Celebrating Education Around the World

The Way to School by Rosemary McCarney (with Plan International) is an intriguing picture book that shows readers how children get to school around the world.


The first thing readers will notice are the beautiful color photographs by photojournalists and Plan members, which document the journeys taken by children every day to get to school. From crossing rivers to climbing mountains, regular kids make difficult treks to do what many of us take for granted.

Have a child or student who complains about going to school? This is the perfect book to show him or her how children are willing to make the sacrifices to get an education. In some cases these children are risking their lives every day to go to school, such as by crossing collapsed or flimsy bridges. Their stories are sure to put things in a new perspective.

The Way to School is perfect to celebrate the beginning of the school year, and to accompany units on world geography. It might also be appropriate for 100 day celebrations, to show children what can be accomplished. Be sure to pull out an atlas or world map to share the locations of these unusual journeys.

This review was originally posted at Wrapped in Foil blog.

Most Dangerous

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (2015) Roaring Brook Press

As he did with the spy, Harry Gold, in Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, Steven Sheinkin uses one man to tell a much larger story in Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War.  That man is the infamous leaker of the so-called Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg.   A veteran himself, and a former Pentagon employee, Ellsberg initially believed that the war in Vietnam was a noble cause.  However, the more he learned, the less he believed so.  Eventually, based on the information to which he was privy and the US populace was not, he changed his mind completely.

Whether you believe Edward Snowden to be a patriotic whistleblower or a traitorous leaker, and whether you believe that Apple’s refusal to hack into the phone of the San Bernardino murderers is reprehensible or ethical, it cannot be denied that these are weighty matters worthy of national discussion.  In the time of Daniel Ellsberg, people read newspapers and watched a generally unbiased nightly newscast.  In contrast, many people today derive their news from “sound bites,” political analysts, and partisan news stations. These issues deserve more thoughtful consideration.

While Most Dangerous is an excellently researched biographical and historical account, and can be  appreciated for that aspect alone, Steve Sheinkin’s book also will also promote reflection on the nature of national security, personal privacy, democracy, freedom of the press, and foreign intervention.  We have been on very similar ground before.

Selected quotes:

page 149

“They all drove to the Capitol for the traditional outdoor inauguration ceremony.  Johnson watched Nixon take the oath of office, wondering what lay ahead.  “I reflected on how inadequate any man is for the office of the American Presidency,” he later recalled.  “The magnitude of the job dwarfs every man who aspires to it.””

page 160

“He had often heard antiwar protesters shouting that Americans were fighting on the wrong side of the Vietnam War. They were missing the point. “It wasn’t that we were on the wrong side,” Ellsberg concluded, “We were the wrong side.””

FBI agents began questioning the Ellsbergs friends and relatives.  They even attempted to obtain Patricia Ellsberg’s dental records, but her dentist refused to cooperate.  Nixon’s operatives broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s doctor in a failed attempt to steal his medical records.  They were searching for anything to use in a campaign to discredit Ellsberg.

page 263

 “Psychologically, it’s not so bothersome, because we believe in what we’re doing,” Patricia Ellsberg said about the feeling of being watched by one’s own government.  “But I think it’s troublesome for the country that there is surveillance of citizens, and that the right of privacy is being threatened.”

Read an excerpt from Most Dangerous here.

Awards and accolades:

Other Steve Sheinkin books reviewed on Shelf-employed

Another review of Most Dangerous is at Sally’s Books

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The Biggest, Fastest, Weirdest Creatures on the Planet

Animal RecordsAnimal Records: The Biggest, Fastest, Weirdest, Tiniest, Slowest, and Deadliest Creatures on the Planet
by Sarah Wassner & Kathy Furgang
208 pages; ages 8 – 12
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015

Sometimes you’ve just got to know what was the slo-o-owest dinosaur of all. Or the speediest. Or maybe you need to find out what animal sings the loudest, has the most deadly bite, or looks the weirdest. Now there’s a handy reference filled with enough facts and photos to provide scintillating conversation around the supper table. And maybe garner a few extra points on your next report.

Cool things you’ll learn by browsing through this book include: the kill rate of dragonflies and other predators; that there really are zombie worms; how long it would take a turtle to “run” a 100-meter race; and who’s smarter in the animal world.

Review copy from publisher

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Science Stunts: Fun Feats of Physics

Science Stunts: Fun Feats of Physics
written by Jordan D. Brown; illustrated by Anthony Owsley
2016 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

I want you to get hooked on physics and have a great time as you create your own marshmallow catapult, set off a chain reaction with wooden sticks, and make your own electromagnet.

