Tag Archives: history

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

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

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Violence

 

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Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

Her website is ericaarmstrongdunbar.com

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

Her website is www.kathyvancleve.com

Teacher Resources

Never Caught Curriculum Guide

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The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel

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

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

Her website is www.monumentsmenfoundation.org

Teacher Resources

The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History Educator’s Guide

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Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

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

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

Her website is www.tonyaboldenbooks.com

Teacher Resources

Inventing Victoria on Common Sense Media

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Inventing Victoria on Amazon

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Inventing Victoria on Goodreads

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The Library Book by Susan Orlean

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

Her website is www.susanorlean.com

Teacher Resources

The Library Book Discussion Questions

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Standing Up Against Hate by Mary Cronk Farrell

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Violence

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

Her website is www.marycronkfarrell.net.

Around the Web

Standing Up Against Hate on Amazon

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Dark Sky Rising by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. January 29, 2019. Scholastic, 240 p. ISBN: 9781338262049.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1200.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. presents a journey through America’s past and our nation’s attempts at renewal in this look at the Civil War’s conclusion, Reconstruction, and the rise of Jim Crow segregation.

This is a story about America during and after Reconstruction, one of history’s most pivotal and misunderstood chapters. In a stirring account of emancipation, the struggle for citizenship and national reunion, and the advent of racial segregation, the renowned Harvard scholar delivers a book that is illuminating and timely. Real-life accounts drive the narrative, spanning the half century between the Civil War and Birth of a Nation. Here, you will come face-to-face with the people and events of Reconstruction’s noble democratic experiment, its tragic undermining, and the drawing of a new “color line” in the long Jim Crow era that followed. In introducing young readers to them, and to the resiliency of the African American people at times of progress and betrayal, Professor Gates shares a history that remains vitally relevant today.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 7-11. A striking image on the book jacket will draw readers to this richly informative but uneven presentation on the many progressive changes during the Reconstruction era, as well as their later dismantling, which led to a resurgence of intolerance, injustice, and violence against black Americans, particularly in the South. The book is well researched, though densely packed with facts and often written in complex sentences, including many quotes from nineteenth-century documents and later historians. The writers assume that their readers have a fuller knowledge of the period and a larger vocabulary than can be expected of most middle-grade readers. Attempting to clarify a quote from Andrew Johnson, inchoate is defined within the text as embryonic, a word nearly as puzzling to most young readers. Black-and-white reproductions of archival photos, prints, and documents illustrate the text. While the topic is complex and perhaps too broad for one book, it’s also fundamental to understanding the background of racial issues in America. A challenging but worthwhile choice for somewhat older readers.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
“In your hands you are holding my book…my very first venture in writing for young readers,” Gates writes in a preface. And readers can tell…though probably not in the way Gates and co-author Bolden may have aimed for. The book opens with a gripping scene of formerly enslaved African-Americans celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation. It proceeds to engagingly unfold the facts that led to Reconstruction and its reaction, Jim Crow, until it disrupts the flow with oddly placed facts about Gates’ family’s involvement in the war, name-dropping of other historians, and the occasional conspicuous exclamation (“Land! That’s what his people most hungered for”). Flourishes such as that last sit uneasily with the extensive quotations from secondary sources for adults, as if Gates and Bolden are not sure whether their conceptual audience is young readers or adults, an uncertainty established as early as Gates’ preface. They also too-frequently relegate the vital roles of black women, such as Harriet Tubman, to sidebars or scatter their facts throughout the book, implicitly framing the era as a struggle between African-American men and white men. In the end, this acts as a reminder to readers that, although a person may have a Ph.D. and have written successfully in some genres and media, that does not mean they can write in every one, even with the help of a veteran in the field. Well-intentioned, well-researched, but awkwardly written considering the caliber of the scholar and his expected scholarship. (selected sources, endnotes, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a Professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. He is well-known as a literary critic, an editor of literature, and a proponent of black literature and black cultural studies.

