Tag Archives: history

Brazen by Pénélope Bagieu

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu. March 6, 2018. First Second, 304 p. ISBN: 9781626728684.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 770.

Throughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit.

With her characteristic wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. Step aside Susan B. Anthony and Joan of Arc! French graphic novelist Bagieu’s (California Dreamin’, 2017) latest turns standard feminist anthology fare on its head, introducing 29 lesser-known ladies of various backgrounds, time periods, skin colors, and sexualities. Kicking off with Clémentine Delait, a beloved bearded lady in early twentieth-century France, and concluding with Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space, Bagieu’s vivacious collection spotlights rebels such as Las Mariposas (revolutionary sisters!), Sonita Alizadeh (Afghan rapper!), and Nobel Peace Prize–winning Leymah Gbowee (Liberian activist!) along the way. Bagieu’s writing is clever and concise, and panels brim with sly subtleties; Bagieu delivers laugh-out-loud one-liners in bitsy speech bubbles, and summons tragedy with no words at all, and her fine-lined figures are by turns playfully expressive, fierce, and reverent. Additionally, each profile employs its own distinct color palette; Bagieu’s segment on Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson, for example, heavily features the bold blues, greens, yellows, and reds of Jansson’s signature Moomin comics. Bagieu’s dedication to Syrian activist Naziq al-Abid folds in the colors of the country’s flag. This dynamic paean to women’s flair for fearless resistance will have readers happily sifting through history—and tackling the future with renewed verve. Rock on, ladies.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2018)
This French graphic novel offers a satisfying collection of minibiographies about bold women—some contemporary, others from centuries ago—who overcame fearsome odds to achieve a variety of goals, becoming the first black woman in space, a rapper in Afghanistan, a pioneering volcanologist, and more.The lives of 33 women of varying geographical, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds are highlighted in about 10 pages each of colorful, expressive, and often humorous cartoon panels—enough to serve as a catalyst for learning more. Some names are relatively recognizable, such as Temple Grandin and Nellie Bly, while others may be less so, such as Las Mariposas, Dominican sisters who became revolutionaries and human rights activists; Naziq al-Abid, a Syrian humanitarian and feminist; Agnodice, a fourth-century B.C.E. Athenian who disguised herself as a man in order to practice gynecology; and Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian social worker who escaped an abusive marriage and assisted other female survivors of violence. Bagieu delivers a pièce de résistance that succinctly summarizes the obstacles and victories of these daring women. Insightful and clever, at times infuriating and disheartening, this serves as a reminder that the hardships women face today have been shared—and overcome—by many others. (Graphic collective biography. 14-18)

About the Author

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

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

Her website is www.penelope-jolicoeur.com.

Around the Web

Brazen on Amazon

Brazen on Goodreads

Brazen Publisher Page

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Renoir’s Dancer by Catherine Hewitt

Renoir’s Dancer: The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon  by Catherine Hewitt. February 27, 2018. St. Martin’s Press, 480 p. ISBN: 9781250157652.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 1170.

Catherine Hewitt’s richly told biography of Suzanne Valadon, the illegitimate daughter of a provincial linen maid who became famous as a model for the Impressionists and later as a painter in her own right.

In the 1880s, Suzanne Valadon was considered the Impressionists’ most beautiful model. But behind her captivating façade lay a closely-guarded secret.

Suzanne was born into poverty in rural France, before her mother fled the provinces, taking her to Montmartre. There, as a teenager Suzanne began posing for—and having affairs with—some of the age’s most renowned painters. Then Renoir caught her indulging in a passion she had been trying to conceal: the model was herself a talented artist.

Some found her vibrant still lifes and frank portraits as shocking as her bohemian lifestyle. At eighteen, she gave birth to an illegitimate child, future painter Maurice Utrillo. But her friends Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas could see her skill. Rebellious and opinionated, she refused to be confined by tradition or gender, and in 1894, her work was accepted to the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, an extraordinary achievement for a working-class woman with no formal art training.

Renoir’s Dancer tells the remarkable tale of an ambitious, headstrong woman fighting to find a professional voice in a male-dominated world.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong sexual themes, Alcohol

