History

Book Review: Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life

Author
Fitzgerald, Tom (Thomas)
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

If you're looking to get educated on LGBTQ+ history, this is a great book to try. I loved hearing about some of the most influential figures of the LGBTQ+ movement and their impact on others. They persevered even through backlash from events like the AIDS epidemic and built a community where everyone is welcome to be themselves. Some parts can get slow to read, but the authors use modern language and humor to appeal to a variety of audiences and make history more entertaining. This book is so empowering, give it a try!

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Author
Larson, Erik
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

This is a compelling story of the popular World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the serial killer who took advantage of it. Set in the late 1800's, David Burnham and H. H. Holmes receive equal attention in alternating chapters between the fair's fascinating architecture and the growth of a heartless killer. I liked reading about the trials and errors of the fair and technology in the 19th century. Also, Holmes' terrifyingly calm demeanor added suspense to what would happen to his victims. It is a cool turn-of-the-century book, but the shift between monotone construction and graphic murders was an interesting style that isn't for everyone.
Grade 11

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: 999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz

Author
Macadam, Heather Dune
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

I wavered between a 4 and 5 star review here, but my reviews are based on storytelling ability, not necessarily how little I enjoyed hearing about the details of Auschwitz. This author did a fantastic job of telling the stories of nearly 1,000 women while letting some of their personal accounts lead the pace and tone. Though the characters were hard to keep track of at some points, there was constant clarification of individuals to develop empathy for the girls in the Holocaust. There was also some groundbreaking information on the sexist disparities between records of the female experience in Auschwitz- as soon as you think life couldn't have been worse for these prisoners, it is revealed that women were treated the absolute worst. Definitely worth the read if you can stomach the tragedy.

Reviewer's Name
Maggie

Book Review: The Diary of a Young Girl

Author
Frank, Anne
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The Diary of a Young Girl is a series of diary entries written by Anne Frank, a young girl who recounts her experiences during the Holocaust. Anne writes her experiences using memorable quotes, and even through her tough experiences, still manages to write with a sense of hopeful optimism, and Anne's belief in the world and humanity are both inspiring and tear-jerking. Anne writes in the voice of a young girl but also writes in an astonishingly real and mature way. Reading her diary entries will educate all readers on what it was truly like to live through the Holocaust, and will help those who want to be informed to be more educated on the event. The Diary of a Young Girl carries out the message of hope and teaches readers the horrors of history. All age groups should most definitely read this novel, as it holds majorly valuable lessons and will hopefully teach all audiences not to repeat our past mistakes.

Reviewer's Name
Michelle Y

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Author
Skloot, Rebecca
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, written by Rebecca Skloot, is a book detailing the life of Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta Lacks unknowingly donated her cells to one of the most important fields of research, cancer cures. Her tumor cells, also known as “HeLa”, are extraordinary in that they replicate fast enough to create a whole new human in under 48 hours. This book is fascinating in more than one way: it explores the history of her and her cells, and it explores some gray areas in rights to cells and parts of dead entities. Instead of focusing just on one topic and one family, it expands to include many that have had to deal with bio material rights. I personally found this an interesting but slightly disturbing read. I recommend reading this one to learn about the history of cell rights and their gray areas.

