Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott



Zetta Elliott has given the reader a challenging, provocative, and beautiful collection of poems.  While male readers could certainly enjoy and learn from them, the collection is aimed at the female reader. The poems are partially Elliott’s work and partially the collected work of various artists, both known and unknown. Two poems, “We Are Wise” and “We Can’t Breathe” were inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem, “We Real Cool.” 

It was from these two poems written by a group of high school writers that this collection sprang. Interspersed into the collection of poems are two very short essays, which, in themselves, are very nearly poetry.  The reader will also want to be sure to read the introduction because it gives insight into how the collection came to be. Elliott has also provided a bibliographic credit page, but the notes she has provided are a treasure trove in themselves. These notes provide insight into why and how the poems were written. 

I recommend this book for the high school reader.  Probably young students could read it, but it does contain some raw feelings which might be too intense for younger readers.

The Big Book of Bling by Rose Davidson



If it grabs your eye, if it sparkles, twinkles or shines anywhere in the universe, you might find it discussed in this book.  This is a trivia book, full of color and glitz; but it does not provide much depth in any one subject.  Rather, it is designed to intrigue and possibly to lead young minds down other paths of discovery. 

In an age when the eye is pulled quickly from one subject to another through electronic means, a print version must be eye-catching and appealing.  I think that is what the authors intended for this work. 

The reader will find a great many fascinating subjects from rocks, history, science, splurges, to lights and beyond. Young readers will enjoy looking at the pictures, and more advanced readers will find fascinating tidbits to share with their friends.  I recommend it for elementary and middle school libraries. /:c

Dark Agenda by David Horowitz


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Once in a while I am given a book that demands my full attention. This is such a one. A friend of mine had suggested that I read this and tell him what I thought about it. To be honest, I thought that it would be a bunch of one-sided political ideas. It is that to some extent, but it is much more than that. Horowitz takes the reader on a stroll through history since the French Revolution to the present day. From the day that those revolutionaries changed the name of the Cathedral of Notre Dame to the “Temple of Reason” Christianity began to be under serious attack on the political front.

Horowitz then proceeds to inform the reader of step-by-step very calculated moves to bring the world in line with the position of Karl Marx that religion is “the opiate of the people and “the sigh of the oppressed.” We are very clearly seeing that happening in America. I have recently seen posts online of the “hatred” spewed by “evangelicals” in America. Speaking out against sin itself is now considered “hate speech.” These comments are the outgrowth of the movement to dismantle our religious freedoms and thus to take down our very country.

I celebrate the idea of free will. Horowitz says, “Free will is what makes us equal.” only as truly being individuals and expressing our thoughts, as such, are we really free men. Our society has begun to try to force us to think of ourselves ONLY as a part of a group (black, white, male, female, gay, straight, etc.) “In identity politics only collective rights matter.” This is truly “politics of hate.” He says, “The left has no conscience or restraint when it comes to destroying people that stand in its way.” We have definitely seen this played out in the riots after the election, the attack on the Supreme Court nominee, and now the blatant attacks on churches and evangelicals.

One term which the reader will have to come to grips with is “social justice.” Many churches are using that term to describe their philanthropic efforts. Horowitz says that the use of that term is just a synonym for “communism,” but since its use is more socially acceptable in America the leftists have latched onto it as a useful tool. There are many social issues that Horowitz explores in this book. Each one is carefully documented and fully explained.

One such issue is that of abortion. Horowitz discusses how that issue is playing out in America. He points out that Margaret Sanger was mostly interested in building a master race, and that in order to do that, all substandard people must go. Her movement for contraption and abortion was not to benefit the lives of the poor but to limit the growth of African Americans. Delores Grier, an American black woman pointed this out. She said, “Abortion is racism.” Yet, America has bought into this without even knowing what it was really doing. It is no accident that most abortion clinics are in predominately black neighborhoods. In 2013 more African-American babies (29,002)were aborted in New York City alone than were born there (24,788).

