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.

Food Fight! A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages by Tanya Steel

Food FightNational Geographic Kids, 2018.

I really wanted to like this book. I love food and history, and I always have. I know this book would have just jumped into my hands from the bookstore shelf when I was a kid. I read merrily along at first, albeit briefly shaking my head at why the publisher would think a ten question multiple choice quiz was needed or desirable on every fifth spread. But soon I began to be slowed by the content itself.

The recipes are made with real, not processed, ingredients (beyond the occasional can of beans) and look to support both healthy eating and good cooking techniques, so I was eager to try some. Unfortunately, in the first recipe I decided to try “Barley Bread” I struck out on finding the barley flour required (and if Whole Foods doesn’t have it, I don’t know where to look except online). On the other hand, had I been a kid, I might have chosen one of the other recipes like hummus which have ingredients more likely to be found at a supermarket or at least at Whole Foods. So the recipes aren’t a deal breaker.

The format is one National Geographic Kids publications are known for: bright colorful pictures, enticing subtitles, and “chunked” text so kids can read a little or a lot. These pages are appealing to kids at a range of reading levels. The problem is that sometimes the pictures chosen don’t reflect the content. For example, in the medieval times chapter there’s a recipe for pork meatballs cooked in almond milk and served on a trencher. The recipe is for meatballs and the trencher is made from a baguette, but the picture above the recipe clearly shows a meatball sub. Nothing in the recipe makes red sauce with green herbs artfully sprinkled on top. This may seem like a niggling complaint, and yet, pictures pack a huge informational punch, especially with kids, and this picture makes it look as if people in medieval times ate tomato sauce–when tomatoes had not yet arrived in Europe at this time. That’s very misleading.

There were a number of problems I found with the text itself as well. I found the text to be culturally loaded more than once. The game played with pig knuckles was called a “primitive” form of jacks–I’m not sure why that label was used–the game is pretty much the same whether you use a ball and machine-made jacks or pig knuckles. In addition, sometimes the text seemed simply to be written too quickly without editing or reflection as is the case in this sentence:  “Wild animals ran freely through city streets, so sometimes it was hard to get to the market because a cow was in the way!” I’m pretty sure there weren’t wild cows in medieval Europe.

But I read on, hoping I would be won over. I gave up on the book entirely when I reached the chapter on Mongols and the Silk Road. In Menus of the Rich and Famished, it speaks of a traditional dish for the wealthy in the 1400s made by filling a goat’s stomach with hot rocks vegetables, water, and potatoes–there’s a lovely photo of a potato and a cabbage above the section. Sorry folks, no potatoes in Mongolia in the 15th century, they’re still in South America. I can’t imagine where the author got this information or why it made through to publication.

I’m so sorry I can’t recommend this book to kids and families. Food and history are fun subjects, and together with good recipes they’re really fabulous. But only if you can trust them to be correct.

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

 

Medallion of Murder by B. R. Meyers

Medallion of MurderBlue Moon Publishers, 2018.

Daughter of Egyptologists and superpower wielding Nefertari Hughes is at it again. Halfway through her senior year in high school, Terry’s got some major life decisions ahead of her. The rest of her life is looming and Terry and her best friend Maude must decide what they’re going to do next. Unfortunately, their choices aren’t exactly what their parents had in mind for them, and they’re both avoiding that reveal.

Soon, mind a jumble of thoughts and emotions about the future, Terry’s wrapped up in another big mystery involving Cleopatra’s legacy. Is it right for Terry to involve her friends and boyfriend in the danger that seems to follow her? Is she taking foolish risks because of her powers or is she simply a victim of circumstance?

I enjoyed this next installment of the mysteries–I especially loved the way Maude seems to be coming into her own as the series continues. I’m looking forward to finding out what happens in the next installment of the Nefertari Hughes mysteries.

The Diadem of Death by B. R. Myers

diadem of deathBook Two of the Nefertari Hughes Mystery Series

Blue Moon Publishers, 2017.

Nefertari Hughes is at it again. She’s recovered from her escapades, and her injuries, from the high jinks in The Asp of Ascention. In fact, she’s finally starting to feel at home in her new town of Devonshire. She’s got a boyfriend and two other good friends, and it’s the summer before senior year. Terry’s got big plans for the summer and the year ahead.

Unfortunately, those comfortable plans are not to be. Terry and her dad are called back to Egypt to the dig at the site of Cleopatra’s tomb—the dig where Terry was injured and her mother was killed only a year ago. Terry’s dad is convinced that Terry has the key to finding the Cleopatra, and she wants to finish her mother’s life’s work. But will she be strong enough to enter the tomb again? And how will she shake the strangers that want to keep her away from the search for Cleopatra?

The Diadem of Death is a strong sequel to The Asp of Ascension. It’s every bit as action-packed as the first book in the series, and the Egyptian setting can’t be beat.

These books will keep readers entertained and engaged. They are at a good reading and content level for upper middle grade or lower young adult readers.

I enjoyed reading The Diadem of Death immensely. I’ll definitely be looking for more books in this series by B. R. Myers.