Archive for History

Double Cross: Deception Techniques in War

Written by Paul B. Janeczko

Warfare has always relied heavily on two things: the confidence of the fighters and the people at home and fooling the enemy. This book is about fooling the enemy and many of the ways that’s been accomplished.

Beginning with ancient times and the story of Gideon in the Bible. Using torches and the element of surprise, they convinced the enemy they had much larger numbers. That helped them win the battle. The author shows how deception during the Trojan War helped armed forces gain the upper hand. After a long siege, the forces were evenly matched, so the Trojan Horse provided the means to end the siege. During the Battle of Hastings, the Normans used a faked retreat to overwhelm the English. The author discusses deception during the French and Indian War and World War I, then he goes into great detail about the many techniques used during World War II. The final chapter is about modern times, including Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.

 Well-researched and loaded with information, the text is nevertheless very exciting and wonderfully readable for a history book. Boys, in particular, will love it, but girls with an interest in puzzles will also want to keep reading. Great resource for the classroom.

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  • Title:  Double Cross: Deception Techniques in War
  • Author:  Paul B. Janeczko
  • Publisher:  Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format:  Hardcover, 256 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-7636-6042-0
  • Genre: Upper Middle Grade Nonfiction
  • Grade level: 5 to 9
  • Extras: Table of Contents, Source Notes, Bibliography, Image Credits, Index, Numerous maps and photos

The Song of Orpheus: The Greatest Greek Myths You Never Heard

Written by Tracy Barrett

Aside from the fact that so much Western thought originated in and around Greece, making it important to explore as many Greek stories as possible, it’s just plain fun to tell stories that may have been forgotten. Then there’s the popularity of Percy Jackson, 300, and other related stories. Those who enjoy these ancient tales inevitably want more, and here they are.

Barrett cleverly approaches the multitude of myths by introducing a narrator who must tell a number of previously unheard tales to be reunited with his love after 3,000 years. The narrator, Orpheus, was turned into a rock and thus separated from Eurydice.

He begins with his own background, then quickly moves on to sixteen other stories about a variety of subjects. First is the Greek version of the big bang. How does Zeus reward two brothers for being amusing? Gods granting wishes, but in unexpected ways. Statues without feet. The life of the first bee-keeper, cheese maker, and olive oil maker. Gods tricking people out of love. People casting spells for love. Fixed chariot races. And so on.

Well-researched and well-organized, this is a great supplement for social studies or literature.

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  • Song of OrpheusTitle: The Song of Orpheus: The Greatest Greek Myths You Never Heard
  • Author: Tracy Barrett
  • Published: Tracy Barrett, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: eBook, 140 pages
  • Grade Level: 5 to 7
  • Genre: Folk tales, Culture
  • ISBN: 978-1535144506
  • Extras: A Note About Spelling, A Note About Pronunciation, Extensive glossary of Greek terms: Immortals, Other Mythological Creatures, and Places


Henry David Thoreau for Kids: His Life and Ideas, with 21 Activities

Written by Corinne Hosfeld Smith

Chicago Review Press continues to produce quality biographies with a purpose for children with this informative volume about the nineteenth century essayist, teacher, botanist, and political activist. With tons of pictures and maps, his story unfolds to reveal the many reasons he endures as an influential force throughout the world. Among the people whose life he affected, in addition to his friends Ralph Waldo Emerson and Ellery Channing, were Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. His surveys and collections are still studied today, 150 years after his death. He was not the recluse that people seem to think he was, which the author quickly points out, but he did have specific ideas on how to live and did not worry about whether others would join him in every activity. He lived in a time when many diseases were known but not well-understood, so died at age 44 of tuberculosis, a disease that’s much more treatable today.

Thoreau’s methods and approaches were so straightforward that they lend themselves easily to adaption for children. Fifth graders can keep a daily journal, record animal behavior, measure the depth of water, or do one of 18 other activities carefully outlined. This is a great resource.

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  • ThoreauTitle: Henry David Thoreau for Kids: His Life and Ideas, with 21 Activities
  • Author: Corinne Hosfeld Smith
  • Published: Chicago Review Press, February 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 128 pages
  • Grade Level: 4 up
  • Genre: Biography, history, science
  • ISBN: 978-1-61373-146-8
  • Extras: Table of Contents, Time Line, Resources, Notes, Bibliography, Index, 21 Activities

Trapped Behind Nazi Lines: The Story of the US Army Air Force 807th Medical Evacuation Squadron

Written by Eric Braun

Imagine being young and eager to help the wounded and sick during a war. Imagine flying into the unknown and crashing far from where you were supposed to be. That’s what happened to a group of nurses, medics, and their flight crew during World War II. The group were helped by partisans, hunted by Nazi sympathizers and Nazis, and rescued by a coalition of Americans and the British. They endured fleas, lice, starvation, dysentery, blizzards, and hundreds of miles of walking and climbing mountains. While their families worried for them, many quietly celebrated birthdays hiding from the enemy. Eventually, all of the Americans were rescued, but some were stranded in Albania for four and a half months.

From the “Encounter: Narrative Nonfiction Stories,” this is a very exciting account of a little-known slice of human experience from an event that affected most of the world. Readers get to see the interaction of cultures and the sacrifices people throughout the world are willing to make, even when they don’t know the people who are suffering.

Highly recommended.

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  • Trapped Behind Enemy LinesTitle: Trapped Behind Nazi Lines: The Story of the US Army Air Force 807th Medical Evacuation Squadron
  • Author: Eric Braun
  • Published: Capstone Press, March, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 224 pages
  • Grade Level: 4 to 6
  • Genre: Nonfiction, History
  • ISBN: 978-1-6732-0605-0
  • Extras: Maps, Numerous photographs, Timeline, Quotation Source Notes, About the Author, Glossary, Read More, Critical Thinking Using Common Core, Selected Bibliography, Internet Sites, Index

Book: My Autobiography

Written by John Agard
Illustrated by Neil Parker

If a book could talk, what would it say about its past?

It would tell you about the farmers of Mesopotamia doodling with sticks on clay, but even before that type of writing, story was told with breath.

This fun look at the development of the book is entertaining as well as educational. Teachers and librarians will use it to fulfill core curriculum standards in areas of history and several literacy skills. Young readers will need to be prepared for how the author uses the inanimate book to tell the story in words normally used by people.

A fun activity to engage in while reading this book aloud to a class would be the creation of a time line illustrating each evolution of print. Students can discuss their opinions of digital versus print books when they come to the section in this text where we are assured that story will always be present.

The inclusion of poems, and quotes from around the world about the importance of books to the world add depth and beauty.

Students who become interested in the development of the book will want to research beyond this simple, but fun introduction.

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  • BookTitle: Book: My Autobiography
  • Author: John Agard
  • Illustrator: Neil Parker
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 132 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7236-2
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Grade level: 5 Up

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

Written by Jacqueline Kelly

“Why can’t I go to college, too?” A heartfelt question asked by many a girl at the turn of the century when she first realized only the brothers would get the education they desired.

We first met the vivacious and wonderful, Calpurnia Tate, in Jacqueline Kelly’s Newberry Honor Book, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Now her story continues into the season of spring with many new science experiments with Grandfather, sibling fights with all those brothers and facing a world trying to put her into a “homemaker” box.

Kelly builds the realistic plot with impeccable research from both time and place. Readers learn of the devastation of the Galveston hurricane of 1900, the tragedy it caused for family members far away as many hurried to help.

The character development is spot on as Callie relates to each of her brother’s whims. She is always helping out Travis with whatever new animal he has brought home to rescue. Worry, humor and resourcefulness are often involved in taking care of these animals.

Teachers and librarians will fulfill many core curriculum standards in literature, history, geography and science using this text. Many will want to introduce it in read aloud time. Parents would find this a great gift giving book. Both of these books should be in every school and public library.

Grade four, grade five and grade six readers as well as those far beyond will begin this book and keep turning pages for hours without stopping. When it does end, they will be sad to part with these great new friends in this wonderful new place. And then what will we do?  Wait impatiently while hoping Jacqueline Kelly is writing the next book about Calpurnia and her family.

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  • Curious World of CalpurniaTitle: The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate
  • Author: Jacqueline Kelly
  • Publisher: Henry Holt, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 309 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8050-9744-3
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Grade Level: 4 to 6

A Night Divided

Written by Jennifer A. Nielsen

There was no warning. It happened in the middle of the night. A city was cut in two. Gerta’s family was cut in two. Many families in Berlin were cut in two.

Gerta’s father and middle brother had gone to West Berlin to look for jobs and an apartment for the rest of the family one September day in 1961. That night, East Berlin border guards were ordered to build a barbed wire fence. No one was allowed to cross the fence. Within days, a wall was built with barbed wire atop it. East Berlin was shut off from the rest of the world. Food shortages, work shortages, and brutal interrogations of citizens followed.

One day, on her way to school Gerta saw her father on the other side of the wall pantomiming a song about digging a garden. Later, it occurred to her he might be suggesting she build a tunnel under the wall.

The story is tense, fast-paced and very accurate. Grade five and grade six readers will get a realistic, if frightening, look at part of the past. Teachers and librarians will fulfill the core curriculum standards in history and literature by including this book in their reading lists. It will open discussions of freedom as well as open doors to further research. Some of the students may be able to find family members or neighbors who lived through the experience. Students will be awestruck at how many people did not live through it.

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  • A Night DividedTitle: A Night Divided
  • Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 317 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-68242-8
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Grade level: 3 to 7
  • Extras: historical photographs

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America

Written by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Mary was a great cook, but she was a carrier of the deadly typhoid disease. It was likely she unknowingly put germs in food of people who later became very ill and died. But Mary never understood what it meant to be a carrier and couldn’t accept help from the medical community. They were trying to save the people of New York City.

Once again, Susan Campbell Bartoletti has done extensive primary and secondary source research in support of the story. This biography is filled with details and each one is verified by its source.

Readers get a glimpse of the frustration felt by Mary, but then in later chapters can relate to the frustration of the health officials. They really weren’t targeting Mary, but trying to do what was best for everyone.

Students will learn about this particular event and also how to do a solid, non-fiction report of their own. Core curriculum standards in literacy, as well as American history and health/science can be fulfilled. Among the story of what happened to Mary, readers will notice a story of how the science of health was developing in this era. Anyone involved in women’s studies might also find it interesting that even while Mary was quarantined, several men also identified as carriers were treated and/or observed, but never quarantined on a far away island.

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  • Typhoid MaryTitle: Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America
  • Author: Susan Campbell Bartoletti
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 229 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-544-31367-5
  • Genre: Biography, history
  • Grade level: 5 up
  • Extras: Afterward, Photo Album, Chapter Footnotes, Extensive Bibliography, Index

Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures

Written by Erin Hagar

Julia Child was passionate and friendly, as is this new biography about her life and work. The text is conversational as well as informative.

Like many grown-ups, even Julia Child sometimes wondered what her real life’s work might turn out to be as she moved all over the world. Finally, one day while having lunch in a restaurant in Paris, France stirred up her passion for good food.

Grade three readers, or grade six readers and any others who pick up this biography will be amazed at how this girl from Pasadena, California grows up to become one of the most successful and famous chefs in history. Her cookbooks and television shows were followed by thousands. People still roast a chicken the same way Julia taught them, all while laughing and visiting with them and the TV filming crew.

Each chapter includes several full-page sketches depicting various events of Julia’s life. Readers will love how these sketches help transport them into her world.

Teachers, librarians, and parents will applaud how much this book can be a comfortable read, and also provide a bridge to research-based reading and writing. It fulfills many core curriculum standards in the areas of literacy, geography, history and culture. Students can use the index, glossary, bibliography and timeline while completing their own research into the life of this famous woman. This would be a great addition to any upper elementary or middle school, and public library collection. Also, a fun birthday or Christmas surprise for any third to seventh grader who loves to read and cook.

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  • Julia ChildTitle: Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures
  • Author: Erin Hagar
  • Illustrator: Joanna Gorham
  • Publisher: Duopress, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 160 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-938093-34-0
  • Genre: Biography
  • Grade level: 3 to 7
  • Extras: Glossary, Index, Time-line, Bibliography, Illustrations of Julia Child Historic Kitchen in Washington, D. C.

Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra De Winter and Bram Broen

Written by Eve Yohalem

Mutiny aboard ship, would you be with the captain or against? Petra and Bram would each have to decide. They didn’t care about the gold the mutineers were stealing from the hold. They were each trying to find a place and way to live free from danger in the world.

Petra’s father would likely kill her if she were forced to return to Amsterdam. Bram would never find a place he truly belonged in the world because of being a mixed race boy.

This story of life aboard the ship, The Golden Lion, in the year 1663 is a fast paced tale of pretending to be a boy while surviving a long journey at sea. It involves bad weather, an attack by pirates and mutiny at sea.

The diagram of a ship of this sort is accurate. Much research went into writing this book with as much accuracy as possible. The author’s note explains the amount of research, but it would have been helpful, from an educational viewpoint, to have included some of the sources.

The book will still fulfill literacy requirements, as well as, core curriculum standards for geography, history. The world map showing the journey is great, but an added timeline as to how this story fits into world history would be a good thing to have students create as they enjoy this exciting swashbuckling adventure.

Grade four, grade five and grade six readers will enjoy reading this ocean journey late into the night, maybe with a flashlight under the covers!

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Cast OffTitle: Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra De Winter and Bram Broen

Author: Eve Yohalem

Publisher:  Dial/Penguin, 2015

Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz

Format: Hardcover, 312 pages

ISBN: 978-0-525-42856-5

Genre: Historical Fiction

Grade level: 5 up

Extras: Diagram of Ship, Map of Journey, Author’s Note

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