I really enjoyed reading this well-written autobiography of a very talented and very courageous young woman, who escaped wartime atrocities in SierraI really enjoyed reading this well-written autobiography of a very talented and very courageous young woman, who escaped wartime atrocities in Sierra Leone to become a highly regarded ballerina. Co-written with her American adoptive mother, the book tells Mabinty's journey to become Michaela, how she kept her hope alive in the face of death and how she coped with immense change and loss in her young life as she worked extremely hard to make her dreams of being a black classical ballerina come true. A great read, of a fascinating story well told. Inspiring story for anyone, not just those who want to be professional ballerinas, but especially for young women of color or disabilities or anyone who struggles against prejudice or discrimination. Nice full-color photo insert in the middle of the book....more
Tells the life story of Benny Andrews, sharecropper's son who became well-known African American artist known for teaching art and helping others, andTells the life story of Benny Andrews, sharecropper's son who became well-known African American artist known for teaching art and helping others, and protesting the exclusion of minority artists in exhibitions. The book is illustrated solely with Benny's art, from rural scenes to urban paintings. Gives timeline of his life, sources. ...more
Wild and colorful illustrations evoke the wild music of the jazz musician "Sun Ra," originally known as Sonny Blount. Because Sun Ra claimed to have bWild and colorful illustrations evoke the wild music of the jazz musician "Sun Ra," originally known as Sonny Blount. Because Sun Ra claimed to have been taken to Saturn in a vision, the book tells his story as if this is true, and that he was from another planet, which makes for a fun read. While I would have liked to see some sources or a bibliography, to make this more of a biography, it's still a gorgeous picture book and tells the story of a unique talented individual. he was one far-out dude! It certainly got me curious to go find some of his music to listen to....more
Knowing nothing about the advent of the frozen food industry (or "frosted foods" as Birdseye originally called it), I learned quite a lot from this biKnowing nothing about the advent of the frozen food industry (or "frosted foods" as Birdseye originally called it), I learned quite a lot from this biography of Clarence Birdseye, the man who created a commercially successful method to quick-freeze fresh food and distribute it throughout the country. He was quite a character, always looking for adventure, and so he went to Montana on a medical science expedition, trapping and studying ticks to learn the causes and prevention of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever; he loved to hunt and fish so he got to do that a lot out there. He also lived many years off and on in the frozen wastes of Labrador, again, hunting fishing and trapping, and these and other experiences led to his eventual fame through frozen food. Fascinating stuff, this book giving very detailed histories of all sorts of related industries and inventions that led up to Birdseye's success. Has bibliography and index. All the photos are sandwiched into a center insert section, which I am never a fan of, but I think it makes for cheaper publication costs. the writing was fine, if a tiny bit overly detailed--some of the history of earlier inventions I thought was superfluous and distracting. But definitely a unique book about a unique guy and today's kids will be thoroughly flabbergasted to read about a time when you couldn't just pop a dinner into the microwave whenever you want......more
All about the life of Victorian era photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, who didn't get her first camera until age 48 but then made up for it in outpuAll about the life of Victorian era photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, who didn't get her first camera until age 48 but then made up for it in output and popularity. She was a Bohemian in England when that was pretty rare, having lived a lot of her childhood in India; she wore loose robes, not snug dresses, was a free spirit. She wanted photography to be seen as "art" and she popularized using soft focus and closeups of her subjects' faces, who had to pose for hours as she fiddled to get the glass plates exposed just right, in this the very pioneer days of photography. She took pictures of her friends, of children (hers and friends and strangers), and of famous "great minds" of the time such as Tennyson or the astronomer Sir John Herschel. This book is illustrated with many of her photographs, but also with beautiful color full-page illustrations of Julia at various stages of her life. Has great quotes from many of her photographic subjects and people who knew her. Also lists the author's sources for the book....more
I was really fascinated by this book, although I almost didn't want to read it after I read the author's note at the beginning: "Dear Reader, if you aI was really fascinated by this book, although I almost didn't want to read it after I read the author's note at the beginning: "Dear Reader, if you are squeamish" and don't like to read about germs, or you're the type of person who uses antibacterial spray every five minutes, or doesn't touch doorknobs, etc, then "you should stop now and find some other book to read." !! I loved that, because it's a fair warning, and because I'm sure it will serve to draw in some reluctant kid readers who might not have otherwise thought this looked like a good book. But a gross book about germs? They'll love it! Haha!
