Harry Potter: a History Of Magic

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Harry Potter: A History of Magic (American Edition)
British Library and New York Historical Museum and Library

Once in a while, I run across a book that just makes me want to say, “WOW!” This is such a book.

It may be hard to believe, but it has been 20 years since, J.K. Rowling first introduced Harry Potter to the world. This anniversary edition is done by the British Library and The New York Historical Society. The book is actually subtitled; The Official Companion to the British Library Exhibition at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library. I understand that there is an exhibit in New York of the history of magic going on now.

As one might suppose, the history of magic through the ages is presented to the reader, but is it done in a rather unique format. The chapters are arranged to lead the reader through the history as if he or she were taking classes at Hogwarts. The titles of each chapter is the name of a class that Harry would have taken at Hogwarts; i.e Herbology, Divination, and Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Most things presented in the text are actual historical items, but interspersed with the historical are copies of drafts of Rowling’s drafts for the texts of the Harry Potter series and actual artwork for those books. Some illustrations are pen and ink drawings by Rowling herself, but the fantastic color illustrations were done by Jim Kay for Bloomsbury Books.

The book is well-bound. It is delighting to the eye, interesting to read, and engaging for all Harry Potter fans, ages 6-60. It also could be used as a source for research into the history of magic. There is an index of the exhibits shown in the text and brief biographical sketches of Rowling and of the curators of the British Library Exhibit. I highly recommend the purchase of this book for public,middle, and high school libraries.

We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett

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This is a fantasy that focuses more on relationships than the magic powers of the characters. The setting is in a world torn apart by war. The Union of the North – very reminiscent of Russia – is trying to defend itself against the onslaught of the Elda forces that want to totally wipe out the Union.

     The two main characters are very different.  Linne’ is the daughter of one of the generals of the Union. She felt that her father didn’t notice her, so she bound her breasts and enlisted in the army as a boy. She has distinguished herself by her bravery in battles, but at the beginning of this story, she has been discovered and disgraced for trying to serve as a man. Linne’ has the power of sparking things. That means she can make engines move and start fires by using her magical abilities.

Revna is the other main character. She is a factory worker who lost both of her legs in a tragic accident. Her father was very skilled in working with living metal, so he fashioned artificial legs for her from the scraps at the factory. The only problem with that is ALL of the living metal, including the scraps, are considered government property. He was tried and convicted as a traitor because the courts argued that his use of the metal impeded the war efforts of the Union. The government did not take Revna’s legs from her so, she went to work in the factory where her father had been working.

Revna has the gift of using the Weave, a type of strand that connects the universe. She can locate and pull objects along the strands Weave. Both girls are recruited to serve in an experimental airborne division for the war effort, and all the men expect them to fail.  Revna and Linne’ do not like each other, but they are thrown together because no one trusts Linne’. They think she is a spy, and no one else wants to fly with Revna because they see her as a liability who might get them captured because she can’t run if they crash.

All the girls fear the two Sakrov officers that come to their camp. The fact that Linne’ used to serve with them only makes the girls fear her more. The Sakrov are like the CIA, and they deal mostly in intelligence and torture. The Union has a strange philosophy that if a soldier goes down behind enemy lines and then manages to escape then they must be a traitor, so they are tortured upon their return and then killed or taken to work in the mines. All of the girl aviators are allowed to only fly at night so their presence won’t demoralize the men.

One night Revna and Linne’ crash deep in enemy territory. How they get out and what they learn about each other is the main point of the story. While the book comes to a satisfactory ending, I think there is a possibility of more to come. Even though there is occasionally a bad word, and some smoking and drinking, I recommend this book for middle school and highs school libraries.

