Tag Archives: History

Black Duck

Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle

Newbery Honor Award Winner for Afternoon of the Elves

Great read for MS!

Two friends, Ruben and Jeddy find a dead body washed up on the shore of Rhode Island. It is 1929, and Prohibition is in place.  However, laws banning liquor have the inevitable and adverse effect of promoting its vibrant and illicit trade.  The stakes are getting higher, and times are dangerous. Hijacking, war between the bootlegging gangs, betrayal, and other subterfuge make for an exciting story.   Complex relationships and a complex topic will leave readers thinking about the wider implications of war on contraband.  After the repeal of the laws banning liquor, “It had begun to sink in that the violence that came from keeping liquor out of people’s hands was a lot worse than the violence of people drinking to their heart’s content.”

This tale is masterfully told and has a great twist at the end.  I highly recommend it for MS and up.



The Bomb

This was an On A Whim pick up at my local bookstore and it wasn’t until I had read almost 100 pages …sitting on the floor at the book store that I realized this was one I had to bring home.


The Bomb by Steve Sheinkin, a Newbery Honor book

  • Age Range: 10 – 14 years
  • Lexile Measure: 920L
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Flash Point; First Edition edition (September 4, 2012)

This is a History novel about the Race to Build -by hook or crook- the first Atomic Bomb.  This is filled with a few pictures, but mostly the kind of story writing you expect to see in the best Spy novels.  I can see why this is a Newbery Honor book.  I have a WW2 obsessed son, and I am a big fan of exciting history novels in general.  Before my Dad introduced me to all things Science Fiction we read every Biography, History, Historical fiction novel we could get in the JF/TF section of our local library.  So this book delighted and intrigued me.  While most of the factual elements are known to me, this was the first time I can recall reading about it with such a compelling and complete narrative.  This story goes from the first discoveries of fission, to dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan, and the spy scandal that made headlines around the globe.  Taken from first hand accounts and primary sources this book weaves three stories:  The US and Germany trying to build a bomb, the Soviets trying to steel it, and the Allies trying to disrupt Germany’s research.

The story does more than just share dry facts, it tells about the elation and then devastation felt by the scientists over what they had done.  It gives first hand accounts from Nagasaki, and Hiroshima.  It discusses the crazy methods Soviet spies went to to steel plans, and even President Truman’s feelings on Why it was necessary to drop a nuclear bomb on Japan.  This should be on your shelves.

Parental Note:  This is not a condemnation of the bomb makers, or of America dropping the bombs on Japan.  Mr. Sheinkin does his best to just lay out facts and let you draw your own conclusions, but it is unapologetically pro American.  I encourage you to read this along with your child, especially if you are not familiar with the Manhattan Project.

A Play in Four Acts

So I was in-between several edits and reads and thought I would search for some great children’s illustrated books for the library.  This one caught my eye and so I requested it.



Sequoyah and his talking leaves: a play about the cherokee Syllabary

by Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin

Illustrated by Siri Weber Feeney

40Pgs (all formats)

This book is is a play in four acts with twelve character parts about Sequoyah (S-si-qua-ya) during the time  he created the written language of the Cherokee.

I was looking for books to add to our library that tell about important Native American figures and their roles in history.  Now to be fair, it has all the elements that I was looking for in a children’s book about this subject:  lovely illustrations, history and a little bit of drama.

I can see reading this in a classroom, but it is a little too simplistic for our older high-school and upper middle schoolers to do, but a little long for our younger kids.  Also there is no pronunciation guide for the Cherokee words and symbols in this story so in several parts despite it being written I have no idea how it should be said.  I love plays that make our children think and I can say this is worth reading, but with 12 parts might be a little difficult to simply read to your children.  It is a play that needs many voices (though some parts can be read as a single person).

Please note that while broad facts are known, some of the details were made up for dramatic effect.  The last few pages of the book include more information about Sequoyah and where to find more about the Cherokee writing system as well as curriculum links.  My favorite is the Cherokee nation’s website at www.Charokee.org.

“Do not underestimate this book!”


A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich was one of my favorite summer finds. It’s a witty, instructive non-fiction for upper elementary readers but perfectly suited for anyone who is up for a refresher course in history. Gombrich wrote this in six weeks at the age of 23 and went on to become the best known art historian of his time, Professor of the History of the Classical Tradition at London University, and other things which could be fiercely intimidating but, on the other hand, should make you incredibly anxious to read this book!  Brian Sewell of the Evening Standard said, “Do not, from its title, underestimate this book.” It would be a great introduction for sixth graders to the ancient world with its 40 concise chapters covering the Stone Age to Post WWI.  I promise you that he doesn’t short change you on wars and gore and other stories that take the yawn out of history. This would be a great read-aloud too. Borrow it, better still, own your own copy!