Tag Archives: Nonfiction

Champion: The Comeback Take of the American Chestnut Tree by Sally M. Walker

Champion: the Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree by Sally M. Walker. March 6, 2018. Henry Holt & Co., 144 p. ISBN: 9781250125231.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.1; Lexile: 1070.

American chestnut trees were once found far and wide in North America’s eastern forests. They towered up to one hundred feet tall, providing food and shelter for people and animals alike. For many, life without the chestnut seemed unimaginable—until disaster struck in the early 1900s.

What began as a wound in the bark of a few trees soon turned to an unstoppable killing force. An unknown blight was wiping out the American chestnut, and scientists felt powerless to prevent it.

But the story doesn’t end there. Today, the American chestnut is making a comeback. Narrative nonfiction master Sally M. Walker tells a tale of loss, restoration, and the triumph of human ingenuity in this beautifully photographed middle-grade book.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 5-8. When Hermann Merkel was hired in 1898 to be New York Zoological Park’s chief forester, the 1,500 American chestnut trees were his favorites. In 1904, Merkel noticed a blight that was quickly destroying these beloved trees, and by 1911, only 2 remained. Merkel’s observations were the start of a scientific mystery with ramifications that still continue. Walker documents some of the many scientists, from the beginning of the blight to today, who have worked to save this American icon. Why all the interest in a tree? The author first explains the importance of the American chestnut on the eastern forests’ environment. The bulk of the investigative text, however, concentrates on the source of the blight and three different approaches to saving the American chestnut. In the process, Walker shows how the comeback of this tree can serve as a model to restore other species. The niche subject may be a hard sell to recreational readers, but with additional photos of scientists in action, this STEM volume is a boon to life-science and engineering units.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
Once a ubiquitous presence in North America’s eastern forests, the American chestnut tree was nearly brought to extinction by a deadly blight, but it was brought back from oblivion through the ingenuity of determined scientists. In 1904, forester Hermann Merkel discovered ugly wounds on some of the American chestnut trees in the New York Zoological Park. No other trees in the park were affected. By 1911, only two of 1,500 trees in the park remained. A scientist with the New York Botanical Garden identified the disease as a blight fungus. All attempts to find a remedy failed. A U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist discovered that the blight originated in Asia, brought to the United States through the cross-breeding of the American and Asian chestnuts. By 1940, nearly 4 billion trees succumbed to the devastating blight. Using clear, accessible language, Walker explains how research scientists have developed three promising approaches to restoring the American chestnut: backcross breeding, using weak strains of virus-infected fungus to attack lethal strains, and engineering transgenic American chestnut trees. These approaches are cause for cautious optimism for restoration of the trees, which Walker describes as a “gargantuan task,” requiring “time and patience.” Walker’s passion for her subject and her ability to convincingly explain how the American chestnut is an icon worth saving makes this stand out. A compelling, inspiring true story of a species rescued from extinction through decades of determined innovation. (photos, appendices, source notes, glossary, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Sally M. Walker is the author of the Sibert Medal winner Secrets of a Civil War Submarine as well as many other nonfiction books, including Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation. Sally M. Walker lives in Illinois.

Her website is sallymwalker.com

Teacher Resources

American Chestnut Foundation Educational Resources

American Chestnut Lesson Plans

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Champion on Amazon

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Champion Publisher Page

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Bad Princess by Kris Waldherr

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

Forget everything you thought you knew about princesses…

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Irreverent humor

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

Her website is www.kriswaldherr.com

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Bad Princess on Amazon

Bad Princess on Goodreads

Bad Princess Publisher Page

Very, Very, Very Dreadful by Albert Marrin

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

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

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

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

His website is www.albertmarrin.com.

