Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

23995446Title: Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains
Authors: Jane Yolen & Heidi E. Y. Stemple
Illustrator: Rebecca Guay
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Copyright Date: 2013
Age Range: 14 to 17
Lexile Reading Level: 800L

It’s said that well-behaved women seldom make history. For those who want to learn more about the “ill-behaved” women of history they should turn to Bad Girls by Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi E. Y. Stemple. Their book explores famous and not-so famous bad girls like Delilah, Cleopatra, Lizzie Borden, and Bonnie Parker. The book is more or less organized in chronological order, but can be read at any point. Each chapter is dedicated to one woman, explaining who she is and what makes her infamous. Every chapter ends with a short, one-page comic of the two authors as themselves talking about the woman in that particular chapter. Heidi E. Y. Stemple often critiques the woman the chapter was about while Jane Yolen comes to her defense. This additional conversation brings up some interesting points about women in history – are they really as bad as we believe them to be or does millennia of sexism play a role?

p. 57, discussing Tituba

While the book can be read from more or less any point, rather than from start to finish, the comics in the back of each chapter have a semblance of order with the two authors talking about writing the book Bad Girls, doing research for the book, and going to bookstores for signings.

p. 137, researching Bonnie Parker

Every chapter has an illustration of the woman about to be discussed. The chapters are named after each woman with a birthdate and, if possible, a date of death. There are 26 women talked about in the book including witches, pirates, bank robbers, queens, and mistresses.

p. 16, Cleopatra
p. 94, Lizzie Borden

Yolen and Stemple also include a rich bibliography of books, articles, and websites from which they pulled information for their book. The final chapter, the conclusion, discusses modern times and changing gender roles as well as women’s rights. The authors ask how these “bad girls” of history would have been treated today.

Would we still consider these women bad? Or would we consider them victims of bad circumstances? As our world changes, so does our definition of bad. Especially when it comes to half the world’s population – the half that happens to be female. (p. 145)

With short, easy to absorb chapters, a funny and witty comic style, Bad Girls is both informative and charming. A great book for history buffs or those interested in women’s studies.

My Review
Bad Girls is a fun read. There were several historical figures I had never heard of before and a few I had. I really liked the layout of the book. I thought it made for light reading, but provided just enough information about each woman to get you interested in learning more. This is definitely a great book to start out with if you are planning a project or paper on one of the women mentioned in the book. A shortcoming of the book would be that it’s pretty focused on the West and white women. There are a few women of color in the book, but it would be nice to see some follow-up books by Yolen and Stemple that expand beyond the white Euro-centric nature of the first book. I can see this book being used in history classes to sort of showcase how sometimes our textbooks leave out women, but also to discuss how sexism affects women’s role in both society and history.

– 2013 YA nonfiction Cybils Award nomination
– Quick Picks nomination
– Review:
“Girls gone wild! The mother-daughter team of Yolen and Stemple have rounded up some of the meanest (or perhaps just misguided) group of gals history has known. And they’ve wrapped them in an attractive package that makes reading about them even more enjoyable.” —Booklist (starred review)

Why Read This Book?
Bad Girls can be read just for fun. The short chapters and comics make it an enjoyable and quick read. It can also be read for a history class or part of research for a project since the book provides a varied bibliography for each woman represented in the book. It makes for a great jumping on point that can lead to further research. The book is also great for starting discussion about sexism – both the sexism faced by women in history and the sexism of documenting history that has often left women out.

If You Liked This, You’ll Also Like
Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs
This book looks at the forgotten women of science, technology, and other similar fields. It explores great women like rocket scientist Mary Sherman Morgan who helped fuel the first US satellite into orbit, chemist Alice Ball who found a treatment for leprosy, and inventor Huang Daopo who revolutionized textile production in China way before the cotton gin was invented. The book also includes interviews with women of today who are in STEM careers. You can also find a guide on the different women-centric technology and science organizations in operation today.

