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She Takes a Stand: 16 Fearless Activists Who Have Changed the World

Michael Elsohn Ross. Chicago Review (IPG, dist.), $19.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-61373-026-3

This far-ranging collection of brief biographies, part of the Women of Action series, introduces 16 female social and political activists from the 19th century onward. The featured women include Rigoberta Menchu Tum, who fought the genocide of indigenous Guatemalans during that country’s civil war (1960–1996); Sampat Pal Devi, who opened a sewing school in her Indian village and formed the “Gulabi Gang” of empowered women in 2006; and Megan Grassell, a contemporary teenager who founded Yellowberry, a company that makes “young, cute, and realistic bras for girls,” as an alternative to sexualized undergarments. Ross portrays his subjects with honesty, highlighting both their missteps and accomplishments, while emphasizing how anyone can become an activist with enough passion and will. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Speak a Word for Freedom: Women Against Slavery

Janet Willen and Marjorie Gann. Tundra, $21.99 (216p) ISBN 978-1-77049-651-4

Readers who think of slavery as an institution relegated to the past will be enlightened by this engrossing study of female abolitionists from the 18th century to the present day. Familiar figures include Harriet Tubman and Harriet Beecher Stowe, but the majority of the individuals will likely be new to many readers. Among them are Ellen Craft, the daughter of a slave and a plantation owner who disguised herself as a white slave master to travel north with her black husband; missionary Alice Seeley Harris, whose photographs documented atrocities committed against Congolese rubber workers; and Micheline Slattery, who was enslaved in both Haiti and the United States and now speaks out on behalf of other victims. A powerful indictment of human rights abuses and tribute to the women who have fought them. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics

Edward Keenan, illus. by Julie McLaughlin. Owlkids (PGW, dist.), $16.95 (64p) ISBN 978-1-77147-068-1

Keenan offers an easygoing overview of the political arena, beginning with an introduction to types of government, followed by a more conceptual exploration of political ideology, authority, and the roles of citizens. A young man and woman reappear throughout McLaughlin’s illustrations, seen engaging in debate, contemplating their political leanings, and learning along with readers. Case studies dig deeper into the material—Keenan profiles Jane Jacobs as a demonstration of active citizenship, and a look at George W. Bush’s first term and the impact of 9/11 touches on the limits of presidential power. While primarily focused on American politics, Keenan weaves in global topics, such as the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, which is used as an example of the influence of public opinion. It’s a demystifying resource that encourages readers to take interest and take action. Ages 10–14. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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You Rule! A Practical Guide to Creating Your Own Kingdom

Scott Forbes and Emma Laura Jones. Lonely Planet, $14.99 (96p) ISBN 978-1-74360-784-8

This playful, tongue-in-cheek guide to inventing and ruling one’s own country also weaves in information about nation-building and governance. Readers can select a location for their country (the backyard, online, on another planet, etc.), define its borders, name it, make decisions about national security, and determine how to rule. Slickly designed, graphic-heavy pages feature sidebars, charts, and photographs; real-life examples of individuals who have made up their own countries appear throughout (in 1979, 14-year-old Robert Ben Madison declared his bedroom the kingdom of Talossa, later attracting “citizens” through a website). With activities that include designing a flag, creating currency, and holding elections, the fun lies more in the creative process than in the destination. Ages 8–up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey

Bill Harley, illus. by Adam Gustavson. Peachtree, $13.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-56145-835-6

Fourth-grader Charlie Bumpers returns in his fourth novel, and as Thanksgiving draws near, he is fed up with his family: relatives are descending on the Bumpers household in droves, Charlie has to share his room with his “perfect little angel” of a cousin, and his siblings won’t stop pestering him. Harley has as good a handle on tumultuous family relationships as he does on school-day mishaps; suffice it to say, it takes Charlie a while to revise his definition of family as “a bunch of people you have to live with and share with even when you don’t want to.” Regardless of their own family makeups, readers will probably recognize some of their own relatives amid all the good-natured holiday chaos. Ages 7–10. Illustrator’s agent: Abigail Samoun, Red Fox Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Wishbone Wish

Megan McDonald, illus. by Peter H. Reynolds. Candlewick, $14.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7206-5

Back to share top billing in the fourth Judy Moody and Stink story, the Moody siblings gear up for the local Gobblers-a-Go-Go festival: Judy plans to dress up as Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who persuaded President Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. And Judy is so certain she’ll win a footrace that boasts a turkey as top prize, she tells her grandmother not to bother buying one (which worries Stink mightily). As in the siblings’ previous outings, their spot-on dialogue and banter is a major source of this book’s fun (“I’m sorry I called you a turkey,” Stink apologizes after a long stint in time-out. “And a snood. And a wattle”), and Reynolds’s full-color illustrations easily tap into the upbeat, offbeat holiday mood. Ages 6–9. Illustrator’s agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story

Pat Zietlow Miller, illus. by Jill McElmurry. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-307-98182-0

Miller’s Wherever You Go showcased her talent for creating pitch-perfect rhymes, and that skill is just as present in this portrait of a family in 19th-century America, as they prepare their Thanksgiving feast. The narration is essentially a set of orders being delivered by the family’s young son, but when his commands are this sweet (“Grandpa, cook the berries please./ Boil those bright red berries, please./ Add some lemon—just a squeeze./ Grandpa, cook them, please.”), who can begrudge him? McElmurry’s gouache paintings exude familial affection: the boy’s mother and father sneak loving glances of each other in the midst of the preparations, and the boy takes a moment to peer at his baby sibling, sleeping “snug and happy in our house.” This is a warm and wonderful holiday treasure. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Just a Special Thanksgiving

Mercer Mayer. HarperFestival, $4.99 paper (24p) ISBN 978-0-06-147811-6

Mayer’s bestselling Little Critter is celebrating his 40th anniversary in 2015, and he’s causing some good-natured mischief as Thanksgiving approaches. The text is as straightforward as it gets, but it works well enough as a foil to the humor in Mayer’s images: when Little Critter, who is dressed in a turkey costume, forgets his lines during a school play, a classmate whispers, “Just say, ‘Gobble gobble.’ ” Later, Little Critter disrupts the local Thanksgiving parade and makes a mess at the grocery store, and while Mayer’s emphasis is mainly on mischief, he sneaks in a “worthy” ending as Little Critter’s family participates in a Thanksgiving dinner for the less fortunate at the community center. A sheet of stickers is included. Ages 4–7. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Very Stuffed Turkey

Katherine Kenah, illus. by Binny Talib. Scholastic/Cartwheel, $6.99 paper (32p) ISBN 978-0-545-76109-3

For one turkey, “gobble” isn’t so much the noise he makes as how he eats: all of Turkey’s barnyard friends are hosting Thanksgiving dinners, and he plans to eat at each one. Turkey starts out strong, plowing through stew at Pig’s house and gorging on oat cakes and pie with Horse’s family. “Let’s have a race,” suggests Horse after dinner. “Turkey didn’t think that was a good idea.” Kenah (Ferry Tail) emphasizes the culinary delights that are so integral to the holiday, but it’s the “wonderful” feeling of being part of a family (several of them, actually) that Turkey comes to appreciate most, especially after additional courses of soup, casserole, and ice cream. Dominated by an autumnal palette and dotted with plaid and cross-hatched textures, Talib’s illustrations bring a fresh, modern look to this humorous holiday outing. Ages 3–5. Illustrator’s agency: Bright Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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