President George Washington

When George Washington was young, his mother would not let him go to sea. But later, George became a hero when he led the Continental Army in battle and helped America win its freedom from England. He was elected the first president of the new nation and tried his best to keep the country at peace. George Washington was one of the greatest men of his time. 

President George Washington covers George’s life, starting when he was nine years old and living in Virginia. The story explains how he became chief of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War and the first president of the United States. The story ends with his death. While the book does not go into great detail, readers will learn interesting facts about George Washington and see how he became one of America’s heroes.

The book uses large text, short chapters, and simple vocabulary to make it accessible to readers in first and second grade. Each page has two to seven simple sentences and a large illustration. The earth-toned pictures bring George’s world to life. While the war scenes are not graphic, the scenes of soldiers fighting Native Americans may upset some readers. The back of the book includes important dates and suggested reading.

Adler gives readers a brief look into George Washington’s life and will help readers understand why George Washington was considered “first in war, first in peace, and the first in the hearts of his fellow citizens.” Beginning readers who want to learn more about colonial days will find President George Washington educational and engaging.

Sexual Content 

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Violence 

  • During the French and Indian War, George Washington said, “I have heard the bullets whistle, there is something charming in the sound.”
  • The story has several pages that show George Washington and his army fighting Native Americans in the French and Indian War. In addition, the illustration for the Boston Tea Party shows people dressed up as Native Americans with feathers in their hair.

Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

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Supernatural

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Spiritual Content 

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The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs

There once was a little dog named Tray. He lived in England with his owner, Mary Ann Anning. Besides Mary Ann, Tray loved one other thing: he loved to dig for dinosaur bones. Together he and Mary Ann found small bones, big bones, and even entire skeletons! People came from all around the world to see the bones they found. This is the true story of Tray, the dog that dug for dinosaurs. 

The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs will please young readers who love dogs and dinosaurs. This true story shows how Mary Ann and Tray worked together to find dinosaur fossils. Throughout her life, Mary Ann studied and searched for dinosaurs. At first, they found small fossils, but eventually, they also found an ichthyosaur that is still displayed in the British Museum in London.  

Mary Ann and Tray’s activities come to life in large illustrations that often include pictures of the fossils they found. The illustrations are drawn using the muted browns and greens of nature. Occasionally, the many people that came to meet Mary Ann and Tray are pictured, which introduces readers to the fashions of the early 1800s.  

As part of the Ready-To-Read Level Three Series, The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs is best suited for confident readers who are ready to tackle more challenging vocabulary and sentence structures. The story has a more complicated plot and deeper character development than books in lower levels. Most pages have approximately six sentences with illustrations that break up the text.   

The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs will entertain readers as it shows how Mary Ann and Tray turned their passion for finding fossils into a lifelong adventure that impacted the field of paleontology. The story is perfect for young readers that love dinosaurs. Readers who want to learn more about dinosaurs and finding fossils should check out the picture book Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World by Tracey Fern. If you’re looking for a fun, fictional book about dinosaurs, The Dino Files Series by Stacy McAnulty is sure to please.  

  Sexual Content 

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Violence 

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Drugs and Alcohol 

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Supernatural 

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Spiritual Content 

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The Underground Abductor: An Abolitionist Tale about Harriet Tubman

Meet Underground Railroad abductor Harriet Tubman in this installment of the New York Times bestselling graphic novel series!

Araminta Ross was an enslaved woman born in Delaware. After years of backbreaking labor and the constant threat of being sold and separated from her family, she escaped and traveled north to freedom. Once there, she changed her name to Harriet Tubman. As an “abductor” on the Underground Railroad, she risked her life helping countless enslaved people escape to freedom.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales are graphic novels that tell the thrilling, shocking, gruesome, and TRUE stories of American history. Read them all—if you dare!  

The book begins on the execution block, where Nathan Hale is about to be hung for spying. The executioner and a British soldier decide to let Nathan Hale tell a story before he dies. Occasionally, the executioner and soldier break into the story to ask questions or make comments. Sometimes this adds comic relief and other times, the comments mirror what the reader is probably thinking. 

Nathan Hale begins Harriet Tubman’s story when she was six years old. When Harriet was young, a head injury caused her to repeatedly fall asleep without warning. This condition lasted for the rest of her life. Despite this, Harriet risked her life to bring her family and others to freedom. Harriet was one of the few people who was an abductor: “the first person in. Someone who ventured deep into slave territory and made first contact with these to be rescued.” Harriet’s bravery and determination helped hundreds of people escape slavery. Once the Civil War began, Harriet continued to fight for freedom. During the Civil War, Harriet built a spy ring, baked pies to sell to soldiers, and was also a nurse. 

Since Frederick Douglass appears several times, his life story is also summarized over three pages. Fredrick Douglass knew the key to freedom was being able to read, so he taught others to read. However, his master believed, “A slave should know nothing but how to obey his master! If you teach that slave to read, there will be no keeping him! He’ll become unmanageable—discontent and unhappy!” Despite being forbidden to read, Frederick Douglass learned anyways. Fredrick eventually began writing. Frederick Douglass also encouraged slaves to get a gun, so Harriet did.  

The Underground Abductor brings history to life in graphic novel format. The panels are drawn using shades of gray with purple accents. Even though the illustrations show the cruelty inflicted upon slaves, none of the illustrations are graphic. However, many of the slave owners have angry faces, and slaves are seen chained together, whipped, and hiding from slave hunters. Most of the text is in the form of conversations and the words appear in quote bubbles. The story uses easy vocabulary and short sentences that keep the action moving at a quick pace.  

The story of Harriet Tubman highlights the importance of fighting for what you believe. Harriet’s dedication and willingness to put herself in danger is admirable. Through Harriet’s experiences, readers will begin to understand the harsh conditions that slaves had to contend with during the 1800s. While the content may be upsetting, The Underground Abductor will help readers understand America’s past, and learn about the people who fought so everyone could be free. Plus, the book’s format makes it perfect for reluctant readers. Readers who would like to learn more about the Underground Railroad should also read Long Road to Freedom by Kate Messner.  

Sexual Content 

  • None  

Violence 

  • Harriet is sent to help care for a baby. When the baby starts to cry, the woman whips Harriet. The whipping occurs several times and is included in the illustrations.  
  • Someone tells a story about a “woman [who] died in prison before they could hang her.” 
  • Nat Turner received a vision from God. Nat said, “I am told to slay all the whites we encounter, without regard to age or sex.” Nat Turner and other slaves “moved from house to house, killing everyone inside. . . By the time they were stopped, Nat Turner and his followers had killed sixty people—men, women, and children.” Many of the slaves who were part of Nat’s group were executed or killed by mobs and militias.
  • When a slave tries to escape, the bossman throws a weight at him. The weight hits Harriet in the head. Her mother says, “‘Look at all this blood!’ Harriet’s skull is split open and her brains were showing. ‘There’s a hole in her scarf. . . The missin’ scrap is still in her head.’” The scene is illustrated over two pages. After the accident, Harriet would fall asleep without notice. 
  • A ship’s captain was found helping runaway slaves. The man was fined and sent to jail for a year. “They branded his hand with an ‘S.S’—for slave stealer.” 
  • During his time at a plantation, Frederick Douglass says “an overseer shot a slave.” Frederick was also “beaten and starved.” Because Frederick displeased his master, he was sent to a slave-breaker, who is “a master so cruel, he breaks a slave’s will.” 
  • Getting to the north where slaves could be free was difficult. Often runaway slaves died. “Slaves hopping trains lost limbs if they jumped wrong. Stowaways on northbound ships were smoked out or suffocated like rats. Slaves who were captured were…whipped, beaten, branded—often on the face, and in some cases, hobbled.” 
  • It was also dangerous for whites to help runaway slaves. One man was “sentenced to five years of hard labor. He died after two. . .” Another “was beaten and thrown from a train while trying to rescue a slave. . .”
  • When Harriet got a terrible tooth ache, she knew the tooth needed to come out. Someone held a rock against the tooth and “hit the rock with the pistol butt.”  
  • When a man wanted to go back to his master, Harriet held a gun to his head. She said she would shoot “anybody who puts the group at risk.” The man continued the journey with the others.  
  • A runaway slave was captured. A white man shackled his hands and lashed him to a tree. The slave was then whipped.  
  • John Brown, his sons, and other men raided a house owned by slave catchers. The slave catchers were “hacked to death with broadswords.” Then they moved on to other houses. “Five pro-slavers had been slashed to death.” 
  • During another raid, “two of John Brown’s sons died.” Other raiders “were killed” and “the rest—including John Brown—were captured and executed.” 
  • During the Civil War, soldiers from the north plundered mansions and then burned them down. They also burned a town’s mill, a bridge, and anything else that would catch fire. The scene is illustrated over three pages.   

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • When leading runaway slaves north, a baby starts to cry. The baby is given paregoric, “it’s a drug, a tincture of opium.” 

Language   

  • When Harriet was six, she was rented out to work for a weaver. The woman sent Harriet home because, she “is stupid, useless, and no good to us.”  
  • The executioner says “holy smokes” once. 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • Nat Turner was a religions man who received visions. He was “deeply religious. He was a Christina. His mother taught him that one day he would become a prophet.” 
  • Harriet knew how to talk to God, and she asked that her master would have a change of heart and not sell any of her siblings. 
  • Harriet prays to God about her master, Mr. Brodess. Harriet says, “Lord, if you ain’t never gonna change that man’s heart. . . kill him, Lord, take him out of the way.” The next day Mr. Brodess dies. 
  • When someone says Harriet is crazy, a man defends her. He says Harriet has “a direct line to God.” 
  • Often Harriet stops and prays to the Lord for guidance. 

Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman

The woods are dark and dangerous. Slave catchers are out with their dogs. But high above the trees, the North Star shines down. Harriet Tubman is glad to see the North Star. It points the way to freedom. Tonight Harriet is helping slaves escape on the Underground Railroad. Will they make it? Find out in this exciting true story.  

Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman highlights the bravery of Harriet Tubman and the people who risked their lives to hide runaway slaves. The story uses kid-friendly language to show the hardships Harriet and others faced. While the story doesn’t give detailed descriptions of the abuse that enslaved people endured, young readers may find the beatings and other violence upsetting. Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman will introduce readers to this difficult time in history.  

The story doesn’t just focus on the abuse of enslaved people; it also shows the kindness of those who helped the enslaved people on their journey north. For example, “A Quaker named Thomas Garrett owned a shoe store. He had a secret room for runaways to hide in behind a wall of shoe boxes. When the runaways were ready to leave, he gave each a pair of shoes.” Harriet Tubman’s story reinforces the theme that people must stand together and fight for what is right.  

As a Step into Reading Level 3 book, Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman is intended for readers in second and third grade. However, the grade levels are only guides; children will progress through the steps at their own speed, developing confidence in their reading. Each page of Harriet’s story has a large colored illustration that will help readers understand the plot. The story uses oversized text and has two to seven sentences per page.  