Reviewer's Name
Ethan

Book Review: Unbroken

Author
Hillenbrand, Laura
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Unbroken (teen version) is a well crafted biography written by Laura Hillenbrand. Unbroken tells the story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympian and bombardier of World War II. Louie was mischievous and trouble-making as a young boy until his older brother, Pete, introduced him to running. As Pete urged Louie into the sport of running, Louie began to desert his old ways and commit himself to running. Louie soon was at the top of his school in running, setting new records and winning numerous races. Louie’s skill carried him all the way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Reaching the strongest point of his life, Louie hoped to travel to Tokyo for the following Olympic games. Unfortunately, terror came and his dreams were to be put on hold. World War II struck, causing Louie to enter into the Army Air Forces as a bombardier. Louie and his team of airmen faced many near death experiences. Although these were blood-curdling situations, none would compare to what Louie was soon to face. On a rescue mission in May of 1943, Louie’s plane crashed. The crash led to a terrifying and unfathomable journey on which Louie survived life on a raft and the wrath of Japanese guards of the POW camp he resided at. Louie went through incomprehensible pain from being beaten by his captors, having to perform forced labor, going through starvation, and constantly battling a sickness. He was also robbed of his self-esteem and was treated like he was worthless. Consequently, Louie’s story is breathtaking and intriguing. Unbroken provides insight on the torturous lives of POW during WWII and the determination and perseverance of many during WWII.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a WWII buff, history lover, or is in search of a thrilling and breathtaking story. I enjoyed it because I am interested in learning about World War II and I found the book to be moving. Unbroken is fascinating and is not dull or boring. The book will leave you wanting more and you will find it hard to put it down. However, I found the beginning part to be a bit uninteresting and tedious, as it told about the planes and equipment for World War II. Once that part is over, though, the book is quite exhilarating. I would caution that younger children should not read the book, as there are some graphic and gruesome scenes of how the POWs were treated. I would suggest the book for teens between the ages of 13-16, since there is an adult version of the book for those older than these ages.
Unbroken is one of my favorite books, and anyone who is interested in history or is seeking an electrifying story should read it.

Reviewer's Name
Ava W.

Book Review: Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio

Author
Kehret, Peg
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

In this amazing autobiography, Peg tells the story about how she got polio and cheated death. When Peg found out she had polio her life changed. When she got to the hospital, she was terrified! When Peg meet her roommates, she realized that this was not the end of the world. She fights her battle with polio and wins it with the help of doctors therapists and her family. This book will entertain with ages from 6 to adult! I defiantly recommend this to read is your looking for a short great read.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name
Estella

Book Review: Man's Search for Meaning

Author
Frankl, Viktor E.
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Man’s Search for Meaning gives a rare perspective on life during the Holocaust. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was forced into four different labor camps during WWII, and ultimately survived, while his family members were all slaughtered. Most books from the Holocaust are centered around horror stories from prison camps, and the sheer brutality of one of human history’s most devastating genocides. Frankl gives the psychiatrist’s view on life after camp and works to answer one essential question - how do we move on from grief? He recounts the moment he was free to leave as confusing - almost more shocking than freeing. What do you do after your entire family is killed? Where do you go after being released from a death camp hundreds of miles from home?

The book’s storytelling is devastating and beautifully crafted, and its exploration of humanity’s search for lives worth living - lives significant for the individual - has become one of America’s most influential pieces of literature. The book is heartbreaking, but so is any story worth telling. It has everything to be expected from such a terrifying chapter in our history, but what makes it so unique is the way it addresses life after the terror ends. Anyone wanting to search for meaning in their own lives, or at the very least get a new perspective on the Holocaust, needs to read this.

Reviewer's Name
Malachi

Book Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope

Author
Kamkwamba, William and Mealer, Bryan
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

This book is one of the most inspirational stories I've ever read. The journey put forth, following William, is truly a gem that makes you think about what could've happened if something had been different. I loved reading it because I felt every details of William's journey to develop his windmill that put him on fame. His determination to prove that science is 'real' and can make a difference, especially during a time and in a culture that rejects it, shows his character and his want for a better life in his land. He perseveres through the struggles of drought and hunger, and overcomes the ridicule thrown from all sides to be able to rise up and rise above, and make his visions come true. A really inspirational story, that shows a hero's journey in a way not usually thought.

Reviewer's Name
Evelyn

Book Review: Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Author
Sheinkin, Steve
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin is a must-read for history buffs everywhere. It features the history of nuclear science, including the first nuclear reactors and the building of the initial Manhattan Project team. It follows the progress of the Manhattan Project, while also detailing US and Soviet efforts to prevent German bomb development. It speaks of the heroism of commandos destroying enrichment facilities, and the long nights pulled by sleep-deprived scientists, as well as the fantastic power of the first Trinity tests. I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in nuclear or WWII history.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Harrison