Tag Archives: Nonfiction

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

Her website is www.susanorlean.com

Teacher Resources

The Library Book Discussion Questions

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Standing Up Against Hate by Mary Cronk Farrell

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Violence

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

Her website is www.marycronkfarrell.net.

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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

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Backyard Bears by Amy Cherrix

Backyard Bears: Conservation, Habitat Changes, and the Rise of Urban Wildlife by Amy Cherrix. October 23, 2018. HMH Books for Young Readers, 80 p. ISBN: 9781328858689.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.1.

North Carolina’s black bears were once a threatened species, but now their numbers are rising in and around Asheville. But what happens when conservation efforts for a species are so successful that there’s a boom in the population? Can humans and bears live compatibly? What are the long-term effects for the bears? Author Amy Cherrix follows the scientists who, in cooperation with local citizen scientists, are trying to answer to these questions and more. Part field science, part conservation science, Backyard Bearslooks at black bears—and other animals around the globe—who are rapidly becoming our neighbors in urban and suburban areas.

What happens when conservation efforts for a species are so successful that there’s a boom in the population? Part field science, part conservation science, Backyard Bears looks at black bears—and other animals around the globe—who are rapidly becoming our neighbors in urban and suburban areas.
North Carolina’s black bears were once a threatened species, but now their numbers are rising in and around Asheville. Can humans and bears live compatibly? What are the long-term effects for the bears? Author Amy Cherrix follows the scientists who, in cooperation with local citizens, are trying to answer to these questions and more.

Part of Series: Scientists in the Field

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2018)
The human population of western North Carolina is encroaching on the natural habitat of the region’s black bears. In this encouraging case study of efforts to manage black bear populations in and around Asheville, Cherrix emphasizes how conservationists are looking for sustainable ways to allow humans and wild animals to coexist. She accompanies a team of biologists conducting the North Carolina Urban/Suburban Black Bear Study as they locate a bear and her newborn cub (using radio collars and with the cooperation of the homeowners) on private property. The scientists anesthetize the adult bear and document her vital statistics as well as those of her cub. Photographs capture the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain environment and the care the scientists take in collecting data. Photos of children in contact with an anesthetized bear may raise some eyebrows but underscore the message that respectful coexistence is possible (and cautions on how to handle bear encounters are included in the back matter). In contrast to human-bear interactions from the last century, today’s collaborative efforts among scientists, residents, conservationists, and hunters acknowledge the importance of balancing the concerns of all parties. A chapter on wild animal populations in other communities, from leopards in urban Mumbai to feral chickens in Hawaii, emphasizes the global nature of the problem. Appended with web resources, a glossary, source notes, a selected bibliography, and an index.

Kirkus Reviews starred (September 1, 2018)
In Asheville, North Carolina, wildlife biologists study a growing black bear population, one example of city-dwellers and animals who try to coexist around the world. Around and within Asheville, black bears are proliferating. Four specialists, led by Colleen Olfenbuttel, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s black bear and furbearer biologist and a professor at N.C. State University, conduct field investigations that include capturing, tagging, and following bears fitted with radio collars. Cherrix writes with affection about her hometown, offering readers an immediate account of bear captures and the scientists’ work. Accompanied by local wildlife photographer Steve Atkins (who contributes many of the book’s full-color photos), she joins the scientists (who all present white) for two bear encounters. Photos show the splendid Blue Mountains scenery, bear habitat in suburban backyards, and the bears themselves, including an irresistible cub less than 2 months old. Readers see scientists in action as well as schoolchildren having a rare opportunity to see and touch a bear, temporarily sedated for a physical exam. The writer weaves in information about black bear life, the history of human-bear relationships in the area, habitat changes, and even tips for bear encounters. A middle chapter describes other examples of urban human/wildlife cohabitation: leopards in Mumbai, India; eastern coyotes across the United States; feral chickens in Hawaii; turkeys in Boston; starlings throughout North America; wild boars in Berlin; and the threat of capybaras in Florida. Another inviting example of scientific field work in a consistently appealing series. (glossary, notes, bibliography, acknowledgements, index) (Nonfiction.10-16)

About the Author

Amy Cherrix is no stranger to severe weather, having lived through six hurricanes, two floods, a desert sandstorm, and more blizzards than she cares to count. She has always loved science, especially meteorology.

Amy has published articles in newspapers and magazines, both in print and on the Web, about everything from celebrities for TV Guide to venomous pet snakes for her monthly pet column, Unleashed. She earned a master’s degree in children’s literature from Simmons College, where she has also taught graduate courses in young adult fiction.