Previously I knew a little bit about Mary Mallon, but mostly just the legends that have sprung up about her. So this was a fascinating book to read, meticulously researched, that gives the truth about her, or as much as can be known. The author freely states "we don't know" or "it is thought that" whenever she comes to a gap in the historical record, which is good, so that readers know as much as she knows and what there still is unknown about this historical figure. I probably don't need to explain that she was the early twentieth century Irish cook who unwittingly was a "healthy carrier" of typhoid and most likely passed on the disease to many of her employers and their families and servants. I loved how this book reads, just like a novel, with a conversational style and melodramatic descriptive chapter titles such as "In Which There's Some Name-Calling," or, "In Which It Takes a Squad of Sanitary Police," etc, just like a 19th century dime novel. Poor Mary really was given the bad end of the deal once the NY Board of Health found out about her; the author does a good job of explaining why they did what they did (dragging her off the street, keeping her locked up in solitary, etc) in light of the cultural practices of the time, and how the civil rights we enjoy today were not always respected, and so forth. You also do get some details about germs and how to study them, the history of early epidemiology and entymology and sanitation, and so on. A major character is the sanitation engineer who was the "germ detective" trying to figure out where all of these typhoid cases originated. There is a great list of sources, citations for all of the quotations, a bibliography and notes from the author. The one thing I wish had been done differently is having all of the photographs in a "album" at the back of the book. I'd rather be able to see a photograph of a person as I'm reading about them in a chapter, rather than flipping to the back to hunt for them, and I think modern nonfiction for kids tends to be more appealing if done that way. But perhaps this was a decision made to keep the book looking more like a novel, with uninterrupted text. I don't know. In any case, it's still a darn good read and well worth picking up. Just make sure you aren't eating lunch while you read it......more
A fascinating picture book biography of John Roy Lynch, who went from 16-year-old half Irish freed slave to U.S. Congressman in ten years! He lived inA fascinating picture book biography of John Roy Lynch, who went from 16-year-old half Irish freed slave to U.S. Congressman in ten years! He lived in Natchez Mississippi, where his father was the plantation overseer who had planned to liberate him but died when John was only two. It wasn't until 14 years later that John was finally freed and began to make his way in the world, rising from photographer's assistant to justice of the peace and to eloquent statesman. His story is also that of Reconstruction--freedom and equality for blacks existed briefly after the Civil War but later were taken away by Southern whites. The whimsical illustrations soften the harsh reality of what they depict. It's an inspiring text that explains slavery and discrimination clearly and eloquently. Includes author and illustrator notes, extensive timeline, and a list of further reading. Refers readers to Chris Barton's website for "more about the research and writing of" the book....more
What a fun book for any Disney fan, or fans of fantasy adventure in general. Well, maybe if you're NOT a Disney fan you might not like it. This is a pWhat a fun book for any Disney fan, or fans of fantasy adventure in general. Well, maybe if you're NOT a Disney fan you might not like it. This is a prequel story to the new Descendants movie that's coming soon on the Disney Channel--I think it serves as backstory to the film, but it's a good book all by itself. It's about the children of the Disney villains and how they fare while in exile from all of the "good" Disney characters. The main foursome are Mal, the graffiti-artist punk teen daughter of Maleficent; Evie, beautiful daughter of the Evil Queen from Snow White; Jay, the handsome thief son of Jafar; and Carlos, nerdy science-loving son of Cruella de Vil! Plus assorted minor characters like Jace and Harry, sons of Jasper and Horace from 101 Dalmations, etc. Twenty years ago all of the villains (the teens' parents) were exiled by King Beast (yep, the one married to Belle) to live forever on the Isle of the Lost, under a dome that blocks any magic from reaching the island. SO you've got a community of seething angry defeated evildoers, who cannot do anything magical, and who subsist on the scraps and leftovers delivered from the Beast's Kingdom of Auradon (home of the Charmings, and Rapunzel, etc.). The teens all just want to be bad, to earn the respect of their villainous parents, although Evie is the least bad of them all; she was banished herself 10 years ago from stepping outside her castle when Mal wasn't invited to Evie's 6th birthday party. The resentments between the parents are really something! Anyway without giving away too much of the plot, these teens have to try to work together for a change, which really goes against their evil nature. The story is just plain fun, with lots of Disney namedropping (all of their teachers at school are various villains--I didn't even recognize some of the names and had fun looking them up!) and clever banter between characters. The author does a great job of establishing the setting--you can picture the creepy castles and dingy tombs, and the young characters are delineated well enough with clothes and hairstyles as well as personality quirks. She didn't have to go far in describing the parents since everyone knows Cruella and Maleficent, et al, but they are still established as unique characters in their own right. Interesting themes of good vs. evil and nature vs. nurture; what would it be like to be raised by a frustrated always-losing villain? Would you ever be able to live up to their level of badness? And the good guy characters, Prince Ben in particular (son of Beast and Belle) also face difficulties in their seemingly perfect world (loved the hilarious Sidekicks plotline!). This book reminded me a lot of the Monster High series; similar kind of concept only with Disney villains instead of monsters like Dracula. Also, although the characters are 16 and it's written by a YA author, it's perfectly fine for tweens to read. It's very Disney! Rather adorable, actually. I'm going to have to tune in to the movie just for kicks......more
