Fannie Never Flinched


28818218Farrell, Mary Cronk. Fannie Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights

November 1st 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Read more book reviews at Ms. Yingling Reads.


Fannie Sellins was a single mother trying to put food on the table for her four young children by working in Marx and Haas Clothing Co. in St. Louis. The conditions were wretchedly poor, so when she heard about seamstresses in Chicago and New York City forming unions, she rallied support from the workers to create Local 67 of the United Garment Workers of America. Although the conditions were improved at this factory, it was still a very difficult way to earn a living. 


After serving as president of her local union, Fannie traveled to different cities giving talks about working conditions. In the early 1900s, these were often treacherous– buildings in poor condition, workers riddled with disease, and dangerous jobs performed by very young children. The union not only worked to get these conditions improved, but took up collections to help families affected by them. Strikes were common and often brutal. At one of these, in Black Valley, Pennsylvania, shots were fired into a crowd, and Fannie was killed. The police inquiry absolved the officer, and even commended the force for keeping the peace!


While young readers may study a little bit about the labor movement in the United States, it is often impersonal. Focusing a movement around the actions of one person is a great way to encourage empathy for it by giving it a human face. 


The formatting of this book is excellent– while I’m not usually a fan of larger books (this is about 10″ x 10″), this size allows plenty of photographs and a lot of space around the text. While it may seem silly, this is a HUGE selling point. Readers are often reluctant to pick up books filled with dense blocks of text and few pictures. The buttons and cogs at the bottom of the sepia toned pages also make this a more reader-friendly book, and that will go a long way to entice children to read about this important historical figure. 


I loved this author’s Pure Grit, but felt that it was too long and involved for most of my readers. Fannie Never Flinched struck an excellent balance between easy-to-read format and amount of information. It’s a great starting point for National History Day projects (especially in 2016-17, with the theme being Taking a Stand!), and will intrigue and encourage readers to investigate the other sources listed in the bibliography. 

Jerrie Mock

28162972Pimm, Nancy Roe. The Jerrie Mock Story:The First Woman to Fly Solo around the World
March 8th 2016 by Ohio University Press
Library copy

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Even almost 80 years after her disappearance, students are still fascinated by Amelia Earhart. You would think that there would be much more attention paid to Jerrie Mock, the woman who managed to fly solo around the world in 1964. (Although I didn’t know thatWiley Post was the first man to do so, in 1933.) This slim paperback covers all of the basics of Mock’s historic flight, plus background about her life and the times in which she lived. I found it rather appalling that even though Mock was quite an accomplished aviator, and later went on to break several speed records, she was often referred to as a “housewife”. Even an autograph from Lyndon Johnson read “To Jerrie Mock- Whose hand has rocked the cradle and girdled the globe.” The bulk of the book is comprised of descriptions of her journey. It’s too bad that she was racing against another woman, Joan Merriam Smith, who was trying to get around the world at the same time, because Mock had quite a good time visiting dignitaries in other countries, and being able to go to all of the exotic locations was an adventure in itself. Plentifully illustrated with photographs and copies of her passport and flight documents, this is an interesting snap shot of an accomplishment about which not enough people know!
Strengths: Ohio University Press has a couple of very interesting biographies of Ohio citizens, including Kammie on First: Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek by Michelle Houts. Both of these titles have been Battle of the Books choices for our 6th and 7th graders. This was well written and included the most interesting parts of Mock’s story, but also included just enough information about her formative years and the social mores of the times.
Weaknesses: There was some additional information in a “Did You Know” comment at the end of chapters that sometimes was more lengthy than needed. Also, only available in paperback.
What I really think: Readers who are fascinated by Earhart or women trail blazers should definitely be encouraged to pick this up.

Hopping Ahead of Climate Change

Collard, Sneed B. III, Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe Hares, Science and Survival.

1 November 2016, Bucking Horse Books 

Copy provided by the publisher


Addressing the issue of climate change from the perspective of one species, the Snowshoe Hare, veteran nonfiction science writer Collard gives us fascinating insights into what’s going on with this (extremely adorable) animal. Snowshoe Hares molt with the seasons so that they can blend in with the snow during the winter and the forest floor the rest of the year, but rising temperatures have interfered with this process, putting them at risk. Collard follows biologist Scott Mills and others as they track the hare’s movements, color changes, and all too frequent demises at the jaws of predators. Like this author’s Fire Birds, this is a perfect length for a midle grade nonfiction title. It’s beautifully illustrated with photographs and has some great graphs and charts. This would be a great book to use in a classroom setting when learning about climate, and it has a good message about stewardship and responsibility toward the planet. 


Younger students might be alarmed at the low survival rate of “nature’s cheeseburger”, but students in 4th grade and up can handle the realities of life in the wild. 


When reading this, I was immediately transported back in time to my childhood. My mother taught elementary school, so we had an odd assortment of books. I was able to come up with the title of The Three Coats of Benny Bunny (Asheron, Sara. Grosset and Dunlap, 1968), which was one of my favorites. In the book, Benny learns that he is well-equipped to go on adventures away from his mother. 

Reading Hopping Ahead of Climate Change, I think that Benny was right to want to stay at home!

Read more book reviews at Ms. Yingling Reads!