Teacher Resources

Great Pandemic Resource Lists

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Very, Very, Very Dreadful on Amazon

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Very, Very, Very Dreadful Publisher Page

 

Beep: Inside the Unseen World of Baseball for the Blind by David Wanczyk

Beep: Inside the Unseen World of Baseball for the Blind by David Wanczyk. March 5, 2018. Swallow Press, 246 p. ISBN: 9780804011891.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In Beep, David Wanczyk illuminates the sport of blind baseball to show us a remarkable version of America’s pastime. With balls tricked out to squeal three times per second, and with bases that buzz, this game of baseball for the blind is both innovative and intense. And when the best beep baseball team in America, the Austin Blackhawks, takes on its international rival, Taiwan Homerun, no one’s thinking about disability. What we find are athletes playing their hearts out for a championship.

Wanczyk follows teams around the world and even joins them on the field to produce a riveting inside narrative about the game and its players. Can Ethan Johnston, kidnapped and intentionally blinded as a child in Ethiopia, find a new home in beep baseball, and a spot on the all-star team? Will Taiwan’s rookie MVP Ching-kai Chen—whose superhuman feats on the field have left some veterans suspicious—keep up his incredible play? And can Austin’s Lupe Perez harness his competitive fire and lead his team to a long-awaited victory in the beep baseball world series?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Smoking

 

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About the Author

David Wanczyk grew up a Red Sox fan and once gave up twenty-seven runs in an inning before realizing he’d never make it to Fenway Park—or varsity. He’s coped with that by writing on novel sports for Salon, Slate, Boston Globe Magazine, Texas Monthly, and other venues. The editor of New Ohio Review, he lives in Athens, Ohio, with his wife, Megan, their daughter, Natalie, their son, Ben, and the family heirloom—an autographed Pedro Martinez hat.

His website is www.davidwanczyk.com

Teacher Resources

Official site of the National Beep Baseball Association

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Beep! on Amazon

Beep! on Goodreads

Beep! Publisher Page

Rising Above: Inspiring Women in Sports by Gregory Zuckerman

Rise Above: Inspiring Women in Sports by Gregory Zuckerman. February 20, 2018. Philomel Books, 224 p. ISBN: 9780399547478.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 1070.

Behold the power of women! These are the inspirational real-life stories of female superstar athletes Serena and Venus Williams, Simone Biles, Carli Lloyd, and more — role models all. For sports fans, aspiring athletes and readers of sports biographies. 

Growing up in a crime-plagued, gang-infested neighborhood, Venus and Serena Williams were led to believe their environment was not a place where dreams could come true. It took a relentless determination, a burning desire to be the best, and a willingness to conquer racial barriers for them to emerge as tennis legends. Simone Biles was raised by a single mother with addiction issues, forcing her grandparents to intervene. But Simone soon discovered balance beams and gymnastics mats, setting her on a path toward Olympic greatness. Carli Lloyd, meanwhile, believed her youth soccer career was really starting to take off, only to be cut from her team. Instead of quitting the sport she loved, Carli rebuilt her confidence from the ground up, ultimately becoming one of the leaders on the World Cup Champion US Women’s Soccer team.

The athletes featured in this book met earth-shaking challenges head on, and through hard work and perseverance, went on to conquer the sports world. This collection of mini biographies, complete with first-hand content drawn from interviews, is a source of inspiration and self-empowerment for kids and sports fans of all ages.

Also included in the book: Wilma Rudolph (track and field), Mo’ne Davis (Little League baseball), Swin Cash (basketball), Elena Delle Donne (basketball), Bethany Hamilton (surfing), Ronda Rousey (mixed martial arts), and Kerri Strug (gymnastics).