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World by Ann Shen
This book looks at a wide variety of women throughout history from the first female professional writer Aphra Behn to activist and abolitionist Sojourner Truth to computer programmers Ada Lovelace. There are artists, actresses, spies, scientists, daredevils, and more explored in the book. It also looks at the many accomplishments of women and how those accomplishments affected society.



In Their Own Words

beyond-magenta-coverTitle: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
Author: Susan Kuklin
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Date: 2014
Age Range: 14 to 17
Lexile Reading Level: HL600L

Beyond Magenta is a collection of autobiographical short stories from six different transgender teens. They share their experiences on transitioning, bullying, and coping with family life. Susan Kuklin, the author of the book, interviewed and photographed the six teens. Their stories are unique with a wide range of experiences showcased. Some teens gladly shared their photos like Jessy and Christina while other teens felt more comfortable excluding photographs from their chapter like Mariah. The teens also differ based on race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. Each teen’s experience is unique to them and Kuklin does a good job showing each person’s individuality. Each teen also approaches their transitioning and gender expression differently too. For example Mariah, who declined to share photos, explained that

I’m not ready to wear girl clothes yet. I live in a neighborhood that’s not too accepting. And a lot of people know me too well for me to transition fully.

A lot of older transgender people say it’s inside beauty that counts. And, you know, I usually agree with that. But we’re young. We look at the magazines and we want to look like that. I want to look like Mariah Carey. She’s black and white, just like me. I look up to her.

Transition starts when you feel that you’re a woman physically, mentally, and emotionally. You fantasize about it. You research it. You start wearing women’s clothes. Then you start looking into hormones. That’s really transitioning. (pp. 90 – 91)

On the other side of the spectrum, you have Cameron who is happy with their current identification and freely expresses it

“Mine is not the typical trans narrative that you see on TV. One of my best friends is trans and gay. I’m trans and pan. Pansexual. Basically I like people regardless of gender. I mean, of the people I’m attracted to, some of them are girls, some of them are boys, and some of them are not boys or girls. Actually, a lot of them are not boys or girls.” (p. 96)

Cameron also explains that they do not see themselves so much as a boy or girl but rather “gender queer,” explaining

I started questioning my gender around my fourteenth birthday. And I probably started questioning the gender system around that time too. My first thought was that I was gender queer. Gender queer is not part of the gender binary, meaning somebody’s that’s strictly a boy or strictly a girl. (p. 96)

Some teens share their struggles with their family members. For example, Nate’s very Roman Catholic family had trouble with Nate’s identity. Nate identifies themselves as intersex, defining themselves as a “third gender” and part of the “transgender umbrella” (p. 121). Their family’s reactions were a mixed bag. As a result, Nate has been distant.

I talk to my mom a little bit more now [after moving out], but I still keep her at arm’s length. I don’t talk with my father, and I don’t talk with my brother at all. (p. 144)

In addition to the six stories, Susan Kuklin also includes additional notes and resources in the back of the book. She explains her thought process with the book and the process of interviewing and photographing the featured teens. There’s an informative Q & A section as well as a glossary of terms. All in all, Beyond Magenta is both moving and informative. It provides a great window into the lives of transgender youth throughout the United States.

My Review
It’s always important for libraries to have books available for all patrons. Beyond Magenta is a great addition to any library’s LGBTQ+ collection. What makes this book so great is that we aren’t just reading about some author’s perception of transgender youth in America. Instead we hear stories from trans teens themselves. Their stories are funny and inspiring, thoughtful and sobering. Some teens have many triumphs while others have had quite a few hardships. Susan Kuklin lets the teens speak for themselves, resulting in six unique stories. This would be a great book to display during Pride Month in June or LGBT History Month in October. For teachers, you can find a educator’s guide in Susan Kuklin’s website: http://www.susankuklin.net/wp-content/uploads/BeyondMagenta_DiscussionGuide.pdf

