November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Debunk Myths, Lounge Around with Leopards, and Bite into “Chocolate” | Nonfiction Grades 5 & Up

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See our complete list of
March 2015 SLJ Stars.

redstarFrydenborg, Kay. Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Most Favorite Treat. 256p. bibliog. chron. further reading. photos. reprods. websites. Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544175662.

Gr 6-8 –This fascinating book presents a deep, multifaceted glimpse at a delectable dessert: chocolate. Engaging—even witty in places—and enlightening, it gives a history of the sweet treat, speculating about its little-known origins 1,500 years ago in the Upper Amazon Basin of South America, exploring its role in the European conquest of Central and South America, and discussing the dark side of chocolate: the use of slave labor to grow and harvest it. Frydenborg examines the development of chocolate as an industry in Europe and America in the 18th and 19th centuries. The book also goes into the science of the confection, such as why it’s considered so tasty and its potential health benefits. Along the way, Frydenborg seamlessly weaves in information about relevant historical figures, including confectioner Milton S. Hershey; Russian scientist Nikolai Vavilov, who traced the origins of the cacao tree; and explorers such as Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizzaro. Photographs enhance readers’ understanding, though the recipes and sidebars are occasionally distracting. Robert Burleigh’s celebrated Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest (Abrams, 2002), aimed at elementary school students, is better designed, but those looking for a more detailed history for an older audience would do well to consult Frydenborg’s work. VERDICT An excellent and highly original addition to history collections.–Shauntee Burns-Simpson, New York Public Library, Staten Island

redstarGrant, John. Debunk It!: How to Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation. 288p. bibliog. index. Zest. 2015. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781936976683.

Gr 9 Up –This enlightening new title not only successfully debunks myths and commonly held beliefs—it’s an essential primer for encouraging critical thinking skills. Grant explains that individuals are constantly under siege from misinformation spread by bloggers, politicians, talking heads, pundits, and those who believe the lies and repeat them without questioning. He describes some of the dangers of disseminating misinformation; defines logical fallacies, such as ad hominem or straw man attacks; and gives a basic explanation of the scientific method. Once teens are armed with a healthy sense of skepticism, Grant moves on to tear apart some of what he considers to be the worst examples of misinformation: creationism, alternative medicine, the claim that vaccines lead to autism, and climate change denial, among others. Teen readers will appreciate Grant’s brutal honesty and snarky tone, as well as his liberal use of the term bullshit (to describe distorted or fabricated info). However, he never stoops to merely mocking those he believes to be spreading erroneous information, instead using logic and evidence to dismantle poor arguments piece by piece. Grant’s enthusiasm for his subject is infectious, and students and educators alike will appreciate both his style and substance. Pair this one with Paul Fleischman’s Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines (Candlewick, 2014) for a lesson on questioning authority, recognizing bias, and vetting sources. VERDICT This can’t-miss title is great recreational reading for budding skeptics as well as an outstanding addition to units on science, current events, or debate. A must-have.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

redstarLewin, Ted & Betsy Lewin. How to Babysit a Leopard: And Other True Stories from Our Travels Across Six Continents. illus. by Betsy Lewin and Ted Lewin. photos by Betsy Lewin and Ted Lewin. 144p. index. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Jun. 2015. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781596436169.

Gr 6 Up –This thrilling collection of travel adventures from this celebrated husband-and-wife, author-illustrator team will appeal to a variety of readers, from aspiring biologists and globe-trotters to those who prefer traipsing the face of the planet from a comfortable chair. Featuring short, conversational pieces, and spectacular photos and vibrant artwork laid out like a journal, this enticing title describes the duo’s experiences all over the world. This is a deceptively slim volume, brimming with details of fascinating creatures, locales, and people. The narrative is quite gripping in places, such as in a scene depicting the authors’ attempt to outrun a charging lion that was chasing their truck. The book also paints quietly compelling portraits of individuals, such as an old leper woman in Botswana, squatting in the corner of a roofless home of twisted sticks. There is humor, too: in one chapter, an Irish farmer watches the Lewins struggle to pull a wagon out of mud, a task that would have been more easily performed by a horse. The couple’s joie de vivre is infectious, and the intimate, familiar tone running through this work underscores the idea that while this planet hosts an incredible variety of humans, animals, and destinations, it’s a small world after all. VERDICT A captivating tribute to this glorious orb we call home.–Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

Graphic Novels

redstarO’Connor, George. Ares: Bringer of War. illus. by George O’Connor. 80p. (Olympians: Bk. 7). bibliog. chart. notes. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626720138; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781626720145.