The true story of Harriet Tubman will inspire children by showing Harriet’s determination and bravery. Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman is a fast-paced, suspenseful chapter book that will engage young readers. If you’d like another engaging story that focuses on history, check out Pioneer Cat by William Hooks and Attack at the Arena by Marianne Hering & Paul McCusker. 

Sexual Content 

  • None

Violence 

  • When enslaved people disappeared, the bossman “and his dogs would come after them. If they were caught, they would be beaten. . . maybe to death.”  
  • When Harriet was seven, she worked for Mrs. Cook winding yarn. “Sometimes the yarn broke. Then Mrs. Cook got out the whip.” Mrs. Cook would call Harriet a “stupid girl.”  
  • Many slaves worked in the tobacco fields. “If they didn’t work fast enough, they were beaten.” 
  • When Harriett was a teenager, an enslaved person ran away. “The bossman threw a weight at him to stop him. But it hit Harriet instead. Harriet wasn’t the same after that.” 
  • While leading people to freedom, one man decided he wanted to go back. “Harriet stood in his way. If the slave catchers caught him, they would beat the secrets of the Underground Railroad out of him. Harriet couldn’t let that happen. She pointed her gun at the man.” Afterward, the group “trudged on.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

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Language   

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Supernatural 

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Spiritual Content 

  • While Harriet was trying to escape to freedom, “a group of slave hunters were approaching . . . She prayed the hunters wouldn’t see her. Somehow they never did.” 
  • Harriet went back to the south to free other slaves. “She was going to free her people, just like Moses in the Bible.” 

Spy Files: Codes and Ciphers

Sneak into the secret lives of spies with this fascinating series about the world’s security services—with agent profiles, information on technology, and events that changed the world. Codes and Ciphers is packed full of interesting information beginning with the difference between a code and cipher, and how they were first developed.  

Codes and Ciphers uses a fun format that breaks up information into small, manageable parts. Each two-page spread changes topics and each page has only one to three short paragraphs plus photo captions. Each page has illustrations including historical photos, drawings, and illustrations of spy technology. Plus, some pages have an infographic titled “Top Secret” which gives additional information on spying. While the format will appeal to many readers, the large font and short paragraphs don’t allow each topic to be explored in detail. Readers who want to learn more in-depth information about codes and ciphers should check out Top Secret by Paul B. Janeczko. 

The wide range of spy information, which includes a lot of historical stories such as information on the World War II Navajo Code Talkers, is extremely interesting. Plus, readers will learn how to make their own codes, ciphers, and invisible ink. The book ends with a two-page glossary and an index. Codes and Ciphers will entertain readers and introduce many interesting facts. Spy-loving readers who want to add a little spy humor to their reading should sneak to the library and search for the Mac B. Kid Spy Series by Mac Barnett. 

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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Vampire Myths

Whether they are characters in movies, books, or nightmares, vampires are among the most recognizable monsters in the world. Today, vampires are characterized by fangs and an unshakable lust for human blood, but some vampire myths differ from these notions. Vampire Myths begins by explaining why stories about blood-sucking vampires began, as well as different cultures’ vampire beliefs. Some of the vampire explanations are scary and cringe-worthy, such as in old Malaysian tales that describe vampires as “a floating head with entrails hanging to the ground.”

Vampire 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 “Bloody Feast” and “Buried Secrets.” 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.

Vampire Myths is not meant for the faint of heart. The graphic descriptions of vampire behavior and the different ways people killed the undead may be disturbing to younger readers. The vampire facts are interesting and include historical people connected with vampire lore. None of the myths are covered in detail which allows the book to cover many interesting topics including vampire movies, books, and people from history. Full of colorful pictures, interesting facts, and historical information, Vampire Myths will entertain readers who want to understand vampires and aren’t afraid of a little bit of horror.

Sexual Content

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Violence

  • The Grim brothers wanted to rid a European village of a vampire. “First, the brothers dug up the grave and found the corpse with red-stained mouth and lips, proof that it must have been biting victims. . . The brothers decided to rip out the corpse’s accursed heart. . . They went on to whack the body with a blunt spade and remove the heart. Then they burned the corpse to a crisp.”
  • The ancient Greeks mutilated cadavers “to prevent the dead from returning to life. Vital organs including the brain, heart, and liver were removed.” Similarly, the Slavic people of Eastern Europe “bound the corpse, slit the muscles and tendons, cut off limbs, and drove a stake or cross through the heart.”
  • A buso is a tall, thin demon who prefers “to feast on rotting carcasses, but that has never stopped it from occasionally luring live victims to a very unpleasant death.”
  • To kill a vampire, someone would drive a stake through the heart. . . According to most African folklore, “vampires required two stakes: one through the heart and one to nail the tongue to the chin. This would prevent the undead from uttering spells and curses.”
  • The man who was the real Dracula “liked to sit and watch his victims die while he ate. Although he didn’t suck blood as the fictitious count did, some sources say he dipped his bread in his victim’s blood.” Dracula was rumored to have killed 40,000 people. “He impaled most victims on tall stakes. . . He would impale them by carefully sliding a wooden stick through the body without hitting any vital organs. That would ensure that the victim would die a slow and painful death.”
  • Some people joined vampire societies. Teenager Rob Ferrell joined a society and “committed a heinous double murder in 1996.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

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Supernatural

  • In Asia, some people smeared garlic over their bodies “to shield against spells cast by witches or wizards.”

Spiritual Content

  • Some cultures wondered if people became ill because a demon spirit was bullying their body. “Call upon the wisest shaman or healer, and they might successfully drive the demon out.”
  • The Mayans “worshipped a bat deity known as Camazotz, the god of caves.”
  • Some people thought fire could “permanently snuff out” a vampire because “the Hebrew god once appeared in the form of a burning bush and often used fire to punish people, destroy cities, and cleanse the Earth.”

What Were the Salem Witch Trials?

Something wicked was brewing in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. It started when two girls, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, began having hysterical fits. Soon after, other local girls claimed they were being pricked with pins. With no other explanation available, the residents of Salem came to one conclusion: it was witchcraft! Over the next year and a half, nineteen people were convicted of witchcraft and hanged while more languished in prison as hysteria swept the colony. Author Joan Holub gives readers an inside look at this sinister chapter in history.  

What Were the Salem Witch Trials? will pull readers in with its fun format that has large black-and-white illustrations on every page. The book uses large font, short chapters, and easy vocabulary that make the story easy to read. Plus, each event is explained fully and broken into smaller sections, so readers do not get confused.  

The book doesn’t just cover the witch trials. Scattered throughout the book are sections that give additional information about the people and the times. Topics cover everything from Puritans’ beliefs, superstitions, stories written about the witch trials, Halloween, and even the McCarthy witch hunt. The end of the book includes a timeline, artwork that depicts the time period, and more pictures. 

The book doesn’t just stick to the facts; instead, Holub adds her own theories. For example, while no one knows why the accusers made their accusations, the book speculates that perhaps the girls “were scared.” Maybe if the girls “felt an odd pain, perhaps they wondered if an invisible hand had caused it.” Maybe the girls just want attention. This speculation will help readers put themselves into the accusers’ shoes and make them think about what they would have done in a similar situation.  

Anyone who is interested in the Salem Witch Trials or the Puritans should read What Were the Salem Witch Trials? Even though the book focuses on the trials, readers will also learn about the court system in Salem. “It was up to suspects to prove they were not guilty. . .The suspects in the witch trials were not allowed to have lawyers. They had to defend themselves.” Many came to believe that the trials were unjust, and readers will be surprised to learn the trials still have a lasting impact today. 

What Were the Salem Witch Trials? brings history to life in a format that will appeal to even the most reluctant of readers. Whether you are researching the Salem Witch Trials or just interested in the events, What Were the Salem Witch Trials? will be a helpful and interesting source. Readers who want to learn more about historical events should also check out the I Survived Series by Lauren Tarshis. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • When Sara Good and Sarah Osborne refuse to confess, “they were chained to a wall in jail.” 
  • Other accused people were “tortured to make them confess.” 
  • People convicted of witchcraft were killed. “They were chained to a post, with wood piled around their feet. The wood was set on fire.”  
  • For one woman convicted of witchcraft, “Her hands were tied together and so were her feet. At the end of the rope was a big loop, called a noose. When the noose was put around her neck, her feet were pushed off the ladder so they dangled in midair. The noose slowly choked her to death. It was an extremely cruel way to die.” 
  • Giles Corey refused to confess to being a witch, so he was pressed. Giles was “forced to lie on his back in a field near the jail, heavy stones were set on his chest. . . After two days of pressing, the weight of the stones crushed Giles Corey to death.” 
  • A four-year-old accused of witchcraft spent “eight months in jail and became mentally ill” due to her time in jail. In all, twenty people were executed, “nineteen by hanging and one by pressing.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • The Puritans had remedies for illnesses. For example, when one girl became sick her parents might have given her “a dose of parsnip seeds” or “castor oil mixed with amber.” 
  • Some thought that a “witch cake” could cure witchcraft. The recipe instructed: “mix rye flour with some of the girls’ urine to make a sort of dough. Then pat the dough into a cake shape. . . feed it to a dog. While the dog ate the cake, the witch was supposed to feel every bite of its teeth. She would come to the house and beg for the pain to stop.” The witch cake did not work. 

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • Many people were accused of witchcraft, and the book includes specific examples of what people were accused of, such as one woman who “magically sent a wolf to chase [the accuser].” 
  • One woman was accused of being a witch and visiting the victims “in the shape of a bird.” 
  • Puritans believed that witches had “strange marks. . . witches supposedly communicated with certain kinds of spirits, called familiars, through these marks.” 
  • For good luck, some Puritans “might nail a horseshoe by their door. They’d spread bay leaves around the outside of their houses. Some people carried a piece of mountain ash. . .” 
  • In England, leaders “sometimes paid witchfinders to start witch hunts. Witchfinders were people who made deals with the Devil, but then had been cured. They . . . promised they could protect people from it.” 
  • Some speculate that the girls who accused others of being witches became upset after trying to look into the future. The girls “filled a cup with water. Then they dropped the clear part of a raw egg into the water and watched it swirl.” The girls saw a “coffin shape. This was bad news. A sign of death.” 

Spiritual Content 

  • Puritans believed that the Bible’s words were law and that “discipline would keep children close to God and far from the Devil. That way, the Devil couldn’t trick them into doing his evil work.” 
  • When some of the girls in the village became sick, others “prayed for the girls to get well.” 
  • Puritans believed someone became a witch when “the Devil came and asked you to become his servant. He made you sign his special book, using your blood as ink.” 
  • In January 1697, “the Massachusetts Bay Colony held an official day of prayer and fasting to ask forgiveness for wrongdoings, especially in the trials.” 

