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Reviews of the 2017 Sibert Award Winners

Winner:

Lewis_Marchbk3star2 March: Book Three
by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; illus. by Nate Powell
Middle School, High School  Top Shelf Productions  254 pp.
8/16    978-1-60309-402-3    $19.99    g

This final volume (March: Book One, rev. 1/14; March: Book Two, rev. 5/15) includes the expected and necessary set pieces from the civil rights movement: the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and the murder of four young girls; Freedom Summer in Mississippi, from voter registration drives and slain volunteers to Fannie Lou Hamer, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and the 1964 Democratic Convention; the iconic march from Selma to Montgomery that roused the nation from its complacency; and, finally, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But these events yield to smaller and lesser-known moments of violence, injustice, and helplessness — beatings and lynchings, political and judicial indifference — that are no less painful to read about. Since he was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during this period, Lewis has a unique perspective from which to recall these events, and he does so with intimate familiarity and bracing honesty. As the narrative progresses, there is a palpable sense that the mounting obstacles are not only taking a serious toll on Lewis but that indeed the entire movement is fraying under the strain. Powell’s kinetic, fluid black-and-white illustrations create a relentless cascade of words and images that assaults the senses and underscores the brutality of the period. From Maus to Persepolis, graphic-novel memoirs have accounted for a large share of critical acclaim for the comics format, and now that this trilogy is complete, it can stand shoulder to shoulder with any of them. JONATHAN HUNT

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

Honor Books:

fleming_giant squidstar2 Giant Squid
by Candace Fleming; 
illus. by Eric Rohmann
Primary    Porter/Roaring Brook    40 pp.
9/16    978-1-59643-599-5    $18.99

A mysterious giant squid lurks in the dark corners of the ocean depths. Page-turn by page-turn, parts of the squid are revealed: first, a few tentacles sweep across the blue/black-hued ocean environment; then, a few more emerge, and then again even more, along with fish who are about to be devoured. (And this is all before the title page.) Suddenly, the squid’s beak is front and center, and then a huge, staring eye. Just as suddenly, the squid disappears. Fleming’s cadenced text and Rohmann’s dramatic illustrations collaborate beautifully to build suspense and movement, as the squid and other sea creatures battle for survival. Important scientific information sneaks in effortlessly: even as readers look for the next appearance of the squid, they gain knowledge of the animal’s feeding, breeding, and movements as well as insights into the many questions about giant squids that are still unanswered. The artwork is marvelous; the murky blues and blacks of the ocean make it easy to appreciate how hard it has been for scientists and sailors to see the elusive squid — and how startling it must be when that enormous “ghostly, lidless” eye appears. In a spectacular reveal across a four-panel foldout, billowing clouds of squid ink clear away, and we finally see the entire, magnificent animal. Turn to the final pages, and once again “it’s gone.” A diagram of the squid’s anatomy, a bibliography, and an explanation of the ways scientists literally piece together information about squids from body parts that wash ashore follow the main text. DANIELLE J. FORD

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

stelson_sachikoSachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story
by Caren Stelson
Middle School, High School    Carolrhoda    144 pp.
10/16    978-1-4677-8903-5    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5124-1884-2    $9.99

The result of extensive interviews with Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor Sachiko Yasui, Stelson’s sensitively crafted account spans fifty years of Yasui’s life, starting in August 1945 when the bomb was dropped (she was six years old) and ending in August 1995, when Yasui agreed to speak publicly about her experiences for the first time. Stelson structures her narrative around Yasui’s decades-long struggle to find the courage to share her traumatic story with others; her eventual decision to finally speak up — “What happened to me must never happen to you” — is movingly foreshadowed when, years after the bomb, Yasui fights to regain her voice after radiation-related thyroid cancer takes away her ability to talk. Stelson wisely uses a limited-omniscient point of view, allowing readers to see events through Yasui’s eyes but not become overwhelmed by the horrors she endured. Her tragic tale is full of terror and despair, but hope and peace also loom large, as Yasui finds strength and inspiration in such figures as Helen Keller, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. Interspersed with ten brief, informative essays (“Racism and War,” “Radiation Sickness,” “The H-Bomb,” etc.) and illustrated with numerous photos, this is a significant addition to the available material. An author’s note, a glossary of Japanese words, ample source notes, a bibliography arranged by subject, lists of related books and websites, and an index are appended. JENNIFER M. BRABANDER

From the January/February 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

marrin_uprootedUprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II
by Albert Marrin
Middle School    Knopf    246 pp.
10/16    978-0-553-50936-6    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-553-50937-3    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-0-553-50938-0    $10.99

Marrin (FDR and the American Crisis, rev. 1/15) wanders far afield from the book’s subtitle in order to place his subject in a comprehensively broad context; readers wanting a narrower focus may opt for Imprisoned by Martin Sandler (rev. 7/13). Marrin’s narrative opens briefly with a prologue set on the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but then he backtracks for several chapters, delivering a crash course in Japanese history with a special focus on racism. By the late nineteenth century, Japanese Americans had arrived in the United States, a country with its own troubled legacy. Despite the hard work and industry of the first several generations, racial problems persisted well into the twentieth century, ultimately paving the way for Executive Order 9066 and the forcible relocation and internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Despite this ignominious treatment, Japanese American soldiers distinguished themselves in both the Pacific and European theaters of war. Though the internment camps closed at the end of the war, hastened by a Supreme Court ruling, it was years before the internees received an official apology, reparations, and memorials. A final chapter draws a connection to the treatment of Muslim Americans in the aftermath of twenty-first-century terrorist attacks and discusses the uneasy tension between liberty and security during wartime. Generous quotations and photographs are integrated throughout the text, providing the immediacy that comes with primary sources. Source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended. JONATHAN HUNT

From the January/February 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

freedman_we will not be silentWe Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler
by Russell Freedman
Intermediate, Middle School    Clarion    104 pp.
5/16    978-0-544-22379-0    $17.99

Freedman’s latest photohistory is an excellent overview of the White Rose resistance movement, a group of university students who, beginning in June 1942 in Munich, Germany, risked their lives to write and distribute leaflets denouncing the Nazi regime. Focusing mainly on siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, Freedman cogently describes Hitler’s increasing repressiveness; the Scholl family’s growing alienation from Nazism; the forming of the White Rose resistance movement, consisting of the Scholl siblings and their circle of friends at Munich University; the distribution and impact of the leaflets; and Hans’s and Sophie’s ultimate capture and execution by guillotine. (Hans was twenty-four; Sophie, twenty-one.) As always, Freedman not only writes with clarity and pace but augments his text with primary-source quotes and photographs that add power and immediacy. The book’s large square trim size allows for spacious page design and copious photos. Pair with Hermann Vinke’s The Short Life of Sophie Scholl (rev. 8/84; now sadly out of print) for a fuller portrait of Sophie and the White Rose, or Phillip Hoose’s The Boys Who Challenged Hitler (rev. 7/15) for a look at another remarkable group of young people who worked to sabotage the Nazi regime. Appended with source notes, a selected bibliography, and an index (but no timeline). MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

From the May/June 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

For more, click on the tag ALA Midwinter 2017.

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