This is such a fun exercise in fan fiction: 5 authors contribute to Andrew Peterson's own addition to the Wingfeather Saga with their unique voices anThis is such a fun exercise in fan fiction: 5 authors contribute to Andrew Peterson's own addition to the Wingfeather Saga with their unique voices and creative abilities. 6 different illustrators are featured. Clearly, everyone enjoys the world of Aeriwar and they add much to the "canon" without actually changing the canon. Delightful.
Another well done Shakespeare retelling. Having different illustrators for this series really adds to their value because each illustrator has such aAnother well done Shakespeare retelling. Having different illustrators for this series really adds to their value because each illustrator has such a unique style that helps capture a bit of the individuality of the play itself. And The Winter's Tale is not as well known! Good choice for introducing upper elementary to the play all the way up through introducing high school students to the play....more
A stay-up-late-because-it's-exciting-and-gripping kind of read. A good choice for kids who love/crave adventure and "drama in real life" stories. ThisA stay-up-late-because-it's-exciting-and-gripping kind of read. A good choice for kids who love/crave adventure and "drama in real life" stories. This one is pretty unbelievable. Nice section of photographs and an epilogue round it out....more
What a tremendous resource for those wanting to learn how to draw the things they see in nature! This is not a "kid's book," but is accessible to anyoWhat a tremendous resource for those wanting to learn how to draw the things they see in nature! This is not a "kid's book," but is accessible to anyone with some drawing savvy and the desire to learn more, perhaps age 10 and up. It's hefty, chock full of inspiration and instruction, and could serve equally well as a nature study how to and an art how to. ...more
I'm also not sure I could read the adult version of this. There's plenty of despair, cannabilism, tragedy, whaling, andI could not put this book down.
I'm also not sure I could read the adult version of this. There's plenty of despair, cannabilism, tragedy, whaling, and drama enough in this young readers version! I found this vastly more interesting than Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, and I have no doubt many struggling high school students would agree!...more
Definitely for people who know/enjoy hymns! Fun series to learn about the background of some famous hymns and their authors. This volume has Mr. PipesDefinitely for people who know/enjoy hymns! Fun series to learn about the background of some famous hymns and their authors. This volume has Mr. Pipes and Annie and Drew on an adventure in Italy and then--in an accidental voyage--back to England. Hymn writers covered include St. Patrick, St. Francis, St. Clement, and others. Text will feel preachy to some, but it is much better than most Christian fiction I've read! Bond weaves the information about the hymns along with plenty of theology fairly seamlessly into the story. Our family thoroughly enjoyed it....more
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The sentences, the words--the craftsmanship in this sense is marvelous. Beautiful writing. But the book isI wanted to like this book more than I did. The sentences, the words--the craftsmanship in this sense is marvelous. Beautiful writing. But the book is pretty hopeless when all is said and done. The girl is young in the book, but she's looking back on the events of this year in her life and the reader sees the events through that older perspective. It's deep, melancholy, full of the coming-of-age sense in which a person learns the life is hard, life isn't fair, and life is messy. Frankly, I don't think middle schoolers need many reminders of that, nor do I think they want to read tons of books that wallow in despair. I wish there had been more hope in the ending because the book had such promise!...more
What It’s About: Twelfth century samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune’s turbulent life and the rise of the saFirst reviewed on Literaritea
What It Is: Biography
What It’s About: Twelfth century samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune’s turbulent life and the rise of the samurai culture. Yoshitsune was one of the early samurai to practice a ritual (and gory) suicide in order to avoid being captured by the enemy. But his life up until that point was no less peaceful. On the run from birth, he found refuge first in a monastery and later in wealthy estate before taking on a leadership role in his family. But as his family rose to power, strife between him and his brother, strife between their family and the opposing samurai family, and general instability in Japan meant for a gripping, action-packed, and often violent existence.