Finding the First T. Rex

Famous dinosaur hunter Barnum Brown brought amazing skeletons and fossils to the museums. Ancient plant-eaters, three-horned Triceratops, Brown had found them all. But in 1902, he found a thrilling surprise. It was the jawbone of a strange creature. A brand-new dinosaur would shock the world—the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex!

The story of the first T. rex begins with Albert Bickmore, who founded the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Soon after the museum opened, the crowds stopped coming to the museum. To get people excited about coming to the museum, Bickmore knew they needed something exciting. So he hired Barnum Brown to go find dinosaur fossils. Readers may think reading about a museum and a fossil hunter would be boring. They would be wrong.

Readers may imagine that scientists who dig up dinosaur bones have a mundane life, but Finding the First T. Rex includes how Brown and other scientists were often in danger. Brown’s amazing discovery didn’t end with finding the bones. He also had to safely remove the fossils from the hard dirt and transport them to the museum. Once the fossils were at the museum it took another seven years to get the first Tyrannosaurus rex put together!

Finding the First T. Rex 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. The illustrations will give readers an understanding of the size and the scope of the T. rex. 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 more information about dinosaurs.

Finding the First T. Rex explains how many people worked together to find the first T. rex fossil and display it for the public. The story highlights the educational importance of museums as well as demonstrates how perseverance was essential in finding the T. rex. Young readers who’d like to take a step back in time and learn more about dinosaurs should also check out Don’t Disturb the Dinosaurs by Ada Hopper.

Sexual Content

  • Real T. rexes “mated and raised their babies. . . in America.”

Violence

  • The book begins with a fight between two meat-eating dinosaurs. “They opened their horrible jaws. And they snapped their saw-edged teeth. Their thumps, chomps, and grunt rang through the steamy swamp where they lived. Finally, one of the monsters fell to the ground. . . After a few minutes he died.”
  • One of Brown’s workers went into town to get the mail. On the way back to the archeological site, cowboys followed him. The cowboys “grabbed their rifles and began shooting. Lead bullets whizzed over the scientist’s head! He drove the horses to a gallop.” The scientist was able to get away.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

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Spiritual Content

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Rebecca Rides for Freedom: An American Revolution Survival Story

The American Revolution is raging in Philadelphia, and Rebecca is determined to do all she can to help. With her father stationed with Washington’s army at nearby Whitemarsh, it’s up to Rebecca to help her mother at home with her younger siblings. That includes selling vegetables to British officers stationed in wealthy houses nearby. When Rebecca intercepts a message about an impending British attack against the Patriots from one such house, she knows she must act. It’s up to her to get the message to the Patriot army – before it’s too late.

 Rebecca Rides for Freedom begins by describing how the American Revolution affected families. Rebecca’s father leaves the family alone so he can fight alongside General Washington. However, because of the families’ loyalties to the Patriots, there is constant fear that the Tories will harm them. Despite the danger, Rebecca is determined to deliver an important message to her father’s garrison. Rebecca’s ride through dangerous territory highlights her bravery and determination. When she is finally close to the Patriot’s camp, a soldier tries to send her away, but Rebecca refuses to give up. She thinks, “I’d ridden miles in the snow, been captured, escaped, and forded the frozen creek. I hadn’t come this far only to be dismissed as a silly girl.”

Rebecca’s experience doesn’t go in-depth about the history behind the American Revolution. However, readers will begin to understand people’s fear of the Redcoats and how the war impacted families. While Rebecca’s fear of the soldiers is obvious, the events are described in kid-friendly terms. However, this doesn’t detract from Rebecca’s harrowing experiences or her bravery.

To make the story easy to follow, each chapter begins with Rebecca’s location, the date, and the time. Every 7 to 10 pages there is a black-and-white illustration. The illustrations focus on Rebecca and the events surrounding her. Some of the illustrations show the Redcoats carrying rifles. The book ends with a note from the author that describes her inspiration for writing the story, a glossary, and three questions about the story.

Rebecca Rides for Freedom is a fast-paced, entertaining book that will spark readers’ interest in history. While Rebecca is a fictional character, the author explains how real women inspired Rebecca’s character. The author writes, “The women behind Rebecca’s story were real wives, mothers, and daughters. They were ordinary women who showed extraordinary courage in order to protect both family members they loved and the ideals they believed in.” This allows girls to see the important and often overlooked, contribution women made during the American Revolution. In addition, Rebecca Rides for Freedom will encourage readers to stand up for their beliefs. Readers who want to learn more about the Revolutionary War should grab a copy of George Washington’s Socks, which is a fast-paced time travel adventure that goes into more detail about the war.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When the Redcoats moved into one family’s home, they “turned the families out onto the street in the middle of the night. Lydia Wright’s baby sister had died that way.”
  • A Redcoat officer accidentally “shot himself in the foot.”
  • Rebecca meets Betsy whose “brother was beaten in the street when he wouldn’t get out of the way of the Redcoats. They broke his arm.”
  • For Rebecca to take papers with attack plans, Betsy helps. Betsy “swept her arm across the surface of the desk. All the papers fluttered to the floor.” As Rebecca leaves the house, “there was a smacking sound, and Betsy cried out.”
  • Rebecca is captured by the Redcoats. When she escapes, she jumps on her horse, Brownie, who “ran directly through the soldier’s campfire before any of them could realize what was going on. . . the soldiers dived for safety to either side.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • A group of Redcoats apprehends Rebecca. That night at their camp, the men were “Passing their jug from hand to hand, sometimes breaking into song. When the sergeant speaks, there is the “unmistakable slur of drink in his voice.”

Language

  • A Redcoat refers to General Washington’s soldiers as “Patriot devils.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • When Rebecca is planning to escape from the Redcoats, she “prayed none of them would sense my movement.”
  • While crossing a swollen river, Rebecca “held the wet reins, clinging to Brownie’s wet mane, and prayed. It must have been heard because the water grew more shallow.”

From The Desk of Zoe Washington

Zoe Washington is a normal 12-year-old who is refusing to speak with her long-time best friend, Trevor. Her spiraling friendship with Trevor seems to be the most of her worries . . . until she checks the mail and sees a strange letter from the county prison. Could this be what she thinks it is? Is her long-lost father finally reaching out after all these years? 

All Zoe knows about her birth father, Marcus, is that he is in prison after being convicted of murder. Zoe’s mother refuses to speak about Marcus and brushes off all of Zoe’s questions. After all, Zoe has a wonderful stepfather that has taken care of her since she was born, so what need is there for Marcus? But there is a need. Zoe wonders about Marcus. Does he like Hawaiian pizza too? Why did he refer to her as “Little Tomato?” Why is he telling her he is innocent? Innocent people didn’t go to prison . . . or did they? 

For Zoe, Marcus’s letter brings up so many unanswered questions. Questions about who he is and what he did to end up in prison. But more than anything she can’t stop thinking, what if he is innocent? With each new letter and phone call, Zoe begins to piece together the clues of the crime that Marcus supposedly committed. The only problem is that nothing is adding up. Suddenly the answer seems so clear to Zoe; she needs to track down a mysterious witness to help prove Marcus’s alibi.   

But tracking down the witness is harder than Zoe anticipated . . . especially when she must keep it a secret. So, Zoe enlists the help of none other than her ex-best friend, Trevor, to travel to Harvard University to find the witness. However, the day trip turns out worse than anticipated and Zoe ends up in big trouble. Worst of all, now that she is grounded, Marcus has no one searching for the woman who may be the answer to his freedom. 

From the Desk of Zoe Washington is an inspiring story that showcases Zoe’s bravery. The plot emphasizes that even when life seems uncomplicated, it usually is anything but. The overlap between Zoe’s summer activities and her mission to prove her father’s innocence provides a delicious complexity to the storyline. The story takes a deep dive into Marcus’s conviction and the racial inequality of the justice system. The plot successfully educates the reader on wrongful convictions and racism, while maintaining a lighthearted nature that cuts the heavy feelings that can arise from such deeply serious topics. Even though the book delves into mature topics, it is not overwhelming. Instead, readers will find the story easy to understand.   

Zoe is a likable and well-written character who matures throughout the novel. Her character development reinforces that it is not the amount of time you spend with someone that matters, but instead how you spend it with them. Zoe reminisces on this towards the end of the novel when she visits Marcus in prison. “I had no idea what would happen next, but I hoped with all of my heart that The Innocence Project would set Marcus free. In the meantime, I was so thankful I found his letter on my twelfth birthday, and that he was in my life now, where he belonged.”  

Readers will sympathize with Zoe and understand her confusion when it comes to topics such as The Innocence Project and wrongful convictions – concepts that are hard to understand in the mind of a 12-year-old. Serious topics such as racism and wrongful convictions are discussed throughout the novel, but nothing of a graphic nature is present.  

While the story is intended for a younger audience, it still evokes a sense of realness within the plot and the characters. The roller coaster of emotions that Zoe goes through during her journey is easy for the reader to understand and admire. There are so many moments where the reader’s heart will reach out for Zoe. From The Desk of Zoe Washington focuses on themes such as having an unconventional family, social justice, and prison reform. The seamless, yet informative inclusion of social justice issues complements the kid-friendly nature of the novel, making it a must-read for those wanting to be gradually introduced to these topics. Middle-grade readers who want to explore other books about racial injustice should read A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramé and I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • Zoe discusses the Black Lives Matter movement. “I knew about the Black Lives Matter movement, how Black people all over the country were getting shot by police for no good reason. If those police officers weren’t going to jail, then it made sense that the whole prison system was messed up. I never thought about whether prisons had the wrong people before. I assumed that if you committed a crime, you got the punishment you deserved, and innocent people would always be proven innocent. Apparently not.”  

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • Zoe’s grandmother recalls a fight that Marcus got into when he was younger with another basketball player. “Marcus said that the other player, who was white, called him the N-word while they were playing. Under his breath, when nobody else could hear him.”  

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Disaster on the Titanic

Ranger, the time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training, finds himself in 1912 on the Titanic!

Everyone says the Titanic is unsinkable, and Patrick Murphy believes this most of all. He grew up near the shipyard where the magnificent ship was built and started working there when he turned thirteen. Then he was chosen to be part of the crew during the Titanic’s maiden voyage! Ranger meets Patrick before the ship sets sail, and once on board they befriend Maryam and Hamad. But one night, the ship hits an iceberg and starts to take on water. It’s a race against time, and Ranger and his friends must help get as many passengers as possible—including themselves—off the ship before it’s too late.

Even though Ranger helps people in dangerous situations, he has a playful disposition and likes to chase squirrels. While on the Titanic, Ranger wasn’t sure how to help the passengers of the Titanic, but he nuzzled some of the most frightened passengers. Ranger thought, When you couldn’t fix a problem, you could at least let a person know you were there.”

