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Summer Book Reviews

WASHINGTON INFORMER — The truth is, though, summer’s halfway over and you’ve done everything you wanted to do so now you’re (do you dare say it?) bored. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!  So maybe it’s time to find some fun inside a book. These three have what you need.

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By Terri Schlichenmeyer

“The Floor is Lava” by Ivan Brett
c.2019, Gallery Books
$14.99 (higher in Canada)
252 pages

“You Are Awesome” by Matthew Syed
c.2019, Sourcebooks
$14.99 (higher in Canada)
160 pages

“United Tastes of America: An Atlas of Food Facts & Recipes from Every State!” by Gabrielle Langholtz, drawings by Jenny Bowers, photos by DL Acken
c.2019, Phaidon
$29.95 ($39.95 Canada)
239 pages

Mom says if she hears it one more time, she’s going to scream.

The truth is, though, summer’s halfway over and you’ve done everything you wanted to do so now you’re (do you dare say it?) bored. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!  So maybe it’s time to find some fun inside a book. These three have what you need…

If you think you’ve played every game there is this summer, look inside “The Floor is Lava” by Ivan Brett,and think again. In this book, you’ll find all kinds of games you can play by yourself or with others, with or without props, non-electronically, at home or anywhere you happen to be.

Play “Murder in Paradise” while you still have some vacation left. Get your baby brother to play the “Squiggle Challenge” with you. Try “The Silent Game” when your parents say you should simmer down. Play “Six Degrees of Separation” with a smarty pants. Here’s another tip: if you’re a babysitter, there are things in this book that little kids can play, too, and that’ll make you the best babysitter ever.

So let’s say you’re spending the rest of your summer by yourself, no other kids around. Then you need “You Are Awesome” by Matthew Syed, a good sharp pencil and a good sharp mind. That’s because this book is going to make you think, but in a good way that you’ll like. It’ll give you a nice confidence boost, and some stories to read that will show you how others became their most awesome selves, too.

And finally, here’s a way to beat boredom and get fed: “United Tastes of America” by Gabrielle Langholtz, drawings by Jenny Bowers, photos by DL Acken. Yum, this cookbook will teach you all about the foods beloved by folks in each state of America, and a few facts about the states themselves. Then, you’ll find recipes you can try with the help of an adult because some recipes are easy but some are really challenging and you’ll want expert assistance in the kitchen.

Bon appetite! No more excuses. And with these great books – no more boredom!

More than perhaps anything in the world, you hate when your child utters the “B-word.” Boredom should be banished, so eliminate it with these three fun books.

No matter what kind of kid you’ve got – quiet, boisterous, loner, or friend-magnet – these three books speak to that child’s heart. “The Floor is Lava” is for groups of kids or just one or two, and most of its activities require little-to-no materials. It’s the perfect book to spark imagination and creativity. “You Are Awesome” is great for the introspective child, or the kid who needs a boost for this fall; any child who’s heading to a new school will benefit from it. And “United Tastes of America” is great for the budding chef but be sure you stick around to help.

These books are just right for kids ages 10-and-up and are not just for summer. Get them, and your kids will scream with fun any time.

This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.

Activism

COMMENTARY: Book Bans Are an Attack on the Freedom to Read, Teach and Learn

Trumpish state legislators are introducing laws to make it illegal to teach anything that might make white students experience “discomfort.” One Texas lawmaker demanded information from schools on 850 books he thought were suspect; his list included works on history and human rights. In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin set up an email hotline for people to report teachers suspected of “divisive” practices.

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Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.
Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

By Ben Jealous

Truth is a threat to authoritarianism. Reading is a path to truth. That’s why the freedom to read is essential to the freedom to learn. And that’s why the freedom to learn is often attacked by those who abuse power and those who cling to it.

Every year, the American Library Association and partner organizations observe Banned Books Week to highlight and push back against these threats. This year’s Banned Books Week runs from Sept. 18-24 amidst a wave of book bans and other attempts to restrict what people can learn.

These efforts have a long and dishonorable history.

Before the Civil War, many slave states made it a crime to teach enslaved people to read. Slaveholders feared that being able to read might help enslaved people gain their freedom or organize rebellions. In Virginia, a judge could order that any slave or free person of color caught learning to read or write be whipped.

In our day, attacking the freedom to read is once again a political strategy for those seeking to take and keep power. And once again, Black people are a primary target.

