1776 by David McCullough

(Summary taken from the book jacket) “In this stirring book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with general George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence–when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper. Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King’s men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known. Here also is the Revolution as experienced by American Loyalists, Hessian mercenaries, politicians, preachers, traitors, spies, men and women of all kinds caught in the paths of war. At the center of the drama, with Washington, are two young American patriots, who, at first, knew no more of war than what they had read in books–Nathanael Greene, a Quaker who was made a general at thirty-three, and Henry Knox, a twenty-five-year-old bookseller who had the preposterous idea of hauling the guns of Fort Ticonderoga overland to Boston  in the dead of winter. But it is the American commander-in-chief who stands foremost–Washington, who had never before led an army in battle.”

Oh how I love this book! I have read it a few times and definitely recommend that every American read this book at least once. I like to read it every 4th of July, just to remind myself of what our country stands for, and of the price that has been paid for our freedom. What a miracle our country is. There are many stories that I know I didn’t learn in school. McCullough is a very good writer. He’s engaging, interesting, and knowledgable. This doesn’t read like a history text book, it is very well written. I love this book! Yes, yes, yes! Every American citizen from Junior High up should read this book or have it read to them. (Now do you want to know how I really feel??? =)

Rating:  It was a war, so some of it’s not pretty, but there’s no language or “intimacy.”

Recommendation: 14 years-old and up. Every student (and U.S. citizen) should read this book!

*This review was first published on 7/1/10.

Revolutionary Summer

Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis

“A distinctive portrait of the crescendo moment in American history from the Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian Joseph J. Ellis. The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country’s founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever to cross the Atlantic to crush the rebellion in the cradle. The Continental Congress and the Continental Army were forced to make decisions on the run, improvising as history congealed around them. In a brilliant and seamless narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain’s Admiral Lord Richard Howe and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, showing how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other. Revolutionary Summer tells an old story in a new way, with freshness at once colorful and compelling.”
My Review:
By now you should all know how much I love American History. That is one of the reasons I slacked off my blogging at the beginning of the year. I took an American History college course so that I would have enough credit to renew my teaching license (yay!!). I have read 1776 a bunch of times, and I love it every time. Needless to say, I was really excited to read this book! It took me awhile to read it (hence my lack of blogging lately……), but it did not disappoint! It isn’t quite as easy to read as 1776 is, but it is still so well written. I loved how Mr. Ellis delved into the British side of it as well as the American side. It was interesting to learn the intentions and different strategies of the Howe brothers. I know I have heard about them before, but I really enjoyed getting into their heads a little more. I have to say, I am so glad that they made the atypical blunders and missteps that they did; it made our cause possible against such a formidable foe. This book went quite a bit into the politics of the day and how the political feeling of the day actually hindered our win. The people felt that a national army went against everything they were fighting for; therefore, the Continental Congress, even though they wanted a national army, was never able to actually provide General Washington with that luxury. Washington had to win the war with a piecemeal of state militias. The terms were about one year, and the personnel were constantly changing. Crazy! There were many things (I would say miracles, others may have another word for it…..) that had to come together in just the right way for us to win. Thankfully, it worked in our favor. This book is well written, very informative, and packed full of information. I learned a lot, and enjoyed reading it. If you are an American History fan like I am, then you definitely need to read this book, and if you aren’t, then you should still read it! 

Rating: PG-13 (It’s war. It describes certain battles where many people died.It’s not overly graphic, but does spell out what happened during these battles.)

Recommendation: 14-15 years-old, depending on the YA’s maturity level. This book would be great for a history class. Every American should read this book so we remember where we came from and the lives that were lost to give us the freedoms we enjoy today.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

*This review was first published on May 20, 2015.


Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
This book describes the events that happened before the Mayflower left England, during the voyage across the Atlantic, and after the Pilgrims decided to settle Plymouth. It describes the ever-changing relationships between the Pilgrims and the Natives, in great detail. Philbrick spends a lot of time describing King Phillip’s War of 1675-1676, of which I did not even know. This war was devastating to both the English and the Native Americans alike, and yet it is not very well publicized. The book takes you into the early 17th Century and debunks the common myths about the first Thanksgiving and even Plymouth Rock.
I really liked this book. Both my husband and I come from Pricilla Mullins, a young girl who traveled on the Mayflower, and who was orphaned early on. The book does not go into a lot of detail about each individual on the ship, which is what I was expecting, but more the main characters and the situations they went through in general. Philbrick’s writing is not as captivating as David McCoullough’s, but is good and I felt as if I too suffered through that first winter. He is really good at not taking sides, or showing too much of a bias. I felt for the Natives and the English alike. He shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of everyone involved. I enjoy history books, especially when they involve my ancestors, so even though it took me a long time to read (I renewed it three times at the library), I learned a lot and was glad I had read it. I would recommend this book for high schoolers and adults. I was really glad to learn the truth about what happened, instead of the fluff and sentamentality that we now seem to take as truth.
Rated: PG-13+ (war atrocities)
Recommendation: High School and Up
*This post was originally published on 11/23/09