His website is https://aaas.fas.harvard.edu/people/henry-louis-gates-jr

Teacher Resources

Dark Sky Rising Discussion Guide

Around the Web

Dark Sky Rising on Amazon

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Dark Sky Rising on Goodreads

Dark Sky Rising on LibraryThing

Dark Sky Rising Publisher Page

Blacklisted!: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment by Larry Dane Brimner

Blacklisted!: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment by Larry Dane Brimner. October 9, 2018. Calkins Creek, 176 p. ISBN: 9781620916032.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1230.

Sibert award-winning author Larry Dane Brimner follows in vivid detail the story of nineteen men from the film industry who were investigated for suspected communist ties during the Cold War, and the ten who were blacklisted for standing up for their First Amendment rights and refusing to cooperate.

World War II is over, but tensions between communist Soviet Union and the U.S. are at an all-time high. In America, communist threats are seen everywhere and a committee is formed in the nation’s capital to investigate those threats. Larry Dane Brimner follows the story of nineteen men—all from the film industry—who are summoned to appear before the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities. All nineteen believe that the committee’s investigations into their political views and personal associations are a violation of their First Amendment rights. When the first ten of these men refuse to give the committee the simple answers it wants, they are cited for contempt of Congress and blacklisted.

Brimner brings the story of the trial and its consequences to life, giving readers an in-depth look at what it’s like to fight for the most basic of our Constitutional rights. The book includes an author’s note, a bibliography, source notes, and an index, as well as archival photographs, documents, cartoons, images, and quotations from the accused and their accusers.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?” That was the question asked of 19 men (Hollywood screenwriters, directors, a producer, and an actor) in 1947 congressional hearings. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) played on Americans’ fears of communists by investigating “subversive” influences in the movie industry. Ten men were charged with contempt of Congress, tried, found guilty, and imprisoned, while many others were blacklisted. The author of the Sibert Award-winning Twelve Days in May​ (2017), Brimner presents an informative account of the HUAC hearings and their repercussions for the Hollywood Ten. In the chapters covering those hearings, the extensive use of quotes gives the writing great immediacy, while the commentary clearly explains the motivations of the committee members and the viewpoints of those called to testify before them. The well-captioned illustrations include archival photos, documents, and political cartoons. Most easily understood by readers with some knowledge of the period, this tightly focused book presents a meticulously detailed narrative of events related to the 1947 hearings. More broadly, Brimner offers a cautionary tale about the damage done to individuals and society when constitutional rights are denied by officials sworn to uphold them.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2018)
Brimner brings to life a shameful episode in American history when citizens working in the film industry were accused of disloyalty and subversion and persecuted for defending their First Amendment rights. In 1947, tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States were at an all-time high. The House Committee on Un-American Activities, which included members with ties to the KKK, called Hollywood actors, directors, producers, and screenwriters to answer accusations that they were Communists. Ten who appeared refused to answer questions, citing their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly. The “Hollywood Ten” were afterward denied work by all Hollywood studios. Brimner vividly chronicles the hearings and their fallout, braiding stories of individuals into the overall narrative. Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo worked under pseudonyms; director Edward Dmytryk, unable to work covertly, later cooperated with the committee and named names. Drawing heavily on hearings transcripts, Brimner also includes a great deal of historical background to put the story in context. He notes that the origins of HUAC were rooted in America’s first “Red Scare” following the Russian Revolution, and he challenges readers to consider if things are all that different today, citing contemporary examples. The many archival photographs included are testament to the overwhelming whiteness of both Hollywood and Congress. A chilling look at a time when the government waged war on civil liberties, with the public a complicit ally. (bibliography, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Larry Dane Brimner is the recipient of the 2018 Robert F. Sibert Award for the most distinguished informational book for children for his title Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961. He is known for his well-researched, innovative, and award-winning nonfiction for young readers, and is the author of multiple acclaimed civil rights titles, including Strike!: The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights; and Black & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor.

