Title: Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter
Author: Adeline Yen Mah
Publisher: Laurel Leaf
Publication Date: August 2nd, 1999
Age Range: 12 and up
Lexile Reading Level: 960L
After her mother dies giving birth to her, Adeline is considered by her family to be unlucky. Her father eventually remarries, but Adeline and her siblings are treated poorly by her new stepmother while her step-siblings are spoiled. Despite the fact that Adeline does well in school and even wins some prizes, she still doesn’t feel the love from her family that she needs.
Not all youth necessarily understand that there are cultures out there that are different from their own. Even though the experiences detailed in this book occur long before any of today’s youth were alive, they will still be able to glean valuable insights on how other cultures might differ. They will also be able to empathize with the main character and understand how to deal with strong emotions. Readers who are interested in history, Chinese culture, or real-life fairy tale tie-ins will enjoy this book.
Title: Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football’s Make-or-Break Moment
Author: Carla Killough McClafferty
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: November 1st, 2013
Age Range: 10 and up
Lexile Reading Level: No level
More and more evidence has been coming out recently that shows just how dangerous a sport football is. Concussions are all but guaranteed and can have dire consequences. This isn’t the first time that concerns have been raised about the number of concussions in football however. Back in 1905, the sport was basically given an ultimatum. After the season ended, nineteen players were dead and many others were seriously injured. The sport was told to either change or there would be no more football. Obviously, the game did change and over time protective equipment has gotten better. Unfortunately, that hasn’t solved all of football’s problems. With millions of young men playing this sport across the country, many are still concerned.
This book is great for reluctant readers who may prefer watching sports to reading books. Any casual sports fan knows that there is currently controversy surrounding football and the number of concussions that players receive. Concussions themselves are bad, but doctors and others are worried that there are other effects of football that have yet to reveal themselves. With the movie Concussion coming out last year as well, this topic may be more attractive to younger readers than it would have been in the past.
Librarians could create a book club where they read the book and discuss it and current issues. This would be a great way for kids to learn how to apply critical thinking to the things that they’re reading. Afterwards, they could watch the movie Concussion. Other sports books could be available to maybe spark football fans interest in reading:
Out of the Blue, Young Reader’s Edition by Victor Cruz
Through My Eyes: A Quarterback’s Journey, Young Reader’s Edition by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker
Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity by Drew Brees with Chris Fabry (adult)
Manning by Archie & Peyton Manning with John Underwood (adult)
Title: How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial
Author: Darryl Cunningham
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Age Range: 12 and up
Lexile Reading Level: No Level
Cunningham addresses and discusses several different controversial topics in this book including the moon landing, climate change, and evolution. He uses hard science to debunk myths and prove conspiracy theories wrong.
The great thing about this book is that the author has very obviously done a lot of research. Instead of believing sensationalized news articles, he looks to science and data to prove whether or not well-known theories are correct. He states at the beginning of the book that while he believes the things he states in his book, he is open to changing his mind if the science is there to back it up. I think that’s a great lesson for kids to learn at a young age. It’s okay to have beliefs and convictions, but it’s also important to not close our minds to other ideas that are logically/scientifically proven to be possible or correct.
While this book is fun in its current graphic novel format, the illustrations really don’t add much to the narrative. Having the text separated by panels may make it easier to read or process, but a lot of the book consists of speech bubbles over our narrator (see panels 2, 3, 4, and 6) or an aside from the narrator over a picture (see panel 5). It seems like the graphic novel format could have been utilized a little better with diagrams or more interesting illustrations.
Overall, I think this book is a great way to introduce youth to using science to inform decisions and beliefs. In addition, it may help them to be a little more informed about some controversial topics and could actually prove to be a launching pad for more in depth research. The library should also try to have resources that contradict the theories posed in this book just to have a balanced collection and to give patrons both sides of the “story”.
This would be a great book for a book club where youth could get together and discuss the different issues, whether Cunningham has them convinced, and why other people may not believe Cunningham’s arguments.
Title: Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey
Author: Nick Bertozzi
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Age Range: 12 to 18
Lexile Reading Level: GN620L
On Shackleton’s third trip to the Antarctic, he was determined to make it to the South Pole. Unfortunately, the conditions were not ideal and before the crew was even able to set foot on Antarctica, they were forced to turn back. It would take them over two years out on the ice before they were able to get help and make their way back home.
I’d heard about the story of Shackleton when my mother-in-law read a book about him and the crew of the Endurance (I believe it was, Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing, but I’m not sure). His story amazed me. I could not believe that they were out on the ice, in the elements, for so long and that none of his crew died. Shackleton and his crew’s story is so amazing and I think Bertozzi does a really good job translating that story as a graphic novel. He notes at the beginning of the story that, “While [he] strove for historical accuracy in this book, there are some details of the story that are compressed for dramatic reasons”. But he encourages readers who are interested in more details to look to other sources to fill in the gaps. As a reader, I wondered what exactly he meant by having details of the story compressed. After reading the book, I think he means that events seem to happen more quickly in the graphic novel than they actually did in real life. Because of this, I would have appreciated a timeline included somewhere in the book so that I could see where the events were located in the context of other events.
The overall tone of the book is kept fairly light despite the grim events (see page below).
In this scene, they had to operate on one of the crew member’s frostbitten toes. Note how the crew still treats this situation somewhat lightheartedly and even the crew member says afterwards, “They couldn’t kill me, lads!”.
