Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Power to the People: We Are Power elevates nonviolent activism

We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World, by Todd Hasak-Lowy, (April 2020, Abrams Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419741111

Ages 12+

A thought-provoking treatise on nonviolent activism, We Are Power presents six case studies throughout recent history: Gandhi, Alice Paul, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Václav Havel, and Greta Thunberg. Each section explores nonviolent resistance, the roots behind each advocate’s activism, and how the power of one person, exhorting nonviolence, can motivate thousands and create change. In an increasingly contentious world, the power of nonviolent activism, and placing this information in the hands of a generation of activists, is not only smart, it’s crucial.

Beginning with Gandhi and his theory of “soul force”, or satyagraha, each consecutive profile touches on how previous movements inspired one another. Martin Luther King in particular was influenced by Gandhi, while Alice Paul’s suffrage activism was a response to the more extreme suffagists in the UK, and her desire to be seen as calm, unflappable, and strong. Cesar Chavez understood that increasing awareness of migrant worker conditions was the best way to bring social justice to migrant workers and received a letter of encouragement from Martin Luther King, himself leading nonviolent resistance movements to bring civil rights to the country. Playwright-turned-Czech president Vaclav Havel used his art to protest; later, letters from prison, where he wrote about truth and opened people’s eyes by telling them that they were complicit in allowing their restrictive government’s rule by following the rules. Teenager Greta Thunberg began her climate change protest by being the sole student striking for climate change, and motivated a planet to take action.

A solid beginning for a discussion on social justice, activism, and civil disobedience, this is a must-have volume for middle school and high school collections. I can’t wait to put this in my order cart when my library, opens again. This would be a great Summer Reading choice, for educators who haven’t finished their lists yet. Photographs of protests and tense moments, like seeing schoolchildren attacked by dogs and being doused with hoses, make for great discussions on the use of violence against nonviolence – what stands to be gained? Comprehensive endnotes, bibliography, and index complete the book. Author Todd Hasak-Lowy’s author webpage has videos and resources for parents and educators.

We Are Power has starred reviews from School Library Journal, School Library Connection, and Kirkus.

 

Posted in Teen

Wild Beauty – beauty can hide ugly secrets

Wild Beauty, by Anna Marie McLemore, (Oct. 2017, Macmillan), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250124555
Recommended for readers 13+

Teen Estrella Nomeolvides and her cousins live on the beautiful Californian garden property, La Pradera, for generations. Known as “las hijas del aire”, they are bound to the land, forming beautiful flowers that create breathtaking gardens, but the gift is a curse: every man loved by a Nomeolvides woman disappears. Just… dissipates. The cousins are all in love with the same woman, Bay Briar, and pray to the gardens to keep her safe from vanishing; instead, a young man they call Fel appears, thrust forth by the garden. Fel has choppy memories of his past, and Estrella takes it on herself to help him recover his memories. What none of them realize is that Fel’s memories – Fel’s past – is inextricably linked to the ugly truth behind a Pradera.

There is a lot going on in Wild Beauty. There are several subplots that intertwine with the main story, all moving toward the revelations at the end. Beautifully written, with fully realized characters, Wild Beauty can be confusing – there were characters and subplots that took me a few re-reads to fully get my head straight – and the story tends to meander, which may frustrate some readers. Readers familiar with magical realism will recognize this and press on. There’s beautiful imagery, gender identity and fluid sexuality, and a respect for Latinx heroines and matriarchal family structures.

Wild Beauty has starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal. Bust Magazine has a great write-up on the book and the author.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Uncategorized

Mutt’s Promise- Animal Fiction about family, journeys, and finding your home

mutt_1Mutt’s Promise, by Julie Salamon/Illus. by Jill Weber (March 2016, Dial Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780525427780

Recommended for ages 8-12

A tired dog wanders the woods and saves a cat from a weasel attack. She’s taken in by the cat’s human, an older man living on his own, and he christens the dog, “Mutt”. The son of the migrant family working for the man bonds with the dog, who gives birth to a little of four puppies. He names them, cares for them, but when the family has to move on and tells their employer that they won’t be back, he gives the puppies away, saying they’re too much to take care for. Two puppies are adopted by one loving family, but the other two – a female named Luna and a boy named Chief – end up living a nightmare in a horrific puppy mill. Will they be able to keep their spirits and their bodies healthy enough to survive and escape?

Mutt’s Promise is an unexpected book. It starts in a most idyllic setting, only to move pretty quickly into some heavy social issues. While the idea of migrant worker families is lightly touched on, it’s there, showing that this is not something that died out with The Grapes of Wrath. The heavier topic here is animal cruelty, most notably the kind of cruelty that takes place in puppy mills. Luna, a spunky little female pup, also deals with crushing depression and post-traumatic stress disorder from her time in the puppy mill. All of these topics are handled in an age-appropriate manner, framed within the animals’ story and using vocabulary that doesn’t try to sugar-coat what happens in these places, but makes the situation comprehensible to younger readers.

The writing and illustrations made me think of the animal fiction I read as a child; books like Margery Sharp’s The Rescuers series, and one of my all-time favorites, Rosemary Weir’s Pyewacket. Kids who love animal fiction will enjoy this book, and it provides a gentle introduction to hot-button social issues today. For kids who have experienced trauma in their own lives, reading a book like this may help facilitate a discussion; guidance counselors and therapists should give this a read and have available to talk over with parents and children.

Author has written nine books for both adults and children, including Cat in the City (also illustrated by Jill Weber).  Jill Weber is a children’s book illustrator and designer, and has worked on two other books by Julie Salamon.

Enjoy a glimpse at some of the art from the pages of Mutt’s Promise.

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