State legislators and governors are making it illegal to teach honestly about the history and reality of racism in our country. Far-right activists are trying to purge schools and libraries of books that feature Black people, LGBTQ people, and others they deem unworthy of students’ attention.

The MAGA movement’s attacks on teaching about racism and sexuality have led to what the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom has called an “astronomical” increase in challenges to books.

That’s why the annual celebration of the freedom to read that is Banned Books Week is especially meaningful this year. In addition to the librarians, authors, booksellers, teachers, and other anti-censorship activists who lead Banned Book Week activities, all of us have a role to play in ensuring the voices of our communities are not silenced.

Books by and about Black people and other people of color — and by and about LGBTQ people — dominate the ALA’s annual list of most frequently challenged books. This year’s honorary chairman, George Johnson, is an award-winning Black author whose “All Boys Aren’t Blue” is high on the list of books most challenged last year, along with others dealing with racism, racial identity, and sexuality.

“This is a fight for the truth that has always existed even if it rarely gets told,” Johnson says. “When the youth are empowered with stories about the experiences of others, they become adults who understand the necessity for equity and equality and have the tools to build a world the likes of which we have never seen.”

But far-right activists tell parents that words like “equity” are code for Marxism and something they should fight. Trump Republicans are encouraging MAGA activists to take over their school boards by running propaganda campaigns about “critical race theory.”

Trumpish state legislators are introducing laws to make it illegal to teach anything that might make white students experience “discomfort.” One Texas lawmaker demanded information from schools on 850 books he thought were suspect; his list included works on history and human rights. In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin set up an email hotline for people to report teachers suspected of “divisive” practices.

Books targeted in the current war on truth include a memoir by Ruby Bridges, which tells the true story about her walking through angry mobs when she was a six-year-old who became the first Black student to attend a New Orleans elementary school that had previously been off-limits to non-white students.

This is an important part of our history. We cannot build a future together if we are not willing to honestly face the truth about our past and our present.

Banned Books Week is a good time to commit ourselves to defending the freedom to read, teach, and learn about our history — and to opposing those who want to make it illegal to teach about that history or make it impossible for educators to do so without being smeared and harassed.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in December 2022.

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Activism

The St. Augustine Movement (1963–1964)

Hundreds of students from northern colleges recruited by the SCLC participated in demonstrations and sit-ins during Easter week of 1964. Most were jailed. “Some were made to stand in a cramped outdoor overflow pen in the late spring heat, while others were put into a concrete sweatbox overnight.”

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It was the spring of 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were preparing to launch a campaign to end racial discrimination in St. Augustine, Fla.
It was the spring of 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were preparing to launch a campaign to end racial discrimination in St. Augustine, Fla.

By Tamara Shiloh

It was the spring of 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were preparing to launch a campaign to end racial discrimination in St. Augustine, Fla. King hoped that the “demonstrations there would lead to local desegregation and that media attention would garner national support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was then stalled in a congressional filibuster,” according to Stanford University’s King Encyclopedia.

A sit-in protest at a local Woolworth’s lunch counter that ended in the arrest and imprisonment of 16 Black protestors and seven juveniles sparked the pickets. Four of the arrested, JoeAnn Anderson, Audrey Nell Edwards, Willie Carl Singleton, and Samuel White were sent to reform school for six months. No effort was made to release them until their case was publicized by Jackie Robinson, the NAACP, and the Pittsburgh Courier. They were later dubbed “the St. Augustine Four.”

It was Robert B. Hayling, advisor to the Youth Council of the city’s branch of the NAACP, who led these demonstrations. Protesters were met with violence as the Ku Klux Klan responded to their presence. Hayling and three other NAACP members were severely beaten at a 1963 Klan rally. They were arrested and convicted of assaulting their attackers.

The NAACP asked for Hayling’s resignation, but not before reaching out to the SCLC for support.

Hundreds of students from northern colleges recruited by the SCLC participated in demonstrations and sit-ins during Easter week of 1964. Most were jailed. “Some were made to stand in a cramped outdoor overflow pen in the late spring heat, while others were put into a concrete sweatbox overnight.”

When King visited St. Augustine that May, the house the SCLC rented for him was “sprayed by gunfire.” The day after the Senate voted to end the filibuster of the Civil Rights Act, King, Ralph Abernathy, and several others were arrested when they requested service at a segregated restaurant. Meanwhile, despite the violence, the SCLC continued to lead marches.