His website is www.brimner.com

Teacher Resources

Hollywood v. HUAC Lesson Plans

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History vs. Women by Anita Sarkeesian and Ebony Adams

History vs. Women: The Defiant Lives That They Don’t Want You to Know by Anita Sarkeesian and Ebony Adams. October 2, 2018. Fiewel & Friends, 128 p. ISBN: 9781250146731.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1230.

Rebels, rulers, scientists, artists, warriors and villains

Women are, and have always been, all these things and more.

Looking through the ages and across the globe, Anita Sarkeesian, founder of Feminist Frequency, along with Ebony Adams PHD, have reclaimed the stories of twenty-five remarkable women who dared to defy history and change the world around them. From Mongolian princesses to Chinese pirates, Native American ballerinas to Egyptian scientists, Japanese novelists to British Prime Ministers, History vs Women will re-frame the history that you thought you knew.

Featuring beautiful full-color illustrations of each woman and a bold graphic design, this standout nonfiction title is the perfect read for teens (or adults!) who want the true stories of phenomenal women from around the world and insight into how their lives and accomplishments impacted both their societies and our own.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Harsh realities of war, Racism, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 7-10. This collective biography of women who have boldly made their marks on a world that often took great pains to deny them makes a concerted effort to shine a spotlight on those outside of the white, Western canon. Readers may have encountered a handful of these women before (Ida B. Wells, Margaret Thatcher), but, generally, this focuses on introducing colorful, daring figures that history has been less fond of (Sikh warrior Mai Bhago; Bessie Stringfield, the first black woman to travel solo across the U.S. by motorcycle; etc.). The women are profiled chronologically within five sections: rebels, scholars, villains, artists, and Amazons. Of particular interest is the villains section: from British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Spanish queen Isabel I, who inflicted damage on national and even global scales, to notorious lady pirate Ching Shih, these were women who, though strong and accomplished, were also ruthless and often criminal. But, as the text proclaims, “Putting women on a pedestal is really just another way to keep them in a box,” and this engaging, crisply designed book attempts to break barriers at every opportunity. Sketched portraits of the women accompany their detailed profiles, which are followed by a thorough afterword about the selection process and extensive source notes. A superbly well-rounded addition for collections looking to expand beyond recitations of the familiar.

School Library Journal (October 1, 2018)
Gr 7 Up-While many teens find inspiration for strength, courage, and guidance in feminist icons, such as Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart, or Maya Angelou, untold numbers of brave women have been lost to history. Sarkeesian and Adams have put together the incredible achievements of 25 women throughout the centuries. Each section explores the lives of five women from around the world, from the third century to the 21st. Students will be introduced to the heroics of LGBTQ+ trailblazer Lucy Hicks Anderson, the wisdom of Fatima al-Fihri, the imagination of Murasaki Shikibu, and the strength of Bessie Stringfield. Readers of all ages, across the globe and socioeconomic spectrum, can find an icon to look up to within these pages. Filled with strength, this collection is incredibly inspiring and will instill in teens a take-charge attitude and powerful mind-set. VERDICT This is a must for public library YA nonfiction collections.-Kimberly Barbour, Manatee County Public Library System, FL

About the Authors

Anita Sarkeesian is an award-winning media critic and the creator and executive director of Feminist Frequency, an educational nonprofit that explores the representations of women in pop culture narratives.Best known as the creator and host of Feminist Frequency’s highly influential series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, Anita lectures at universities, conferences and game development studios around the world. Anita dreams of owning a life-size replica of Buffy’s scythe.

Her website is www.feministfrequency.com

 

Ebony Adams, Ph.D. is an author, activist, and former college educator whose work foregrounds the lives and work of black women in the diaspora. She lives in Los Angeles with a steadily-increasing collection of Doctor Who memorabilia. She writes widely on film criticism, social justice, and pop culture.

 

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Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon by Clara Killough McClafferty

Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon by Carla Killough McClafferty. December 18, 2018. Holiday House, 168 p. ISBN: 9780823436972.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 7.3.

