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Comics, Catastrophes, and Crime | Reference

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August 2014 SLJ Stars.

redstarNewton-Matza, Mitchell, ed. Disasters and Tragic Events: An Encyclopedia of Catastrophes in American History. 2 vol. 790p. bibliog. chron. ebook available. index. ABC-CLIO. 2014. Tr $189. ISBN 9781610691659; ebk. ISBN 9781610691666. LC 2013028157.
Gr 9 Up –The 216 signed articles and 24 primary source readings in this outstanding set provide information about the interrelated topics of American disasters; catastrophic events; and tragedies, which can be either sudden or ongoing, but always with negative effects or consequences. Articles are grouped chronologically, starting with the beginning of slavery in the American colonies in the 1600s and ending with the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, school shooting in 2012. The events they describe include natural and man-made disasters, battles, epidemics, riots, and tragic societal or governmental policies that resulted in losses of freedom or life. Some topics, such as the Chicago fire, slavery, and the 1929 stock market crash, have received wide coverage, while others (the 1888 School Children’s Blizzard and the 1926 Florida hurricane), very little. However, nearly all of the events prompted some type of change. Articles average two to four pages in length and include introductory background, a summary of the event, and analysis of its importance and the changes that resulted. Authors are objective, and entries include a list of references and cross-indexing, supplemented by an extensive general index. These readable, thought-provoking books provide basic research information about some of our country’s worst disasters. They will also help readers understand how the events spurred many scientific and medical advances, public safety standards, and political protections of legal and civil rights that are the foundation of much of our modern existence, making them a strong addition to any high school collection.–Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

redstarZhao, Xiaojian & Edward J.W. Park, eds. Asian Americans: An Encyclopedia of Social, Cultural, Economic, and Political History. 3 vols.. 1401p. bibliog. chart. chron. index. photos. reprods. Greenwood. 2013. Tr $310. ISBN 9781598842395; ebk. ISBN 9781598842401. LC 2013012894.

Gr 9 Up –More than 600 articles provide information about the people, history, and culture of Asians in the United States, including ethnic groups with familial roots in East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. As the title implies, articles focus on the experiences of Asians Americans, but they offer minimal background and spend little time on countries of origin. Articles are signed and run from a few paragraphs for most biographical sketches of prominent or pioneering Asian Americans to several pages for in-depth coverage and analysis of topics, such as immigration history, culture, religion, and the complex legal issues that have defined the status of Asians in America. Authors treat their subjects objectively, discussing the prejudice and precarious financial and legal positions—exclusion laws and World War II internment—that Asians encountered from the first immigrants in the mid-19th century to the rapid increase in Asian populations and rise in socioeconomic status and societal influence since the civil rights era and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Average quality, black-and-white, captioned photos add little, but an extensive index, internal cross-references, and article bibliographies will help users navigate and find additional information. This comprehensive and readable set is a solid introduction to the experiences and contributions of a growing and sometimes overlooked segment of our population. A good addition to high school libraries.–Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:

Crompton, Samuel Willard. The Handy Civil War Answer Book. 500p. maps. photos. reprods. Visible Ink Pr. 2014. pap. $21.95. ISBN 9781578594764; ebk. ISBN 9781578594962.

Gr 5 Up –Using a question-and-answer format, this information-filled volume offers a plethora of facts about the Civil War, beginning with the slavery debate of the 1850s and its impact on California’s statehood. The text chronicles major topics, including the birth of the Republican Party, the emergence of Abraham Lincoln, the election of 1860, secession, generals, battles, social and economic conditions in the North and South, Lincoln’s second inaugural address, Appomattox, the assassination of Lincoln and contemporary topics concerning reenactors, Civil War movies, and the war’s place in modern memory. Responses to the numerous posed questions divide the information into short paragraphs. The highlight of the volume is the author’s use of quotes from primary sources, such as newspapers and accounts from diarists and historians. Black-and-white photographs are scattered throughout, along with sidebars offering additional information to textual data. Though the title contains maps, some of them are quite small and difficult to use. There are also some errors: it should be noted that the famous Civil War–era photographer was Mathew Brady, not Thomas Brady; a photo is incorrectly captioned as the Lincoln Home; and the U.S. Grant papers total 31 volumes, not 11. An inexpensive addition to the numerous Civil War books being published during the sesquicentennial.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel

Hoppenstand, Gary, ed. The Graphic Novel. 232p. (Critical Insights). bibliog. further reading. index. Salem. 2014. Tr $85.00. ISBN 9781619252622.

