Bausum, the author of two other excellent books about the civil rights movement (Freedom Riders, 2005; Marching to the Mountaintop, 2012), chronicles a largely overlooked but consequential event in the history of the movement.
James Meredith's 1966 march from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi, began as a small-scale, peaceful protest for voter registration but quickly grew into one of the South's most important civil rights demonstrations when Meredith was shot in an assassination attempt one day into his trek. It brought together leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael, the newly elected leader of SNCC, whose introduction of the words “black power” in a speech during the march ushered in a new era for the movement. In addition to painstakingly chronicling the pivotal moments during the march, Bausum thoughtfully depicts the tensions both between King and Carmichael and within the movement. She offers an insightful, revealing portrait of Meredith, and she describes how the media quickly developed a negative fixation on the phrase “black power.” Bausum convincingly shows that the March Against Fear “stands as one of the greatest protests of the civil rights era” and deftly explains the many complex reasons why it was relegated to a footnote rather than a highlight in history.
An exceptionally well-written and -researched account of a crucial civil rights turning point.
(photos, bibliography, source notes)
Visit a nearly pristine world with an entomologist who’s studied this new island almost since its birth in 1963.
Burns describes field research on Surtsey, weaving the geological and ecological history of the island, raised from the ocean by volcanic eruption, into a fascinating account of scientists at work, with particular emphasis on the life’s work of Erling Ólaffson, who studies the island’s insects. The author was privileged to join him and eight other researchers in July 2015 for a five-day visit to this natural laboratory for watching the progression of life; this once-barren island is still open only to scientists. She’s chosen details that will particularly interest her readers: the mechanics of insect capture, discovery of new species, day-to-day life. The seven men and three women (Icelandic except for the American writer and a Polish botanist; all are white) came by helicopter, stayed in a hut built for researchers, used designated bathroom areas (No. 2 goes under rocks near the ocean to be washed away), and left nothing but wooden stakes marking research squares and new-to-island plants. Photographs by the writer and several team members, especially the entomologist who first visited Surtsey in 1970, include gorgeous scenery, the changing face of the island, team members, and close-ups of plants, animals, and even the lava itself to help readers picture this unique experience.
An amazing science adventure well worth the trip.
(glossary, further information resources, source notes, bibliography, acknowledgements, photo credits, index)
The author’s passion for his subject infuses this richly detailed history of the daredevil years in flying.
The introduction opens in 1915 with 50,000 spectators at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition, watching Lincoln Beachey, “the greatest, most celebrated aviator in the world,” attempt his famous Dip of Death maneuver. The narrative then goes back to fill in history about gliders and balloons before moving to its focus, the years from Kitty Hawk in 1903 to the end of this era of exhibition flying in 1915. Set mainly in the United States, the graceful account highlights a steady stream of breathtaking flights, mostly by white men but also a few white women. Fliers continuously broke altitude, speed, and distance records in exhibition contests that took the place of test flights. To make performances more exciting, they eventually added dangerous stunts like spins and corkscrews. Many pilots became celebrities, attracting huge crowds, inspiring newspaper headlines, and competing for cash prizes. Hundreds died while performing, which only made exhibitions more popular. Numerous black-and-white photographs show fliers, feats, and progress in airplane design, while diagrams help explain the physics of flying. Short sidebars add pertinent facts and anecdotes.
For those who love history, aviation, or stories of great daring, this is pure pleasure.
(timeline, glossary, notes, bibliography, index)
An introduction to the work of artist Cindy Sherman, illustrated with dozens of her photographs.
Sherman has been photographing herself in makeup and costumes since the 1960s, often reflecting on the societal roles of women. This beautifully designed account moves from her childhood through art school to her career as an artist, with sections on her various series, titled by year, such as Fairy Tales 1985 and Clowns 2003-2004. The final chapter, which discusses her 2012 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, highlights her success and influence in the art world. Greenberg and Jordan, who have honed their skills in many previous art books for young people, engage their audience from beginning to end. Their conversational text prompts readers to think, using questions (“Can we find beauty in ugliness?”) and friendly commands (“Imagine Cindy alone in her studio”). Well-chosen quotes from Sherman help explain her art and process, while colored boxes set off quotes from children and teens in which they respond to specific photographs. These quotes and the authors’ own interpretations offer ways to understand Sherman’s sometimes-controversial art. An introductory note invites readers to enter Sherman’s world and “discover your own stories”; the book brilliantly gives them the tools to do so.
An excellent, eye-opening exploration perfectly pitched to its audience.
(bibliography, notes, list of artworks)
The United States Constitution has been amended 27 times since its 1788 ratification, but the Levinsons make the reasonable and compelling case that further revision will make it even more efficient and just.
Cynthia Levinson, the author of We’ve Got a Job (2012), teams up with her husband, Sanford Levinson, a constitutional law scholar and professor, to explain how many of the political issues we struggle with today are rooted in flaws in the U.S. Constitution. Among the issues explored, in lively, accessible prose, are bicameralism, the Electoral College, emergency powers, gerrymandering, the presidential veto, and voter-identification requirements. In the chapters examining these issues, real-life examples illustrate each constitutional flaw (the 2000 election illustrates the problems in the Electoral College, for instance). Putting it in historical and contemporary context, the authors explain the problem, make comparisons to constitutions of other nations, and suggest viable solutions. The Levinsons grade the Constitution’s success in meeting its primary goals as outlined in the Preamble, giving it a C-plus overall. The text concludes with the authors debating the pros and cons of a second Constitutional Convention.
A fascinating, thoughtful, and provocative look at what in the Constitution keeps the United States from being “a more perfect union.” (timeline, bibliography, endnotes) (Nonfiction. 10-18)
In the middle of the 17th century, in a Puritan England full of mystery and magic, Newton grew up over an apothecary shop, studied alchemy and the world around him, went to Cambridge, taught himself mathematics, and deduced the laws of motion that underlie our understanding of the physical world. Losure has created a compellingly readable biography of the father of modern physics and “greatest alchemist who ever lived,” starting, appropriately for her audience, with his lonely childhood. She pieces together bits of information from his notebooks, from his biographers, old and new, and from social history to create a plausible character and bring readers into his world. Her Newton is bookish and curious about the world around him, mostly self-taught, reclusive and secretive about his discoveries—not only his efforts to create a “philosopher’s stone,” but also his observations about light (after they were scorned by another scientist), his invention of calculus, and his laws of motion. Much about Newton’s life has to be conjecture, but the author adds details from history and from her understanding of human behavior that make this splendid story both convincing and accessible to her readers. Illustrations, engravings from the time and pages from his notes, and interesting afterwords add to the appeal.
Narrative nonfiction at its best and most convincing.
(acknowledgements, source notes, bibliography, index not seen)
How homemade quilts created in rural Alabama became modern art.
Descended from enslaved African-Americans on the Pettway Plantation, the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, have been making quilts for generations. Taught by grandmothers, mothers, and aunts, these women have made quilts from cotton and corduroy and even old men’s trousers, using bold colors and a variety of patterns. For the poor tenant farmers of Gee’s Bend, the quilts were functional, “something to cover up with” to keep warm in cold cabins and hung out on fences and clotheslines once a year to “air out.” Rubin effectively demonstrates the important role of collectors Bill and Matt Arnett in “discovering” the quilts and seeing them as visual art, “some of the best art in the country.” Soon, thanks to their efforts, the quilts were being shown in museums all over the United States and included in the collection of the Modern Museum of Art in New York City. Full-color photographs beautifully present the quilts, while numerous other color and black-and-white photographs portray the history of Gee’s Bend and its now-famous quilters. A thread of history runs through the narrative, too, weaving in slavery, the New Deal, and the civil rights movement. A section on “Making a Quilt Square” makes quilting accessible to young artists.
A handsome volume to enchant a new generation of readers and artists.
(source notes, bibliography, acknowledgments, image credits)
An imagined biography in words and pictures of the self-taught white artist James Castle.
James Castle was born in 1899 on a farm in rural Idaho, “deaf, mute, autistic, and probably dyslexic.” Using interviews, written biographical material, and Castle’s own drawings as guides, Say, writing in the voice of Robert “Bob” Beach, Castle’s nephew, offers a sensitive portrait of a person compelled to draw despite abuse and lack of drawing materials. Considered “ineducable” by the principal of the Idaho School for the Deaf James attended from ages 10 to 15 (he also told James’ father not to let him draw), James used burnt matchsticks, soot mixed with his own saliva, and scrap paper to draw in secret. When Beach showed some of Castle’s drawings to his art professor, the professor, impressed, arranged an exhibition. More exhibitions followed, and Castle moved into a used trailer—by far the nicest studio he ever had. It’s a small but deep triumph that this misunderstood, determined artist became discovered by the art world during his lifetime. “I think he was happy,” narrator Bob says of this period, and it’s a wistful note that Say’s illustrations—some in Castle’s own style, some darkly black and white, and some in color—give heartfelt resonance to.
With sensitive text and powerful illustrations, Say brings this remarkable, inspiring life to poignant reality.
(author’s note, bibliography)
(Picture book/biography. 8-15)
A gripping account of a disastrous 1879 American expedition to find the North Pole.
In 1879, Lt. Cmdr. George De Long and his officers and crew set off from San Francisco in the USS Jeannette, funded by the New York Herald newspaper and backed by the U.S. Navy. Finding the pole, “the world’s greatest mystery,” so captured the public’s imagination that more than 1,200 men applied for the 24 positions as sailors. Two Yup’ik crew members joined in Alaska. Unfortunately, the available maps were highly inaccurate, as was a renowned expert’s assertion that a warm ocean current led to the pole. Instead, once north of Siberia, the ship found itself stranded in ice for more than a year and then crushed by it. The men, separated into three groups, tried desperately to reach Siberian settlements. De Long insisted on preserving his and others’ writings, which provide the remarkable details that bring this story to life. The authors skillfully incorporate quotes from journals, letters, and official documents. Vivid language and narrative techniques such as cliffhangers maximize the drama, while well-chosen anecdotes convey the personalities. Archival, contemporaneous illustrations, maps, and mostly small photographs add an appropriately old-fashioned look.
Highly appealing narrative nonfiction for anyone who loves true adventure.
(authors’ note, bibliography, source notes, index)