Even though the sinking of the Titanic is told in kid-friendly language, the story doesn’t skip over the horrible events. For example, some men snuck onto the lifeboats instead of allowing a woman or child to take the spot. In addition, after the Titanic sunk, many of the people in lifeboats were leery about helping passengers who were in the water. They didn’t try to help others even though their boat had room for more passengers. One group refused to help because “there are hundreds of people in the water. What if they swamp the boat?”

Disaster on the Titanic is an entertaining and educational story that has a unique perspective because it focuses on a golden retriever. Ranger’s perspective adds some humor, but it also helps reduce some of the fear of the situation because he interprets fear from his scent. For example, when Ranger follows Patrick below deck, Ranger thinks, “With every flight of stairs they descended, the air smelled more dangerous. Like metal and seawater and ice.”

Readers interested in the Titanic will enjoy Disaster on the Titanic, which has full-page, black-and-white illustrations approximately every six pages. Even though Ranger’s story is fictional, facts are woven into the story. The end of the book has more information about the Titanic as well as a list of further resources. Readers who want to read more about the Titanic should also read I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 by Lauren Tarshis. For readers who love jumping back into time, the Time Jumpers Series by Wendy Mass would also be worth the read.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Patrick’s father was working on the Titanic when “a section of the staging collapsed in the shipyard. Patrick’s father was killed in a fall.”
  • After the Titanic hit an iceberg, stewards were trying to get women and children out of the third-class floor and onto the lifeboats. “A mob of passengers crowded behind a gate that led up to the boat deck . . . They were arguing and surging forward. . . An officer shot a gun into the air.”
  • Some men tried to push their way onto the lifeboats. Patrick saw, “crew members firing pistols in the air, threatening men who tried to force their way onto boats.”
  • A teenage boy tries to board a lifeboat. When the steward sees him, he pointed a gun at the boy and said, “I’ll give you ten seconds to get back onto that ship!” The boy gets off the lifeboat and “collapsed on the deck” and begins crying.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Ranger travels through time with the help of a first aid kit. When the first aid kit hums, Ranger puts the strap over his head. “The box grew warm at his throat. It grew brighter and brighter… He felt as if he were being squeezed through a hole in the sky. . .” When Ranger opens his eyes, he is in the past.

Spiritual Content

  • Patrick tells his mother that he will be working on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. His mother replies, “I’ll pray for your safety.”
  • Patrick wanted to keep a young boy and his sister together, so he helps the boy dress as a girl. When he was getting on the boat, “Patrick prayed that she wouldn’t call Hamad’s name.”
  • As the ship sank, some people “huddled in right little circles and prayed.”

The Eagle’s Quill

After barely escaping Death Valley, middle school geniuses Sam, Martina, and Theo head to Glacier National Park to find the second of seven artifacts—keys that unlock a secret weapon—left by the country’s Founding Fathers. The clues lead them to look for Thomas Jefferson’s Eagle’s Quill at a Montana ranch on the outskirts of Glacier National Park.

But the dangerous Gideon Arnold, a descendant of the infamous Benedict Arnold, is hot on their trail—or is he one step ahead? Gideon Arnold takes the kids’ chaperone and the ranch owners hostage until the kids deliver the quill. Can Sam, Martina, and Theo, with the help of rancher girl Abby, find a way to save everyone without handing over Jefferson’s artifact? They enter the wilderness to solve riddles and escape traps that have protected the quill for generations…but if they find it, can they keep it away from Arnold?

Arnold captures the kids’ chaperone and Abby’s parents, leaving the kids to follow Thomas Jefferson’s clues alone. Readers will have fun trying to decipher Jefferson’s words; the first clue is a compass that is engraved with “in matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.” Throughout their journey, Sam relates the founding of America to chess. For example, he thinks, “The important thing about chess wasn’t how powerful you were. It was all about where you were standing and who you were standing with.”

Throughout the story, readers will learn some facts about Thomas Jefferson, who wrote “all men are created equal.” However, the story doesn’t portray Jefferson as perfect. While he was pivotal in helping form America’s government, he also “owned slaves. He’d kept his own children as slaves. And it had probably never occurred to Jefferson, that women—like Marty and Abby, would grow up to be—would like to be considered equal too.” The text is never judgmental of Jefferson, but instead uses a factual tone that will leave readers thinking about some of the unjust aspects of colonial America.

The Eagle’s Quill introduces Abby, who is an interesting addition to the cast of characters. The story is not as fast-paced as the first book in the series, The Eureka Key, because the kids are not being chased by villains. Instead, they are navigating Glacier National Park and running from wild animals. Plus, some of the founder’s traps are unrealistic. Despite this, The Eagle’s Quill draws the reader into the kids’ conflicts and will have them trying to solve the clues. The ending has a surprise twist that will have readers excited to read the last book in the series, Ring of Honor.

 Sexual Content

  • Thomas Jefferson owned a woman, Sally Hemings, and “he had seven children with her. . . And they were slaves in his own house.”

Violence

  • While sleeping, Sam hears an explosion. When he and Theo go to investigate, they find men in black. “Theo stepped forward, pushing Marty behind him. . . instead of running, Theo turned sideways to the oncoming men and thrust one arm out. . . He pretty much ran into Theo’s fist, and he fell to the ground with a groan, clutching at his nose.”
  • As the men try to grab the kids, “it was Abby who stepped forward this time. One leg bent, the knee drawing up. Her leg snapped forward and her foot connected with Jed’s wrist just as his gun was coming forward to point at Theo’s head.”
  • During the attack, Sam “dove for his knees. They both went down, and the back of the man’s head bounced off the wall with a heavy, solid thud. He hit the ground and lay still.” Then Abby points a musket at the two men, who stood “blinking with shock. . .”
  • When the bad guys surround them, Theo uses “his candlestick to crack the one with the bloody nose across the side of the head, knocking him to the floor.” The kids hide in a safe room. The attack scene is described over eight pages.
  • Sam runs from a bear and climbs up a tree to avoid the giant bear. “Less than three feet below him, the bear snarled. Sam’s heart was pounding. . .” Marty chases the bear off with a bear whistle.
  • An injured mountain lion chases the kids. Theo grabs an animal bone. “Then Theo stepped forward and braced himself like a major league batter facing a pitcher with a wicked fastball. He swung his length of bone. It hit the mountain lion in the face, and the animal yowled, flung off balance. It twisted in the air to land on three feet, keeping its front left leg off the ground.” The injured mountain lion slinks into the shadows.
  • Arnold captures the children and his goons “pushed all three kids to the floor. . . one of his men stood guard with a gun while two more made quick work of tying up two more prisoners.” The kids are tied up in the barn, where they find two adults, who have been tied up for days without food or water.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Marty tells Sam, “Don’t be an idiot.” Later, she uses a secret code to write, “SAM IS A DOOFUS.”
  • Marty calls someone a moron.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

George Washington’s Socks

When five kids take a walk along Lake Levart late one night, a mysterious wooden rowboat beckons them aboard. As if in a trance, they all step inside. But what they don’t realize is that this enchanted boat is headed back in time—to the time of George Washington. And their neighborhood lake has been transformed into the icy Delaware River on the eve of the battle at Trenton. Matthew, Quentin, Hooter, Tony, and Katie experience the American Revolution firsthand and learn the sobering realities of war. But how will they ever find their way home?

The first six chapters of George Washington’s Socks are slow, but readers who stick with the book will be glad they did. Matt and his friends time jump and end up in the middle of George Washington’s rebels crossing the Delaware. The rebels are preparing to attack the enemy, in a surprising way. Matt is soon separated from his sister and his friends and marching to battle. Along the way, Matt befriends Isaac, who didn’t join the Army because he believed in the cause, but rather because he needed to help support his younger siblings. While marching with Isaac and the other soldiers, Matt gets firsthand experience with the difficult situations that the rebels faced. Once Matt jumps into the past, he’s in for an action-packed adventure.

George Washington’s Socks gives readers a close look at war; while none of the descriptions are bloody, Matt sees several people whom he considered friends die. During the war, the rebels faced danger, death, and harsh conditions and yet they carried on. Seeing these experiences changes the way Matt views the rebels and the enemy. For example, Matt sees some of George Washington’s rebels being disrespectful to a Hessian soldier that they killed. “Matt suddenly felt sick to his stomach. He hated to see them acting so badly, for these were his rebels. They were the special brave men that he had always dreamed about and suddenly they seemed neither special nor brave.” Because of his experiences, Matt realizes that the line between good guys and bad guys isn’t always clear. Instead, “there’s no such thing as just good guys fighting bad guys. It seems like there’s good and bad on both sides.”

George Washington’s Socks will appeal to history lovers and readers who want a great time travel adventure. Even though the story focuses on colonial America and the Revolutionary War, the story highlights the kindness of others and has pockets of humor. In addition, Matt is a compassionate and relatable protagonist who learns that history books do not tell the whole story. Readers who enjoy historical fiction and want to learn more about the Revolutionary War should read Daniel at the Siege of Boston 1776 by Laurie Calkhoven.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Adam Hibbs was supposed to take the kids to safety, but “Adam Hibbs lay bleeding, with his head resting in Hooter Melrose’s lap. It seemed the young corporal had been standing in a boat looking up the shore when he stumbled and fell onto his bayonet. . . Adam Hibbs was not expected to live the night.”
  • Two Indians find Matt alone in the woods. “One raised a tomahawk while the other held a bow with a long arrow pointed directly at Matt’s heart.”
  • When Katie wanders off, Hessian soldiers find her. When Matt and his friends discover the group, “Matt took a deep breath and reached for a musket. Tony and Hooter did the same. At the sound of their footsteps, the Hessians swung around and drew their swords. . . The soldiers waved their swords and shouted until Matt and the boys put their hands over their heads.”
  • A Hessian soldier, Gustav, was helping the kids when there was “the sound of musket fire.” The kids “looked on in horror as Gustav cried out in pain, for a musket ball had ripped through his back. He took a step, then fell forward, toppling to the ground with his face in the snow.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the soldiers has “sour rum breath.”
  • A young soldier is eating snow when he says, “I wish we had a small beer to wash it down with.”
  • A soldier’s father “has a likeness for rum. . . He spends most of his day in the tavern.”

Language

  • One of Matt’s friends asks if Matt’s grandfather is “a little bit batty.”
  • Several times the soldiers refer to the enemy mercenaries as “Hessian pigs.” They are also said to be “blood-thirsty.”
  • While traveling to attack the enemy, Colonel Knox says, “We’re hours behind because of this damn storm.”
  • When Matt decides to stay close to his dying friend, a soldier calls Matt a “little fool.”
  • After killing Hessian solider, a man refers to the dead man as “scum.”

