“Elizabeth I: The making of a Queen” Laura Brennan

3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Pen and Sword History. To be published July 19, 2020. (Includes lists of primary and secondary sources, as well as period photographs).

Elizabeth IThis book about Queen Elizabeth I is divided into several parts, concentrating on historical and political events from before Elizabeth was born, before she became Queen, and that transpired during her 45-year reign. She saw how her father, King Henry VIII, treated his wives and watched men conspired against their wives, leaving them powerless. This inspired her to remain single, and keep her own power. England’s religious battles, and the strained relationship she had with her sister Queen Mary I are also detailed. Thus, as Queen, Elizabeth used the experiences of her past and present to help her become a strong willed Queen.

Learning about Queen Elizabeth I was interesting because I believe that it’s important to “put [what is being studied] in its time and place,” a quote attributed to my former college professor. However I disliked how Brennan jumped from one event or person to another, then circled back again a few chapter or paragraphs later with information that would have been useful to know when she first began talking about that person or event. This made the book feel disjointed.

There are interesting facts about Elizabeth I mixed in with everything else, so I will recommend it to Adult readers who want to know more about this monarch.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Spirit run: A 6,000-mile marathon through North America’s stolen land” by Noé Álvarez

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Catapult. To be published March 3, 2020. 213 p.

Spirit runMigrants, and the hard labor of low paying jobs in fruit factories, abound in the lush apple country of Selah Washington, near the author’s childhood home of Yakima. Noé is a smart student, and wants to make life different for his family. He has dreams of going to college and earning enough money to free his mother from her monotonous, back breaking job at the apple factory. He wants to make a difference.

When his dreams get tangled up in the stress of reality, Noé  likes to run. He dreams of the day he can escape Yakima yet, when he gets a full scholarship, dreams turn to nightmares. He believes his insecurities that say he’s not good enough and, soon, can’t keep up with the workload. When he finds out about a run from Alaska to Argentina for Indigenous Indians Noé decides to drop out of college to participate. In the process he discovers the good and bad of human nature. His journey of self discovery, as well as his foray into understanding his parents, is chronicled in this book.

The problems he encountered, as well as the agonies of running an ultra marathon, are interspersed with reflections of his place in the world. The open ending, the seeming lack of a concrete plan for his life, along with continued disappointment that he’s working class made the book a bit of a disappointment. There will always be those of us who will never get to live a life of leisure without having to work, and I hope Noé can come to peace with that reality.

Despite my misgivings I will recommend this book to Adult readers as there are lessons to be learned, and experiences to be hashed through, which would make for good discussions in book groups.

“The Dozier School for Boys: Forensics, survivors, and a painful past” Elizabeth A. Murray, PhD

Rated 5 stars ***** Twenty-first Century Books (Lerner Publishing). 2020. (Includes Photographs, Source Notes, Glossary, Selected Bibliography, Further Information [books, audio/video, newspaper/magazine/web articles], and an Index.)

The Dozier School for BoysAs mentioned in an earlier post, I read Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys,” and wanted to find out more about the school on which he’d based the book’s events.

Survivors from the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida formed support groups, which gave them the strength to contact the media about the years of abuse they’d suffered as young boys. After the media got involved the state of Florida allowed teams from the University of South Florida to investigate the school cemetery and exhume bodies for identification purposes.

Interviews, primary sources and detailed forensic techniques combine to give a view of the school that was eye opening because the town in which it was located knowingly allowed the abuse to continue over the years. To me this is similar to how towns, in which Nazi concentration camps were located, willingly allowed atrocities to happen with their full knowledge. It was interesting how the town of Marianna kept denying their culpability, when they were just as guilty in covering it all up for decades as were the school staff and the state of Florida.

Highly recommended for teens ages 14 and older, as well as for Adults.

“Shout” Laurie Halse Anderson

Rated 5 stars ***** Viking (Penguin Random House). 2019. 291 p. (Includes Resources on Sexual Violence and Mental Health for readers.)

ShoutIn free verse, Laurie Halse Anderson tells her story of constantly having to move due to her father’s job, of being poor, of having to attend many different schools, and of being raped by someone she considered a friend at the young age of 13. After her assault Anderson details the many coping mechanisms she used to try to cover the raging anger she now felt, including getting high, cutting classes, and getting drunk. It was only after spending 13 months in Denmark as an exchange student, during her senior year of high school, that Laurie finally began to feel some of the scar tissue within begin to heal.

Anderson’s journey towards healing, and how those healing steps helped her become a writer, are interspersed with outrage towards those who foist themselves on boys and girls, friends, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, cousins and anyone who didn’t say “yes” to those advances. She offers strong encouragement and strength towards those who suffer in silence from the pain of sexual assault or rape.

Laurie doesn’t pull punches as she shouts out her outrage, calling out the Principal who cancelled the rest of her appearances at his school, after the first of three sessions “because those things [sex, rape, bodies touching, consent, and violence] don’t ever happen in his school” (p. 187). Censorship of “inappropriate books” also met the steely beam of her eyes, reminding us (and censors) “Censorship is the child of fear, the father of ignorance, and the desperate weapon of fascists everywhere.” (p. 191.)

