November 17, 2017

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These indomitable young adults are making themselves heard. From the personal—in Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, Maya Van Wagenen details how a 1950s teen etiquette guide led her down the path to popularity, while Jordan Romero’s No Summit out of Sight: The True Story of the Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits catalogs the 15 year old’s experiences scaling the world’s tallest mountains—to the political—Malala Yousafzai and the Girls of Pakistan profiles the teen who took on the Taliban, while Breaking Free presents three heartbreaking stories of trafficked young women who are now fighting back—these stories shed light on youths who aren’t afraid to make a difference.

Aretha_MalalaAretha, David. Malala Yousafzai and the Girls of Pakistan. 64p. (Out in Front). bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. websites. Morgan Reynolds. 2014. lib. ed. $27.45. ISBN 9781599354545; ebk. ISBN 9781599354552. LC 2013044510.

Gr 7 Up –The story of Malala Yousafzai’s life so far is remarkable in how much she has accomplished in such a short time. By the time she was 11, she was blogging under a pseudonym about education for the BBC Urdu website. She wrote candidly about the Taliban and their efforts to block girls’ access to schools. Two years later, she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize but less than a year after that she was shot in the face by a Taliban assassin, an attempt on her life that she had feared as the Taliban threats on her life grew. Yousafzai’s eventual recovery and continued activism is a demonstration of bravery and conviction and perhaps the most impressive and inspiring aspect of Aretha’s biography. However, the author takes care to describe the role of Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, in the teenager’s activism. An outspoken educator and believer in girls’ education, Ziauddin Yousafzai often appeared and spoke with his daughter. To give additional context, Aretha includes inserted spreads on Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first female prime minister; the Taliban; and facts about being a woman in Pakistan. The extensive use of colorful photos will help readers visualize this teenager’s world. Although the tone is somewhat dry and journalistic, readers will find well-sourced information that will be a good starting place for research.–Joy Piedmont, LREI, New York City

Romero_No Summit out of SightRomero, Jordan & Linda LeBlanc. No Summit out of Sight: The True Story of the Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits. 368p. S. & S. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781476709628. LC 2013031296.

Gr 6 Up –At the age of 15, Romero became the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits, the tallest mountain on each continent. He set this goal for himself at age nine, when he saw a mural on the wall of his elementary school and wondered what it would be like to stand on each of those peaks. Other parents might postpone such lofty aspirations, but Jordan’s father and stepmother, extreme adventure racers who compete all over the world, encouraged him. Neighbors, friends, and corporations helped with sponsorships and fund-raisers, while Romero’s parents trained and accompanied him. From their first climb, Mount Kilimanjaro, where he set the record as a 10-year-old, to Everest at a record-setting 13, each peak presented unique and more difficult challenges. LeBlanc has written about mountaineering and of Everest, but Romero’s voice comes through, as he excitedly describes, in first-person narrative, his emotions, hardships, occasional doubts, and reactions to foreign countries and cultures. It takes a certain amount of self-confidence to attempt and to persevere in the face of such an overwhelming task, and it is obvious that Romero has the bravado to do what many critics told him he couldn’t. He continues to inspire young people to lead healthier lives and to follow their dreams with his 50-state “Find Your Everest tour,” speaking about the importance of spending time outdoors, as well as climbing the highest peak in each state. Although the length of the book may be intimidating, it is an easy read and will appeal to adventure seekers.–MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, NY

Sher_BreakingSher, Abby. Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery. 240p. websites. Barron’s. Jun. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781438004532.

Gr 8 Up –This moving title explores the world of modern day slavery and sex trafficking through three varied stories of women who were forced into sexual slavery but who escaped and are now working to help others in similar situations. Through straightforward, compassionate prose compiled from interviews with her subjects, Sher shows the amazing strength of Somaly Mam, who was taken from her village in Cambodia as a child and ended up in a brothel in Penh Phnom; Minh Dang, who was raped by her father at age three and then prostituted by her parents at 10; and Maria Suarez, a Mexican immigrant tricked into captivity. Dang’s heartbreaking story in particular will resonate with readers and remind them how close to home the issue is, as the California teenager lived a double life, attending high school and playing soccer even as she was enduring such violence and abuse. Though these tales are rife with horrors and hardships, each woman’s resilience shines through. Before each chapter, Sher includes common misconceptions and real facts about modern-day slavery and sex workers. Back matter includes more information on the topic, such as explanations for why trafficking occurs, a listing of significant moments in the anti-trafficking movement, a list of organizations working against trafficking and abuse, and resources for readers who want to take action. Sher’s journalistic narratives will be approachable to struggling readers and serve as an accessible bridge into a subject matter not often discussed. While these emotionally stirring accounts are painful to read at times, Sher manages to avoid sensationalizing her subjects, keeping them human and relatable while appealing to teens’ compassion and sense of social justice.–Danielle Jones, Multnomah County Library, OR

Popular_comp9.inddVan Wagenen, Maya. Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek. 272p. photos. Dutton. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525426813.

Gr 7 Up –The bright and perceptive Van Wagenen wanted to boost her popularity in middle school. As a self-defined “Social Outcast, the lowest level of people at school who weren’t paid to be there,” the eighth-grader had quite a climb ahead of her. Her modus operandi was intriguing: she used a 1950s teen etiquette book that her father found at a thrift store as a guide to climb the social ladder. The clash of eras and cultures is funny—the author wears a girdle, hat, and pearls to class; learns how to apply makeup; improves her posture and poise; and tries a diet. But the best lessons she learns from Fifties teen model Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide are about how to talk to and understand the people around her. Bravely visiting all the various cliques in the lunchroom and making conversation with her secret Sunday school crush, she becomes even more sensitive and aware—and yes, more popular. Van Wagenen’s tone is personable and polished. Even though she has many typical tween obsessions and concerns, her writing is surprisingly mature. While overall this light memoir provides plenty of fun, it has a grittier backdrop than the cover and description might suggest. Van Wagenen’s school, in Brownsville, TX, near the Mexican border, commonly experiences lockdown drills and warnings against gangs, and she casually mentions that smoke from a drug war in Matamoros, Mexico, is visible from her house. The part-Hispanic teen also occasionally sprinkles in Spanish words. With a DreamWorks movie option in the works, this entertaining title should be in demand.–Liz French, Library Journal

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