Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
Released June 11, 2013.
Explore three of the greatest primatologists of the 20th century in this graphic novel. The book begins with the story of Jane Goodall and how she was recruited by the famous anthropologist Lous Leakey to research chimpanzees. It shows how she first learned to quietly watch the chimpanzees and be accepted by them as well as her own personal life as she lived in the jungle. When Dian Fossey is then recruited by Leakey, the story turns to her life and her very different personality as she researched gorillas using similar techniques to Goodall. The last woman recruited was Galdikas and she studied orangutans and had her own adventures as her research progressed. Told with humor but also immense respect, the stories of these three pioneering women show the importance of female scientists and the unique paths you can take to reaching your dreams.
Ottaviani writes in the voices of the three women, beautifully capturing their individuality through their words. The three are profoundly unique yet also amazingly similar in their bravery, dedication and resilience. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where the three of them were together and the ending which demonstrated how different they were from one another. It takes a lot of skill to write three women’s voices with such clarity that they are distinct and special.
The art by Wicks has a wonderful simplicity and also a playfulness that makes the book welcoming and light hearted. This is nonfiction that reluctant readers and young biologists alike will enjoy. The graphic format is compelling and given the nature of the research makes the entire experience more tangible for young readers.
A great graphic novel, this is a stellar pick for school libraries and public libraries that will have children learning about scientific history without even realizing it! Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from First Second.
The Vine Basket by Josanne La Valley
In East Turkestan, Mehrigul’s beloved brother has left the family and now her father is always angry and her mother has taken to bed. Mehrigul is forced to leave school and help out on the family farm. She also works the family market stall which is where her vine basket, created in the form of a cone rather than a more useful shape, is spotted by an American woman who offers to buy it for a very high sum. But her father just drinks and wagers away the money, leaving the family still on the brink of ruin. There are political pressures too with the Chinese pushing the Uyghur people to conform. If Mehrigul does not return to school, she could be sent to work in a Chinese factory. But there is one ray of hope and that is that the American woman asked for more baskets. It will take time and determination for Mehrigul to complete the baskets for her, especially once her father forbids her to do it.
I seriously could not believe this was a debut book. La Valley writes with such assurance and skill, building a world that makes sense to those unfamiliar with the Uyghur and East Turkestan. She also neatly explains very complicated politics in a way that children will understand thanks to the perspective of Mehrigul and her family. La Valley does not shy away from the difficult family situation she has created, clearly creating a world where there are no real villains just adults dealing with impossible situations.
Yet there are heroes. They come in the form of more than the American buyer too. Mehrigul’s grandfather is one of these, as he works impossibly hard and still supports her dreams and skills with baskets. Mehrigul herself is certainly a heroine as well, creating beauty with an incredible humility, taking on tasks far beyond someone as young as she is, and holding her family together.
La Valley never forgets to instill beauty into the world she is telling us about. We learn about the Uyghur rugs, music and art. We learn about the beauty of the desert, the sting of the sand, the wonder of the sudden rain, and the treasures of true friendship and family. It is in this mix of destitution and beauty that this book truly shines. It is a book that enters the very heart of the reader and takes up residence. Beautiful, haunting, cruel and wondrous, this is one amazing read. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley.
Stolen Magic by Stephanie Burgis
This third in the Kat, Incorrigible series continues the magical story of Kat who continues to romp through the social rules of the Regency-era with reckless abandon. In this book, she is attending the wedding of her sister Angeline or at least she hopes that it will turn out that way. But someone seems to be trying to kill her, cutting the axle of their carriage. She has spotted someone lingering in the shadows, watching her, but has yet to figure out what she has done to anger them. Kat is due to be initiated into the Order of the Guardians finally but that is delayed when it is discovered that their collection of spare portals has been stolen. Then there is the woman who looks disturbingly like Kat’s dead mother who is also attending the wedding and the fact that Kat’s brother Charles has chosen a very bad time to finally wake up and become responsible. It all makes for another delight of a novel in this charming series.
Burgis has created a heroine in Kat who is dynamic, ignores the social niceties of the day, and manages to get into all sorts of trouble, both magical and normal. Through it all, she finds herself in incredible scrapes and adventures, that are great fun to go along on. The writing is light handed, clear and makes for a rollicking read that is easy to read greedily and almost impossible to read slowly.
I see that this is said to be the conclusion of the series, though I admit that I hope for more about Kat. I want to see what happens when she actually enters the Guardians, what happens to the hint of romance in the air, and what scrapes she gets into next.