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Drugs, Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 12))
Grades 3-7. In this companion to Rising Above: How 11 Athletes Overcame Challenges in Their Youth to Become Stars (2016), the authors turn their attention to 11 more athletes, this time all woman, who also rose above adversity to become standouts in their fields. With the exception of Wilma Rudolph, the featured women are current or recent stars. Numerous quotes from interviews and primary sources lend a conversational tone to the quick, easy-to-read profiles. As students read about Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who was raised by loving grandparents after her addict mother lost custody; Grand Slam tennis champs Venus and Serena Williams, who learned to play amid gunshots in their rough Los Angeles neighborhood; and pro surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm at age 13 to a shark attack, they’ll discover that even stars have suffered from gender inequality, poverty, racism, body shaming, bulimia, bullying, self-doubt, and other relatable problems. What will inspire athletes of any ability or gender is how these women turned to help when needed and learned to accept themselves inside and out.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2017)
A reader does not have to be a sports fan to be inspired by these compelling minibiographies of athletes who conquered considerable adversities to realize great achievements.Neglected by a single mother with alcohol and drug addictions, Simone Biles went to live with her grandparents and discovered balance beams and gymnastics mats, which set her on the path to Olympic glory. Serena and Venus Williams overcame racial barriers to become tennis legends. Elena Delle Donne battled Lyme disease while working to become a star WNBA player. Bethany Hamilton continued her career as a professional surfer after losing her left arm in a shark attack. The Zuckermans close with the dramatic story of gymnast Kerri Strug, who, despite a severe injury, executed a gold medal–winning performance in the 1996 Olympics that made her a national sports hero. Other athletes profiled include Mo’ne Davis, Carli Lloyd, Wilma Rudolph, Ronda Rousey, and Swin Cash. Whether it was racism, humiliation for their unique body types, or serious medical issues, all the athletes profiled overcame their imposing obstacles through fierce determination and, the Zuckermans are careful to note, with the help of coaches, counselors, mentors, and therapists. They all refused to blame others for their difficulties and accepted responsibility for their successes and setbacks, a lesson that is delivered firmly and naturally. An inspiring, empowering collection of true stories of perseverance and resolve. (bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Gregory Zuckerman is a senior writer at the Wall Street Journal, where he has been a reporter for twelve years. He pens the widely read “Heard on the Street” column and writes about hedge funds, investing, and other Wall Street topics. He is a two-time winner of the Gerald Loeb Award for coverage of the credit crisis, the demise of WorldCom, and the collapse of hedge fund Amaranth Advisors.

His website is www.gregoryzuckerman.com.

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Rising Above on Amazon

Rising Above on Goodreads

Rising Above Publisher Page

Voices in the Air by Naomi Shihab Nye

Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners by Naomi Shihab Nye. February 13, 2018. Greenwillow Books, 208 p. ISBN: 9780062691842.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Acclaimed and award-winning poet, teacher, and National Book Award finalist Naomi Shihab Nye’s uncommon and unforgettable voice offers readers peace, humor, inspiration, and solace. This volume of almost one hundred original poems is a stunning and engaging tribute to the diverse voices past and present that comfort us, compel us, lead us, and give us hope.

Voices in the Air is a collection of almost one hundred original poems written by the award-winning poet Naomi Shihab Nye in honor of the artists, writers, poets, historical figures, ordinary people, and diverse luminaries from past and present who have inspired her. Full of words of encouragement, solace, and hope, this collection offers a message of peace and empathy.

