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

Not-So-Great Presidents: Commanders In Chief

From heroic George Washington to the dastardly Richard Nixon, the oval office has been occupied by larger-than-life personalities since 1789. The position comes with enormous power and responsibility, and every American president thus far has managed to achieve great things. However, each president of the United States is only human—and oftentimes far from perfect. While some men suffered through only minor mishaps during their time in office, others are famously remembered for leaving behind bigger messes.

Take a trip through the history of the presidents and discover each man’s contribution. Historical artwork, photographs, and black and white illustrations appear every 1 to 3 pages. Many of the illustrations are comical caricatures of presidents. The short chapters, large text, and illustrations make the book accessible to readers. The book incorporates some definitions into the text. For example, some politicians start “attacking their opponents—explaining why people shouldn’t vote for the other guy, instead of why people should vote for them. This is called mudslinging.” Even though some of the vocabulary is explained, readers may still struggle with the difficult vocabulary.

Not-So-Great Presidents: Commanders In Chief uses a conversational tone that makes learning about history fun. The book uses many references to popular culture such as the Marvel Universe. For example, President Franklin Pierce “also has one of the most tragic backstories since the Punisher first showed up in Marvel comics.” While the vast amount of historical facts will not be retained, Not-So-Great Presidents: Commanders In Chief introduces history in an educational and fun way, which will keep readers interested until the very end. One of the best parts of the book is that it shows that everyone—even heroic presidents—makes mistakes. The history of the presidents shows that to be a respected leader, one does not need to be perfect.

Sexual Content

  • Bill Clinton was accused of “lying under oath when asked about an inappropriate relationship he had with one of his White House Interns.”

Violence

  • The book talks about different wars and sometimes includes the death count. For example, “The year was 1776, and the bloody fighting of the American Revolution was in full swing.”
  • Several presidents were assassinated, but the men’s deaths are not described in detail. For example, “On July 2, 1881, he [James A. Garfield] was shot at a train station by Charles J. Guiteau, once in the back and once in the arm.”
  • “On September 6, 1901, President McKinley was shot by a deranged anarchist (Leon Czolgosz) while shaking hands with supporters at the international Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.”
  • Andrew Jackson was “notorious for fighting in more than a hundred duels throughout his life—including one where he still managed to kill his opponent moments after taking a bullet to the chest!”
  • President Franklin Pierce “was once arrested, as president, for running over a woman with his horse.”
  • During World War II, America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. “More people died in a split second than there were soldiers killed at the Battle of Gettysburg from both Northern and Southern armies combined. Most of those people were civilians.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • After George Washington served for two terms, “he returned to his farm in Mount Vernon, where he focused on his real passion: brewing moonshine (no joke)!”
  • During the last days in office, President John Tyler threw a party at the White House, and “over three thousand people showed up. Several barrels of wine and eight dozen bottles of champagne” were served.
  • Andrew Johnson was “a reported alcoholic.”
  • Hiram Ulysses Grant became “one of the most famous generals in American history, despite his notorious reputation as an alcoholic. . . Abraham Lincoln even said, ‘I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.’”
  • President Franklin Pierce “could best be described as charming, indecisive, and alcoholic.” When he left the White House, he said, “There’s nothing left to do but get drunk. . . After his wife passed away, he took up binge drinking as a full-time gig and became a hermit. He died of cirrhosis of the liver because of the copious amounts of alcohol he consumed toward the end of his life.”
  • Woodrow Wilson passed prohibition, “which made it illegal to buy alcohol, which a lot of people really hated.”

Language

  • Heck is used four times. For example, to coordinate D-Day, Eisenhower used “his guts, brains, and a heck of a lot of patience.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

You Wouldn’t Want to Work on the Brooklyn Bridge!

Readers, get ready to pretend you are the son of a famous engineer who is about to be thrown into the deep end! When your father dies as the result of a nasty accident, it’s up to you to build the Brooklyn Bridge.

The project will take you 14 years to complete. You will need to work at great heights and great depths. Twenty-seven men will die while building the bridge. But the bridge will open and thousands of people will line up to walk across it.

You Wouldn’t Want to Work on the Brooklyn Bridge uses short snippets, timelines, quote boxes, and handy hints to explain how John Augustus Roebling’s design of the bridge became an enormous project that seemed impossible to build. Much like a picture book, each page is full of illustrations. The brightly colored illustrations are educational and humorous. Many of the illustrations are caricatures of the people involved in building the bridge. Even though the illustrations will make readers laugh, they also pack in a lot of information and have detailed drawings of the bridge’s design, such as the base of the tower, the suspension cables, and the steel wire used to suspend the bridge.

Anyone who has ever wondered how anyone builds a bridge over water will find You Wouldn’t Want to Work on the Brooklyn Bridge fascinating. Each page has 1 to 3 paragraphs written in large text. Even though some of the vocabulary is difficult, readers will be able to use context clues to understand the reading. Plus, a glossary appears at the end of the book.

The fun format, funny illustrations, and short explanations make You Wouldn’t Want to Work on the Brooklyn Bridge good for reluctant readers. Whether you’re working on a research project, interested in history, or curious about construction, You Wouldn’t Want to Work on the Brooklyn Bridge is a great book to dive into.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Working on the bridge was dangerous. “A suspender cable snaps. It recoils with such force that it kills two men instantly and seriously injures two others.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Peril in the Palace

Beth and her cousin Patrick go to China in 1271 where they have to find the golden tablet of Kublai Khan. Once in China, the cousins are kidnapped by Mongol warriors, who think they are evil. Only the friendship of fellow traveler Marco Polo saves them from harm.

At the Shangdu palace, Kublai Khan dislikes Beth’s and Patrick’s gifts and the message about Christianity. Next, the Mongol magicians challenge the cousins to a spiritual power showdown. The cousins are again locked up. But then they meet Genghis Khan’s great-great-granddaughter. However, Beth and Patrick are not safe, so they escape from the palace.

Before the cousins are able to make it safely away from the palace, two giant birds swoop down and grab them. The birds take them to their nest where hungry chicks wait for a meal. A mysterious knight appears and helps the kids make it back to the Imagination Station.

Peril in the Palace is the third book in the Imagination Station Series. Each book’s plot builds on the previous book so the stories must be read in order. Like the previous books in the series, history is incorporated into the story. However, Peril in the Palace’s plot is not as well developed and the conclusion has several events that are unrealistic.

Despite this, readers will appreciate the fast-paced plot which shows the importance of sharing the Christian faith. When the Mongol shamans use “magic,” Beth is able to show how the shamans are really using magnets to perform the magic. While the religious message is not as strong as the previous books, the story of Jesus is incorporated into the story.

The large text and illustrations make the story accessible to readers ready for chapter books. Black and white illustrations of varying sizes are scattered throughout the book. Parents who are looking for a wholesome book that incorporates the Bible into the story will find the Imagination Station Series a good choice. Readers who want more time traveling fun should check out the Time Jumpers Series by Wendy Mass.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Beth and Patrick are kidnapped. “A horse came alongside them. The rider leaned sideways and grabbed Beth under the arms. He pulled her up onto the saddle.” The cousins are saved by Marco Polo.
  • A wounded warrior comes to report to Kublai Khan. “Koke’s tunic was soaked in blood. An arrow had been shot through the man’s shoulder.”
  • Giant eagles called rocs pick up Beth and Patrick and take them to their hungry chicks. “One of the beaks grabbed Beth. . . The bird caught the edge of her dress.” Beth’s leg is injured. A Knight appears. “Suddenly a silver sword slashed the air above them. The sword hit the bird’s claws, and the bird cried out.”
  • The adult rocs swoop down and try to swallow the kids. “The knight turned just in time. He swung the sword with both hands. Bam! The sword hit the roc’s beak—and bounced off. The kids are able to escape.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Kublai Khan asks a group of foreigners, “Why doesn’t your God help the Christians? Why doesn’t the Christian God smash your enemies?” Patrick explains, “Jesus Christ destroyed death. He rose from the grave! Those who believe in Him will live forever.”
  • Kublai Khan believes that he will “go to the afterlife as a warrior. The Mongols will bury him with arrows and horses.”
  • Beth gives a young girl a Bible.