What Works: The pacing is excellent in this book–hard to put down! The prose is well done. Words like “probably” and “he might have…” help indicate where the author is making educated guesses based on her research of the time period and culture. Speaking of research…. fully 60 pages are end matter: chapter notes, author’s notes, timelines, glossary, index. This gal has done her homework!
What Doesn’t Work: For a biography, not much. Expertly crafted and researched, this is a terrific example of a biography. But in terms of a biography to “teach” or “inspire” character traits…this might not be the best choice. That’s the subject matter’s fault, though, not the author’s. She attempts to show ways in which Yoshitsune is honorable and treats his comrades with dignity, but a samurai is still a samurai. Violence is the answer.
What I Think/Recommend: If you are studying Medieval Japan with anyone eighth grade or older, this is a fantastic addition. Anyone simply interested in history and/or Japanese culture will also find this a riveting read. But be forewarned: as the back of the book states (accurately), a lot of people die in this book…. and most are NOT from natural causes. The author isn’t overly graphic in her descriptions, by any means. But the samurai solve all their problems with violence and the weapons of the day meant, aside from archery, the battles were up close and personal.
One final note: Yoshitsune’s consort gets good attention (and she was heroic in her own way!), but some families may wish to know this beforehand. There are no graphic scenes; the text merely mentions that the two are not married and, eventually, that she is carrying his child.
What It’s About: A group of young Danish teens set out to defy the Nazis throuFirst reviewed on Literaritea
What It Is: Middle grades and YA Nonfiction
What It’s About: A group of young Danish teens set out to defy the Nazis through sabotage when Hitler’s minions invaded Denmark during WWII. Frustrated that their countrymen seemed to be doing nothing and inspired by Norway’s resistance, the boys formed a secret club, risked their lives, spent time in prison, and helped spur their fellow Danes on to standing up to the Germans.
What Works: The primary source material in this book is marvelous. Hoose interviewed Knud Pedersen and liberally included Pedersen’s own words. The book is easily half Pedersen’s. There are photographs and plenty of other direct quotations as well. The book’s trim size keeps the narrative moving. Action-packed, this is a book kids will speed through. End material includes brief blurbs on the lives of those in the book post-WWII, author’s notes, chapter notes, bibliography, and index. Finally, that cover is so well done!
What Doesn’t Work: Not much! This book is a terrific example of well done narrative writing.
What I Think/Recommend: Definitely stock in a school/public library. It’s not the kind of title most families will feel the need to own, but it works equally well as recreational or school-related reading. For 8th and 9th graders studying WWII or character traits such as bravery or even general “resistance to power” themes, put this book on the list! It would be an interesting comparison to the Civil Rights Movement in terms of resistance. It’s also a non-concentration-camp angle to WWII that would help round out a WWII study.
Note: Any work that presents the Nazis even remotely accurately will be full of heavy stuff. This book doesn’t shy away from the harsh prison terms the boys experience, for instance. I’d keep this on the upper end of middle grades for most kids (or early YA).
The boys are not saints, but Knud’s father is a Lutheran minister. References to their religious background are present, but there is little to no indication that any of the boys are doing their actions because of religious conviction. Rather, they almost come across as hot-headed teens who happen to be acting out in ways we think are laudable (because they are acting out against the Nazis instead of their parents or teachers). It would make an interesting discussion to see what teens think of this!...more
The Warm-Up: A well written, well researched account of the Jubilee Singers using the experience of Ella Sheppard as theFirst reviewed on Literaritea
The Warm-Up: A well written, well researched account of the Jubilee Singers using the experience of Ella Sheppard as the focal point. The Jubilee Singers were the former slaves who were the first students at Fisk University.