Voices in the Air celebrates the inspirational people who strengthen and motivate us to create, to open our hearts, and to live rewarding and graceful lives. With short informational bios about the influential figures behind each poem, and a transcendent introduction by the poet, this is a collection to cherish, read again and again, and share with others. Includes an index.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. “All the voices ever cast out into the air are still floating around,” award-winning poet Nye (The Turtle of Oman, 2014) suggests. In this contemplative collection of more than 100 free verse poems, Nye summons them, channeling writers, educators, music icons, and more, from Lucille Clifton and Bruce Springsteen to Hawaiian hairdresser Mary Endo. Over the course of three sections, Nye delivers graceful dedications and intimate recollections, playful musings and sharp rebukes. In the John O’Donohue–inspired “Bowing Candles,” Nye celebrates the late Irish poet: “all poems belong to anyone who loves them.” In “Oh, Say Can You See,” Nye envisions Donald Trump in Palestine: “I’d wrap a keffiyeh around his head, / tuck some warm falafels into his pockets,” she writes. And in “A Lonely Cup of Coffee,” Nye admires the “redolent / rich / ripe / round” of a beverage enjoyed in solitude. These are “poems for listeners,” as the subtitle asserts, and there’s no doubt that Nye’s nimble, clear-eyed, and quietly political poems—supplemented by meticulous biographical notes—may make an avid listener out of anyone.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2017)
A rich collection of poems celebrating diverse lives.Poet and National Book Award finalist Nye (19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, 2005, etc.) here showcases a variety of largely contemporary vantage points. In the prose introduction to this collection of over 90 free-verse poems, Nye invites teen readers to take a break from the lure of digital devices, asking, “With so much vying for our attention, how do we listen better?” and gently reminding all that “quiet inspiration may be as necessary as food, water, and shelter.” Inspiration for Nye here often comes from the crossing of cultures and results from the consummate attention she pays to the slightest of natural phenomena (“never say no to peonies”) alongside such grave societal ills as the displacement or disenfranchisement of whole peoples, whether happening in Gaza, Baghdad, or Ferguson. Using thoughts from a number of famous literary and historical figures as springboards, Nye presents political issues with ease, seeking always to “translate us / all into a better world,” as when she movingly describes the plight of the refugee in “Arabs in Finland”: “What they left to be here, / in the cold country, / where winter lasts forever, / haunts them in the dark.” Asking tough questions and demonstrating the beauty of the voices on the fringe, Nye once again deftly charts the world through verse: not to be missed. (biographical notes) (Poetry. 13-17)

About the Author

Naomi Shihab Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. During her high school years, she lived in Ramallah in Jordan, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas, where she later received her B.A. in English and world religions from Trinity University. She is a novelist, poet and songwriter.

She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2010.

Around the Web

Voices in the Air on Amazon

Voices in the Air on Goodreads

Voices in the Air Publisher Page

Notorious RGB Young Reader’s Edition by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

Notorious RBG Young Readers Edition: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Cameron & Shana Knizhnik. November 28, 2017. HarperCollins, 208 p. ISBN: 9780062748539.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 7.4; Lexile: 1030.

The New York Times bestselling biography Notorious RBG—whose concept originated with a Tumblr page of the same name—is now available in a vibrant, full-color young readers’ edition.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become an icon to millions. Her tireless fight for equality and women’s rights has inspired not only great strides in the workforce but has impacted the law of the land. And now, perfect for a younger generation, comes an accessible biography of this fierce woman, detailing her searing dissents and powerful jurisprudence.

This entertaining and insightful young readers’ edition mixes pop culture, humor, and expert analysis for a remarkable account of the indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Heroine. Trailblazer. Pioneer.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2017)
A tribute to the indefatigable Supreme Court justice—the only member of that esteemed bench ever to become a meme.Admiringly observing that “you don’t want to mess with her,” the authors open with Ginsburg’s devastating dissent following the court’s 2013 “gutting” of the Voting Rights Act, then look back over her childhood, education, and stellar legal career. This last is done with particular reference to the obstacles she had to overcome as a woman in the profession and to her work promoting women’s rights. The authors cast bright sidelights on her close relationships with her husband and with her great frenemy, Antonin Scalia, as well as on her legendary work habits and exercise routines. They also point to significant influences (notably African-American civil rights attorney Pauli Murray) as they describe how she became not just an inspirational figure, but a pop-culture icon. Collages of fans in RBG Halloween costume, of editorial cartoons, and even of needlepoint projects are interspersed with more-conventional photos of Ginsburg at various ages, images of documents and doodles, and inset featurettes with titles such as “The Jabot,” and “How to Be Like RBG.” This shaved-down version of the adult title shows signs of hasty preparation, from uncaptioned and misplaced photos to a partial list of “Things Women Couldn’t Do in the 1930s and 1940s” that includes “Become an astronaut.” It also ends abruptly with a generic 2017 quote (presumably) in response to the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the court. Still, the prose is as trim and lively as its subject, and it makes a solid case for regarding the titular moniker, initially a joke, as truly just. A bit patchy productionwise, but vivacious and well-argued. (timeline, glossary, source list, index) (Biography. 10-14)

