Ancient Animals: Terror Bird

It has a sharp beak that cuts flesh and splits bones. It runs fast. It cannot fly. It can be as tall as a basketball hoop. It is the biggest meat-eating bird that lived on earth. What is it? It’s a terror bird.

Terror Bird will appeal to young readers who are interested in dinosaurs and other extinct animals. Readers will learn about top predators and how they helped their environment stay in balance. The book briefly covers the birds’ migration and reasons the species went extinct. Plus, the end of the book compares the terror bird to other large birds such as the emu and ostrich.

The book’s easy-to-read format will appeal to even the most reluctant readers. Each two-page spread has a one-page picture and one page of text. Each page has 3 to 5 sentences typed in oversized text that is surrounded by white space. The large pictures show the terror birds hunting different types of prey and a few of the pictures show blood. The pictures also show the sheer size of the terror bird by showing it next to other animals that the bird hunted.

The mix of text and illustrations is both appealing and educational. Readers will learn about the only bird that was a top predator and they’ll be amazed by the gigantic size of the bird. The easy-to-read format breaks the text into manageable sections so beginning readers will not get bored. Readers who want to learn more about prehistoric times may also want to read Don’t Disturb the Dinosaurs by Ada Hopper.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • The terror birds’ hunting habits are discussed. “A terror bird chased prey on long, strong legs. It could break bones with one kick. . . The heavy head swung down like an ax. The deadly beak cut flesh and split bone.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Supernatural

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Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World

Did you know that a dog’s nose is so sensitive that if a human could see as well as a dog could smell, we could be able to see the small letters on an eye chart from four miles away? While your dog may be talented at sniffing out snacks or alerting your family to welcome (or unwelcome) visitors, some dogs are super sniffers who put their noses to work with firefighters, soldiers, and scientists to save lives. These knowing noses can help locate missing people, detect explosives, or even sniff out a tiny, endangered snail species in the middle of a huge forest.

Dog lover and acclaimed science writer, Nancy Castaldo, introduces us to these heroic canines, many of whom were death-row shelter dogs. There’s Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, who is a decorated war hero; Rocky, the German shepherd who wears a bulletproof vest while sniffing for illegal drugs; Alan, a fox red Labrador retriever who detects tiny but life-threatening changes in his owner’s blood sugar levels; and Raider, who searches for disaster victims in piles of rubble. From your own very backyard to danger zones all over the world, hard-working dogs are on the job helping humans every day—eager to please, hoping for love, and always on alert.

Readers will be amazed by the dog’s abilities to use their sense of smell to help people. Sniffer Dogs educates readers about the different jobs that dogs train for including sniffing for bombs, drugs, missing people, and human remains. Sniffer dogs are also used to help people with medical conditions like diabetes. Some Sniffer Dogs are trained specifically to find old bones. For example, “the ghost town, Bodie, was once the fifth-largest town in California in 1859. Today, dogs are locating the unmarked graves of Bodie’s past residents.” Incredibly, other dogs are also trained to help scientists find whale feces in the Atlantic Ocean which allows scientists to study the population of endangered whales.

The book explores the different ways dogs have helped people throughout history. In World War II, “sentries and patrol dogs assisted the troops in battle, and ambulance dogs transported first-aid supplies to wounded soldiers.” Readers who want to learn more about how military dogs have helped people should also read the G.I. Dogs Series by Laurie Calkhoven.

Sniffer Dog’s format will appeal to readers because of the large pictures that appear on almost every page. The book includes information on real Sniffer Dogs and gives specific information on how the dogs have helped. Readers will learn about the dogs’ training, their relationship with their handlers, as well as their incredible sense of smell. While the book is packed full of information, each section is broken into small, manageable sections. However, the advanced vocabulary may be difficult for struggling readers.

Sniffer Dogs will appeal to dog lovers as well as anyone who is interested in science. If you are researching any type of service dog, then Sniffer Dogs is a must-read. If you’re interested in learning more about how dogs are used in the military, grab a copy of Max: Best Friend. Hero. Marine. by Jennifer Li Shotz.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • Because dogs are used to help find both living and dead people, many historic events—9/11, the Oklahoma bombing, etc.—are discussed in the book.
  • Eli, a bomb-sniffing black lab, went to Afghanistan with his handler Colton. “On December 6, just a few months after arriving in Afghanistan, Colton was hit by sniper fire while on patrol and was killed. Eli stood guard, crawling on top of his partner’s body, not leaving its side, even when Colton’s fellow soldiers came to retrieve it.”
  • When the Titanic was sinking, Ann Elizabeth Isham, refused to leave her dog. “It is commonly believed that when her Great Dane was denied a place in a lifeboat, she refused to leave without it. Their bodies were both found floating in the sea after the ship sank. Reports say that her frozen arms were wrapped around the dog’s neck. . .”
  • Roselle, a Seeing-Eye dog was with Michael Hingson on 9/11. “Roselle guided Michael Hingson down seventy-eight floors in Tower One after the American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the building just eighteen floors above him.”
  • Dogs trained to find deceased people learn how to “recognize decomposing body odors as the scent drifts away from the body or skeleton. . .”
  • During World War II, “two men, a pilot, and a gunner, were flying on a training mission when their plane went down . . . Sadly, the bodies of the airmen were never recovered.” When the plane’s remains were found, dogs were “able to locate many of the bones of the missing men at the site, including a finger bone with a ring on it.” 

Drugs and Alcohol

  • During World War I dogs carried “cigarettes to stressed-out soldiers in the field.”

Language

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Supernatural

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George Washington’s Spies

Everyone knows George Washington, but do you know his biggest secret? By the end of 1776, the British army had taken over New York City. General George Washington and his army were on the run, but he had not lost hope—he had a plan. With the help of a trusted friend, he created a ring of spies. They used codes, invisible ink, and more to spy on the British and pass along information . . . but could they do it without getting caught?

George Washington’s Spies teaches about the Revolutionary War and introduces some of the men who helped defeat the British. Readers will be fascinated by George Washington’s spies and their close connections to one another. The book introduces two of the most famous men of the Revolutionary War—Nathan Hale and Benedict Arnold. While the story doesn’t dig deep into any one person’s history, it will leave readers wanting to learn more. Readers can learn more about the Revolutionary War by reading the graphic novel series Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale and Daniel at the Siege of Boston 1776 by Laurie Calkhoven.

Readers who find history boring will still enjoy George Washington’s Spies. The book is good for reluctant readers because it uses short chapters and has large black and white illustrations that appear every 5 to 9 pages. While the book is easy enough for young fluent readers, the content will be interesting to older readers as well. The end of the book has an appendix that includes photographs, bonus content, and links to primary source materials.