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Hewitt (The Mistress of Paris: The 19th-Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret, 2017) continues her mission to tell the stories of covertly powerful, yet overlooked French women in this step-by-step, swerve-by-swerve biography of the artist’s model and muse, “revolutionary” artist, and mother of an artist, Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938). A wildly impulsive country girl who loved to draw, she was raised by her determined single mother, a hotel maid who boldly brought them to Paris, where beautiful and talented Valadon modeled for prominent artists and became one of few women artists whose work was shown in prestigious exhibitions. Valadon, who “danced to no one’s tune but her own” and reveled in Montmartre café life, provides Hewitt with a glorious cast, including Renoir, van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Degas—ardent champions of Valadon’s work—and André Utter, Valadon’s much younger husband. Valadon lived a life of ceaseless tumult and trauma as her son (father unknown), a prodigy burdened with afflictions exacerbated by alcoholism, lurched from crisis to crisis, even as he attained fame and wealth as Maurice Utrillo, the great painter of Parisian street scenes. Hewitt’s straight-ahead telling of Valadon’s dramatic, many-faceted story captures this artist of “honesty and passion,” this “matriarch of creative rebellion and gutsy expressivity,” with precision, narrative drive, and low-key awe.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2017)
Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938) may not be a name most people mention when they discuss great artists. This biography should change that.One might wonder how Valadon, whom Hewitt (The Mistress of Paris: The 19th-Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret, 2015) describes in this excellent biography as having “revolutionized the art world and irreversibly altered the place of women within that world,” hasn’t received more widespread recognition. One reason is that Valadon adhered to no school of painting; another is that she was “a victim of the company she kept.” Some may think of her only as the mother of cityscape painter Maurice Utrillo or the model who inspired Renoir’s Dance at Bougival and The Large Bathers or the muse of Toulouse-Lautrec. Born in rural France to a linen maid and a father she never knew, Valadon moved to Montmartre with her mother and sister after her father died. When she was older, she frequented clubs like Le Chat Noir, where young artists discussed their desire to depict “contemporary life, the sweat and odour of real men and women.” A self-taught artist, she started as a nude model. But when Edgar Degas saw her secret drawings, he said, “you are one of us,” and helped her become the first woman painter to have works accepted into the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Hewitt chronicles Valadon’s romances and her difficulties in raising Maurice, whose childhood fits led to his lifelong battle with alcoholism. More importantly, the author demonstrates that Valadon’s works were revolutionary not just because of her style—“sharp, almost crude contours,” with the use of single lines for profiles—but because of the subject matter, such as children who, far from looking like the cosseted offspring of impressionist works, were naked, awkward, and “lonely, so incredibly lonely.” Hewitt sums up Valadon’s achievement perfectly: “Other artists showed what viewers wanted to see. Suzanne showed them what was true.” A well-researched tribute to and resurrection of a master of fin de siècle art.

About the Author

Catherine Hewitt studied French Literature and Art History at Royal Holloway, University of London and the Courtauld Institute of Art. Her proposal for her first book, The Mistress of Paris, was awarded the runner-up’s prize in the 2012 Biographers’ Club Tony Lothian Competition for the best proposal by an uncommissioned, first-time biographer.

She lives in a village in Surrey. Her website is www.catherinehewitt.co.uk

Around the Web

Renoir’s Dancer on Amazon

Renoir’s Dancer on Goodreads

Renoir’s Dancer Publisher Page

Votes for Women! by Winifred Conkling

Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling. February 13, 2018. Algonquin Young Readers, 312 p. ISBN: 9781616207342.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1100.

For nearly 150 years, American women did not have the right to vote. On August 18, 1920, they won that right, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified at last. To achieve that victory, some of the fiercest, most passionate women in history marched, protested, and sometimes even broke the law—for more than eight decades.

From Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who founded the suffrage movement at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, to Sojourner Truth and her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech, to Alice Paul, arrested and force-fed in prison, this is the story of the American women’s suffrage movement and the private lives that fueled its leaders’ dedication. Votes for Women! explores suffragists’ often powerful, sometimes difficult relationship with the intersecting temperance and abolition campaigns, and includes an unflinching look at some of the uglier moments in women’s fight for the vote.

By turns illuminating, harrowing, and empowering, Votes for Women! paints a vibrant picture of the women whose tireless battle still inspires political, human rights, and social justice activism.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Domestic violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 7-10. Looking for a comprehensive, well-written history of women’s fight for the right to vote? You’ve found it. Conkling draws readers in with the dramatic story of how the nineteenth amendment’s ratification came down to a Tennessee state congressman who voted yes—because his mother told him to! She then goes on to detail—in great detail—how women’s suffrage evolved; the way the movement fought side by side, and then sometimes against, abolitionists; the prejudice, often topped with scorn and incredulity, that the suffrage movement suffered; and the incredible inventiveness, tenacity, and bravery it took to finally get women the right to vote. This history is filled with women who stepped up, most notably movement architects Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Their enduring friendship (as well as their philosophical difference) is highlighted here. But other fascinating supporting characters, like flamboyant Victoria Woodhull and clear-headed Lucretia Mott, as well as many others, get their due. Illustrated with photographs and historical memorabilia, this is great for research as well as a good read.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2017)
Spanning multiple centuries, this work may be the most comprehensive account for young readers about the founders, leaders, organizers, and opponents of the American suffragist movement. Conkling takes readers back to a time when giving birth to a girl elicited sighs of pity. Women did not have the right to own property, could not enter into contracts or sign legal documents, could not keep their wages, had limited options for work, and had few legal rights overall. Over half of this thorough account focuses on the first wave of the suffragist movement, exploring the lives—personal and activist—of key players; coverage of the second wave moves faster, as women protest nonviolently, march, picket in silence, and endure unjust prison sentences. From hunger strikes to cruel and deplorable jail conditions, women endured much to get Congress to consider their vote. History buffs won’t be surprised when reading about the multiple occasions in which suffragists would put their needs before others’, getting tangled in racial and class tensions with abolitionists and African-Americans who were fighting for similar rights. With black-and-white portraits, newspaper clippings, historical renderings, and photographs interspersed, the well-documented narrative is propelled by diary and autobiography accounts, speeches, newspaper articles, and conventions and court records. Almost a century after women’s right to vote was secured, Conkling delivers a tour de force—fairly neutral, at times infuriating, occasionally graphic, and reminiscent of disturbing news today. (selected sources, timeline, bibliography, notes) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Winifred Conkling studied journalism at Northwestern University and spent the next 25 years writing non-fiction for adult readers, including for Consumer Reports magazine and more than 30 books. As part of her transition to writing for young people, she is working toward her Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Her website is www.winifredconkling.com.