An illuminating look at the complex relationships between George Washington and the enslaved people of Mount Vernon, and the history still being uncovered there. 

When he was eleven years old, George Washington inherited ten human beings. His own life has been well chronicled, but the lives of the people he owned–the people who supported his plantation and were buried in unmarked graves there–have not. Using fascinating primary source material and photographs of historical artifacts, Carla McClafferty sheds light on the lives of several people George Washington owned; the property laws of the day that complicated his decision to free them; and the Cemetery Survey, an archeological dig (set to conclude in 2018) that is shaping our understanding of Mount Vernon’s Slave Cemetery. Poignant and thought-provoking, Buried Lives blends the past with the present in a forward-looking account of a haunting piece of American history.

Includes a foreword by Zsun-nee Matema, a descendant one of the enslaved people at Mount Vernon who is highlighted in this book, backmatter outlining the author’s sources, and an index.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 6-10. “At the age of eleven George Washington inherited ten human beings, and he would own people his entire life.” In this handsome, large-format book, the first five chapters describe what is known about six enslaved individuals who worked at Mount Vernon under George Washington, whose lives are fairly well documented. William Lee served as Washington’s personal valet before, during, and after the Revolutionary War. Christopher Sheels became Washington’s next valet. Caroline Hardiman was a seamstress. Her husband, Peter Hardiman, managed horse breeding at Mount Vernon. Both Oney Judge, Martha Washington’s personal maid, and Hercules, the family’s renowned cook, later made their separate escapes from slavery. Some of McClafferty’s portrayals of these little-known historical people are more detailed than others, but all are factual and fascinating. While learning about their lives, readers will also see how Washington’s views on slavery shifted over the years. Among the many beautiful color illustrations are period paintings as well as photos of sites and artifacts. The final chapter describes ongoing archaeological work at the cemetery where Mount Vernon’s enslaved people were buried. The meticulous back matter links quotes to many primary sources as well as more recent works. An enlightening presentation on slavery in the late 1700s.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2018)
McClafferty has written a monumental book about the lives of the slaves that lived and worked at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The bulk of the book is devoted to chronicling the lives of six out of hundreds of slaves known to have been the property of our nation’s first president. William Lee, Christopher Sheels, Caroline Branham, Peter Hardiman, Ona Maria Judge, and Hercules are the enslaved people featured in this work. These six people are larger-than-life figures whose individual stories tell a deeper one about the history of America and the everyday evil and horror of American slavery. Though enslaved, they served this country during some of its most turbulent times, fighting in the Revolutionary War, taking care of Washington’s person, and guarding Washington’s papers as the Continental Army moved from place to place during the years of combat. This book includes photos of re-enactors at Mount Vernon as well as artifacts there and abundant archival reproductions. What is known about these figures comes mainly from George Washington himself, as the author relates in her introduction. With regard to what is unknown about the lives of the enslaved people, McClafferty takes liberties in making inferences about their motives and histories. In speculating why Lee, for instance, did not take the opportunity to escape to freedom in the British army, she does not discuss the penalties meted out to a captured fugitive slave but presents his choice as a binary one: stay with Washington or go. At another point, she suggests that Judge’s white father, an indentured servant, “may have loved” her enslaved mother, without adding that an enslaved woman could not resist the sexual advances of a white man. These and other elisions make this a work that objectifies its subjects. Although the light shed on Washington as slaveholder is a welcome one, the voices of the enslaved are still not heard. (source notes, bibliography, picture credits, acknowledgments, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Carla Killough McClafferty is the author of many nonfiction books for young readers, including The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon, which was a School Library Journal Best Book of 2011, a Junior Library Guild selection, and an ALA Notable Book.