George Washington’s Spies makes reading about history fun. The Totally True Adventures Series introduces readers to different historical topics such as The Curse of King Tut’s Mummy, and Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse. If you’re looking for a book series that entertains as well as teaches, the Totally True Adventures Series has many options to choose from. If you’re a history buff who enjoys learning about early America, then George Washington’s Spies is the perfect book for you.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • George Washington and 150 colonial soldiers were sent to defend a British Fort. “Washington, forty of his men, and twelve Indian comrades discovered soldiers hiding in a rocky glen nearby. No one knows which side fired first, but a skirmish began and within minutes, thirteen French soldiers were killed. . .”
  • The battle at Fort Duquesne “was a disaster for the British. Braddock was killed along with over half the Redcoats.”
  • Several people are executed, but their deaths are not described.
  • Nathan Hale was “hanged by his British captors.”
  • One man decided to become a spy when he returned home and “found his father beaten and his family terrified.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Supernatural

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The Search for El Dorado

Towers of gold! Glittering streets! Jewels, coins, and more! Early Spanish explorers heard a story about El Dorado. It was a lost city in the Americans, made of gold. The explorers believed they could find it. Soon the story became a legend, and the legend changed the world. But the city of El Dorado has not been found. . . yet.

The book begins by explaining the Muisca tribe’s traditions and beliefs, which is where the legend of El Dorado most likely started. Then in the 1400s, the Europeans thirst for gold and riches caused explorers to begin searching for the mythical city. In search of a new trade route, Christopher Columbus set sail, looking for a way to get from Europe to Asia. Columbus’s travels inspired others to travel to the Americas in search of gold. The Search for El Dorado explains how the European’s search for gold affected the native people as well as Europeans.

The Search for El Dorado explains the difference between a myth and a legend. “For people who believe, both myth and legends have their own power.” Even though El Dorado has never been found, “El Dorado has become part of our language. It still means something shiny and golden. Mostly, it now stands for an impossible dream that can’t be reached.” Even though El Dorado is a fictional place, the story of El Dorado still inspires people to dream big.

The Search for El Dorado uses short chapters and explains some of the vocabulary, which makes the book accessible to reluctant readers. Large black and white illustrations appear every 5 to 9 pages that show the astronauts in action. Detailed illustrations give readers a glimpse at the time period’s clothing, ships, and people. While the book is easy enough for young, fluent readers, the content will be interesting to older readers as well. The back of the book contains a timeline, additional books to read, and facts about Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela.

As the Europeans expanded into the Americas, greed was the root cause of their travels. The Search for El Dorado explores how the explorers negatively impacted the indigenous people. The book focuses on Christopher Columbus, Sir Walter Raleigh, and other explorers. While the book has many interesting facts, much of the book reads like a history book. The author explains that the search for El Dorado is “a shameful chapter in the history of the Americas.” Anyone who is interested in history or the colonization of the Americas should read The Search for El Dorado. However, others may want to skip this particular book.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • Pirates attacked Columbus’s ship. “His ship was burned, and Columbus had to swim to shore.”
  • Sir Walter went in search of El Dorado’s gold. He took his son, Wat, with him. Wat “was a young man and didn’t always think about his actions. He attacked a Spanish fort and was killed.”
  • When Sir Walter returned to England without gold, “the king ordered for him to be killed.”
  • In the search for El Dorado, “so many natives were killed, tortured, and enslaved that it’s difficult to believe. . .The Europeans rode into cities and villages and grabbed what they wanted: not only treasure, but men, women, and children to work for them.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

  • The legend of El Dorado may have started with the Muisca tribe’s culture. When a chief died, a new leader was chosen. Mud and gold dust was smeared all over a young man’s body. “Now he was the Golden man. Would the great god of the lake accept this young man as the next leader?”
  • The Golden Man took a raft to the middle of the lake and “threw jewels into the middle of the lake. These were gifts to the gods.” The Golden Man jumped into the water and dove down. “He went down, down, down to where the gods lived.” If the gods were pleased, the man would swim to the surface. “The gods had accepted him. . . The Golden Man was now chief.”

Dragon Myths

They’re called drakon in Greek, azhdaha in Persian, kelekona in Hawaiian, and they have different names in numerous other cultures as well. They’re dragons. Many cultures even agree on what the giant serpents look like, though they may differ on whether these mythical creatures are benevolent or evil. This compelling volume takes readers on a tour of world cultures and dragon lore. Sometimes, the folklore is entwined with actual historical events, such as a Roman general’s supposed encounter with a water-spewing dragon on a march to Africa.

Take a trip back in time and learn how so many myths about dragons became legends. Readers will learn how different cultures preserved their dragon lore as well as why so many people fear dragons. Included in the text are different examples of dragons that have always been warned against. The book has several examples of dragons that are referred to in literature. Readers will also learn why dragons were worshiped, feared, or even considered friendly in ancient civilizations.

 Dragon Myths is visually appealing. Each page has large illustrations that include short captions. In addition, each section is broken into smaller sections that have fun headlines such as “SWOOP, SLITHER, SLASH.” Another appealing aspect of the story is the fun facts that appear in a graphic that looks like a scroll. Throughout the book, readers will encounter bolded words that may be unfamiliar; however, the words are defined within the text making the passage easy to understand.

If you want to learn more about dragons, Dragon Myths is the perfect book for you. While none of the myths are covered in detail, the book will spark readers’ curiosity and give them different topics that they may want to research. Full of colorful pictures, interesting facts, and historical information, Dragon Myths will keep readers’ attention as they learn about the dragon lore.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • Some old folktales warn about the tatzelwurm, a dwarfish dragon that “is said to gobble up travelers.”
  • In North America, legend tells of a “leech-like dragon. Get too close and the dragon might vomit foul liquid on you. Stunned, you’d fall into the raging waters. . .maybe your family would find your dead body washed ashore—nose and ears mysteriously sliced off.”
  • An Ethiopian legend tells of a dragon that “feasted on elephants!”

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

  • Ancient Egyptians believed in Gods such as a dragon with “a winged snake with three heads and four clawed feet” and “the goddess Mersokar and the god Chanuphis (or Bati).”
  • In the legends of Saint George, “a Roman soldier who converted to Christianity. . . In one town, he encounters a dragon, which he was certain was really the devil in disguise. George not only killed the dragon but also convinced the townsfolk to adopt Christianity.”
  • In Asia, many dragons were worshiped. “They were said to possess magical powers that included natural events.”

Kate Middleton: Real-Life Princess

This book describes Kate Middleton’s childhood, family, education, interest and career in fashion, and marriage to Prince William. Readers will learn about Middleton’s college years at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she met the prince, the couple’s royal wedding, and their charity work. From attending events to traveling with guards, readers will discover what it’s like to represent a royal family as a princess! Features include a table of contents, maps, “Did You Know” fun facts, a “Snapshot” page with vital information, a glossary with phonetic spellings, and an index.

Anyone interested in real life princesses will enjoy learning more about Kate Middleton. Each page has large photographs that focus on Kate. Every two-page spread has 3 to 5 sentences in large print. While the book’s format will appeal to reluctant readers, some readers may want a book that gives a more in-depth look at Kate’s life especially since the biography ends with Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding.