The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
(Summary taken from amazon.com) “At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: “degenerate” works he despised. In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Momuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture. Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world’s great art from the Nazis.”

After I saw the new movie titled “The Monuments Men,” I learned that it was based on a book. You know me, I’d usually rather read the book than watch the movie. I liked the movie a lot, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book. And then I got my hands on the book. This may be the ONLY time you ever hear me say this, but (it hurts to even say it…..) I liked the movie more than I liked the book. Ouch! I can’t believe those words just came out, but it’s true. I can see why they made the changes in the movie that they did; it made the story so much more exciting and interesting. Don’t get me wrong, the story to be told is very interesting, and I wanted to learn about it, and there’s a lot of good information in the book. The characters in the book, these Monuments Men and women who helped, are great people and are great characters. They each have their own qualifications and stories. Also, in the artwork that they saved are many famous and well-loved pieces that I have heard about. The problem for me in this book was too much information. There were so many different people that I had a difficult time remembering who was who. Many of the names are German or French and I had a hard time keeping track of these unfamiliar names. Also (and this is probably my fault), I hadn’t heard of most of the works of art discussed in the book, so they didn’t mean anything to me. The first 200 pages were very slow going; it’s not a fast read, at all. I was hoping it would be written a little better. I didn’t think it flowed very well, and you add to that all the different people and places, and it became confusing and kind of boring. It wasn’t until I hit page 200 that I finally started getting used to the names and places, and the story picked up a little. It took me about three weeks to read this book, and I’m used to reading one to two books a week. So I was getting a little irritated, and it is now a week late at the library because it took me so long to read it. If you’re interested in the history of the story, it’s worth reading. Just know that it’s different from the movie, and in a more drawn-out and confusing way. Of course, it’s more true to what actually happened than the movie is, but it just didn’t have the same feeling for me. If you’re a history buff or enjoy learning about WWII, then I think it’s still worth reading, just be prepared for a long read.

Rating: PG-13+ (Language, WWII atrocities-it doesn’t go into a ton of detail on these, but they are mentioned)

Recommendation: High School and up

Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life in the Land of the Nile

Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life in the Land of the Nile by Bob Brier and Hoyt Hobbs
(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) “The civilization of ancient Egypt is perhaps best known for its omnipotent pharaohs, monumental pyramids, and remarkable sculptures and paintings, all of which still captivate us today. But what was life there really like? Ancient Egypt comes alive in this vivid, abundantly illustrated exploration of its people and their world. Ordinary citizens in ancient Egypt lived and worked in much the same ways as the average European of the eighteenth century, but are better, dressed more practically, and lived better–in houses with patios, latrines, and cooling systems.”
I enjoy learning about history, and although my favorites are United States history (the Revolutionary War and the Civil War especially), I do enjoy learning about world history as well. So when the publisher contacted me to review this new series of the everyday lives of ancient cultures (Egypt, Vikings, Middle Ages, and Greece), I jumped at the chance. I will eventually get to the others in the series, but I chose to read Egypt first. First off, this is a nice hardcover book. It has a lot of interesting pictures and graphics. I love looking at the stone carvings and the ancient paintings. I went through the whole book and looked at all the pictures before I even read the first sentence (shhhhhh…..don’t tell) because they were so interesting. The book started out very heavy in detail about the different dynasties and the history of Egypt. Although it is probably a good thing to start a book that way, I thought it was written very much like a text book and was, I hate to say, quite boring. I almost stopped reading. Almost. I’m glad I kept reading, because after that it got a lot better. It is still written more like a text book than I was hoping for, but when  it started describing religion in ancient Egypt it started to get much more interesting. I enjoyed learning about their religion. From there I found some chapters kind of uninteresting (government), but I found others (work and play, food, clothes and other adornments, arts and crafts) full of interesting facts and I enjoyed reading them. Did you know that one of the lesser pharaohs’ household ate over 2,000 loaves of bread and 300 jugs of beer daily? Did you know that the ancient Egyptians ate about 3,780 daily calories from grain alone? Wow. Luckily their jobs required hard manual labor, which allowed them to burn off those calories. Did you know that even with all our technology and knowledge, we still aren’t sure how they managed to build those huge pyramids? Crazy. Khufu’s Great Pyramid “required that more than two million blocks weighing from two to more than sixty tons be formed into a structure covering two football fields and rising in a perfect pyramidal shape 480 feet into the sky.” They needed over 25,000 workers (they signed up, they weren’t slaves), and they had to work fast in order to finish before their pharaoh died. Khufu reigned for 20 years, so that is how long they had. “The math indicates that, with about 2 million stones to place and at most twenty years to position them, given a work-year of 350 days and a work-day of ten hours, approximately thirty blocks were placed per hour. That is, one block was delivered to its position in the pyramid every two minutes.” Crazy, I know. 
So, I was hoping that the book would be written a little less like a text book, but it was very informative and I ended up liking it. There were some areas that I just wasn’t interested in, but I’m sure other people (boys) will enjoy learning about their warfare and government. In fact, I’m sure that is what my husband would like reading about. He probably wouldn’t care about their cosmetics or fancy clothes. In other words, there is something for everyone in this book. There’s a history nut in every family, right? This book is perfect for them, and a great, informative read for the rest of us. It would be a great addition to a junior high, high school, or college world history class as well.
Rating: PG+ (It does describe mummification, which is gross. It mentions that a lot of times Egyptians worked naked because it was so hot, and it mentions briefly some dancing party where the girls were naked except for a sash around their waist…..my husband wanted to attend that kind of party……haha…just kidding, he would die if he knew I said that.)
Recommendation: 12 and up (About 6th grade, maybe a mature 5th grader. I will let my 12 year-old read it if he wants to, my 10 year-old I’m not sure yet.)
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

What Would The Founding Fathers Think?

What Would The Founding Fathers Think? by David Bowman
(Summary taken from the back of the book) “Join Washington, Franklin, and Madison (via SKYPE/CHAT session) as they discuss our country’s current crisis as compared with their original intentions for America. With wit, humor, and a variety of visuals, David Bowman skillfully teaches preteens and teens alike the wisdom of returning to our nation’s founding principles and in a way that they will ‘get it.'”

This is a tough one. If you remember me reviewing this book: Just Fine The Way They Are, you will remember that I do not think politics belong in children’s books. Children have very impressionable minds and they don’t have the power to decide for themselves. They can’t always hear the other side of the story to choose what they believe. They just believe whatever they hear. And, I don’t think children should be burdened with politics when they are too young to really understand and shouldn’t need to worry about it yet. This book is a little different than the previous example. It is not a children’s picture book (although it has some great illustrations), it is written for an older audience, and it doesn’t hide what it is. You know just from looking at the cover that it is a political book, and that it has a conservative bias. Even with all these differences, I think I’m going to stick with my previous thoughts. Politics do not belong in children’s books. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you’re on or what you believe, children should be left out of it. Now, history is a different matter. Children should definitely be learning about our world, country, and state histories. They need to learn about our constitution and about our founding fathers. They need to be learning about events in our past that have made us who we are today. But, they should be learning it in an unbiased and nonpolitical way.

That being said, for what this book is, it is done well. It is well written, engaging, has some great illustrations, and definitely gets its point across. It is written in an easy-to-read and understand way, and is not boring. My 11 year-old would be able to understand it. There are some references to things that were popular when I was growing up (He-Man), that my son wouldn’t get, but they are explained well so it shouldn’t be a problem. The author gives quite a few quotes from the founding fathers, so it looks as though he did his homework. There are references to things like “Skype” and “Chat” that are humorous and kids today would understand. He also uses texting terms like “LOL” that make it so teens relate to it. There is also some very good historical information that is not biased: it is straightforward and informative. I like that the book talks about the importance of the family and having high moral standards. I don’t think those things are left or right, they are just good things all the way around.

