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book review

Utopia For Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World

I loved the ideas behind this book. I’m not fully convinced that if we (as Americans) went out on a ledge to try something this different that it would be successful. The chapter on open borders was excellent and all the more relevant given the issues currently facing Europe and GB. He has a good way of making fairly complicated economic functions understandable, and I particularly enjoyed his views on GDP as an indicator of how well a society is functioning for its citizens.  In no way would I say this book is written as a balanced treatise. It’s more of a manifesto. I’m certainly not opposed to dreaming big and we do need to think outside the box to solve the worldwide pervasive problem of poverty. I think a basic income system is worth a good long look and possibly a pilot program. Before reading this book I had no idea that Nixon had already tried it. What I know from experience is that people are trapped in their circumstances in a way that only money can fix. I also enjoyed the foray into the world of The Jetson’s, a world I felt that I had been promised and have yet to receive. George Jetson had a nine-hour workweek which seems legit in a society where robots are doing most of the manual labor. Mr. Bregman suggests a 15-hour workweek that I feel is a pipe dream at this point in American history.We would need to reverse the current incentives. Right now it’s cheaper for employers to have one person work overtime than to hire 2 part time mostly because health care benefits are paid per employee instead of per hour. Basically, he says that either collective action by companies or countries would have to take place. I would be a fan of both the shorter work week and the basic income. At this point we need to make huge sweeping changes, I’m just not sure enough people understand that. Despite my misgivings about some of the conclusions that the author draws I do recommend this book. It’s out of the box thinking and if nothing else can supply readers with plenty to discuss and debate.

I read a DRC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World

Hardcover – March 14, 2017

by Rutger Bregman

Categories
book review MG fiction

A Night Divided

This is historical fiction at it’s best. Good historical fiction makes you feel like you are experiencing that point in time like no textbook account ever could. I remember when the wall was taken down but never gave much thought to how it was built. It seems very appropriate right now for children to learn what living next to a wall is like.

Gerta and her family live in Germany and one night while her Dad and brother are away in West Germany the wall goes up and their family is divided. With Gerta as our narrator, we find out that her father has a history of activism and that her family is being watched by the GDR officials almost constantly. As the story progresses, Gerta and her brother realize that their only hope is to leave East Germany because there is no way their father and brother will be allowed back in and her brother will be forced to join the military if they stay. The story takes us through all four years that they are separated until the conclusion which kept me on the edge of my seat with anticipation.

I borrowed this book from the Chicago Public Library and read it to review and to include in our World History booklist that I plan to use next year during sixth grade.

A Night Divided

Hardcover – August 25, 2015

by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Author)

Categories
book review YA Non fiction

How to start, carry on and end conversations

I’ve just started looking into books to help my ASD kids improve their functioning level in public situations. I found it to be helpful for myself as well. The beginning of the book includes scripts for thinking. This self-talk is so useful for kids (and adults) who often do not read people and situations very well. Scripts for different situations along with responses that can be memorized and pulled out when needed.

The author uses a first person casual tone and speaks directly to the reader using phrases like “people like you and me” You could definitely hand this book to a 10 yo and up if they wanted to read it themselves. It also includes advice like ‘When Mom and Dad are speaking to me I can stand near them so that they know I am listening” Building up to making eye contact is another section.

Chapters include making friends, managing conversations, special interests (when not to gush about your obsession),  Dealing with the Unexpected ( a big one for me), and the final chapter – Thinking differently can be a problem. The author explains in a down-to-earth way that most of the readers are very talented in certain areas and maybe not so talented in others. They may feel more anxious or be more distracted than their classmates and that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

We’re buying this book- although I read it as a DRC in exchange for an honest review.

How to start, carry on and end conversations

by Paul Jordan (Author), Tony Attwood (Foreword)

Paperback – March 21, 2017

Categories
book review MG fiction

The War that Saved My Life

Best book ever.

Ok, well you probably want to know more, and I know my current favorite is always the best book ever until the next best book ever.

I read another review that calls this Anne of Green Gables minus the whimsy. That’s it exactly except it’s set during WW2 and our heroine has a brother and a mother (in name only) popping in and out of the picture. Ada isn’t completely alone although she acts like it. It takes her a long time to let her guard down when she and her brother are sent out of London with the other evacuees.

The twist to this story is that Ada and her brother have been horribly abused by their mother. Ada has an untreated clubfoot and before being sent to Kent had never left her apartment. She was basically a stereotypical feral child. That made her journey into normalcy enormously satisfying for the reader. I do hope there will be a sequel.

We borrowed this book from the Chicago Public Library to read in our homeschool. ( I wish we owned it, but I’m trying not to buy books this year- darn it)

The War that Saved My Life

Written By: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Published: January 8, 2015

Edited to add: Found the sequel info!!

The War I Finally Won Hardcover – October 3, 2017

Categories
book review MG fiction

The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan

One of my favorite books in a long time. Really. I sped through this one in a day. On and off switching the laundry with my Kindle propped up precariously on piles of clothes I read and wondered if Kit was going to be able to get the proof she needed to put her Dad’s murderer in jail.

In 1905 as a thirteen-year-old girl Kit was supposed to be going to school and thinking about getting married. Instead, she was brave enough to tackle the challenges life sent her way. Her adventures included dressing as a boy to work at a newspaper and then going undercover to the mine to search for evidence. She had help from her friends, and some people that she didn’t know were friends.

She takes what she has learned from reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and applies it to her situation.