My First Book of Hockey

Editors of Sports Illustrated for Kids. My First Book of Hockey: A Rookie Book: Mostly Everything Explained About the Game
September 20th 2016 by Sports Illustrated
Copy provided by Blue Slip Media

Like My First Book of Baseball, this is a good overview of the sport for the youngest readers. Terms, plays and equipment are explained in simple language with a mix of photographs of actual players and cartoon-style font and characters. Not only is this a good format for younger students who are learning about the sport for the first time, it is a great way for English Language Learners to be introduced to a sport.

The explanations of how the game is played are accompanied by diagrams that show the field and a variety of tactics. For parents or older readers, the jokes in the asides will enliven things as well. I was glad to finally find out exactly what a “hat trick” is, although I’m still in the dark as to WHY people throw their hats on the rink after a player’s third goal!

These are a must for elementary school libraries and a great way to hook reluctant or struggling readers in the middle school.

See more reviews at Ms. Yingling Reads.

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Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West

Fleming, Candace. Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West
September 20th 2016 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

25689028The best thing about this book is that Ms. Fleming acknowledges right from the beginning that Buffalo Bill’s treatment of Native Americans, as well the language used for and treatment of Native Americans during his life, is problematic. She also mentions that while the entire concept of the Wild West is also problematic, it was very important to many US citizens and persists in our culture.

As all of Fleming’s books are, this is very well researched and written. Since Cody published autobiographical information about himself, Fleming is able to look at primary source documents and compare them with others to try to figure out what is truth and what is lies. From the perspective of someone who loves history, this was fascinating. She doesn’t gloss over the bad things that Cody did, either, and there is a lot of very good information about Native Americans who were involved in the show.

However, this is a LONG nonfiction book. At 288 pages or so, it will be a stretch to get students to read this, especially since there is zero interest in the Wild West these days. I’ll probably buy it, since it will be good for History Day projects, and may be I can get readers who enjoy Gemeinhart’s Some Kind of Courage to read this.

Read more thoughts on this at Ms. Yingling Reads.

Radioactive!

24886042Conkling,Winifred. Radioactive!: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World

January 5th 2016 by Algonquin Young Readers 

E ARC from Netgalley; paper copy from Baker and Taylor


Check out today’s podcast for fiction books with science connections!

Marie Curie had a fascinating story that many younger readers have heard, but her daughter Irene’s story is almost more fascinating because of the time during which she lived. Largely left to her own devices by her very driven scientist parents, Irene pursued similar academic interests, but also helped out with X-Rays at field hospitals during WWI, and at a very young age! Armed with both experience and knowledge, she worked in her parents’ lab and went to college, where she excelled academically. She also met and married a fellow scientist, Frederic Joliot, and the two worked together and discovered artificial radiation. While the science was a bit hard for me to follow, the depiction of a woman struggling to be recognized in an academic science field in the early 1900s was fascinating. 


We also learn about the slightly older Meitner, who also struggling not only to obtain an education, but to find jobs in her field. She worked with another scientist, Hahn, and actually took precautions against radiation poisoning in the labs where she worked, unlike the Curies! She was involved in experiments involving fission, but her work was interrupted by WWII. Feeling that her academic repute, as well as her Austrian passport, would protect her from Hitler’s targeting of people of Jewish descent (which she was, although she felt Protestant), she did not leave Germany when there was an exodus of Jewish scientists. She was so stubborn about staying that she eventually had to be nearly kidnapped by friends in the scientific community and removed to Sweden! She continued to work, but was thwarted by lack of recognition and the generally difficult circumstances of moving to a new country at the age of 60. 


While Curie and Meitner were often at odds scientifically, their experiences with trying to work in a field that was mainly the domain of men was very similar, and is an enlightening thing for teens to read about today. The book is filled with fascinating moments, and is an excellent choice for libraries where a lot of research is done. While I read nonfiction for fun, I don’t have many middle school students who will sit down to 200+ pages of nonfiction. I wish I did, but I don’t. 

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The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club.

22718705Hoose, Phillip. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club.
May 12th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Netgalley.com

In this wonderful piece of narrative nonfiction, Hoose brings us the experience of Knud Pedersen in his own words. As a Dane, the teenaged Pedersen was perturbed that his government had caved so easily to the Nazis demands, agreeing to cooperate with the Nazi soldiers in exchange for relative safety. While Norway was fighting the Nazis, it took a while before opposition to the Nazis took hold in Denmark, and that opposition was started by a group of teenagers headed by Pedersen. At first, the boys contented themselves with painting graffiti and doing small amounts of damage to Nazi property, but soon escalated to major acts of arson as well as stealing weapons and accumulating quite an arsenal. When the Danish people saw that not everyone was acquiescing to Nazi demands, the Resistance was able to take off. The Churchill Club, as the group called itself, continued to bedevil the Nazis, although the boys found it difficult to think about actually killing the soldiers. Eventually, the group was found out and arrested, and spent a lot of time in various jails. By this point, however, the Resistance was going full force. Luckily for the boys, they were tried by Danish officials and, in part because of their age, were not sentenced to death.

Based on intensive interviews with Knudsen, as well as Knudsen’s amazing archive of photographs and research, this well-researched book tells a riveting tale of people who stood up for what they believed, even though they were very young. I have always been interested in the various resistance groups, especially since most of them utilized my primary source of transportation– the bicycle!

Since we have been requiring students to read more nonfiction, this is a title I will order eagerly. This was a great length, had amazing primary source information, and was extremely interesting. I am so glad that Hoose followed up on a forgotten e mail with Pedersen, because this was a fantastic book.

See more middle grade reviews at Ms. Yingling Reads.