Teacher Resources

Women’s Suffrage Lesson Plans from the Library of Congress

Around the Web

Votes for Women! on Amazon

Votes for Women! on Goodreads

Votes for Women! Publisher Page

Bad Princess by Kris Waldherr

Bad Princess: True Tales from Behind the Tiara by Kris Waldherr. January 30, 2018. Scholastic Nonfiction, 128 p. ISBN: 9781338047981.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 1030.

Forget everything you thought you knew about princesses…

Welcome to Bad Princess by Kris Waldherr (author of Doomed Queens), where you’ll discover what really happens after “Happily Ever After.” From the war-torn Dark Ages of Medieval Europe to America’s Gilded Age, and all the way up to Kate Middleton, Bad Princess explores more than 30 true princess stories, going beyond the glitz and glamour to find out what life was really like for young royals throughout history.
A mix of royal biography, pop culture, art, style, and pure fun, Bad Princess is a whip-smart, tongue-in-cheek spin on the traditional princess narrative, proving that it takes more than a pretty crown to be a great leader.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Irreverent humor

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 4-7. Packed with history and context, Waldherr uses an animated, well-rounded approach in this engaging look at princesses in life and lore. After an introduction exploring why princesses remain a source of fascination and influence, subsequent chapters present stories of princesses to examine what being a princess means, including their various characteristics and roles through time, stereotypes and controversies, and ever afters, happy and otherwise. Readers are introduced to sixth-century “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Báthory; opportunistic “Dollar Princesses,” who sought status by marrying royalty; and others who were political pawns, subservient heir-bearers, or depicted as damsels in distress. Along with these, Waldherr also profiles a diverse array of compellingly strong, self-determined princesses who challenged the status quo and endeavored to enact positive change and empower others, like modern-day Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini of Swaziland. The conversational tone, droll commentary, and up-to-date pop-culture references (Disney, natch) make for vibrant, engaging reading, and the lively layout, incorporating sidebars, factoids, and tongue-in-cheek illustrations, further enhance the pages. This absorbing, thought-provoking, and intriguing exploration of a perennially popular topic will both entertain and inform.

Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2017)
The author of Doomed Queens (2008) examines “princess backlash” and asks: what makes a princess?Vignettes about royals (primarily European) collected under wry chapter headings such as “Princess Wars,” “Those Revolting Royals,” and “When the Tiara Doesn’t Fit” will leave youngsters reeling. Love is not certain, nor are riches. Waldherr’s storytelling voice strikes a fine balance between snarky and sympathetic. Many princesses were political pawns, such as Lucrezia Borgia. Elizabeth Báthory of Slovakia, an accused serial killer, was “bad to the bone.” Some, most notably Princess Diana, got bad deals. Even European fairy-tale princesses such as Snow White and the Little Mermaid endured hardships, even horrors. Readers will marvel that anyone’s able to sell the myth of the happily-ever-after princess. Quotes, factoids, illustrations, and photographs complete the compendium and bring youngsters up to the current day, showing them that princesses willing to take the rei[g]ns can, in fact, achieve success. Modern-day examples of royalty include Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini of Swaziland and Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai, reflecting a more diverse mix of women who embody a new stricture all readers can embrace: “A princess can change the world.” Power to the princesses, right on! (further reading) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Kris Waldherr is an award-winning author and illustrator whose books for adults and children include Bad PrincessDoomed Queens, and The Book of Goddesses. The New Yorker praised Doomed Queens as “utterly satisfying” and “deliciously perverse.” The Book of Goddesses was a One Spirit/Book-of-the-Month Club’s Top Ten Most Popular Book. Her picture book Persephone and the Pomegranate was noted by the New York Times Book Review for its “quality of myth and magic.” Waldherr is also the creator of the Goddess Tarot, which has a quarter of a million copies in print.