A grand ending to a great trilogy, this series is perfect to hand to both fans of fantasy and fans of historical fiction since it is a wonderful sweet concoction of both genres. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.
Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis
Somehow I lost track of this wonderful magical series, so I’m a little late in reading the last two books. This is the second in the series, following Kat, Incorrigible. Kat’s oldest sister is wed at the beginning of this book, but not before her wedding is disrupted by the angry mother of another sister’s suitor. Once again Kat’s feud with Lady Fotherington has caused catastrophe. When Kat confronts Lady Fotherington about what she has done, she goes too far and loses her right to learn how to use her Guardian magic. Soon after the wedding, the suitor has reluctantly left and the family heads to Bath to escape the scandal for a time. Little do they know, but they are heading directly into a huge magical situation where Kat will be unable to avoid the Guardians.
Burgis weaves actual history into her story of Bath which adds a fine solid foundation to a story that is frothy with fun and sparkling with magic. Perhaps the best part of this book is the frumpery and finery of the upper class, making sure they are seen in the proper way and fretting about the smallest things. Through it all, Kat is a fierce heroine, determined to regain her right to learn Guardian magic and do what is best for her family.
A strong second book in a delight of a series, this book has a strong ending that sets readers up nicely for the final book in the series. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff
Jemma thinks she is the youngest daughter of the Agromond family, readying herself for the day her Powers will finally reveal themselves fully. But before that can happen, her true past is revealed and Jemma understands why she has never been able to do the black magic that her family does so easily. Now she has to escape their castle and enter the dangerous mist that can read a person’s intentions. She only has the help of her two golden rats, a decrepit old servant, and a trusted friend, Digby. Lost and wandering in the mist, Jemma has to battle monsters, flee from those sent to find her, and convince the mist itself that she is not a threat. As she travels, ghostly children try to seek her help, crying for their brothers and sisters in the castle. Jemma has to learn the truth of not only her own past but of the castle and the horrors that are hidden there.
This is such a compelling read! Grindstaff’s slow reveal of the truth is very deftly done in this carefully plotted novel. She does not flinch away from true horrors here, never hiding from what it would truly take to create a force like the mist and have such dark powers. The plotting during the time that Jemma is lost in the mist does meander a bit, but happily that is not made up by speeding up the ending.
Jemma is a compelling heroine with her self-doubt and fear. Yet she is an incredibly brave heroine, risking herself for others. I particularly enjoyed the part towards the end when she had to continually revise her plans based on what was happening at the time. It made for a very complex and exceptional read. It also took away from the reader the ability to predict what would happen, making the ending a much more immediate experience.
This is a strong debut novel that reads like a stand alone. While I wouldn’t mind more adventures from Jemma, I look forward to seeing what Grindstaff has to offer us next. Appropriate for ages 12-14.
Reviewed from copy received from Delacorte Press.
Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
From even before she was born, it had been decided that Emily’s destiny was to be a poet. Named after Emily Dickinson when her mother was inspired at a bookstore, Emily’s entire 11-year life has been documented in the margins of a first edition copy of Dickinson’s poems. When Emily discovers that her mother wrote her father’s name in the margin of one of the poems, she rushes to read the book but a mishap sends it off to be donated to Goodwill. This begins a search of several used book stores for the book and it quickly becomes apparent that destinies will not be rushed and that there is no way to force them. But along the way, new friends are made, great books to read are found, and destiny is eventually changed.
Fitzmaurice writes with a wonderful mix of light tone and richness. She carefully builds her story, creating additional storylines that serve as different strings in the story that are tied together by the end. Another source of the richness is the way she describes things in the story. Chapter 4 begins with “So I headed down the hall that Saturday morning with a hopeful feeling that came only on days I was opening a new box of Cheerios…” This is such a universal image and universal feeling. The Cheerios play into more of the story along with the prizes in their box.
Emily is an engaging character who struggles with learning patience and the frustration of being so close to the truth and then unable to grasp it. She comes off as a multidimensional person, again thanks to the richness of the world that Fitzmaurice paints for the reader. The secondary characters are also well drawn and solidly written. It is a pleasure to also see poems by Dickinson and her life tied so closely to the lives of modern-day children and families.