I may be the only person out there that doesn’t think politics should be in books written for children, so I’ll just say that if it is read, I think it should be the starting point of a discussion. And it should be discussed with the parents. I also think you should read a book that leans the other way so children understand that there are other viewpoints. I don’t think this book should be read in schools because it leans too far to one side. It might be okay in a high school government class where the class reads a book written from left and right and they can compare and contrast viewpoints. If you lean conservative, you will probably really like this book. If you don’t, you will most likely not enjoy it.

Rating: G (It’s clean)

Recommendation: High School and Up. Once you get to high school, you begin thinking on your own. You start figuring out who you are and what you really think and believe, and you’re old enough to see hidden (or not hidden) agendas in books or movies.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Inventor’s Secret

The Inventor’s Secret by Chad Morris

(Summary taken from the press release) “Imagine a school in the year 2074 where students don’t read history, but watch it happen in 3-D holograms–where running in gym class isn’t around a track, but up a virtual mountain, and where learning about animals means becoming one through an avatar. Welcome to Cragbridge Hall, the most advanced and prestigious school in the world. Twin siblings Abby and Derick Cragbridge are exited as new students to use their famed grandfather’s inventions that make Cragbridge Hall so incredible. But when their grandfather and parents go missing, the twins begin following a trail of clues left by their grandfather. They must find out where their family is, learn who the can trust, discover what secrets are hidden within Cragbridge Hall, and decide whether they should learn from history, or attempt to change what has already happened.”

I love the imagination and creativity in this book! How exciting to be able to watch history happen, and to learn about animals from the animals’ point of view. I liked Mr. Morris’ writing style and found it easy to read. It flowed well and kept me wanting more. His character development is really good, and I liked his characters, especially Abby and Derick. I love that Abby is a strong female character. She is not perfect and does get scared, but she works hard, she doesn’t give up, and she ends up doing some incredible things. I liked Abby’s friend Carol and I wasn’t sure about Rafa, but ended up liking his character as well. I could just picture Oscar Cragbridge as a funny old inventor guy. I picture him as quirky and intelligent, and just a little crazy. But, I also picture him as serious and protective. The storyline kept me turning pages. I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a great mixture of mystery, adventure, detective work, love of family, never giving up, betrayal, and some great history lessons. (Shhhh…….don’t tell the kids that they’ll enjoy learning about history.)  I seriously would love the Bridge. I wish I had one!

I can’t wait to hand this book over to my boys; they are going to eat it up! And, what do I love? This book is clean! There is no language, no “physical intimacy,” and no extreme violence. There is some fighting and there are some close calls, where you think characters may die. There are a few weapons brandished, and used, but no one ends up dying. There were a few spelling and grammatical errors, but I did receive an Advanced Reader’s Edition, so I assume they will be corrected in the final copy. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it.

 Rating: PG (Some fighting with weapons, some evil characters)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up. I enjoyed this book as an adult, and I know my 4th and 5th grade boys will love it. It will interest both boys and girls, young and old. It would make a fun read-aloud as well.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenageer, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.”

Wow. What a story! And I complain when I have a headache. This story helps you see perspective in your life. I had no idea what our troops went through as Japanese POW’s. I had no idea that many POW’s were even taken during the war. What they went through sickened me. The brutality of the captors was unimaginable. I compare this with a book I read a little while ago called “A Woman’s Place.” In that book there are a few POW’s that work in a ship-building factory with the women in the book, and they are treated so kindly compared to what our men went through.

This book is nonfiction, but is very well written. It does take a little longer to read than a good fiction book, but it is worth it. Mr. Zamperini is definitely a hero and an example of bravery, courage, and patriotism that we should all learn from. The things he and the other POW’s went through were horrible. It is a privelege to be able to hear his story and learn from it. I am so thankful to all our service men and women for serving our country.

This book, although a really good book, is filled with many things that are extremely difficult to read.  There is language, torture, rape, fights, beatings, war atrocities, deaths, and a lot of physical and mental anguish. I know, it sounds depressing. And a lot of it is. However, there is also so much to take away from this book. There is so much to learn from these men and their bravery, determination, and courage, that it is definitely worth reading. I’m not one to search out books with the above characteristics, but I came away from this book with so much.

Rating: R (Language, torture, rape, fights, beatings, war atrocities, deaths, physical and mental anguish, and “physical intimacy.”)

Recommendation: College and up. This is way too much for younger readers. It’s a great teaching tool for WWII, but more for a college history course.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Her name is Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells–taken without her knowledge–became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons–as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia–a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo–to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family–past and present–is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of. Over the decade it took to uncover the story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family–especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. Deborah was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Had they killed her to harvest her cells? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?”