The Melody: Lowinger gives a fairly thorough account of Sheppard’s life as a whole. The main thrust of the book, though, is the rise and success of the Jubilee Singers. Lowinger doesn’t mince words about the racism and prejudice these brave young people faced, nor does she hide the brutality towards and injustice of the slaves in the U.S. prior to, during, and after the Civil War. The South wasn’t the only bastion of hate and bigotry, and the Civil War didn’t immediately solve all the problems. Lowinger also offers information on various Jubilee Singers and those that helped the Singers. A biography of Ella Sheppard, yes, but this is also a terrific social history of the U.S. during the mid-1800s that is more than a slave narrative, a cry for abolitionist causes, or an account of the differences between the South or the North.
The Applause: Well done, Ms. Lowinger! More emotional connection with Shepherd and her fellow singers might have been too much for middle school and high school readers, but she offers sophisticated writing, well researched information, lyric to old spirituals, and plenty of maps, photographs, and other memorabilia reproductions to interest any reader age 10 and up. Lowinger also alludes to the Christian faith of Shepherd and some of the others without making this a main focus. Those who don’t share Shepherd’s faith will not be offended, but those of us who do very much appreciate this aspect!
Note for concerned parents: there is some heavy content in this book, as is fitting with the subject material. One historical image (not a photograph) shows a mob beating a black man to death. Scenes like this, references at the beginning to male masters taking their female slaves to bed, and the like make this a book better suited for upper middle grades and up if you are dealing with sensitive young readers.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes....more
The Patient: Middle grade/YA nonfiction about medicine and three medical pioneers in the 1940s
The Surgery: Alfred BlalockFirst reviewed on Literaritea
The Patient: Middle grade/YA nonfiction about medicine and three medical pioneers in the 1940s
The Surgery: Alfred Blalock, chief surgeon (and white man), Vivien Thomas, Blalock’s research assistant (and African American man), and Helen Taussig, “blue babies” doctor (and white, partially deaf woman) team up to pioneer truly amazing heart surgery for babies and children suffering from “Blue Baby” syndrome, a condition in which oxygen isn’t being efficiently distributed throughout the body because of a heart defect.
The book tells much of the back story of the team: the racism and sexism that faced Thomas and Taussig, the general timeline leading to the meeting of the team and their placement at Johns Hopkins, and basic, related medical events and technology of the time period.
The Outcome: Murphy handles his subject well, using Thomas as the primary lens through which we experience the story. Blalock wasn’t as much of a racist as many of his fellow Southerners, but he still demonstrated plenty of unconscious moments of prejudice even while he stood up for his right-hand man and clearly tried to treat him with dignity. Thomas’s limitations due to his race and the time period are heart-breaking because he was clearly very talented and the key to the success of the surgery. Taussig faced her own struggles as a female doctor during a time when there were very few; her growing deafness only added to her challenges.
What impressed me the most, though, was the clear theme of the value of all human life: each person, regardless of race or gender, has distinct gifts and can make notable contributions. Even more, even babies who are about to die are worth the effort it took for the research team to pioneer the surgery and perform the surgery.
End matter is excellent: thorough source notes with further explanations, image credits, and an index
The Recovery: Due to the photographs (some are graphic–of things such as lynchings) and the medical terminology and descriptions (especially for the squeamish!), this is best for upper middle grades and YA audiences. A terrific addition to a school or public library, this would make a fascinating nonfiction read for a biology class. Even grown-ups will find this one engaging....more
This is a great read about a group of boys--one in particular--who refuse to give up in the face of difficulty. Pacing is nice and suspense builds, evThis is a great read about a group of boys--one in particular--who refuse to give up in the face of difficulty. Pacing is nice and suspense builds, even though the outcome is a historical fact. The struggles of those growing up in the Depression and in an often harsh climate put our modern complaints to utter shame. Great themes of perseverance, teamwork, and being willing to be vulnerable within a safe community. Although it says "young readers" edition, this is not a dumbed down book... just a bit shorter. So, grown-ups looking for a less lengthy/intense read than the original will enjoy it!...more
This book ripped my heart out, crumpled it up, and threw it in an icy river.
Now that you know my true feelings, let me just say: read the plot synopsThis book ripped my heart out, crumpled it up, and threw it in an icy river.