Another social issue is that of LGBTQ rights. Andrew Sullivan, a gay liberal activist, began to realize how the left was beginning to use gay rights as a tool to destroy America, In 2018 he warned “The whole concept of an individual is slipping from the bedrock of American experiment. Free speech, due process, and individual rights are now being understood as masks for “white male power.”…Any differences of opinion are seen as “hate.”” I found it interesting that a gay man would see the problem so clearly and to see it before some so-called “intellectuals” see it.

Horowitz ends with the conundrum of how religious institutions can support such a morally flawed individual as Donald Trump. It is probably best summed up by Tony Perkins. ” My support for Trump has never been based on shared values; it is based on shared concerns.” Trump’s message is clearly that of, “Our country has gone off-course, and we need to bring it back.”

Dark Agenda: Read it if you dare. You may or may not agree with his conclusions, but you will not look at what is happening in America the same way as you once did if you take time to read this book. Unfortunately, many people will blindly continue to ignore his warnings, and discussion of the content may become impossible. Many will see his writings as “hate speech.” The fact that they do see it that way only proves his position, but they will not see it.

Her Own Two Feet by Meredith Davis and Rebekah Uwitonze


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The subtitle of this book really tells most of the story of the book.  It is an inspiring story of a brave little girl who at nine, with the help of her sponsors, came half way around the world by herself in order to have the chance to walk on her own two feet.  Rebekah had been born with twisted arms and legs and her parents were urged by others in her home in Rwanda to abandon her by the side of the road and let her die.  But her parents refused to do that.  Instead, they encouraged her to do everything that she possibly could do and then go beyond that.

  Doctors in Rwanda tried to straighten her legs once when she was about four, but it didn’t work.  Rebekah could not walk to school, so her younger sister taught her everything she was learning each evening when she came home.  Rebekah taught herself to walk, instead of crawling around on the ground.  However, she had to walk on the tops of her feet since her feet were twisted all the way to the back.  Nevertheless, she persisted, and although she never could get her arms to work correctly, she learned how to eat and brush her teeth.  One day she found out that a person from America had sponsored her, providing her family with a guarantee of food and a chance for her to go to school.  This is itself encouraged her to keep up working toward her goal of walking and going to school. 

She did not know that her sponsor was a doctor in America.  One day another family who had sponsored children from her village came to visit them.  Mr. Clay Davis saw her need and realized that he knew her sponsor and that her sponsor, Dr. Rice, might be able to find another doctor who could help Rebekah walk.  Thus began the saga of Rebekah’s struggle to be able to walk.  Her father and mother knew that she had lived for a reason, and so they were able to let their little girl go to a strange land with people they did not know to find the help they could not give. 

The author of the book is Mrs. Clay Davis. Meredith and Clay Davis not only helped Rebekah come to the U.S. They provided a home for her and treated her as their own daughter through the years that she had to undergo treatments and surgeries. She tells Rebekah’s story from her firsthand knowledge and uses Rebekah’s words to explain all of Rebekah’s emotional turmoil.

I think this book deserves a place in every library.  It is a testimony to the power of faith and perseverance.  While the people involved in the story are obviously Christian, the story is not overtly about their faith.  It shines through, though, because faith is like that.  When it exists, people notice, even if editors may have pruned out overt religious references. Buy this for your upper elementary and middle school children – even if it is only for the cultural references which abound in the book.

Strange Birds: a Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Perez


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Lane Disanti is from London and she wants to make friends, but not just with anyone. She wants to meet girls who have the same interests as she does. In order to do this she plans a secret rendezvous in the tree house that her brothers built on her grandmother’s property in Florida.

She makes up special invitations and leaves them where only a certain kind of girl would find them. She had already seen one of the girls, Ofelia Castillo because she often came to work with her mother who was the cook for Lane’s grandmother. She slipped an invitation into Ofelia’s backpack. Since she had to read fifteen books before school started in the fall, Lane thought that the library would be another good place for an invitation. There, she slipped two invitations into summer reading club book bags.

One of those was picked up by Cat Garcia, whose mother was determined that Cat become a member of the Floras, an elite club for the girls of Sabel Palms, Florida. The last invitation was discovered by Aster Douglas, a budding chef. And from these invitations came the Inaugural Meeting of the Ostentation of Others and Outsiders.