– Stonewall Hone Book, 2015
– Kirkus, 10 Best YA Books, 2014
– Finalist, Lambda Literary Award, a “Lammy”
– ALA Rainbow List, 2015
– Publishers Weekly’s list of Best YA Books of 2014
– Booklist, Editors’ Choice for 2014 

Why Read This Book?
Beyond Magenta is a great example of those great books that give voice to individuals often misunderstood or overlooked by society. Hearing transgender teens tell their own stories makes Beyond Magenta both personal and informative. This book is great for teaching moments in perhaps a gender studies class or just an interesting book to have on display during Pride Month. You can read all the stories in order or skip around to the ones that mean the most to you.

If You Liked This Book, You’ll Also Like
– We Are The Youth by Laurel Golio and Diana Scholl
This is the companion book to the online photojournalism project in which LGBTQ+ teens share photos and stories about their lives in the United States. Similar to Beyond Magenta, We Are The Youth shows teens from all walks of life to share their unique stories. You can visit the website here: http://wearetheyouth.org/

– Being Jazz: My Life As a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
Being Jazz is Jazz Jennings memoir, describing her life in the public eye as a transgender girl. She was interviewed by Barbara Walters, had her own reality TV show, and was named in Time magazine’s “The 25 Most Influential Teens.” In her memoir, Jazz Jennings discusses the challenges and bullying she’s faced as well as her new experiences in high school, navigating the world now as a transgender teen.

Families in All Shapes & Sizes

81Saez2gO5L.jpgTitle: And Tango Makes Three
Author: Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Illustrator: Henry Cole
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Copyright Date: 2005
Age Range: 4 to 8
Lexile Reading Level: AD720L

And Tango Makes Three is a cute children’s picture book about two male chinstrap penguins Roy and Silo who live in New York City’s Central Park Zoo. Roy and Silo make their own penguin family, spending all their time with each other whether it’s bowing, walking, singing, or swimming.

p. 8

The two even build a nest out of rocks together just like the other penguin couples. When the male and female penguin couples start taking care of their eggs, Roy and Silo try to copy them by sitting on a rock. Sadly, the rock is just a rock and doesn’t hatch.

p. 14
p. 16

The penguin keeper Mr. Gramzay decides to give Roy and Silo and extra egg he found and the two penguins hatch it together. Mr. Gramzay names the baby penguin Tango because “it takes two to make a Tango” (p.23 )

p. 17


p. 19
p. 23

Tango is the first penguin in the Central Park Zoo to have two daddies. Together Roy, Silo, and Tango make a happy family, swimming and playing together.

p. 25

The last page of the book contains an author’s note that talks about the true story that inspired And Tango Makes Three. At the time of publishing the book, people could still go visit the Central Park Zoo to see Roy, Silo, and Tango in the penguin house.

My Review
This is a sweet picture book with soft, colorful illustrations. The penguins and other animals are accurately drawn with a very subtle cartoonish style for fun. The illustrations sometimes use full splash pages like the one where different animal families are described or when Roy and Silo notice they are the only penguin family without a chick of their own.

p. 4


p. 11

Sometimes the illustrations use just small circles or ovals to make certain actions or scenes stand out

p. 15


What’s nice about this book is that it highlights how families come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes children can have a mother and father, sometimes two mothers or two fathers, or sometimes their family might be made up of aunt and uncle or grandparents or cousins. The book makes sure to show different animal families as well as human families in the background to emphasize that there is no right way to be a family. It’s a positive and inclusive message, making this a great nonfiction picture book for any public library collection.

– 2008 American Library Association Rainbow Project Book List
– 2006 American Library Association Notable Children’s Book
– 2005 ASPCA Henry Bergh Award
– 2006 Nick Jr. Family Magazine Best Book of the Year
– 2006 Bank Street Best Book of the Year
– 2006 Lambda Literary Award finalist

Why Read This Book?
And Tango Makes Three is a great book for kids who love stories about animals. It has fun and accurate illustrations of the chinstrap penguins and other animals found at the Central Park Zoo. It’s also a good book for parents and teachers who would like to show children how families can be very different from each other. The fun pictures and simple sentences also make this a good book for a read-aloud.