Her website is www.carlamcclafferty.com

Around the Web

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American Dialogue: The Founders and Us by Joseph J. Ellis

American Dialogue: The Founders and Us by Joseph J. Ellis. October 16, 2018. Knopf Publishing Group, 283 p. ISBN: 9780385353427.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

The award-winning author of Founding Brothers and The Quartet now gives us a deeply insightful examination of the relevance of the views of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Adams to some of the most divisive issues in America today.

The story of history is a ceaseless conversation between past and present, and in American Dialogue Joseph J. Ellis focuses the conversation on the often-asked question “What would the Founding Fathers think?” He examines four of our most seminal historical figures through the prism of particular topics, using the perspective of the present to shed light on their views and, in turn, to make clear how their now centuries-old ideas illuminate the disturbing impasse of today’s political conflicts. He discusses Jefferson and the issue of racism, Adams and the specter of economic inequality, Washington and American imperialism, Madison and the doctrine of original intent. Through these juxtapositions–and in his hallmark dramatic and compelling narrative voice–Ellis illuminates the obstacles and pitfalls paralyzing contemporary discussions of these fundamentally important issues.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Talk

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Eliis (Revolutionary Summer, 2013), a Pulitzer Prize-winning and best-selling historian, is aware of the difficulties and dangers implicit in seeking answers to our current debates and dilemmas in the archives of the Founding Fathers, yet he attempts to do so here, and his effort to apply the views of four historical icons to current political conflicts is interesting and useful. On the topic of racial relations, Ellis refers to Thomas Jefferson and seems to delight in pointing out Jefferson’s inconsistencies and contradictions on the topic. Considering political equality, Ellis turns to John Adams, who didn’t view equality as the “natural” political order and didn’t share Jefferson’s faith in the wisdom of the people; in fact, he viewed a very powerful executive as necessary to protect the public from both an emerging elite and themselves. On foreign policy, Ellis turns to Washington, who strove to manage “foreign” relations with Native nations and maintain American neutrality between France and Britain. Ellis is provocative and interesting and reminds us that our present controversies are not unique or new.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2018)
An eminent historian sharply illuminates the “messy moment” of the nation’s founding and its implications for contemporary America.Ellis (Emeritus, History/Mount Holyoke Coll.; The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, 2015, etc.), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, offers a lucid and authoritative examination of America’s tumultuous beginnings, when the Founding Fathers grappled with issues of race, income inequality, law, and foreign policy—all issues that still vex the nation. Believing that history is “an ongoing conversation between past and present,” the author asks what Jefferson, Washington, Madison, and Adams can teach us today. “What did ‘all men are created equal’ mean then and now? Did the ‘pursuit of happiness’ imply the right to some semblance of economic equality? Does it now?” These and other salient questions inform Ellis’ vivid depiction of the controversies swirling as the Constitution was drafted and ratified. The Founders were men of deep contradictions and evolving political views. As a young man, for example, Jefferson “insisted that the central principles of the American Revolution were inherently incompatible with slavery.” The older Jefferson, who owned hundreds of slaves and fathered many children with his slave Sally Hemings, fervently believed that races should not mix. Slaves should be freed, he conceded, and then sent to the unpopulated West, Santo Domingo, or Liberia. As to equality, the Founders “were a self-conscious elite” who did not value “the innate wisdom of the common man.” John Adams’ “prognosis for the American future was a plutocratic aristocracy.” Freedom to pursue wealth, he asserted, “essentially ensured the triumph of inequality.” Ellis places Washington’s famous warning against foreign entanglements in the context of westward expansion, Native American removal, and postwar negotiations. Most fascinating is the author’s cogent critique of constitutional originalists, intent on recovering “the mentality and language of the framers on their own terms in their own time.” A discerning, richly detailed inquiry into America’s complex political and philosophical legacy.

About the Author

Joseph J. Ellis, a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College, is a nationally recognized scholar of American history from colonial times through the early decades of the Republic. The author of seven books, he is recipient of the National Book Award in Nonfiction for American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson and the Pulitzer Prize for Founding Brothers. He lives in Massachusetts.

Her website is www.josephellishistorian.com

Around the Web

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