My Plain Jane

There has been a murder at Lowood school, and aspiring writer Charlotte Brontë is on a mission to uncover the culprit. When an agent from the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits shows up to interrogate the ghost of Mr. Brocklehurst, Charlotte is convinced that she can be of assistance. However, the mysterious Mr. Blackwood seems more interested in talking to her friend Jane Eyre than solving the case. Rumors of romance quickly spread through the school, but Charlotte can’t help but hope this problem might be supernatural in nature. After all, that would make a much better story.

As the star agent at the Society, Alexander Blackwood uses his rare ability to see ghosts to help him capture and relocate particularly pesky spirits. However, his real goal is to find whoever is responsible for his father’s murder and enact his revenge. With royal funding being cut and seers dying in the line of duty, it’s up to Alexander and his woefully incompetent assistant Branwell to keep the Society afloat. The last thing he expected was to discover an unusually powerful seer while out on a routine relocation. Now in order to save the Society, Alexander needs to convince Jane Eyre to join as an agent…a task that is much easier said than done.

Jane Eyre might have the ability to see ghosts, but she has absolutely no interest in becoming a Society seer. Some of her best friends are ghosts, and she would never dream of forcefully relocating them. Instead, she’s taken a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall under the employment of the enigmatic Mr. Rochester. While Jane finds herself falling for the brooding master of the house, Charlotte and Alexander accidentally uncover some disturbing supernatural secrets that have the potential to put both Jane and the entirety of England in danger.

In this twist on Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre, co-authors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows take readers on a wild, slightly spooky, romp through pre-Victorian England. You don’t have to have read Jane Eyre to thoroughly enjoy all the haunted hijinks, but good-humored fans of the classic will likely take pleasure in the ways that My Plain Jane pokes fun at its source material.

The always-curious Charlotte and charmingly grumpy Alexander make a compelling pair as they attempt to get to the bottom of an increasingly complex mystery, but it’s Jane herself that I believe readers will find themselves rooting for as she discovers that even very small and plain people can be very powerful when they let themselves be.

Sexual Content

  • Charlotte and Jane are both fascinated by the idea of boys and, despite not having the best of prospects, “they could still imagine themselves being swept off their feet by handsome strangers who would look past their poverty and plainness and see something worthy of love.”
  • Jane thinks that she wouldn’t call Alexander handsome because his jaw is too square and his hair too long. The narrators explain that “In the pre-Victorian age, [a] truly handsome man should be pale—because being out in the sun was for peasants—with a long, oval-shaped face, a narrow jaw, a small mouth, and a pointy chin.”
  • Jane considers herself to be quite plain-looking, but “to ghosts, however she was the epitome of beauty. This left Jane to believe that something was seriously askew in the afterlife.”
  • Just like all the other ghosts, Helen thinks that Jane is beautiful, but Jane thinks, “it was Helen, with her porcelain complex, blue eyes, and long golden hair, who would have turned heads if she were still alive.”
  • Helen tells Jane that she’s too beautiful to be a governess because “you’re so lovely that the master of the house wouldn’t be able to help falling in love with you.”
  • When Alexander arrives at Lowood, the girls are excited because they don’t usually see boys. They immediately decide that he is there to court one of the teachers. “This is like a real live romance novel,” one girl said. “I can’t stand the tension. Who will he choose?”
  • Charlotte doesn’t believe the rumor that Alexander proposed to Jane. “Charlotte believed in love at first sight, of course—she dreamed that one day, at some unexpected moment, such a thing might even happen to her—but she firmly disapproved of marriage at first sight.”
  • An argument between Jane and Charlotte starts a new rumor at Lowood “that Charlotte Brontë was also madly in love with Mr. Blackwood, and she and Jane Eyre would now be forced to compete for the man’s affections.”
  • Jane describes Mr. Rochester as having “the most handsome face she’d ever seen. Pale and oval in shape, sideburns all the way down to his pointed chin (which would technically make it a beard) and framing the most perfectly tiny lips she’d ever beheld.”
  • The narrators defend Jane falling for Rochester by explaining that her perception of men was “gleaned mostly from books and art that tended to glorify tall, dark, and brooding ones. The broodier the better. And Mr. Rochester was among the broodiest.”
  • Jane admits her feelings for Mr. Rochester to Charlotte and tells her, “he made me love him without even looking at me.”
  • Charlotte is a little disappointed that Mr. Rochester might be a murderer because it would “make him entirely inappropriate as a knight in shining armor for Jane.”
  • During an argument, Alexander tells Charlotte, “You should stop poking your cute button nose where it does not belong.”
  • Charlotte bursts into Alexander’s apartment unannounced and catches him in a compromising situation. “He was wearing trousers, thank the heavens. But she’d obviously interrupted him in the middle of shaving—there were still traces of shaving cream on his face. His hair was wet and gleaming, dripping onto his bare shoulders. His bare shoulders. Because he was not wearing a shirt. Which meant, by pre-Victorian standards, anyway, he was more or less completely naked.”
  • Charlotte gets bored while reading the weddings and obituaries page of the newspaper and imagines more dramatic stories behind them, referencing several classic novels. She muses for example, “Mr. Edgar Linton of Thrushcross Grange, would like to announce his engagement to the lovely Miss Catherine Earnshaw, the wedding to take place on the twenty-first of September, even though the lady would much rather marry a ruffian named Heathcliffe. But she shall forego her passion in order to secure social ambition.”
  • Alexander and Charlotte disrupt the wedding of Mr. Rochester and a possessed Jane, claiming that Rochester is already married. They read a letter from Mr. Mason that says, “Edward Fairfax Rochester was married to my sister Bertha Antoinetta Mason, daughter of Jonas Mason, merchant, and Antoinetta, his wife, at St. Mary’s Church, Spanish Town, Jamaica.” Mr. Mason claims that his sister is still alive and that he saw her himself three weeks prior.
  • Rochester tells Jane that she is the love of his life, but that they don’t need to be married. He suggests they move to the south of France to live as brother and sister. “Jane, we would have separate living compartments, and we would only spare a kiss on the cheek for birthdays.”
  • Branwell offers to marry Jane despite not loving her, telling her it could be an arrangement between friends. She declines his offer, telling him, “Well, that’s just the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me! At least since the last idiot who followed it up with trying to kill me.”
  • Charlotte is overwhelmed by her emotions after being told that Alexander is dead, but she doesn’t understand why because “What she’d felt for Mr. Blackwood hadn’t been romance, as Charlotte had previously defined romance. There had been no stolen glances—not that she would have been able to see them. No flirtations. No tortured yearning of her soul, the way Jane felt for Mr. Rochester.”
  • Charlotte and Branwell decide to go search for Alexander’s ghost. On the way, Charlotte practices the following speech in her mind: “Mr. Blackwood. Alexander. I would like to inform you that you are (you were, I suppose, so sorry) the keenest, most attractive, most intelligent and thoroughly engaging boy that I have ever met, and I am filled with sorrow on account of your untimely demise.”
  • Wellington incorrectly assumes that Jane and Alexander are in love. Jane corrects him, saying, “I have a thing for Rochester. It’s not healthy.”
  • When Charlotte dies briefly after having been shot, Alexander finally admits his feelings for her. “‘I care about you Miss Brontë,’ he rasped. ‘And now I’m too late in saying it.’”
  • Charlotte realizes that after her brush with death, she has gained the ability to see ghosts. Alexander gives her his Society mask, and she is so excited that she kisses him. “Before he could finish speaking her name, she pushed herself up a little and pressed her lips against his. His eyes widened in surprise, and immediately she backed away from him, giving an embarrassed cry.”
  • Charlotte tries to apologize for being too forward, and Alexander cuts her off with a second kiss. “It was the same as her kiss to him—just a touch of his lips to hers. A question. A hope. A promise.”
  • Charlotte reads Jane an excerpt from her book, the “reader, I married him” passage from Jane Eyre, and Jane tells her, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story that’s so perfectly romantic.”
  • Charlotte is a little embarrassed at the thought of Alexander reading her story because “so much of what she’d written about Jane Eyre’s feelings for Mr. Rochester had been inspired by what she herself felt for a certain Mr. Blackwood.”
  • Jane and Charlotte meet Mr. Edward Rochester the Second, the Rochesters’ age-appropriate son, who Jane is immediately attracted to. “There was something so entirely familiar about his dark, intelligent eyes. A certain brooding intensity. She was overcome by the sudden notion that this boy possessed the ability not only to see her, standing there awkwardly in the blue dress and her paint-smeared smock gazing up at him, but into her as well. Like he could see into her very soul.”

