15 April 2013

In Search of Sasquatch by Kelly Milner Halls

For believers and skeptics, this densely-packed quick read is all about questions that just can't seem to be answered. What is Sasquatch? Learn the history and the theories, uncover sightings, and follow around those who spend their free time trying to catch an ounce of proof of this great being's existence. Science can't quite prove that Big Foot exists; but neither can they disprove it.

Space, Stars, and the Beginning of Time : What the Hubble Telescope Saw by Elaine Scott

For all middle school science fans, this title is a great overview of how we view the world beyond our planet.From the first telescope to the incredible Hubble Space Telescope, though the Big Bang, and all of the black holes, stars, planets, and astronauts in between, there is much to learn about space!

12 April 2013

Beyond Bullets : A Photo Journal of Afghanistan by Rafal Gerszak with Dawn Hunter

Many could not understand why Rafal Gerszak would actually want to volunteer to tag along with the American military in war-torn Afghanistan, let alone insist on returning to the country to live among its citizens, unprotected by any official organization. But, the author's photographs display pretty clearly the connections that kept (and continue to keep) bringing his mind and heart back to the Afghan people.

The first part of this photo-journal offer an inside look at the life of an American soldier in Afghanistan, with notes from the author and his comrades about life on the front lines, as well as the downtime filled with laughter, frivolity, and -- always -- fear. The second half of the book represents the time that the author spent living in Afghanistan as a civilian, showing both the side of war and destruction, as well as the beauty of the land, the culture, and the people of the country.

This cross-section of war and hope in an almost completely devastated country is a heartbreak and an inspiration, and is certainly recommended to all readers.
Reviewed by kate the librarian.

The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O'Connell & Donna M. Jackson, with photograhs by Caitlin O'Connell & Timothy Rodwell

As the largest land mammals, elephants are fascinating creatures, and Caitlin O'Connell, a photographer, scientific researcher, teacher, and non-profit advocate, strives on these pages to tell and show the readers what really makes elephants tick. O'Connell studies elephants in their natural environments and tracks various behaviors of individual elephants, as well as groups of families and groups of males who often travel separately. In particular, she and her research team have learned a tremendous amount about how elephants communicate, most notably through ground vibrations, allowing the animals to detect and notify others about danger or food sources from very far distances. 

With beautiful images and simple-to-understand (but not simplified) text, this nod to elephants is perfect for any middle school student (or adult with a love of elephants!). Also try: Elephant Talk : The Surprising Science of Elephant Communication by Ann Downer.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy

Who would have thought that an intertwining history of bicycling and women's rights would be simply fascinating? Sue Macy presents a comprehensive early history of how the bicycle was created, from the original concept of a two-wheeled "running machine" in 1817, through to the late 19th and early 20th Centuries when bike riding became a more widely accepted method of transportation, exercise, and recreation. While that information, in Macy's text and accompanying pictures and anecdotes, is simply interesting enough to carry the reader on a swiftly-paced journey, the author also ties the evolution of bicycles into the social and political history of the American woman.

At a period in history during which many women were tied to their duties as wives, mothers, and, well, women, bicycles presented a very direct avenue toward freedom and independence. Apparently many girls, who were otherwise always chaperoned, were allowed to go on bike rides alone with groups of friends, including boys. Bicycles were difficult to ride in hoop skirts or long dresses, and so an entire industry began to adjust to split skirts, pants, and shorter wardrobes. Bicycles caught the attention of everyone from Abigail Adams to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, as well as male and female lawmakers, advertisers, manufacturers, and entertainers.

The freedom that many women take for granted in America today often doesn't exist in
other countries. In many ways, this book exists as a nod to the bicycle for changing the way women were treated and the way women behaved in American history, but it also begs for the inclusion of bicycles in everyday life in places like Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya in Africa as encouragement to young girls to keep moving forward . . ..

Reviewed (and highly recommended!) by kate the librarian.

Requiem : Poems of the Terezin Ghetto by Paul B. Janeczko

Paul Janeczko is an award-winning author for youth and is best known for his lyricism and poetry, as well as his ability to tackle harsh topics with a simple hand.

Requiem takes on the lives of those who fought and suffered during the Nazi war era in Czechoslovakia. Verses based upon real incidents of cruelty, love, oppression, and innocence are told in a straightforward voice, and the various perspectives of war are gracefully acknowledged. Though this title may not have appeal to all readers, it's another important look at how the horrors of war affect all ages, abilities, religions, and sides.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.