and sent to a work farm in rugged, remote Kazakhstan. Her mother’s gift for barter and the friendships of similarly afflicted families sustained them for two years of extreme hardship and near starvation. Mihulka, now in her late eighties, does her best to convey the experience as perceived by a young girl. Her narrative has undeniable value as a document. As a story intended for a young audience, it does at times fall short and may not effectively keep younger readers hooked. Still, this memoir has power and does the necessary work of prompting readers to try to imagine what it’s like to be among the millions of children undergoing similar upheavals in the war zones of today.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
A young girl endures life as a political prisoner.In 1939, when Krystyna “Krysia” Mihulka was 9, Russia invaded Poland. Her straightforward first-person narration, crafted with the assistance of Goddu, is convincingly childlike though not without the occasional poetic flair. She recounts how her lawyer father went into hiding and Krysia, her mother, and her brother were arrested and forced to leave their beloved home in Lwòw, Poland (now Liviv, Ukraine), and made to take the long, difficult journey to a prison camp in Kazakhstan. As to be expected, life was harsh, but with her mother’s hope and determination to keep her children alive, they survived and left Kazakhstan in 1941, when Germany invaded Russia and amnesty was granted to Polish political prisoners like Krysia and her family. Her mother secured passage to Uzbekistan, where they reunited with family, following which Krysia, her mother, and brother sailed for Persia (modern-day Iran), where they lived in a Polish refugee camp in Tehran. Told in an easy narrative style, Krysia’s story is accessible; she is someone for whom readers will feel empathy while learning about the removal of more than 1.5 million Poles from their homeland. Additional material includes an afterword; an epilogue outlining Krysia’s life from her arrival in Persia to her eventual settling in California in 1969, where she lives today; a map of her journey from Poland to Persia; a Polish pronunciation guide; and an author’s note.Elegant, eye-opening, and memorable. (Memoir. 10-15)

About the Author

Born in 1930, Krystyna Mihulka was deported from Poland to a remote village in Kazakhstan in 1940, where she lived as a political prisoner under Communist rule for nearly two years. After several years in refugee camps in Iran and Africa, she settled in Zambia, where she married and had three children. In 1969 she and her family migrated to the United States. She lives in Pleasant Hill, California, under her married name, Christine Tomerson.

 

Around the Web

Krysia on Amazon

Krysia on Goodreads

Krysia on JLG

Krysia Publisher Page

The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI’s Hunt for America’s Stolen Secrets by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee. November 1, 2016. Berkley, 304 p. ISBN: 9781592409006.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 1200.

The thrilling, true-life account of the FBI’s hunt for the ingenious traitor Brian Regan—known as the Spy Who Couldn’t Spell.

Before Edward Snowden’s infamous data breach, the largest theft of government secrets was committed by an ingenious traitor whose intricate espionage scheme and complex system of coded messages were made even more baffling by his dyslexia. His name is Brian Regan, but he came to be known as The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell.

In December of 2000, FBI Special Agent Steven Carr of the bureau’s Washington, D.C., office received a package from FBI New York: a series of coded letters from an anonymous sender to the Libyan consulate, offering to sell classified United States intelligence. The offer, and the threat, were all too real. A self-proclaimed CIA analyst with top secret clearance had information about U.S. reconnaissance satellites, air defense systems, weapons depots, munitions factories, and underground bunkers throughout the Middle East.

Rooting out the traitor would not be easy, but certain clues suggested a government agent with a military background, a family, and a dire need for money. Leading a diligent team of investigators and code breakers, Carr spent years hunting down a dangerous spy and his cache of stolen secrets.

In this fast-paced true-life spy thriller, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee reveals how the FBI unraveled Regan’s strange web of codes to build a case against a man who nearly collapsed America’s military security.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
In his first book, Bhattacharjee, who writes for Science, the New York Times, and the Atlantic, will leave readers wondering whether classified information from the U.S. government is always vulnerable to being sold, for the right price. Before Edward Snowden’s data breaching or Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, Brian Regan, a former American intelligence specialist, committed one of the most massive acts of espionage in American history, by selling U.S. classified and secret information to foreign governments. But, because Regan was arrested shortly before September 11, 2001, Bhattacharjee argues, his extraordinary story has never fully been told. Bhattacharjee now writes the true tale of the dyslexic man who became known as “the spy who couldn’t spell” and the FBI special agent who, along with a team of experts, identified Regan’s illegal activities, tracked his steps, and broke into his coded messages and letters (which were often riddled with misspellings). Readers interested in spy thrillers, cybercryptology, and the history of U.S. espionage will find this book to be both entertaining and helpful in understanding today’s complex landscape of leaked classified information.

