Review: Bad Blood

“On the few occasions when someone did challenge the study directly, a defender invariably pointed out how long it had been going on, how much work the PHS had invested, and how science would benefit if the study continued.” page 173

Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (New and Expanded Edition) by James H. Jones.
The Free Press, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1981, my edition 1993 expanded reprint.
Adult non-fiction, 297 pages including notes and index.
Not leveled.

The true story of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment reads like a work of fiction.

Bad Blood resized

Normally I don’t read horror, but I’ll make an exception for non-fiction.  This was a chilling read, made all the more horrific by the fact that it occurred in my own country in the fairly recent past.  Sadly, some accounts of the racism and prejudice present in this study read like they could be happening today.

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Review: I’ll Scream Later

“In February of 1987 when I went on Nightline to discuss Gallaudet University’s controversial Deaf President Now movement, the show was captioned for the first time. Anchor Ted Koppel used most of the intro to explain to the audience about the captioning they would see – technically open captioning, since anyone could see it – interpreters they would hear, signing they would also see.” page 182

I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin, with Betsy Sharkey.
Originally published 2009 Handjive Productions, my edition Gallery Books, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2010.
Autobiography/memoir, 327 pages.
Not leveled.

Marlee Matlin is one of the few Deaf performers well-known to hearing audiences, but there are also many other aspects of her life and self.  She was catapulted to fame with a Best Actress Oscar on Children of a Lesser God.  Now twenty years later, she’s written a tell-all memoir about drug addiction, abusive relationships, and more.

I'll Scream Later resized

This was a book full of surprises.  I was moved by what an important part her Jewish faith has played in her life, especially how her childhood synagogue was fully inclusive as a hearing/Deaf worship space, with a signing rabbi.  How beautiful that her early use of language included a rich religious environment where she was able to learn about God through her own language, ASL.

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Review: Dave the Potter

“To us / it is just dirt, / the ground we walk on. / Scoop up a handful. / The gritty grains slip / between your fingers.” page 3

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
Little, Brown, and Company Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010.
Picture book biography, 40 pages including end notes.
Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, 2011.
2011 Caldecott Honor recipient.
Lexile:  AD1100L (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  6.0 (worth 0.5 points) .

Dave the Potter was a real-life African-American slave and artist.  He must have been incredibly strong, because he was able to successfully make pots as large as forty gallons.  He knew how to read and write, because he marked poems into the sides of some of his pots.  Beyond that we may never know many of the details of his life.

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This book came up several times before I bought it.  The first time, it was mistakenly labeled as fiction.  Later I realized it was non-fiction and added it to the bottom of my TBR.  After reading When the Beat Was Born by the same author, I decided to purchase this book, knowing that the writing would be excellent.  And I loved it!

Since so little is definitively known about Dave, this book focuses on the process of making his pottery that Dave would likely have gone through, using sparse poetry, detailed and realistic images of the process, and collage backgrounds imagining the world he inhabited.

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Graphic Novel Review: Malice in Ovenland

An original, #ownvoices can’t-miss middle grade graphic novel.

Malice in Ovenland by Micheline Hess.
Rosarium Publishing, Greenbelt, MD, 2016.
MG speculative fiction, 126 pages including extras.
Not yet leveled.

Lily Brown is not going to camp this summer, or on a fancy vacation.  She’ll be staying home, eating her mom’s new ‘healthy’ organic cooking, caring for their plot in a community garden, and doing extra studying.  Her mom goes away for a weekend and Lily’s almost done with her chore list when she loses an earring inside the oven and discovers a magical world where they aren’t too happy about the sudden lack of grease in her family’s kitchen.

Malice in Ovenland cover resized
Malice in Ovenland by Micheline Hess.

There’s no way that my summary has done this book justice.  There are so many things going on here, and everything is wonderful. This is a book that kids love to read, and that parents can feel good about their kids reading.

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Review: Children of the Fire

“The southwest wind in Hallelujah’s face blew pieces of flaming cloth and chunks of blazing hay high above her head.” page 33

Children of the Fire by Harriette Gillem Robinet.
Aladdin Paperbacks, Simon and Schuster, 2001.  Originally published 1999.
MG historical fiction, 134 pages including author’s note.
Lexile:  590L .
AR Level:  4.0 (worth 4.0 points) .

In 1871 Chicago, Hallelujah wants nothing more than to watch one of the fires burning around the city, but has no idea how one of those fires will change her life.

Children of the Fire cover

I hadn’t been reading much historical fiction so I impulsively bought this.  We’ve visited Chicago, so I thought it might make a good family read-aloud.

The cover was so irritating.  Why did they include the rich white girl?  Once I started reading, I also noticed that Hallelujah’s hair was wrong on the cover.  In the book it specifically states that her sister redid it into loose braids, not twists (and the cover looks more like ponytail poofs to me)  A large theme of the book is that Hallelujah is able to blend in with different groups because she wears a simple dress, but custom-made shoes, is the daughter of a slave, yet can read and write.  Different people see her in different ways.

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Review: George

“The word man hit like a pile of rocks falling on George’s skull. It was a hundred times worse than boy, and she couldn’t breathe.” page 16

George by Alex Gino.

George loves Charlotte’s Web more than anyone in her class, maybe even her school.  She can’t wait to be Charlotte in the 4th grade play.  There’s only one problem – to the world, she looks like a boy, and Charlotte is a girl’s part.  But George is also holding in a big secret…  she’s really a girl.

George-small

This book has been getting a LOT of buzz in the book blogging world, particularly the diverse corner of it.  Let’s face it, there aren’t many books in general addressing the transgender experience, and I cannot think of any other fiction work for middle graders on this topic.  There are a few picture books, but the majority of works are aimed at teens and YA audiences, which is a shame, because many (not all) transgender or intersex people are dealing with this from a much younger age.

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Review: Redefining Realness

“The boundaries of gender, I was taught, were unmovable, like the glistening white rocks that surrounded Grandma’s crawfish ponds.” page 77

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More by Janet Mock.
Atria, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2014.
Memoir, 263 pages including acknowledgements.
Not leveled.

Redefining Realness resized

I’d seen this book recommended multiple places before I finally bought it.  The tagline says “You will be changed by this book” and I have to say, that is entirely accurate.  Janet Mock is diverse and disadvantaged in so many ways – part Hawaiian, part African-American, transgender, from impoverished circumstances, a former sex worker, abused and traumatized as a child.  Yet out of this mix she has formed something gorgeous.

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