School Library Journal Xpress (February 1, 2018)
Gr 5-8-A tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that does more than catalog her achievements; it conveys her spirit, one that will leave readers in awe. Widely viewed as a champion for women’s rights, Ginsburg is quick to correct that she battles for “women’s and men’s liberation,” as best illustrated in the case of Stephen Wiesenfeld, who was prevented from collecting his dead wife’s social security due to his gender. Ginsburg accepted the case to argue that equality under the law benefits both sexes, and shrewdly, to set a precedent. Not only are her professional triumphs lauded, and our justice system explained, the authors do an excellent job of rounding out her rich life: wife in an egalitarian marriage, mother, and close friends with her polar opposite on the bench, Justice Scalia. The one misstep is the clumsy handling of the justice’s cancer, introduced as “her struggle.” Young readers may need more clarification. However, the book’s strengths far overshadow this stumble. This version shares the same knockout formatting as the adult edition: a plethora of photographs and images leaving nary a page unadorned, and slim informational inserts, such as “How to be like RBG” and “RBG’s workout,” that lend this serious subject a lighthearted tone. VERDICT Just as Ginsburg’s (sometimes) frilly jabot belies the quiet revolutionary, this lively biography of this esteemed justice whose influence straddles two centuries is to be taken seriously. Highly recommended.-Laura Falli, McNeil High School, Austin, TX

About the Authors

Irin Carmon is an Israeli-American journalist and commentator. She is a national reporter at MSNBC, covering women, politics, and culture for the website and on air. She is a Visiting Fellow in the Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice at Yale Law School.

In 2011, she was named one of Forbes‘ “30 under 30” in media and featured in New York Magazine as a face of young feminism. She received the November 2011 Sidney award from The Sidney Hillman Foundation recognizing her reporting on the Mississippi Personhood Initiative for Salon. Mediaite named her among four in its award for Best TV pundit of 2014.

Her website is irincarmon.com

Shana Knizhnik is a civil rights attorney. While a student at NYU law school, she created the Notorious R.B.G. Tumblr, a feminist website dedicated to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her lifelong fight for equality and social justice.

 

Around the Web

Notorious RBG Young Readers Edition on Amazon

Notorious RBG Young Readers Edition on Goodreads

Notorious RBG Young Readers Edition Publisher Page

The Making of a Dream by Laura Wides-Muñoz

The Making of a Dream: How a Group of Young Undocumented Immigrants Helped Change What It Means To Be American by Laura Wides-Muñoz. January 30, 2018. Harper, 384 p. ISBN: 9780062560124.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A journalist chronicles the next chapter in civil rights—the story of a movement and a nation, witnessed through the poignant and inspiring experiences of five young undocumented activists who are transforming society’s attitudes toward one of the most contentious political matters roiling America today: immigration.

They are called the DREAMers: young people who were brought, or sent, to the United States as children and who have lived for years in America without legal status. Growing up, they often worked hard in school, planned for college, only to learn they were, in the eyes of the United States government and many citizens, “illegal aliens.”

Determined to take fate into their own hands, a group of these young undocumented immigrants risked their safety to “come out” about their status—sparking a transformative movement, engineering a seismic shift in public opinion on immigration, and inspiring other social movements across the country. Their quest for permanent legal protection under the so-called “Dream Act,” stalled. But in 2012, the Obama administration issued a landmark, new immigration policy: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which has since protected more than half a million young immigrants from deportation even as efforts to install more expansive protections remain elusive.

The Making of a Dream begins at the turn of the millennium, with the first of a series of “Dream Act” proposals; follows the efforts of policy makers, activists, and undocumented immigrants themselves, and concludes with the 2016 presidential election and the first months of the Trump presidency. The immigrants’ coming of age stories intersect with the watershed political and economic events of the last two decades: 9/11, the recession, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama presidency, and the rebirth of the anti-immigrant right.

