Monday, May 25, 2015

Doable: the girls' guide to accomplishing just about anything by Deborah Reber

Doable: the girls' guide to accomplishing just about anything

by Deborah Reber
Simon Pulse. 2015
ISBN: 9781582704678
Grades 10 thru adult
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library

I’ve been taking a class in Leadership; it’s really a course in Coaching. I took it with the intention of becoming a more effective manager at work, but also a supportive friend and mentor (replace ego with listening and validation). As I go deeper into myself and my work style, I keep thinking about the various goals I’ve had over the years. Are they still doable or realistic? Was my inability to accomplish those goals based on fear? Were my goal too vague? Or was the problem that I didn’t know the necessary steps to take to make them work? But, you know how sometimes you keep chewing away at things? For me, it was thinking about goals, objectives and missed opportunities. And then this book fell into my path and I felt as if the author was speaking to me directly. The book that changed my thinking was Doable: the girls’ guide to accomplishing just about anything by Deborah Reber. 

The goal of Doable is to give teen girls the tools they need to be as productive as they want to be. To turn any goal or pursuit into a doable venture. Reber is a professional writer, blogger, and life coach who works to empower teen girls.

The book is set up like a workbook with each task broken up into eight “doable” steps all clearly explained. Step 1:  What do you want to do? Readers will go from naming their specific goal, mapping it out, defining all the tasks involved, actually doing the work, dealing with setbacks to finally delivering the goods. Reber combines actual real-life examples with her advice using a down-to-earth chatty tone that is always supportive. 

I especially liked how, right in the beginning, Reber explains that some “Doers” suffer from overly vague goals. When a goal is too vague, it can’t be measured, which means there’s no way of knowing when and if you’ve actually reached it. Working toward vague goals is about as productive as running on a life-sized hamster wheel (although at least in that case you’re getting a decent workout). Peppered throughout every chapter are sidebars that clarify what’s being discussed in the text or includes actions to be done before continuing on to the next step. A motivational summary that condenses all the information discussed ties up each chapter. 

I urge librarians to make this book available to those students who seem to be a bit lost. We all know those students who possess a certain charm that draws people to them. We describe them as lucky. They seem to have so much going for them. Maybe they had supportive parents, caring teachers or other adults who taught them early on how to make their goals a reality. I see Doable: the girls’ guide to accomplishing just about anything as an excellent resource to pass on to those other girls who, though they have dreams, often lack the necessary guidance to help them see it through.

I do have one very minor complaint about the book's layout. The font is grayscale, not black. Combined with the gray sidebars the font doesn't jump out, making reading the book seem more laborious. Still, the information is crucial to the very audience who might cast this book aside for its lack of visual appeal.

Doable is being marketed as a guide for teen girls, but, really, it is also extremely useful for boys and adults, too.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Gordon Parks: how the photographer captured Black & White America by Carole Boston Weatherford

Gordon Parks: How the photographer captured Black and White America
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford; Illustrated by Jamey Christoph
Albert Whitman & Company. 2015
ISBN: 9780807530177
Grades 3 thru 12
I borrowed this book out of my local public library

As mentioned in the review of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, by 1902 the gains African Americans made for equality during the Reconstruction had slipped away. Though the Civil War had made them free men and women, still, the message was clearly stated that African Americans did not have the same rights, same educational or professional opportunities as whites. 

Gordon Parks was born in 1912 in the state of Kansas. His white teacher told her all-black class, You’ll all wind up as porters and waiters. At age twenty-five, Parks bought himself a camera and started taking picture after seeing a magazine spread on migrant farm workers. It wouldn’t be long before Parks would use his camera to lay bare rascism.

He would be the first black photographer for Vogue and Life Magazine; the first African American to write and direct a feature film.

Christoph’s double-page illustrations resemble a photograph that pays close attention to historic detail. He perfectly captures the essence written in the text, especially in the drawing of the dark alleys where African Americans are living in poverty while the bright white U.S. Capital shines against the blue sky as if saying that our laws only supported white America. 

Back matter includes a brief bio of Parks and Author’s note. 

Park's photographs brought racism to the foreground. He would remain active until his death in 2006. He published several books, and directed the hit movie, Shaft in 1971. 

For more information about Parks, visit the Gordon Parks Foundation. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club
by Phillip Hoose
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0374300227
Grades 6 and up
On shelves May 12, 2015

The reviewer received an advanced digital copy of the book from the publisher.

