"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, February 23, 2024

Two Nonfiction YA Book Reviews --- Both should be in your library

As I finish up my Cybils judging for nonfiction books I wanted to make sure you all were aware of these two books which should certainly be added to any library collection which services teens.

Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
by Robin Wall Kimmerer, adapted by Monique Gray Smith, with illustrations by Nicole Neidhardt

Zest Books, Minneapolis. 2022. Target audience: Grades 8-12.

Back in 2015 a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer, published Braiding Sweetgrass, the parent of this young adult version. As a botanist Kimmerer was trained to observe nature through science. As a member of the Potawatomi Nation she knew that plants and animals are some of our oldest and best teachers. In her book she brings together these two types of knowledge to share the ancient wisdom in a way that it even makes sense with science. 
Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings―asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass―offer us gifts and lessons, even if we've forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.  
Adapted for young adults by Monique Gray Smith, this new edition reinforces how wider ecological understanding stems from listening to the earth’s oldest the plants around us. With informative sidebars, reflection questions, and art from illustrator Nicole Neidhardt, Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults brings Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the lessons of plant life to a new generation.(Publisher).
Braiding Sweetgrass has been a highly praised book worthy of being read to enhance understanding of our world so we can make changes to help stop the destruction of Mother Earth but also to help see problems and solutions through different lenses. In this edition for teens, Monique Gray Smith streamlines the language and yet stays true to the core concepts of the original but adds sidebars, definitions of words/concepts, and asks probing questions to ignite younger readers' minds. It encourages them to make changes to their action, beliefs, and values.  Illustrations by Nicole Neidhardt also make the text more inviting, allowing readers to linger over concepts as they examine the drawings.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to read this book and contemplate its place in the oeuvre of all literature on solutions to climate change. I love the idea that the earth herself can guide to find the answers that have baffled us for centuries.

My book club will be reading the original, adult version of this book next month and I look forward to seeing for myself how the two editions differ from each other. I'm guessing that his YA edition will win for me in a side by side comparisons. Make sure your public and high school library have a copy available for teens and students. 

My rating: 5 stars.

Muzoon: A Syrian Refugee Speaks Out
by Muzoon Almellehan with Wendy Pearlman.  // Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2023. Target Audience: Grades 6-10

When she was fourteen-years-old Muzoon and her family had to leave their Syrian home and escape to a refugee camp in Jordan. War had broken out in her homeland and it was no longer safe to live among the bombs, raids, and guns on both sides. Her father gave her just a few hours to pack her most important possessions before leaving. Muzoon packed all her textbooks. She didn't want to miss out on a moment of her education, realizing it was her ticket to a more positive future. 

Once she and her family settled into their new reality in the refugee camp, Muzoon started back to school. She discovered that many of the other girls in her classes would be there one day and not the next. When she asked around she discovered that many of these girls didn't understand the importance of education because all they saw in their future was marriage.  Muzoon made it a personal mission to seek out these girls and talk to them about staying in school, explaining how important it would be that everyone have a good education when they were finally able to go back to their country so that they'd never end up in this mess again. She did this so often, her efforts started to be noticed by relief organizations. Periodically Muzoon would be asked to speak on behalf of refugees for these organizations (Save the Children, UNICEF.) One day Malala came to her refugee camp and the two girls met each other. They had to speak through interpreters, but they recognized kindred spirits in each other. Sometimes Muzoon is even called The Syrian Malala. 

Because of her work as an goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, her family was able to secure proper papers to immigrate to Britain where she and her siblings were able to go on to college. She continues today as an advocate for refugees and for the importance of education.

 My rating: 4 stars.


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