In telling their story, Laura Wides-Muñoz forces us to rethink our definition of what it means to be American.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Anti-gay attitudes and epithets

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Award-winning journalist Wides-Muñoz’s essential primer on the DREAM Act exposes the toll the U.S.’s broken immigration system takes on real people. As this legislation remains in hostage to political paralysis on Capitol Hill, the lives of undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children, the so-called DREAMers, are left suspended in excruciating limbo. Wides-Muñoz weaves the experiences and life stories of a handful of these exceptional young people into her informative account of the tortuously frustrating and heartbreaking attempts at achieving immigration reform in the twenty-first century. Besides the DREAMers and their families, her well-developed cast of characters includes key legislators, young immigration activists, advocates, and organizations. Wides-Muñoz’s sometimes-wonky prose can intermittently belie the passionate story she tells, yet this is a valuable and detailed look at lawmaking and policy that affect people and communities across the nation and around the world as well as portraits of heroic youth willing to put their own status in jeopardy to advocate for fair treatment, not only for themselves and their families but for all immigrants.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
An eye-opening exploration of the DREAM Act and those who have tried to find safe harbor in the United States under its aegis.Relating her often poignant narrative through tales of aspiring citizens such as a Bolivian immigrant who arrived as a child, remained illegally, and has since become a leading activist in immigration-related causes, Wides-Muñoz, the vice president for special projects and editorial strategy at Fusion TV, examines changes in legislation and the national mood alike over the last 20 years. The DREAM Act, she writes, was the outgrowth of a George W. Bush–era series of legislative efforts to make it more difficult for so-called illegal aliens to find a path to legal permanent residence and even citizenship. The “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act,” born of an unlikely alliance between Sens. Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch, recognized that children brought to this country illegally were not willful criminals and therefore not deserving of punishments such as being denied educational opportunities. The story is full of ironies: the postal worker who discovered anthrax in the mail had long overstayed a tourist visa, while “the second US casualty in the [Iraq] war turned out to be a young man from Guatemala who had crossed the California border illegally.” After 9/11, writes Wides-Muñoz, efforts to improve the status of DREAMers were put on the back burner. During the Obama administration, those efforts were halfhearted enough that Hispanic voters “sat out the 2010 election in greater numbers than white or black voters,” to disastrous results for the Democrats in the face of the tea party onslaught that would go on to put Donald Trump, an avowed opponent of the act and of immigration, in the White House. Against that new tide of anti-immigrant sentiment, the book concludes, the DREAM Act may be doomed despite efforts in the Senate to initiate meaningful immigration reform. A well-crafted, timely contribution to the immigration debate

About the Author

Laura Wides-Muñoz is the author of The Making of a Dream: How a Group of Young Undocumented Immigrants Helped Change What It Means to be American. The book is based on more than a decade of reporting on immigration, much of it done while Laura was a staff writer for the Associated Press. Previously, she served as Vice President for Special Projects & Editorial Strategy at Univision’s English-language Fusion Network, and as a senior story editor for the network’s TV and digital investigative teams. Laura has reported from Cuba and throughout Central America and has written for the Miami Herald, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, among other outlets. She has won the Associated Press Managing Editors Award and multiple Society of Professional Journalists awards. The Making of a Dream is her first published book. She conceived of the project during a 2013 Harvard University Nieman Foundation for Journalism fellowship.

She lives in Washington, D.C. with her family. Her website is www.laurawidesmunoz.com

Around the Web

The Making of a Dream on Amazon

The Making of a Dream on Goodreads

The Making of a Dream Publisher Page

Facing Frederick by Tonya Bolden

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

Her website is www.tonyaholdenbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Collection of Frederick Douglass Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Facing Frederick on Amazon

Facing Frederick on Goodreads

Facing Frederick Publisher Page

 

Spineless by Juli Berwald

Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone by Juli Berwald. November 7, 2017. Riverhead Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9780735211261.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A former ocean scientist goes in pursuit of the slippery story of jellyfish, rediscovering her passion for marine science and the sea’s imperiled ecosystems.

