Recently Discovered Image of Sophia Thoreau, Henry David Thoreau’s Sister, Bequeathed to Concord Museum

A daguerreotype of Sophia Thoreau, Henry David Thoreau’s sister, was recently bequeathed to the Concord Museum, just in time to celebrate the Walden author’s bicentennial July 12. Read all about it on the Fine Books Blog.

War Stories

Lots of books on war appeared recently–these three are worth a look:

MWD: Hell is Coming Home, by Brian David Johnson and Jan Egleson, illustrated by Laila Milevski and Karl Stevens; Candlewick Press, $24.99, 158 pages, ages 18 and up. 

Dogs make excellent soldiers and loyal companions. In MWD, Liz serves in Iraq alongside Ender, her faithful military canine. After completing her tour, Liz returns to her quiet New Hampshire town, but resuming civilian life is tougher than it sounds. Unable to deal with inner turmoil stemming from life on the battlefield, Liz turns to binge drinking and other reckless behavior, but her run-in with a stray dog named Brutus proves a powerful first step towards getting back to normal. A dizzyingly poignant account of a soldier’s physical and psychological trauma and how she heals. Note: MWD is for mature readers–sexual violence, rough language, and battle scenes are purposefully raw, sharp, and cutting. Have a box of tissues at hand–you will need it.

Bodyguard: Recruit, by Chris Bradford, Philomel; $8.99, 256 pages, ages 10-13. 

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Until now, the only way to get your hands on the wildly popular Bodyguard series was to go to England or pay hefty postage fees to get them stateside. As of May 9, the first of Chris Bradford’s high-octane adventures starring Connor Reeves became available to American readers. In Book One, Recruit, fourteen-year-old boxing champion-turned bodyguard Connor is enlisted to protect Alicia Rosa Mendez, the reckless teenage daughter of the American president. A terrorist sleeper cell has plans to kidnap Alicia, and it will take all of Connor’s skills to keep her safe. Fans of Bradford’s Young Samurai stories will find much to enjoy here. Books One through Four in the Bodyguard series will be published throughout the summer, so be prepared for some serious binge-reading.

Double Cross: Deception Techniques in War, by Paul B. Janeczko; Candlewick Press, $16.99, 256 pages, ages 10-14.

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Paul Janecsko’s follow-up to The Dark Game explores the history and evolution of deception techniques like camouflage, concealment, and substitution from the Trojan War through the Gulf War. Thoroughly sourced (though Ian Kahn’s Codebreakers wasn’t consulted, surprisingly), Deception Techniques proves an excellent nonfiction resource that exposes the secrets of surveillence, counter-intelligence, and other forms of military strategy. 

 

The House at Lobster Cove

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George Nixon Black (1842-1928) was a Boston-based heir to a real estate fortune and philanthropist, and in Jane Goodrich’s fictionalized biography, violence and unhappiness give way to secret Gilded-Age romance. Read more at the Fine Books Blog. 

She Persisted

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, Philomel; $17.99 32 pages, ages 4-7.

“I wrote this book for everyone who’s ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down–for everyone who’s ever been made to feel less than,” said Chelsea Clinton about her children’s book, She Persisted. Certainly, the goal is laudable: profile thirteen American women whose strength and perserverance helped change the world for the better. Harriet Tubman, Hellen Keller, Virginia Apgar, and even Oprah Winfrey appear as pint-size activists. In each vignette, Clinton presents the challenges each woman faced and repeats the current feminist rallying-call, “She persisted.” The book joins a fleet of recently published girl-power volumes like Feminist Baby and Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

Each woman is presented chronologically, but there are no dates to pinpoint the progression across time. Luckily, Alexandra Boiger’s marvelous double-page illustrations help to fill the gap. Perceptive readers will have questions about these women, such as when they lived, how they made history, and who helped them. For example, Anne Sullivan appears in an image of Hellen Keller, but isn’t mentioned by name. Yet, there are no endnotes or bibliography to help answer those questions. That aside, the text itself feels forced–read aloud, the words are halting, hesitating, and, unfortunately, boring, which these women certainly were not. The presentation is less a celebration than a suggestion that women, simply by virtue of being women, will always face a stacked deck, and those who succeed do so alone.

Clinton fans will no doubt flock to the book regardless, but those looking for more engaging accounts of brave American women would do better to look elsewhere–the recently published Motor Girls by Sue Macy, for example (National Geographic, $17.99, ages 11-14), is a fascinating account of women at the turn of the twentieth century who took to the open road despite much (male) protest. It’s thorough, engaging, and packed with primary source material, statistics, and lively anecdotes. Amy Ehrlich’s Willa, illustrated by Wendell Minor (Paula Wiseman, $16.99, 72 pages, ages 6-10) is an excellent picture-book biography of one of America’s most beloved writers.

Well-intentioned, She Persisted lacks joy, and despite its simplicity, manages to strike an unwelcome didactic tone. “Remember these women,” Clinton writes. “They persisted and so should you.” Rather than a lively, well-written, and informational account of great women, She Persisted offers platitudes that do little to inspire.

 

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Hamlet: Globe to Globe

In 2012, Globe Theatre’s artistic director Dominic Dromgoole and his team came up with “a daft idea:” celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth by taking Hamlet on a two-year tour of 197 countries. In Hamlet: Globe to Globe, Dromgoole explains how the concept took shape, the logistics that were involved, and how a centuries-old play resonated with audiences around the world. Read all about it on the Fine Books Blog.