Monday, June 26, 2017

Nonfiction Monday- National Geographic Books

30012805Cottman, Michael. Shackles from the Deep: Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship, a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy
January 3rd 2017 by National Geographic Society
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity for Young Adult Books Central

Cottman, a reporter for the Washington Post and an avid SCUBA diver, was intrigued when he learned about the Henrietta Marie, whose artifacts identified it as a slave trading ship. Little was known about the ship, so Cottman set out to find out everything that he could. He started in London, at the National Maritime Museum, and started to collect clues to various aspects of the ship's history. He traveled to the site of the foundry where the cannons were made, which lead him to investigate the Barbados holdings of the owner of that land, "Mad Jack" Fuller. Traveling to Barbados put him in touch with other Fullers-- who were black, since slaves often took the family name of their masters. He learned a lot about the sugar industry there (which is beautifully covered in Aronson and Budhos's Sugar Changed the World: The Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science), and eventually made his way to Senegal and the House of Slaves where the ship's journey would have started.

Written in a very conversational style but filled with lots of interesting facts about a variety of details related to slave trading, sailing, and scuba diving, Shackles from the Deep offers an in depth look at a little discussed topic. This would be a great book to read with students to prepare them to visit the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., since the exhibits start with an in depth examination of this topic.

All too often, the story of slavery seems to start with the Civil War or slaves' attempts at escape. I know that many of my students were very surprised by the exhibits on the slave ships. Cottman's book addresses the fact that people were taken from their communities in Africa and sent as slaves to a number of places in a way that is not overly graphic but that does delineate just how inhuman this action was. This strikes a good balance for a book that might well introduce this atrocious chapter in history to children.

There are some color photos in the center of the book. While these pictures are illustrative, it would have been nice to see them included with the appropriate text instead of gathered in one place. I was a bit surprised at this; National Geographic has produced some beautiful and enticing nonfiction books with many more pictures that are more graphically pleasing. I know that cost is an issue in these, but using more pictures does make books more appealing to young readers.

Shackles from the Deep is an essential purchase for middle school and high school libraries, since it covers a variety of topics that are often studied, and is an excellent choice for readers who like converstaional nonfiction and are interested in history, civil rights, or maritime matters.

30012807Bausum, Ann. The March Against Fear
January 3rd 2017 by National Geographic Society
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity for Young Adult Books Central

James Meredith was a ground breaker in the Civil Rights Movement, and the first African-American to graduate from The University of Mississippi, in 1963. In 1966, he decided to walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi in order to highlight the ongoing racial problems in the south. Unfortunately, his march ended just one day in, after he was shot. While he survived, his wounds were painful, and he was not able to go back to his route immediately. Several other organizations seized the opportunity to continue his quest, and soon Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, and others were poised to walk part of Meredith's path. Various organizations wanted the march to highlight different things-- from voter registration to the passage of the Civil Rights Bill, the march was an opportunity to highlight any number of causes of note at the time. While Meredith hadn't wanted to include women and children, fearing for their safety, the march soon encompassed many types of people. There were many altercations between marchers, members of the communities through which it passed, and law enforcement. This led some of the marchers, like Stokely Carmichael, to draw attention to the continuing inequities in the south and to demand black power. This was a divisive move, since it alienated some of the white marchers who had come to support the march. The March Against Fear is now regarded as one of the more important marches of the era, and it's good to have such a definitive explanation of its events.

Bausum's research is complete, and the book covers a wide range of organizations, events, and people who were involved with it. She draws important parallels between the march and the current Black Lives Matter movement, making this a timely and essential book to read when investigating the history of the Civil Rights Movement.

The inclusion of many photographs along with the scenes describing them are welcome and essential. The world looked very different in 1966, from the way people dressed to the cars on the road, and children have a hard time visualizing how different things were. Pictures help tremendously with that.

I am always surprised at how much I don't know about this era, even though I have read a fair number of books on the topic. There were a number of things that I learned-- from the grouping of The Big Five organizations (SCLC, SNCC, NAACP, CORE and National Urban League) to the feelings of supporters of the movement.

Older middle school students and high school students who want to know more about Civil Rights History will be wise to add The March Against Fear to their reading lists along with Levinson's We've Got a Job, Osborne's Miles to Go for Freedom, Rubin's Freedom Summer, Lowery's Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, and Wallace's Blood Brother.
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I have a copy of Shackles from the Deep sitting on my TBR pile. I won it from Greg Pattridge's blog a while back and need to get to it. Thanks for the reminder!