On June 18, a Grand Jury pressured King and the SCLC to leave St. Augustine for one month. The so-called goal was to “diffuse the situation, claiming that they had disrupted racial harmony in the city.”

King responded that the request was “an immoral one, as it asked the Negro community to give all, and the white community to give nothing . . . St. Augustine never had peaceful race relations.”

As the Senate debated the Civil Rights Act, SCLC lawyers began to win court victories in St. Augustine. The SCLC was encouraged to bring cases against the Klan. On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, into law.

Blacks in St. Augustine continued to face violence, intimidation, and threats, as healing took its time.

Help young readers understand the struggle for equality and a time when American laws were unfair to Blacks. Share with them Shadae Mallory’s “The History of the Civil Rights Movement: A History Book for New Readers.” Purchase at https://www.multiculturalbookstore.com

Sources: https://www.britannica.com/event/American-civil-rights-movement

https://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/BAIC/Historical-Essays/Keeping-the-Faith/Civil-Rights-Movement/

https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounder/civil-rights-movement

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Black History

Ernest Everett Just, NAACP’s First Spingarn Medalist, Approached Experiments with the Eyes of an Artist

As a scientist, it is said that Ernest Everett Just (1883–1941) “saw the whole, where others saw only parts. He noticed details others failed to see” and Dr. Charles Drew had referred to Just as “a biologist of unusual skill and the greatest of our original thinkers in the field.” Such was his reputation as a young scientist, in 1915, he became the NAACP’s first recipient of the Spingarn Medal.

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Ernest Everett Just. Wikipedia.org image.
Ernest Everett Just. Wikipedia.org image.

By Tamara Shiloh

Known for his pioneering work in the physiology of development, specifically in fertilization, Ernest Everett Just (1883–1941) was an African American biologist and educator with a legacy of accomplishments that followed him long after his death.

Just was an experimental embryologist, a medical professional specializing in the study of reproduction. He was renowned for his attention to detail in conducting experiments on how sealife and invertebrate species like spiders, worms, lobsters reproduced. He believed also that in conducting research, the surface of cells deserved as much, if not more, study than the nucleus.

He was involved in research at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., and the Stazione Zoologica in Naples, Italy.

As a scientist, it is said that Just “saw the whole, where others saw only parts. He noticed details others failed to see” and Dr. Charles Drew had referred to Just as “a biologist of unusual skill and the greatest of our original thinkers in the field.”

Such was his reputation as a young scientist, in 1915, he became the NAACP’s first recipient of the Spingarn Medal.

Born in Charleston, S.C., Just’s early education took place in the small school his mother founded and directed. At age 12, he attended the Colored Normal Industrial Agricultural and Mechanics College at Orangeburg (now South Carolina State College). He graduated with a Licentiate of Instruction. This meant he was certified to teach in any Black school in South Carolina. He was 15 at that time.

But Just had no interest in teaching then. Instead. he traveled north with the goal of attending Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H., to study classical music. His focus, however, would change once later enrolling at Dartmouth College where he developed an interest in biology after reading a paper on fertilization and egg development. He graduated in 1907, the only magna cum laude in his class, and soon after joined the English faculty at Howard University.

By 1910, Just was asked to take over the Biology Department, teaching physiology. Soon after, he became the first head of the new Department of Zoology and stopped teaching English courses altogether.

As a scientist, it is said that Just “saw the whole, where others saw only parts. He noticed details others failed to see.”

He persisted in his research despite the discrimination and limitations imposed on him as a Black man.

Just was a Julius Rosenwald Fellow in Biology of the National Research Council (1920–1931). This afforded him the opportunity to work in Europe when racial discrimination hindered his opportunities in the United States. It was also the time when he penned several research papers, including the 1924 publication “General Cytology.”

Just married high school teacher Ethel Highwarden in 1912. The couple had three children prior to their divorce in 1939. He then married Hedwig Schnetzler, a philosophy student he met in Berlin. In 1940, the German Nazis imprisoned Just in a camp. Schnetzler’s father, however, was instrumental in his release.

Just died the following year of pancreatic cancer in Wash., D.C.

Encourage young readers to discover how Just’s keen observations of sea creatures revealed new insights about egg cells and the origins of life in “The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just” by Melina Mangal and Luisa Uribe.

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