I enjoy reading about people and events from history that I had never heard of before, especially when it's from a time period that has been written about extensively. There are several nonfiction titles that fall into this category: The Port Chicago 50 by Steven Sheinkin,  Lincoln's Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin, Searching for Sarah Rector by Tanya Bolden and Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. Hoose has a new nonfiction book for young adults that introduces readers to a little-known group of teens who made a difference. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler follows the work of brave boys from Denmark who created a club to sabotage the Nazis during World War II.

Hoose explains in the introduction that he got he idea for the book while on a bicycle tour of Denmark where he visited the Museum of Danish Resistance and viewed an exhibit about The Churchill Club.  The author researched the book by extensively interviewing Knud Pedersen in person and via email. The result is a gripping, edge-of-your seat, nonfiction book about how young saboteurs attempted to thwart the Nazis.

Hoose's narrative style includes interesting details that help readers picture the story in their minds. The Churchill Club met at Pedersen's home after school where they planned their missions. They named their club after Winston Churchill, whom they greatly admired. The most compelling aspect of the story comes from Pedersen's first person account of how the boys set fire to railway cars, stole weapons from German soldiers, and vandalized Nazi vehicles and buildings. Pedersen explains that the group decided to fight back despite the risks involved because they felt the Danish government had given up; they wanted to stand up to the Nazis like the Norwegians.

Black and white photographs and primary documents placed throughout the book provide more information about the events and time period. One memorable photo shows members of the Churchill Club posing with their prison numbers in the yard at the King Hans Gades Jail. Readers will enjoy reading about how the boys continued to wreak havoc with Nazi operations even as they served time in jail.  This is the perfect book for teens looking for an exciting, true adventure story. Pair The Boys Who Challenged Hitler with His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg by Louise Borden or The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson.

Click here to access discussion questions for The Boys Who Challenged Hitler.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch written by Chris Barton; illustrated by Don Tate

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
Written by Chris Barton; Illustrated by Don Tate
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 2015
ISBN: 9780802853790
Grades 4-8
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

The Amazing Story of John Roy Lynch is about a man who went from a teenage field slave to U.S. Congressman in just ten years. It was quite a journey and Barton highlights Lynch's ingenuity, focus, and luck. 

John Roy Lynch was born in 1847, in Louisiana. His father was Irish and his mother was enslaved. His father worked as an overseer and hoped, one day, to save enough to buy his wife and children's freedom. Unfortunately, he died and John Roy, his mother and brother were sold.

Until he was fifteen, John Roy worked as a house slave, but after insulting the woman of the house he was sent to labor in the cotton fields. When the Civil War began, Lynch worked for the Union Army until the period we call Reconstruction. From 1865-1877, the U.S. government tried to figure out how to work with those southern states that chose succession; they attempted to convince all Americans to see African Americans as citizens with rights equal to white folks. By 1870, John Roy Lynch was one of sixteen African Americans from former Confederate States who served in the U.S. Congress.

Between 1902 and 1972, there were no African Americans in the U.S. Congress. Barton states in the historical notes. Put simply, white Southerners resisted and then reversed --through legislation and violence--the extensions of freedom to their black neighbors. And as Reconstruction neared its end, the U.S. government did not keep up its efforts to protect its African American citizens in those states.

Don Tate's mixed media full-page illustrations show a determined Lynch as he moves from childhood to congressman. Tate successfully balances the cheerfulness of Lynch's accomplishments with the dark times of violence. Readers see that even while Lynch was serving his country in Washington, D.C., back in the southern states the rise of violence towards African American escalated. Back home, white terrorists burn black schools and black churches. They armed themselves on Election Day to keep blacks away. They even committed murder. 

The story of John Roy Lynch begins the dialogue about the period of Reconstruction and why it is so important to our understanding of the courage and dedication needed for the Civil Rights Movement to succeed. Back matter includes a historical note, timeline, author and illustrator note, suggestions for further reading, and a map of the Reconstructed United States in 1870.

The book closes with these words from Lynch that resonates today.
When every man, woman, and child can feel and know that his, her, and their rights are fully protected by the strong arm of a generous and grateful Republic, then we can all truthfully say that this land of ours, over which the Star Spangled Banner so triumphantly waves, is, in truth and in fact, the "land of the free and the home of the brave."

For more information about this book that includes a book trailer, go here.