Violence

  • Brocklehurst, the very cruel man who runs Lowood school, has been murdered during his most recent inspection. “He’d settled down by the fire in the parlor, devoured the heaping plate of cookies that Miss Temple had so kindly offered him, and promptly keeled over in the middle of afternoon tea. Poisoned. The tea, evidently, not the cookies. Although if he’d been poisoned by the cookies the girls at Lowood school felt it would’ve served him right.”
  • While Mr. Brocklehurst was in charge of the school, many girls died from the Graveyard Disease. “There are many terms for this popular illness over the course of history: the Affliction, consumption, tuberculosis, etc., but during this period the malady was most often referred to as ‘the Graveyard Disease,’ because if you were unlucky enough to catch it, that’s where you were headed.”
  • Charlotte suspects that Jane might have been the one who murdered Mr. Brocklehurst. Jane is known for disliking the man, and when she comments on how much better life at Lowood is without him, Charlotte observes, “There was something so satisfied about the tone in Jane’s voice when she said it. It seemed practically a confession.”
  • Jane watches two agents from the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits confront a ghost known as The Shrieking Lady, who is causing significant destruction in a pub. “The agent in charge leapt nimbly through the air and landed beside the ghost. ‘Get the watch! It’s—’ But he couldn’t finish the order because the redhead clumsily lunged forward and dove right through her and landed in a pile next to Jane’s hiding place behind the bar.” The full altercation is described over about seven pages.
  • Jane recalls the night that her friend Helen Burns died. “Jane clasped her friend’s hand tightly, trying to ignore how cold Helen’s fingers were. They fell asleep like that, and when she woke in the morning, Helen’s body was pale and still. And standing above it was Helen’s ghost.”
  • Alexander has been trying to solve his father’s murder for the past fourteen years, “but he didn’t have much to go on at the moment, only the fuzzy memories of a frightened young boy. Which made revenge quite difficult.”
  • Helen says that on the day she met Jane, she got in trouble with a teacher who “struck [Helen’s] neck with a bundle of sticks.”
  • Jane says that before she befriended Helen, she had formulated a plan to “escape Lowood and beat [her] Aunt Reed with a very large stick.”
  • The Duke of Wellington instructs Alexander to recruit Jane into the Society because two of their four seers have been “killed in the line of duty.”
  • Jane discovers in the middle of the night that Mr. Rochester’s bed is set on fire. “…the flames had grown onto the canopy, and one burning piece of fabric had dropped on the bed, igniting the blanket.”
  • Helen gets so angry that people are calling Jane plain that it causes a destructive physical reaction. “A vase flew across the room, whizzing past Rochester’s head before it shattered against a wall.”
  • Alexander remembers the day his father died. “He’d heard the argument between the killer and his father. He’d felt his father’s anger as the killer left the house in a fury. And he remembered the impacts of his footfalls as he, a young boy, went racing after the killer. Then. The explosion.”
  • Alexander is convinced that Mr. Rochester is his father’s murderer and tells Charlotte, “I should simply kill him. It’s what he deserves. Everything in my life has been leading up to this point.”
  • Mason, one of Mr. Rochester’s guests, gets stabbed during the night and Jane is left to take care of him. “Mr. Mason lay on the sofa there, looking pale and drenched in sweat. A ball of bloody rags lay beside him, the freshest still bright red.”
  • Branwell accidentally touches the teacup holding the spirit of Mr. Brocklehurst and becomes possessed. Mr. Brocklehurst attacks Alexander with the teacup. “Alexander tackled Brocklehurst and grabbed for the teacup, but the china bashed against his temple and made him blink back stars. It was a shockingly sturdy teacup.”
  • Rochester attempts to propose to Jane, telling her, “I believe there is a string below your rib, and it stretches across class and age to me, and it is attached beneath my rib. And if you find another suitable position, and leave me, you will pull it out and I will bleed.”
  • Mason claims that his sister Bertha, Mr. Rochester’s wife, is still alive. “She’s mad perhaps, but who wouldn’t be mad after what he’s done to her. He’s had her locked in the attic for fifteen years.”
  • A possessed Jane attempts to strangle Charlotte after she tries to convince her not to marry Mr. Rochester. “Jane squeezed harder. Dark spots swam before Charlotte’s eyes. The world was fading. She gave one last desperate push at her attacker…and her fingers caught the pearl necklace around Jane’s slender neck. She pulled and the necklace broke free.”
  • Jane observes Bertha Rochester, who has been locked in an attic for fifteen years. “She was thin to the point of being malnourished. There were scratches and cuts up and down her arms, and her head hung low as if she were asleep.”
  • When Jane rejects Mr. Rochester, he tries to attack her and Charlotte. Alexander fights Mr. Rochester so that the girls have time to escape. “[Alexander] attacked using a new move called the Three Ladies’ Luck, thinking his opponent might not know how to counter it, but Rochester was clearly a man who’d continued his sword studies throughout his life, because two sharp clacks of the blades and Alexander was blocked.” The fight is described over six pages.
  • Wellington comes to the Brontë residence and tells Charlotte, Branwell, and Jane that Alexander is dead. Despite Wellington being the one who attempted to kill Alexander, he answers yes when Jane asks, “So Mr. Rochester killed him?”
  • Charlotte and Branwell hear a variety or rumors about what happened to Mr. Rochester when his house burned down, including, “Mr. Rochester was most certainly alive. He’d nobly tried to save his wife from the fire, but she’d leapt to her death from the roof of the house.”
  • During the confrontation with Wellington in the throne room, Alexander threatens him with a gun. Wellington points his own gun at the King and says he’ll murder him. “I’ve done it before. George III was such a bother, and David here won’t mind—he’ll just inhabit the next in line for the throne. I already have that arranged.”
  • Charlotte and Branwell struggle to get the ring talisman off of the king’s finger. Charlotte becomes impatient and grabs a pair of shears. “Without another moment’s hesitation she knelt beside the king, positioned the shears, and snipped the finger off. The ring (and the accompanying finger) skittered across the carpet. The king’s eyes rolled up, and he went limp. Charlotte used his coat and string from a nearby velvet curtain to bind his hand. She’d read something about amputation in a book once. She felt a bit woozy on account of all the blood, but she soldiered on.”
  • Wellington needs Jane to cooperate with him because of her Beacon powers, so he can’t kill her; however, he can threaten her friends. “I will start with Mr. Blackwood, who was like a son to me. And then I will kill Mr. Rochester, who was like a brother to me. And I will not stop there. You see, Miss Eyre, I have come to discover you have quite a few people in your life who mean something to you.”
  • A fight breaks out at the Society headquarters. Grace Poole attempts to strangle Mrs. Rochester. Shots are fired, and Charlotte is caught in the crossfire. “The group turned toward the sound just in time to see Charlotte there, clutching her chest. Then she collapsed.” Wellington tries to grab a gun, but Mr. Rochester shoots him. The description of the fight lasts five pages.
  • Jane admits to Charlotte that the murder of Mr. Brocklehurst was a group effort. “Miss Temple gave him the tea. Miss Smith made the tea. Miss Scatcherd procured the poison.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Jane enters a pub looking for a ghost, the bartender gives her a glass of brandy on the house. “For a moment Jane looked utterly scandalized that he should offer her such a thing. Then she snatched up the glass and took a sip. The liquid fire seared down her esophagus.”
  • When the Society agents discover Jane hiding behind the bar, she lies and tells them, “I was drunk. From the drinking of…the brandy.”

