Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert Massie was a book that read on a whim. I was testing out my new phone and wondered how well the OverDrive app would sync with the app on my tablet. To test it, I downloaded Catherine the Great from my local library, and started to read.

Robert K. Massie in turn delivered a fascinating story about a discouraged and unloved young Prussian princess who had high expectations for her life. The young girl wanted to be powerful, and she intended to find a way to be so. When the story began in Prussia, I was at first startled: I thought Catherine the Great was a Russian Empress? The strong personality of the young girl and the intrigue into how? kept me reading. Continue Reading

Kids Who Are Changing the World by Anne Jankeliowitch

Kids Who Are Changing the World by Anne Jankeliowitch (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, September 2014) is an inspiring volume of brief biographies of young children from around the world who took action to fight for ecological awareness. The author shares how each child was inspired, what he or she did as a result, and the end result of their action, including what they currently are doing to promote awareness and make a difference.

Some of the children used their talents to promote ecological awareness. Some painters sent artwork to those who donated to a cause. Others made music videos that have made a difference by raising awareness world wide to those who see the video. Others began locally in planting trees or inspiring recycling or petitioning to ban plastic water bottles at their schools. These small movements became larger as their cause spread throughout their towns, countries, and (now) the world.

It’s amazing to me to see what very young children can accomplish when they are determined to do so. I appreciated the note along with most of the biographies in which they acknowledged the roles their parents played in helping them be successful. I do think it is important to encourage our children to make a difference in what they see as important, and parental support was obviously a big part of helping these kids meet their dreams for “changing the world.”

If I have one complaint it is that the gorgeous photographs of places around the world did not always match the locality that the children’s biographies described. For example, a child worked to plant trees and discourage deforestation in Africa, and the photograph showed the rain forest in Brazil. This is a small matter, however. The photographer, Yan Arthus-Bertrand, President of the GoodPlanet Foundation which emphasizes children’s education of these ecological matters, has ecological awareness at heart. The photographs selected simply emphasize the need for ecological awareness and delight at the beautiful world we all live in.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. 

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is a poetic autobiographical reflection on the author’s childhood. The writing is sparse, written in free verse, and yet each poem packs a punch of emotion. Ms Woodson recalls her earliest of memories (fictionalizing events as necessary). Her early childhood is spent with her grandmother and grandfather in South Carolina and then she moves to live with her mother and step-brother in New York.

Ms Woodson’s poems capture the difficult transitions in life, but they also capture the complicate life that comes from growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in the Jim Crow South. She details her frustrations learning to read (due to probable dyslexia) and her persistent dream to become a writer and record the multitude of stories inside her mind.

Individually, each poem is full of meaning that could be enjoyed as the reader may like. There is more than meets the eye in these apparently simple poems. As a whole, the book is satisfying and complete: a story of a girl who lived and dreamed and became.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafsai

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafsai (Little, Brown and Company, 2013) is a powerful story of a girl’s courage to stand up against wrong and demand an education in the Taliban-controlled regions of Pakistan. The work done by Malala, who still is a teenager, is so remarkable that she became the youngest receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Her first-person account of her life is an engaging and inspiring read for all who desire courage to stand for what they know to be right.Continue Reading