Jellyfish have been swimming in our oceans for well over half a billion years, longer than any other animal that lives on the planet. They make a venom so toxic it can kill a human in three minutes. Their sting–microscopic spears that pierce with five million times the acceleration of gravity–is the fastest known motion in the animal kingdom. Made of roughly 95 percent water, some jellies are barely perceptible virtuosos of disguise, while others glow with a luminescence that has revolutionized biotechnology. Yet until recently, jellyfish were largely ignored by science, and they remain among the most poorly understood of ocean dwellers.

More than a decade ago, Juli Berwald left a career in ocean science to raise a family in landlocked Austin, Texas, but jellyfish drew her back to the sea. Recent, massive blooms of billions of jellyfish have clogged power plants, decimated fisheries, and caused millions of dollars of damage. Driven by questions about how overfishing, coastal development, and climate change were contributing to a jellyfish population explosion, Juli embarked on a scientific odyssey. She traveled the globe to meet the biologists who devote their careers to jellies, hitched rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild, raised jellyfish in her dining room, and throughout it all marveled at the complexity of these alluring and ominous biological wonders.

Gracefully blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless is the story of how Juli learned to navigate and ultimately embrace her ambition, her curiosity, and her passion for the natural world. She discovers that jellyfish science is more than just a quest for answers. It’s a call to realize our collective responsibility for the planet we share.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Discussion

Via C-SPAN

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 3))
Jellyfish are so alien to us as spinal cord-bearing, land-based animals that we can’t envision how a brainless blob of jelly can even be alive, let alone move, eat, and behave like an animal. And yet there are several thousand species of jellies in the world’s waters, and their enigmatic lives fuel the fascination of science writer Berwald in her quest to understand their role in the fate of the oceans. The author first became enamored of marine biology during a field course in the Red Sea, but marriage and kids sidetracked her into writing textbooks and science articles. Stumbling across jellyfish while writing for National Geographic, she discovered an obsession that took her around the world to talk to the scientists who study jellies. She swam with jellies, watched how quickly they disintegrate in fishers’ nets, ate them in Japan, and kept them in a home aquarium, and as she revels in these spineless animals, she teaches us to delight in them, too.

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2017)
A close look at the biology and behavior of jellyfish combined with a personal history of the author, a former ocean scientist who was pulled back to the sea by these enigmatic creatures.As science writer Berwald notes, details about jellyfish—whose species number in the hundreds—are scant in comparison with what is known about other marine animals despite the fact that they have been on Earth for at least 500 million years. Because they reproduce quickly and can adapt to different environments, they’re notorious for disrupting ocean ecosystems and devastating fishing economies. For beachgoers, they are often just nuisances with a painful sting. But the further the author dives into her research, the more she suspects that jellyfish behavior may provide clues about how the Earth’s changing climate is affecting ocean life. In addition, jellies have sophisticated propulsion systems and collagen-based bodies that may guide bioengineers in developing new products. In this appealing combination of solid science writing, investigative journalism, and memoir, Berwald chronicles her travels around the globe interviewing leading jellyfish experts and viewing all types of jellies in aquariums and native habitats. What the author discovered is that jellyfish science is growing as it becomes more apparent that the animals are a robust source of information about the ocean’s conditions as well as many other facets of the natural world. After years of research, Berwald is convinced that “to research jellyfish is not just to look at a creature unfamiliar and bizarre to most, but to study the planet and our place in it.” While writing this lucid, eye-opening book, the author discovered that her place was, in part, inextricably entangled with jellyfish. In this lovely exploration of the mysterious jellyfish, Berwald both entrances and sounds a warning: pay attention to the messages sent by ocean life, and act to protect their environment, and ours.

About the Author

Juli Berwald received her Ph.D. in Ocean Science from the University of Southern California. A science textbook writer and editor, she has written for a number of publications, including The New York TimesNatureNational Geographic, and Slate.

She lives in Austin with her husband and their son and daughter. Her website is www.juliberwald.com

Teacher Resources

Jellyfish Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Spineless on Amazon

Spineless on Goodreads

Spineless Publisher Page