In short, “Shout” loudly, lovingly and firmly gives victims of sexual assault the strength to stand firm, to speak their pain, and to rise up from the ashes knowing they’re not alone. The #MeToo movement gave voice to that which had had been hiding in the shadows for too long. However, with her memoir, Anderson takes that movement and puts it on an amplifier, giving knowledge and courage to her readers, infusing them with power and strength so they can also #MeToo and shout out their pain as they heal.

“Shout” is raw and truthful; a description of what happens when a slice of life is stolen from unwilling victims. Anderson’s pain from being a victim of sexual assault is your pain. Her fight to rise above her pain is your fight. Her courage to keep going forward is your courage. Her voice to educate others is your voice. Her healing is your healing. Her shout of victory is your shout.

I am going to predict “Shout” will win the 2019 YALSA Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature at the upcoming American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia, along with many other awards. When it wins, remember you read it first on my blog. I will be at that conference, and plan to SHOUT VERY LOUDLY at the ALA Youth Media Awards for Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Shout.”

Highly recommended for teens ages 14 and older, as well as Adults.

 

 

 

“All the way to the top: How one girl’s fight for Americans with disabilities changed everything” by Annette Bay Pimentel; pictures by Nabi H. Ali

All the way to the top

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Sourcebooks. To be published March 2020. Includes a foreword by Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins as well as back matter with “The road to the top” (information on activism), “Life before and after the ADA,” a Timeline, and a Bibliography.

Now that she was finally old enough, Jennifer couldn’t wait for kindergarten to start. Unfortunately, because she was in a wheelchair, she was denied admittance to school. At the next school she was allowed to attend – but only if she came after lunch. Jennifer and her family join a group of activists, determined to find a way to change the law to allow better access to public spaces for those with disabilities. Courageously Jennifer and the activists took their protests to Washington D.C., where they abandoned their wheelchairs and crawled up the Capitol steps to make Congress aware of why they were protesting.

Bright, full-color illustrations, as well as information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and those who fought for its passage, make this an important book to have in all public and school libraries. I was moved by the crawl up the steps of the Capitol, and Jennifer’s determination on the YouTube video of the event is clear to see.

Highly recommended for ages 7 to 12.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

“They called us enemy” by George Takei

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. Top Shelf Productions. 204 p.

They called us enemyIn 1942, when George was almost 5 years old, his Japanese-American parents had their bank accounts frozen, and his father lost his business. Ordered out of their Los Angeles home with only what they could carry, they were forced to live in several different internment camps for four years. What was their crime? Their “crime” was that they were of Japanese ancestry and, thus, considered enemies by their own country – the United States of America. They, along with hundreds of thousands of other American citizens, were incarcerated in these camps.

Simple black and white illustrations convey George’s story to readers as he talks about his parents, and what it was like for them to navigate through years of being stabbed in the back by their own country. Their strength, fortitude and creativity were traits that got them through hard times, and enabled little George to feel as if he was on an adventure. Some of his memories of that time came through clearly, while at other times he relied on his father’s memories to flesh out his own.

America’s intolerance towards others because of how they looked during World War II comes across loudly and clearly, especially in the ways our current government has sought to keep out people of different nationalities. Philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This phrase bears repeating because the rhetoric and events unfolding since 2016 in the United States are leading our nation into the gutter, where we spent too much time in years past. It’s time for a new narrative to take over our land.

George TakeiI, along with thousands of other librarians, had the privilege of hearing George Takei share his story and talk about this book before it was released at the American Library Association (ALA) conference in Washington this past June. He was very passionate, telling us his parent’s generation kept their stories hidden from their children because they felt shame in how they’d been treated by their own government. It’s time for their stories to be told.

Copies of “They called us enemy” should be in every public and high school library in our nation, and used in book groups all across the country.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

“Survivors of the Holocaust: True stories of six extraordinary children” Edited by Kath Shackleton

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. To be published October 1, 2019. Sourcebooks. 96 p. (Includes a “Foreword,” “What happened next?” “Glossary,” “Timeline,” “Index” and “Websites.”)

Survivors of the HolocaustRanging in age from preschool to 15, six children’s lives were forever changed when the Nazis came to power in Germany and began to invade Europe. In graphic novel format readers learn about the isolation these children felt as they hid, lived with foster families or suffered in concentration camps during this terrible time in history. Their deprivations, sadness, experiences, and the loss of their families during the Holocaust are made real not only through their words, but also through vivid drawings. Over and over readers are reminded that it was only because they were Jewish that their lives were turned upside down by the Nazis.

After each of the children recount their memories, a small note tells readers a little about what they did after the war. A section at the end of the book titled “What happened next?” gives more detailed information about Heinz, Trude, Ruth, Martin, Suzanne, and Arek – the six very brave children who are now adults. The Foreword tells readers that they agreed to tell their stories because they want readers to remember what happens when people are told they’re “different.” They want us to remember no one should be bystanders to injustice, and that we should all stand for what is right. That, in my opinion, applies to the events that are currently happening in these United States of America.

These six stories are very moving, and Zane Whittingham’s colorful illustrations help bring their memories to life for both middle and high school readers.

Highly recommended for ages 12 and older.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.