What a fun and clever book! The little-known story of Christopher Ludwick, a German immigrant to America in the 18th century who bakes for a living, aWhat a fun and clever book! The little-known story of Christopher Ludwick, a German immigrant to America in the 18th century who bakes for a living, and how he joined the Revolutionary cause and became the chief baker for the Continental Army; he talks to the hessian mercenaries to try to convince them to switch sides, and even ended up baking bread to feed the defeated British soldiers. I love this book, not only for the cool German-American connection (my dad is a Hessian too! :-) but for the colorful, cheery, stylized illustrations that make the characters look just like gingerbread. I liked the short, succinct, simple text with repetition ("Not in my America!"), and the amusing comments of the general's underlings and the King's underlings--they all have something to say to echo or to question their leaders. It also has three very big German words in it (for Revolution, Independence, and Liberty), which I've certainly never seen done before in an American picturebook. Kudos! The afterword gives nice details of Christopher's life, and lists the author's sources....more
A fun spoof of superheroes and a coming-of-age story at the same time, Sidekicks is the story of a sidekick, "Bright Boy," who's an obvious Robin-typeA fun spoof of superheroes and a coming-of-age story at the same time, Sidekicks is the story of a sidekick, "Bright Boy," who's an obvious Robin-type boy wonder to the Batman-like "Phantom Justice" superhero. Scott, Bright Boy's real persona, has an embarrassing anatomical gaffe, clearly visible in his too-tight tights, while rescuing a sexy damsel in distress; he's a growing young man after all. And the resulting public humiliation--the newscrew chopper films it live!--adds to his turmoil over wanting to get a new uniform, which Phantom refuses to allow, and having to maintain his wimpy cover character while being bullied at school. Then the unthinkable happens: during a fight he accidentally unmasks the sidekick (Monkeywrench) of his and Phantom Justice's archenemy, Dr. Chaotic, and SHE turns out to be a girl in his class at school! And she quickly unmasks him, so they have a tense detente where either could publicly "out" each other's identity. What's a proper heroic sidekick to do? There follow some pretty funny surprises, plot twists, and of course, lots of action-packed battles on rooftops and snappy hero-evildoer insult exchanges. GREAT book for anyone who loves comic books and superhero stuff, especially if you like a dose of humor and satire along with your heroic action. Good story about why superheroes do what they do, and why would someone choose the life of a hero, and what makes bad guys the bad guys. I hope someday he writes a sequel, because this one is pretty great....more
A sweet story about redemption, friendship and art, in which once again Ms. Pearsall takes the kernel of a real event and spins it into an excellent hA sweet story about redemption, friendship and art, in which once again Ms. Pearsall takes the kernel of a real event and spins it into an excellent historical fiction novel for middle schoolers. When thirteen year old Arthur is sentenced to do community service with the "Junk Man" whom he had injured with a thrown brick, Arthur is surprised, angry, relieved, and confused all at the same time. He is relieved he doesn't have to spend more time in juvenile lockup; he's really not a bad kid. But he's surprised that Mr. Hampton, the old man against whom he committed the crime, would want his help and not to have him locked away. Arthur reports for his volunteer hours but finds out he is going to be the new "junk man," pushing a rusty old shopping cart around the neighborhood to collect the Seven Most Important Things Mr. Hampton requires. What could the old man possibly want with cardboard, lightbulbs, mirrors, foil, and so on? And how is Arthur going to survive this humiliation? What Arthur discovers about Mr. Hampton's Seven Most Important Things surprises him again, as he finds these odd materials are being used for a most important art project, and they are also related to his own life. Mr. Hampton helps Arthur gradually come to terms with his father's recent death and other issues, while Arthur helps Mr. Hampton in many ways too. I loved this story, how it is set in 1963 but could take place just about any time; how the friendship between the older gentleman and the boy unfolds gradually; and that there really was a Mr. James Hampton who created the art that is the core of this story.
If you've been looking for a worthy successor to The Hunger Games, look no further. This book has it all:
a dark grim setting (the Martial Empire of rIf you've been looking for a worthy successor to The Hunger Games, look no further. This book has it all:
a dark grim setting (the Martial Empire of ruthless soldiers has conquered the Scholars and keeps them under its' brutal thumb);
brave heroes who must persevere against unbelievable hardships and oppression (a Martial warrior-in-training named Elias, who chafes against his cruel upbringing and his own culture's very nature, and a scholar girl named Laia who has lost nearly everything and will do whatever it takes to save her brother, the only family she has left, even if it means undergoing torture and worse);
fierce violent battles to the death and nasty foes;
and the spark of love among the despair. Oh, and there's the possibility of dark supernatural beings from storytelling legend actually being *real.* Strength. Courage. Loyalty. These will all be tested as Elias and Laia struggle to survive.
Excellent book! fast-paced, action-packed, full of heart and themes of courage and perseverance and humanity. Why do I have to wait another year for the sequel?! Aaaah!...more