Each of the girls knew that they certainly fit the “Outsiders Category.” The girls spend a wild summer together sometimes doing good and sometimes getting into serious trouble. This is an entertaining story of preteen girls who all feel that they aren’t a part of society, but who learn that friendship is the most important part of life, and they learn that other girls often feel the same way that they do.

This is a nice little adventure book for girls.  It is about growing up and about dealing with family issues.  The characters are well-defined and engaging.  Although the girls do things that they shouldn’t, they learn from their mistakes and grow from them. I recommend this for all upper elementary readers.

Patricia S Brown, Educational Reviewer, Auburndale Florida


Song of the Abyss by Makiia Lucifer


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Reyna is nearly finished with her training as a map maker and explorer. She needs to do a major project to finish her studies and become a master explorer, but in a world where women are not accepted in that position, she has to prove that she is capable of what she wants to do. She has been traveling around her world and making maps for a year when the ship she is traveling on is attacked by a pirate ship. She manages to escape from the clutches of the pirates by jumping into the sea and swimming to land. Once there, she encounters a young man who she finds out is the crown prince of that land. Of course he helps her – at least as much as she allows him to. Thus begins a fast-paced adventure involving foreign intrigue, traitorous friends and sirens.

This is a great story of a woman defending her rights and proving her capabilities. While the world that Reyna lives in is a fantasy, it becomes realistic for the reader. The author has provided the reader with a great deal of adventure, a mystery, some mythology, and a little bit of romance. I believe this book is a suitable selection for high school readers.

I recognize that I am reading a review copy, but I would like to point out an observation: Places mentioned in the story are not on the map provided in the front of the book (I like to get a feel of where the action goes, and I could not do that). This might be corrected in the final editing, but the reader should be aware.

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis


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Clementine has just turned sixteen and Mother Fleur, the housemistress, is preparing her for her Lucky Night, the night she will finally become a woman.   She and her sister Aster have lived with Mother Fleur for 10 years since her parents had to sell the girls or let them starve to death. Since Aster was older than Clementine, she had already had her Lucky Night. Aster tells her nothing about the night except to NOT drink the Sweet Thistle (a type of narcotic) that Mother Fleur would give her and to think about a song while she entertained the brag that had paid a big price for her. 

No one tells her what she is expected to do or what the brag will do, just that she is to make him happy.  Nothing goes as it should and her brag lies dead on the floor.  The only thing she can do is to get someone to help her and then to run as far as she can before the raveners, creatures that can get into ones mind and destroy it, get her.  Aster comes to her aid, along with three other good luck girls, Tansy, Mallow and Violet.  Their escape is frantic and often violent. A young tracker finds them and actually helps them instead of turning them in as he should. 

This is a fast-paced story set in a fanciful, yet very realistic world that will keep the reader turning pages as fast as possible.  Davis has taken on a very disturbing social situation, sex slave trafficking, in a thoughtful and discrete manner. There are some implied sexual scenes and some very violent scenes of beatings and murder. I definitely recommend this book for high school readers.

Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates


Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

Sometimes I get to read just for the fun of it. Usually I pick older books – I don’t know why, but my last excursion to the library, I ran across this book and became fascinated by title. I really enjoy reading good science fiction and fantasy literature. This one did not disappoint me.

Joyce Carol Oates is a very prolific writer, but much to my chagrin, I have to admit that I had not read any of her works before. I plan to change that on my next trip to the library.

The story begins in the not too distant future in what had been known as New Jersey, U.S.A. The USA as we in the 21st century know it has ceased to exist. Citizens are not even allowed to say the words, “Government” or “State.” The FBI has become the Federal Bureau of Inquistors. The politicians are chosen by their wealth, and ALL thought other than those sanctioned by the government is met with immediate and severe consequences

Adriane Stohl is a senior in high school who has been raised by parents – in particular, her father – who value the concept of “Self” and “Truth.” Her father, who had been a well known pediatrician has become an MI, or Marked Individual because he listened to a protestor in a park.