The biography will give readers insight into Kate’s early life. While the book does not have enough information to complete a thorough research paper, younger readers who are interested in learning about a modern princess will enjoy Kate Middleton: Real-Life Princess.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Supernatural

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Terra-Cotta Soldiers: Army of Stone

Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, China’s first emperor, was not a popular ruler. Despite this, he was able to unify China’s seven states. He also passed laws to standardize written languages, currencies, weights, and measurements. While these laws helped China build strong trade, Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi is best known for his tomb which is guarded by terra-cotta soldiers. The tomb has about eight thousand terra-cotta statues, including individual soldiers and their horses. Terra-Cotta Soldiers: Army of Stone describes the archaeological discovery of thousands of life-sized terracotta warrior statues in northern China in 1974 and discusses the emperor who had them created and placed near his tomb.

Terra-Cotta Soldiers: Army of Stone will appeal to reluctant readers for several reasons. The text is printed in large font and is broken into small, manageable parts. Most of the two-page spreads have text on one side of the page and a large picture on the other side of the page. Readers will be captivated by the pictures of the soldiers and the paintings of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. Throughout the book, there are also two to three sentences describing some of the artifacts found in the tomb. The end of the book has a glossary as well as a short list of other books that readers may want to explore.

Anyone who is interested in history will enjoy Terra-Cotta Soldiers: Army of Stone because the text is both engaging and easy to read. The book includes an interesting mix of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi’s cruelty and the emperor’s positive impact on China. The pictures of the terra-cotta soldiers are breathtaking and the history behind them will fascinate readers. Whether you’re writing a research paper or just interested in history, Terra-Cotta Soldiers: Army of Stone is an excellent book to start with because even though the book packs in a lot of facts, it doesn’t read like a history book.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi’s army “used deadly weapons such as crossbows that shot arrows with poisoned tips. . . If a soldier brought back the head of an enemy, he was given money or a higher position in the army or government.”
  • Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi made Confucianism illegal. “He burned all books about Confucianism. Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi also had hundreds of Confucian scholars killed by burying them alive.”
  • After Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi’s death, the peasant class “rose up against the new emperor, Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi’s son. . . They looted and burned all of the government buildings as well as Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi’s great palaces.” The tomb was the only thing that survived the uprising.
  • Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi’s wanted his tomb to be safe from grave robbers. “Mechanical crossbows were set up to shoot arrows at anyone who dared to break into the tomb. Then the men who set up the crossbows were buried along with the emperor. . . Women from Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi’s court were also buried alive in the tomb to provide the emperor with companions in the afterlife.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

  • Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi was not a popular ruler. One reason is that he drafted citizens from all parts of the empire to build his tomb. They were told that they had to be involved in building Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi’s tomb in order to get to heaven.”

Climbing Everest

The peak of Mount Everest is the highest place on Earth—and one of the deadliest. Terrible storms stop climbers in their tracks. Avalanches crush everything in their way. Brave adventurers disappear on the snowy slopes. Despite this, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay decided to climb. They come from different cultures, but their dream is the same. Can their teamwork help them make it to the roof of the world?

Everest’s story begins with George Leigh Mallory, who was born in 1886. Mallory attempted to climb Everest many times and although people believe he reached the summit, he died while climbing the mountain. However, Mallory was not the last to climb. Climbing Everest describes the different people who tried to make it to the top of the world.

In order to explain why some of the explorers wanted to climb Everest, the book focuses on the main climbers. This allows readers to understand each person’s motivation behind climbing Everest. Some of the words come directly from the explorers’ personal letters and writings which adds interest to the story. Through the climbers’ stories, readers will be awed by the climbers’ dedication, grit, and ability to survive in harsh conditions.

Climbing Everest uses short chapters and easy vocabulary which makes the book accessible to reluctant readers. Large black and white illustrations appear every 3 to 7 pages and show the mountain and the mountain climbers. The end of the book includes records set at Everest, a map of the climbers’ camps, and other interesting facts. While the book is easy enough for young fluent readers, the content will be interesting to older readers of all ages.

Today, more than 300 people have died attempting to reach Everest’s summit. Climbing Everest chronicles the first explorers who dared to reach earth’s highest peak. Their stories explain the difficulties of reaching the summit as well as the teamwork involved. Even though the book is nonfiction, readers will have a hard time putting it down. Readers who are interested in mountain climbing will also want to read Peak, the first book in the Peak Marcello Adventure Series.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Mallory’s body was found years after his death. He was “lying face down in the snow. His feet were pointed toward the mountain base. His arms were outstretched as if trying to stop a fall. He had a broken leg, broken ribs, and a broken shoulder.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • During the 1922 expedition, the climbers brought cases of champagne so “they could celebrate their success once they reached the top.”

Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

  • On their trip to Mount Everest, the climbers stopped at the Rongbuk Monastery. “Sherpas, and many other people from the region, followed the Buddhist religion. . . The paths of the monastery were lined with stones, and the stones had prayers carved into them.”
  • When Edward North and his expedition went to the monastery, “he asked the head lama to give a special blessing to the Sherpas.” The lama “held a silver prayer wheel to each man’s head. By doing this, he gave the climbers a blessing.”
  • One of the Sherpas was “a little scared” of going to the summit because “his Buddhist religion taught him that gods and demons lived in the mountains. They were sacred places, to worship and to protect.” Later Tenzing “left gifts for the mountain gods—sweets, and the pencil his daughter had given him.”

I am Sonia Sotomayor  

Sonia Sotomayor’s life will inspire children to reach for their dreams. The biography begins when Sonia was a small child, who often got into mischief. Living in the Bronx was not always easy, but Sonia found comfort in reading and learning. Sonia was inspired by Nancy Drew, who “was a master at doing puzzles, and no matter what got in her way, she could figure things out.” Sonia wanted to help others by becoming a police officer. However, because of her diabetes, she couldn’t pursue her dream of joining the force. Instead of giving up, Sonia found new inspiration by watching Perry Mason, a lawyer. After watching the show, she decided she wanted to be a judge.

Instead of focusing on the hardships of life, Sonia’s biography describes all the people who helped her along the way. She does acknowledge the fact that “there were a lot of Puerto Rican workers, but few managers or owners, and even fewer lawyers and detectives. It wasn’t that my Puerto Rican neighbors didn’t work hard. People aren’t poor because they’re lazy. . . But sometimes where you live affects the kind of opportunities you have.” But with words of encouragement from her mother, her teachers, and her friends, Sonia was able to become the first Latina Supreme Court Justice. Sonia’s story proves there is no limit to what someone can accomplish.

Colorful, full-page illustrations, show important aspects of Sonia Sotomayor’s life beginning when she was a little girl. The book’s text includes speech bubbles as well as short paragraphs. Because Sonia is Latino, some of the speech bubbles are in both Spanish and English. Throughout the book, Sonia and some of the other people are cartoonish. When groups of people appear, the people are diverse and include both male and female. The end of the book has a timeline of Sonia’s life, and four pictures of her. In the last line, Sonia says, “Remember that no one succeeds alone.”

Younger readers will enjoy I am Sonia Sotomayor’s fun format, conversational text, and positive message. The book reinforces the importance of learning, reading, and listening to those who encourage you. Sotomayor says, “The more you learn, the further you’ll go. Education is a rocket ship. It can take you anywhere. But no matter how high you fly, never forget where you started.” For more inspirational stories about successful women, read She Persisted in Sports by Chelsea Clinton.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • One day Sonia found “my little brother surrounded by bullies, so I walked over to protect him.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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My First Pony

Follow the true adventures of Abbie and her first pony, Sparkle (a beautiful Palomino), in her diary. Yes, Abbie is a horse mad girl, and when she gets her first pony all her dreams come true.

