Chicago YA Non fiction

A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919

As a lifelong Chicagoan, I’m surprised that I had never learned of this time in the cities history. In all honesty, we haven’t come too far in race relations, and I think this book paints a picture of how things were and help kids try and change the way things are today.  Chicago was and still is a segregated city to some extent. “A Few Drops” focuses on the Stockyard, the burgeoning labor unions, Eastern European immigration, and the vast migration and the effects of housing discrimination as a formula for disaster. I’ll be using it in our curriculum next Spring as part of our social studies curriculum. I’m running short on time today. This is from the publisher:

On a hot day in July 1919, five black youths went swimming in Lake Michigan, unintentionally floating close to the “white” beach. An angry white man began throwing stones at the boys, striking and killing one. Racial conflict on the beach erupted into days of urban violence that shook the city of Chicago to its foundations. This mesmerizing narrative draws on contemporary accounts as it traces the roots of the explosion that had been building for decades in race relations, politics, business, and clashes of culture. Archival photos and prints, source notes, bibliography, index.

Verdict- Buy

A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 By Claire Hartfield  January 2, 2018


Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

The real (long 500 page) story behind the stories. Including the fact that sadly Rose Wilder was not a typical person, i.e., Professional Libertarian Fascist Child Abuser.  Laura and Almonzo fumbled their way through life (as we all do) and had the biases of their time. As we all should have realized the Little House books are a re-telling of real events- they weren’t real stories. (A little piece of my childhood just dies to admit that)

 I knew that the chronological order of Laura’s life was:

Wisconsin Kansas Wisconsin

and Little House in the Big Woods squashed the two Wisconsin periods together.

I didn’t know that the lovely descriptions in the Big Woods of the attic stocked with food were made possible by the renters of said Little House. Ma and Pa didn’t grow and harvest all that food- someone else did. It’s the theme- the Ingalls family bumbles along, doing their thing, running out on their debt payments, accepting charity while not returning it.

Ugh. It’s all the way people are in real life, and I have turned to the Little House books as an example of how through hard work and perseverance a family can succeed together.  The fact that many events in the books are spun into something else is just a disappointment on so many levels. There seemed to be no end to the revelations that stunned me.

Rose- yuck. It’s not Laura’s fault that Rose is a nutcase- but I did not expect a Little House biography to include Rose backstabbing Laura repeatedly and a bunch of other nonsense that you have to read to believe. Example- Rose lives in Albania for a while and is planning a palace with servants and guns to keep out the riff-raff all while she is virtually penniless. Nice.

Verdict- borrow (unless you are Laura obsessed)

I bought this after seeing all the buzz on Twitter. It isn’t the kind of book I like to buy as I probably won’t re-read it, but the library hold list was enormously long, and so I treated myself.


Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder By Caroline Fraser

For more talk about this book go forth and read Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings

MG Non fiction

Escape from Aleppo

Oh, my heart. Aleppo and all of Syria has faded from the US newscasts, and that is bordering on criminal when you dive into the situation there. 

Nadia and her family live in an Aleppo and are attempting to leave the country as the war near them escalates. As they are going Nadia is frozen in anxiety and fear as she sees the helicopters approaching and gets trapped as her building gets blown up around her. Her family hopes that she is just stuck in the rubble and moves on for the safety of the group. They leave a note for her at their designated meeting place with further directions of how she can meet up with them.

The story flashes back just a few years and gives the reader glimpses into the fact that Nadia and her family are just like Americans. They have Facebook and Twitter where they monitor current events and try to make sense of what is happening around them. Nadia has a great birthday party and watches Arab Idol. Flash forward to the present and Nadia is forced to make her way across a war zone with the help of an old, ill man and two boys that she meets along the way. Although they are in constant danger they are resourceful and there is a happy ending.


I received a DRC from the publisher (through NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Verdict- Buy (I’ve already pre-ordered) 

Escape from Aleppo By N.H. Senzai


Kindle Oasis Review

I’ve had my new Kindle Oasis for approximately one week. So far I’m a big fan. After the opening the box and heading over to the manage my device page at Amazon I giggled a bit at Jennifer’s seventh Kindle. We’re a big family of readers. Here is our Kindle history:

1. The original Kindle- I loved carrying all those books around digitally! I had that one until it fell off a shelf and suffered a broken screen.

2. Kindle Paperwhite- I ended up giving it to kid #2 soon after getting it so he could read at the job site.

3. Kindle Fire HDX- I could download movies and books one device? Yes, please. Ended up passing that one on to Kid #5 so he would have entertainment in the car while we commuted up North.

4. Kindle Fire 4 and 5 belong to Kids #1 and #3.

5. Kindle Fire 6- my current Kindle up to this morning. It’s about two years old, and the battery just isn’t lasting all day when I’m out and about. It’s heavy too- I have some herniated discs that do not like me carrying anything of any weight around. 

I had some birthday money (Thanks, Mom!) combined with an Amazon credit that made this luxurious Oasis a possibility. 

First impressions:

This Oasis is so light and thin.  I know that they all are- the tech for reading is much lighter than the tech needed for the Fire. I can easily carry this with me all the time. The fact that it’s waterproof makes that even more possible. I did order a screen protector because I’m worried that I’ll scratch it when I put it in my bag. Do you need an Oasis vs. a Paperwhite? Obviously, no. Two features made me cough up the extra dough:

The lighting adjusts as your eyes get used to the dark and that as it turns out is excellent. Also, I like the button on the right side for turning pages rather than the touchscreen. My hand rests naturally, and the Oasis is so light that my hand doesn’t get tired. 

Would I buy one for my kids- No.

Am I happy I bought it? Yes. Goodreads says I’ve read almost 200 books this year so I look at it as a tool for my book review hobby.