Her website is www.amycherrix.com.

Around the Web

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El Mundo Adorado de Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor

El Mundo Adorado se Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor. November 13, 2018. Vintage Espanol, 400 p. ISBN: 9780525564614.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 1070.

Discover the inspiring life of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, in this middle-grade adaptation of her bestselling adult memoir, My Beloved World
 
Includes an 8-page photo insert and a brief history of the Supreme Court.

Sonia Sotomayor was just a girl when she dared to dream big. Her dream? To become a lawyer and a judge even though she’d never met one of either, and none lived in her neighborhood.

Sonia did not let the hardships of her background—which included growing up in the rough housing projects of New York City’s South Bronx, dealing with juvenile diabetes, coping with parents who argued and fought personal demons, and worrying about money—stand in her way. Always, she believed in herself. Her determination, along with guidance from generous mentors and the unwavering love of her extended Puerto Rican family, propelled her ever forward.

Eventually, all of Sonia’s hard work led to her appointment as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 2009, a role that she has held ever since.

Learn about Justice Sotomayor’s rise and her amazing work as well as about the Supreme Court in this fascinating memoir that shows that no matter the obstacles, dreams can come true.

Spanish Language version of The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Drugs, Racism, Alcoholism

 

Author Videos

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. After seven-year-old Sonia, recently diagnosed with diabetes, awakens to the sound of her parents arguing over who will give her a daily shot of insulin, she decides to take on that responsibility herself. It was the first of many decisions that would challenge her and move her forward. Judiciously pared down from Sotomayor’s My Beloved World (2013), this autobiography for young people records her memories of growing up with her father (who died when she was nine), her mother, her brother, and her extended Puerto Rican American family in the Bronx. She also discusses her education in Catholic schools, at Princeton, and at Yale, her pro bono advocacy work, and her career as an assistant district attorney and a partner in a private law firm. The story concludes as she begins working as a district court judge. Readers will come away with a strong sense of Sotomayor’s background, her steadfast values, and her ability to stand up for herself and for others. Written in a clear, direct manner and enriched with many personal stories, the book also conveys a sense of her gratitude to family, friends, teachers, and mentors. A lively autobiography of the third woman and the first Latina on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2018)
The memoir of a woman who rose from the housing projects in New York City’s South Bronx to become the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. This is the story of a woman who as a 10-year-old fell under the spell of Perry Mason, a fictional TV lawyer. Her life course was set: She would become a lawyer and, dare she dream it, a judge. With a clear vision, hard work, and determination she set out to make her dream come true. In a series of vignettes that help to illustrate her remarkable spirit and motivations, Sotomayor recalls some of the salient moments of her life. Readers are introduced to her close-knit family, friends, colleagues, and mentors that nurtured her along the way. She chronicles her academic and professional achievements and what it took to be successful. She also presents her core beliefs and struggles, never shying from coming across as human. The account of this exceptional trajectory, told with a storyteller’s talent, is filled with a candor and honesty that make her story eminently accessible to young readers. Adapted from her memoir for adults, My Beloved World (2013), in the hope of inspiring children to dream even the dreams they cannot at first imagine, this book should thoroughly achieve that goal. A must read. (glossary, Supreme Court overview) (Memoir. 10-18)

About the Author

Sonia Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979. She worked as an assistant district attorney in New York and then at the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt. She served as a judge of the US District Court, Southern District of New York, from 1992 to 1998, and from 1998 to 2009 served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In May 2009, President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; she assumed this role on August 8, 2009.

Teacher Resources

Soina Sotomayor Biography Lesson Plan

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Quarterback by John Feinstein

Quarterback: Inside the Most Important Position in the NFL by John Feinstein. November 13, 2018. Doubleday Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780385543033.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A major new book from #1 New York Times bestseller and sports-writing legend John Feinstein, QUARTERBACK dives deep into the most coveted and hallowed position in the NFL – exploring the stories of five top quarterbacks and taking readers inside their unique experiences of playing the position and holding the keys to their multi-billion-dollar teams.

In the mighty National Football League, one player becomes the face of a franchise, one player receives all the accolades and all the blame, and one player’s hand will guide the rise or fall of an entire team’s season – and the dreams of millions of fans. There are thirty-two starting quarterbacks in the NFL on any given Sunday, and their lives are built around pressure, stardom, and incredible talent. Legendary bestselling sportswriter John Feinstein, in his most insightful book yet, shows readers what it’s really like to play the glory position and to live that life – mapping out a journey that runs from college stardom to the NFL draft to taking command of the huddle and marching a team down the field with a nation of fans cheering.