Gr 4-8 –In this nuanced, multilayered view of the usually vilified bringer of war, O’Connor continues his exceptional graphic novel series about the Greek gods. Less a biographical take on the subject and more of a character study, this entry is seen through the lens of the events that take place in Homer’s iconic battle-driven epic poem The Iliad. Just like the original source material, the complex relationships among the deities and the tension and drama that arise when the glory and fate of their own demigod sons are at stake, take center stage. Ares is presented in many ways as his father’s son, as evidenced by his affair with Aphrodite, but he also tries to rebel against Zeus’s practice of using humans for sport. O’Connor highlights that of all the gods, Ares is the only one who grieves the death of his mortal son, shedding light on his own strained relationship with his father. Humor and zingers combine with the author’s adept handling of Greek mythology, history, and popular culture. The variety of panels lends a dynamic feel to the battle scenes and confrontations between the dueling sides. The mostly scarlet-tinged color scheme is in perfect tune with the raging, bloodthirsty god of war’s modus operandi. The author’s extensive notes amusingly explain connections to The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and the series’ previous works. VERDICT This expertly executed graphic novel will have fans anxiously awaiting even more adventures of mythological proportions.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

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

Appel, Marty. Pinstripe Pride: The Inside Story of the New York Yankees. 288p. further reading. index. photos. S. & S. 2015. LC 2014013978.

Bryant, Howard. Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Baseball. 240p. chron. index. photos. Philomel. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399169038; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698172586.

Erickson, Laura & Marie Read. Into the Nest: Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Lives of Familiar Birds. 208p. glossary. index. maps. photos. Storey. Mar. 2015. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781612122298.

Fleischer, Jeff. Rockin’ the Boat: 50 Iconic Rebels and Revolutionaries—from Joan of Arc to Malcolm X. 224p. photos. reprods. Zest. Mar. 2015. pap. $13.99. ISBN 9781936976744.

Grove, Tim. First Flight Around the World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won the Race. 96p. bibliog. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. Abrams. Apr. 2015. RTE $21.95. ISBN 9781419714825. LC 2014024665.

Hanley, Jason. Music Lab: We Rock!: A Fun Family Guide for Exploring Rock Music History. 152p. appendix. index. photos. websites. Quayside/Quarry. 2015. pap. $24.99. ISBN 9781592539215. LC 2014024878.

Hestermann, Josh & Bethanie Hestermann. Zoology for Kids: Understanding and Working with Animals, with 21 Activities. 144p. (For Kids). Chicago Review. Mar. 2015. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9781613749616.

Rosen, Michael J. Place Hacking: Venturing Off Limits. 72p. bibliog. chron. filmog. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Twenty-First Century. 2015. RTE $33.32. ISBN 9781467725156. LC 2014003218.

Tibbott, Julie. Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects and Cults—Exposed! 221p. photos. reprods. Zest. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781936976522.

Graphic Nonfiction

Barry, Lynda. Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor. illus. by Lynda Barry. 200p. Drawn & Quarterly. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781770461611.

Christin, Pierre. Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City. illus. by Olivier Balez. 112p. maps. Flying Eye Books/Nobrow. 2014. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781907704963.

Denson, Abby. Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen. illus. by Abby Denson. 128p. maps. websites. Tuttle. Mar. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9784805312797.

Goetzinger, Annie. Girl in Dior. tr. from French by Joe Johnson. illus. by Annie Goetzinger. 128p. bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. NBM. Mar. 2015. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781561639144. LC 2014956278.

This article was published in School Library Journal's March 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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