Monday, July 27, 2020

SOLAR STORY by Allan Drummond.  New York: Farrar Straus Giroux Books, 2020.  32p.  ISBN 978-037430899-5 hc. $18.99     Gr. 2-5     J 621.31

In a small village in Morocco, found in Northwestern Africa, school children are learning about solar power.  In a region of almost constant sunshine, residents of the small village live as they always have with little or no electricity.  However, changes are coming to the region.  A new solar tower surrounded by thousands of solar panels is being built next to the village to provide sustainable solar energy.  Watercolor illustrations allow readers to join the school children on a field trip to the Noor Solar Power Plant where they learn about solar operations, along with the new jobs filled by local employees and the training opportunities provided to the local community.  Informational Notes, usually found at the back of the book, are conveniently incorporated into side panels of the illustrations.  The overall focus is on sustainability and future promise of modernization to the small village and its children.  The author adds this story to his collection of green projects, including ENERGY ISLAND (2011), GREEN CITY (2016), and PEDAL POWER (2018).
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Monday, July 20, 2020

A VOICE NAMED ARETHA by Katheryn Russel-Brown. Illus. by Laura Freeman.  New York:  Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020, 32p. ISBN 978-168119850-7 hc. $17.99    Gr. 2-5     J 921

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Aretha was born to a pastor and a nurse who encouraged the children to sing in the church choir.  Aretha’s voice made her a standout.  By the time she was ten years old, Aretha was singing solos and soon joined her father’s traveling ministry, called the Gospel Caravan.  She signed a record deal at age eighteen and soon became a smart business woman.  In 1967, Aretha signed on with Atlantic Records and released a string of hit songs, including “Respect” and “Chain of Fools.”  She became known as the Queen of Soul and “was the first woman voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.”  Aretha inspired everyone with her songs and remained influential in the music industry until her death in 2018.  Biographical Notes can be found at the end of the book, along with a list of her most famous songs.  The illustrations are bold and bright, somewhat like Aretha Franklin, herself.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Monday, July 13, 2020

STAMPED:  RACISM, ANTIRACISM, AND YOU by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.  New York:  Little, Brown and Co., 2020. 294p  ISBN 978-031645369-1 hc. $18.99     Gr. 7-12     YA 305.8

Acclaimed writer of teen fiction, Jason Reynolds, takes the contents of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF RACIST IDEAS IN AMERICA, and gives it a conversational voice.  Beginning with the roots of racism, including the fabrication of a Biblical black race started by Noah’s disobedient son Ham, the period of 1415 - 1728 was a time of establishing the superiority of whites and suppressing those with dark skin.  By de-humanizing blacks, the wealthy white majority was able to utilize them as an enslaved work force and grow their own fortunes.  It all boiled down to money.  After the abolition of slavery, the suppression of blacks gave extra political power to the white ruling class that has endured to this very day.  The book is broken up into five sections of time that follow new ways of maintaining white supremacy as modernization brings readers into the twenty-first century.  Is the United States doomed to repeat cultural mistakes from the past?  Not if you identify those mistakes by reading this eye-opening book.  There are twenty pages of source notes at the end of the book, along with a complete index – just in case you want to re-check some facts.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Monday, July 6, 2020

FIGHTING WORDS by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  New York: Dial Books, 2020. ISBN 978-1984815682 hc. $17.99    Gr. 5-8     JUV

Della is just ten, but she’s experienced more than any child should in a lifetime.  She and her teenage sister, Suki, have been living with her mom’s boyfriend, Clifton, ever since her mom was sent to prison for cooking meth.  Their living situation went from bad to worse when a drunk Clifton tried to abuse Della before Suki got home and used her phone to document the situation.  Then they ran!  That’s where this story begins.  Della is back in school, where she’s always in trouble because she has a limited vocabulary of curse words, but those are the ones she likes to use.  Suki is still trying to protect Della from harm and the foster care system, but she’s also trying to hold down a job and go to school.  The sisters don’t trust anyone, especially Francine, their by-the-book foster parent, who will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to them.  As Della makes progress navigating the classroom and school routines, Suki is beginning to crumble emotionally and attempts suicide.  Della begins to realize what kind of sacrifices Suki made to keep her safe from Clifton.  Will they be able to trust Francine enough to get the help they both need to recover from unspeakable trauma?  Although the author tackles the issues of sexual abuse and suicide, the story ends in a place of hope and is appropriate for middle school readers.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI