Friday, September 30, 2016

100 Suns by Michael Light



How many times did the United States test atomic bombs?  Where did they test them?  What did the explosions look like?  As Passages’ Living Environment curriculum gets underway and students consider the atom, librarians may supplement instruction with this stunning and disturbing pictorial documenting the testing of nuclear bombs first on the mainland and subsequently on unlucky islands.  Author Michael Light keeps the text to a bare minimum for much of the book, allowing the reader’s curiosity to be piqued and then extended as the images of explosions pile up.  The backmatter reveals Light’s well-researched captions as well as a powerfully succinct timeline of the progression of the development of atomic bombs and key events of World War II.  Notes on stockpiling highlight the escalation of the arms race between the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R.  Struggling readers will appreciate the chance to access the text via the reading of images, and more sophisticated readers may enjoy the initial mystery of the buried captions and will find much to chew on once the backmatter is uncovered. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Light, Michael.  100 Suns.  New York: Knopf, 2003.  Print.

Click here for an interview with Michael Light on 100 Suns which was published in afterimage's July/August 2005 issue.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults -- Exposed! By Julie Tibbot


What are they hiding?  So begins this tantalizing non-fiction title, preparing the reader to delve into the secret (and sometimes not-so-secret) histories of twenty-two groups following alphabetic order and concluding with the Thugees, which, I was fascinated to learn, is with whom the word “thug” originates.  Each chapter follows a template which provides the date or period in which the group originated, their current status, and summarizes in one sentence the group’s exclusivity, secrecy, threat, and quirkiness.  
After this half-page profile in a text box, Tibbott goes on to introduce the reader to the history and background of the group, followed by a section on how to get in and what reportedly goes on within the group.  Interspersed throughout the text are photographs, symbol illustrations, and relevant features on topics.  Examples include Zora Neale Hurston’s account of meeting Felicia Felix-Mentor (an allegedly zombified woman) following the chapter on the Bizango (founded in Haiti in the 18th century), and a list of big name Masons ( including contemporary public figures Jesse Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal along with historical personages like Oscar Wilde and George Washington).  Perfect for older adolescent readers requesting information on the Illuminati (see page 89), the biggest problem with this book is that unsurprisingly, the author chose not to cite her sources. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber


Tibbott, Julie.  Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects and Cults--Exposed!  San Francisco: Zest Books, 2014.  Print.

Monday, September 19, 2016

When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin


Thirteen-year-old Ben is convinced nothing in life is forever.  It’s hard to blame him after having spent so much time in foster care and with a revolving door of good and bad people coming in and out of his life.  A fateful encounter with a little dog named Flip brings new friends into his world, and the courageous Rainbow Girl battling cancer, her librarian mom, and magician dad offer him a glimpse of forever.  But can he hold on to it?  A simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking story of friendship, family, and lasting moments.  This middle grade novel set in Brooklyn will appeal to fans of realistic fiction, especially if sci-fi also holds a special place in their hearts.  Another fantastic offering from frequent Passages Academy Libraries Visiting Author Paul Griffin.   --Anne Lotito-Schuh

Griffin, Paul. When Friendship Followed Me Home. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016. Print.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Be Back Soon

Thanks for reading! 

We'll be on hiatus for the next couple of months and we'll be back with more reviews in September.  We wish you a summer full of great reads.

Love,
The What's Good? Crew

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Guinness World Records 2016 Gamer’s Edition by Guinness World Records Limited


Ever wanted to know how much money you could earn by winning a Call of Duty Tournament? $125,000. How about the best-selling independently made game? Minecraft, which has sold over 60 million copies and made a total of $318.5 million dollars. Not bad for a game that originally only cost $820 to make. But it’s not all numbers, the Guinness World Records 2016 Gamer’s Edition contains a deluge of interesting information about video games, all of which is presented in the form of infographics and organized alphabetically by game title. Pages are sprinkled with tips and tricks, sidebars about particular records, and most of all filled with pictures from the games mentioned. This volume also explains to readers how to go about breaking a record and making it into the book. Record breakers and video game players alike should enjoy looking through all the information this book has to offer.--Claudio Leon

Guinness World Records Limited, and Bastian Heinlein. Guinness World Records 2016 Gamer's Edition. Hamburg: Hoffmann Und Campe, 2015. Print.

The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake



If there is ever a time when one feels as though they are on an island unto themselves and simultaneously on center stage with Broadway lights highlighting all of their perceived flaws, it would be the middle school years. A time when you feel so lonely, but are surrounded by so many people, people whose eyes and words singe deeply. Sharon Flake does an impeccable job portraying this scenario from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old girl, Maleeka Madison-the-third [sic], a bright student whose past and low self-esteem lingers in her everyday choices. It is a new, tough teacher, Miss Saunders, who is always in Maleeka's business and whose own imperfections act as a lens for her in learning to love the skin she's in. With this lesson, Maleeka takes control and is finally able to break free from the hold of the most popular girl in the grade, Char. With vocabulary that is accessible to a wide range of readers, I highly recommend this title to middle and high school girls.--Allison Trevaskis

Flake,  Sharon G. The Skin I’m In. New York: Jump at the Sun Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, 1998.  Print.

Click here for the Anti-Defamation League’s discussion guide and resource links pertaining to The Skin I’m In.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Laughing at my Nightmare by Shane Burca



Unable to use his limbs, Shane Burcaw has spent the better part of his lifetime making friends, jokes, and sly observations from his wheelchair.  Burcaw decided to put his refreshing humor to good use in this memoir chronicling his challenges and triumphs from the first twenty years of his life.  Readers will empathize and laugh with Shane as he gets through school and navigates the social waters of college with lots of cursing and jokes along the way.  Highly recommended to anyone wishing to walk (or roll) a mile in someone else’s shoes.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Burcaw, Shane.  Laughing at My Nightmare.  New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2014.  Print.

Friday, June 10, 2016

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera



Imagine a future in which everything is the same as it is now, except a new breakthrough in brain science has made it possible for specially trained surgeons to erase memories.  The procedure is in high demand, and teens can’t opt in without a parent’s signature and a bunch of money.  What would you do if you were Aaron--sixteen years old and unable to shake the memory of finding your father dead from suicide?  Set in NYCHA projects in the Bronx, this novel’s protagonist has a strong and unique voice and comes across as sensitive and seemingly self-aware.  A supporting cast of familiar, less-developed characters as Aaron’s family and friends comes together to tackle heavy themes of identity, memory, family, love, and loss with several surprising twists and some unusual chronology.  Highly recommended for more sophisticated readers ready to move beyond titles like How it Went Down and I Hunt Killers, and a must-read for fans of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Silvera, Adam.  More Happy Than Not.  New York: Soho Press, 2015. Print.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

I, Witness by Norah McClintock, Illustrated by Mike Deas


When Boone and Robbie witness the murder of a man the decision to keep their mouths shut is simple. But when Robbie is then murdered, Boone is sent into a spiral of fear. If this weren’t already challenging enough for Boone to handle, the family of his murdered friend believes he knows who the murderer is and want Boone to come forward. Boone must decide to either put his life at risk or continue suffering in silence. Similar to Yummy and Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm, I, Witness is a black and white graphic novel. It uses a gritty art style to convey the challenges of growing up surrounded by violence and having to make tough choices in order to stay alive. I Witness does a great job at sucking the reader in within the first chapter. The story is well paced and keeps readers guessing up until the last page. Students looking for a graphic novel a bit longer than Yummy will be sure to pick this one up.--Claudio A. Leon
McClintock, Norah & Deas, Mike. I, Witness. Washington: Orca Book Publishers, 2012. Print.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Professional Text Review I Hope I Don’t See You Tomorrow: A Phenomenological Ethnography of the Passages Academy School Program by Dr. Lee Gabay


Co-Editors note: Here at WG? we focus almost exclusively on the texts and leaders who serve our students, but sometimes you have to break your own rules and Dr. Lee Gabay’s new title warrants a deviation from our own bounds and traditions.  Perhaps more will follow.
Perfectly-sized for the busy teacher, administrator, or curious outsider, Dr. Gabay has written the first book that combines both a researcher’s questions and insider insight into Passages Academy.  Written over the course of a decade, and just published a few months ago, I Hope I Don’t See You Tomorrow furnishes the reader with a literature review that provides meaningful context situating the work of Passages Academy.  Dr. Gabay has elected to keep his voice and perspective present as someone who worked at Passages for many years, and his book reports on and analyzes mostly anonymous interviews he conducted with colleagues.  For administrators and policymakers whose work dovetails with incarcerated and detained youth and whom have never taught in a Passages classroom, this book is essential reading.  For students of criminology and criminal justice, as well as judges and the slew of social agencies and arts agencies who endeavor to concern themselves with the welfare of court-involved youth, and for any educator who ever wondered if they might have something to contribute in a detention setting, this book is highly recommended.  While it is an academic work, Gabay intends his writing to be accessible and straightforward.  Six chapters encompass the researcher and text’s contextualization, the methodology used, an overview of the history of education and juvenile justice, an exploration of the students’ experience, and the results of Gabay’s interviews with colleagues.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Gabay, Lee A.  I Hope I Don’t See You Tomorrow: A Phenomenological Ethnography of the Passages Academy School Program.  The Netherlands: Sense Publishers, 2016.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward


Pregnant and desperately poor, fifteen-year-old Esch lives with her two older brothers, high school basketball star Randall and pitbull-raising Skeetah, her baby brother Junior, and her widowed, underemployed, and alcoholic father in rural Louisiana.  Set during the week before Hurricane Katrina descends, Salvage the Bones heart-wrenchingly depicts Esch’s scorching love for her brother’s friend, Skeetah’s Greek tragedy-like devotion to his pitbull and her litter of puppies, Randall’s hopes of attending basketball camp where he’s sure to be noticed by college scouts, Junior’s search for a connection to the mother who died giving birth to him, and their father’s futile attempts to prepare for the unimaginable.  Themes of love, family, friendship, loyalty, and betrayal are thick throughout this many-layered story.  A modern classic for a strong reader.  --Anne Lotito-Schuh

Ward, Jesmyn. Salvage the Bones. New York: Bloomsbury, 2011. Print.