When Abby “first saw Sparkle, I knew that she was the pony for me! As soon as she cantered across the paddock, I think we both knew that we were meant to be together. But I certainly wasn’t prepared for the exciting adventures ahead.”

In My First Pony, Katrina is eight years old and her life revolves around horses and friends. While some of the story is interesting, Katrina isn’t very likable because everything is filtered through her eyes only. In addition, she wants other people to be jealous of her. For example, Katrina wants to tell her classmates about Sparkle winning ribbons in a gymkhana. She writes, “I can’t wait till school goes back and I can tell all my friends about her—they’ll be so jealous.” While Katrina may love horses, she doesn’t sound like the best horse owner. When Sparkles gets injured, Katrina is upset that “now I can’t even use my new Wintec because the cut on her side is right in the saddle area.”

The story is written in a diary format and often jumps from topic to topic without transitioning. This format doesn’t allow Katrina to explain who people are in relation to her. She also doesn’t explain any of the horse terms. Interwoven into the story are black and white photographs which mostly show horses. However, the pictures don’t always correspond with the diary entry. For example, one picture shows a girl “being a rock star! Ha Ha Ha!”

Readers who are “mad” about horses may enjoy My First Pony; however, with the plethora of horse books to choose from, you may want to leave this book sitting on the shelf.

Sexual Content

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Violence

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 Drugs and Alcohol

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Language

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Behind the Legend: Unicorns

Are elegant, elusive unicorns real, or just a myth? Behind the Legend looks at creatures and monsters throughout history and analyzes them through a scientific, myth-busting lens, debating whether or not the sightings and evidence provided are adequate proof of their existence.

In Unicorns, readers learn about all the sightings and “proof” of unicorns, from stories in history of people like Julius Caesar and Marco Polo who sought unicorns to why they were hunted so fiercely. This book also discusses additional history about the creatures, such as why their horns were so valued in medieval times, their presence in pop culture, and peoples’ ongoing search for unicorns in modern times.

Even though Unicorns is non-fiction, it is filled with many interesting stories explaining how different myths of unicorns started. The book begins in ancient times and goes in chronological order to modern day. Using factual stories, Peabody explains different cultures’ legends including Persia, Greece, China, and Europe.

Unicorn is incredibly engaging and will appeal to even the most reluctant readers. The oversized text and short passages are easy to read. Plus, large black-and-white illustrations appear on almost every page, and they show the reader different drawings of unicorns that appeared in books through the ages. Plus, the illustrations include pictures of some of the historical figures who believed in unicorns.

Peabody explains the reasons that legends of unicorns persisted throughout ancient times. One reason is that “long ago, the idea of investigating a claim or conducting independent research did not exist.” While the book’s cover says, “fact or fiction, you decide,” the book says that today most people believe that unicorns do not exist. Instead, “You may be bummed to learn that many ancient ‘unicorns’ were likely just rhinos, oryx, and narwhals in disguise.” Despite this, readers will be eager to read Unicorns and the book encourages readers to find out more about unicorns by giving a list of more books about unicorns.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • An ancient Greek scholar helped the king. “When Artaxerxes II’s power-hungry brother Cyrus attacked the king with a javelin and nearly killed him, Ctesias rushed in and successfully treated the Persian leader, thus saving the day.”
  • In the early seventeenth century, Giulia Tofana was an “infamous poison peddler.” She sold poison to women “so if they felt trapped in an unhappy marriage—or worse, were being abused, or hurt, by their husbands—they might have gone to Tofana to plan an escape.” Tofana may have caused an estimated six hundred deaths and she “was eventually put to death herself.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • People used to believe a unicorn horn had healing properties. “According to one medieval physician, a horn was an effective treatment ‘for all poisons, for fevers, for bites of mad dogs and scorpions, for falling sickness, worms, fluxes, loss of memory, the plague, and prolongation of youth.’”
  • A physician experimented on two cats. The physician gave both cats poison. “Sadly, the kittens died, but there were some positive outcomes. Starting in the 1600s, educated people began to realize that expensive horns didn’t have medicinal values.”

Language

  • Early scrolls call unicorns “wild asses” and the book refers to unicorns this way a few times.

Supernatural

  • Bones were used to make dice. “Fortune-tellers and vision seekers also consulted early dice to “read the future and make tough decisions.”
  • In Japan and China, unicorns were “considered sacred. Even a fleeting glimpse of the stunning creature was thought to bring good fortune.”

Spiritual Content

  • The Bible mentions unicorns. “The animal doesn’t conduct any miracles, nor does it fly across the heavens wearing a radiant halo. No, the Bible’s unicorn is a very normal, no-big-deal kind of animal. . . If we believe one version of a famous Bible tale, the unicorn also had a reputation for getting a little rowdy.”
  • A “funny Hebrew folktale” talks about Noah’s Ark. When Noah was leading the animals into the arc, the unicorns “refused to listen to Noah. . .. The impertinent horsies try Noah’s patience. With the rains coming and no time to spare, Noah pulls up the plank and closes the arc’s door.”
  • The book explains how different texts describe unicorns. “As for the Bible, many, many writers contributed to the ancient book. The texts of the Old Testament, in which unicorns appear, were originally written in Hebrew, then translated into Greek, then Latin, then into English. Is it possible a language error occurred?”

Apollo 13

On April 11, 1970, astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert blasted off to the moon. But while they were flying, part of their spaceship exploded! The ship was quickly losing power and air. They had to think of something fast, or they’d be stuck in outer space forever. How would Lovell, Haise, and Swigert make it back to Earth?

Almost everyone has heard the phrase, “Houston, we have a problem” and know it refers to traveling to the moon. Apollo 13 shows how the brave astronauts were able to safely make it back to Earth. While the book focuses on the astronauts, readers will learn a host of new facts about space travel in general. The book is packed with information explaining Apollo 13’s journey including what went wrong, why it was dangerous, and how the astronauts dealt with the problems. The end of the book also has more space information, such as how a person goes to the bathroom in space.

Apollo 13 uses short chapters and explains some of the vocabulary, which makes the book accessible to reluctant readers. Large black and white illustrations appear every 5 to 9 pages that show the astronauts in action. While the book is easy enough for young fluent readers, the content will be interesting to older readers as well.

Readers who know little about space travel may find it difficult to get to the end of Apollo 13. Even though the astronauts had some scary moments, the story is missing a sense of suspense and action. The factual way Apollo 13 is told may put off readers who were expecting the book to read like a story. However, if you love space and/or need to research Apollo 13, you should definitely check out this book!

If you’ve ever wondered about traveling to space, Apollo 13 should be read along with several other books. Even though Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 is a picture book, it is a must read for anyone who wants to learn more about Apollo 13. In addition, readers interested in learning more about space flight should also read The Race to Space: Countdown to Liftoff by Erik Slader & Ben Thompson.

