Book reviews...from picture books to adult books, as well as books-to-movie info, and other stuff I think is interesting. Note: Not all books reviewed or recommended are appropriate for all ages.
JUNE 25, 2007
Recommended book about Harriet Tubman and other Civil War spies
I just finished reading Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: how daring slaves and free Blacks spied for the Union during the Civil War by Thomas Allen and would highly recommend it. I started reading it because it is not very long and I thought it would be a good one to recommend to go with the Get a Clue @ Your Library...but was surprised how it was hard to put down.
The book has quite a bit about Harriet Tubman, who is best known for being the escaped slave turned conductor on the Underground Railroad (and the subject of the recent award-winning picture book biography Moses: When Harriet Tubman led her people to freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, beautifully illustrated by Kadir Nelson).
However, this is not a biography of Tubman, but a tribute to the efforts of many former slaves who worked "undercover" gathering intelligence that strongly impacted the outcome of the Civil War. For example, Mary Jane Richards, worked as a house slave for Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and passed on overheard conversations. She not only read war documents left around at the Davis home (even though it was illegal for a slave to learn to read or write), but had a photographic memory enabling her to pass them on almost verbatim.
Confederate officers and soldiers were often unguarded in their conversations around slaves because of their horribly misguided notion that the slaves hadn't the capacity to understand what was being said.
Another interesting area covered in this book was spy techniques and codes that were used, including a "clothesline code" that passed on information by slaves working undercover within a Confederate camp...for example hanging a pair of pants upside down indicated a specific direction that troops were being sent.
Overall, this book gives you a strong appreciation for the brave and cunning efforts of spies--mostly escaped slaves--during the Civil War. I highly recommend this to students and teachers.
Okay...at the risk of "gushing" I am going to again say: READ THE UNDERLAND CHRONICLES (which I call the Gregor books because the main character is a boy named Gregor who is 11 or 12.)
I just finished the last of the five book series, Gregor and the Code of Claw, which fits in really well with our Get a Clue Summer program because Code of Claw is an encrypted code that must be cracked (I can't say more without giving away the direction of the storyline.) I am VERY sad that the series is finished with five books...but I also thought it was great...each book just as good as the last. We have multiple copies of the first book as I would like to do a book discussion in July.
On Thursday, June 26 at 1:00 I will be "booktalking" the first book, Gregor the Overlander, so if you want to know more about it, come then, or stop by youth anytime and check out your copy to read and we'll get together to discuss it sometime in July.
The library has been so busy lately...with hundreds of kids earning points in the summer reading program, Get a Clue @ Your Library! I just realized I haven't posted forever...so in recent Books Into Movies news:
Who has seen the new Nancy Drew movie? The girl who plays Nancy Drew is actress Julia Roberts' niece. Another interesting fact about Nancy Drew is that Carolyn Keene was actually a pseudonym (a "pen name" that an author uses instead of his or her real name) for an author who lived in Iowa! I will post later about her name...unless someone can leave that info as a comment before I get a chance.