Supernatural

  • Matt’s grandfather tells a story about a friend, Adam Hibbs, who disappeared. Adam “was out on the lake in a rowboat, a rowboat my grandpa had never seen before. . . Grandpa ran to the tent to get a lantern. But when he got back to the lake it was too late. Adam Hibbs was gone, disappeared, boat and all, and no one to this day knows what happened to him.”
  • When Matt and his friends see a mysterious rowboat, “he was the first to come under the boat’s spell. It was the same desire to board the boat that he’d felt when he first saw it. . . Smiling, as if in a trance, Matt reached for an oar.”
  • After their adventure, Katie tells the rowboat to take them home. A soldier is surprised when it looks like the kids “disappeared into thin air. . . They were in a boat on the beach and suddenly they started to spin around and then they vanished!” The general thinks the soldier imagined it because of his “harsh whisky breath.”
  • While the kids were gone, no one missed them because, “a person traveling through time can experience days, weeks, and even years, and then return home to find that he’s only been gone a few hours.”

Spiritual Content

  • A soldier thinks Matt and the kids are enemy spies. The soldier says, “God forgive the cold Tory heart that would send children out to face the dangers of this night.”
  • General Washington says, “God willing, we’ll all live to remember this night.” Later he says, “God granting, the day will be dark.”
  • When Matt’s friend dies, a man says, “He’s no longer here, but in God’s glorious kingdom.”

 

The Eureka Key

When middle school puzzle master Sam and history wiz Martina win a contest for a summer trip across the U.S., they discover they’ve been drafted into something vastly more extraordinary. Joining another kid on the trip, Theo, a descendant of George Washington himself, they must follow clues to find seven keys left behind by the Founding Fathers.

Together, the keys unlock Benjamin Franklin’s greatest invention – a secret weapon with the intention of defending the country. Each key is hidden in a unique location around the U.S., protected with puzzles, riddles, and traps. This has kept the weapon safe . . . until now! Gideon Arnold, a dangerous descendant of the infamous Benedict Arnold, is on the chase.

Readers of The Eureka Key will enjoy learning about one of America’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, in this fast-paced story. The action begins from the very first page and never stops. To find a weapon hidden by the Founding Fathers, Sam, Martina and Theo must find clues and answer the riddles left by Benjamin Franklin. With the villain’s goons just steps behind them, the kids must focus on deciphering the clues. Similar to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, each new clue can also lead to a potentially deadly trap which makes for some very suspenseful moments. The clues are based on Franklin’s real inventions and readers will attempt to figure out the clues along with the characters.

While the action drives the plot, both Sam and Martina are well-developed but imperfect characters. Girl Scouts has taught the nerdy Martina to always be prepared, and her quirks make her very likable. At first, Sam laughs at everything Martina packs and teases her for her encyclopedic knowledge, but Sam soon realizes that without Martina he wouldn’t have survived the journey. Sam begins as a reckless troublemaker, but after the near-death journey, Sam asks himself, “So which Sam Solomon was he? The one who hacked into school computers to change his friend’s grades, or the one who did his best to save the country from treachery that went back more than two hundred years?” In the end, Sam’s character growth and maturity will please and surprise readers.

The Eureka Key will appeal to a wide range of readers. Those who love mystery, puzzles, history, and action will enjoy The Eureka Key. Even though the story has many historical facts, they are integrated into the story, and they never read like a history textbook. Some of the characters are descendants of historical figures and one character is a descendant of Benedict Arnold. While some believe Arnold was a traitor, his descendant reminds readers, “History sometimes forgets the truth.” Readers interested in learning more about Benedict Arnold should read George Washington’s Spies by Claudia Friddell. The characters, mystery, and history combine to make a highly entertaining story that will have readers reaching for the next book in the series, The Eagle’s Quill.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A man who Sam calls “Aloha” kidnaps Sam, Martina, and Theo. Sam tries to leave clues for others to follow. “A second later, the loudest sound he’d ever heard nearly split his eardrums open. He yelped, and Martina jumped about a foot. . . Aloha was standing behind them with his gun pointed at Sam’s hat, which lay on the ground with a smoking hole through the brim.”
  • Several times someone points a gun at the kids to force them to comply with orders.
  • To find the eureka key, the kids must answer riddles. If they answer incorrectly, a deadly trap awaits them. While trying to figure out a clue, the kids make a mistake and, “The light around them seemed to flare, and Sam stumbled back, blinking madly. . . Then a scream filled the air. It came from Aloha. . .The orange flowers on Aloha’s shirt burst into red flames. He howled in pain, staggering across the plateau, as the fires took hold.”
  • As Aloha is flailing, “Aloha was still holding his gun; it swung toward Theo as the man twisted and wailed. Theo dodged to the side as a bullet cracked in the air, and at the same moment Aloha’s left heel vanished off the edge of the cliff. He toppled and was gone, his screams lengthening.” Aloha dies.
  • The villain, Flintlock, pulls a gun on the kids. When the kids open a secret door, “Theo snapped upright, driving a fistful of rocks into the man’s stomach.” Theo and Martina run, but someone has a hold on Sam. Then, “Something whizzed past Sam’s face, and then Martina’s flashlight cracked his captor right on the bridge of his nose. The hand around Sam’s arm loosened as the man howled.” The kids escape.
  • To escape a trap, Martina connects an electrical circuit to herself. “Martina’s body shook as if she were a puppet with a madman yanking at the strings. . . Martina dropped to the floor as if the puppeteer had tossed her away and lay there—still as death.”
  • The bad guys and the kids are in a room that has a lot of keys hanging from the ceiling. One of the bad guys, Jed, “grabs a key. Sam was sure he could hear electricity leaping from the key to Jed’s hand. The instant his huge fist closed around the key, he was flung across the room, so quickly he didn’t have time to cry out. He crashed to the floor and lay still.”
  • Sam tries to sneak away from the bad guys. Sam “took two steps toward the way out, only to have a bullet blast into the wooden floor in front of him.”
  • A man falls into a mine shaft. “There was a sharp, panicked yell that started loud and got softer and softer. . . until it stopped.” The man dies.
  • During the revolution, Benedict Arnold left one of his contacts to be hanged.
  • One of the villains slaps “Theo across the face. . . Theo stood as solidly as a deeply rooted tree and didn’t make a sound.”
  • To get Sam to comply, one of the thugs grabs Martina. “He grabbed hold of her arm, clamping his other hand over her mouth and nose. He grinned as she made a startled, choking sound.”
  • When Sam makes a smart-aleck remark, “the back of Arnold’s hand smacked into the side of his face.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Oh my God and Oh, Lord are each used as an exclamation once.
  • Sam thinks someone is a jerk.
  • A man calls someone a pinhead.
  • Martina calls Sam a moron.
  • Heck is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Martina tells Sam about Benjamin Franklin. “Franklin said people should try to ‘be like Jesus and Socrates . . . Sacrificing themselves for the common good.’”

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

  • None

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

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

None

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

 

Thirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle leaves her boarding school in England to reunite with her family in America. She leaves England a prim and proper lady with a notebook from her father to detail her travels. However, Charlotte quickly discovers that her voyage home is not going to be smooth sailing.

On board The Seahawk, Charlotte fears the majority of the ship’s male crew, including the lone black man Zachariah, who gives her a knife the first time they meet. He warns Charlotte to keep the knife for protection, as “she might need it.” This is the first hint that things aboard The Seahawk aren’t all they seem, but Charlotte’s determined to keep her ladylike composure, especially in front of Captain Jaggery. Jaggery is a refined and educated man, unlike his crew, which prompts a friendship between him and Charlotte. Yet, Charlotte wonders if something more is awry when Jaggery asks that Charlotte become his “informant” and report any talk of rebellion to him.

After her promise, Charlotte discovers that the crew intends to mutiny. When Charlotte reports the threat, Jaggery responds with violence, killing some of the sailors including Zachariah. Suddenly, Charlotte’s journey turns into one of atonement. To fill the gap left by the now dead sailors, Charlotte joins the crew. Then, during a hurricane, the first mate is found with Charlotte’s knife in his chest. After a trial by Jaggery (who now scorns Charlotte because she has sided with the crew), Charlotte is proclaimed guilty, even though she didn’t commit the crime.

In the end, it’s discovered that Zachariah lived through his beating. He helps Charlotte create a plan to rid the ship of Jaggery and prove her innocence. They discover that it was Jaggery who murdered the first mate as a ploy to get rid of Charlotte, whom he hates for being an “unnatural” girl. Charlotte is able to dispatch Jaggery and sail home as a young captain with Zachariah by her side. However, her greatest conflict is the one she faces back on American soil, when her father burns her journal and forces her to be a “lady” again. Charlotte runs away from home when she remembers the words Zachariah once told her: “A sailor chooses the wind that takes the ship from a safe port. . . but winds have a mind of their own.”

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is a thrilling and detailed story for young adults. The book is told from Charlotte’s perspective, and she is a compelling narrator. At first, she’s somewhat difficult to like because she’s stuck in her ways, but the reader will sympathize with her desire to do what is right despite the criticism she faces as a woman. While it is unlikely something like Charlotte’s story ever happened at the time, the story is realistic in the context of the era – such as the behavior of the characters, the dialogue, and the use of religion. The end of the book also includes a glossary of ship terms which the author uses for the reader to feel as if they’re on board a ship just like Charlotte is. The overarching message of this story is to follow one’s own path, even in the face of adversity, and Charlotte is a character that embodies that until the end.

Sexual Content

  • Ewing, one of the crew, kisses Charlotte on the cheeks to say goodbye.