My Body, My Choice: the fight for abortion rights by Robin Stevenson

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This eye-appealing, full color book on a very controversial subject is sure to raise questions and controversies in the libraries that may chose to add it to their collection. The purpose of the book is to provide the reader with the history of abortion and abortion rights. The abortion controversy is not easily resolved, regardless of how simple the author makes it seem. The author presents the anti-abortion issue as one of the oppression of women, trans-gendered men, and non-binary individuals. However, she has chosen to only present one side of the argument. The pro-life stand of religion is passed off as totally one of men trying to control women. The Christian position of when life begins is not discussed anywhere in the book. Many very religious people, both men and women, take the stand that life begins at conception, but this position is not mentioned at all in the book. I would not expect the author to present a positive take on when life begins, but to not mention it at all is to allow the reader to continue to think it as merely a “fetus” or a “collection of cells” – not a baby human.
It never seems to amaze me that our society gets very upset over clubbing baby seals for profit, but refuses to consider it murder to slice up and vacuum out a little human from its first home. I do believe that it may absolutely be necessary at times for a woman to have an abortion, and I fully support using birth control for people who do not choose to get pregnant. I do not and cannot subscribe to the position that women should have unfettered, free access to all forms of abortions. I digress. The purpose here is to explain why I do not think this book is appropriate for teen readers.
Some things are also glossed over, or simply not discussed. The reader is told that one in four women in North America will have an abortion; however, the reader must read the definition of abortion that the author gives on page ten to understand that she is including all terminations of all pregnancy for all reasons – including spontaneous abortions. The fact about one in four pregnancies ends in abortion may very well be true, but the fact is misleading because the reader, especially a young reader, will read that statement as “one in four end in some type of induced abortion.” Not true.
On page 76 the reader is presented with a list of MYTHS and FACTS about abortion. The first myth given is: “Having an abortion is dangerous for your health.” The fact given here is that: “The risks of continuing a pregnancy and delivering a baby are approximately 10 times higher than the risks of an abortion during the first trimester of a pregnancy.” Although the author clearly states that she is speaking only about the first trimester of a pregnancy, a young reader will not pick up on that, and will assume that any abortion, if done by a qualified person, is safe at any time. In that same list the author states a myth that “Having an abortion makes it difficult to get pregnant in the future.” She states the fact that “A safe, legal and uncomplicated first-trimester abortion has no effect on future fertility.” Important words here that are glossed over are “uncomplicated” and “first trimester.” The last myth states: “ Fetuses experience pain during abortions.” The author states: “ Fetuses cannot feel pain until at least the 24th week of pregnancy.” This statement is controversial in itself, but, a glossed fact here is that not only can the fetus feel pain at 24 weeks, but also, most states simply do not allow abortions after that time because the fetus is viable outside of the womb.
The author, in several places, decries the “lies” of the pro-life movement, but omission of facts, and miss-statements of other people’s beliefs are also lies. While there is a bibliographical list of all sources used, every single one of them is pro-choice. I cannot conscientiously recommend this book for young readers. I do think that adult pro-life advocates should read it for it is necessary to totally understand the position of the people on the pro-abortion side in order to be able to refute their arguments.

Mummies Exposed by Kerrie Logan Hollihan

This first book in a new series, Creepy and True, is one of the most fascinating factual books I have ever read. Get ready to have your knowledge about ancient civilizations challenged. The author thoroughly researched each mummy presented in the book, and full color photographs accompany each selection. Some examples of mummies that are very unusual are the mummies of the Tarim Basin, dubbed Witches of Subeshi because they were dressed in outfits which match the description of our Halloween witches down to the tall pointy hats they were wearing, and they are called “myag” which means “magician” or “magi.”. The other one was a man, also discovered in the Tarim Basin. This place is in western China, but he is very European looking, round eyes, long nose, long arms and legs, and he is wearing pants and boots – not at all Chinese. Other mummies from around the world are covered and the history of their lives – down to the last meals they ate – can now be ascertained by scientific methods. The ancients are not to only mummies presented. The soap lady of Philadelphia who was discovered 1874, and the mummies of Lenin and Eva Peron are also discussed. Hollihan also has included delightfully informative “Factlets” in nearly every chapter. These tidbits add to the knowledge of the reader as he/she progresses. The book includes a glossary, chapter notes, a bibliography for each chapter which makes research on an individual mummy much easier. An index will conclude the book. The next two books in the series, Ghosts and Skeletons should prove to be equally thought-provoking. Readers of the supernatural and the macabre will be drawn to the title. They won’t be disappointed. I highly recommend the purchase of this book for middle and high school libraries.

Hollihan, Kerrie Logan. Mummies Exposed. 2019, 208pp, $16.99 hc. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 9781419731679. Grades 6-12

The Calculus of Change by Jessie Hilb

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Aden has a great relationship with mathematics, but the rest of her life is up-in-the air. The family is still reeling from the loss of her mother. Her best friend is boy-crazy and intent on starting an affair with one of her teachers. Aden has never dated and thought that part of her life was fine until Tate came into her life. Tate wears his yarmulke and a grin to school and is a friend to everyone. Aden is fascinated by him – especially that he is not afraid to openly display his religious convictions.

When Tate needs help with his calculus class, Aden steps in and helps him with his homework. Aden knows she is drawn to Tate, but he is dating another girl. I was feeling very impressed with Tate and Aden’s relationship at the start. He talks to her about his faith (She is also Jewish), and takes her to meet with a rabbi. But I lost that view of the relationship when he invites her to his house one night, gives her alcohol and proceeds to have sex with her. Worse yet is the fact that he gets up and leaves her in the bed with no explanation, does not even tell her ,”Goodbye.”

The redeeming part of the tale is that this did not destroy Aden, but she realizes that she cannot be around Tate. Girls who read this may understand that they don’t have to get “mushy brained” about love relationships.

I believe this must be an informed purchase for the high school library. The characters are very believable, and there is an over-all good resolution. However some schools may object to the sexual scenes. Also, the best friend does have sex with the teacher, but does not in trouble for it. The friend, Marissa, becomes pregnant, but she also had sex with another student about the same time so the fatherhood of the child is unknown. The teacher tells Marissa that his wife forgave him and that he is staying with her. That resolution bothers me. I don’t want to NOT recommend the book, but if it is purchased, it definitely needs to stay in the high school library.