Publishers Weekly (September 19, 2016)
Journalist Bhattacharjee skillfully touches all the bases in recounting the story of Brian Regan, who pilfered reams of top secret information from his job at the National Reconnaissance Office and offered to sell them to foreign governments. Regan stole more secrets than Edward Snowden would over a decade later, but few have heard of him because he was quickly caught and imprisoned. Bhattacharjee covers Regan’s unsatisfactory life. He was mired in debt and unpopular at the NRO. In 1999, after studying the techniques of other spies, Regan concocted a bizarre scheme. The result: in 2000 the Libyan consulate received three separate letters containing a sample of secret documents and pages of codes that, when deciphered, described his offer. Sadly for Regan, an informant forwarded them to the FBI, who soon identified him through bad spelling and several clumsy errors. Regan’s arrest was straightforward. Far more difficult was recovering his immense buried cache of documents and other materials, because he had forgotten many of the complex codes needed to locate them. Readers may skim the explanations of Regan’s codes, but they will thoroughly enjoy this fast-moving account of a failed spy who, despite his incompetence, easily filched thousands of secrets.

About the Author

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is an award-winning writer whose features and essays on espionage, cybercrime, science and medicine have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Wired and other U.S. magazines. Yudhijit spent 11 years as a staff writer at the weekly journal Science, writing about neuroscience, astronomy and a variety of other topics in research and science policy. His work has been anthologized in the Best American Science and Nature Writing series. Yudhijit has an undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and a master’s in journalism from The Ohio State University. He lives in a suburb of Washington, D.C., with his wife, his two children and a big red dog.

His website is www.yudhijit.com.

Around the Web

The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell on Amazon

The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell on Goodreads

The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell on JLG

The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell Publisher Page

We Will Not Be Silent by Russell Freedman

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman. May 3, 2016. Clarion Books, 112 p. ISBN: 9780544223790.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.7; Lexile: 630.

In his signature eloquent prose, backed up by thorough research, Russell Freedman tells the story of Austrian-born Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie. They belonged to Hitler Youth as young children, but began to doubt the Nazi regime. As older students, the Scholls and a few friends formed the White Rose, a campaign of active resistance to Hitler and the Nazis. Risking imprisonment or even execution, the White Rose members distributed leaflets urging Germans to defy the Nazi government. Their belief that freedom was worth dying for will inspire young readers to stand up for what they believe in. Archival photographs and prints, source notes, bibliography, index.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Anti-Semitism; Reference to sex; Euthanasia and genocide; Graphic photograph; Beheading

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2016)
In the heart of Germany, a student resistance movement called the White Rose took a courageous stand to denounce the Nazis. “They could have chosen to throw bombs,” but the young members of the White Rose chose to oppose Nazi Germany with printed words. The clandestine student activists, including Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst, wrote leaflets decrying Nazi atrocities, urging German citizens to resist the Nazi government, and denouncing the Nazi “dictatorship of evil.” Cranking out thousands of mimeographed leaflets at night in a secret cellar, the students proclaimed to Nazi leaders, “We are your bad conscience,” imperiling their lives. Among the wealth of good Holocaust literature available, Freedman’s volume stands out for its focus and concision, effectively placing the White Rose in its historical context, telling the story of Nazi Germany without losing the focus on the White Rose, and doing so in just over 100 pages. Archival photographs are effectively integrated into the text, and the typeface at times resembles the typewriter’s text on mimeographed leaflets, a nice design choice. The selected bibliography includes volumes for young readers and the superb German-language film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005). A thorough and accessible introduction to the Holocaust and the students who dared to take a stand against evil. (source notes, picture credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Publishers Weekly (February 8, 2016)
Freedman (Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain) illuminates a small but powerful student movement that used a secretive leaflet campaign to oppose Hitler’s regime. Siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl and a few of their like-minded friends at the University of Munich began the White Rose resistance: “All of them were repelled by what was happening in Germany. They yearned to speak freely, to be entirely themselves again.” Nine chapters with titles such as “Rumblings of Doubt” and ” ‘We Are Your Bad Conscience’ ” (wording aimed at Hitler from the fourth leaflet) depict how the Scholls started out as Hitler Youth and gradually became disenchanted with the Nazis’ monolithic message of conformity and hate. Thoroughly researched, with numerous archival photos, this well-told story of the White Rose opposition unfolds chronologically and with building suspense. From the Scholls’ childhood in Nazi Germany to their eventual executions and the legacy of their daring acts of nonviolence, Freedman seamlessly places their story within the larger context of WWII. Source notes, a bibliography, and an index complete this inspiring historical narrative. Ages 10-12. (May)

About the Author

Russell Freedman is the award-winning author of 47 books, some of which have been translated into a diverse number of languages, including Japanese, Korean, German, Spanish, Flemish, Arabic and Bengali. But Freedman wasn’t always a children’s book writer.

