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September 30, 2005 Edition

Red Land Yellow River, by Ange Zhang

Zhang was just 12 when China’s Cultural Revolution began and his comfortable life in Beijing changed dramatically. Some of the changes seemed fantastic to a 12 year-old: schools were closed and there were lots of opportunities to march around and feel important. Other changes weren’t so nice: Zhang’s friends deserted him because his father was an “enemy” - a scholar and writer, and his family’s house was taken over by Red Guard soldiers. Zhang, now an artist and theater designer living in Toronto, writes candidly about the excitements and hardships of the decade of the Cultural Revolution. (For older elementary school and middle school readers.)

Miracle, by Gail Langer Karwoski

The 1609 shipwreck of the Sea Venture in the Bahamas was a miracle for all aboard: even the ship’s dog survived. At first the castaways, who were headed for Jamestown, were eager to continue their journey, but by the time a new boat had been built out of the wreckage of the Sea Venture, many of them wanted to stay on the beautiful and bountiful islands. And when they finally completed their journey in new boats, they discovered that the shipwreck probably saved their lives. This fascinating story is bolstered by occasional asides by the author to explain the workings of sounding leads, St. Elmo’s fire, and salt production, and by endnotes explaining the fates of various crewmembers and of Bermuda itself. (For older elementary and middle school readers.)

The Lost Colony of Roanoke, by Jean Fritz and Hudson Talbott

Before founding the Jamestown Colony, England tried to found a colony on the island of Roanoke, but it seemed doomed to failure from the start. The first colonists headed back to England after a hurricane, leaving 15 men to hold the land. When a second shipload of 115 colonists arrived the next year, the 15 men were gone. And, years later, when a supply ship called on Roanoke, all 115 of the new colonists had vanished as well. Had they been killed or captured by natives? Did they build small boats and leave the island? Fritz keeps an open mind as she presents a variety of possibilities. (For elementary and middle school readers.)

Fortune’s Bones, by Marilyn Nelson

Subtitled “the manumission requiem,” this is a haunting series of poems honoring a slave who was freed from slavery in the late 1700s by his death. Fortune had a wife and four children and owned his own small home, but in turn was owned by a man named Porter. When Fortune died, Porter, a doctor, had his skeleton saved and put back together to study. At some point in the past 200 years the skeleton was named Larry, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that historians restored Fortune’s name and history to his skeleton. (For young adult readers.)

The Truth about Poop, by Susan E. Goodman

Everything you ever wanted to know about poop is here, from how astronauts contain their waste to how poop helps babies in the Andes Mountains grow faster. Do you know which animal has spiral poops? Have you ever wondered how diapers get tested? And, what did people use before toilet paper was invented? Find the answers to these and other questions you may have never thought about before. (For elementary school readers.)

George Washington, Spymaster, by Thomas B. Allen

This small, old-fashioned-looking book tells a fascinating story of intrigue, secret codes, and eavesdropping, and proposes the idea that the reason America won the Revolutionary war against England is that George Washington knew how to recruit and use spies. Complete with secret messages hidden in the text (and of course, the key to decode them at the back of the book), this book shows a side of early American history that is rarely mentioned in textbooks. (For middle school and high school readers.)

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