Her website is www.kriswaldherr.com

Around the Web

Bad Princess on Amazon

Bad Princess on Goodreads

Bad Princess Publisher Page

Very, Very, Very Dreadful by Albert Marrin

Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 by Albert Marrin. January 9, 2018. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 208 p. ISBN: 9781101931479.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1040.

From National Book Award finalist Albert Marrin comes a fascinating look at the history and science of the deadly 1918 flu pandemic–and the chances for another worldwide pandemic.

In spring of 1918, World War I was underway, and troops at Fort Riley, Kansas, found themselves felled by influenza. By the summer of 1918, the second wave struck as a highly contagious and lethal epidemic and within weeks exploded into a pandemic, an illness that travels rapidly from one continent to another. It would impact the course of the war, and kill many millions more soldiers than warfare itself.

Of all diseases, the 1918 flu was by far the worst that has ever afflicted humankind; not even the Black Death of the Middle Ages comes close in terms of the number of lives it took. No war, no natural disaster, no famine has claimed so many. In the space of eighteen months in 1918-1919, about 500 million people–one-third of the global population at the time–came down with influenza. The exact total of lives lost will never be known, but the best estimate is between 50 and 100 million.

In this powerful book, filled with black and white photographs, nonfiction master Albert Marrin examines the history, science, and impact of this great scourge–and the possibility for another worldwide pandemic today.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. Acclaimed for incisive explorations of America’s bleakest moments, from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (Flesh & Blood So Cheap, 2011) to WWII-era Japanese internment camps (Uprooted, 2016), Marrin homes in on the “most deadly disease event in the history of humanity.” Raging from early 1918 to mid-1920, the influenza pandemic, aptly dubbed the “devil virus,” crescendoed in three lethal waves, spanned continents, and claimed an estimated 50- to 100-million lives worldwide. In six riveting chapters, Marrin examines the virus’s precursors, including past plagues and prior medical breakthroughs, its aftermath, and its festering backdrop—the congested trenches and training camps of WWI. While the pandemic’s scope is broad and undiscerning, Marrin’s approach is the opposite. With razor-sharp precision, he carefully presents genetic mutations, coffin shortages, the disease’s devastating grip on colonized Africa, the direct correlation between women working as nurses and the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, and much more. Marrin’s conclusion, too, pulls no punches; after all, when it comes to future pandemics, it’s not a matter of if one will occur, but when. Fusing hard science and “jump-rope rhymes,” first-person accounts and crystalline prose, cold reason and breathtaking sensitivity, Marrin crafts an impeccably researched, masterfully told, and downright infectious account—complete with lurid black-and-white photos throughout. This is nonfiction at its best.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
A comprehensive history of the influenza pandemic of 1918, the worst global killer that humankind has experienced. Historian Marrin (Uprooted, 2016, etc.) begins four years earlier, at the beginning of World War I. Liberally referencing research, partial statistics, diaries, medical records, newspaper articles, art, photographs, poetry, song, and literature, Marrin works to give an accurate depiction of the circumstances and ill-timed incidents that led to the global catastrophe, which killed at least three times as many people as the war worldwide. The author does not neglect the squalor around the globe: ill soldiers in trenches and overcrowded barracks, suffering families, orphaned children, hunger and undernourishment, and deaths so numerous that bodies are stacked upon bodies. Marrin reveals how scientists and doctors knew little about influenza a century ago, as surgeons and physicians didn’t practice routine hygiene or quarantine and were often rendered helpless; in fact, he argues (albeit briefly) that nurses turned out to be most useful against influenza, for they provided supportive care. He then brings the eye-opening narrative to the present, detailing the search for the origins of influenza; recent scientific breakthroughs; the emergence of the H5N1 strain; and how, without intending to, scientists have brought the virus to a risky, imminent pandemic. Not one to shy away from unnerving details, Marrin relays what researchers and scientist express today: another influenza pandemic will unquestionably strike again. (notes, bibliography, further reading, picture credits, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Albert Marrin is an award winning author of over 40 books for young adults and young readers and four books of scholarship. These writings were motivated by the fact that as a teacher, first in a junior high school in New York City for nine years and then as professor of history and chairman of the history department at Yeshiva University until he retired to become a full time writer, his paramount interest has always been to make history come alive and accessible for young people.

Winner of the 2008 National Endowment for Humanities Medal for his work, which was presented at the White House, was given “for opening young minds to the glorious pageant of history. His books have made the lessons of the past come alive with rich detail and energy for a new generation.”

His website is www.albertmarrin.com.