Sometimes You Have to Cross When It Says Don’t Walk by Lesley Visser

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I rarely ever do not recommend a book, but that is exactly what I am doing with this one. While this book is about a highly acclaimed female sports writer (the first one ever inducted into the Football Hall of Fame) it is not a book that young people will pick up and read.

It is a memoir of the life of a woman in her 60’s. There are no chapter titles to help the reader find things. There is no index. There is a chapter of acknowledgements that goes on for 12 pages that are mostly a list of names – page, after page of them.

The writing is rambling and very disjointed. A written organization of some sort, perhaps chronological or a type of sport being covered would perhaps have helped. There are at least seven pictures that are clearly labeled, but the person standing with Lesley in these pictures are NOT mentioned in the text where they are placed. All pictures are grainy, but that might be better in true publication because the copy I read is an advanced publication. I see no possible use for this book in any school library.

 

The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

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Aventurine is a young female dragon who wants to explore the world outside her family’s lair. Her adventure into the unknown has disastrous results when she meets a food wizard who gives her enchanted chocolate which turns her into a human.

Aventurine falls madly in love with chocolate and wants more of it. She eventually is taken in as an apprentice to a famous chocolatier and begins to learn how to make the best chocolate in the kingdom. She also makes a friend of a young girl in the town.

Unfortunately, her dragon family is trying to find her, and Aventurine must decide how to stop them from destroying the world she must now live in. This is a cute story for elementary readers, grades 3-6. I recommend its purchase because it is a very unique approach to dragon tales.

The Knowing by Sharon Cameron

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  This book is actually a sequel to The Forgetting, but it can totally stand alone. In this story over 300 years have passed since the first pioneers from Earth arrived aboard Centauri I at the planet they had called Canaan.  Now explorers from Earth have once again arrived on a ship called Centauri III.  Their job is to see how the original pioneers have done in building a new civilization on the new planet. They are directed not to interact with the inhabitants – only to observe and report their findings.

Of course, Beckett and Jillian, the two young observers from the ship, find themselves in a situation that demands that they get involved. How they interact with Samara, a girl from the city of New Canaan, moves the story along to a most unexpected conclusion.

The people who live inside of New Canaan are incapable of forgetting anything – even pain and emotions.  They remember everything except for what happened 300 years ago.  This constant bombardment of remembering leaves them incapable of developing emotional attachments because the loss of someone they love causes them tremendous emotional pain every time they think about that person.

On the positive side, they never forget anything that they have read, seen or heard which makes Samarra extremely important as Beckett and Jillian as they try to find out what really had happened to the people on Canaan and to keep the rest of the explorers on board Centauri II safe.

There is nothing about this book that would cause reservations about its purchase for the high school library. It does contain violent scenes, but sex and language are absent. If you have not already read The Forgetting, you will want to do so after reading this book.

The author leaves the reader wondering about what happened to the ship Centauri II. Another spellbinding tale must be forth-coming.

Girl in a Bad Place

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Mailee and Cars are two high school best friends who always look out for each other.  They both have issues that cause them to rely on each other.  Cara, the logical organized one, gets drawn into a survival cult that is living in the mountains near their town.  Mailee is not pleased with the was Cara is getting involved with the cult, but she is unsure about how to help her.

Cara invites Mailee to visit the commune, and Mailee becomes even more uneasy when she meets the leader of the group. Mailee stumbles on something outside the camp that terrifies her.  She knows she has to get Cara away from the group, but her effort to do so may get her killed.

The price that one must pay for true friendship[ is the theme of the book.  The characters are very well developed, and the plot is tightly constructed.  There is some sex alluded to but nothing graphic.  I highly recommend its purchase for the high school reader.

Solo by Alexander Kwame and Mary Rand Hess

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Wow! Reading this story of the life of the son of a rocker told in free verse is like getting inside the mind of the main character and wondering if there is a good way out.  The two authors tell the tale in a poetic style through a point, counter-point exchange of words and feelings.

The son, Blade Morrison, is a part of a very wealthy, very dysfunctional family.  He has suffered the death of his mother and survives the many alcoholic/drug induced downward spirals of his father.  He has one true love, Chapel, a girl from a conservative Christian family; and he holds on to her as his lifeline.  Then his whole world is turned upside down, ad he finds that he no longer has her lover and that he is not even who he thought he was.  His search for reality takes him half way around the world.

The authors’ use of tying the more famous songs of rock and roll into the tale lends reality to the characters and to the action.  Each of the sections referring to one of those songs is prefaced with discography of the song so that the reader may actually hear the words from the artists themselves if they so desire.

Telling a tale in a long narrative to young reader of this generation is a great undertaking.  Using that style to tell the tale and yet being able to develop other believable characters and to hear their voice in the poem is a phenomenal undertaking. Alexander and Hess have accomplished this feat.

The reader will not find sexual scenes or bad language. The book could be used in English classes as a novel/poetry study, but it should definitely be included in the high school library.