Violence

  • Zachariah gives Charlotte a knife for protection.
  • Charlotte uses the knife to scare an animal. “I heard a sound. I looked across the cabin. A rat was sitting on my journal, nibbling at its spine. Horrified, I flung the dirk at it.” The rat runs off.
  • Zachariah describes a past incident where Captain Jaggery punished one of the crew for not tying a knot properly. “Captain Jaggery said Mr. Cranick’s laboring arm was his by rights. Miss Doyle, Mr. Cranick has but one arm now. He was that much beaten by Captain Jaggery, who, as he said himself, took the arm.”
  • Captain Jaggery shows Charlotte that he keeps guns in his cabin.
  • Charlotte describes Jaggery’s violent behavior. “If provoked sufficiently, the captain might resort to a push or a slap with his own open hand. . . I saw him strike Morgan with a belaying pin, one of the heavy wood dowels used to secure a rigging rope to the pin rail. In dismay, I averted my eyes. The fellow was tardy about reefing a sail, the captain said and went on to catalog further likely threats. Confinement in the brig. Salary docking. No meals. Lashing. Dunking in the cold sea or even keelhauling, which, as I learned, meant pulling a man from one side of the ship to the other – under water.”
  • Charlotte finds a gun in one of the crew member’s chests. Another man, Morgan, who catches her, threatens her so she won’t tell the captain. “He lifted a hand, extended a stiletto like a forefinger, and drew it across his own neck as if cutting A spasm of horror shot through me. He was – in the crudest way – warning me about what might happen to me if I took my discovery to the captain.”
  • Captain Jaggery kills a crew member, who tries to start a mutiny. “Captain Jaggery fired his musket. The roar was stupendous. The ball struck Cranick square in the chest. With a cry of pain and mortal shock he dropped his sword and stumbled backward into the crowd. They were too stunned to catch him, but instead leaped back so that Cranick fell to the deck with a sickening thud. He began to groan and thrash about in dreadful agony, blood pulsing from his chest and mouth in ghastly gushes.”
  • Captain Jaggery has Zachariah whipped for starting the unsuccessful mutiny. The first mate “turned Zachariah so that he faced into the shrouds, then climbed up into these shrouds and with a piece of rope bound his hands, pulling him so that the old man was all but hanging from his wrists, just supporting himself on the tips of his bare toes. . . I turned to look at Captain Jaggery. Only then did I see that he had a whip in his hands.”
  • Jaggery says that the first mate, Mr. Hollybrass, will give Zachariah 50 lashes. “Hollybrass lifted his arm and cocked it . . .with what appeared to be the merest flick of his wrist, the whip shot forward; its tails hissed through the air and spat against Zachariah’s back. The moment they touched the old man’s skin, four red welts appeared. . .” Hollybrass continues to whip Zachariah.
  • Charlotte begs the Captain to make it stop. When Captain Jaggery refuses, Charlotte whips him. “He took another step toward me. In a gesture of defense, I pulled up my arm, and so doing flicked the whip through the air, inflicting a cut across the captain’s face. For an instant a red welt marked him from his left cheek to his right ear. Blood began to ooze. . . When [Captain Jaggery] saw they were bloody he swore a savage oath, jumped forward and tore the whip from my hand, whirled about and began beating Zachariah with such fury as I had never seen.” Later, Charlotte sees the sailors dump a hammock overboard, which is said to contain Zachariah’s dead body.
  • After Charlotte joins the crew, Captain Jaggery punishes her. “He struck me across the face with the back of his hand, then turned and walked away.”
  • Charlotte finds Mr. Hollybrass’s body after he’s been killed. “A knife was stuck in his back, plunged so deeply only the scrimshaw handle could be seen. I recognized the design. . .This was the dirk Zachariah had given me.”
  • Charlotte is accused of murdering Mr. Hollybrass since the knife belongs to her. Captain Jaggery threatens to hang her if she can’t prove who killed him.
  • After Charlotte realizes that Captain Jaggery has killed Mr. Hollybrass, he chased her with a pistol to kill her. Jaggery chases Charlotte out to the bow, where he falls into the sea and drowns.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the sailors, Morgan, has a tobacco pouch.

Language

  • Charlotte describes the sailors as “men recruited from the doormat of Hell.”
  • Captain Jaggery says that the men on the ship are unable to understand kindness. He says, “they demand a strong hand, a touch of the whip, like dumb beasts who require a little bullying.” He also calls the crew, “the dirtiest, laziest dogs” and “a poor set of curs.”
  • When Charlotte tells Jaggery that she suspects a mutiny, Jaggery says, “why the devil did you not tell me before?”
  • Captain Jaggery shouts, “damn you!” once.

Supernatural

  • Charlotte considers that Zachariah might’ve appeared to her as a ghost or an angel.

Spiritual Content

  • References to God, the Bible, and Heaven occur occasionally throughout the text. Captain Jaggery occasionally has a Bible with him, and a church service is held on the ship on Sundays, where Charlotte reads passages from the Bible to the crew. Captain Jaggery sometimes refers to himself as a Christian. “And was ever a Christian more provoked than I?”
  • Zachariah compares God to a ship’s captain. “When a ship is upon the sea, there’s but one who rules. As God is to his people, as king is to his nation, as father to his family, so is captain to his crew.”
  • After Cranick’s death, Zachariah wishes to give him a funeral, but Captain Jaggery wants him thrown overboard. Zachariah says, “Even a poor sinner such as he should have his Christian service.” Captain Jaggery replies, “I want that dog’s carcass thrown over.”
  • Charlotte feels responsible for what happened to the crew and Zachariah since she revealed their plot. She prays to God for forgiveness.
  • During Charlotte’s trial, each man swears on the Bible to tell the truth.
  • Zachariah tells Charlotte an old saying, “the Devil will tie any knot, save the hangman’s noose. That Jack does for himself.”

by Madison Shooter

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

  • None

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

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

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.”

The Marrow Thieves

The world has been ruined by global warming. In the destitute landscape of North America, the Indigenous people are being hunted by Recruiters, truancy agents who bring any person of Indigenous descent to the schools where their marrow is extracted at the cost of their lives. Why are they being hunted? Because people of Indigenous descent still have the ability to dream when the rest of the population has lost it. To survive, people have begun to move periodically, to prevent themselves from being sent to the schools where their bone marrow is to be extracted in exchange for their dreams. However, some have taken up the opportunity to betray their own people and turn them in to the Recruiters in order to receive a large sum of money for survival.

Frenchie has escaped from Recruiters after they kidnapped his brother. His father and mother were also taken by Recruiters, thus leaving him as the only one left in his family. In the woods, he is saved by a group of fellow Indigenous survivors. Among them are Miigwans, an older gay man who has escaped from the schools, Minerva, a woman elder who teaches the kids her native Indigenous tongue, Rose, a Black-Indigenous girl who becomes Frenchie’s girlfriend, Wab, a girl with a large scar on her face, and RiRi, a young Indigenous girl whose mother was kidnapped by Recruiters. Each member of the group carries their own story of trauma tied to their Indigenous identity. However, as the years progress and the losses continue to pile up, Frenchie learns that there may be a way to stop the marrow thieves and end this genocide.

The Marrow Thieves is told in a prose narrative style written in the first person. Much of the novel is told from the perspective of Frenchie, an Indigenous boy. This allows for readers to empathize with his emotions of loss and anger as well as demonstrate the horror of Indigenous genocide through the lens of an Indigenous protagonist. Some chapters shift in perspective to provide backstory of certain characters, such as Miigwans and how he lost his husband, or Wab telling the group about her violent backstory. This shift in the narrative style gives the reader the illusion of the character telling the entire group their backstory.

The novel heavily deals with themes about Indigenous genocide and the trauma Indigenous people continue to endure. The story makes many references to past genocides, such as the residential schools run by the Roman Catholic Church whose goal was “to kill the Indian, save the man.” These residential schools killed thousands of Indigenous children during their operations and traumatized millions more when the Church stole their children. While telling the story of how the marrow thieves came about, Miigwans says, “Soon, they needed too many bodies, and they turned to history to show them how to best keep us warehoused, how to best position the culling. That’s when the new residential schools started growing up from the dirt like poisonous brick mushrooms.” The characters in the novel even call the institutions where Indigenous marrow is extracted, the “new residential schools,” following the theme of the cycle of genocide and intergenerational trauma that Indigenous people go through, proving that history is constantly repeating itself.

The Marrow Thieves is a novel with which teenage audiences will empathize. For Indigenous readers, it provides well needed representation with a variety of characters who have unique personalities and identities and validates the trauma they feel. For non-Indigenous readers, it exposes the part of history that is often left out in many countries, particularly in America and Canada. The novel teaches non-Indigenous readers about the genocides Indigenous people have faced and, despite what the school curriculum makes it seem like, they are still facing. They survived.

Some readers may struggle with the flow of the plot as it jumps around between the past and the present, such as the story shifting from Miigwans’s backstory to a chapter jumping forward about 3 years. However, it should be known that many Indigenous writers tell stories in a way that doesn’t fit into the typical Western/European formula most books are written in. The ending of the novel is heartwarming and provides a sense of hope and catharsis for its characters and its Indigenous readers. In its entirety, it validates the feelings of its Indigenous characters and its Indigenous audience, who have, historically, constantly faced invalidation. Non-Indigenous readers who want to learn more about Indigenous history and start diversifying their library, as well as readers who like science fiction, should read The Marrow Thieves.

Sexual Content

  • Frenchie and Rose kiss for the first time after he asks Rose how she knows an Indigenous language when he doesn’t. “She pushed her face into mine, and for the first time I didn’t think about kissing her.”
  • While sleeping in a bed together, Frenchie and Rose kiss before being interrupted by RiRi. Rose “moved her face forward, just a few centimeters and I took her lip between mine. She slid a knee over my thighs and pressed close.”
  • Upon realizing that Frenchie loves Rose, he kisses her. “And I kissed her and I kissed her and I didn’t stop.”
  • Frenchie expresses that he “wanted so badly to kiss [Rose] again.” On the next page, he proceeds to kiss Rose.
  • Before Rose throws Frenchie’s cut hair into the fire, she kisses him. Rose “kissed me when she was finished, tossing the rough edges of my cut hair into the fire.”

Violence

  • The entirety of The Marrow Thieves covers the multiple genocides Indigenous peoples have faced throughout history. There are references to residential schools and colonial expansion when Europeans discovered the New World. Kidnappings, that are implied to be violent, are common as it’s how real-world genocides operated. For example, Frenchie’s brother, Mitch, is kidnapped by Recruiters and taken to the schools. “Mitch was carrying on like a madman in the tree house. Yelling while they dragged him down the ladder and onto the grass. I heard a bone snap like a young branch. He yelled around the house, into the front yard, and into the van, covering all sounds of a small escape in the trees.”
  • When recalling why she ran away, Wab discloses that some men her mother brought home would sexually assault her. “Sometimes they came after me, waking me up from my sleep when they tried to jam their rough hands in my pajamas. Sometimes they got more than just a feel before I could fend them off and lock myself in the bathroom.”
  • In Wab’s backstory, a man slices her face and it is heavily implied he also raped her. “He moved fast, too quickly for me to do anything but close my eyes again. I didn’t feel the slice. Just the wet on my cheek, and neck, and chest. Then he was pulling off my pants. Then I stopped feeling all together.” The scene lasts for a page.
  • Miig, the leader of the group, tells Frenchie about Minerva’s backstory. “‘Minerva was feeding her new grandson when the Recruiters burst into her home. They took the baby, raped her, and left her for dead. They answered to no one but the Pope himself, back then.’”
  • In the same chapter, Miig also tells Frenchie about twins, Tree and Zheegwon’s, backstory in which they were tortured by a colony of townspeople who wanted to extract their dreams. “‘We found them tied up in a barn, dangling like scarecrows from a rope thrown over a beam.’ He sighed, paused for another breath. ‘They were full of holes that’d been stitched up with rough thread, all up and down their sides. And with a pinky missing on each hand. They were seven then.’”
  • Frenchie wakes up to a traitor Indigenous person named Lincoln choking RiRi. “But then he turned and I saw RiRi, her throat grasped under [Lincoln’s] thick arm, legs kicking the air. She was grabbing at his forearm with her little hands, her face bright red.”
  • The group fights back against the traitors and then Lincoln runs off into the woods holding RiRi hostage. “[Chi-Boy] jumped from his crouch on the group, the knife out of his arm and back into his hand. He lunged at Travis, driving the blade into the man’s leg, just above the knee.” The scene lasts for two pages.
  • After Lincoln kills RiRi, Frenchie, infuriated and grieving, kills Travis. Frenchie thinks, “I heard him whine a little at the end of his plea. But then, maybe, it was just the wind. I pulled the trigger and the wind stopped blowing.”
  • When attempting to save Minerva, an Indigenous soldier named Derrick shoots the van driver transporting Minerva. “The driver was hit. I looked up in time to see Derrick lower his gun.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • In Wab’s backstory, she tells the group that her mother was an alcoholic and eventually became addicted to drugs. “My mom traded favors for booze since food wasn’t really her priority . . . She’d started smoking crack, which was plentiful, to replace the booze, which was scarce.”
  • When Frenchie’s listening to his dad talk about the relationship between him and Frenchie’s mom, he recounts the following: “‘Your mom, she was always smarter than me. One day she found me drinking bootleg with a couple of the boys in Chinatown.’”

