Middle School

All posts in the Middle School category

I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Published April 21, 2014 by Dagmar

malalaDespite being only 16 years old, Malala Yousafzai has won many prizes around the world for her activism in the fight for girls’ education and women’s rights before the Taliban’s attempt to silence her in October 2012.  Malala survived their attack and went on to win even more accolades, including Pakistan’s Youth Peace Prize, the Sakharov Prize, awarded for leadership in human rights and freedom of thought and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2013.  Together with Christina Lamb, she wrote this memoir about her life, the history of the Swat Valley and her time living under the Taliban.

I have a student that patiently waited for me to buy this book and catalog it so that she could check it out.  She came to my library to return the book last week but said that she actually didn’t want to return it.  She wanted to just keep it, because she was moving to another town over spring break and wanted to keep reading the book.  She is a very sweet girl who has read every book with Muslim characters in my library.  I was really touched by the way she connected with the book.  It inspired me to delete it from our collection (I will replace it) and just give it to her.  She hugged the book and me. It was totally worth it.

Here is what she and I both saw in this book.

This book is as much a story of Malala’s fight for girl’s education as it is as a history of the Swat Valley, an introduction to her Pashtun culture, the story of how the Taliban entered and affected the Swat Valley and all of its inhabitants, and the conflict the Swat Valley’s residents felt about the Pakistan Army’s fight against the Taliban.  It’s a fascinating insider’s perspective into current events and an area of the world few in the United States have seen.

Malala is a straight A student, the daughter of her school’s founder.  She loves studying and treasures her school books.  From the outset of the book, you see that Malala will follow in her father’s footsteps as an activist.  Her father is an outspoken advocate for education, specifically girls’ education and bringing peace to the Swat Valley.  It is no surprise that we learn that Malala began anonymously writing a blog for the BBC about life under the Taliban when she was just 11.  She then begins speaking in public about her belief that girls should be educated and her insistence that the Pakistani government use some of the billions of dollars received in aid from the United States to rebuild schools destroyed by the Taliban.  All her public appearances as well as her father’s bring her to the attention of the Taliban.  Both Malala and her father receive death threats from the Taliban.  This only steels Malala to bravely continue her advocacy.

I was fascinated by this book as was my student.  The pictures in the book help the reader connect with Malala on a more personal level.  I would recommend this to middle and high school readers.

 

Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, by Cheryl Bardoe

Published July 16, 2013 by Dagmar

mammoths2Here’s a great non-fiction book for enthusiasts of the pre-historic era.  It begins with an important discovery by two boys just north of the Arctic Circle in 2007.  Two boys found a frozen baby mammoth.  The mammoth, later named Lyuba by scientists, died nearly 40,000 years before and was fully intact.

Mammoths and Mastodons does a great job of connecting the past with the present.  It includes information about the current scientific work of three paleontologists and how their work builds our understanding of these great creatures and how their work might be able to help us save elephants and other large mammals today.  I learned in the book that elemammothsphants and mammoths lived at the same time, 5 million years ago.  One of the questions scientists are trying to answer is “Why didn’t elephants go extinct when mammoths went extinct?”

In addition to the photographs throughout the book, there are interesting panels of information, like: Did dinosaurs and mammoths live at the same time? and Do these elephants and mammoths seem almost human?

This book is targeted toward upper elementary and middle school readers and would be a great book for students interested in prehistoric animals or modern day elephants.

Women of Hope: African Americans who Made a Difference, by Joyce Hansen

Published June 30, 2013 by Dagmar

Women of HopeI love to read parts of this book aloud to my students during African-American history month.  This book features quotes, black and white photographs and a page about many notable African-American women, including: Ida B. Wells-Barnett, The Delany Sisters, Septima Poinsette Clark, Ella Josephine Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ruby Dee, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Marian Wright Eledman, Alica Walker, Alexa Canady, Mae C. Jemison with a list of more notable women in the back of the book.

This book makes a great resource for teachers or a wonderfully inspiring book for young people.  Read a page here and there, or read the entire book.  Either way, don’t miss it.

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, by Deborah Hopkinson

Published June 28, 2013 by Dagmar

TitanicThe story of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 on its maiden voyage has fascinated so many.  The Titanic’s story never really captured my attention, but that ended when I listened to the audio version of this book last year.  I decided to read the book myself when I saw the number of pictures and side bars the author included in the book.  Although I liked the audio edition, I think you lose something if you don’t actually read the book.  The additional content is really great.

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster was published in 2012 on the 100th anniversary of the loss of the Titanic at sea.  It tells the story of the Titanic from the time it was built to the day of the disaster and, finally, its discovery at the bottom of the ocean in September 1985.   The author weaves in an incredibly suspenseful story from the recollections and pictures of different survivors, passengers and crew alike, pictures of the Titanic’s incredibly luxurious accommodations and details about the construction of the boat.  I couldn’t put this book down.  It moved quickly, and the side bars and pictures were really interesting.

I’d recommend this book to middle school, high school and adult readers, especially those interested in the story of this great ship.  This book won a 2013 Silbert Medal honor.

Thanks to Junior Library Guild for introducing me to this great book.

The Snake Scientist, by Sy Montgomery

Published June 10, 2013 by Dagmar

snake scientistI’ve found a non-fiction series that I just love, Scientists in the Field: Where Science Meets Adventure.  The writing in these books is targeted toward older elementary and middle school students.

In The Snake Scientist, writer Sy Montgomery is joined by fabulous nature photographer Nic Bishop.  (See my blog on Nic Bishop here. It just so happens that I wrote on his snake book.  Bishop has an beautiful series of companion books to his Snakes book.)

The Snake Scientist follows the work of Robert Mason, Ph.D., a zoologist from Oregon State University who works studying the red-sided garter snakes in Manitoba province in Canada at the Narcisse Wildlife Management Area.  There, drawn by the unique geology of the area, tens of thousands of harmless red-sided garter snakes make their home during the winter.

I really like this book, because it moves so effortlessly from topic to topic.  This book describes how Bob Mason studies snakes and how he began his career as a scientist.  You’ll find examples of how Mason uses the information he gathers to run experiments so he can study snake behavior.  The Snake Scientist explains the impact of Mason’s work and how the study of snakes may even result in the development of cures for human diseases.  The book also works to dispel common myths about snakes.

It’s no surprise to me that Nic Bishop’s photographs are stunning.  Not only do you get a sense for the number of red-sided gartner snakes in the area (quite amazing), but you see pictures of scientists collecting snakes and measuring snakes and snakes in their natural habitats.

This book is not a survey of snakes, but any child interested in snakes or zoology will gain valuable insight into how a zoologist studying snakes goes about their work.

Highly recommended to future scientists and reptile fans.