This book would work great in an activity or book club about explorers. There could be different stations set up for each explorer with an activity or two that fit. Other books about other explorers:
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman (nonfiction)
Freedom Beyond the Sea by Waldtraut Lewin (fiction)
First Flight Around the World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won the Race by Tim Grove (nonfiction)
Title: Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America
Author: Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 4th, 2015
Age Range: 12 and up
Lexile Reading Level: 980
Mary Mallon was just a cook in New York City but unbeknownst to her, she was a living carrier of the disease Typhoid. Before doctors caught up with her she’d already been the cause of outbreaks in several families that she had worked for. When she refused treatment, she was “arrested” quarantined on a remote island. The case of Typhoid Mary has been a confusing one for years as other living carriers did not suffer similar fates and were generally allowed to live with their families. Mary alone was unjustly villain-ized by the local media at the time. With her name splashed across headlines and her new nickname, “Typhoid Mary”, Mary Mallon’s reputation was destroyed. This is her story from the beginning, when she is first informed that she is a living carrier, to the end of her life.
To young people, a world where germs are widely thought of as a myth is incomprehensible. Hygiene wasn’t as important and cities were often filthy places where disease was rampant. This book does a great job of helping the reader see the realities of what it was like to live in the 1900’s. Medicine was not nearly as advanced as it is now and a lot of medical treatments and operations were little better than guesswork. I think this book would do great in a display with other books featuring diseases–possible in a Fall or Winter month as cold and flu season is beginning. Here are some other books that could go in the display (both fiction and nonfiction):
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters (fiction) – Spanish Influenza
Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow (nonfiction) – Typhoid
When Plague Strikes: The Black Death, Smallpox, AIDS by James Cross Giblin and David Frampton (nonfiction) – Black Death, Smallpox, AIDS
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (fiction) – Yellow Fever
The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing by Suzanne Jurmain (nonfiction) – Yellow Fever
Queen of Hearts by Martha Brooks (fiction) – Tuberculosis
Title: Loving vs. Virginia
Author: Patricia Hruby Powell; illustrated by Shadra Strickland
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: January 1st, 2017
Age Range: 14-18
Loving vs. Viriginia was the hallmark case that overturned years of laws that made interracial marriage illegal. The story of Milly Jeter and Richard Loving is told in verse from alternating perspectives and readers will be inspired by the courage and love shown by both narrators. Milly and Richard didn’t mean to change any laws, they just wanted to live as a married couple near their families in Virginia. Unfortunately, Milly was black and Richard was white and interracial marriages were illegal in the state of Virginia. They were forced to start their young family while living in D.C., but both were miserable there. Luckily, a young lawyer believed in their case and ended up taking it all the way to the Supreme Court where they won.
This book details a case from our not too distant history as Americans. Laws banning interracial marriage existed as late as 2000 in some places. While both Milly and Richard had passed away before the author had the chance to interview them, Powell was able to speak with several people who knew them personally. She takes their stories and creates beautiful poems out of them. At the same time, Powell also incorporates documents and quotes from the time scattered throughout the book that help the reader to establish where the Lovings fit in with the overall Civil Rights Movement. While readers may pick this book up because of the underlying “love story”, they may find themselves interested in learning more about the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation in general. While this book deals with some heavier themes, the free verse narrative is accessible to younger readers as well.
As a reader, I really loved this book. I loved the way the author made such an impactful topic accessible and interesting to younger readers. My husband and I are a third generation interracial couple in my family. After reading this book, I found out that my grandparents (a white man and a Hispanic woman with dark skin) got married in the 60s and actually lived in the Virginia/D.C. area at the same time that the Lovings did (before the ban on interracial marriage was overturned). I’m grateful that this book prompted me to learn a little more about my own family history and I believe that it might make other readers, teens especially, interested in learning more as well.
This book is especially timely with the new movie Loving coming out on November 4th. Teens who watch the movie may be interested in learning more about the people and the case of Loving vs. Virginia specifically. This book would be perfect for those who aren’t especially strong readers or who simply want to read a little bit more about the case without getting in too deep.
Title: We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
Author: Kadir Nelson
Publisher: Jump At The Sun
Publication Date: January 8, 2008
Age Range: 8-12 years
Lexile Reading Level: 900L
We Are the Ship is a book about the history Negro League Baseball and how it fits in with the overall history of Major League Baseball. The author goes into detail about specific teams and players. Using realistic illustrations, the author is able to hit home the fact that this book is about real people and real baseball players. The book is divided into ten different sections–nine innings plus extra innings–and it is narrated by the collective voice of all those who played Negro League Baseball.
The foreword is written by Hank Aaron (a Negro/Major League Baseball player) which lends credibility to the book as a whole. Hank Aaron was around when some of the events detailed in the book happened. The book also includes end notes, a bibliography, and an index. Overall, the book seems to be historically accurate and those with doubts can look into the author’s sources. While the content is sound, the tone of the book is oddly upbeat and doesn’t seem to give heavy topics enough weight. The included illustrations are strikingly realistic and showcase each of the highlighted players as individuals. However, not all illustrations are historically accurate and the author explains about the artistic licenses he took with the illustrations in an author’s note at the end of the book.
Overall, this book would be a great read for any youth who are interested in the history of baseball. While many are probably familiar with the names Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, less will recognize the names Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. In addition, this book is also a good resource for introducing the topic of racism to younger children in a way that they may be able to process better.