Teacher Resources

Great Pandemic Resource Lists

Around the Web

Very, Very, Very Dreadful on Amazon

Very, Very, Very Dreadful on Goodreads

Very, Very, Very Dreadful Publisher Page

 

Facing Frederick by Tonya Bolden

Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden. January 9, 2018. Harry N. Abrams, 208 p. ISBN: 9781419725463.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.6.

Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) is best known for the telling of his own emancipation. But there is much more to Douglass’s story than his time spent enslaved and his famous autobiography. Facing Frederick captures the whole complicated, and at times perplexing, person that he was. Statesman, suffragist, writer, and newspaperman, this book focuses on Douglass the man rather than the historical icon.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 7-12. Most folks know Frederick Douglass as an escaped slave turned abolitionist. Bolden’s insightful and impeccably researched biography reveals, instead, a multifaceted man who would travel many paths and constantly redefine himself. And instead of commencing with Douglass’ life as a slave, as many biographies do, this account begins after his escape, as he becomes one of the most in-demand speakers for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and launches his place in history as a great orator against the “twin monsters of darkness,” slavery and racism. It balances Douglass’ personal and financial successes and accolades with his frustrations, controversies, and setbacks, which only encouraged him to question the Constitution and fight harder for freedom, racial justice, and women’s suffrage. Framing the biography are more than a dozen photographs of Douglass from his early twenties to just before his death at age 77, with a note explaining his love for photography, because of its democratizing quality. Many other period photographs, colorful reproductions, and quotes from the media of the time add to the impressive visuals. Author, newspaper owner, lecturer, Underground Railroad conductor, Union army recruiter, abolitionist, and presidential campaigner are just some of Douglass’ roles described here. Bolden’s beautiful, sophisticated narrative demonstrates that throughout all of his responsibilities, Douglass never lost sight of his biggest role—humanitarian.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2017)
The story of one of the most iconic and photographed figures in American history.Frederick Douglass wanted to be viewed as more than an escaped slave, and Bolden emphasizes that point by beginning his story when he makes the decision to break with abolitionist publisher William Lloyd Garrison to begin his own newspaper. Douglass’ history is nevertheless revealed as he contemplates changing his course. In his paper, the North Star, he pressed for an end to slavery and was outspoken in favor of women’s suffrage. Once the nation’s struggles between freedom and slavery led to armed conflict, he pushed President Abraham Lincoln to allow black men to fight in the Union cause. After the Civil War, Douglass remained tireless in seeking to improve the lives of African-Americans until the end of his life. This narrative about a well-known figure feels fresh due to Bolden’s skilled storytelling. It fully captures his outsized personality and provides clarity for nuanced episodes such as his disagreements with Garrison, his refusal to support efforts to colonize blacks outside of the United States, and his reservations about John Brown’s raid. Complications in his personal life are handled with sensitivity. In addition, Douglass was a celebrity at the dawn of photography and became the era’s most photographed figure, and this handsome volume includes many, as well as period illustrations. A spirited biography that fully honors its redoubtable subject. (author’s note, timeline, source notes, selected sources, index) (Biography. 10-14)

About the Author

Author and publisher Tonya Wilyce Bolden was born on March 1, 1959, in New York City to Georgia Bolden, a homemaker, and Willie Bolden, a garment center shipping manager. Bolden grew up in Harlem in a musical family and loved to read; she attended Public M.E.S. 146, an elementary school in Manhattan, and then graduated from the Chapin School, a private secondary school, in Manhattan in 1976. Bolden attended Princeton University in New Jersey, and, in 1981, obtained her B.A. degree in Slavic languages and literature with a Russian focus. Bolden was also a University Scholar and received the Nicholas Bachko, Jr. Scholarship Prize.

Upon graduating from Princeton University, Bolden began working as a salesperson for Charles Alan, Incorporated, a dress manufacturer, while working towards her M.A. degree at Columbia University. In 1985, Bolden earned her degree in Slavic languages and literature, as well as a Certificate for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union from the Harriman Institute; after this she began working as an office coordinator for Raoulfilm, Inc., assisting in the research and development of various film and literary products. Bolden worked as an English instructor at Malcolm-King College and New Rochelle School of New Resources while serving as newsletter editor of the HARKline, a homeless shelter newsletter.

In 1990, Bolden wrote her first book, The Family Heirloom Cookbook. In 1992, Bolden co-authored a children’s book entitled Mama, I Want To Sing along with Vy Higginsen, based on Higginsen’s musical. Bolden continued publishing throughout the 1990s, releasing Starting a Business from your Home, Mail-Order and Direct Response, The Book of African-American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters, And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm and The Champ. Bolden became editor of the Quarterly Black Review of Books in 1994, and served as an editor for 33 Things Every Girl Should Know, in 1998. Bolden’s writing career became even more prolific in the following decade; a partial list of her works include:, Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists, Maritcha: A Nineteenth Century American Girl, MLK: Journey of a King, Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During World War II, and George Washington Carver, a book she authored in conjunction with an exhibit about the famous African American inventor created by The Field Museum in Chicago.