Adriane gets into trouble when she is chosen to be the valedictorian of her graduating class and chooses to write her own speech rather than pattern it on those of other students. Her family had always worried about her because she chose to do her best at the subjects she studied, and get the “A’s” she deserved. But is this society, standing out by getting good grades or being different from others is frowned upon. Her speech was actually only a series of questions, designed to make her classmates think about life and themselves in particular. Unfortunately, that sort of behavior was NOT acceptable, and she was arrested for her crime of promoting subversive thinking.

She is sentenced to be teleported back in time to 1959 to a small private university in a town called Wainscotia, Wisconsin. It was either that or to be Deleted so she was thankful for the mercy of her judges. She is given a totally new existence, a new name, a new family history and a set of rules to follow. Her sentence is for four years. (Just enough time for her to finish a college education.) Then she is to be taken back to her own time – provided she had kept the rules and not allowed anyone to know who she really was.

At the university she meets young psychology professor and somehow identifies him as a fellow Exile. How the two of them deal with their situation is the main theme of the book. The psychology of Skinner is the prevailing theory being taught at the university. Skinner believed that man was just a machine that behaved in certain ways because of the experiences the person had encountered. The professor, Ira Wolfman, comes to believe that they will not be punished if they break the rules, and he tries to get Adriane (or Mary Ann as she is now known) to go with him to California. One of the rules is that they cannot travel more than ten miles away from where they are living. He tells her that either they CAN travel away as they choose, or that what they are experiencing is only a Virtual Reality constructed by their jailers. In any case, he believes that their reality is only limited by their own minds.

At times the book becomes very philosophical, but Oates always pulls the reader back into the action of the story. The paranoia of the 1950’s about Russia and nuclear war is very clear. The limited mindset of many Caucasian Americans in the 1950’s becomes very real. The book is tragic and hopeful at the same time. The reader will not be the same after spending time reading it. Although my library has this in its Adult collection, I think it would be a good volume to add to any YA library. There is ONE “F bomb” in the book and one very limited sex reference. I would highly recommend it.

The Plot to Kill Hitler by Patricia McCormick

I don’t know how I managed to forget to post this after I reviewed it. This is the perfect book for fans of suspenseful non-fiction. This one is a page-turner narrative about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor and pacifist who became a most unlikely hero during World War II and who took part in a plot to kill Hitler.

This book was written by the a National Book Award finalist, Patricia McMormick, author of Sold and Never Fall Down. McCormick is also the co-author of the young reader’s edition of  I Am Malala. While it is primarily for younger readers, high school students will also gain from reading it.

It was April5, 1943, and the Gestapo would arrive any minute. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had been expecting this day for a long time. He had put his papers in order – and had left a few notes specifically for Hitler’s men to see. Two SS agents climbed the stairs and told the boyish-looking Bonhoeffer to come with them. He calmly said goodbye to his parents, put his Bible under his arm, and left. Upstairs there was proof, in his own handwriting, that this quiet young minister was a part of a conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler.

This compelling, brilliantly researched account includes the remarkable discovery that Bonhoeffer was one of the first people to provide evidence to the Allies that Jews were being deported to death camps. The narrative takes readers from his privileged childhood to the studies and travel that would introduce him to peace activists around the world – eventually putting this gentle, scholarly pacifist on a deadly course to assassinate one of the most ruthless dictators in history.

The Plot to Kill Hitler provides fascinating insights into what makes someone stand up for the right when no one else is standing with you. “What should I do?” is a question each generation must answer over and over again.

With black and white photographs, fascinating sidebars and thoroughly researched details, this book should be essential reading for all middle school students.

Be the One by Byron Pitts

In just a little over 100 pages, Pitts has given us six stories of young people who have overcome tremendous odds in their lives. These are true heroes. They overcame child abuse, bullying, psychotic parents and war.

Their stories are not just those of survival, but of true success in life. The stories are inspiring and are easy to read. Many of these heroes credit God for strength for their successes, but all knew that they had to “be the one” to make changes in their lives.

I strongly recommend this as an addition to middle school and upper elementary libraries.