Gr 10 Up –Crediting comics legend Will Eisner for coining the phrase “graphic novel” more than 30 years ago, this well-organized collection of essays looks at the prehistory of the genre as well as the contemporary scene. The volume begins with lengthy essays on four different subgenres: the superhero narrative, the horror narrative, the crime narrative, and the reality/fantasy narrative. Separately authored, these treatments offer a historical evolution of the genre and typical characteristics of each. The crime narrative, for example, covers the debut of the Dick Tracy comic strip in 1931, which may have been influenced by real-life prohibition gangsters Al Capone and Charles Luciano, whereas newer works are explained as being a blend of crime, horror, and noir, as in The Road to Perdition. The next section critiques 10 graphic novels, including Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, Watchmen, Batman, Persepolis, Sandman, The Walking Dead, and more. Each contributor devotes 10 or more pages to each essay, and only a few are divided into accessible sub-sections for themes, criticism, awards, or summary. In general, the discussion focuses on literary elements, such as themes, characterization, allusion, symbolism, and archetypes of comic book superheroes, but the work is sophisticated enough to render it most appropriate for advanced secondary students and undergraduates. All entries are followed by a list of works cited, and a larger bibliography of resources in the various genres is appended. A general index will guide users to characters, titles, and many other comic references, and the title comes with ebook permission.–Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland

Mikaberidze, Alexander, ed. Atrocities, Massacres, and War Crimes: An Encyclopedia. 2 vols. 868p. ABC-CLIO. 2013. Tr $189. ISBN 9781598849257.

Gr 9 Up –With more than 400 alphabetically arranged articles, this set discusses some of the most horrifying aspects of human conflicts and warfare. The introductory material briefly reviews the historical record of atrocities and violent excesses traditionally associated with war, but the majority of the entries describe events of the last century, when technological advances and industrialization changed the scope and devastation of war, even as international standards of acceptable conduct of war were rapidly changing. There are some entries that discuss pre-20th century events, most chosen for their historical or precedent-setting importance. Articles range from a few paragraphs to 10 pages, with an average length of two to three pages. Topics include specific events and incidents, laws, conventions and tribunals that govern warfare, biographical sketches of military and civilian leaders, overview articles about major topics, such as the Holocaust, and summaries of lengthy conflicts in war-torn regions or countries. Authors are thoughtful and objective in both factual coverage and analysis, drawing upon verifiable claims about atrocities, casualties, and destruction, avoiding sensationalizing details. Although the occasional black-and-white photos add little, entries are internally cross-referenced, and each has a short list of recommended titles for further research. Extras include a chronology (which dates back to 689 BCE) and extensive categorical and subject indexes. Although the topics are unpleasant, this set is well written and will prove useful as a ready reference or as a starting point for researchers. A solid purchase for high school and academic libraries.–Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

O’Leary, Anna Ochoa, ed. Undocumented Immigrants in the United States: An Encyclopedia of Their Experience. 2 vol.. 884p. bibliog. further reading. index. photos. websites. Greenwood. 2014. Tr $189. ISBN 9780313384240. LC 2013024574.

Gr 10 Up –The topic of American immigration has surged in recent years due to debates in and out of the American judicial and legislative theaters. Thus, this book arrives as another welcome addition to recent reference literature, such as the newly updated American Immigration: An Encyclopedia of Political, Social, and Cultural Change (Sharpe, 2013 ). These short essays, written by a variety of scholars, focus primarily on immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries, although those from other countries, such as from Asia, are also included. Employment, culture, and health care are some of the topics addressed, as well as historical and recent laws enacted at the state and federal levels that directly affect immigrants and their family members who may have been born in the United States. The essays are brief, one to three pages each, and include a useful “see also” section and few suggestions for further reading. The reading level is fairly high, so this set will be most useful for upper high school and college students. The index is very thorough, and additional resources are included. Researchers will find substantial material, while others seeking more simple information—explanation of green cards, NAFTA, or ELL—will also come away satisfied. Black-and-white photos are interspersed with the text, connecting the topics to very human issues surrounding the subject matter. Recommended for all collections supporting history and cultural studies curriculums. –Carol Fazioli, Barth Elementary School, Pottstown, PA

World Mythology. 360p. (Critical Survey of Mythology and Folklore). appendix. bibliog. chron. index. maps. notes. websites. Salem. 2013. Tr $175. ISBN 9781619251823.

Gr 11 Up –This series volume organizes summaries of 200-plus tales by geographic location. A time line, 12 maps, a bibliography, an annotated list of nine websites, free online access, and excellent in-depth interpretive commentary on each story add value. Myths predominate, though there are numerous folk and fairy tales and a smattering of quasi-historical legends (though somewhat arbitrarily categorized). The book contains numerous issues: it lacks illustrations and a pronunciation guide, and its perfunctory lesson plan and short essay on teaching myths are less than useful. Pieces of each story are presented haphazardly. Moreover, the selection criteria are subjective and capricious. Sources are not always the locus classicus of the tale but sometimes a later or alien reshaping (such as the American version of the Korean Cinderella), and the myths here are not necessarily the most important, influential, or meaningful. Foundation myths of some living religions (Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism) are included, but Jesus and Mohammed are left out. The uneven selection, lack of cohesion, and absence of essays providing regional or cultural context seriously reduce the book’s worth. Better options include the second edition of David Adams Leeming’s The World of Myth (2013), which is arranged thematically and with single-author coherence, though it contains less interpretive help, and Eva Thury’s third edition of Introduction to Mythology (2012, both Oxford), which is narrower in scope but includes original texts, art, varied critical perspectives, and notes.–Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George’s School, Newport, RI

This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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