Her website is www.tonyaholdenbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Collection of Frederick Douglass Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Facing Frederick on Amazon

Facing Frederick on Goodreads

Facing Frederick Publisher Page

 

Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King’s Assassin by James L. Swanson. January 2, 2018. Scholastic Press, 384p. ISBN: 9780545723336.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile:.

In his meteoric, thirteen-year rise to fame, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a mass movement for Civil Rights — with his relentless peaceful, non-violent protests, public demonstrations, and eloquent speeches. But as violent threats cast a dark shadow over Dr. King’s life, Swanson hones in on James Earl Ray, a bizarre, racist, prison escapee who tragically ends King’s life.

As he did in his bestselling Scholastic MG/YA books Chasing LIncoln’s Killer and “THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN SHOT!”, Swanson transports readers back to one of the most shocking, sad, and terrifying events in American history.

With an introduction by Congressman John Lewis, and over 80 photographs, captions, bibliography, various source notes, and index included.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, War, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 8))
Grades 7-12. Many Americans remember James Earl Ray’s gunshot that killed Martin Luther King Jr. King experienced a near-death encounter earlier in 1958 when a mentally ill woman stabbed his chest, narrowly missing his heart. The event reinforced fatalism in King and sets a foreboding tone for this masterful work akin to Swanson’s previous success, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer (2009). Following a foreword by Congressman John Lewis, the text gives a short biography of King, highlighting his rise as a civil rights leader. It takes on thriller pacing as it portrays, in alternating segments, King’s ceaseless work and Ray’s escape from prison and eventual plot to assassinate King. Occasional maps and time lines help readers track pivotal movements. As King delivers his stirring “Mountaintop” speech during his last public appearance, untrained hit man Ray stakes out a position to shoot. And as the public mourns King, the search for Ray becomes the largest and most expensive manhunt of the time. Packed with period photographs, the book gives illuminating details, such as how J. Edgar Hoover was ordered to take charge of Ray’s capture. It concludes with numerous conspiracy theories and ponders what message King would deliver today. Copious back matter offers a wealth of additional information. This immersive history reveals, in gripping style, how one individual can impact history.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2018)
Swanson, bestselling author of Chasing Lincoln’s Killer (2009), here explores all aspects of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.From the foreword by Congressman John Lewis to the epilogue, this volume places Dr. King and his loss in its historical context. The story begins with a detailed look at an unsuccessful attempt on Dr. King’s life, a foreshadowing of what was to come. Dr. King’s life and work to gain full civil and economic rights for all Americans are presented briefly, but the crux of the narrative is directed at the assassination; the man behind it, escaped convict James Earl Ray; and the aftermath. Swanson describes the events that brought King to Memphis, Tennessee, as part of a larger push for economic justice. In addition to the real-life thriller aspects of the hunt for Ray after King was shot, Swanson’s narrative adds poignant details, such as the experiences of King’s heartbroken aides and their reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement as well as the nation’s mourning of Dr. King. He also addresses conspiracies around the assassination as well as distrust of the FBI due to their wiretapping of King and other activists. This is page-turning nonfiction that captures the tenor of the times with meticulous research and a trove of photographs. Exhaustive, exemplary backmatter further enhances the text. An important contribution to the understanding of a complex period in United States history that still reverberates today. (Nonfiction. 12-adult)

About the Author

James Swanson is the Edgar Award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer. Swanson has degrees in history from the University of Chicago, where he was a student of John Hope Franklin, and in law from the University of California, Los Angeles.

He has held a number of government and think-tank posts in Washington, D.C., including at the United States Department of Justice. Swanson serves on the advisory council of the Ford’s Theatre Society. Born on Lincoln’s birthday, he has studied and collected books, documents, photographs, art, and artifacts from Abraham Lincoln’s life—and death—since he was ten years old.

Teacher Resources

Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassination Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Chasing King’s Killer on Amazon

Chasing King’s Killer on Goodreads

Chasing King’s Killer Publisher Page

March Forward, Girl by Melba Pattillo Beals

March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine by Melba Pattillo Beals. January 2, 2018. HMH Books for Young Readers, 224 p. ISBN: 9781328882127.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5; Lexile: 950.

From the legendary civil rights activist and author of the million-copy selling Warriors Don’t Cry comes an ardent and profound childhood memoir of growing up while facing adversity in the Jim Crow South.

Long before she was one of the Little Rock Nine, Melba Pattillo Beals was a warrior. Frustrated by the laws that kept African-Americans separate but very much unequal to whites, she had questions. Why couldn’t she drink from a “whites only” fountain? Why couldn’t she feel safe beyond home—or even within the walls of church?  Adults all told her: Hold your tongue. Be patient. Know your place. But Beals had the heart of a fighter—and the knowledge that her true place was a free one.