Feinstein builds his profile around five NFL starting quarterbacks – Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Doug Williams. With incredible inside access, we get the full quarterback experience…being drafted #1 overall, pushing through grueling injuries, winning Super Bowls, being named a starter on multiple teams, being the first African American QB to lead a franchise to a title. Feinstein shows us exactly what it’s like in the locker room, huddle, heat of battle, and press conferences, through spectacular moments and embarrassing defeats. He explores the controversies of a league embroiled in questions of substance abuse and racism, TV revenue, corporate greed, and the value placed on player health. And in the end, Feinstein addresses the ways in which each quarterback – some just a year out of college — is handed the keys to a franchise worth billions of dollars, and how each team’s fortunes ride directly on the shoulders of its QB. This is Feinstein’s most fascinating behind-the-scenes book.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Being a starting quarterback in the NFL is arguably the most challenging position in all of professional sports; too much credit for wins, too much blame for losses. In this exploration of what it means to be an NFL quarterback today, Feinstein, New York Times best-selling author of A Good Walk Spoiled​ (1995) and numerous other in-depth analyses of various sports, focuses on five current or former quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Doug Williams, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The five have had very different careers, but, taken together in Feinstein’s telling, they reveal much about the game and the position of quarterback. Smith was a number-one overall draft pick and has had a solid career. Fitzpatrick, a Harvard grad, was almost the last pick in the same draft and has been a journeyman, playing for seven teams since 2006. Flacco won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, and Williams overcame a long-held prejudice against African American quarterbacks to become a Super Bowl MVP. Fitzpatrick’s career, thought the least distinguished, may be the most interesting. He’s been a successful starter, but he also went three seasons without ever getting into a game. As Feinstein relates the five careers, he also touches on the larger, league-wide issues of player health, substance abuse, racism, and, of course, team management, both good and bad. Another must-read from a master of long-form sports journalism.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
A QB–centric look at how football works, on and off the field.Quarterbacks are vital to any gridiron contest. You know that, writes sports journalist and commentator Feinstein (The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup, 2017, etc.), “because there are two people the media must listen to after a game: the head coach and the quarterback.” Quarterbacks usually take their time giving the media their piece of the story, but in the author’s opening vignette, Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is quick to get to the microphones following a charged division game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in October 2017. Asked to explain the Ravens’ loss, Flacco said, “I sucked. We sucked as an offense, and I’m the quarterback, so I’m responsible. It’s pretty simple.” Well, yes and no: Some of the QBs Feinstein mentions in this leisurely stroll down the field are a little less quick to fall on their swords, while others are exemplary in many ways. One of the author’s chief subjects, for instance, is Doug Williams, a rarity in his day, the first African-American quarterback to bring home the Super Bowl; if racism figured in the 1970s, it certainly hasn’t gone away in the decades since. Neither has the tendency of some clubs to treat players as cogs in the big moneymaking machine, as with Ryan Fitzpatrick, asked to take a pay cut following a career-best throwing season for the Buffalo Bills, then axed for failures not of his own making—save that he was the captain on the field. “When things go well, everyone loves you,” he tells Feinstein. “When they don’t, people fall out of love in a hurry.” The author ably gets to the heart of the game, and if little of what he writes will come as news to discerning fans, there are some fine set pieces featuring battle-weary players and devious front-office types. A worthy offering for fans of the modern, increasingly embattled game.

About the Author

John Feinstein is the author of more than thirty books, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled. He is also the author of numerous kids mysteries. His first young adult mystery, Last Shot, won the Edgar Allen Poe Award. John also works for The Washington Post, The Golf Channel, Sirius XM Radio, and Comcast Sportsnet.

Her website is jfeinsteinbooks.com.

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Quarterback Publisher Page

Spooked! by Gail Jarrow

Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow. August 7, 2018. Calkins Creek Books, 144 p. ISBN: 9781629797762.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.8; Lexile: 1000.

Acclaimed author Gail Jarrow explores in riveting detail the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938, in this nonfiction title. Jarrow highlights the artists behind the broadcast, the broadcast itself, the aftermath, and the repercussions which remain relevant today.

