Books by Michael L. Cooper

Released: March 4, 2014

"A dramatic narrative, richly illustrated and solidly supported. (museums to visit, recommended reading, websites, source notes, glossary, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)"
The history of firefighting in the United States is explored through the stories of 10 important fires. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2009

In a superb biography both personal and opinionated, Cooper calls Theodore Roosevelt "the hero America needed." At the beginning of the 20th century, the United States was becoming a nation of big cities and huge corporations, and the major issue Roosevelt faced will sound familiar to readers today—the role of a strong federal government in dealing with the "unrestricted and ill-regulated individualism" of banks and corporations and ensuring a vital economy and social justice at the same time. Written with a vigor and enthusiasm to match the subject, the volume is well-researched and documented, incorporating many direct quotations to make Roosevelt accessible and knowable. Not just a "road to the White House" biography, this is a look at the full life and times of the 26th president, his family, his enthusiasms and losses and the significance of his presidency. Readers will absorb much about history and politics as they learn the story behind the face on Mount Rushmore. Another strong entry in the fine Up Close series. (Biography. 11 & up) Read full book review >
JAMESTOWN, 1607 by Michael L. Cooper
Released: April 1, 2007

In 1607, after two failed attempts to settle on Roanoke Island, English settlers established a colony at Jamestown. By 1625, over 8,500 people had migrated to Virginia, though 7,200 of them died of starvation, warfare and disease. Though they never achieved their original goals of finding gold, a northwest passage or the settlers of the Lost Colony, they did pave the way for future, more successful, settlements. It's a fascinating story of adventure, conflict and even cannibalism, and Cooper's use of Captain John Smith's own accounts and reproductions of drawings and watercolors by John White, one of the early settlers, makes this volume special. An unfortunate misspelling of the word Croatan will be noted in an erratum and corrected in future editions. Internet sites and a very brief selection of additional readings for young people are included, as are a list of Algonquin words that became common English words and a two-page description of Powhatan's people by settler George Percy. Clear writing, attractive layout and brevity make this a fine account of early colonization. (maps, time line, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 25, 2002

The author's visit to Manzanar, one of ten Japanese internment camps established during WWII, serves as the frame for this exploration of the forced evacuation of over 100,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans and their lives in the relocation camp. Cooper's (Slave Spirituals and the Jubilee Singers, not reviewed, etc.) concise prose describes how the bombing of Pearl Harbor led to the building of the camps. Later chapters detail how the prisoners struggled to adapt to surreal, humiliating conditions, slowly introducing Japanese food to the mess hall menus, gardening, playing sports, and going to school. Drawing heavily on primary-source material, including archival and contemporary interviews with internees and excerpts from the Manzanar Free Press, the text allows the prisoners to speak for themselves. Archival photographs lavishly illustrate the narrative, and one of the volume's greatest strength is the opening discussion of the many photographers who chronicled life in the camps, from Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and others brought in by the government, to Toyo Miyatake, an internee who was allowed to compose and set up his photographs but who had to have a camp staff person press the shutter. Each photograph is credited, so readers can distinguish between US government propaganda and more accurate portrayals of camp life. An end note describes the author's sources, but there are no specific references within the text. One great weakness is the history's abrupt end: there is no effort to document the internees' return to life outside the camps. That said, this offering stands as a worthy addition to the literature of the internment camps; the author's comparison of post-Pearl Harbor US to post-9/11 US underscores his passionate plea to remember. (Nonfiction. 9-14)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 20, 1999

Cooper (Hell Fighters, 1997, etc.) takes a relatively dispassionate look at a cruel chapter in US government/Indian relations: the sometimes-forcible removal of children to Carlisle and other off-reservation boarding schools. Although he is guilty of overgeneralizing (in a chapter titled "The Indian Way"—as if there were but one—he states, "When they were teenagers, Native Americans married, had children, and went on the warpath"), the author makes a brave attempt to be evenhanded, balancing the schools' renowned athletic accomplishments and prominent attendees (e.g., Jim Thorpe) against the harsh punishments, outright abuses, and ruthless cultural indoctrination to which students were subjected. Despite scattered successes, it is obvious that the ends were neither justified nor accomplished by the means. Since books about the Indian boarding schools tend to be either indictments or whitewashes, Cooper may skimp on the schools' modern history, but by steering a middle course in his account of their origins, practices, educational philosophy, and early record, he allows readers to draw their own conclusions. Generous helpings of contemporary black-and-white photographs and statements give many students both voices and faces; a concluding list of sources (of varying reliability) includes web sites. (map, b&w photos and reproductions, further reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1997

A look at the double struggle of black soldiers in WW I- -against the enemy abroad, and against the prejudice that resided closer to home. Cooper shows the wide gulf between these soldiers' heroism on the front and their treatment behind the lines in the first world war. One New York unit, described by its commander as ``a self-made regiment, started without traditions, without education, without friends,'' received rifles only after the government was tricked into supplying them, and was not allowed to march in a farewell parade before embarking for France. Cooper vigorously describes the exploits of the 93rd Division, which fought under French command and earned the name ``Hell Fighters,'' noting the harsh experiences of noncombatants and the inglorious 92nd Division in less detail; besides its many decorations, the 93rd did indeed parade upon its return to New York, marching up Fifth Avenue and ``through Harlem singing and laughing.'' Enhanced by a sheaf of black-and-white photographs, plus side essays on the Houston Riot, the forced retirement of Charles Young, the US's highest ranking African-American at the beginning of the war, and other topics, this makes an absorbing companion to Catherine Reef's Black Fighting Men (1994) or a lead-in to Cooper's social history of the postwar years, Bound for the Promised Land (1995). (Nonfiction. 10-12) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

Cooper (From Slave to Civil War Hero, 1994, etc.) expands on the topic introduced to young readers in Jacob Lawrence's Great Migration (1993): the movement of a million rural African-Americans from the South to cities in the North between 1915 and 1930. He perceptively explores the sweeping changes that movement caused, including the creation of large African-American communities and coalitions, the growth of black-owned businesses, the increased political influence of these voters, the cultural ferment of the Harlem Renaissance, and white backlash, North and South. Despite occasional brief quotes, this is a digest rather than a documentary history, couched in general statements and focusing more on issues, organizations, and statistics than individual experiences; the systematic if impersonal result will be a workhorse in library collections but is unlikely to find a popular audience. The dim black-and-white photographs are a mixture of portraits and street scenes. (endnotes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11-15) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1993

After black players were excluded from organized baseball near the end of the 19th century, they created leagues, barnstorming teams, and an annual All-Star Game (the East-West All-Star Classic) that often rivaled the Bigs in attendance and income. Combining sharp photos and a simply phrased text, Cooper reviews the era's great players—from Bud Fowler (.350 batting average in 1887) and Rube Foster (pitcher, team owner, and founder of the Negro National League) to Martin Dihigo (Hall of Famer in four countries) and the durable Satchel Paige. While acknowledging the prejudice black players faced, the author also points out how often they played against white teams; it was never a secret that the Negro Leagues fielded many stars of major-league caliber. Cooper devotes a chapter to the flow of players to and from Latin America and ends with a look at the heady post-WW II decades, during which the color barrier began to drop, the whole sport was revitalized, and Negro Leaguers were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. A tantalizing glimpse into the sport's checkered past, and a readable gateway to Dixon's pictorial Negro Baseball Leagues, 1867-1955 (1992) and Holway's oral histories (Black Diamonds, 1989, is the most recent). Photos; lists of books and other sources; index. (Nonfiction. 11-13) Read full book review >