Friday, August 22, 2014

Freedom Summer; the 1964 struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi
by Susan Goldman Rubin
Holiday House, 2014

“I am determined to become a first class citizen … I am determined to get every Negro in the State of Mississippi registered (Fannie Lou Hamer, p 1).

Susan Goldman Rubin, author of several biographies and books on the Holocaust,  has written a dramatic account of the efforts of Civil Rights organizations and volunteers, mostly college age students, who worked together during the summer of 1964 to educate African Americans in Mississippi about their voting rights. While greeted warmly by African Americans, who also opened their homes to the young students, volunteers worked in an intense and dangerous environment. Prior to arriving in Mississippi, volunteers, who hailed from all across the country,  received one week training in how to behave and dress so as to avoid physical harm. They learned : “no one should go anywhere alone, but certainly not in an automobile and certainly not at night ..” (pp. 6-7). Volunteers were advised to sleep at the back of the house and listen for sudden car acceleration as that might signal a bombing. Contrary to what they had been taught in the North, Southern police were not their friends.

Despite the never ending climate of fear and the murder of three of the workers (James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner), students and community members continued their heroic efforts to establish Freedom Schools and register voters. The Freedom Schools were enormously successful: with enrollment of over 2000 adults and children. Voter registration, however,  proved to be much more challenging due to African Americans fears of physical violence and obstacles such as poll taxes and literacy tests designed to prevent them from voting. However, these efforts led to President Johnson’s 1965 Civil Rights Act and, by 1966, registered African American voters soared from 6.4% to almost 60% (p. 97).

Rubin’s compelling and gripping account includes primary sources: interviews with surviving volunteers and community members, reproductions of period photos, FBI posters,  newspaper articles and other documents. End material includes a bibliography,  timeline, recommended web sites, and appendices of original documents.  The book also includes illustrations by Tracy Sugarman, an American artist who illustrated important historical events. At 41, he was the oldest volunteer and shadowed the volunteers to chronicle their work in art (see PBS’s “Freedom Summer” web pages for more information on the documentary and Sugarman and his illustrations). Highly recommended for middle graders through high school, as a readable narrative as well as a compelling way for teachers and librarians to meet Common Core standards in how researchers use primary sources to bring historical events to life. In an interview with Holiday House (see below), Rubin expresses her hope that this book will inspire students to seek out their communities' stories.

Visit Holiday House for links to educators’ guide, transcripts of the author’s interviews, video interview with author, and more.

This review was originally published at Good Reads with Ronna.

Handel Who Knew What He Liked. Written by M. T. Anderson and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Candlewick Press, 2013

One Beetle too Many. The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin. Written by Kathryn Lasky and illustrated by Matthew Trueman.
Candlewick Press, 2014.

Recommended for grades 3-6.

Did you know that composer George Frederick Handel was once challenged to a duel? Or that scientist Charles Darwin’s childhood nickname was “Gas” because of the deliberate explosions he and his brother set off in their makeshift laboratory?

The two books reviewed here are part of the Candlewick Biographies series for children. Each examines “...a turning point or defining moment in the life of a famous person and how it led to significant contributions.”

See my full review of both books at Good Reads with Ronna and find out how both of these men dealt with domineering fathers and realized their dreams.

The Lion and the Swallow written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc, Enchanted Lion Books, 2014.
Recommended for ages 3-8

One autumn day, a lion working in his garden finds an injured bird.“You’re welcome to stay with me,” Lion assures Bird.  Over the winter Lion nurses  Bird back to health and the two share the comforts of Lion’s home and the wonders of the seasons.  When spring returns so do Bird’s feathered friends and, after consulting with an understanding Lion, Bird rejoins his flock. Lion returns home,  lonely but philosophical, musing "And so it goes, sometimes life is like that.” But autumn returns, and as the birds begin their annual migration to warmer climes, Lion wonders if he’ll see his old friend. Suddenly,  Lion hears a chirp (brilliantly illustrated with a single musical note on an otherwise blank two-page spread).  Bird has returned for the winter. “Together, we’ll stay warm again this winter,” Lion assures Bird, as the two settle in the house under a starlit sky dominated by a crescent moon.

Dubuc’s story of a lion who finds and helps an injured bird is a classic story of friendship set against the cycle of the year. The simplicity and spareness of her narrative and the flat, muted color illustrations give it a fable like quality, rendering the story timeless. Dubuc’s layout of the illustrations is remarkable.

Read my full review and find out more abou the author and illustrator at Good Reads with Ronna.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Series Review:
The Timmy Failure series written and illustrated by Stephen Pastis and published by Candlewick Press.
Recommended for ages 8-12.

Introducing “the greatness that is Timmy Failure,” world class detective.

Move over Inspector Jacques Clouseau, author/illlustrator Stephan Pastis has created your youthful equivalent in a humorous series about an overly-confident and hilariously clueless detective who  dreams of taking his neighborhood detective agency global. Unfortunately there are some obstacles: his mother-who insists he goes to school, school-where he’s not doing so well, Rollo-his less than brilliant best friend, and Total- his 1500 pound polar bear partner. A polar bear for a partner? Yes, after hooking up with Timmy, Total  insisted that the agency name start with his. Hence the less than inspirational  agency name of “Total Failure.” (Timmy Fayleure’s name was changed to Failure).

See my full review at Good Reads with Ronna

Big Nate; Great Minds Think Alike
By Lincoln Peirce
Andrews Mcmeel Publishing, 2014
$9.99 (paperback), recommended for ages 8-12.

That mischievous boy with a winning personality is back in a new compilation of colorful comic strips. Nate has a lot of big ideas for fun and achieving greatness and tries his hand at Sudoku, life skills coaching, painting, business, and a world record holder-of anything (the only record he holds is for detention).

Big Nate fans will be pleased to see favorite characters from past volumes: his clueless dad; Mrs. Godfrey, his strict teacher; teacher’s pet, Gina; and Nates best buddies, Frances and Teddy.

See my full review at Good Reads with Ronna, which includes a link to the author's web site and a YouTube video.