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“All the Real Indians Died Off” and 20 Other Myths about Native Americans

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker. Beacon, $16 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-8070-6265-4

Dunbar-Ortiz and Gilio-Whitaker admirably aim to explode popular, damaging, and inherently limiting myths about Native Americans, continuing the work begun in Dunbar-Ortiz’s well-received An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Refutations of 21 common assumptions are bolstered by views from academic experts and members of Native American nations, and the book’s overarching theme encourages modern readers to abandon the monolithic portrayals so common in popular culture. This earnest work would itself benefit from clearer delineations among the multitude of nations and widely varying traditions. In its most successful chapter, the prevalent myth of Native Americans as victims shatters as well-chosen examples show how members of modern nations actively work on behalf of environmental causes and on improving federal Native American policy. Several surprising statements could use additional historical or background context, particularly the claim for King Philip’s War as the “most violent conflict ever fought on American soil.” This book contains factual information that will benefit students and can spur productive dialogue, but those facts would be better served with companion portrayals of the horrific devastation that colonizers wrought upon Native Americans and continuing public and institutional efforts to properly respect and fairly treat the nations’ members today. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Instrument of War: The German Army 1914–18

Dennis Showalter. Osprey, $30 (328p) ISBN 978-1-4728-1300-8

Showalter (The Wars of German Unification), an expert in German military history at Colorado College, synthesizes the key aspects of the German Imperial Army experience during WWI In this comprehensive single-volume history. He chronologically analyzes the roots of the Imperial German Army, how it planned and prepared for WWI, the major phases of the war, and key battles, and provides conclusions regarding why arguably the most professional army in the world lost the war. The book is very comprehensive given its size. Showalter covers such diverse topics as infantry equipment, defensive and offensive tactics, the failure of the Schlieffen Plan, important personalities, the politics of strategy and high command, and the social and political environment of WWI Germany. The insights are unmatched and intriguing, and in many cases Showalter debunks or explains myths regarding the war. This work may be a challenge to readers not already familiar with the war. Showalter’s analysis of all aspects of the German Army experience in WWI is a must-read for anyone with an interest in WWI or German military history. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life

Helen Czerski. Norton, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-24896-8

In this delightful pop science title, Czerski, a physicist at University College London, shows that understanding how the universe works requires little more than paying attention to patterns and figuring out increasingly refined ways to explain them. She begins her discussion with ordinary popcorn. A quick lesson in “ballistic cooking”—why popcorn pops—and imagining how an elephant uses its trunk segues into understanding how rockets work. Spinning an egg offers insight into spiral galaxies, and considering bubbles and marine snail snot can reveal how fluids behave. The slosh of a cup of tea grows into a look at earthquakes. Czerski’s writing is playful and witty: London’s Tower Bridge is “Narnia for engineers,” cyclists zoom around a velodrome “like demented hamsters on a gigantic wheel,” and chapter titles such as “Why Don’t Ducks Get Cold Feet?” and “Spoons, Spirals, and Sputnik” draw readers into diverse—and memorable—explorations of such diverse topics as matter phase changes and why dropped toast tends to land buttered side down. Czerski’s accessible explanations share the wonder of experimentation and the pleasure of figuring things out. “It’s all one big adventure,” she writes, “because you don’t know where it will take you next.” Agent: Will Francis, Janklow & Nesbit. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Strangers in a New Land: What Archaeology Reveals About the First Americans

J.M. Adovasio and David Pedler. Firefly, $49.95 (348p) ISBN 978-1-77085-363-8

North American archaeologists once embraced a consensus that raised Clovis Man, radiocarbon dated to 13,300–12,,800 years BP (before present), as the first humans in the New World (a blanket term for the Americas), but a more complex picture is emerging. This lavishly illustrated work gives a comprehensive overview of the rapidly evolving field of New World archaeology, first outlining the four basic questions that New World archaeologists face—where these people originated in the Old World, how they got here, when they arrived, and what were they doing. The second part of the book examines the current evidence, divided into chapters that discuss uncontroversial Clovis and Folsom sites, disputed pre-Clovis sites, legitimate pre-Clovis sites, and finally controversial pre-Clovis sites. The authors provide ancillary materials such as a glossary and an explanation of the potential and limits of radiocarbon dating. The book is suitable for the curious layperson interested in the current state of the field, and the bibliography will be useful for readers looking for further reading material. By eschewing the practice of presenting the science as settled and absolute in favor of providing the evidence for and against the competing models, the authors also give readers a view of science as a living field, not received truth but a process of endless questing. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Health Care

Edited by Zena Sharman. Arsenal Pulp (Consortium, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $18.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-55152-659-1

This anthology on health care for queer and transgender people is as much an archive of experience as it is a call to action. Contributors from Canada and the U.S. write mostly from a patient perspective, though some contributors are health professionals. Sharman, a health researcher and advocate who co-edited the literary anthology Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, includes a variety of demographics under the queer and trans umbrella: one author offers advice to health care providers for bisexual patients, and another writes on his experience as a Black intersex man. The writers examine a variety of health issues and conditions, including reproductive health, drug use, and cancer. Interspersed throughout are “Innovation Profiles,” each featuring a community-focused project or service that is an inspiring example of improving health care. This highly accessible anthology looks not only at the problems but also—as the title suggests—at remedies. It’s a must-read for health care professionals and students going into the field, those navigating the system or supporting others through it, and anyone interested in honest, informed writing on the subject. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Fifty Ships that Changed the Course of History: A Nautical History of the World