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The Sequoia Lives On

From tiny seeds to the largest trees, the giant sequoia is a living wonder of nature. Numbers fail when trying to describe this ancient and tremendous tree. The giant sequoia begins life as a seed no larger than an oatmeal flake yet can grow as tall as three blue whales stacked chin to tail. The oldest sequoias have lived as long as forty human lifetimes. The largest are so enormous that twenty children holding hands can’t wrap their arms around their trunks!

The sequoia’s majesty is shown with vibrant full-page illustrations while the text explains the tree’s size in kid-friendly terms. For example, a sequoia’s seed is “a flake no bigger than an ant” but the tiny seeds will eventually be “a tree as heavy as three hundred elephants.” The sequoia’s great size is emphasized, and the illustrations show a diverse group of children admiring the trees. The Sequoia Lives On is a picture book intended to be read aloud to a child the first time. Even though each two-page spread only has 1 to 5 sentences, young readers will struggle with the complex sentence structure and difficult vocabulary.

The Sequoia Lives On teaches readers about the life cycle of a sequoia. The book pairs sequoia facts with beautiful pictures. To give readers perspective, the illustrations compare the trees’ size to the forest animals. While no book can fully explain the majesty of the giant sequoias, The Sequoia Lives On does an excellent job explaining how the sequoia is important to other living creatures including chickarees and the long-horned beetle.

Young readers curious about trees will enjoy The Sequoia Lives On. While some of the text may be confusing to young readers, the illustrations beautifully show the information given in the text. Children will be amazed as they learn about the giant trees. If you are planning a trip to see the sequoias, The Sequoia Lives On is a must-read. However, young readers who aren’t interested in trees may quickly become bored. The Sequoia Lives On will educate readers as well as inspire awe, but younger reads will need an adult’s help to get through to the end of the book.

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Ghosts

When Jack and Annie got back from their adventure in Magic Tree House Merlin Mission #14: A Good Night for Ghosts, they had lots of questions. What are some of the most famous ghost stories? Why do people believe in ghosts? Do most cultures have ghost stories? What are ghost hunters? Readers discover the answers to these questions and more as Jack and Annie track the facts.

Included in the book are haunted places, different cultures’ beliefs in ghosts, and famous ghost stories. Each chapter is broken into small sections that give historical information. Almost every page has a picture or illustration. The book includes historical pictures of the people and places discussed in the text. Black and white illustrations, which are sometimes comical, show the ghosts that haunt famous places. On the side of the text, additional historical information and definitions are given. For example, “The name yurei comes from two words: yu, which means ‘dim,’ and rei, which means ‘soul.'”

At the end of the book, Jack and Annie give a list of things they would do “if we were ghosts” such as “walk through walls, glow like candles, never take a bath,” etc. The book also includes a list of natural events that could cause ghostly fears, as well as ways to research.

Each ghost story is told in a conversational tone that explains who the ghost is and how they haunt. Even though the book is all about ghosts, none of the information is told in a dramatic or scary way. The text never tries to prove or disprove the hauntings. Instead, the book keeps to the facts and lets the reader decide if they believe in ghosts or not. Even if a reader doesn’t believe in ghosts, the book gives plenty of historical information which is presented in an entertaining manner.

Whether you’re a history buff or just interested in the supernatural, Ghost presents nonfiction information in a way that will engage young readers. Readers will learn about ghosts that appear in New Orleans, the White House, Great Britain, and other famous sites. Ghost is packed full of historical information that is fun to read; it also gives information that connects to A Good Night for Ghosts, a Magic Tree House Book. Even though the content is appropriate for younger readers, they may need help with the advanced vocabulary. If you’re researching ghosts or just want a fun book to read, Ghost will allow you to explore the world of ghosts without any frightening surprises.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • In the mid-1800s, Joe Baldwin worked for the railroad. “Part of his job was to walk the tracks at night with a lantern to make sure the train had stopped at the right place. Joe’s head was cut off in an accident.”
  • According to one man, the ghost of Marie Laveau “hit him in the nose when he was in a drug store. The victim said that her ghost asked him who she was. When he said he did not know, she gave him a good, hard punch!”
  • In the 1800s, a sultan and his family were killed. “One dark and stormy night, intruders slipped in and murdered everyone. The murderers buried the sultan in a shallow grave underneath a tree in the courtyard. He is said to haunt the house where he died.”
  • President Abraham Lincoln and his wife went to the theater to watch a play. “A man crept up behind him and fired a bullet into his head. Lincoln died the following day.”
  • John McCullough haunts the National Theatre. “John was killed in a fight with another actor. His body was buried beneath the dirt floor in the cellar.”
  • King George III and others haunt Windsor castle. “King Charles I, whose head was cut off, shows up in the library and in one of the other houses on the grounds.”
  • The London Tower is haunted. “Whenever kings or queens suspected people of plotting against them, they put them in the tower. Some unlucky prisoners were hanged or had their heads chopped off.” Ann Boleyn was imprisoned in the tower. Henry VIII “ordered that her head be chopped off.”

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Supernatural

  • Ghost is all about different ghost citings and haunted places. Below is a list of just a few examples.
  • The ancient Greeks and Romans “believed that ghosts were spirits of people who had not had a proper burial after they had died.”
  • In African, “children often hear stories about friendly ghosts who are the spirits of their ancestors.”
  • In India, people believe that “their bodies are haunted by ghosts.” They travel to see ghostbusters “who claim to be able to cure them of their problems.”
  • Marie Laveau lived during the 1800s. She practiced voodoo and “people said she could summon up spirits and even make magic potions. . . Legend has it that Marie’s ghost appears as either a cow or a big black dog that runs through the cemetery.”

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 Dog Heroes

When Jack and Annie got back from their adventure in Magic Tree House Merlin Mission #18: Dogs in the Dead of Night, they had lots of questions. How do St. Bernards help find avalanche survivors? Who are some of the most famous war dog heroes? What breeds make good service dogs? Find out the answers to these questions and more as Jack and Annie track the facts.

The book includes information on the evolution of dogs, how dogs help search and rescue people, and famous dog heroes. Each chapter is broken into small sections that end in an infographic that explains dog families, how service dogs help humans, and other dog-related topics. Almost every page has a picture or illustration. The book includes historical pictures of the dog and the people they have helped. Black and white illustrations also show the dogs in action. Jack’s and Annie’s pictures appear next to photos along with information about the picture.

Dog Heroes is packed full of information on how dogs help humans, starting with the first human and dog relationships. The story contains many examples of how dogs have helped saved people throughout history. While many of the dog stories are inspirational, readers will have a difficult time keeping track of all of the dogs mentioned in the book. However, if readers are looking for a topic to use for research, Dog Heroes would be an excellent starting point. The end of the book lists nonfiction books about dog heroes and explains how to research.