Combined with emotive drawings and photos, this memoir paints a vivid picture of Beals’ powerful early journey on the road to becoming a champion for equal rights, an acclaimed journalist, a best-selling author, and the recipient of this country’s highest recognition, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Sexual harassment

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. Beals (Warriors Don’t Cry, 1995) wastes no time getting into the deep, choking horror of living under Jim Crow in 1940s and 1950s Arkansas. Likening her fear of white people to an ever-growing monster consuming her nights, she reflects on how the Ku Klux Klan rode through her black neighborhood, plucking friends and neighbors from their homes to be lynched for minor infractions of the codes or for fun. That fear morphed into anger and motivation to find a way out, eventually helping her to become one of the Little Rock Nine. Beals has a way with short, powerful sentences that efficiently capture her roiling emotional inner life. She also outlines the interplay of racism and sexism in a harrowing recounting of the time she was herself a target of the Klan. The narrative stops short of the integration of Little Rock Central High School, featuring it instead in the epilogue. Young readers will be gripped by Beal’s personal courage and determination to march forward for civil rights at such a young age.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2017)
One of the Little Rock Nine describes her childhood in the years leading up to the 1957 event.Beals’ moving adult memoir, Warriors Don’t Cry (1994), painted a harrowing portrait of her experience as one of the African-American students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Here she shares her memories of growing up in the segregated South and what led her to challenge Jim Crow laws. She describes a warm, loving family environment where church and education were highly valued. These positives are not always enough to outweigh the darkness she feels from witnessing and experiencing racism from whites in stores or even those doing business in and around her home. There are episodes involving the Ku Klux Klan and even the lynching of a family acquaintance, experiences that leave Beals with a desire for justice and an abhorrence of the treatment of blacks at the hands of whites. When she is among those chosen to integrate Central High School, the determination she needs has been building for years. This narrative is told in a conversational tone, full of personal stories and remembrances. Beals pinpoints clearly the injustices and pain of her early years and shows how they prepared her for the challenges of making history, intertwining these stories with more personal coming-of-age recollections. Archival photographs and Morrison’s drawings punctuate the pages. (Final art not seen.) A valuable addition to the stories of life in Jim Crow America. (Memoir. 10-16)

About the Author

Melba Pattillo Beals is the author of the bestselling Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High and the recipient of the 1995 American Library Association Nonfiction Book of the Year award and the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. Dr. Beals was given a Congressional Gold Medal for her role, as a fifteen-year-old, in the integration of Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Her website is http://melbapattillobeals.com/

Around the Web

March Forward, Girl on Amazon

March Forward, Girl on Goodreads

March Forward, Girl Publisher Page

A Few Red Drops by Claire Hartfield

A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 by Claire Hartfield. January 2, 2018. Clarion Books, 208 p. ISBN: 9780544785137.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1120.

On a hot day in July 1919, three black youths went swimming in Lake Michigan, unintentionally floating close to the “white” beach. An angry white man began throwing stones at the boys, striking and killing one. Racial conflict on the beach erupted into days of urban violence that shook the city of Chicago to its foundations. This mesmerizing narrative draws on contemporary accounts as it traces the roots of the explosion that had been building for decades in race relations, politics, business, and clashes of culture.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 7-10. This well-documented text outlines the events leading to the race riot in Chicago in the summer of 1919, which caused 38 deaths and more than 500 injuries. The prologue, the first two chapters, and the last three chapters (out of 20) address the riot; the rest provide a detailed and accessible history of the growth of Chicago as a meat-processing center, the formation and influence of trade unions, the influx of European immigrants, and the WWI-era black migration from the South. Quotes, statistics, and period photos help build background. An epilogue describes the partly successful results of a commission charged with instigating change and mentions other unhappy events of the “Red Summer” of 1919: 25 additional race riots across the U.S. The conclusion paints a positive picture of diverse, present-day Chicago, noting that the past century has brought many needed changes. This solid entry covers a topic not often mentioned in YA literature, and will support researchers looking for balanced coverage for history, civil rights, and economics reports.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2017)
A clash on a hot summer’s day served as catalyst for a deadly race riot in 1919 Chicago.The deep racial and ethnic resentments that permeated Chicago in the early years of the 20th century exploded into violence when the death of a young African-American teen was caused by a rock-throwing young white man, whom a white policeman refused to arrest. The incident quickly escalated, and after days of unrest, 38, whites and blacks, were dead, and more than 500 were wounded. From the epigram taken from a Carl Sandburg poem, this detailed work is deeply grounded in Chicago history. Details about the actual riot bookend the narrative. In between, Hartfield introduces black Chicagoans from the middle of the 19th century as well as later arrivals who fled the racial violence of the South. She includes the role of the black press in articulating the demands of the black community as they became urban dwellers. The stories of white ethnic groups, their struggles to achieve the American dream, and their racial animosity are examined, as is the role of labor unions. Richly illustrated with contemporary photographs, the narrative is also carefully researched, drawing on accounts from the time. There is a great deal to digest, and it sometimes overwhelms the core story. However, it is successful in demonstrating that past conflicts, like current ones, have complex causes. A comprehensive, careful account. (source notes, bibliography, map, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Claire Hartfield received her B.A from Yale University and her law degree from the University of Chicago. As a lawyer, she has specialized in school desegregation litigation. More recently, she has been involved in setting policy and creating programs in a charter school setting on Chicago’s African-American West Side. She heard stories of the 1919 race riot from her grandmother, who lived in the Black Belt in Chicago at the time, and was moved to share this history with younger generations.