On the night of October 30, 1938, thousands of Americans panicked when they believed that Martians had invaded Earth. What appeared to be breaking news about an alien invasion was, in fact, a radio drama based on H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, performed by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre players. Some listeners became angry once they realized they had been tricked, and the reaction to the broadcast sparked a national discussion about fake news, propaganda, and the role of radio. Archival photographs and images, as well as an author’s note, timeline, bibliography, and index round out this stellar nonfiction title.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 5-8. Orson Welles and his colleagues were certain their radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds would be a flop. Instead, on Halloween eve 1938, it shook the nation with fear of alien attack. Why were Americans so gullible? Notable nonfiction author Jarrow (Fatal Fever, 2015) sets the stage, or rather the living rooms, for a time when listening to radio broadcasts ranked as the country’s favorite pastime. With intriguing details, complemented by rarely seen archival photos and illustrated scenes from Wells’ original story, she explains how this medium worked and how actor Orson Welles designed, directed, and voiced popular radio dramas, along with the other writers, performers, and sound technicians for the Mercury Theatre program. Jarrow then pieces together the script and performance, highlighting elements used to heighten the tension. Numerous and astounding reactions to the panic, including an influx of emergency telephone calls, are also described. Although interesting in its own right, the author extrapolates on this phenomenon, comparing it to today’s fake-news controversy. In this vein, readers can see how some panicked listeners didn’t check other sources, while others enjoyed the drama by following its clues. Ensuing freedom of the press debates and a sampling of modern-day social media hoaxes extend the theme. An enriching bridge that connects history with current events.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2018)
In 1938, on the night before Halloween, an American radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells’s science-fiction novel about a Martian invasion, caused widespread panic and hysteria. Producers Orson Welles and John Houseman (who later went on to have legendary careers in theater and film) updated the novel’s setting from turn-of-the-century Britain to contemporary America, interrupted the scheduled program with fake news updates, referenced real place names, and even used an actor who sounded like President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Jarrow infuses her tightly plotted narrative with plenty of drama and suspense while weaving in sufficient background information, biographical vignettes, and play-by-play commentary to establish context. She concludes with a discussion of some subsequent hoaxes—and the requisite author’s note, source notes, bibliography (including a link to the radio broadcast itself online), and index. Meghan McCarthy’s picture book Aliens Are Coming! (rev. 7/06) tells the same story for a younger audience, but this longer account is welcome: despite its somewhat stodgy design, it’s an admirable feat of nonfiction storytelling.

About the Author

Gail Jarrow is the author of many popular nonfiction books, including Red Madness, Fatal Fever, and Bubonic Panic. Her books have received numerous starred reviews, awards, and distinctions, including Best Book awards from the New York Public Library, School Library Journal, the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s BooksKirkus Reviews, and the National Science Teachers Association.

Her website is www.gailjarrow.com

Teacher Resources

War of the Worlds Lesson Plans

War of the Worlds Broadcast to teach Media Literacy on Newseum

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Spooked! on Amazon

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Spooked! 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

Around the Web

Blacklisted! on Amazon

Blacklisted! on Barnes and Noble

Blacklisted! on Goodreads

Blacklisted! on LibraryThing

Blacklisted! Publisher Page

The United States of Sports by Bill Syken

The United States of Sports: An Atlas of Teams, Stats, Stars, and Facts for Every State in America by Bill Syken. December 4, 2018. Sports Illustrated Kids, 240 p. ISBN: 9781547800001.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 7.4.

The United States of Sports takes kids on a first-of-its-kind journey across the U.S. with stops in every state in the union. Super cool maps with unique hand-illustrated icons show where all the great sites can be found, including arenas, stadiums, halls of fame, championship golf clubs, the greatest ski mountains, Olympic cities, and more. Each state’s Greatest Moments and homegrown heroes are pro led, and we wouldn’t forget to run down all the numbers! Championships, pro teams, famous events, and more— spread by spread—it’s the book to pore over this season.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

 

About the Author

After reporting for several newspapers, Bill Syken spent eight years as a staff reporter and editor at Sports Illustrated, where he continues to work as a writer and editor for its books division. He earned a B.A. in English from Columbia University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri. He lives in Philadelphia.

His website is www.billsyken.com

Around the Web

The United States of Sports on Amazon

The United States of Sports on Barnes and Noble

The United States of Sports on Goodreads

The United States of Sports on LibraryThing

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.

 

Around the Web

History vs. Women on Amazon

History vs. Women on Barnes and Noble

History vs. Women on Goodreads

History vs. Women on LibraryThing

History vs. Women Publisher Page