Dog Heroes will appeal to every dog lover and teach about famous dogs in history. The book interestingly presents historical information and gives information about the dogs in Dogs in the Dead of Night, a Magic Tree House book. Dog Heroes is packed full of historical information that is fun to read. Even though the content is appropriate for younger readers, they may need help with the advanced vocabulary. Dog Heroes would be an excellent book to use for researching dogs, but it also contains inspirational stories about specific dogs in history.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • Chapter 3 explains how dogs helped during 9/11. Omar was in the World Trade Center when a plane crashed into it. “Suddenly Omar heard a huge booming sound. Glass shattered, fires broke out, and the building began to crack and sway. Terrified people huddled in their offices. . . The ash-covered survivors looked like ghosts as they staggered down the sidewalk.”
  • Soldiers also need service dogs. “After Roland Paquette was injured in Afghanistan in 2004, he really needed help. He lost both legs due to an explosion.”
  • During World War II, Chip helped soldiers who were “pinned down and couldn’t move. . . Chip rushed directly to the spot where Italian gunners were firing. In an instant, Chip dragged one of the men out of his hiding place. Three other men followed with their hands up in the air.”

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The Voyage of the Mayflower

In the 1600s, everyone had to join the Church of England or they were breaking the law. One group, the Separatists, wanted to follow God’s word without the rules of the Church of England. The Separatists fled to Holland, but life did not improve much, so some of the Separatists decided to travel to the New World.

The Separatists received funding from Mr. Weston. They booked passage on the Speedwell, but before leaving for the New World they traveled to England to meet up with the Mayflower. Their trip was besieged by many problems, and the sailors and the Separatists did not get along.

When the ships finally landed, they discovered they were in Massachusetts instead of Virginia. The harsh winter killed many of the settlers. Finally, in spring they met Squanto, a Wampanoag Indian who taught the settlers how to plant crops. With Squanto’s help, the settlers were able to survive in the New World.

The Voyage of the Mayflower tells the story of the Separatists’ search for religious freedom. The book has four short chapters that clearly explain why the Separatists wanted to go to the New World. While the story doesn’t go into great detail about any of the events, it provides a basic understanding of the Separatists’ journey to the New World. In addition, readers will learn about some of the important men who helped lead the Separatists in England and in the New World.

The story is told in a graphic novel format that will appeal to even the most reluctant readers. Each page has 7 to 9 sentences. Basic facts appear in gray boxes and people’s speech appears in quote boxes. In addition, the characters’ thoughts appear in thought bubbles. At the end of the book, readers will find additional facts about the Mayflower, a small glossary, and a list of books and websites readers can use to further their knowledge.

The Voyage of the Mayflower would be a good starting point for a research project. The graphic novel format allows readers to see the clothing, the cramped spaces of the Mayflower, as well as the important historical figures. While the story doesn’t go into great depth, readers will have a basic understanding of the people, places, and time period after reading The Voyage of the Mayflower. Readers who want to delve into more history should also read The Mayflower by Kate Messner.

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Spiritual Content

  • When the Separatists fled to Holland, the pastor said, “We thank God that we can worship freely here.”
  • The Separatists’ pastor wrote a letter to those who were traveling to the New World. He wrote, “My daily prayers are that the Lord would guide and guard you in your ways.”
  • During the trip, the Separatists’ leader often led them in worship and prayer. He prayed, “We ask God to brings us safely to the New World.

The Mayflower

Myths! Lies! Secrets! Smash the stories behind famous moments in history and expose the hidden truth. Perfect for fans of I Survived and Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.

In 1620, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and made friends with Wampanoag people who gave them corn. RIGHT?

WRONG! It was months before the Pilgrims met any Wampanoag people, and nobody gave anybody corn that day.

Did you know that the pilgrims didn’t go straight from England to Plymouth? No, they made a stop along the way—and almost stayed forever! Did you know there was a second ship, called the Speedwell, that was too leaky to make the trip? No joke. And just wait until you learn the truth about Plymouth Rock.

Messner makes learning about history fun. The Mayflower is written in a factual, conversational tone that explains how some of America’s myths started. The Mayflower explains to readers what a primary source is, as well as discusses why “a primary source isn’t necessarily the truth of what happened; it’s an account of what the writer noticed and believed at the time.” The book contains many passages from primary sources and also translates some passages that are difficult to understand.

The Mayflower doesn’t recite a bunch of boring facts. Instead, readers will learn about the events and their significance. For example, the book explains what the Mayflower Compact was: “It established the idea that people should agree on laws together. It also laid the foundation for the separation of church and state—the idea that the government shouldn’t be run by religious leaders and shouldn’t tell anyone how to worship.”

The book’s unique layout will appeal to readers because it includes some graphic novel panels plus lots of illustrations, maps, sidebars, and historical pictures. Almost every page has a graphic element and many of the black and white illustrations are humorous. The illustrations will allow readers to visualize the people, places, and events while the abundant graphics break the text into manageable parts and help readers stay interested in each story.

The Mayflower starts with who the Pilgrims were and why they wanted to leave England. The book also includes information about traveling to the New World, the harsh conditions of settling an untamed land, and the Pilgrims’ treatment of the Wampanoag’s people. The Mayflower is a must-read book because it shows American history in a new light and explains how many of America’s myths became part of our history.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • John Bilington was a troublemaker who “killed another settler and ended up being sentenced to death by hanging.”
  • Dermer and a group of men went to America to explore. “They were attacked by Nauset men. Most of Dermer’s men were killed. Dermer was wounded but escaped to Virginia.”
  • A group of Pilgrims attacked the Natives and killed “two of the community’s leaders.”
  • After the Pequot people attacked an English trading vessel, “They set the village on fire and killed anyone who tried to escape. About seven hundred Pequot men, women, and children were killed.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • While sailing to the new world, everyone, including the kids, drank beer. “But this was different from the kind of beer that only adults drink today. The Pilgrims called it ‘small beer,’ and it had less alcohol.”
  • On Christmas Day 1620, some of the men drank beer.

Language

  • A man who enslaved some of the Natives is called a jerk.

Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

  • The King of England said he had “permission” to give away land in Virginia because the Pope said, “Christian people could go into the lands of any non-Christian; take the land and resources and enslave the people who lived there. People who weren’t Christians weren’t looked at as human beings.”
  • Christians believed that taking non-Christians’ lands was acceptable because “God wanted the Pilgrims to convert the Native people, and that could only happen if they lived in the same place.”
  • On the trip, one sailor died. One of the passengers wrote, “But it pleased God before they came half over the sea, to smite this young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself the first that was thrown overboard.”
  • The pilgrims found and stole the Wampanoag’s stored corn. One man said the corn was, “God’s good providence.”
  • A Pilgrim said that Tisquantum “had been sent by God.”
  • The Pilgrims didn’t have celebrations, but they had days “spent in prayer.”
  • After the Pilgrims killed everyone in a Pequot village, the English “gave praise thereof to God.”

 

A Girl Named Rosa: The True Story of Rosa Parks

When Rosa Parks was a young girl, she had to walk to school. Only white children were allowed to ride the bus. Every day, Rosa saw how African Americans were treated unfairly. Everything was segregated—schools, churches, even drinking fountains. During this time, Rosa’s grandfather “taught her to not be afraid of the dangers or hardships she might face.”