If You Liked This Book, You’ll Also Like
Families, Families, Families by Suzanne Lang
Using cartoon animals depicted in various family portraits, Families, Families, Families depicts all kinds of families. Families with kids who have many siblings and those that do not. The book shows that some families have two fathers and sometimes families have only a single parent. This is a great book to read to children when talking about how families come in all different forms. The use of cartoon animals makes the illustrations fun and imaginative.

The Family Book by Todd Parr
With big, bold colors, The Family Book talks about families of all kinds. It celebrates families of all varieties – messy families, clean families, big families, and small families. It also talks about families with different-sex and same-sex parents. The book has a lot of fun, silly scenes and encourages children to talk and ask questions about their own families.

Blurring the Past & Present

Maus I: My Father Bleeds History & Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began
Author: Art Spiegelman
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Copyright Date: 1986
Age Range: 14 to 17
Lexile Reading Level: NP

Maus I & II is both an autobiography and biography. The two volume graphic novel tells the story of Art Spiegelman interviewing his father Vladek Spiegelman about his life in Poland during World War II and his time at Auschwitz. Art Spiegelman uses animals to depict the various characters and groups in his work with mice representing the Jewish people, cats standing in for the Germans, pigs signifying Polish citizens, and dogs as Americans.

Vol. 1, p. 12
Vol. 1, p.37

Vol. 1, p. 51

Vol. 2, p. 112

The graphic novel shifts between Vladek’s narrative where he is a young man in Poland during the war to the late 1970s where Spiegelman is interviewing his elderly father and recording his words. The first volume is dedicated to Vladek first meeting his wife and Spiegelman’s mother Anja, then his time in Poland leading up to the war, and eventually his and his wife’s flight from the Nazis as they try to find a place to hide. Vladek tells of his time fighting in the Polish army and becoming a prisoner of war to the Germans. He details how his fellow Jewish Poles lost their livelihoods, were relocated, and punished as Nazi Germany took over Poland. The latter half of the first graphic novel deals with Vladek and Anja moving from one hiding spot to another until they are finally caught.

Vol. 1, p. 49, Vladek being captured and becoming a prisoner of war
Vol. 1, p. 82, Vladek talking about the Jewish people being relocated

The second volume deals heavily with Vladek’s and Anja’s time in Auschwitz. We see how resourceful Vladek is as he does his best to keep him and his wife alive.

Vol. 2, p. 31 Vladek using his knowledge of English to help out a Pole
Vol. 2, p. 60 Vladek fixing shoes

The invading Ally forces would force the Nazis to move the prisoners at Auschwitz and Vladek explains how they were made to march across the countryside. Eventually, he managed to escape and hide before later being rescued by American soldiers.

One of the running threads of the two volume graphic novel is Anja’s suicide. We see how it affected both Spiegelman and his father. Spiegelman even includes an old comic he drew after his mother’s death. He also fights with his father who burned his mother’s journals in a fit of depression. Additionally, Spiegelman takes moments to contemplate his own writing of these comics and his father’s legacy.

Vol. 1, p. 159, Spiegelman mad at his father for burning his mother’s journals
Vol. 1, p. 100, Spiegelman’s comic about his mother’s suicide
Vol. 2, p. 42, Spiegelman discussing the success of Maus

All in all, Maus I and II provide an intimate and poignant look into history.