Language

  • The words “shit” and “assholes” are used throughout the novel along with their variations.
  • Upon learning that Rose knows more about the Indigenous language than Frenchie, he exclaims, “Bullshit!”
  • During Wab’s backstory, she says, “fuck” when she realizes she’s been tricked into a trap with a man who wants to hurt her.
  • Wab calls the man who lured her into the trap a “dick.”
  • Travis says, “Lincoln, for fucksakes, put [RiRi] down!” as an attempt to reason with Lincoln to stop him from killing RiRi.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Minerva performs a prayer that the campers perform later in the book too. “Minerva made her hands into shallow cups and pulled the air over her head and face, making prayers out of ashes and smoke. Real old-timey, that Minerva.”
  • Because hair is sacred in most Indigenous religions and is kept long, many of the characters wear their hair in braids. There are multiple scenes in the book where a character braids another character’s hair as an act of intimacy.
  • After Minerva dies, Rose and Frenchie perform a ritual for mourning the loss of a loved one. This involves cutting their hair, which is extremely important as hair is sacred in most Indigenous religions. “We buried Minerva the day after, the Council holding ceremony and prayer, even in the midst of our escape. Before I could stop her, Rose took scissors to her curls . . . I picked up the scissors when she put them down and cut my own braid off to send with Minerva.”

by Emma Hua

Molly and the Twin Towers: A 9/11 Survival Story

Life in lower Manhattan is normal for Molly, her dads, and her younger sister. But on September 11, 2001, everything changes. Molly and her younger sister, Adeline, are at school when the first plane hits the World Trade Center. When the Twin Towers fall, the city is thrown into chaos. Papa, a pilot, is flying, Dad can’t be reached, and Gran, an EMT with the New York Fire Department, is at Ground Zero. It’s up to Molly to find her sister and navigate a city she no longer recognizes.

The book begins with a short introduction to Molly’s family, which allows readers to connect to the people Molly cares about. Because the attack on the Twin Towers occurs when Molly is at school, her fears and confusion are understandable. When the school begins to evacuate, Molly searches for her sister. Once the two are together, Molly tries to protect her sister from falling debris, she also worries about her dad, who is an airplane pilot, and her Gran, who is an EMT stationed close to the towers.

Afterward, Molly’s dad tries to explain why the terrorists flew a plane into the Twin Towers. He says, “There are people in the world who believe that violence, hurting others, is how they’ll get what they want.” Her dad doesn’t think that terrorists will win because “for every person who wants to cause harm, there are thousands more who want to protect. To do good.”

Molly and the Twin Towers will answer basic questions about the events of 9/11. While Molly’s fear is obvious, the events are described in kid-friendly terms. Some of the information is told through news sources, which allows the reader to get basic facts without bloody details. Despite this, Molly’s shock, confusion, and fear are at the forefront of the story. Afterward, Molly and her family go to therapy in order to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In order to make the story easy to follow, each chapter begins with Molly’s location and the time. Every 7 to 10 pages there is a black-and-white illustration. The illustrations mostly focus on Molly and the events surrounding her. Some of the illustrations show the Twin Towers engulfed in smoke and ash. The book ends with a note from the author that describes some of the heroes of 9/11, a glossary, and three questions about the story.

Molly and the Twin Towers will teach readers about the events of 9/11. The short chapters, fast-paced plot, and suspense will keep readers interested until the very end. Molly is a likable character who shows bravery in the face of fear. Readers who want to learn more about the attacks should also read I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001 by Lauren Tarshis.

Sexual Content

  • Adi and Molly have two dads. “Our dads had used a different surrogate for each of our births. I got Dad’s light eyes and dusty hair. Adi got Papa’s beautiful darker features and curly hair, which she claimed to hate.”

Violence

  • While at school, Molly hears a huge boom. “It almost sounded fake, as if I was in a movie theater and the surround sound was turned all the way up. . . The noise shook our entire school like a humongous, angry clap of thunder. The glass in the windows next to me shuddered.”
  • A little later, Molly hears another explosion. “This one I felt in my chest. The blast made my ribs rattle, and the sound echoed within.”
  • Molly overhears an adult say a plane ran into the towers. Molly “couldn’t believe one airplane had hit, let alone two. It had to be something else.”
  • Molly leaves the school so she can look for her sister. Once outside, “fire and smoke raged and billowed out of the top portion of the North Tower. The South tower, now also on fire, was quickly catching up. Debris rained down as if the sky was falling.”
  • Molly hears a radio broadcaster say, “This just in . . . my lord . . . excuse me. . . I-I’m getting reports that another passenger plane has crashed into the Pentagon building in Washington D.C.”
  • As Molly runs towards home, “a sound like nothing I’d ever heard before seized the air. It was a deafening thunderclap followed by the roar of a thousand train engines. . . The smoke and debris began where the tower stood and tumbled forward. It was like a large wave, quickly engulfing everything in its path, threatening to wash us all away.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • While looking for her sister, Molly “prayed I would find my sister sitting safely among the cushions and chairs. But when I reached the top, the loft was empty.”

Salt to the Sea

Set during the end of World War II, Salt to the Sea follows the story of four refugees seeking shelter from the rampages of war. With the rapid advance of Soviet forces against Hitler’s Reich in Poland, Latvia, East Prussia, and Lithuania, thousands of refugees flood toward the port of Gotenhafen with the dim hope of escape. For these thousands, Gotenhafen is a chance to flee the inevitable onslaught and destruction created by the oncoming Soviets. Amidst this hurried procession of souls are four teenagers who witnessed the innumerable tragedy wrought by war. Each teen is from a different homeland and has a different background, yet all have equally dangerous secrets.

Joana is a nineteen-year-old Lithuanian expatriate who previously spent the entirety of the war as a conscripted nurse, tending to wounded and dying soldiers. Florian is an eighteen-year-old Prussian thief and forgery master wanted by the Nazis because of his shameful past. Alfred, also referred to as “Frick”, is a delusional seventeen-year-old Nazi Kriegsmarine soldier who is attempting to overwrite his troubled past through enlistment. Emilia is a fifteen-year-old Polish refugee running from the destruction of her homeland as both the Nazis and Soviets hunt her and her countrymen. Each character carries their own mysteries, whether shameful or perilous.

Salt to the Sea is told in first person point of view, with the main narrative being split between the four characters. Each chapter shifts from one character’s point of view to another, creating a cleverly knitted narrative that explores the ongoing tumult of their lives. Although each of our four protagonists have their own agendas, the audience can sympathize with each character as they struggle to not only survive but to also find themselves.

Salt to the Sea is a fast-paced, intense, and emotional story that will have readers gripped to the very last page. Sepetys does an incredible job weaving multiple narratives into one effortless adventure. Each chapter provides the reader with an increasingly dark understanding regarding the horrors of war and the vast challenges that refugees must overcome. As this book follows the inevitabilities of war, there are distinct violent moments and deaths which Sepetys has written to be intentionally jarring.

Although distressing and dark, Salt to the Sea tells the hopeful story of refugees fighting for a better future and their personal growth along the way. Salt to the Sea is a must-read for all those interested not only in history but also in the human condition as Sepetys colorfully illustrates the horrors of war.

Sexual Content

  • There are references to rape or other non-consensual sexual content. A passing elderly refugee asks Joana if she carries any poison. The woman says “I understand. But you are a pretty girl. If Russia’s army overtakes us, you’ll want some [poison] too.”
  • While on the boat, Joana kisses Florian. “She stood on her toes, took my face in her hands, and kissed me.”
  • When she was fifteen, Emilia became pregnant when she was raped.

Violence

  • While fleeing through a snow-laden forest, Florian kills a Russian soldier who was harassing Emilia. Florian “stood in the forest cellar, my gun fixed on the dead Russian.” The killing was not described.
  • Multiple references are made to Hitler’s Final Solution. “Hitler aimed to destroy all Poles. They were Slavic, branded inferior. . . Hitler set up extermination camps in German-occupied Poland, filtering the blood of innocent Jews in the Polish soil.”
  • While fleeing westward, Soviet planes drop bombs on top of forests which poses an immediate threat to Joana, Emilia, and Florian. “The bombs began falling. With each explosion, every bone in my body vibrated and hammered, clanging violently against the bell tower that was my flesh.”
  • Joana mentions the wartime atrocities committed by the Soviets. “Women were nailed to barn doors, children mutilated.” In addition to such terrors, Soviet soldiers were infamous for raping and pillaging entire villages, which involved the wholesale slaughter of male populations and the rape of a village’s women.
  • Eva, another refugee, references the potential violent fate of Emilia’s father. Eva says, “The senior professors in Lwów, they were all executed.”
  • While fleeing, Emilia saves Florian by shooting a wandering German soldier. The soldier “had a gun. He was pointing it. [Emilia] jumped up and screamed. Bang.”
  • Joana and a group of refugees stay at a deserted manor. Prior to this, soldiers brutally slaughtered the residents in their sleep. As Joana explores the rest of the manor, she discovers the house’s previous tenants and exclaims, “Dead in their beds. They’re all dead in their beds!” The bodies are not described in detail.
  • On their way to Gotenhafen, another refugee laments that the Soviets “shot his cow.”
  • While approaching the Frauenberg, the Soviet air forces shell the road. “A cluster of human beings behind us exploded with a bomb.”
  • As Joana and her group of refugees cross an icy river, one refugee falls through the ice and joins other unfortunate souls trapped beneath the frozen surface. “The ice in front of Ingrid was red, frozen with blood.”
  • Sepetys makes multiple mentions of refugees and their suffering, such as parents missing their children, or the children being abandoned.
  • Joana, a nurse, cares for the wounded on the Wilhelm Gustloff. Joana “would get these wounded men on the big ship.”
  • The Wilhelm Gustloff is struck by three Soviet torpedoes causing the ship to sink, killing thousands of refugees, including children. As the ship tilted deeper into the water, a passenger said, “The woman was right. We were all going to drown.” As the ship sinks, the ocean is strewn with dead bodies floating amidst the wreckage. “Thousands of dead bodies, eyes wide, floated frozen in life vests.”
  • A mother attempts to throw her child to a lifeboat, yet the baby tragically drowns. “The dark air was full of screams” of thousands of drowning men, women, and children.
  • Alfred attempts to throw Emilia off the raft, yet in doing so accidentally he kills himself. Alfred slams his head against the metal raft and falls into the freezing depths of the surrounding water. “Alfred was sent tumbling, crashing his head against the metal raft with a deafening scream”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Before the start of the book, Florian is wounded with shrapnel which he sterilizes using vodka. Florian “turned the top of the soldier’s flask and raised it to my nose. Vodka. I opened my coat, then my shirt, and poured the alcohol down my side.”
  • Joana and Florian share cigarettes in a moment of respite from danger. Joana “pulled out a cigarette and ran it through my fingers, trying to straighten it.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Daniel Klein

 

The Curse of King Tut’s Mummy

The desert hides many secrets. Day after day, Howard Carter and his crew search the sand for signs of Egypt’s ancient kings. Many tombs were looted long ago, but he was sure that one was still out there—the tomb of King Tut! But were the old stories true? Did King Tut’s mummy and the royal treasure come with a deadly curse?