Now that you know my true feelings, let me just say: read the plot synopsis and know that this is not a book for sissies, for non-mature students (I won't say "immature"--but the students who are not ready to deal with some pretty heavy things), or for those who need grief processing time.
My biggest issue with this book is the last--the grief processing time. I'm totally fine with books that have hard endings. A Monster Calls is a great example of a book that needed a hard ending--but it was a good ending. The right ending.
And maybe Orbiting Jupiter needed a hard ending. But if so, then we, the readers, need the same grief processing that the young narrator would have needed. And we don't get that. We jump ahead more than a year to a happier time. A redemptive final chapter, but the reader needs a bit of time just as the narrator did.
That being said, this book was a stunning example of a terse, trim, evocative book. After plodding through some really long middle grades fare recently, it was a delight to be in the skillful hands of an author who could command my attention and deliver a riveting, one-sitting read and keep it under 200 pages. Kudos, Mr. Schmidt, for keeping every word in its place and eliminating all unnecessary verbiage.
But a few more words between the two final chapters wouldn't have been amiss....more
A powerful example of what a talented author and equally talented illustrator can do with a picture book biography! First person free verse recounts F A powerful example of what a talented author and equally talented illustrator can do with a picture book biography! First person free verse recounts Fannie Lou's story from birth through the end of her life. Subheadings function almost as chapter breaks in the lengthy text. Collage illustrations MAKE the book, though. Holmes does a magnificent job here of evoking the right moods, images, and associations that Weatherford's text alludes to. Note that Hamer is consistently portrayed in sunshiny yellow--and that one her songs is "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine."
Author's note, bibliography, timeline, source notes--end matter is full of extra information!
Note: for those reading this aloud to a student audience "cold," there is one page that includes a white person shaming Hamer with the "n" word and "bitch." In the context, this provides an excellent place in which to discuss the hatefulness of the phrase used! But be prepared....more
One-Line Summary: In this moving and convicting account, Qureshi recounts his spiritual awakening from devout MuslimReviewed first on Redeemed Reader
One-Line Summary: In this moving and convicting account, Qureshi recounts his spiritual awakening from devout Muslim boy to questioning teenager to zealous young Christian.
Nabeel Qureshi is a refreshing narrator in these confused times as our society attempts to balance fear of extreme Islamic practices with reticence about religious profiling of all professing Muslims. In this well-organized and exciting book, Qureshi spends time walking the reader through his early years in a devout home that professed and practiced the beliefs of the Islamic sect Ahmadiyya. Qureshi’s parents took the religious training of their children very seriously, and by the time Qureshi was a teen, he was well versed in the tenets of his religion. During high school, his best friend was a boy named David, a professing Christian and fellow debate team member. They became roommates in college and began to debate the merits of Islam and Christianity.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Lord used myriad ways to open this young man’s eyes to the truths of the gospel, and Qureshi’s account is simultaneously honest, emotional, and intellectually stimulating. Qureshi’s parents’ devotion to their religion and their training of their children is truly commendable, an example we Christians would do well to emulate. Of particular interest to our teen and college readers is the portrayal of Nabeel and David’s friendship. The two quickly realized that despite their significant religious differences and cultural backgrounds, they actually had more in common with each other than with their secular friends. For instance, both believed in a Creator and disavowed evolution. Their willingness to focus on their similarities and to be honest with each other even when religious debates grew intense proved to be a real means of grace in both of their lives.
Qureshi gives readers a powerful example of life-on-life apologetics and of Peter’s urging for all Christians to have an answer for the hope that is in us. He also paints the Islamic community in sympathetic, but honest terms, and he includes much extra material on his website for readers who wish to pursue the apologetics questions further. His extra resources on the web come from noted Christian thinkers such as Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel. Currently, Qureshi is working with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. This is a must read for any who wish to understand their Muslim friends and neighbors better as well as for any who are interested in apologetics.