My Review
One of the most unique things about Maus is the use of animals, specifically mice and cats, to tell the story of World War II and the Holocaust. Yet the animal characters do not take away at all from the serious tone of the graphic novel or distract from the serious contemplations Spiegelman has about his father’s legacy and mother’s suicide. Art Spiegelman’s first volume was originally serialized in an avant-garde comics and graphics magazine before having it collected into six chapters and published as a graphic novel. Eventually, Spiegelman would finish the story with a second volume. The graphic novel does have a bit more of a comic strip style to it compared to more modern graphic novels like March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. Spiegelman also uses a sort of crosshatching technique to create texture and depth in his drawings. The comic is completely in black and white. This is definitely a graphic novel better suited for high school students. It would be great to use in a history classroom as a more personal look at the Holocaust not only from the perspective of a survivor, but of a family member trying to fathom enormity of something like the Holocaust. In addition to the use of animals to represent people in the comic, Spiegelman bends reality a bit to depict certain emotions or convey a particular idea. The best example of this is when he is discussing the publication and popularity of the first volume. He is surrounded by reporters who keep pestering him. Slowly, Spiegelman shrinks into a child and runs off to talk out his feelings with his therapist. He returns to normal only to play a tape of him and his father arguing and revert back to a childlike state. It really shows how Spiegelman feels small and overwhelmed by his father’s legacy and personality as well as the popularity surrounding his graphic novel.

Vol. 2, p. 47

Spiegelman also doesn’t shy away from depicting his father as human, mistakes and all. While at times we can cheer for an industrial and quick-witted young Vladek, we then feel ourselves pulling away and scorning an older Vladek who constantly argues with his second wife Mala and shows racist tendencies. This open and honest depiction of his father is what makes the story really unique. Too often historical figures are whitewashed, placed on a pedestal with all flaws erased. While the characters in Maus I and II are depicted as animals, their well-rounded portrayal make them far more human than what many of history textbooks allow.

– 1992 Pulitzer Award for Special Awards and Citations – Letters
– 1992 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album – Reprint
– 1992 Harvey Award for Previously Published Material
– 1992 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction

Why Read This Book?
Graphic novels and comics make stories a lot more accessible and Maus is no exception. The artwork is dynamic and the story compelling. Spiegelman’s use of diagrams also make the work more engaging. While Maus is an older graphic novel, having its heyday in the late eighties and early nineties, it should still be considered a staple nonfiction graphic novel for any public or school library. Not only does it add a more personal element to the history of the Holocaust and World War II, but the short volumes make for a quick read that reluctant readers will welcome.

If You Liked This, You’ll Also Like
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Complete Persepolis collects both volumes of Marjane Satrapi’s memoir about her childhood in Tehran, Iran during the Islamic Revolution and high school years studying in Vienna. Similar to Maus, Persepolis presents its story in black and white comic panels, giving a personal look at a country and life often misunderstood and misrepresented by the West. Fans of Maus will enjoy Persepolis engaging storytelling and creative and simplistic art.

MetaMaus by Art Spiegelman
Get the behind the scenes look at Maus directly from the author and artist himself. Spiegleman answers many questions he’s gotten about his work like why he chose mice to represent the Jewish people in his comics or why he thought a comic would be the best medium for telling his father’s story. This is a great book for readers who already love Maus and want to understand the creative process behind the classic work.

Illustrating the Past

51gfj73ovl-_sx340_bo1204203200_Title: March: Book One
Author: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Copyright Date: May 2014
Age Range: 11 to 13
Lexile Reading Level: GN760L

March: Book One gives readers a vivid glance into the past, exploring the Civil Rights Movement through the life of activist and Georgia congressman John Lewis. The book is part one of a trilogy memoir with first person narration from John Lewis as he recounts his life in Pike County, Alabama and his eventual involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. We first see young John Lewis on his father’s sharecropper farm, then the story moves to look at Lewis’s aspirations to become a preacher, and then finally exploring his participation in sit-ins and the Civil Rights Movement.

p. 22, John Lewis as a boy taking care of his chickens
p. 23, John Lewis as a boy taking care of his chickens
p. 61, John Lewis getting his photo taken for the paper as the “Boy Preacher”
p. 85, Civil Rights activists at a sit-in