Fresh and joyful, this is a novel where storylines click into place like a puzzle. It will delight children who enjoy reading. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
All My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens by Gloria Whelan
This sequel to Small Acts of Amazing Courage continues Rosalind’s story. Rosalind lives in British-controlled India. She is the only daughter in a well-off family, though she avoids the Club and all of the other British girls there. Instead she runs a small school for the village boys, one that is not government sanctioned and so can continue to run. She is a follower of Gandhi, something her father certainly does not approve of. He wouldn’t approve of the school either, but he doesn’t know about it. The book also tells of what happened to Hari, the infant that Rosalind rescued in the first book and how her aunts are now doing living in India. As Rosalind gets drawn further into British life, she finds her two worlds colliding and the question is how she will remain true to herself and the cause she believes in so fiercely.
I simply adored the first book in this series and am so happy to say that the second is just as wonderful. Whelan captures the period of British rule in India very clearly, never flinching from the harsh realities of the period, including the injustices of the British, the selling of child brides for money, and the severe poverty brought on by the caste system. It is a book that is filled with the dust and clamor of the streets, the laughter of close trusted friends, and the grandeur of a prince’s visit.
Rosalind shows a lot of growth from one book to the next. In the first book, she would rush headlong into trouble. Here the trouble she gets into is still there, but much of it she walks into with her eyes open and understanding what she is doing. She is a radiant character, filling the pages with her passion for change and her love of India. It is Rosalind who carries the story, because one never knows quite what will happen to her next.
A worthy sequel to the first gem of a book, fans of the first will welcome this second story of Rosalind and India. Appropriate for ages 12-16.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.
The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia
Aliya is different than the other kids in her class because she’s Muslim. She does all she can to fit in, but that means she doesn’t stand up to the kids who pick on her or even talk to the cute boy she likes. Then Marwa moves to their town and she is in the same grade as Aliya. Marwa is also Muslim and wears the hijab or head scarf. Marwa also does not just put up with the teasing of others and appears to Aliya to be much more confident than Aliya personally feels. Aliya starts to write letters to Allah which start out as just complaints at first and then lead to something more: action. As Aliya begins to deal with her own insecurities, she discovers that the world is much more accepting of differences if they are handled with confidence.
Zia has created a universal story with a Muslim heroine. Children of all faiths will recognize themselves in these pages. They will have struggled with teasing and bullying, they will have tried too hard to fit in, they will have not liked someone at first and then learned to like them. Zia incorporates details about Zia’s Indian culture, her faith, and her family traditions with great skill, handily defining things with skill and ease.
It is wonderful to see a young heroine whose life includes cute boys but is not driven by it. Faith, family and friendship are really at the heart of this novel, but Aliya is definitely a young girl too. She struggles with issues in a way that shows definite growth in a natural way. Zia writes with a wonderful lightness that makes this book an effortless read.
Filled with giggles between girlfriends, this book reveals the warmth of family and faith in a completely approachable and joyful way. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Peachtree Publishers.
Jinx by Sage Blackwood
Raised in the Urwald, Jinx knows that no matter what you never leave the path through the woods. So when his stepfather decides to get rid of Jinx, they leave the path. That’s when Jinx meets Simon, a wizard who agrees to take Jinx from his stepfather rather than letting him die in the woods. Jinx moves in with Simon, who makes incredibly delicious food and has only one rule, never go into certain rooms. Jinx has his own sort of magic: he is able to see people’s emotions as colorful clouds above their heads. He can also talk with the trees of the Urwald. But Simon does not believe he can actually do either. Living with a wizard brings Jinx into touch with other sorts of magic and soon he is learning about that magic too, though he doesn’t seem to be any good at it. Life is cozy and as good as Jinx has ever had, but it can’t stay that way. Jinx soon wants to explore the Urwald himself, which leads to all sorts of amazing adventures and deadly dangers.
Blackwood has truly invented her own fantasy world here. While she borrows from classic fantasies for some of her creatures: vampires, werewolves, wizards, and trolls, she has created her own rules for their world. By creating the Urwald, a living woods that takes knowing the laws to survive for any length of time, she has effectively created a smaller world inside a larger one. There are glimpses of the other parts of the world that are tantalizing. It’s a complex world that she has created, which makes it all the more delightful to explore.
In Jinx, Blackwood has created what seems to be a very simple character. Jinx grows throughout the novel not just in his age but in his perspective. At first he is just happy to have somewhere warm with good food, but quickly he becomes intrigued with the magic around him. Readers will immediately understand the Jinx is special thanks to his unique vision of emotions, but as they grow to know him more, they will discover he is just as complicated as the world he lives in.
Blackwood has written an impressive fantasy novel for middle grade readers that is both dazzling and dangerous. Appropriate for ages 11-13.
Reviewed from library copy.