Language

  • Jane says, “Where was the blooming—pardon her French—Society?”
  • The Shrieking Lady calls her husband Frank a “hornswoggler.”
  • Jane tells Mr. Rochester that he is a manipulative liar, “so no, I don’t think I will live with you in the South of France as sodding brother and sister!”
  • Rochester calls Wellington a traitor and a “two-faced, serpent-tongued blaggart.”
  • Wellington tries to get Jane and Charlotte on his side, and they both tell him to “go to hell.”

Supernatural

  • After an embarrassing incident with a ghost in 1778, King George III founded the Royal Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits, “a team made up of every kind of person he thought could help him be rid of these irksome ghosts: priests who specialized in exorcisms, doctors with some knowledge of the occult, philosophers, scientists, fortune-tellers, and anybody, in general, who dabbled in the supernatural.”
  • Charlotte asks Jane if she believes in ghosts and then tells her, “I believe in ghosts. I think I may have seen one myself once, back in the cemetery at Haworth a few years ago. At least I thought I did.”
  • Charlotte thinks that the Society ought to visit Lowood school because so many girls have died there over the years (including her two older sisters) that “The school must be bustling with ghosts.”
  • Jane has been able to see ghosts ever since she was a child. Her aunt locked her in the Red Room, and Jane was so afraid that her heart stopped. “She literally died of fright, if only for a moment. And when she opened her eyes again her late uncle was kneeling next to her.”
  • Jane goes to the pub where the Society is supposed to be relocating a spirit, and she runs into a ghost known as The Shrieking Lady. “The woman’s hair was raven black, floating all around her head like she was caught in an underwater current. Her skin was almost entirely translucent, but her eyes glowed like coals.”
  • Alexander “bops” The Shrieking Lady on the head with a pocket watch and “A frigid blast of air blew Jane’s hair from her face. The silver pocket watch glowed, and then, to Jane’s horror, sucked the ghost in.”
  • Jane spends most of her time with Helen Burns, who she describes as “Her best friend and favorite ghost in all the world.”
  • When Alexander arrives at Lowood, he finds himself surrounded by an unusual number of ghosts, “twenty-six of whom were young girls, and one of whom wanted his murder solved.”
  • One of the ghosts tells Alexander that Mr. Brocklehurst killed her. “He locked me in a closet for five hours. By the time anyone came to find me I was dead.”
  • A ghost can be contained inside a talisman, an object of significance to them, in order to be relocated. Society agents always wear gloves because “touching a talisman could lead to a possession by the ghost trapped within.”
  • Helen is afraid of running into a Gyrtrash, “a northern ghost that appeared as a horse or a very large dog.”
  • Helen is startled by Mr. Rochester’s horse and momentarily becomes visible, startling the horse and prompting Rochester to ask Jane, “what are you, witches?”
  • Alexander’s assistant, Bromwell, accidentally invites a ghost into their carriage. It causes some ruckus. “The ghost opened his mouth and a stream of flies buzzed out. Alexander had to confess he’d never seen that before. Then the ghost sprang through the roof of the carriage and into the driver’s seat. He let out a bone chilling cackle. The horses reared and bolted, taking the carriage with them.”
  • Alexander’s boss, the Duke of Wellington, tells him that he believes Jane is a special kind of seer called a Beacon. “A Beacon, my boy, is a seer with, shall we say, extra abilities. Our previous Beacon could command ghosts with a word. From what I understand, ghosts often comment on the Beacon’s attractiveness, as though there’s some sort of supernatural glow about them visible only to ghosts.”
  • Bromwell explains to Charlotte that Seers gain their abilities after they die temporarily. “Seers are rare—not everyone who dies comes back with such an ability. Which is why the Society seeks us out.”
  • After his father’s death, Alexander spent much time looking for his father’s ghost. He was unsuccessful because “Not everyone became a ghost, of course. And it was better wasn’t it, that a spirit moved on to find peace?”
  • When Jane does not immediately accept Mr. Rochester’s proposal, he forces a pearl necklace talisman around her neck. “The pearls were a talisman that held a spirit. And that spirit now inhabited Jane’s body. Which meant Jane’s spirit was squeezed to the side in the most uncomfortable and frustrating (for Jane) manner.”
  • Alexander is sent to collect the ghost of Mr. Mitten, a man who worked for the Society before he died. The ghost is strangely cooperative. “Cautiously [Alexander] approached the ghost, half expecting some sort of fight. But Mr. Mitten held perfectly still while Alexander tapped the signet ring on his head. Immediately, the ghost was sucked in. The gold trembled and glowed, and that was that. David Mitten was trapped in the ring, ready to deliver to Wellington.”
  • While Mr. Rochester attempts to explain why he had Jane possessed, Helen gets so angry that her head “burst into flames.”
  • During their swordfight, Alexander spots a mysterious key hanging around Rochester’s neck. “Alexander sashed the sword to the left, cutting through the chain. The key went skittering across the floor, and abruptly, the ghost of a younger man ripped from Rochester’s body.” This is the ghost of Rochester’s older brother, who had been possessing him for the past fifteen years.
  • Alexander confronts Wellington after discovering he was behind his father’s murder and the possession of Mr. Rochester. The two come to blows, resulting in Alexander being tossed into the river Thames. “Wellington bashed Alexander over the head with the lockbox. Stars popped in his vision, and blood poured from a gash. And though Alexander scrambled to fight, he went down quickly.” The description of the fight is about a page long.
  • Alexander nearly drowns in the Thames, but is rescued by Bertha Rochester and some ghosts. “A tall, radiant woman had approached the water, her hair gleaming, her skin glowing. She’d drawn the attention of every single ghost in the Thames, which meant when she asked about a young man, they were able to lead the way.”
  • The Rochesters explain how Wellington had the former king possessed before he died. Alexander recalls how he put the ghost of David Mitten in the current king’s signet ring and realizes, “He’s going to have Mr. Mitten possess the King of England.”
  • Branwell learns the truth about what happened to Mr. Rochester and Alexander from the ghost of Mr. Rochester’s father. “He’s been haunting this pub for years, apparently, ever since Mr. Rochester, the brother, died and took possession of Mr. Rochester—the one we know.”
  • Jane is able to give the king the ability to see ghosts by reading out of The Book of the Dead. “When she had finished, the king glanced around the room, noticing nothing out of the ordinary until he looked behind him. There was the tree ghost, glancing around the room as well.”
  • Rochester claims that Wellington keeps The Book of the Dead “locked in a room guarded by a three-headed dog, which drops into a pit of strangling vines, followed by a life-or-death life-size game of chess, which opens into a room with a locked door and a hundred keys on wings.” This is a reference to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
  • Jane and Mrs. Rochester read an incantation from The Book of the Dead to allow everyone at court to see ghosts as a distraction so they can save the king from his possession. Charlotte observes several interesting ghosts, including a red-haired girl. “She was dressed in a gorgeous embroidered, jewel-encrusted gown and an Elizabethan headdress. In her hand she held a book. She smiled sweetly at Jane, and reached for the man beside her, who, to Charlotte’s total astonishment, suddenly turned into a horse.” These are Jane and Gifford from My Lady Jane, the companion novel to this book.
  • Jane and Mrs. Rochester use their combined Beacon powers to control the talismans Wellington has collected and use them as weapons. “They scrambled toward each other, and [they] clasped hands. And that was when the entire room began to convulse with rattling talismans.”
  • While she is briefly dead, Charlotte’s ghost watches as Alexander cries over her body. Jane scolds her and tells her to get back into her body. “Alexander sat up just in time to see Miss Brontë’s ghost sniffle. ‘Shh, Jane, I’m trying to listen.’ But she disappeared back into her body.”
  • After a heartfelt conversation with Jane, Helen decides to move on. “‘I better not see you for eighty years.’ Tears sparkled on Miss Burn’s cheeks as she looked up and up, and suddenly a wide smile formed—and she was gone.”

