Earlier I posted a review of a true crime book about the murders of Osage during their decades of intense wealth. Here are some links for those interested in learning more, although I will warn that some give away the story in the book, so you may wish to read the book before clicking some of these links.
The Osage Nation Museum is a great place to start and to visit if you are ever in the area. It’s part of the larger Osage Nation website which has a wealth of information and where you can also sign up for free Osage language lessons.
This photoessay contains many (but not all) of the photographs found in the book. This NPR interview with the author also tells quite a bit of the story, or you can read the first chapter on the New York Times website.
“It’s the story of an incredibly sinister crime — a true racial injustice. I did not want this to be simply a cataloging of the dead. And I didn’t want it to be cursory. For the most part, when these murders had been written about — if they were mentioned at all — there was no sense of who these people were, or what their lives were like. You never got close to their consciousness or their souls. That’s what I set out to do.”
^ In this interview, Grann talks about how difficult it was for him to write a purely historical book (his others seem to have been straight true crime or adventure books), as well as the challenge of confronting the evil of widespread racism and systematic murder.
He also did an interview with Indian Country Today.
In an unrelated but interesting Osage story, a family oral history was used to rediscover and eventually recover ten busts from 100 years ago that were lost at the Smithsonian, which can now be see at the museum linked above.
“Mollie was one of the last people to see Anna before she vanished.” p. 8
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.
Vintage Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017. Originally published Doubleday, 2016.
Nonfiction, 377 pages including notes and bibliography.
Lexile: 1160L .
AR Level: 8.8 (worth 14.0 points) .
Through an unusual turn of events, in the 1920s the Osage people became astonishingly rich. Unable to stomach an autonomous American Indian tribe, the United States government appointed “guardians” who would watch over their every purchase, and white settlers moved in to the area with ridiculously overpriced goods and services. And then came the murders. Many were focused around one family, and the FBI eventually got involved in their case.
Normally I read books about more Northern tribes because that’s where we live and travel most often, but after passing through Oklahoma, the Osage interested me. If you are looking for a book about the Osage, this one keeps coming up, so when I saw it at Target I decided to give it a try.
Continue reading “Review: Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Just then, the massive pendulum he’d seen in the outer caverns swung into the chamber, lifting Stefan’s hair in its wake. In the light of the Cogworks, it shone like a slice of the sun.” p. 122
The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith.
Puffin Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2016.
MG fantasy, 392 pages.
Lexile: 710L .
AR Level: 5.2 (worth 14.0 points) .
By the second reading, I’d worked out how to describe this book when recommending it. It’s a bit like a cross between Hugo and Redwall, without really being like either at all. While this is technically a retelling of the story of the Nutcracker, I believe it could stand alone even if a reader had no previous knowledge of the stories and ballet it’s based on.
Sherri L. Smith is one of those rare authors who seems to write many genres well. You might recall my review of her historical fiction Flygirl, and the dystopian Orleans is one of my favorite books (though I’m still struggling to review it). She’s also written several contemporary novels that I haven’t gotten to yet, and this piece is a middle grade fantasy retelling.
Continue reading “Review: The Toymaker’s Apprentice”
“Phiona had never read a chess book. Never read a chess magazine. Never used a computer. Yet this girl was already a national champion.” page 132
Queen of Katwe: One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion by Tim Crothers.
Vintage Canada, Penguin Random House, Toronto, Canada, my edition 2016, originally published 2012.
Nonfiction, 232 pages.
Phiona Mutesi followed her brother to a place where children were learning to play chess. Initially motivated more by a free daily meal, she soon found she had a gift for chess which might propel her out of the slums of Katwe, Uganda.
Normally I am very strict about always reading first before seeing any movie based on a book. In this case both my family and I really wanted to see the film, so I did watched before reading the book. Sometimes seeing the movie version first can color the interpretation of the book.
Continue reading “Review: Queen of Katwe”
“Nursing homes have come a long way from the firetrap warehouses of neglect they used to be. But it seems we’ve succumbed to a belief that, once you lose your physical independence, a life of worth and freedom is simply not possible.” p. 75
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande.
Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt & Co, New York, 2014.
Nonfiction, 282 pages.
Because his parents both immigrated to America from India, Gawande didn’t have much first-hand experience with aging or mortality – the elderly members of his family were a continent away, being cared for by others. He certainly didn’t learn much about it from his medical school classes. Then he came face-to-face with the reality of American aging through his grandmother-in-law and patients, and decided to raise some questions about end of life-care and the meaning of life, and death.
Gawande has an interesting perspective on mortality and his second-generation-immigrant perspective gave him an insight into other methods of dealing with age that helped him turn a critical eye on how we deal with it here in America. This book reminded me of Another Day in the Death of America in that way – it takes a subject that most Americans wouldn’t even think twice about, and presents it to everyday readers.
Continue reading “Review: Being Mortal”
This slim early-chapter-book graphic novel retelling of a traditional Hawaiian story will appeal to adults as well.
The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson.
TOON Books, New York, 2012.
Graphic novel, 40 pages.
Lexile: GN410L or GN380L ? ( Also what does GN mean in Lexile? )
AR Level: 1.6 (worth 0.5 points) .
NOTE: I have some disagreement with these levels, see review for details.
This is the story of Nanaue, from the day his parents met onward.
Most graphic novels I’ve reviewed here so far fall into the middle school, teen, or adult categories. While some might be appropriate for younger MG readers, most were not. This book is aimed at elementary students – although I wouldn’t hesitate to add it to a middle school library or even a high school if high-low books were needed. The age of the characters is not specified, and while Toon Books specializes in elementary graphic novels, they do also make some for older readers.
Continue reading “Graphic Novel Review: The Shark King”
“The softball he couldn’t find / Last Saturday, / One toothbrush, one helmet… / He put them away.” p. 18
Clean Your Room, Harvey Moon! by Pat Cummings.
Aladdin Paperbacks, Simon and Schuster, 1991, my edition 1994.
Picture book, 32 pages.
Lexile: not yet leveled
AR Level: 3.3 (worth 0.5 points) .
The story of one boy with a very messy room and the Saturday morning he spent cleaning instead of watching cartoons.
I’m always delighted when I find books about various life skills featuring children of color. If diverse children are unrepresented in books in general, they are even more invisible in educational books, whether it’s word problems in the math textbook or “soft” life skill texts like this funny book about cleaning your room.
Harvey is settling down with a snack and getting ready for a Saturday of all his favorite cartoons when his mom walks in and tells him no TV until he cleans up his room! Amidst moans and groans, Harvey starts cleaning. The entire book is in loose rhyme and the funniest parts are about the items he finds in his room, both good and gross.
Continue reading “Review: Clean Your Room, Harvey Moon!”