NOW OR NEVER!

FIFTY-FOURTH MASSACHUSETTS INFANTRY'S WAR TO END SLAVERY

Two black Civil War soldiers and writers offer unique perspectives about how they fought on and off the battlefield.

George E. Stephens and James Henry Gooding were both Union soldiers. The fact that they were African-Americans meant that the trajectory of their service and the weight they carried in battle were unusual. In their minds, they were fighting not just to preserve the Union, but to end slavery and secure their rights as full American citizens. The Quaker-educated men both joined the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, and both also wrote about what they saw, Stephens for the Anglo-American, a black Northern weekly, and Gooding for the New Bedford, Massachusetts, Mercury, both showing a different side of the war to blacks and abolitionists. They were skilled at sharing compelling details of the battles they fought in combat and against the racism that, among other things, denied them equal pay for their service. Author Shepard does a great job using the dispatches from these men to form the basis for this narrative. The most impressive contribution is how the individual voices of Stephens and Gooding are in the forefront with their similarities and distinctions. This is a powerful use of primary resources, one that illuminates the lives of its subjects but never gets in the way of their remarkable stories. Rich backmatter provides useful information.

Absolutely stellar. (timeline, source notes, bibliography, further reading, index, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62979-340-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A thoughtful, engaging history for intermediate students interested in Africa.

Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali

Oliver’s debut, about one of West Africa’s most powerful and charismatic leaders, delivers a vibrant mix of history and historical fiction for young adults.

The book introduces the medieval empire of Mali with several short narrative essays on trans-Atlantic exploration, trade and mining and soon narrows its focus to the compelling life story of the emperor Mansa Musa, who ruled Mali in the early 1300s. Oliver shows how Musa gained influence while making a lavish, politically important trip to Mecca, and his deft explanation of how Musa crossed the vast Sahara Desert briefly but skillfully conveys the difficulty of the lengthy voyage. This enjoyable work smoothly blends historical text with memorable anecdotes from primary and secondary sources, photos and sketches of replicas of ancient and medieval African art, and well-drawn maps. The book moves at a fast pace, and the author’s clear, straightforward style is likely to appeal to young adults. He easily switches between topics, discussing history (how Musa gained recognition in Egypt and North Africa), religion (how Islam shaped Musa and his empire), architecture (the methods of construction for Malian mud-brick buildings) and fables (the legend of the Malian “gold plant”). However, Oliver always strives for historical accuracy; even his fictional account of a young sandal maker who travels to Niani’s great market contains period-appropriate language and scenery. The book also includes a lengthy glossary that is amply illustrated with drawings and photographs of West African boats and buildings. The work’s one shortcoming is its abrupt ending after Musa returns home; it lacks a thorough explanation as to how and why the empire of Mali eventually dissolved.

A thoughtful, engaging history for intermediate students interested in Africa.

Pub Date: March 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1468053548

Page Count: 128

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2013

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The author’s elegant narrative conveys how the love for these amazing creatures transcends national animosities.

THE PERFECT HORSE

THE DARING U.S. MISSION TO RESCUE THE PRICELESS STALLIONS KIDNAPPED BY THE NAZIS

A singular spotlight on the concerted World War II effort to save Lipizzaner stallions.

Letts (The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation, 2011, etc.), a lifelong equestrienne, eloquently brings together the many facets of this unlikely, poignant story underscoring the love and respect of man for horses. The horses in question were rare Arabian thoroughbreds introduced to Europe by the Ottoman Turks in the late 17th century and subsequently bred in Poland. The Bolsheviks had slaughtered nearly the whole stock in 1917, deeming them the “playthings of princes,” though the Polish stud stable at Janów Podlaski was finally beginning to thrive again by the time of the Russian-Nazi invasion of Poland in late 1938. Two important equine sagas, handled well by the author, converge here: the German takeover of the Janów stud farm, led by German Olympic organizer Gustav Rau, in order to reassemble the Polish horse-breeding industry for the glory of the Third Reich, which desperately needed horses for mounted troops; and the attempts to save the working Lipizzaner stallions at the aristocratic Spanish Riding School in Vienna, led by Alois Podhajsky, who had won the bronze medal in dressage at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Under Rau, the stud farm was moved to Hostau, Czechoslovakia, by October 1942, and put under the care of Polish civil servant Hubert Rudofsky, who successfully increased the number of bred Lipizzaners by 1944. With Allied bombs falling on German cities, and eventually Vienna, Podhajsky determined that his horses had to be moved to safety, eventually housed in the village of St. Martin, Austria, yet the Nazi-controlled Austrian government was loathe to relinquish control of such a symbol of Austrian determination. Enter the Americans, specifically Maj. Hank Reed of the 2nd Calvary, which had traded in tanks for horses to fight the Nazis across France, and the exciting meeting of Gen. George Patton’s army at Hostau.

The author’s elegant narrative conveys how the love for these amazing creatures transcends national animosities.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-345-54480-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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