Pathfinders: the Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls, by Tonya Bolden (ages 10-14)

In her outstanding new book Pathfinders, Tonya Bolden shares the remarkable stories of sixteen African Americans who pursued their dreams, excelling in careers ranging from entrepreneur to race car driver, bank founder to spy.

Pathfinders: the Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls
by Tonya Bolden
Abrams, 2017
preview on Google Books
Amazon / your local library
ages 10-14
*best new book*

This collection of short biographical sketches will inspire today’s young people to go after their dreams. Bolden profiles a wide range of leaders from math and science, business, the arts and legal fields. With each profile, she helps readers understand both the achievements and the challenges:

“Over the centuries countless blacks in America have done amazing things against the odds. Had big, bold dreams, pursued passions. Caught up with their callings. Charted courses to success. Pathfinders.”–preface to Pathfinders

Bolden’s short biographical sketches are engaging and quick to read; timelines and background information help round out the overall picture. This would be terrific to read aloud at home or in class, highlighting different career paths these remarkable individuals pursued.

Read more at my post on Great Kid Books. ©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution, by Gretchen Woelfle (ages 9-13)

As students learn about the American Colonies and the road to the American Revolution, many wonder why the founding fathers could not address the fundamental contradictions between slavery and the freedom that the patriots sought.

Gretchen Woelfle’s new book, Answering the Cry for Freedom, is an excellent resource examining the way thirteen African Americans took up their own fight for freedom during the Revolutionary War and the establishment of our country–by joining the British and American armies; preaching, speaking out, and writing about the evils of slavery; and establishing settlements in Nova Scotia and Africa. I highly recommend this both as classroom resource and for students’ independent reading.

Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution
by Gretchen Woelfle
illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Calkins Creek / Boyds Mill Press, 2016
Google Books preview
Your local library / Amazon
ages 9-13

In the late 1700s, as the American colonists began to protest the tyranny of British rule, slavery existed in every one of the thirteen colonies. African Americans–both free and enslaved–listened as talk of freedom and the natural rights of men grew. How did they react? What did they say and do? As Woelfle writes, this collection of short biographies tells a “hidden chapter of the American Revolution.”

In short, well-organized chapters, she helps readers understand the complexities of their choices and they way these courageous men and women resisted the tyrannical customs and laws that kept slavery part of our nation for much too long. Striking silhouette illustrations by R. Gregory Christie draw readers in and provide a visual hook.

Read more about this excellent nonfiction book at Great Kid Books.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Review: Fred Korematsu Speaks Up

Last Monday, January 30th, was Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution. I didn’t know much about Fred Korematsu’s story before reading this brand-new book, Fred Korematsu Speaks Up, written by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi and illustrated by Yutaka Houlette. I’m so thankful, now, that I do.

I think that you will be, too.

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The book shares the story of Fred, and second-generation Japanese American living on the West Coast during World War II, when the United States forced immigrants and citizens alike into internment camps. Fred resisted the order, and was jailed. The ACLU took up his case, which he eventually lost. He lost more than just the case. Many Japanese Americans turned on him, and he was officially considered a convicted felon. More than 40 years later, the ACLU decided to try his case again after finding new documents showing that the government had lied in his original case… and this time they won, setting an important precedent going forward. Fred knew what was happening was wrong and stood up against it. He was a changemaker.

Here’s an excerpt from the main text:

Read the rest here…

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

Nonfiction Monday

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Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans

 The National Council of Teachers of English recently named Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) the winner of its prestigious Orbis Pictus Award.

The NCTE Orbis Pictus Award  was established in 1989 for promoting and recognizing excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children. The name Orbis Pictus, commemorates the work of Johannes Amos Comenius, Orbis Pictus—The World in Pictures (1657), considered to be the first book actually planned for children. (from the NCTE website)

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans is a spare, but powerful graphic novel account of the tragedy that befell the City of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.  Don Brown researches and illustrates Drowned City in his usual fashion.  It has extensive Source Notes and a corresponding Bibliography.  Every direct quote is sourced.  The illustrations are serious and in muted colors to accurately convey the gravity of the events; but they are sufficiently vague to spare the individual horrors experienced by victims, survivors, and rescuers.  As he has done with other topics, Don Brown creates a focused, accurate, and powerful story – suitable for visual learners and for readers in a wide age range.

To see other reviews of Hurricane Katrina books and Don Brown books, hop over to today’s post on Shelf-employed.

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Honoring Cesar Chavez on Labor Day (ages 8-11)

I want to take a moment on Labor Day to honor Cesar Chavez and share a new biography that conveys his life and work clearly for young readers. This is a must-have for school libraries, and also a good choice to have at home.

Cesar Chavez
True Books biographies series
by Josh Gregory
Children’s Press / Scholastic, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-11

Cesar Chavez changed conditions for farm laborers across the United States, especially in California. He helped farm workers come together to demand better working conditions and fair wages, and still inspires people today to stand up for their rights.
“Cesar Chavez changed farm labor in the United States.”
Bright photographs will draw students in to this biography, but it’s the overall design that makes me recommend it so highly. This biography is written in clear, short sentences — but more than that, it is organized clearly in a way that helps students form a clear picture of his life.
Head over to Great Kid Books to read more about this book and TrueFlix, the online service we subscribe to for our students.

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose. Narrated by Phillip Hoose and Michael Braun.  (2015, Recorded Books)

This is the heretofore little-known story of schoolboys who challenged the Nazi army even as their country’s leaders collaborated with the Germans. Alternating first-person accounts of young saboteur, Knud Pedersen with carefully researched narrative, Phillip Hoose tells the compelling story of these daring young boys who were willing to risk their lives to free Denmark from German occupation. Without their parents’ knowledge, the boys raided, stole, and destroyed German property with nothing more than bicycles for transportation. Their heroic actions sparked the Danish resistance.

Michael Braun narrates the chapters containing Knud Pedersen’s first-hand recollections of the events. While his delivery is weighty, it lacks personality. It is through the actions of Knud that the listener learns to like and admire him, rather than through his speech. Perhaps because the book is targeted at a young audience (ages 12-18) and Knud himself was only a teen at the time, a younger voice would have been more appropriate. Author Phillip Hoose does an excellent job with the alternating chapters. He reads precisely and takes great care in the pronunciation of Danish names and places.

This is a well-researched, captivating story that proves the ability of individuals to effect change against overwhelming odds.

Review copy supplied by LibraryThing.

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Copyright © 2015 L. Taylor [Shelf-employed]. All Rights Reserved.