This book, while non-fiction, reads like an adventure novel. The story of Minamoto Yoshitsune is larger than life and the bravery, betrayals, and brutal ending felt like the best kind of Hollywood epic. When Yoshitsune was just a baby, his father was killed by a rival clan. Raised in a monastery, Yoshitsune was determined to escape and learn the way of the Samurai. Despite a late start in training, he became one of the most famous samurai of all time known for his fearless leadership in battle and the fierce loyalty he inspired among his men. But not everyone loved Yoshitsune, and when he was finally betrayed his death by seppuku would solidify the practice in Samurai tradition. Don't miss this thrilling tale!
Samurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner, Illustrated by Gareth Hinds
Erica's Picks 6th & up Tags: Adventure, Biography, Fast-Paced, History, Nonfiction, People of Color
John Brown is a controversial figure: depending on your perspective he could be seen as an inspiration who stopped at nothing to fight for what he thought was right or as one of the earliest domestic terrorists. The truth lies somewhere in the murky area between these two extremes. Read this book to uncover the bloody and complicated history of slavery, the civil war, and John Brown.
I really enjoyed the nuanced approach Marrin took towards John Brown but my favorite parts were when he pulled back to provide further context. His section on the history of slavery was excellent. Marrin doesn't pull any punches and he doesn't come down on any one side but allows the reader to explore the complexities of history and see multiple perspectives.
A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown's War Against Slavery by Albert Marrin
The Romanov family reigned over Russia in a time when unrest was growing and trouble was on the horizon. As the world outside changed, they grew increasingly out of touch as their isolation both protected and endangered them. Then, on one infamous day, the whole family was murdered to end the imperial line. Rumors of the survival of the young Anastasia spread, but the fate of the family was sealed. What led to this event and what was it like to grow up in Russia's last royal family? Find out in The Family Romanov!
This nonfiction book reads like a novel as the characters are developed and the plot races towards its inevitable tragic end. Fleming did an excellent job taking a really complicated era and making it understandable. Additional excerpts about lives of the peasants at the time helps to provide a wider context and make sense of what happened. An excellent read!
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming
"My mother has a gap between her two front teeth. So does Daddy Gunnar. Each child in this family has the same space connecting us."
It's hard to write anything about this book that will do it justice. On the surface it's a memoir about an African American author growing up during the Civil Rights Movement. But it's not really about any one thing just as a person's life isn't about any one thing. There are parts about her family, her struggles with learning to read, and how she eventually found her voice as an author. The things Woodson chooses to describe are just as interesting as the way she chooses to describe them. The language is simply gorgeous. If you have an interest in memoirs, history, poetry, family life, or just want to read something extremely well-written then this is the book for you.
"On paper, things can live forever. On paper, a butterfly never dies."
Erica's Picks 4th - 7th Grade Tags: Biography, Family Life, History, Novels in Verse, People of Color, Poetry
Come one, come all and learn about the extraordinary life of P.T. Barnum and the stupendous history of his American Museum and the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Barnum was famous for many attractions: 25 in. tall Tom Thumb, Zazel the human cannonball, Salamander the fire horse, and an 11 and a 1/2 ft. tall elephant named Jumbo to name a few. But perhaps the biggest attraction was P.T. Barnum himself. He made the famous American Museum, watched it burn down, and built it again only to have it catch fire once more. He then entered the circus business at age sixty, inventing the three ring circus layout. P.T. Barnum was a showman above all else, and his life was one great show.
Every page contained an amusing tidbit--much like the museum Barnum built his fame and fortune on. My favorite anecdote from the book is that of ivy island, but I don't want to give it away--you'll have to read it for yourself! I'd give this to anyone with an interest in life in the Victorian Era or entertainment, especially of the circus and sideshow variety.
The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum by Candace Fleming
For most people the name Darwin brings to mind an old, serious-looking man with a long, white beard. Not Charley Darwin--the small boy who couldn't sit still in class because he'd rather be outside collecting specimens. Darwin's life was not always certain and the man who would go on to become one of the most important and controversial scientists of his day was once a young man, unsure of himself and without a clue as to what he'd do with his life. This book follows that boy from his days as a mediocre student worshiping his older brother through his growth into the young man who joined the Beagle Expedition and set off on a trip around the world.
It is easy to relate to the young Darwin and the picture of his life as a young boy is charming and surprising. It’s a great story for anyone with an interest in history, natural science, or adventure.
The True Adventures of Charley Darwin by Carolyn Meyer
Zeina was born into a civil war, and it is still raging on. Beirut is divided into the Christian East and the Muslim West, and Zeina lives in an apartment overlooking the demarcation line between them. She is used to the sounds of shelling and the constant blackouts. This day is different though. Her parents have gone out to visit her grandmother, and they haven't returned. It's not far, and it should be an easy trip, but even the simplest trip can turn deadly when snipers who fire at civilians are stationed on the roofs of the buildings. Her neighbors have gathered around to wait with her for her parents to return, and in the midst of tragedy they chat and laugh and live their lives.
This comic is about people trying to live normal lives in extraordinary circumstances.The war is inescapable. It permeates every aspect of their lives in incredible ways. At one point someone takes out their wedding photos and describes how everyone had to run to the church amid sniper fire. The artwork is simple black and white drawings, but wonderfully creative and expressive. It's easy to read about a war and forget about the civilians and the children, committing acts of bravery all the time just by living. I'm glad that Abirached shared their story and hers with us.
A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return by Zeina Abirached
Erica's Picks 6th - 8th Grade Tags: Biography, Comics, Family Life, Issues Fiction, People of Color
It started with breaking colts: ten cents a horse. Then one day Nat got lucky in a raffle and he used his winnings to head out West. Before long he found a cattle team and when they tested him on their wildest horse he showed them what he could do. He joined on and they fixed him up with new clothes, a gun, and a new name. Nat Love became Deadwood Dick as he adopted the cowboy lifestyle. His new life is full of adventures. The storms, stampedes, and raids make him feel more alive--but they may also kill him.
I loved the artwork in this comic--the bold colors captured the various highs and lows of the story and the sketchy style matched the dirty, fast-paced lifestyle. The story is fascinating--all the more so because it is based on real events. Nat was born as a slave, then became a famously skilled cowboy, and finally ended up as a Pullman Porter. Fans of old west adventures, history, and comics will find plenty to keep them happy in these pages.
Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love by Patricia C. McKissack, Frederick L. McKissack, & Randy DuBurke
Erica's Picks 4th - 8th Grade Tags: Adventure, Biography, Comics, Cowboys, Fast-Paced, Historical Fiction, People of Color
Neftali looks up to his father and is eager to please him, but everything that he does just seems to disappoint. Neftali's father disapproves of the little treasures that he stops to pick up wherever he goes: a pinecone, an old boot, a shell. His father is embarrassed by Neftali’s small size and stutter. But the most common reprimand Neftali hears is "Stop that incessant daydreaming!" Neftali wants to please his father, but how can he stop contemplating the world when it is full of such wonders?
True to its title, this book has a lovely lyrical, dream-like quality. It reflects the personality of Neftali perfectly and this mood is enhanced by lines of verse and surreal drawings throughout the text. Fellow daydreamers, writers, and artists will find inspiration in this story based on the childhood of the famous poet Pablo Neruda.
The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan & Peter Sis
Erica's Picks 3rd - 6th Grade Tags: Biography, Character Driven, People of Color, Poetry
Today Superman is best known for battling Lex Luthor and other super villains. But before Superman came to stand for "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" he was known as the "Champion of the Oppressed" and he regularly battled dictators, terrorists, and spies. In the summer of 1946 the Man of Steel even took on the Ku Klux Klan. Attacking the infamous organization was a dangerous affair for the creators of the show, and it required careful planning. Intelligence was gathered from spies who had infiltrated the organization. This is the true story of two outcast kids who grew up to create an iconic American hero, an activist and spy who wasn't afraid to fight for what he believed in, and an infamous organization that used hate-filled rhetoric to feed its greed.
This book contained a trove of interesting information and skillfully balanced multiple threads. I enjoyed reading about the real-life people associated with Superman. This has a little something for everyone and is a quick to read. Naturally it has some appeal for superhero fans, but a love or even knowledge of comics isn't necessary to enjoy the book.
Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate by Rick Bowers