Archive for Uncategorized

Dagger and Coin

Written by Kathy MacMillan

The second book in the “Sword and Verse” series is gripping, exciting, and a lesson in finding one’s voice and independence. Written in first person from Soraya’s viewpoint, it points out the problems with always doing what is expected of you rather than what you know to be right.

Soraya longs to be her own woman despite the fact that she is guided by her father’s teachings and the fact that she is female. Until she realizes just what independence means and what it will cost her, she’s really not very likeable. Once she transforms into her own person, she is strong, capable, and loveable. MacMillan shows this transformation seamlessly and skillfully. It’s worth noting that Jonis, Soraya’s mirror image on the ruling council, goes through a transformation of his own. The reader luckily gets to know many other characters well.

This is a tale set in a medieval world of the author’s invention. The world is believable and self-contained. Of course, some familiar elements of our world are present, such as women being considered the weaker sex and certain groups of people considered not as worthy to share in the good aspects of life. It’s those elements that drive the story of rebellion and suppression. Only through learning to trust the right people and use their abilities will Soraya and Jonis be able to save their country.

  • Dagger and CoinTitle: Dagger and Coin
  • Author: Kathy MacMillan
  • Published: HarperTeen/HarperCollins Children’s, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
  • Grade Level: 6 Up
  • Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
  • ISBN: 978-0-06-232464-1

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill

Written by Lee Wind

What an amazing debut for Lee Wind! He perfectly captures teen angst, shows the devastating effect of circumstances that get out of control, and presents likeable characters the reader can identify with. Quite a juggling act. Wind never drops the balls.

Fifteen-year-old Wyatt knows he’s gay but is not ready to come out. When he’s assigned a book report, to be prepared as a blog entry, he discovers that Abraham Lincoln may also have been gay. Of course, that one idea is more than anyone can handle. His little high school blog entry goes viral, causing all sorts of repercussions.

Although Wyatt is far from perfect, the reader can’t help but pull for him at every turn. His best friend, a girl named Mackenzie, and his new friend, Martin, are also wonderfully human. Then there’s the provocative television talk show host, who is pure evil, and Wyatt’s former friend, Jonathon, who is as hard to figure out as many teens are.

The story itself may be specific to Wyatt, but the themes are universal. All adolescents struggle with their identity. Sexual identity is a large part of that, a very timely part to be sure. Adolescents, and often adults too, struggle with who to trust and what price you want to pay for being open with others. How much blame can you take for your actions and how much will others blame you when you lose control of the situation? These are all themes we all need to explore – teens and adults alike.

  • QueerTitle: Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill
  • Author: Lee Wind
  • Publisher: I’m Her. I’m Queer. What The Hell Do I Read?, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 300 pages
  • Grade level: 6 up
  • Genre: Young adult, Adolescence, Sexual identity
  • ISBN: 978-1-73222-811-5

Heroes of History: Alexander Hamilton

Written by Time Editors

While you’re listening to a recording of the musical, Hamilton, try reading this book from Time books. It’s packed with information about our first Treasury Secretary. However, you may want to take the details of the musical with a grain of salt. According to Time, “Historians point out that while the events depicted are real, the show emphasizes Hamilton’s abolitionist cred to an unrealistic degree. Hamilton was an abolitionist, but his priorities lay in creating a national bank….”

With numerous illustrations and photos and a lot of detail, the authors outline Hamilton’s short but productive life. Born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, Hamilton’s early life was anything but easy. In spite of his relatively humble beginnings, he managed to get a solid education. His grasp of economics was nothing short of astounding, especially considering economics as a field of study didn’t even exit in his time. His passions often landed him in trouble, however. From a falling out with his mentor, George Washington, to an ill-advised affair with a married woman with the help of her husband, he often forgot to think before he acted. Of course, that’s what ultimately caused him to pay the ultimate price – in a duel against Aaron Burr. He was a soldier, a writer, and single-handedly established the national bank.

There is definitely enough in this great little book to keep a reader entertained and enough solid information to spark further study.

  • HamiltonTitle: Heroes of History: Alexander Hamilton
  • Author: Editors
  • Published: Time Inc. Books, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 144 pages
  • Grade Level: 6 Up
  • Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography
  • ISBN: 978-1-68330-850-8
  • Extras: Table of Contents, In His Own Words (explanation of quotes and when he spoke or wrote them), The Life and Times of Alexander Hamilton (timeline), Index, Credits

Heroes of History: George Washington

Written by Editors

In an extraordinary addition to the enormous documentation of George Washington’s life, the reader will not only be entertained, but will learn more about motivations and causes of the events in Washington’s life. Rather than appearing godlike as in some biographies, Washington is shown as human with human concerns plus strengths and frailties.

Of course, the bulk of the story centers on his adult life, since less is known about his childhood. As the leader of a small group of militia at age twenty-one, Washington helped start the French and Indian War by making the British aware of the readiness of French troops. After a time working for the British, he spent sixteen years as a farmer at Mount Vernon. During that time, unrest was building. Then, when the Revolutionary War began, the country needed experienced officers. They looked to Washington. From that time until his death, Washington had little time that was his own. He did well, but was often caught in the middle of political fights. Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists strongly disagreed with Madison and the Republicans. How to strike a compromise? The French and England went to war. Who to defend? He faced many no-win situations.

Heavily illustrated, this is a great start for any project about our first president. It will hold the reader’s interest and explain events in ways they may not have considered before.

  • WashingtonTitle: Heroes of History: George Washington
  • Published: Liberty Street/Time Inc. Books, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska                                                     
  • Format: Paperback, 144 pages
  • Grade Level: 5 Up
  • Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography
  • ISBN: 978-1-68330-849-2
  • Extras: Table of Contents, In His Own Words: George Washington, The Life and Times of George Washington, Index, Acknowledgments, Picture Credits

Sinking the Sultana: A Civil War Story of Imprisonment, Greed, and a Doomed Journey Home

Written by Sally M. Walker

Meticulous research and a riveting and little-known story highlight this new work from the master of nonfiction. Had the Sultana not sunk at the same time the country was mourning Abraham Lincoln’s death, history might have taken more notice.

At the end of the Civil War, a naval disaster occurred that rivaled the Titanic in casualties. The author carefully explains each aspect of the factors leading up to the disaster, as well as the disaster itself and the aftermath. One chapter gives great descriptions of steamboats and how they became a favorite mode a transportation. Then the reader learns about the Civil War itself. Next is a description of Civil War prisons, how they were set up, and how overcrowding became the norm. One of the more graphic chapters, this is not for the fainthearted. A series of missteps caused the Sultana to be wildly overcrowded for the transport north of former prisoners from Andersonville and other prisons. Leaving Memphis, the Sultana’s boilers exploded. At least 1,500 people perished as a result. Due to spotty rescue and utter confusion, an exact count was never determined. In fact, survivors were often denied pensions because the Army thought them dead. And many listed as surviving had, in fact, perished in the explosion.

Because many individuals are tracked throughout the story, the reader will wait with the people of the time to learn the fates of the passengers. Great resource for classroom and home.

  • Sinking the SultanaTitle: Sinking the Sultana: A Civil War Story of Imprisonment, Greed, and a Doomed Journey Home
  • Author: Sally M. Walker
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
  • Grade Level: 5 to 6
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Civil War
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7755-8
  • Extras: Roll Call, Author’s Note, Glossary, Source Notes, Bibliography, Image Credits, Index