Book Review: In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse




In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall III

This book is going to need a little help finding and audience, but when it does they are going to love it.  Coming of age, road trips, history, culture all work so well in this slim text.

This is an important book to share with kids.  I found myself stopping to look up the memorials and historical sites as I was reading.  This is not the history I was taught in school.  It’s so much more personal and authentic.


Please read the excellent review published on the American Indians in Children’s Literature site.


Book Review: Turning 15 On the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery



What an amazing story! This book will help young readers to understand the terror and bravery of the Selma Marchers. The voice is so real and authentic, I feel like I can hear her in my mind. Archival photos and illustrations add to the depth of this work.

NPR has a great interview to read or listen to.

Source:  Public Library

Audience:  grade 6 and up

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose



This is one of those great history books that reads like an adventure story.  Like the Port Chicago 50, it’s a piece of the past I had no idea about.  The author does a great job of blending reflections of Knud Peterson (one of the actual Boys) with details of the war.  It’s like a mix of newspaper articles and live interviews.  Kids who watch the History Channel will feel right at home with this book.


Source:  public library  ebook

Audience:  Middle school and up


Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley


I read this book for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016.  Read more about the challenge here

If this book was cuisine,  we’d have to call it fusion.  It’s a memoir.  It’s a graphic novel.  It’s a cookbook.  It’s a coming-of-age story centered around food, family, and art.   See what I mean? There’s a lot going on here!

I found the loosely sequenced stories enganging and thought provoking. As I read Chapter 1, “The Kid in the Kitchen” I thought about how my own kids were present in the kitchen  and how I encouraged them to try new tastes.  I assumed that they would like things, not that they would be too spicy, too intense, too whatever.   I see parents at the market saying to their kids I don’t think you will like that.  How sad, to assume that new is not good.  That familiar is safe.  I also felt a bit jealous, as food in my own house growing up was not really a big deal.

Chapter 3, “Getting Ours” was a great story of growing uo, but also a bit of a concern.   The publisher labels the book for grades 6 and up, but some mature interests are sketched out here and I am not sure it is for every young person.  That’s a decision best left to familes, not to me.  It’s a genuine chapter, nothing over the top or even inappropriate.   Just a bit grown up.

I’m looking forward to trying some of the recipes in the book, particularly the chai tea, leg of lamb and Huevos Rancheros.  If Knisley writes a graphic cookbook, I’ll be buying it. Her Website lists a number of books that I will be adding to my TBR list.

I’m listing this in the book challenge as food memoir, graphic, and middle grade.

Source:  public library

Audience:  grades 6 and up, but definitely engaging for adult readers


The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

Everyone knows the major names of the US Civil Rights Movement:  Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, and so on.  I doubt many know the names of the Port Chicago 50 – pioneers for change in 1944.  Following a massive explosion at the Port Chicago Navy Base 50 soldiers refused to return to work loading ammunition in unsafe conditions.  They are charged with mutiny and threatened with the death penalty.

This book is exactly what narrative non-fiction should be:  lots of great facts wrapped in an engaging story. The writing is concise and well organized.  Despite the fact that there were many people involved in the story it was easy to keep them all straight.  The courtroom scenes were handled in such a way as to keep the reader thinking and interested.

Lots of great extras at the publisher’s site for the book.

Source:  Public Library

Audience:  Middle and High School

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

There was so much to like about this book. Each teen’s story was unique and thoughtful. For some kids, reading these stories will be an opportunity to build understanding and empathy. For other kids reading these stories may help them find their own voices. I read this as an e-book so I don’t think I got the most out of the photojournalism aspect

Date read:  sometime in August 2015

Source:  ARC from publisher

Audience:  High school

Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons

Fair warning:  Do not read this book while sitting in a coach seat on a transatlantic flight.  You will annoy everyone around you with barely suppressed laughter.  I actually had to stop reading for this very reason.

This combination memoir-essay collection is a wonderful blend of poignant reflection and blunt tell-all.  Fat shaming is pervasive in our culture and Brittany does her best to embrace herself and encourages her readers to do the same for themselves.

Favorite Lines:

“This is not a diet book.  In fact, if I do this right our cycles will align, and we’ll be eating our feelings together by the third chapter.”

Head on over to her excellent blog to see more great writing.

Source:  ARC from publisher

Publication date:  May 19, 2015

Who Was Maurice Sendak? by Janet B. Pascal

This is a great series – I’m going to encourage my students to read them. The biography reads like a story, a kind of narrative nonfiction.
Cool fact: Rosie, from the Sign on Rosie’s Door, was based on a real person. Sendak watched her through his window and built a story around her and her sassy attitude.

If you want more facts about Maurice Sendak, check out this great post from Mental Floss

Source:  Classroom Library

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle’s lyrical writing transports the reader to the days of the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Seen through the eyes of her memory w can see how deeply Cuban-American were, and still are affected by this standoff.

Source:  ARC

Publication date: August, 2014

Read Harder Challenge Tasks:

See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers by Roxanna Elden

Required reading for the teacher mentor program I am involved with, this was a quick read with some good information, some bad. I probably would have liked this more if I read it earlier in my career. Some good tips, some realism, and a few things that seemed like bad ideas. Read it and take a look at your own practice.