Follow Howard Carter’s story, beginning when he was just a sickly child who fell in love with ancient Egypt. Through Carter’s experiences, readers will begin to see how education, perseverance, and endurance helped Carter find King Tut’s tomb. Even though Carter was thrilled to find King Tut’s treasures, he knew the importance of recording every artifact’s location and preserving the find for future generations. The end of the book contains Tut’s Mummy Timeline, photographs, and additional interesting facts.

The Curse of King Tut’s Mummy uses short chapters and easy vocabulary, which makes the book accessible to young readers. Large black and white illustrations appear every 3 to 7 pages and bring many of the ancient artifacts to life. While the book is easy enough for young fluent readers, the content will be interesting to older readers as well.

The Curse of King Tut’s Mummy explores ancient Egypt’s culture and beliefs in a way that makes archeology fun. The book is full of interesting facts. Detailed illustrations show the inside of many of the tombs. Anyone who is interested in Egypt’s ancient kings will enjoy The Curse of King Tut’s Mummy. Zoehfeld discusses some of the curses written on the tombs and some of the Egyptian superstitions, but she makes it clear that curses are not real. Younger readers who want to learn more about King Tut can jump back into time by reading Escape from Egypt by Wendy Mass.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Carter was an archeologist who had to fight off rude tourists who came to visit a tomb. Carter “asked the rowdy visitors to leave. They demanded to be let into the tomb. The guards tried to block their way. The tourists threw chairs. They swung their walking sticks at the guards.” Two tourists were injured. The tourists also “damaged the walls and broke chairs.”
  • The reason King Tut died is still unknown, but “the bone just above his left knee was broken.” Some speculate that “the young king had a bad accident during a battle or a hunting trip. The accident that broke his leg might have also crushed his chest.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • During ancient times, there was a funeral for the dead king where the guests’ “cups had been filled with beer and wine.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When an ancient Egyptian official and his wife were buried, their tomb had a warning: “All people who enter this tomb. Who will make evil against this tomb. And destroy it: May the crocodile be against them on water, and snakes against them on land. May the hippopotamus be against them on water. The scorpion against them on land.” Many believed that anyone who destroyed the tomb would be cursed.
  • When Carter went to Egypt, he took his pet canary. Carter’s Egyptian housekeeper and his three foremen thought, “the bird of gold will bring us good luck!”
  • Later that summer, a cobra got into the canary’s cage. “The deadly snake was gulping the poor bird down, headfirst. . . Carter’s housekeeper and foremen were horrified. They thought it was a sign of terrible things to come.”
  • When there was a blackout, “many believed this blackout was a bad omen.”
  • King Tut’s tomb had a warning: “For those who enter the sacred tomb, the wings of death will visit them quickly.” There were many stories of curses, but they “were all made up.”

Spiritual Content

  • Ancient Egypt’s gods and goddesses are occasionally discussed because there were many statues of them. For example, “the Egyptian goddess of good health was always shown as a woman with a lion’s head.”
  • In the 14th century B.C., “Akhenaten felt that Egyptian priests were getting too powerful. So he banned all the gods the Egyptian people were used to worshiping. He created a new religion with only one god.”

A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple

In 1620, twelve-year-old Remember Patience Whipple and her family set off for the New World. The 65-day journey on the Mayflower is difficult and boring. Remember writes about the journey in her diary, which she calls Mim.

One hundred and two people, including 34 children, were crammed into a dark, cold cargo deck. With no privacy and no way to escape from others, there was plenty of drama. When the ship spotted land, the passengers were disappointed to discover they were in the wrong place. Despite this, the men decided to find a place to build their settlement.

Because they arrived during winter, the passengers were forced to continue living on the ship. However, Patience and the other Pilgrims were excited to begin building the settlement even though they now faced harsh weather, lack of food, and an attack by “feathered men.” To make matters worse, half of the passengers die in the first winter. Through all of this, Remember remains hopeful that life in the New World will have many opportunities.

As Remember writes a detailed chronicle of her journey, readers will get a firsthand account of a Pilgrim’s life. While much of Remember’s diary is interesting, some of the entries are redundant. When the group arrives in the New World, many people die including Remember’s mother. Soon after, the widow, Hannah Potts, begins helping Remember’s family, which is confusing for Remember.

Some of the most interesting diary entries are about the “feathered men.” Remember is fascinated by them and is excited when she finally has an opportunity to meet an Indian. Remember’s curiosity and enthusiasm are remarkable and her changing views are interesting. Throughout her story, Remember always gives thanks to God. In her last diary entry, she wrote, “I have after all learned to plant a seed in a hole and bring up corn. I have learned how to beat a stream in the moonlight till it gives forth eels for our cooking pots. I have learned many words in the strange tongue of the Wampanoag.”

Remember’s spirit is amazing, as is her willingness to try new things. However, readers who are used to stories with lots of action and adventure will find Remember’s diary difficult to finish. Remember’s diary allows readers to understand her day-to day-life. However, readers will be unable to make an emotional connection to the other passengers. And much like our own lives, Remember’s daily life lacks much excitement. A Journey to the New World would be perfect for research and for readers who are inherently interested in this time period.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • During dinner, Elder Brewster tells his son about his friends that were “killed by the Bishops for wanting to make the church pure. . . They were first thrown in jail for a long long time and left in filth and half starved to rot. Then they were brought out to be hanged. . . Just when they had a few breaths of life still in them, they were cut down. Their bellies were cut open, their guts drawn out and burning coals put in their bowels!”
  • The Billington boys “tried to drown the ship’s cat in a barrel of water.”
  • The Billington boys almost blew up the ship. “They have now been thrashed within an inch of their lives, this time by their own father.”
  • When the men went onto the shore, “arrows suddenly came raining down upon them. . . Captain Standish held off the feathered men with his flintlock musket.” The Indians finally run away.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • When a boy is sick, he is given “some of the draught.”
  • After a woman’s husband and baby die, she is given “a very strong sleeping draught.”
  • When an Indian who speaks English appears in the settlement, the men are shocked. The Indian asks for “beer and biscuits, but they gave him strong water instead” and a boy was sent to get the “liquor bottle.”
  • When the men go on a fishing expedition, one of them “spent most of his time drinking beer and basking in this October sunshine.”

Language

  • Remember calls the Billington boys, “scummy little bilge rats!”
  • Remember calls one of the girls, “Air Nose.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • The Saints wanted to go to the New World. Remember wrote, “And if we go to this New World, free from Old King James and all the fancy church rituals that are not our way, we can worship as we want. You see, we believe that the church is in our hearts and not in a building.”
  • In her diary, Remember often thanks God and writes little prayers. For example, when she feels sea-sick she prays, “Please, dear Lord, I do not want to get the scours and it is not for my vanity. . . ‘tis for my petticoats.”
  • The ship’s beam is broken and the men are able to fix it. Remember writes, “God’s providence has come down on our little ship. The main beam is raised and repaired. We are blessed. Last evening we assembled for prayers of thanks.”
  • Not everyone on the ship gets along, but Remember writes “we are all God’s children.”
  • When Remember’s friend dies, she writes, “Mem, he now be in heaven and his eyes doth reflect the glory of the Lord, and he sits with his mother once again.”
  • When the Pilgrims get to the New World, they find corn. “They took as much corn as they could and thanked God for the providence bestowed upon them.”
  • Remember’s sister loves helping with the plastering of their new cabin. “The Lord does work in mysterious and beautiful ways. . .”

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

  • None

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

  • None

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.”

 

Mayflower Treasure Hunt

The Hunt is on! Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose are spending Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts. They can’t wait to see the sights and have a Thanksgiving dinner just like the Pilgrims would have eaten. Then the kids learn about a sapphire necklace that went missing on the real Mayflower. Could the 400-year-old treasure be hidden somewhere nearby? And will someone else find it before they do?

Mystery lovers will learn history as they follow Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose through the streets of Massachusetts. The three kids’ journey focuses on historical places connected to the Mayflower. The simple plot is fast-paced and contains enough suspense and mystery to keep readers interested. While the three friends do not follow a trail of clues, they use historical information to help solve the case. In addition, when the kids find the necklace, they never consider keeping it for themselves. Instead, they donate the necklace to the local museum.

Mayflower Treasure Hunt’s short chapters and black and white illustrations make the story accessible to readers. Large illustrations appear every 2 to 4 pages. Many of the illustrations are one page and help readers understand the plot. Plus, readers can hunt through the pictures to find a hidden message.

One negative aspect of the story, is that when Dirk believes someone is following him and his friends, they do not seek out adult help. Instead, they try to hide from the person and end up in a situation that could have been dangerous. Parents may want to discuss the importance of seeking an adult if they feel they are in danger.

Mayflower Treasure Hunt will get a peek into the Pilgrims’ world. For instance, readers will be surprised to learn that the Pilgrims had a village jail. “Being lazy, not sharing, not attending church” were all crimes. Stealing a pig or a hen were also jail-worthy crimes. Mystery-loving readers will enjoy the adventurous story. The A to Z Mysteries Series will hook chapter book readers. Plus, the series has over 26 books to keep readers entertained.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • One of the Pilgrims “was in jail in England before the crossing. Oh, he was a mean ‘um. Mudgett used to kick the dogs and the children if they got in his way.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Heck is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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