The Animal Mating Game: The Wacky,
Weird World of Sex in the Animal
By Ann Downer.
Oct. 2016. 104p. illus. Lerner/Twenty-First Century, lib.
ed., $35 (9781467785716). 591.56. Gr. 7–12.
Sex, even in the animal kingdom, is generally regarded as a taboo topic for young readers,
but with a frank approach and an emphasis
on the absolute necessity of reproduction,
Downer explores mating habits of several
species. Relying on up-to-date research and
soundly evidentiary studies, the book delves
into common means of attracting a mate,
exotic genitalia, hormonally driven instincts,
and the rarity of genetic monogamy. By
organizing information into thematic chapters, Downer emphasizes the commonalities
among species, humans included. Readers
will learn that some birds offer dead mice as
gifts to impress potential mates, rhinoceroses
use their feces to project pheromones, and
copulation invariably leads to death for honeybee drones; in comparison, human sexuality
doesn’t seem quite so sensational. The interdependence of species, conservation efforts, and
the threat of extinction are underlying themes
that offer points of entry for discussing blush-inducing topics. This is a visually appealing
and scientifically sound resource on an uncommon topic. —Erin Anderson
Blood, Bullets, and Bones: The Story of
Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes
By Bridget Heos.
Oct. 2016. 272p. illus. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $18.99
(9780062387622). 363.2. Gr. 9–12.
Ever heard of the Styrian defense? How
about Bertillonage? Heos’ latest covers these
and more, examining forensic science from its
debatable conception (a 221 BCE ancient Chinese “crime-scene handbook”) to “the dawn of
DNA evidence.” Through arsenic poisoning,
autopsies, fingerprint evidence, and criminal
profiling, Heos sheds light not only on forensic innovations but also forensic imperfections,
often embedding research with court cases that
are as historically crucial as they are ambiguous.
The trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, for example,
relied heavily upon two decidedly unreliable elements: eyewitness testimonies and incomplete
firearm analysis. Investigators in the Samuel
Sheppard case, on the other hand—where
blood spatter tests were prominently employed
for the first time—were scrutinized for their
preferential treatment of a wealthy, white defendant. Punctuated by fascinating photos, a
smattering of educational asides, and astute
pop-culture references (Dexter, Les Misérables,
The Silence of the Lambs), and followed by a
glossary of key terms, this is sure to appeal to
wannabe FBI agents, budding history buffs,
armchair detectives, and everyone in between.
Brown v. Board of Education: A
Fight for Simple Justice.
By Susan Goldman Rubin.
Oct. 2016. 144p. illus. Holiday, $18.95 (9780823436460);
e-book, $18.95 (9780823437085). 344.73. Gr. 6–9.
Rubin, whose previous books include Diego
Rivera (2013) and Freedom Summer (2014),
presents a well-researched and clearly written
account of the Brown v. Board of Education
case. The book’s informative introduction ex-
plains the indignities and injustices arising
from long-standing racial
prejudice in America, the
legal precedent for school
segregation, and the up-
bringing and education of
Thurgood Marshall, who
graduated from How-
ard University School of
Law with a deep sense of
purpose. Two decades later he would success-
fully argue before the Supreme Court that “it
is impossible to have equality in a segregated
system.” The Brown v. Board of Education case
combined five separate legal appeals involving
segregated schools in Kansas, South Carolina,
Virginia, Delaware, and Washington, D.C.
While the complex story behind the landmark
case has been told before, this large-format
book is particularly valuable because Rubin
sets the stage so well, discusses each of the five
cases and the students involved so lucidly, and
goes beyond the court’s unanimous decision by
noting the resistance to school desegregation in
the years that followed it. The book’s page de-
sign and the many well-chosen archival photos
make the story more readable, and the ap-
pended time line and documents will be useful
to student researchers. Highly recommended.
Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb
By Caren Stelson.
Oct. 2016. 144p. illus. Carolrhoda, lib. ed., $19.99
(9781467789035). 940.54. Gr. 7–10.
As Fat Man hurled toward the city of Na-
gasaki on August 9, 1945, Sachiko Yasui,
6, was playing house. She ducked for cover,
awaking hours later just “half a mile from the
buried beneath moun-
tains of debris, her
mouth clogged with ash.
Stelson first heard Sa-
chiko speak in August
2005. From 2010–15,
Stelson traveled to and
from Nagasaki, conduct-
ing a series of five interviews with the singular
Sachiko. The result is a story of staggering hard-
ship and extraordinary resolve. In it Stelson
outlines the plight of Sachiko, her family, and
other hibakusha (“explosion-affected people”),
from the Yasuis’ lengthy trek to safety in nearby
Shimbara and decimating radiation sickness, to
the grueling restoration of a barren city. The
narrative is further supplemented by two-page
educational tidbits interspersed throughout.
Here Stelson addresses the Japanese govern-
ment, Emperor Hirohito, and prime minister
Hideki Tojo; internment camps; the U.S.’ sti-
fling occupation of Japan; and the “long-term
effects of radiation.” With Sachiko forever in
the foreground, readers learn of her grievous
loss, devotion to education, regard for peace
(and its devotees, Gandhi, Martin Luther King
Jr., Helen Keller), and her fairly recent deci-
sion to give voice to her experiences. Sachiko
and her story, much like the resilient Nagasaki
camphor trees she so admires, are an indelible
force. Luminous, enduring, utterly necessary.
Are You an Art Sleuth? Look, Discover,
By Brooke DiGiovanni Evans. Illus. by
2016. 104p. Quarto/Rockport, $17.99 (9781631591310).
759. Gr. 2–5.
Art history and a Where’s Waldo?–style format combine in this collection of beautifully
reproduced pre-twentieth-century paintings,
all by men and all paired with a list of images
to find in each one. Some are easy—a red hat
in a Renoir painting, for example—while others are much more challenging, like a tiny fly
in a still life. Evans follows each painting with
a two-page spread offering some information
about the painter and his historical context
and, perhaps even more valuable, invites readers to consider elements of the painting more
deeply, such as composition, techniques, and
what components of each painting can communicate to the viewer. Meanwhile, project
prompts encourage young readers to try some
of the painters’ tricks and methods. While a
broader range of paintings and artists would
have been nice, Evans does a great job of getting children to gaze long and hard at art, and
she asks the kinds of questions that encourage critical thinking. An answer key and list
of further reading concludes. A well-designed
introduction to art history and criticism.
Children Just like Me: A New
Celebration of Children around the
By Catherine Saunders and others.
Sept. 2016. 80p. illus. DK, $19.99 (9781465453921).
390. Gr. 1–4.
Readers will meet 44 boys and girls from
every continent in this photographic introduction to world cultures. The book opens
with a map of the world dotted with images of
diverse youngsters, followed by an important
global question: “What can you do to help?”