Spiritual Content

  • The King of England says that ghosts should move on because “We must believe that the god who put us here, with families and companions and food and beauty… he has a place for us when we are no longer living. We must have this faith. The faith that will again be with those we’ve lost.”
  • Alexander reads passages out of Charlotte’s story that are actual quotes from the original Jane Eyre novel, including, “Do you think I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! I have as much soul as you and full of as much heart. And if God gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal—as we are.”

by Evalyn Harper

The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving into History

Today, Orville and Wilbur Wright are celebrated as heroes for their revolutionary contributions to science and engineering. They are acknowledged as the first men to successfully achieve powered, piloted flight. But their road to success was far from smooth. The Wright brothers encounter plenty of bumps, bruises, and mechanical failures along their way!

The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving into History takes the reader through the history of flight, beginning with Icarus. While many people made important discoveries about flight, the Wright brothers were the first to learn how to control a flyer and get it off the ground. While most people have heard about the Wright Brothers, the magnitude of their accomplishment cannot be fully appreciated until you have read The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving into History.

The Wright brothers were dedicated and they knew the importance of study and observation. In order to learn about flight, Wilbur reached out to the Smithsonian Institute and was given “any and all research available on aviation and human flight.” While the brothers studied and experimented, Wilbur and Orville also ran a successful business. The two brothers also had some epic failures, including injuries, embarrassments, and accidentally killing someone. Despite this, they persevered and never gave up on their dream. Their success was not based on luck. “It was hard work and common sense; they put their whole heart and soul and all their energy into an idea and they had the faith.”

The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving into History teaches history in an engaging way. Both historical pictures and cartoonish, black and white illustrations appear on most pages. Many of the illustrations are comical, such as when the brothers were “greeted by swarming mosquitoes.” The short chapters, large text, and illustrations that appear on almost every page make the book accessible to readers. Some of the vocabulary is explained; however, readers may still struggle with the difficult vocabulary. The book ends with a timeline of important events in flight history.

The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving into History uses a conversational tone that makes learning about history fun. The Wright brothers and other historical figures prove that failure is part of the process of achieving one’s dreams. Instead of looking at failure in a negative light, The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving into History shows that every failure can be a learning experience. The book highlights the importance of perseverance, dedication, and education. The Wright brothers “never let their failures get the better of them, never let anyone tell them something couldn’t be done, and never gave up on their dreams.”

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • In 1808, two men went up in hot air balloons and “started shooting at each other’s balloons with their muskets.” The loser “tumbled hundreds of feet to his death.” Of course, the argument was about a lady.
  • In 1861, Union soldier Thaddeus Lowe used a hot air balloon in battle. “While he was taking notes on troop positions the balloon broke away from the rope holding it to the ground. . .” The Confederates captured him.
  • While playing ice hockey, Wilbur “took a hockey stick to his face, smashing out most of his teeth, laying him out, and injuring him so badly he had to drop out of school to recover.”
  • Otto Lilienthal created a glider, but he “lost control of his glider, fell fifty feet, and broke his back on impact with the ground. He died the next day.”
  • During a flying demonstration, Orville and Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge went up in the air. The flyer “plummeted several hundred feet, then smashed hard into the dirt, crumpling into wreckage and sending bits of plane scattering in every direction. [Selfridge] became the first person in history to die in a plane crash.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Charles Manley attempted flight, he landed in icy water. After he got out, he “slammed down a shot of whiskey.”

Language

  • Heck is used twice. For example, when humans first learned to fly in hot air balloons, they had to figure out, “How the heck do we land this thing?”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Clean Getaway

For the life of him, William “Scoob” Lamar can’t seem to stay out of trouble—and now the run-ins at school have led to a lockdown at home. So, when G’ma, Scoob’s favorite person on Earth, asks him to go on an impromptu road trip, he’s in the RV faster than he can say “freedom.”

With G’ma’s old maps and a strange pamphlet called the Travelers’ Green Book at their side, the pair takes off on a journey down G’ma’s memory lane, but adventure quickly turns to uncertainty. G’ma keeps changing the license plate, dodging Scoob’s questions, and refusing to check Dad’s voicemails. The farther they go, the more Scoob realizes that the world hasn’t always been a welcoming place for kids like him, and things aren’t always what they seem—G’ma included.

While Scoob gets a glimpse of G’ma’s youth, the events are often disjointed and slightly confusing. During the trip, G’ma shares a secret that has been haunting her for the majority of her adult life. Soon after G’ma married her husband Jimmy, the two took off on a cross-country trip, hoping to end up in Mexico. As G’ma retraces her steps, Scoob is left wondering how all the pieces fit. When the reader finally learns G’mas secret, many of the facts just don’t make a lot of sense and there are many questions that are unanswered.

Most of the story’s action happened in the past, which makes the details less exciting and not well-developed. For example, G’ma stops at Medgar Evers’s house and tells Scoob about his death. Even though the events were tragic, the significance of Medgar’s life and death is lost because there is so little information about him. Instead of feeling like a well fleshed-out story, Clean Getaway brings up a topic and quickly moves on, leaving the reader with a list of people and events that lack historical significance.

Even though the story is disjointed, middle school readers will still enjoy the relationship between Scoob and G’ma. As they travel, Scoob gets a clearer picture of the difficulties that existed in the segregated south, especially for a biracial couple. Despite the great gains America has made, Scoob realizes how the past has helped shape his life.

Told from Scoob’s point of view, middle-grade readers will understand Scoob’s confused emotions and his anger at his father. When Scoob enters a state, a map of the state appears, which gives fun facts. The maps help the reader keep track of G’ma’s route as well as some of the important places the pair go to. Clean Getaway explores the difficult themes of racism, regret, and the complicated nature of humans. Black and white illustrations appear throughout the story, which will help the reader visualize the story’s events. As G’ma tells about her days of youth, readers see how G’ma’s choices have affected not only her son but also her grandson.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Scoob tell his grandma about his friend, Drake, being bullied by Bryce. Bryce would “tap Drake on the back of the head as he’d shout ‘Sup, Drakey-Drake?’ loud enough for the whole room to hear. After a few days of this, the tapping turned to shoving, turned to smacking. There was one morning Bryce hit so hard, Drake cried out in pain.”
  • Bryce makes fun of Drake’s epilepsy. Bryce “passed by and hit him, and Drake’s whole body lurched forward like a board… He pointed of his fat, pink fingers at Drake and laughed…” Bryce imitates Drake’s seizure and says, “‘Too bad it’s not the type where he shakes and his tongue falls out.’ And he stuck his big, ugly tongue out and pretended to convulse.”
  • When Bryce teases Drake, Scoob “leapt from his seat, hopped the table, and tackled Bryce. Then they were on the floor. Bryce was on his back. Scoob on top of him. Punching. Punching. Punching.”
  • G’ma tells Scoob about April 3rd, 1968 when Martin Luther King’s assassination occurred and a “colored” church was bombed and “four little girls were killed.”
  • G’ma stops in front of Medgar Evers’s house. She tells Scoob, “It was built to house Medgar Evers’s family. Medgar was known for helping black folks get registered to vote back in the day. Also drew national attention to the horrible crime committed against the Till boy, Emmett. He was killed just a few hours north of here… He [Medgar] was shot as he got out of his damn car.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • G’ma drinks bourbon from a flask. She says bourbon “was your G’pop’s favorite.”

Language

  • Heck is used nine times. For example, Scoob thinks, “What the heck was he thinking letting G’ma drag him out into the Mississippi wilderness?”
  • G’ma and Scoob eat at a place called “Damn Yankees.”
  • G’ma calls Bryce a “bonehead.”
  • Darn is used five times. For example, G’ma says, “Not as nimble as I used to be, but this old bird can still start a darn good fire.”
  • G’ma says, “Good lord. Haven’t laughed like that in years.”
  • Damn is used once. Dang is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Scoob tries to find a TV channel, but “the antenna only picks up four channels. One is religious, of the cowboy-looking guy hopping around.” The man says, “I said-ah, the good Lord-ah, he is among us-ah.”

Baseball Saved Us

“Shorty” and his family, along with thousands of Japanese Americans, are forced to relocate from their home to a “camp” after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Fighting the heat, dust, and freezing cold nights in the desert, Shorty and the others at the camp need something to look forward to, even if only for nine innings. So they build a playing field, and in this unlikely place, a baseball league is formed.

Surrounded by barbed-wire fences and guards in towers, Shorty soon finds that he is playing not only to win but to gain dignity and self-respect as well.

Although Baseball Saved Us is a picture book, the story introduces the history of Japanese American internment camps. An unnamed narrator explains the confusion of having to leave his home and the changes that came with living in the internment camp. His older brother begins spending more time with his friends and at one point becomes disrespectful. This event causes the narrator’s father to create the baseball field. With the help of others—inside and outside the camp—the baseball field becomes a reality.

The narrator knows he isn’t “that good” at baseball, but he keeps trying his best. The narrator gets angry that a guard is “always watching, always staring.” At this point, he is able to hit a home run. After that pivotal game, the narrator is back at school, being ignored by all of the white students. Baseball gives him a way to connect with the other kids. The story quickly jumps from the internment camp to events after the war. Because of the story’s choppy flow, readers may need help connecting all of the events together.

The sepia-toned illustrations mimic the colors of the desert where the internment camp was located. In most of the pictures, the faces of the people are indistinguishable, which gives the reader the feeling that the person could be anyone—even someone they know. Both the story and the illustrations explore the topics of prejudice and racism. The narrator learns how to deal with his feelings of anger and resentment. Through baseball, he is able to gain a sense of self-respect.

Although the topic is presented in kid-friendly language, Baseball Saved Us hits on heavy topics that readers may have questions about. Unlike other picture books, Baseball Saved Us has text-heavy pages as well as advanced vocabulary. The story is less about baseball and more about the narrator’s experiences in the internment camp. Baseball Saved Us will leave readers with many questions about World War II and the reasons why Japanese Americans were put in the internment camps. Baseball Saved Us would be an excellent book to read with a child and use as a conversation starter.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When Shorty was up to bat, someone yells “Jap.” The narrator “hadn’t heard that word since before I went to camp—it meant that they hated me.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Burning Queen

In the second installment of Tangled in Time, newly orphaned Rose finds herself time-traveling between the present day and the court of the two most memorable English princesses in history. When Princess Mary ascends the throne in sixteenth-century England, Rose is forced to serve her. Mary’s coronation is coming and Rose is put to work making elaborate gowns. But the religiously devout queen’s next plan is to begin her attack on the Protestants—by burning them at the stake!

Rose’s dad, master spy, and goldsmith for the court, urges Rose to escape to her home century, present-day Indiana, where Rose befriends a young immigrant named Marisol. Rose must protect Marisol from both middle school mean girls and the threat of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Rose is determined to rescue her father and her best friend Franny from the dangers of Queen Mary’s reign. Is she willing to risk everything to save the people closest to her?

Readers who have not read the first Tangled in Time will not be able to understand the events in The Burning Queen. The story focuses on Rose and her friend Marisol, who is undocumented and an unaccompanied minor. Because of her immigration status, Marisol is frightened that ICE will take her to a detention center. Through Marisol’s situation, the pro-immigrant message is clear. This theme is reinforced when a doctor says, “many of us have been migrants at one time in our lives. It is not a crime.”

The story has many inconsistencies and questionable events. Even though the time travel is explained, the explanation is unbelievable. For example, when Rose returns to the past, she somehow knows everything that happened in her absence, and no one noticed that she was gone. Another questionable event is that Rose returns to the past in order to convince her father to travel to her time period; however, when she returns to the past, she hides from her father. In addition, Rose uses modern words and phrases and when people in the past question her, she “blamed every modern phrase she accidentally uttered on West Ditch, her supposed home village.”

Rose has a fashion blog that includes sixteenth-century fashion and modern fashion. Several of her blog posts are included; however, the pictures are of poor quality and do not reflect a modern teen’s blog. Rose uses words from her school vocabulary list, such as ecumenical and alacrity, but she never explains the words’ definitions.

The Burning Queen has many inconsistencies and holes in the plot that even younger readers will question. The complex, confusing plot, the questionable events, and the large cast of characters will make it difficult for readers to stay engaged. Readers may want to leave The Burning Queen on the shelf. For those interested in stories about time travel, the Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier would make a better choice.

Sexual Content

  • Some of the serving class are talking about Queen Mary being healthy enough to carry a child. Rose says, “I think she should bear a husband first. . . All I’m saying is it’s best to have a husband before having a child.”
  • While walking through the castle, Rose sees “two shadows entwined behind a pillar. One shadow was speaking. ‘Oh, I just want to kiss you, my darling. Kiss you and kiss you and don’t make me cry, milady, don’t make me lie, milady.’” Rose thinks it’s curious that the shadows’ words are similar to a modern song, “I just want to make out with you. I want to make time with you. I want to be true to you and only you. . .”
  • Rose has to climb underneath a dinner table to fix Queen Mary’s skirt. While under there, she recognizes a lady’s shoes. “Both her feet and those of the gentleman next to her were involved in an apparently lively conversation. What a hussy!”
  • On Rose’s blog, she wrote that a duchess “got around.”
  • Rose makes a comment that “Elizabeth would be the Virgin Queen.”

Violence

  • When Rose goes back in time, she discovers that Queen Mary “was burning Protestants. . . Burning, hangings, what would be next? Boiling in oil? Oh, the sixteenth-century mind was so creative in devising ways to kill people.”
  • As Rose learns about Queen Mary, she discovers that Lady Jane Grey was the queen for nine days, and in the end was imprisoned and beheaded.
  • Although Rose doesn’t see anyone burned, she comments about the smell and writes in her diary. “The queen seems not to smell it, and as far as I can tell she looks no bigger. If I was that baby, I wouldn’t want to be born. Imagine having your first breath of air filled with the stink of these murders. Yuck! Of course some seem not to mind the stink. . .”
  • Rose writes in her diary, “And I was told that often they tie bags of gunpowder between the victim’s knees to ensure that the person was not only burned but blown to bits.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Rose’s grandmother was “sipping a glass of sherry—just one glass on these cold winter nights.”