He grew up in San Francisco and attended the University of California, Berkeley, and then worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press and as a publicity writer. In these jobs, Freedman did lots of research and provided important information to the public. Since becoming an author, he has done the same thing — but now he gets to focus on topics that he is personally interested in and wants to learn more about.

His nonfiction books range in subject from the lives and behaviors of animals to people in history whose impact is still felt today. Freeedman’s work has earned him several awards, including a Newbery Medal in 1994 for Lincoln: a Photobiography, a Newbery Honor each for Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery in 1994 and The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane in 1992, and a Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal.

Russell Freedman now lives in New York City.

Teacher Resources

White Rose Student Movement Materials and Activities

White Rose Lesson Plan

Around the Web

We Will Not Be Silent on Amazon

We Will Not Be Silent on Goodreads

We Will Not Be Silent on JLG

We Will Not Be Silent Publisher Page

Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific by Deborah Hopkinson

Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific by Deborah Hopkinson. September 27, 2016. Scholastic Press, 384p. ISBN: 9780545425582.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 7.7; Lexile: 1090.

Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific tells the incredible story of America’s little known “war within a war” — US submarine warfare during World War II.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US entered World War II in December 1941 with only 44 Naval submarines — many of them dating from the 1920s. With the Pacific battleship fleet decimated after Pearl Harbor, it was up to the feisty and heroic sailors aboard the US submarines to stop the Japanese invasion across the Pacific.

Including breakouts highlighting submarine life and unsung African-American and female war heroes, award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson uses first-person accounts, archival materials, official Naval documents, and photographs to bring the voices and exploits of these brave service members to life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violent images and imagery; Harsh realities of war

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 19))
Grades 5-8. Hopkinson’s gripping account of submarine warfare in the Pacific during WWII begins with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, as told through the eyes of 15-year-old Martin Matthews, who lied about his age to enlist in the U.S. Navy. As battleships were repaired, undamaged submarines with torpedoes became lone raiders in a vast ocean, decimating Japanese ships and cutting off lines of supply. Although Hopkinson (Courage & Defiance, 2015) continues her tried-and-true format of revealing history through firsthand accounts—ranging from a submariner and communications officer to an admiral and rescued nurse—she keeps it fresh with harrowing near misses, attacks, accidents, and rescues. Readers wait anxiously alongside crew members amid silence and dangerous heat and oxygen levels as the submariners narrowly escape enemy detection or brace for depth charge explosions that rattle bones, fray nerves, and signal possible death. An abundance of archival photos provide visual references, while short asides fill in gaps on such submarine-related topics as the treatment of African American crew members, the modern integration of female officers into the Submarine Force, and on-board living conditions—from bathrooms to ice-cream machines. Copious back matter provides even more facts and figures. With a fascinating blend of submarine mechanics and tales of courage, readers will dive in deep.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 1, 2016)
Hopkinson’s writing plumbs the depths in relating the undersea exploits of American submariners during World War II. “The U.S. Navy fought the Pacific Ocean phase of World War II on a liquid chessboard,” according to Adm. Bernard A. Clarey, and while sailors and battleships island-hopped across the Pacific, the “Silent Service” of gallant submariners lurked below the surface, facing what naval historian Theodore Roscoe called “the overwhelming forces of the Unknown.” With an emphasis on first-person accounts—such as that of 15-year-old Martin Matthews, a young white man who lied about his age and joined the Navy just in time to be on the Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor—Hopkinson crafts a gripping narrative. It’s supplemented with three types of interspersed text: “briefings” with information about the war (including a section on African-American submariners), “dispatches” offering stories of interest and first-person accounts, and “submarine school,” about submarines and submariners. Numerous dramatic black-and-white photographs offer a parallel visual story. Told chronologically, from Pearl Harbor through the end of the war, with frequent news reports from above the surface, such as engrossing accounts of Bataan and Corregidor, the fascinating volume serves as a solid history of the war in the Pacific. Extensive backmatter includes a glossary, a timeline, facts and statistics about submarines, and links to resources. Fascinating World War II history for history buffs and browsers alike. (epilogue, bibliography, source notes) (Nonfiction. 8-14)

About the Author

Deborah Hopkinson is as award-winning of picture books, fiction, and nonfiction for young readers. In 2013 she received a Robert F. Sibert Honor and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award honor for Titanic: Voices from the Disaster.