Ian Graham. Firefly, $29.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-77085-719-3

Graham (Scarlet Women), a prolific author of science, technology, and history books, takes the readers on a nautical voyage around the world and through time as he profiles 50 historically important ships. From an ancient Egyptian barge belonging to the Pharaoh Khufu to the modern MS Allure of the Seas, the largest passenger ship ever built, this book is full of record setters and history makers. Others include the Amistad, significant for having been taken over by slaves; the HMS Endeavour, the collier used by Capt. James Cook to sail around the world; and the Yamato, the largest battleship of World War II and the one that marked the end of big-battleship navies. This is a beautiful book, replete with illustrations, photos, diagrams, and maps. The text balances technicality with storytelling, scholarly analysis with entertainment. It’s a sweeping, fascinating look at barges, battleships, caravels, dhows, submarines, and more, placing them all in context with the battles, countries, discoveries, inventions, and people that surrounded them. Readers interested in history of any kind will enjoy this highly accessible book. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Caroline’s Comets: A True Story

Emily Arnold McCully. Holiday House, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3664-4

McCully (Queen of the Diamond; Dare the Wind) again sets her sights on groundbreaking women with this picture-book biography of Victorian-era scientist Caroline Herschel, the first woman to discover a comet. Dynamic pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations reveal a diminutive yet determined Caroline, her growth stunted and her face scarred by childhood disease. From inauspicious beginnings as a housekeeper and stocking knitter for her family, Caroline goes on to live with her astronomer brother in England and make valuable contributions to the field. Caroline’s own words, appearing as italicized excerpts from her autobiography, enhance McCully’s straightforward narrative: “William made a small telescope for Caroline. He taught her math so she could calculate the positions of stars. I found I was to be trained... I was ‘to sweep for comets.’ Caroline always did what her brother asked.” Despite the social constraints placed on unmarried women in the 18th century, Caroline thrives and achieves, becoming one of the first professional female scientists. A bibliography, glossary, and timeline wrap up a tale of resolve and perseverance that’s sure to encourage curious readers. Ages 6–10. Agent: Susan Cohen, Writers House. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Bone Snatcher

Charlotte Salter. Dial, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-18634-9

British author Salter makes a memorable debut with this eerie psychological adventure. The tale opens with Sophie Seacove, a 12-year-old in a country much like England, being spirited away from parents who may (or may not) have sold her into servitude while gripped by something called sea fever. Sophie finds herself on an island known as Catacomb Hill, the once-grand estate of an inventor-businessman and his family, in the midst of a monster-infested sea. The inventor’s wife and twin sons remain on the island, along with an elderly caretaker, Mr. Scree. Sophie’s new job as Bone Snatcher is to feed the monsters—keeping them from devouring the island—and to stay alive herself. The secrets of the island appeal to Sophie’s storyteller soul, and with the help of the inventor’s mysterious nephew, Cartwright, she aims to solve the mysteries hidden in the decrepit house’s walls. An accessible narrative style combines with a darkly detailed environment—morbid and creepy moments are in no short supply—to spark imaginations. Ages 10–14. Agent: Kirsty McLachlan, David Goodwin Associates. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Mesmerist

Ronald L. Smith. Clarion, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-544-44528-4

Smith’s second novel (after Hoodoo) opens in 1864 England, where 13-year-old Jess and her mother have been running supernatural scams ever since her father’s mysterious death some years earlier. One séance goes badly astray when Jess returns from her supposed trance with a message she hadn’t intended: “Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies. Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down!” The handwritten message, signed only M, terrifies Jess’s mother, who immediately takes them to London, looking for help from the eccentric (and not entirely human) Lord Balthazar. Jess learns that he and her parents were part of a secret organization, the League of Ravens, which has fought evil for centuries. Now, that evil has returned and Jess, who unknowingly carries the enormous powers of a mesmerist, must lead the fight. The shape of the story is familiar, but Smith deftly brings Jess and her fellow Ravens to life and ramps up the violence to a fever pitch at the climax. This tale, though not for the faint at heart, is certain to please young horror fans. Ages 10–12. Agent: Adriann Ranta, Foundry Literary + Media. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Pursued

Gary Urey. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8075-6684-8

When two children wind up in possession of teleportation devices after the inventors—their parents—are murdered, they become the targets of a worldwide manhunt, courtesy of Dr. Lennon Hatch, a ruthless billionaire determined to gain control of the technology. After being relentlessly pursued for a year, 13-year-olds Axel Jack and Daisha Tandala are separated, cast to distant parts of the world, and unable to reunite until their GeoPorts recharge in 72 hours. As Hatch’s people get closer to capturing them, Axel and Daisha’s only hope is to decipher their parents’ last clue and destroy the GeoPorts once and for all. In this fast-paced, globe-hopping adventure, Urey (the Super Schnoz series) delivers a gripping tale full of surprises, starring memorable protagonists set against almost overwhelming odds. There’s a certain tongue-in-cheek aspect to the story as well, with Urey giving ample attention to his egotistical, amoral antagonist (“He would give the people the ability to travel anywhere instantaneously. The Doctor would be King, and everyone else in Silicon Valley his court jesters”). A cliff-hanger ending leaves many questions unanswered for future books. Ages 9–12. Agent: Jill Corcoran, Jill Corcoran Literary. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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