When Rosa grew up, she became a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She wanted to help change unfair laws. Then, when riding a bus she was told to give up her bus seat to a white person. She decided the time had come to stand up for fairness by staying seated. What happened next changed America.

A Girl Named Rosa shows how a peaceful protest can lead to important changes in the world. Rosa’s courage helped other African Americans speak up. Rosa’s refusal to give up her seat encouraged others to boycott the bus system, which eventually leads to the end of bus segregation. While the biography teaches about Rosa’s life, the text doesn’t contain any direct quotes from her.

Rosa’s life is described through text and large, full-color illustrations. Each two-page spread has a full-page illustration and one page of oversized text. Some words appear in bold letters and are in a glossary at the back of the book. The end of the book also has a timeline of Rosa’s life, pictures of Rosa and boycotters, and a short article about a girl named Marley who searches for books that portray black girls in a positive light.

Everyone can take inspiration from Rosa’s story. In today’s world, Rosa’s story of courage can help inspire others to demand justice for all people, regardless of their race. Rosa’s story shows that injustice can be overcome. Even though the book’s format will appeal to younger readers, they may struggle with the difficult vocabulary. However, the short chapters make A Girl Named Rosa a good choice to read aloud. Older readers who want to explore more books about racial injustice should read A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • When Rosa was a child, “there were white groups who used violence to frighten, and sometimes hurt, black people. In Rosa’s community, gangs of white men wearing robes and masks sometimes attacked black people, setting fire to their churches, schools, and homes.”
  • While walking to school, some of the white kids “threw things at Rosa and her friends from the bus windows.”
  • While Rosa was walking down the street, “a white boy tried to knock her down. Rosa shoved him back. . . the mother threatened to have Rosa put in jail.”

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Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys

Guyku is the right story for little guys on the move!

The collection of poems captures moments of childhood across the four seasons. From fishing to throwing snowballs to playing in leaf piles, Guyku touches on the wide variety of outdoor activities that kids can do. The book is written for boys, like the title suggests, but it is applicable to all children.

Poetry can have a reputation that it is something you give to advanced readers. However, Guyku flips that notion on its head and helps young readers learn through poetry. Because each poem occupies a full page, the poems are not daunting for new readers.

Raczka and Reynolds are an author-illustrator team who are very much on the same page. The pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations capture the simplicity of the poems and the Earth-toned colors take the reader outdoors. These illustrations accompany every poem, and context clues will help struggling readers make sense of the poems. The art is subtle and encourages the reader to explore the meaning of the poem and ask questions. The eye-catching illustrations will make you laugh as you watch boys, and girls explore the outdoors and enjoy childhood. While the book is generally goofy, the illustrations do not shy away from showing an array of emotions from glee to sadness and boredom to enthrallment. Guyku does a good job of normalizing the range of feelings that people encounter, but there is an emphasis on the excitement and wonder of childhood.

Haiku poems are only three lines long; they have five syllables in the first line, seven in the second line, and five in the third line. A haiku is an observation of nature, and nature is a playground for children. The poems do not take long to read, but sometimes more can be said in a haiku than a whole novel. One of the primary rules of a haiku is that it is written in the present tense. Whatever is happening in a haiku, is happening right now! For children who are wrapped up in the moment, the format of the poem lends itself to being active. The book can serve as inspiration for the wide variety of games that can be played, activities to do with friends, and ways to interact with the outdoors.

Guyku is for kids and about kids. All of the characters are children who are doing what children do best, playing! While the poetry moves quickly and the illustrations are fun, there is a reflective part to these poems. The book encourages children to place themselves within all of the great things the outdoors has to offer and brings into question how the outdoors makes the reader feel. It is likely that a child will see themselves in the characters of the book. Guyku encourages outdoor activity in a positive way.

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by Paul Gordon

 

Outcasts United

In the 1990s, the small town of Clarkston, Georgia, became the center for refugee resettlement. The United States government didn’t tell the original residents that soon people from war-torn nations would be settling in the area and trying to navigate a world vastly different than the homes they had come from. When an American-educated, Jordanian woman named Luma Mufleh moves in, she starts a soccer team comprised of refugee kids, hoping to keep them off the streets. They dub themselves “The Fugees.”

Outcasts United tells the true story of one of the Fugees’ seasons, led by dedicated coach Luma. Reporter Warren St. John details the lives of the players and their coach on and off the field as they maneuver through their lives in a town that didn’t see them coming. Their story demonstrates shared humanity and the need for compassion.

Much of the book revolves around Luma’s life. Luma’s old-school coaching methods produce results in her players. St. John captures how much Luma’s players valued her, as she is much more than just a coach to them. Luma consistently helps the boys’ families with daily tasks, especially when English isn’t well-spoken or understood in the households. Despite her tough-love approach to coaching, the players see her as a mentor and someone to be admired.

The boys face serious challenges in their lives, but soccer unites them as brothers. Many of them come from rival nations that carry their own prejudices against each other, and the small southern town in Georgia they now live in certainly carries its own prejudices about the refugees. Despite these differences, Clarkston is a global community. Luma forces the boys to get along or get off the field, and the strategy in unifying Clarkson is not much different – they have to make the situation work. There is no other option.

The sense of community in Outcasts United is striking. Community is built from the ground up, and it requires that everyone makes an attempt to work within it. Luma has built a community through soccer, and the Fugees family still exists today with more teams and schooling opportunities. Luma could not have done this work without compassion—compassion for the refugee families in Clarkson and for the community that they were trying to build. Through that compassion and through soccer, they have created something truly beautiful.

Outcasts United is inspiring because of the work that Luma and her Fugees put forth. Despite their trials, they’re a team that wants nothing more than to live their lives and play soccer. Although soccer fans will be the main target audience of this book, this true story is moving for anyone interested in themes of compassion and community through sports.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • Some of the players on the team are refugees, and they have experienced “the horrors of war. There were Sudanese players on the team whose villages had been bombed, and Liberians who’d lived through mortar fire that pierced the roofs of their neighbors’ homes, taking out whole families.” One boy “had been forced by soldiers to shoot a close friend.”
  • Descriptions of violence and death are present throughout the book. The players’ stories are revealed, detailing the histories of war-torn nations. In Liberia, one group’s “force grew quickly, in no small part augmented by boys whom [Charles Taylor] armed and drugged into a killing frenzy. Some of these boy soldiers were orphans whose parents had been killed . . . others were kidnapped from their families by Taylor’s own militias . . . Soldiers terrorized citizens and looted at will . . . More than one hundred and fifty thousand Liberians died.”
  • One morning a player is shot at a practice, and “the exact circumstances of the shooting were murky.” It is made clear that gang activity caused it and one of Luma’s players, unfortunately, got caught in the crossfire. He survives.
  • There is a lot of discussion about gangs and gang activity throughout the book, and Luma does her best to deter the boys from joining.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Former president of Liberia and convicted war criminal, Charles Taylor, was captured on the Nigeria-Cameroon border “in an SUV stashed with cash and heroin.”

