Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, November 13, 2017

The 57 Bus: a true story of two teenagers and the crime that changed their lives By Dashka Slater



The 57 Bus: a true story of two teenagers and the crime that changed their lives

By Dashka Slater

Farrar Straus Giroux. 2017

ISBN: 9780374303235

Grades 7 and up
Note: While Cathy is out on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy will return February, 2018.


Sasha and Richard were high school students living in Oakland, California. Sasha was middle-class and attended a small, private school. Richard lived in one of the poorer Oakland neighborhoods and attended a large public school. For eight minutes every day their paths crossed on the 57 bus. Then, one afternoon, Richard set fire to Sasha’s skirt. A reckless act that left Sasha with severe burns and Richard charged with two hate crimes and life imprisonment. 


Award-wining journalist, Dashka Slater, chronicles the true story of Sasha and Richard, one wearing a skirt; the other carrying a lighter, and how an implusive decision changed their lives forever. Slater compelling narrative examines race, class, gender, identity, morality, and forgiveness. Divided into four parts, readers are offered an in-depth look at both Sasha and Richard, the fire, and then ties it all together with the trial and aftermath. Chapters are short, but powerful and at times upsetting.


Back matter offers some gender-neutrality milestones, and statistics on US juvenile incarceration.


Highly recommended for libraries serving middle, high school students.

To write this review, I used an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) from ALA Annual in Chicago.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World




Here We Are: Feminism For The Real World.

Edited by Kelly Jensen

Algonquin Books of Chappel Hill. 2017

ISBN: 9781616205867

I borrowed this book from my local public library to write this review.
Please Note: While Cathy is on sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy will return in February, 2018.


In a design that resembles a scrapbook, 44 Voices Write, Draw, and Speak about feminism.

Dip into this collection of essays and you will be blown away by their depth and the sharing of emotions as each author discovers their ideal of feminism. Each essay is beautifully written and so packed that readers may pause between readings to fully absorb all that is being shared. Contributors are authors, cartoonists, state senators, and librarian.


The essays are divided by topic, seven in all. “Starting the Journey,” “Body and Mind,” “Gender, Sex, and Sexuality,” “Culture and Pop Culture,” “Relationships,” “Confidence and Ambition,” “Go Your Own Way.”


The first essay, “Forever Feminist” by Malinda Lo shares what being a feminist means to her. “My personal ideal of a “feminist” is rooted in one woman: my paternal grandmother, Ruth Earnshaw Lo. She was a white American woman who fell in love with a Chinese man at the University of Chicago in the 1930’s. When they met, interracial marriage was still not legal nationwide in the United States; Loving v.Virginia did not declare an end to anti-miscegenation laws until 1967. So, in 1937, my grandmother married my grandfather, John Chuanfang Lo, in Shanghai.”  Lo’s grandmother would remain in China during the Cultural Revolution and write about her experiences in: In The Eye of the Typhoon. Lo saw feminism as a woman in full potential. 


Daniel Jose Older’s essay, “Many Stories, Many Roads,” explores his transformation and how keeping silent, not speaking up, makes the cycle of racism, violence against women, and discrimination of minorities and women continue. 


Back matter includes suggestions for further reading, and brief bio’s of contributors.

A book to savor. Highly recommended.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Man Who Loved Libraries: the Story of Andrew Carnegie by Andrew Larsen

The Man Who Loved Libraries: the Story of Andrew Carnegie
Story by Andrew Larsen; Pictures by Katty Maurey
OwlKids Books. 2017
ISBN: 9781771472678
Grades 3 and up
Please Note: While Cathy is on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy will return February, 2018.


“Andrew Carnegie built over 2,500 public libraries. He built them in cities, towns, and villages in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He built them in Europe, the Caribbean, Australia, and New Zealand.” 

Born in Scotland in 1835, Andrew Carnegie family was poor. His father was a weaver, but was unable to compete with the fabrics being woven cheaper in mills. His family, hoping for a better life immigrated to American in 1848. The family settled in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to be close to Andrew’s mother’s sister.  His first job was that of a bobbin boy in a mill, but the industrious, hardworking lad soon found another job, a messenger boy. “In his spare time, he learned to operate the telegraph equipment.” 

At age 17, Andrew became a telegraph operator with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. He thought outside the box, suggesting the telegraph office stay open twenty-four hours a day. In eight years, Andrew was one of the bosses. With the money he earned he invested in the railroad and other companies that produced oil, iron, and steel. By age thirty-five he was a very rich man.

As a young man, Carnegie always knew that learning was the key to his future.” He loved books and made time to read them. After he became rich, he wanted to build libraries so that others, regardless of their income, could have free access to books. In 1891, Carnegie Hall in New York City opened its doors, and still continues to  welcome some of the world’s greatest performers. 

Larsen’s picture book biography keeps a positive tone while offering just the right amount of information about Carnegie’s passion for learning. Maurey’s illustrations reflect what is discussed in the text. 

Back matter includes a brief bibliography. In the author’s note, Larsen does mention that Carnegie, though generous with giving back to the community, was also a ruthless businessman. In 1892, his steel company, The Carnegie Steel Company, crushed the steel workers’ union. 

As someone who will forever be grateful to my high school librarian for opening up my eyes to how libraries can change the world, this is a timely celebration of the man and the importance of public libraries.

Is there a Carnegie library in your community?

To write this review, OwlKids Books sent me a copy of the book

Monday, October 23, 2017

Dangerous Jane by Suzanne Slade

Dangerous Jane
By Suzanne Slade; Illustrated by Alice Ratterree
Peachtree. 2017
ISBN: 9781561459131
Grades 3 and older
Please Note: While Cathy is on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy will return February, 2018.

Suzanne Slade has penned a picture book biography on the life of Jane Addams, known as a pioneer in social reform. Addams is best known for her creation of  the settlement house, Hull House, where she lived and worked until her death in 1935. 

Her mother died when she was two and at age five she contracts a disease that left her back crooked and her toes pointed in. “She felt like the ugly duckling in her storybook: different, unwanted, hopeless.”  While on a business trip with her father at age 6, Jane sees with her own eyes that some families are extremely poor. She makes a promise, that one day she will buy a big house to share with poor families.”  

After graduating from college and enjoying the luxury of traveling abroad, Jane, again, encounters poverty. She saw starving people spending their last pennies on rotten vegetables.”  Her idea of buying a big house returns. She visits a settlement house in London named Toynbee Hall which helped poor people help themselves by providing skills, confidence, and the dignity to start a new life. 

In 1889, Jane Addams founded Hull House in Chicago. Working eighteen hours a day, she provided whatever her neighbors needed: English lessons, childcare, wash tubs, steady work. But most important, she gave friendship, dignity, hope. During World War 1, Addams and 1500 women form the Woman’s Peace Party, an organization that promoted world peace.

In 1931, Addams was the first American woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Retterree’s full-page watercolor illustrations complement the text. 

I am of the mindset that no book is too young for any audience. Sometimes, a picture book biography is perfect to use as an introduction with older students, middle thru high school.

Back matter includes an author's note, timeline, a selected bibliography, and source notes for the quotes. 

Share this books with students and they will find out why Addams was labeled, Dangerous Jane. An important historical figure to remember.

I reviewed this book using an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) sent to me by the publisher.