Language

  • A mean girl purposely trips Marisol, who drops her lunch tray. When food gets on another girl’s sweater, someone calls Marisol “stupido.”
  • Rose tells Marisol that the mean girls are “jerks.” Later someone else calls someone a jerk.
  • Heck and damn are both used twice. Darn is used four times and dang is used three times.
  • God is used as an exclamation three times. OMG is used as an exclamation eight times.
  • Someone uses “good Lord” as an exclamation.
  • Rose gets upset when a Frosty snowman kept singing a song. Rose thinks, “Go to hell, Frosty, and Melt!”
  • A lady calls a court jester a “loathsome dwarf.”
  • When Rose goes back in time, she uses the acronym TOD. When someone asks what it means, Rose says, “Turd of a dog.”
  • Jeez is used as an exclamation several times.
  • Rose gives her father a gift, and then thinks, “God, what have I done?”
  • Rose tells a girl, “Put a plug in your pug mouth.”
  • Someone calls Rose an idiot.
  • Someone uses “Oh God’s toes” as an exclamation.
    Supernatural
  • Rose’s father is from the 1500s and lived during Bloody Mary’s reign. Rose can go back in time to her father’s time period. In order to go back in time, Rose concentrates on a flower. “Marisol watched, mesmerized, as a vaporous mist began to form around Rose and she slowly dissolved, leaving just a shadow behind. Then a whisper came from the mist, ‘I’ll be back in just a minute or two.’”
  • The women in Rose’s family are able to travel back in time because “we have the gene.”
  • When Rose goes back to the past, she remembers events that she did not witness. “It was a memory she had not forgotten in the least, yet she had not directly experienced it. Her shadow had. Her ghostly counterpart that seemed to carry on without her.”

Spiritual Content

  • When Rose sees Princess Elizabeth wearing her locket, Rose prays, “Oh please, don’t let Princess Elizabeth figure out the secret to opening that locket!” Rose makes this prayer several times.
  • When Marisol falls down in the snow, Rose prays that her grandmother’s driver will answer the phone.
  • Queen Mary was a devout Catholic. Before her coronation, “there was talk of postponing the event. Holy oils that had been consecrated by the previous kings’ priests were used for coronations. But Mary was suspicious of the oil because those priests were Protestants and she was Catholic.”
  • During the sixteenth century, “the pope’s power cannot be questioned. Nor can Queen Mary’s.” When this information is introduced, Rose worries that her friend will be burned alive because she has a Bible. Rose “was absolutely dizzy with fear, with shock. She shut her eyes tight and tried to banish the image of Franny being tied to a stake. The kindling bursting into flames. Then another image came into her mind—the smugglers, the ones they called coyotes, circling Marisol. And the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers. . .”
  • On Christmas Eve, “Marisol was on her knees again, whispering her prayers in Spanish.”
  • Rose wants her Protestant friend to go to mass and pretend to be a devout Catholic. Her friend’s mother tells her, “Only God can see into your heart. He knows what your true faith is.” When Queen Mary is excited about having her baby, Rose thinks, “A baby whose mother had just given the order to set another human on fire for not believing as she did. No God in any religion on earth would want this. Of this Rose was certain.”
  • Queen Mary dictates in a letter, “I’m sure you will rejoice and be pleased with God’s infinite goodness in the happy delivery of our son/daughter.”
  • Rose writes in her diary. “I don’t think God is exactly Mary’s friend. If he is, I am profoundly disappointed in him. There have been ten more burnings!”

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda was always surrounded by music—Spanish songs, Broadway show tunes, and hip-hop. Inspired by his favorite Disney movie, The Little Mermaid, Lin-Manuel would jump up on his desk and sing and dance. Soon Lin-Manuel was performing in school plays and even writing musicals.

However, Lin-Manuel often felt like he lived in two different worlds. His poor neighborhood was mostly Latino, while his school was mostly white. “As one of the only Latino kids in school, Lin-Manuel felt he had two choices. He could try to blend in, or he could try to stand out. He decided to stand out and made sure everyone knew he was proud of being Latino.”

Lin-Manuel went to college and continued to write musicals. With the help of his friends, Lin-Manuel produced an off-Broadway show. While on vacation, Lin-Manuel read a book about Hamilton, and he decided Hamilton was the perfect person to feature in a musical. Even though most of the people in Hamilton’s time were white, Lin-Manuel “thought it was important for the cast to look like America today, not the America of two hundred years ago.”

Lin-Manuel has always used his talent to show others that he is proud of his Latino heritage. Even today, he continues to share his culture with the world. Because of Lin-Manuel’s hard work and dedication, he made his dreams come true. His story can inspire readers to celebrate their heritage, work hard, and make their own dreams come true.

Lin-Manuel’s true story describes his life from early childhood to the present day. Many children will relate to Lin-Manuel’s love of music and Disney. Lin-Manuel’s story is told through both words and pictures. Each page has realistic illustrations that show Lin-Manuel’s life events. Even though Lin-Manuel Miranda is illustrated, the biography is intended for proficient readers. The story has challenging vocabulary words and complex sentence structure.

Lin-Manuel Miranda will inspire confident readers to work hard to make their dreams come true. The back of the book also has facts about Puerto Rico, Broadway, and even how to write your own play. The last page of the book has 10 multiple choice questions that check for reading comprehension. Lin-Manuel Miranda would be a good choice in both a home or classroom situation. Lin-Manuel Miranda will leave readers wanting to see the Broadway hit, Hamilton. The story may also ignite readers’ desire to learning more about American’s early history.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Top Secret Smackdown

Ravens have been stolen from the Tower of London! Mac B.’s top-secret mission? Travel to Iceland and retrieve the ravens. . . or Britain is ruined!

In Iceland, Mac discovers secret submarines, hungry polar bears, mysterious blueprints, and his old archnemesis! Is the KGB man behind this birdnapping? Can Mac get the ravens to safety? It’s time for an epic, top-secret smackdown between these two secret agents!

The third installment of the Mac B. series continues the punny fun. Mac learns more about the United Kingdom’s history as well as the difference between dolphins and porpoises. Mac discovers how a simple story can become an important legend. The queen of England orders Mac to travel to Iceland and solve the mystery. Even though the majority of the story focuses on the mystery of the missing ravens, Mac’s difficulties with his mother’s boyfriend also plays a part in the story.

The queen’s outlandish behavior will make readers giggle. Readers will enjoy the conclusion because it ties all of the events together in a unique way. Top Secret Smackdown mixes humorous puns, a mysterious enemy, and wrestling to create a fun story that will entertain even the most reluctant readers. Short sentences and simple vocabulary will help readers build confidence. Large purple and orange illustrations appear on almost every page, which helps readers envision the story’s events.

Mac tells his own story with humor and puts a spotlight on the absurd. Younger readers will love the adventure, intrigue, and interesting characters. Although Top Secret Smackdown can be read as a stand-alone book, for maximum enjoyment the books should be read in order. Readers who enjoy silly, illustrated stories may also want to read Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Series by Julie Falatko.

Sexual Content

  • The story implies that Mac’s mother’s boyfriend stays the night when he thinks, “usually on Saturday mornings, my mom’s boyfriend, Craig, was camped out in front of the TV watching WrestleFest.”