Language

  • Xenophobia is littered throughout the book. The old residents of Clarkston, Georgia often make it clear that they don’t like the refugees or Luma, who is Jordanian. At one point, Luma is pulled over for a broken taillight on the way to a soccer match and the police cuff her and keep her overnight in jail “just in case.” It is expressed here and elsewhere that Luma and the others know that this isn’t normal protocol for a broken taillight, and it is in no way an isolated situation in the book.
  • The refugees also have their own baggage, which Luma discovers. Luma says, “The Afghan and Iraqi kids would look down on the African kids, and the kids from northern Africa would look down on kids from other parts of Africa.”

Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

  • Luma is from Jordan, which is under “Sharia law, which applies to domestic and inheritance matters, the testimony of two women carried the weight of that one man. A wife had to obtain permission from her husband to apply for a passport. And so-called honor killings were still viewed as minor crimes in Sharia courts.” It is also stated that Luma is Muslim.
  • Places of worship are sometimes mentioned in town. For instance, “A mosque opened up on Indian Creek Drive” in Clarkston, Georgia, where Luma’s soccer team was based.
  • In Clarkston, “a third of the students at the local elementary school skip lunch during Ramadan. Attendance at the old Clarkston Baptist Church dwindled from around seven hundred to fewer than a hundred.”
  • Assistant coordinator Tracy Ediger, growing up with her sisters, “attended church three times a week, rarely watched television, and had each enrolled at Christian colleges after high school.”
  • One of the refugees that Luma meets, says, “God very, very good.”
  • Before a game, the team prays together, but not everyone practices the same religion. To remedy this, “Grace would offer a Christian prayer; Eldin, a Muslim one. The boys formed a circle at midfield, draped their arms around each other, and bowed their heads.”

by Alli Kestler

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Written originally as Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You is the exploration of racism in the United States since before the founding of America. The book is remixed for younger audiences by prolific author and the Library of Congress’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jason Reynolds. The fast-paced book explores the history of racism and how we can build an antiracist present and future.

Reynolds makes it clear that Stamped is not a history book, but instead a book about racism in present times. Although there is plenty of history described, he pulls the essentials from Kendi’s book and brings these historical events and people to life for younger readers. He shows how racist thoughts have persisted through time and affect everyone today. Most importantly, he uses Kendi’s definitions of segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists to explore various thoughts about race, race relations, and racist ideas.

Reynolds breaks down the three terms by saying, “The antiracists try to transform racism. The assimilationists try to transform Black people. The segregationists try to get away from Black people.” Reynolds’ ability to bring difficult topics to a level that young teens can understand is remarkable, as racism is so prevalent and widespread across the United States and the world.

Despite Reynolds’ sense of humor and smooth-flowing writing, Stamped is not a cheery book, nor is it supposed to be. The history of racism is terrible; terrible things have happened and still happen – a point which Reynolds and Kendi make throughout. There is are discussions about mass incarceration, lynching, slavery, and kidnapping – all of which pertain to the history of racism. They also analyze major players in the Civil Rights movement, some of which fall into the assimilationist category, and others into the antiracist category.

Racism exists, and Reynolds and Kendi ask that people become antiracist in thought and in practice. Hope is a strong thread that pulls the novel together, despite the atrocities committed because of racist beliefs and policies. If people can become antiracist, the future can be so much brighter for many people who have faced oppression. Everyone should read Stamped because it isn’t a history book; it’s a guide to a better way of being and treating people.

Sexual Content

  • Reynolds breaks down a scene from the book of Genesis in the Bible, discussing how Noah orders his “white sons not to have sex with their wives on the ark, and then tells them that the first child born after the flood would inherit the earth. When the evil, tyrannical, and hypersexual Ham has sex on the ark, God wills that Ham’s descendants will be dark and disgusting, and the whole world will look at them as symbols of trouble.”
  • It was not uncommon for slave owners to start “breeding slaves. . . [Thomas Jefferson] and other like-minded slave owners began forcing their men and women slaves to conceive children so that they, the owners, could keep up with all the demands of the Deep South.”

Violence

  • Reynolds and Kendi detail the racial violence that has occurred throughout history and in present times. They often discuss topics such as murder, slavery, and incarceration, as well as a host of other atrocities. For instance, “Young Black males were twenty-one times more likely to be killed by police than their White counterparts between 2010 and 2012, according to federal statistics.” Other details of violence are frequently shared throughout the book.
  • Reynolds also discusses violence against Native Americans. For example, he talks about Metacomet, “a Native American war leader, [who] was killed, which basically ended the battle in 1676. Puritans cut up his body as if it were a hog’s, and paraded his remains around Plymouth.”
  • Reynolds describes the movie The Birth of a Nation, where, “A Black man (played by a White man in blackface) tries to rape a White woman” who then “jumps off a cliff and kills herself,” and “Klansmen avenge her death.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Reynolds writes about tobacco as a major cash crop in the American South prior to the founding of the country.
  • There is a discussion about the “War on Drugs” and “crack babies” in their relation to racism and racist government policies.

Language

  • Based on historical context, language is used to dehumanize Black people is scattered throughout the book. The language describes the growth and pervasiveness of racism. Reynolds, for instance, discusses the thoughts of Italian philosopher Lucilio Vanini, who said that “Africans were born of a ‘different Adam,’ and had a different creation story. Of course, this would mean they were a different species. It was kind of like saying that Africans weren’t actually human . . . Africans went from savages to SAVAGES, which revved up the necessity for Christian conversion and civilizing.”
  • Racial slurs are used in historical context. For instance, Reynolds talks about a group of artists that emerged out of the Harlem Renaissance that referred to themselves as the “Niggerati. They believed they should be able to make whatever they wanted to express themselves as whole humans without worrying about White acceptance.”

Supernatural

  • Reynolds describes Curse Theory, saying, “In 1577, after noticing that Inuit people in northeastern Canada were darker than the people living in the hotter south, English travel writer George Best determined . . . that it couldn’t have been climate that made darker people inferior, and instead determined that Africans were, in fact, cursed . . . And what did Best use to prove this theory? Only one of the most irrefutable books of the time: the Bible.”
  • Reynolds talks about witches and witchcraft. Reynolds writes, “[Cotton] Mather wrote a book called Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions . . . Mather’s book, outlining the symptoms of witchcraft, reflected his crusade against the enemies of White souls.” This book launched the Salem witch hunt of 1692.

Spiritual Content

  • Reynolds uses comparisons to make history digestible and sometimes includes religious descriptors. Gomes Eanes de Zurara wrote propaganda for Prince Henry to encourage the slave trade. For instance, Zurara “made Prince Henry out to be some kind of youth minister canvassing the street, doing community work, when what Prince Henry really was, was more of a gangster.”
  • Reynolds describes the links between racism and Christianity, and many times the Bible is referenced. For instance, at one point Reynolds says, “Zurara’s documentation of the racist idea that Africans needed slavery in order to be fed and taught Jesus, and that it was all ordained by God, began to seep in and stick to the European cultural psyche.”
  • Reynolds discusses Puritans. He says, “They were English Protestants who believed the reformation of the Church of England was basically watering down Christianity, and they sought to regulate it to keep it more disciplined and rigid.”

by Alli Kestler

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