I loved how at the conclusion her Aunt gifts her a copy of Around the World in 72 Days written by Nellie Bly. That book is now on my wishlist too.

I read the digital galley of The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan in exchange for an honest review.

Written by:  Patricia Bailey published April 25, 2017.

Categories
book review YA Non fiction

The Not-Quite States of America

I’m not too proud to say that I’ve never entirely understood territories. Puerto Rico, for instance, it’s the US, but only kind of? Why aren’t these places states? Doug Mack also wondered about that and took some research trips/paid vacations? To these territories as an average American to figure it out for us. This isn’t YA, but it is utterly appropriate for high school students.

By the way, I’m available to travel to any sunny island if any publishers would like to foot the bill for me to “research” some book.

This book takes you from the mainland US to BMVI to American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands. I had to check maps several times while reading to tell precisely where he was. More of a history book by a hair than a travelogue, I finally understand how we got to “own” these far-flung countries and why. The tone is similar to Bill Bryson which explains why I like it so much. I’m adding this one to my high school history reading list.

Categories
Cybils Nominee MG Non fiction

Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter, Nellie Bly

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Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter, Nellie Bly

Written By: Deborah Noyes

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (February 23, 2016)

MG Nonfiction

Borrowed from the Chicago Public Library as a Cybils nominee

Nellie Bly could have invented the term “girl power,” and she owned a monkey. What more could you ask for in a biography? She was very definitely ahead of her time.

 I think if I lived back then I would have liked her very much. She was the kind of person that figured out how to get what she wanted out of life. She went off to New York in 1887 on her own and managed to become primarily the first female investigative reporter ever. In those days journalism was strictly for males except fashion and society type columns. She volunteered to go undercover and be committed to the insane asylum for her first story. I found it strange that the expose is in the title of this book as that is only one part of her story. I guess the publisher thought that is the story she is most known for?

I was entertained by her trip around the world and the fact that she brought just one carry-on bag. I’d say she would be in the running for the first minimalist as well. I think it spoke to her independent spirit that she purchased a pet monkey on that trip as well.

My only complaint was that the sidebars didn’t have good flow and they jumped around in time which could get confusing for the reader.

 I read Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books a few months ago and was struck by the similarities between Rose and Pinkie Cochran (as Nellie was known a child).

Categories
Cybils Nominee MG Non fiction

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story

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Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story

Written By: Caren Stelson

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books (October 1, 2016)

I borrowed this book to read as a Cybils Awards nominee. I ended up buying it and it won in 2016.

Words that come to mind after closing this book: harrowing, distressing, torturous, traumatic, heartbreaking.

“What happened to me must never happen to you.”–Sachiko Yasui

And that begins the telling of a first-person account from a six-year-old girl. Eventually, she is the only surviving member of her family and feels a sense of duty to tell their story in an attempt to not let the horror be forgotten and then repeated. All holocausts should be commemorated. What the US government did to Nagasaki after Hiroshima was a horror of unprecedented proportions. The fact that this isn’t being taught that way in schools says something about censorship even within the US.

The layout is practically perfect. Normally in these kinds of books, I find the whole sidebar thing disrupts the story or just feels disjointed. Not in this case. Each sidebar flows and explains the history you need to know at that exact point in the story.

I think this book should be read by all middle-grade students as a part of their study of WW2 and high school students also if they haven’t already read it. In a homeschool setting, you could easily go off on rabbit trails considering Sachiko’s heroes: Gandhi and Helen Keller. In either classroom or home, you’ll want to hand a box of tissues over alongside this one.

Categories
book review MG fiction

Orphan Island

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This story is so full of the best kind of imagery. It takes hold of you on page one and doesn’t let go until the end. It’s the kind of book that I had to let stay in my mind for awhile before starting a new book. On an island, in the middle of the ocean, nine orphans live together. The island’s beginnings are a mystery, but the island protects the children, providing all they need. Each year, a small boat arrives to take the oldest child (the Elder) away and to bring the newest, youngest child ashore. The next oldest child then becomes the new Elder and is in charge of the new arrival, their Care. This is how it’s always been and how it always will be. I was worried that this would somehow fall into the Lord of the Flies somehow and spent the first few chapters dreading when things would go south. (Spoiler: It doesn’t. Whew.) What it does do is give you a warm, cozy feeling all while recognizing that growing up is full of uncertainties whether you live on an island or not. I highly recommend this book for middle graders.

I read a DRC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Orphan Island

written by Laurel Snyder  Published: May 30th, 2017 by Walden Pond Press

Categories
Cybils Nominee YA Non fiction

In the Shadow of Liberty

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In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives

Written By: Kenneth C Davis

Published By: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (September 20, 2016)

YA Nonfiction

Cybils Nominee- Borrowed from the Chicago Library

Well, I’m buying this one too. The narrative to this nonfiction or historical fiction is riveting.

I read another review that said that this should be required reading in American History and I totally agree.

The author tells the life story of five black people that are slaves owned by four Presidents of the United States. Noting truthfully that while these men were ready to fight England so that all men would be equal they didn’t mean black people.

Most of the stories are incomplete as there was insufficient documentation of anyone who wasn’t white in those times. Not even their actual dates or death or burial spots are always known.

This is an excellent introduction to middle school and high school age kids to learn how slavery was commonplace during this time of history.

I also liked that the author acknowledged that any interviews with the slaves themselves have to be taken with a grain of salt because their interviewer was white and that their owner would know what was said.