March: Book One uses a narrative frame showing John Lewis retelling his life story to two young Black boys who have come with their mother for President Barack Obama’s inauguration on January 20, 2009.

p. 19, John Lewis talking to two young boys just before President Obama’s inauguration

The narrative dips in and out of the ‘present day’ as the clock ticks closer and closer to the inauguration. The beginning of the graphic novel, even before we see the narrative frame, shows John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965 as he and other activists attempt to march across the bridge on their way to Montgomery, Alabama. The graphic novel shows how the activists were stopped and beaten by police. The first graphic novel does not return to the Edmund Pettus Bridge scene at the end of the book which may mean that the next two books in the trilogy may return to the initial scene as an overarching narrative frame for all three books.

My Review
Graphic novels and comics are great formats to introduce readers to nonfiction. And March is no exception. Nate Powell is the artist on the book, and he uses detailed, realistic comic-book style illustrations to tell John Lewis’s story. Powell utilizes a black and white motif to generate emotion whether it’s a sort of a quiet panic when young John Lewis fears he may have accidentally drowned one of his baby chicks during a mock baptism.

p. 31

Or to use a single image multiple times in different ways in order to represent a bigger idea like an image of a hand used to illustrate John Lewis’s thoughts on racism, poverty, and war.

p. 77

The artist also uses the stark contrast of light and dark to create sobering, thoughtful silhouettes or to visually show a sense of fear.

p. 78, A silhouette of John Lewis
p. 93, The lights being turned off in a diner where the activists are doing a sit-in

This is definitely a book worth having on the shelves in your young adult graphic novel section. Not only does it introduce an important part of American history in a more accessible way, but it does so with a poignant, respectful tone. This book takes its young readers seriously and while it is in a comic book format, there are images in it that are anything but comical. Nate Powell does not shy away from depicting some of the very real violence John Lewis and his fellow activists encountered during their protests. Teachers will definitely want to use this book in the history classroom. Additionally, a Teacher’s Guide is available for download on the publisher’s website: http://www.topshelfcomix.com/contact/teachers-guide

All in all, March: Book One is an engrossing first part of a trilogy that is well written and well illustrated with the imagery complementing the text perfectly. Well worth checking out.

– Winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award — Special Recognition
– A #1 New York Times Bestseller
– A #1 Washington Post Bestseller
– A Coretta Scott King Honor Book
– An ALA Notable Book
– One of YALSA’s Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens
– One of YALSA’s Top 10 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults
– Nominated for three Will Eisner Awards
– Nominated for the Glyph Award
– Named one of the best books of 2013 by USA Today, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, The Horn Book, Paste, Slate, ComicsAlliance, Amazon, and Apple iBooks.

Why Read This Book?
March: Book One is a great book to recommend to history lovers, comic book fans, reluctant readers, and those new to nonfiction. Graphic novels and comics make reading much more accessible with its complementing imagery. It is also a good companion to other books on the Civil Rights Movement.

If You Liked This, You’ll Also Like
We’ve Got A Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson
For readers interested in learning more about the Civil Rights Movement, We’ve Got A Job looks at the Children’s March of 1963 through the perspective of four different young participants.

Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman
Readers who enjoyed getting a glimpse of history through a graphic novel may also enjoy Maus volumes I and II. These graphic novels are part autobiography and part biography as we see Art Spiegelman interview his father about his life as a Jew in Poland during World War II and his time in Auschwitz.

Something Wicked This Way Comes…

witchesTitle: Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem
Author: Rosalyn Schanzer
Publisher: National Geographic Society
Copyright Date: 2011
Age Range: 8 to 10
Lexile Reading Level: NC1190L

Ever wonder what really happened during the Salem Witch Trials? In Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem, author Rosalynn Schanzer follows the insane tale from young Betty Parris and Abigail Williams’ first fits and accusations to the final trials, hangings, and what happened to the major players after the witch hunt frenzy died down. Interspersed throughout the story is historical facts about Puritan life and religion, providing context for the gruesome hysteria that swept Salem Town, Massachusetts in the late 1600s. The book provides a who’s who in the beginning of the book given that so many different people were involved in the trials – the accused, the “afflicted” accusers, and the witch hunters.

The Accused Witches, pp. 6 & 7
The Afflicted Accusers & Witch Hunters, pp 8 & 9

The book is divided into ten chapters with detailed notes, bibliography, and index sections. In order to provide an authentic look at this historical event, Schanzer refers frequently to transcripts from the hearings and trials. For example, she includes a dialogue between George Jacobs, an 80-year-old farmer who was accused of being a wizard, and the magistrate

George Jacobs: You tax me for a wizard. You may as well tax me for a buzzard! I have done no harm. The devil can go in any shape.
Magistrate: Not without [your] consent. Why do you not pray in your family?
Jacobs: I cannot read. Burn me or hang me I will stand in the truth of Christ! (p. 61)

Not only do these excerpts provide authenticity, but show how the Puritan religion played a major role in the witch hunt. Another interesting feature of Witches! is the illustrations. No photos of documents are displayed but rather there are these black and white cartoonish illustrations. They often appear at the beginning of each chapter, summarizing the content to come as well as setting the tone. As you can see from the following two images, there are illustrations that create a sense of foreboding and hopelessness, like the shackled tiny people under the gaze of a stern judge, or the wistfully sad departure of the soul of an accused witch after she is hanged.

p. 72
p. 84

The entire book ends on a sort of “where are they now” section where the author details what happened to key players after the witch trials ended.

My Review:
I thought Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem was well researched and presented its information in an easy to follow story. For such a small book, it crams in a lot of details and with a thorough bibliography and extensive notes this would be a great book for readers who may be looking to do a project or report on the Salem Witch Trials. The book itself provides a great introduction that can lead to further exploration. I also think that with the title of saying “Absolutely True Tale of Disaster” and the sort of sinister art style, it gives you the sense that you’re being let in on something scandalous that happened in history. This approach might pique readers’ interests. All in all, I personally enjoyed reading the book even if at times the author sort of comes to her on conclusions about why certain things happened the way they did during the trials. However, the author’s research really lends to her authority on the matter and would probably help get kids into a good discussion on some of the author’s inferences.

– Society of Illustrators Gold Medal for Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2011
– 2012 Robert F. Sibert Honor Award as one of the year’s 5 most distinguished informational books for children
– ALA Notable Children’s Book
– School Library Journal Starred Review and Best Book of the Year
– NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book
– A Junior Library Guild Selection for Fall 2011
– NY Public Library’s 25 Best Nonfiction Titles of 2011
– A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book
– Fuse #8 list of 100 Magnificent Children’s Books of 2011
– Kid Lit Frenzy top 5 Middle Grade Picks of 2011
– Selected for inclusion in CA (Communication Arts) Magazine’s May/June 2012 Annual Illustration Issue

Why Read This Book?
As a narrative nonfiction book, Witches! is a really intriguing read that pulls you right in to the story. You will be amazed at how much information Rosalyn Schanzer manages to cover in one small book while still maintaining an easy flow to the story. While not dialogue heavy, the use of real hearing manuscripts give the book a real pull. This book would probably be fun to read in a history class especially around Halloween as a sort of tie-in to the season.

If You Liked This, You’ll Also Like
– The Salem Witch Trials: An Unsolved Mystery from History by Jane Yolen
This book is part of the Unsolved Mystery from History series. It presents the history of the Salem Witch Trials, providing clues and allowing kids to play detective as they try to make sense of the hysteria that swept through Salem.

– What Were the Salem Witch Trials? by Joan Holub
Another book on the Salem Witch Trials, this one is from the What Was…? series. It gives a brief overview of the Salem Witch Trials exploring why the event took place and what could have been the cause of such hysteria.