She has won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text twice, for A Band of Angels and Apples to Oregon. Sky Boys, How They Built the Empire State Building, was a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor awardee. She lives near Portland, Oregon.

Her website is www.deborahhopkinson.com.

Teacher Resources

Submarines Lesson Plans

WWII Pacific Theater Lesson Plans from The National WWII Museum

WWII: The Pacific Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific on Amazon

Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific on Goodreads

Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific on JLG

Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific Publisher Page

 

The March Against Fear by Ann Bausum

The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power by Ann Bausum. January 3, 2017. National Geographic Children’s Books, 144 p. ISBN: 9781426326660.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1140.

James Meredith’s 1966 march in Mississippi began as one man’s peaceful protest for voter registration and became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. It brought together leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael, who formed an unlikely alliance that resulted in the Black Power movement, which ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

The retelling of Meredith’s story opens on the day of his assassination attempt and goes back in time to recount the moments leading up to that event and its aftermath. Readers learn about the powerful figures and emerging leaders who joined the over 200-mile walk that became known as the “March Against Fear.”

Thoughtfully presented by award-winning author Ann Bausum, this book helps readers understand the complex issues of fear, injustice, and the challenges of change. It is a history lesson that’s as important and relevant today as it was 50 years ago.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Racism and racist epithets; Violent images; Harsh realities of slavery

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. Ask typical high-school students about the American civil rights movement, and many will mention Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech. What they may not be so familiar with are the other influential individuals and momentous events that shaped the cause. This account of 1966’s 200-mile freedom march from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi, written in accessible language and peppered with quotes and period photos that bring the action alive, tells how this momentous effort, initiated by James Meredith, united the five factions of the civil rights movement: the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; the Congress of Racial Equality; the National Urban League; the NAACP; and Stokely Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Chronological coverage conveys the fear and danger participants faced and documents Carmichael’s first use of the term black power. The brief chapters build on one another, creating a complete picture for readers with limited background knowledge. This compelling account will be equally engaging for classroom resource material or individual research.

Publishers Weekly (November 7, 2016)
In a powerful and timely book, Bausum (Stonewall) focuses her attention on the last great march of the civil rights era, the March Against Fear, from Memphis, Tenn., to Jackson, Miss., in June 1966. Initiated by James Meredith in an effort to make Mississippi a less fearful place for black Americans, the march swelled to 15,000 people and resulted in 4,000 black Mississippian voter registrations; it also splintered the major civil rights organizations of the day and gave rise to Stokely Carmichael’s Black Power movement. Bausum dissects these internal divisions with great sensitivity, lauding Martin Luther King Jr.’s peacemaking powers while illuminating the conditions that provoked others to more confrontational protest. Abundant details disclose the extent of segregation and racism, the pivotal role of law enforcement authorities, and how fraught protecting the marchers could be: state troopers used tear gas and physical assault to “suppress an act of racial defiance” when marchers tried to pitch their tents on public land. This exemplary look into civil rights history concludes with perspective and encouragement regarding ongoing struggles for social change. Archival photos and source notes are included. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)

About the Author

Ann Bausum writes about U.S. history for young people from her home in Beloit, Wisconsin. Her 2007 book Muckrakers earned the Golden Kite Award as best nonfiction book of the year from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Freedom Riders (2006) gained Sibert Honor designation from the American Library Association and With Courage and Cloth (2004) received the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award as the year’s best book on social justice issues for older readers. In addition, Ann has written about the nation’s chief executives and their spouses — Our Country’s Presidents (2005, 2nd edition) and Our Country’s First Ladies (2007) — as well as the intrepid explorer Roy Chapman Andrews (Dragon Bones and Dinosaur Eggs, 2000).

Her website is www.AnnBausum.com.

Teacher Resources

50th Anniversary of the March Against Fear

James Meredith Talks  about his 1966 March Against Fear

When Youth Protest

Around the Web

The March Against Fear on Amazon

The March Against Fear on JLG

The March Against Fear on Goodreads