WE ARE POWER How Nonviolent Activism Changed the World by Todd Hasak-Lowy

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020.

“History is more than wars and violence.

In fact, history has often been forged through conflicts of a different sort, when huge numbers of people banded together to fight and sacrifice for their side, without ever joining a conventional army or resorting to violence. Incredible individuals—who were not politicians or generals—led these movements.”

–from the introduction of WE ARE POWER How Nonviolent Activism Changed the World

On considering classes to take in middle school or high school, had I read this introductory statement I would have jumped at the chance to take the history class that covered THIS history book. A class on striving for justice would have won out over a class on dates, battles, and wars–the feature of many high school history classes–any day of the week.

Today many, many students have experience with protest marches and rallies, and the injustices of the 21st century weigh heavily on the young.  At the time of this writing Black Lives Matter marches are occurring daily across the US and the world, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Climate Strikes and  March for Our Lives and other gun control rallies are recent enough events to continue to weigh on our minds and our hearts. In short, this is a great book to have in the world and a timely and high interest book for teens and preteens.

In WE ARE POWER How Nonviolent Activism Changed the World, Todd Hasak-Lowy presents the definition and ideology of nonviolent protest along with the history of nonviolent activism, tracing important movements in the 20th century: Gandhi’s work in South Africa and India, Alice Paul and her work with the Suffragettes in England and the US, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, César Chávez and the Farm Workers Movement, Václav Havel and the Velvet Revolution, and Greta Thunberg and the Climate Change Movement. Each account is filled with details of the work of organizing, the dangers of participating, and the power of a people united against injustice and oppressive systems. Each account is straightforward, honest, and encouraging. And for those who read the main parts of the book and are looking for more, Hasak-Lowry provides short summaries of other successful movements that readers can use to jump-start their own research.

I cannot imagine a better time for this book to come into the world. It could be used as a whole to spark lively class discussions or in parts with students focusing on a nonviolent movement of their choice to read and learn about or even read individually by students who are already involved in changing the world. Students, teachers, and others who read this book are sure to learn about and be inspired by the stories of the nonviolent activists who have made positive changes to the modern world. I can’t recommend WE ARE POWER more highly. I hope it will fuel many to work toward a better future for all of humankind.

The Acadia Files, Book Four, Spring Science by Katie Coppens

Illustrated by Holly Hatam and Ana Ochoa

Tilbury House Publishers, Thomaston, Maine, 2020.

Acadia is a kid who loves science. She’s full of questions and eager to learn their answers. She seeks answers through conversations with her scientist parents and through her own research both in the field and online. Each chapter includes a section of Acadia’s science journal with her findings from her explorations, experiments, and research, vocabulary words that relate to the chapter, and further related questions Acadia has. These sections are packed with information, charmingly illustrated, and show great examples of lab reports following the scientific method, a field journal, and ways to organize information such as a point graph and a timeline.

It’s not always a good idea to start a book series with the last book in the series. It can be confusing and sometimes annoying when the author doesn’t do a good job of explaining references from previous books, so a reader takes a risk. But this book landed in my review pile this week. It was seasonally appropriate—I read it on Earth Day, and looked appealing, so I decided to give it a go. I wasn’t disappointed by starting last. The characters are quite straightforward, as it’s primarily a book about science concepts, so there’s little catching up to do there. The references to the other books provide enough information that you could understand it’s a reference to an earlier book, and many are interesting enough to encourage readers to seek out the story behind the information referenced. That’s great, because as these books have seasonal themes, kids will probably choose to read them season by season rather than in order.

Filled with great information about meteor showers; reawakening plants and animals; ticks, mosquitoes and parasites; Earth Day and pesticides; this book will capture the attention of eager science learners. The charming illustrations make the information very accessible to late elementary school and middle school kids. It’s also easy to see this book used in the classroom or a home school environment. Acadia’s science journal provides a great model for students to use when performing their own experiments, recording their observations in the field, researching, or collecting data.

I received an electronic copy of The Acadia Files, Book Four, Spring Science in exchange for an honest review.

Geometry Is as Easy as Pie by Katie Coppens

Tumblehome Books. 2019

Caution: This book will inspire you to play with geometric concepts…and your food!

Katie Coppens has written a delightful book for elementary and middle schoolers that covers an array of geometric concepts through pie. From concepts of symmetry to tessellations, polygons, angles, and measurements, Coppens links basic geometric concepts to pies of all sorts. The text is direct and straightforward and will leave readers itching to try the concepts, and the recipes, themselves.

This book looks appealing from page one. It features delicious looking pies, diagrams to clarify and explain geometric principals, and step-by-step recipes illustrated with photos of pies in progress.

This physical means of teaching geography is a brilliant approach, and what kid would complain with a delicious snack as the result?

Coppens is a teacher and she definitely knows how to interest kids and how to cover geography concepts clearly. Although the text is concise, the reading level is a bit high, in part because the book has a lot of domain-specific vocabulary. Although some gifted kids may take off and devour this book on their own, I think most kids will benefit by working through the book and the recipes with a parent or teacher. As I write this review, the country is locked down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It might just be the perfect time to work through this book as a family. When they return to school, the kids can wow their teachers with their geometry knowledge!

Teachers and homeschoolers should note that in addition to the recipes and hands-on practice such as decorating your pie with tessellations or parallel and perpendicular latticework, there are also thirty meaty geometry questions in the book and an answer key on the publisher’s website. In addition, there’s a great glossary and an eye-popping array of pie inspiration pictures.

I highly recommend this book. And after I finish making pie, I’m heading online to check out Geology is a Piece of Cake also by Katie Coppens.

20 Recipes Kids Should Know

Recipes and text by Esme Washburn

Photographs by Calista Washburn

Prestel Publishing, New York, 2019

We’re foodies in my family, so my kids were always interested in cooking. However, although they would ask for help when stuck, mostly they wanted to pursue their own cooking endeavors rather than learn from their parents. I wish this book had been around when they were young! Unfortunately, when my kids were ready to begin their cooking journey, the author of this book, Calista Washburn, hadn’t been born yet! She wrote this book when she was twelve.

I can’t say enough good about this book. The recipes are for healthy foods cooked from scratch. They range from the very simple grilled cheese and pancakes to the more complicated yeast bread and homemade pasta. The steps in each recipe are straightforward and clear, and the pasta recipe includes step-by-step pictures to go with the directions. Anyone who works their way through this cookbook will have a repertoire of recipes that will stand them in good stead to feed themselves and company as well.

The recipes feature common ingredients with substitutions noted for anything that’s a little more unusual. The bread recipe includes two alternatives, one for using a stand mixer and another for letting the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator, so that schedules and equipment won’t limit cooks in accomplishing their task. The introduction includes general information for the novice cook from measurement substitutions to a glossary of cooking techniques.

The pictures in this book are likely to make you hungry, they’re beautifully styled and put together in a way that gives you a great sense of the goal for each recipe. That’s quite an accomplishment for a teen photographer, Calista Washburn, Esme’s older sister.

All-in-all I would recommend this book as one of your first summer purchases. What a great way to learn to cook!

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.