In the court of public opinion, physics is considered dull and to be endured rather than enjoyed. Contrary to popular belief, physics is pretty cool. I submit Science Stunts as my evidence. Physicist Dr. Dazz hosts this fun physics feast. With the help of Galileo, Newton, and Einstein (that would be a pretty good law firm), the good doctor presents 25 experiments that will stir the imagination of future scientists. Each experiment features a task to be completed by the reader, an explanation of the science by one of the three physicists mentioned above, and additional information from the world of science. Marshmallow Flinger is an experiment using craft sticks, rubber bands, a plastic spoon, and mini marshmallows. Who wouldn’t want to participate in a task that involves throwing marshmallows?
Craft sticks are attached in a crisscross manner by rubber bands and the spoon is attached. Now it’s time to launch the marshmallows. Sir Isaac Newton uses this experiment to explain the three laws of motion. Other chapters explore gravity, heat and cold, magnets, sound, light, and electricity.

The obvious first thought is to use this in a science class, but think about language arts and math too. Procedural text is a genre that often shows up on standardized tests so using Science Stunts to teach reading these texts would be beneficial. Point of view lessons can also be launched with this book. There are a ton of possibilities for teaching measurement skills as well. Science Stunts is a humorous book that will enliven classes across the curriculum.

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg & the Secret History of the Vietnam War

Most dangerousMost Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War
by Steve Sheinkin
384 pages; ages 10 & up
Roaring Brook Press, 2015

This is a riveting tale of intrigue and power… a tale of an obscure government analyst turned whistle-blower that reads like a fast-paced spy novel.

“In the summer of 1964, Daniel Ellsberg was thirty-three,” writes Steve Sheinkin. After serving in the Marines he worked as an analyst with the Rand Corporation, a think tank that focuses on military and international issues. He was asked to work on a project focusing Vietnam as our country headed into war.

At that point, Ellsberg was hawkish. He believed the US was doing the right thing. He also knew that to get good information, you had to actually go to where the action was, so he visited Vietnam.

Read more over at Sally’s Bookshelf

Reproductive Rights: Who Decides? by Vicki Oransky Wittenstein


Reproductive Rights: Who Decides? by Vicki Oransky Wittenstein. 160 p. Twenty-First Century Books/ Lerner Publishing, January, 2016. 9781467741873. (Finished copy courtesy of publicist for review.)

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing all three of Vicki Oransky Wittenstein’s books as well as kicking off the blog tours of the last two! Do not miss this fine addition to upper middle, high school, public libraries. It would also make for a worthy addition to the syllabus of a women’s studies class. See proseandkahn for a full review.

Legends of the Game: The Best Players, Games and Teams in Football

I just can’t help being excited right now. In fact, the whole city of Charlotte feels the same way because we’re not only going to the historic Super Bowl 50 but we’re going with the best team we’ve ever had and the most incredible quarterback this town has ever seen. No wonder we’re all a bit hyper, giddy and barely able to contain ourselves. 

But I really did find a truly cool book and it’s Legends: The Best Players, Games and Teams in Football by Howard Bryant. I’ve enjoyed it a lot. Mr. Bryant, a sports writer, tells the story of how the Super Bowl got started and the many great and even iconic games throughout its history. There are exciting stories, many interesting facts and tales of heartbreak and triumph. 

See more at


Hungry Coyote by Cheryl Blackford


Hungry Coyote by Cheryl Blackford. Illustrated by Laurie Caple. 32 p. Minnesota Historical Society Press, May, 2015. 9780873519649. (Borrowed from public library)

I must admit that the cover of this one drew me in. It was just sitting there on the “new books” shelf at my library, quietly beckoning. I thought the cover image was a photograph! It is that photorealistic – even up close. This book is pure gorgeousness from watery end-page to watery end-page. Expect lots of “oohs and ahs” and giggling when reading this account of a year in the life of a male coyote. The text is short, just a few lines on each page. The language and imager are lovely but compact and concise. 

This is a picture book for any age. Pair it with Ann Downer’s Wild Animal Neighbors to introduce a science unit or use it in a language arts class to discuss a variety of literary devices. Show it to your art teachers. Readers will come away with an appreciation for this mysterious and much feared creature. This is a worthy addition to any library. (Cross-posted at Proseandkahn.)