Ms. Hartfield lives in Chicago. Her website is clairehartfield.com

Teacher Resources

1919 Chicago Race Riots Lesson Plan & Materials

Around the Web

A Few Red Drops on Amazon

A Few Red Drops on Goodreads

A Few Red Drops Publisher Page

The Player King by Avi

The Player King by Avi. October 17, 2017. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 208 p. ISBN: 9781481437684.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.9; Lexile: 690.

From Newbery Award–winning author Avi comes the gripping and amazingly true tale of a boy plucked from the gutter to become the King of England.

England, 1486. King Henry VII has recently snatched the English Crown and now sits on the throne, while young Prince Edward, who has a truer claim, has apparently disappeared. Meanwhile, a penniless kitchen boy named Lambert Simnel is slaving away at a tavern in Oxford—until a mysterious friar, Brother Simonds, buys Lambert from the tavern keeper and whisks him away in the dead of night. But this is nothing compared to the secret that the friar reveals: You, Lambert, are actually Prince Edward, the true King of England!

With the aid of the deceitful Earl of Lincoln, Brother Simonds sets out to teach the boy how to become the rightful English king. Lambert has everything to gain and nothing to lose, or so he thinks. Yet in this dangerous battle for the throne, Lambert is not prepared for what’s to come—or for what it really means to play at being a king.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Realities of war

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 4-7. In 1486, Oxford, England, a lad named Lambert works, sleeps, and lives at Tackley’s Tavern. A friar lifts him out of hunger and poverty in exchange for his learning to play the role of the Earl of Warwick (heir of Richard III) not on stage, but in earnest. He agrees and subsequently rallies others to rise up against King Henry VII in order to place himself on the throne. It’s a fool’s game, since others are plotting to kill the young pretender once the Tudors are overthrown. Can he win the kingdom or, failing that, his life? Told from Lambert’s point of view, the first-person narrative effectively avoids the complicated political backstory and focuses on the boy’s experiences as he learns the unfamiliar speech, manners, and knowledge and plays his part. Avi, whose Newbery Award-winning Crispin (2002) was set in fourteenth-century England, again makes the past vivid and personal in this relatively short, accessible book. An author’s note reveals what is known of the actual Lambert Simnel, whose story inspired the novel.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
From prolific, Newbery winner Avi, a novel set in the Middle Ages that is replete with authentic period details, page-turning brief chapters, and a plot filled with twists, turns, and political intrigue.Avi expands on the historical footnote of an unnamed boy who challenged the kingship of Henry VII, was crowned briefly in Ireland, then led an army to England where he was soundly defeated. Lambert Simnel is a young orphan of unknown age who works and lives in a tavern where he is treated cruelly. A friar with his own selfish motives sees Lambert, purchases him, and schools him in the rules of behavior in order to pass him off as the previous king’s nephew, supposedly escaped from imprisonment. The first-person narration adds immediacy to Lambert’s fears and confusion. Having previously watched street actors, Lambert determines his best chance is to be a convincing player king, perpetuating the sham and nearly convincing himself. Although Lambert rises from a “loathed nobody” who spent “his life in a cellar, like a rotten turnip,” his fortune rapidly plummets. Touches of humor, brought about by both Lambert’s need for spiffing up and a colorful vocabulary (“gundy-gut,” “bootlicker,” “want-wit”), are sprinkled throughout. Unsurprisingly, the cast is an all-white one. An appealing protagonist pursuing a grand adventure and struggling with themes of power, pride, and identity will appeal to fans of historical fiction. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Avi is a pen name for Edward Irving Wortis, but he says, “The fact is, Avi is the only name I use.”  Avi is the author of more than seventy books for children and young adults, including the 2003 Newbery medal winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead. He has won two Newbery Honors and many other awards for his fiction.

He lives with his family in Denver, Colorado. His website is www.avi-writer.com/

Around the Web

The Player King on Amazon

The Player King on Goodreads

The Player King on JLG

The Player King Publisher Page