Get Lit Rising: Words Ignite. Claim Your
Poem. Claim Your Life.
By Diane Luby Lane.
Oct. 2016. 272p. Simon Pulse/Beyond Words, $20.99
(9781582705767); paper, $13.99 (9781582705774).
808.1. Gr. 8–11.
Unless you’re a fellow teenager reading the
high-school poets featured in this anthology-cum-manual, you may find their output a bit
juvenile—a critique in no way leveled at the
young creators, most of whom have already
overcome extremely challenging life scripts.
Executive director Lane introduced her poetry
program—in which a student chooses a resonant poem, memorizes it, writes a response,
and then performs both—in LA schools in
2006; it now reaches some 20,000 young
people and boasts an astounding track record.
Lane exults: “98 percent of our Get Lit Players [an elite corps chosen by audition] go on to
college, 70 percent with merit-based scholarships.” Here, 20 or so of these budding writers
tell their life stories, followed by their chosen
poem and original response, plus thematic
prompts that encourage the reader to try writing themselves. Asking an adolescent to relate
“the story of me” is an open invitation to self-reflection, and age-mates will find a wealth of
relatable material and the occasional gem of a
liberating insight. —Sandy MacDonald
Legalizing Marijuana: Promises and
By Margaret J. Goldstein.
Nov. 2016. 104p. illus. Lerner/Twenty-First Century, lib.
ed., $35.99 (9781467792431). 345.73. Gr. 7–12.
When five-year-old Charlotte Figi began
eating oil derived from cannabis, she became
Colorado’s youngest medical marijuana pa-
tient, and her symptoms caused by Dravet
syndrome (a rare, life-threatening form of
epilepsy) dramatically improved. After de-
scribing Charlotte’s case, the author provides
a thorough overview of the controversies sur-
rounding the legalization of marijuana in the
U.S. Goldstein not only briefly explains the
drug’s medicinal uses throughout world history
but also its role in American history, particu-
larly in the War on Drugs and its classification
as a Schedule 1 drug (considered the most
dangerous). The balanced text then focuses
on a series of conflicting issues, including such
discrepancies as state-legalized marijuana ver-
sus federal laws that still consider it an illegal
substance; marijuana’s medicinal effects versus
problems with FDA approval; and inconsistent
potency. Useful for debates, the book gives
myriad pros and cons of legalization through
the lenses of advocates and protesters. A final
chapter even considers the unique business of
“ganjapreneurs” who produce and sell legal-
ized marijuana. A thoughtful presentation of
the lows—and highs—of legalized marijuana.
Canada Year by Year.
By Elizabeth MacLeod. Illus. by Sydney
Oct. 2016. 96p. Kids Can, $21.95 (9781771383974).
971. Gr. 4–7.
Though loosely organized into chapters such
as “The Great Depression 1929–1938” and
“The Digital Age 1980–1999,” the information here is presented chronologically rather
than thematically. As the title states, MacLeod
proceeds year by year, discussing a notable person, group, thing, discovery, invention, event,
movement, or milestone chosen to represent
each 12-month period from 1867 (
Confederation) to 1893 (the Stanley Cup) to 1934
(Dionne quintuplets) to 2016 (World Festival of Children’s Theatre hosted in Stratford,
Ontario). Sidebars fill in related facts and occasionally describe other things happening during
the same year. Including excerpts from 10 earlier Kids Can books credited on the title page,
MacLeod brings together a good deal of varied
information and presents it clearly. Expressive
line-and-wash illustrations brighten every page
while reflecting the varied periods covered in
the text. With the sesquicentennial of Canada’s
Confederation coming up in 2017, this colorful book will be a useful addition to libraries on
both sides of the border. —Carolyn Phelan
Fannie Never Flinched: One
Woman’s Courage in the Struggle
for American Labor Union Rights.
By Mary Cronk Farrell.
Nov. 2016. 56p. illus. Abrams, $19.95 (9781419718847).
331.88092. Gr. 5–8.
The author may be addressing this stirring
story of early union activist Fannie Sellins
(1872–1919) to middle-schoolers, but the
rigor of her approach yields a book with solid
ing glossary, a time
line for historical
dations for further
reading, and a help-
ful index. In 1902,
Sellins was a wid-
owed mother of four working in a St. Louis
sweatshop to support her family when she
first heard about the United Garment Work-
ers of America, then in its infancy. She helped
to organize her fellow seamstresses, most of
whom were recent immigrants working 10 to
14 hours 6 days a week for the grand sum
of $5 ($145 in today’s currency), into Ladies’
Local 67. The threat of a strike resulted in
a grudging doubling of wages, and within a
few years Sellins was traveling to hot spots
around the country to spread the word. She
ultimately landed in Pennsylvania coal coun-
try, the site of egregious abuses, where her
fervor proved fatal: pegged as an agitator,
she was shot in the back while trying to herd
children away from a melee. Her story, richly
illustrated with vintage photographs and
documents, fairly leaps off the page, driving
home the message that the work she fought
for is far from over. —Sandy MacDonald
Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who
By Walter Dean Myers. Illus. by Floyd
Jan. 2017. 40p. Harper, $17.99 (9780060277093).
973.8092. Gr. 1–4.
The opening paragraph of this posthumous
picture-book biography from Myers states its
theme as “how one man’s careful decisions
and many accomplishments not only made
his own life better but
in many ways changed
the history of America.”
Written in a clean, direct
style, the text consistently
supports the book’s thesis.
Born into slavery, Frederick was learning to read
as a child, taught by his
owner’s wife, until her husband objected. The
boy decided to learn on his own, and he did.
Then, hired out to work in shipyards, he met
free black sailors. He resolved to escape from
slavery, and he did that, too. Later, asked to
speak and to write about his life, he did, becoming famous for his autobiography and his
speeches on abolition and women’s rights. In
1863, he urged Lincoln to enlist black Americans in the Union army. Two years later, the
war ended and the Thirteenth Amendment
outlawed slavery. From the book jacket image of a reflective, forceful young man to the
dynamic portrayals of Douglass at different
stages of his life, Cooper’s expressive artwork
shows him thinking through issues and acting
with conviction. Focused, informative writing
and strong, effective illustrations combine to
make this the go-to Frederick Douglass biography for younger students. —Carolyn Phelan
Terrible but True: Awful Events in
By Dinah Williams.
Oct. 2016. 192p. illus. Scholastic, paper, $9.99
(9780545909723); e-book, $9.99 (9780545909730).
973. Gr. 5–9.
What’s more alluring than a catastrophe?
Continued on p. 40
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