This book had me at the intro.! The introduction alone just fascinates me. To know that one person’s cells weigh that much, and that her family didn’t even know is incredible. It definitely has the feeling of a fictional movie. I couldn’t put it down, and it’s nonfiction! This is the best nonfiction book I have read in a long time! Ms. Skloot’s writing style is easy to read and understand, even when she is discussing very technical and confusing topics. It reads as a fascinating story, with a hint of technicality to it. The book is very informative and yet is also very emotional. I cried and cried, and then I’d laugh, and then I’d feel angry, frustrated, relieved, embarrassed for our past, and everything in between. It is hard to believe that the story could have taken place sixty years ago, because it seems more like something that would happen 160 years ago. To know that sixty years ago African American people were being mistreated like this is horrible. Unfortunately, it seems like all the issues regarding tissue study and culture still haven’t been resolved. I highly recommend this book, it is (I know I said this before, but it’s true) fascinating and intriguing.

There are some parts in this book that are difficult to read, and not appropriate for younger readers. There are some of the heavier curse words and there are some domestic violence stories. Henrietta’s life was difficult, and it was also difficult for her children and grandchildren. The stories are true, which makes it harder to read. I’ve learned that our country’s past is not always happy or nice, and in some instances is flat-out terrible. Hopefully with the truth of some of these issues coming to the forefront, we can learn from these mistakes and make sure they do not happen again. I highly recommend this book, because from it we can learn, and the more we learn, the more we can change for the better. Thank you, Ms. Skloot, for bringing this important woman in our history into the light, and for honoring her legacy.

Rating: PG-13+ (Language, domestic violence, harsh circumstances of the characters and their loved ones.)

Recommendation: Senior in high school and up. Maybe even college, but it is definitely worth reading!

My Dreams, My Choices

My Dreams, My Choices by Clementine Wamboye Girenge

“The simple act of going to school represents enormous ambition for Felly, the protagonist of this powerful true story about growing up in rural Kenya. In the town of Mumias lies a small village where Felly’s family is known to everyone. The life of her paternal grandparents is like an open book, a story filled with sorrow and strife that turns her grandmother into a cold and hardened woman. Felly on the other hand, grows up in a home surrounded by her parents’ love that is based on a very strong foundation, which sets the stage for this brave youngster to make and achieve her goals. One of them is receiving a top-notch education. My Dreams, My Choices documents Felly’s drive to expand her horizons. At the same time, this frank and eye-opening book reveals what it’s like to grow up in Africa today, detailing a life of hardship touched by contemporary African issues. At a young age, Felly witnesses how her family stands against the ordeals that come their way. As she grows older, she discovers that she will also have to surpass personal struggles blocking her way. There are times when she almost surrenders, refusing to move forward and climb over the barriers. She experiences profound culture shock upon setting sight for the first time on Nairobi. And she faces down tremendous odds to graduate at the top of her class from one of the best schools in the country. Richly detailed, the vividly recalled life story will captivate you with a fresh perspective on contemporary Kenyan life and people.”

I love to read about other people’s lives, especially when they are very different from my own. This book was no exception. I have heard about Kenya in the news, but that is about it. Learning about her family and why they acted the way they did gave insight into why we need to be less judgmental about people. We don’t know what they have been through, and we down’t realize what we can learn from them. Getting a good education was always at the top of my parents’ list for me as well, but it was much easier for me than it was for her. I think I took my education for granted.

This book is filled with good quotes. My favorite is: “Success was not based on the color of my hands but the strength I put in my hands to color my dreams. I needed to color them big!”

Some parts of this book are a little hard to follow. It doesn’t always go chronologically in order. Also, I had to reread some paragraphs in order to understand the language. I did enjoy this book and would recommend it. Like I said, I do enjoy learning about the way other people live, and it’s always a good reminder as to how blessed I am. She is also a great example of working hard to overcome the odds.

Rating: PG-13 (Some of the content is difficult to read because of the harsh envirnonment. You read about a boy who was killed by a teacher at school because he was late, because he helped that very same teacher push his bike into the school yard. That part was graphic and hard to read. So there is that death, other children die of disease.)

Recommendation: 16 years and up. This could be a really good learning tool for teenagers. It definitely makes you take a step back and realize that even though you have problems, they aren’t as big as other peoples’ problems.