Clap Your Hands If You Believe

Cover-fairy-smaller-file--226x300Title: The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World [A True Story]
Author: Mary Losure
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Date: 2012
Age Range: 11 to 13
Lexile Reading Level: 940L

When no one believed Elsie and Frances that fairies lived near the stream in the little valley behind the house, the two cousins set out to prove to the adults who teased them that fairies were real – they just needed to take a photo to prove it. Set in 1917 and moving through the years that followed until their adulthood, The Fairy Ring is the true story of how Elsie and Frances tricked people into believing they had photographed real fairies just beyond their backyard!

The book starts as Frances comes to stay with her older cousin Elsie and how the two bond over exploring the valley and stream behind Elsie’s home. When Frances claims that she has seen little men down by the steam, her aunt and uncle tease her until Elsie promises that the two girls will go take a photo of the elusive fairies. Elsie, who had a knack for painting, painted several fairy figures on paper to use as props in their photos. Frances would pose with the fairies and Elsie, using her father’s camera, would use one glass plate to take the photo. This single photo and the one that followed would change Elsie’s and Frances’ lives forever.

The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World is a piece of narrative nonfiction that explores the lives of cousins Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths who photographed the Cottingley Fairies in 1917. Divided into three parts with the first exploring how the two girls came about taking photos of “fairies,” the second part focusing on the letter correspondence between Elsie and Edward Gardner of The Theosophists society who believed that the girls’ photos were real depictions of fairies, and the third part explaining the final photo taken and the lives of Elsie and Frances afterwards.

Scattered throughout the book are the actual photos Elsie and Frances took. In all, the girls took five photos, each taking turns to be in the photo alongside their paper fairies.

Elsie and the gnome, p. 42
Frances and the fairies, p. 37









My Review
The Fairy Ring was delight to read from start to finish. Author Mary Losure paints an inviting magical world in Cottingley, Yorkshire where Frances and Elsie spend their time exploring the woods near their home:

All her life, Frances would remember that day, the “running water and the sun shining.” The streambed, with its shallow pools and clear water swirling over dark rock, led up the valley and through the trees with their delicate spring leaves.

And the waterfall! It was just a few steps from where the garden path descended into the valley. There the stream plunged downwards over the rock into a lovely clear pool.

And it was right out Elsie’s back door! (pp. 13 – 14)

The book pulls readers right in and at times you forget you’re reading a nonfiction work. This would be a great book for readers who are new to nonfiction, but love fantasy. One of the things I really appreciated about this book was how it managed to really capture both Frances’ and Elsie’s unique personalities. You get Frances who is curious and a true believer in fairies even in her older years. With Elsie (who was a teenager when the photographing events of the book took place) Losure really manages to capture that sense of exasperation teens can have when dealing with adults. Furthermore, despite the fact that Frances and Elsie both trick adults into thinking they photographed fairies, the book never condemns their behavior. Rather, the book takes a sort of bemused approach to the whole hoax as it unfolds. I think a lot of this has to do that the main sources Mary Losure drew upon including Frances’ own autobiography, the letters between Edward Gardner and the Wright family, and firsthand stories from Elsie’s son and daughter-in-law. From a more technical perspective the book provides a detailed source notes section and index to make it easier for further research.

– Booklist Editor’s Choice, Best Children’s Nonfiction 2012
– Society of Midland Authors Award 2013, Best Children’s Nonfiction

Why Read This Book?
This is a great book for those who are fans of fantasy or fairy lore. It also never breaks from its narrative so this is also a great book to suggest to readers who aren’t fond of nonfiction.

If You Liked This, You’ll Also Like
Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer
For readers interested in more narrative nonfiction works with a supernatural and historical twist, Witches! is a great choice. The books are also similar in length.

Fairyopolis: A Flower Fairies Journal by Glen Bird and Liz Catchpole
A fan of fairies? Fairyopolis is a facsimile scrapbook that explores the journal and paintings of Cicely Mary Barker who in the summer of 1920 claimed to have spotted flower fairies.