Violence

  • When Mac goes to Iceland, he looks for clues, and “someone hit me on the head with something very heavy and knocked me out.” When he woke up, Mac was tied to a chair.
  • The president of Iceland is telling Mac a story. She acts out part of the story when “she punched me lightly on my arm. When I tried to block it, she punched me harder in the ribs.”
  • The KGB man ties Mac to a chair. Mac breaks out of the ropes and pretends he is a wrestler on WrestlingFest. Mac “jumped onto the KGB Man’s back. He shook me off. . . I jumped on his back again. The KGB man stood up and threw me to the floor. He tore off his shirt.” During the scuffle, Mac throws a chair, accidentally sparked TNT, and “something exploded. The camera zapped. Its wires fried. The submarine was filling with water.”
  • When Mac escapes the sinking submarine, “there was another blast. . .pieces of metal came flying and knocked my legs out from under me.” Mac falls into the river but is saved.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • The KGB man calls a group of people “fools.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • When Mac is afraid that he might drown, he thinks about Father Thames. “Some people say there is a river god named Father Thames who lives in the waters that run through London. They say he has lived there for a long, long time.” Mac thought he saw Father Thames, but then he realized it was a dolphin.

 

 

Fast-Forward to the Future

Chase and Ava have already traveled to the past twice. When they touch a glowing cube in their magic suitcase, they don’t go to the past. They end up in the future! Even though they recognize where they are, almost everything is different. In the future, they find awesome flying cars and tons of robots. But it doesn’t take long for the villain Randall to find them. Chase and Ava are on the run. They know they need to put the cube back quickly, but can they complete their mission in time? Will Randall steal the cube?

Chase and Ava travel to the future and see a wonderful world where robots have taken the place of human laborers. As Chase and Ava explore, they pass a sign that can recognize people and records their good deeds. The robots record people’s likes and dislikes and help fulfill their desire. When Chase and Ava discover that they can spend someone else’s money, Chase says, “There must have been a mistake back there. We can’t just spend other people’s money.” The two decide that it is okay to spend the money because it actually belongs to the future Chase. The black and white pictures that appear on every page will help readers visualize the imaginative world.

Fast-Forward to the Future portrays an interesting world. The addition of a prototype robot that can talk adds interest. Although Randal makes a brief appearance, most of the plot revolves around exploring the future as well as wondering what will happen if Chase meets his future self. When Chase meets his future self, the younger Chase doesn’t get any answers to the mysteries of the suitcase or Randall.

Fast-Forward to the Future shows an imaginative future where robots and humans are friends. Readers will enjoy seeing a world where ice cream appears on demand, clothes grow to the perfect size, and the restaurant robots remember Chase’s favorite meal. Fast-Forward to the Future is part of the Scholastic’s Branches early chapter books, which have easy-to-read text and illustrations on every page. The story uses short descriptions and dialogue to keep the story moving at a fast pace. The black and white illustrations appear on every page and help break up the text into manageable sections. Fast-Forward to the Future has several characters that appear in book one, which requires the Time Jumpers series to be read in order.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Randall appears and tries to take a robot prototype, “Ava stomps on Randall’s foot! Randall howls and clutches his foot.” Chase and Ava are able to run away from him.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When Chase and Ava touch an object out of an old suitcase, they begin to spin. This time, the siblings notice, “There’s something different about it this time. The images swirling around them are of strange places and objects.” This time, the two travel to the future.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Susanna’s Midnight Ride

Sixteen-year-old Susanna Bolling is struggling to cope with the realities of the American Revolution. She, along with her mother, are the sole residents and operators of their tobacco plantation (and the slaves who work it). Following the death of Susanna’s father and her older brothers’ entry into the American army, Susanna and her mother rely on each other for emotional support and companionship.

Susanna and her mother act as each other’s rock as they are tasked with running a plantation and supporting themselves. Susanna eventually braves the dangers associated with espionage and courageously sneaks into the woods. Alone in the middle of the night, Susanne goes to warn the American Army and General Lafayette of British movements and plans. She braves miles of deep forest riddled with dangerous branches and rattlesnakes. She reaches the American camp and meets with the general but gets desperately lost on the way back home. Is there any way Susanna will be able to sneak back home unnoticed? Will she be captured by the British soldiers?

Susanna’s Midnight Ride is engaging because the reader is encouraged to relate to Susanna and put themselves in her shoes. The reader is left to wonder if they would have the strength to support their mother in a time of crisis or the courage to risk everything to do the right thing. The author characterizes Susanna in a likable and relatable way, so that the readers are empowered to believe that courageous acts are possible for anyone with dedication and loyalty. Susanna’s story shows that fear does not determine if someone is a hero or a coward. Susanna is absolutely terrified to go on her journey but is so determined to help the American cause that she goes into the night regardless.

Susanna’s Midnight Ride is based on historical fact, with a few embellishments, exclusions, and adjustments to make this story suitable for a younger audience. The characters and plot are well developed and highly relatable, and the short chapters will encourage reluctant readers. McNamee creates an engaging story; however, some sections will challenge growing readers. For example, some of the phrases used by General Lafayette are in French, and the reader must use context clues to fully understand his meaning.

The negative representation of slaves on the Bolling plantation may upset readers. An older slave shouts and berates a younger slave for desiring freedom and states, “If I got to be a slave and mu children got to be slaves, I want to be their slave!” This storyline ends as over time the younger slave returns to the Bolling Plantation happily, saying that, “I done made a big mistake leaving the plantation.”

Susanna’s experiences highlight the importance of determination and loyalty. McNamee utilizes a real person’s story to realistically illustrate these lessons. Susanna’s Midnight Ride is a suspenseful and highly engaging story that will encourage readers to learn more about history and be confident when making difficult choices.

Sexual Content

  • Susanna’s cousin often speaks about handsome men and often whines about the “cluster of handsome lads” who she could marry “if it weren’t for this dreadful war.”
  • Susanna describes a prospective suitor, Joseph, who was killed during the war. Susanna thinks, they would have had “lovely red-haired children.”
  • Susanna once flirted with the British soldiers occupying her home and chides herself for “acting as coquettish” as her flirtatious cousin.

Violence

  • Following the death of her son, Joseph’s mother describes her fear that he may have been “dumped into a mass grave” and that she had “nightmares of butchered boys piled in together and left to rot.”
  • Susanna briefly describes the circumstances of the “tragic loss” of her older sister and baby niece. Her sister dies in childbirth “when a baby’s head is too large to pass, there is precious little even the best doctor can do.”
  • A “terrible disease” killed Susanna’s younger sister and left “Mother disfigured with pock-marks all over her face.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Susanna’s mother plots to distract the soldiers by “topping off their drinks again and doling out another round of shots.” She did this so that “they shall sleep like the dead tonight.”

Language

  • Profanity is used sparingly. Profanity includes poppycock, bugger, arse, darn, rubbish, drat, bloody. Each word is used once or twice.
  • The phrases “god awful” and “godforsaken” are used frequently, around 20 times in total.
  • The following words are used as insults on rare occasions: maggot, ninny, tomboy, swine, no-good bum, loggerhead, locust, brute.
  • The words “negro” and “negroes” are used at least once per chapter as characters describe enslaved people.

Supernatural/Spiritual Content.

  • Religious references are almost constant, and are frequently positive or celebratory. For example, during the spinning bee, Susanna proclaims, “God is surely smiling down on his daughters of Liberty today.”
  • McNamee also refers to the Grim Reaper a handful of times. For example, Susanna describes her family’s luck, “The Grim Reaper operates by a code of fairness, the ultimate fallacy. Death follows no rules at all.”
  • There are also constant references to “souls” throughout the story. For example, an older man describes all of the “lost souls” resulting from the war.

by Meg Oshea

 

 

 

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