Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mystery & Mayhem series by Nomad Press w/ Guest Post by Author Judy Cummings


ABOUT THE BOOK

Feel a tickle in your throat? Do you still have that headache? Could you be falling victim to a deadly virus?

From history’s earliest days, bacteria and viruses have stalked humans. Stowing on wagons, ships, and airplanes, these diseases traversed the globe, infecting people in city streets and isolated hamlets. Epidemics and Pandemics: Real Tales of Deadly Diseases tells the tale of five of history’s most critical contagions.

REVIEW

Disease has long played an important role in both historical and contemporary events.  In this book, the author takes the reader through five such diseases and specific times when those diseases changed history.  The diseases covered include the bubonic plague that wreaked havoc during the Middle Ages, the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that almost destroyed a nation, smallpox that inadvertently destroyed a people, the Spanish flu that killed more people than World War I, and the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.  A brief description of the disease is given followed by a narrative of the events in which the disease played such a key role.  Each section is fascinating and well told.  The stories are compelling and easy to read.  Enough detail is given to carry the stories forward without the narrative getting bogged down in detail.  That makes this book and others in the series well designed for reluctant readers.  The plentiful white space and short paragraphs also make the books attractive for middle grade readers.  The only concern I had with the book was the lack of a bibliography or works cited page.  Suggested websites, books, and videos were provided but no list of resources.  However, I've read about these events before and everything I read here is consistent with what I've read elsewhere, so it's clear the author did her research.


ABOUT THE BOOK

We might think humans have control over our environment, but Mother Nature has proven us wrong again and again.

Earth, Wind, Fire, and Rain: Real Tales of Temperamental Elements tells the story of five of America’s deadliest natural disasters that were made worse by human error, ignorance, and greed.

REVIEW

While natural disasters are inevitable and uncontrollable, they are often made worse when people make poor decisions in response or fail to prepare.  This book in the Mystery & Mayhem series focuses on five such disasters.  Those events include the deadliest fire to ever occur in America (Peshtigo), the "Great Blizzard of 1888" that shocked New Englanders through and through, the Johnstown Flood, the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, and the Dust Bowl.  Each story is told clearly and succinctly with plenty of background information provided.  Each story is compelling and well-told.  The timelines and photographs help support the stories.  The only problem I had with the book was the lack of references or a bibliography.  The book does have a glossary and suggested books, websites, and videos to check for more information.  The compelling stories combined with the white space and short paragraphs make this a good book for reluctant readers.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Have you ever felt the earth shake beneath your feet? It's a scary feeling! In Eruptions and Explosions: Real Tales of Violent Outbursts, kids ages 10 to 13 learn about five different explosions, both natural and man-made, that were big enough to cause chaos across the world. Another installment in the Mystery and Mayhem series, which combines hair-raising, real-life mysteries with primary sources and rich language for middle school readers to gobble up.

REVIEW

This book in the Mystery & Mayhem series by Nomad Press focuses on natural and man-made explosions.  The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 and the damaging effects it had worldwide is the first story told.  The second story is about the 1865 explosion of the steamboat Sultana as she made her way north up the Mississippi with over 2,000 former Union prisoners.  The third story is about the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.  The fourth story talks about the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the Ukraine.  And the last story looks at the Deepwater Horizon explosion that sent millions of gallons of oil flooding in the Gulf of Mexico.  As in other books in the series, these stories are well-told with enough detail to be compelling and interesting.  The wise use of white space and the short paragraphs make it an easier read for struggling readers.  The book includes a glossary and suggestions for places to go for more information.  The only thing the book is missing is a list of references.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Why on earth would anyone want to dig up a grave? The characters in Tomb Raiders: Real Tales of Grave Robberies all have their reasons. Whether they're starving, greedy, poverty-stricken, or hungry for knowledge, the real people who are portrayed in this nonfiction book for early middle schoolers are driven far enough to disturb the bones of the dead. Another installment in the Mystery and Mayhem series, which combines hair-raising, real-life mysteries for kids with primary sources and rich language.

REVIEW

The accounts of grave robbing that are described in this book are both a bit gruesome and fascinating.  Cummings looks at the hungry settlers of Jamestown who robbed graves to avoid starvation, the robbing of graves to provide bodies for dissection by early doctors that lead to a riot, the attempted theft of Lincoln's corpse for ransom, grave robbery associated with Egyptian royalty, and the Lord of Sipan and the looting of his grave.  All of the stories are well written and easy to follow.  There is enough detail to understand what is going on  without the story getting bogged down in details.  The timelines, glossary, and suggested resources are all nice touches.  The only thing I would have liked to have seen would have been a list of references, but young readers aren't likely to care much about that.  A nice entry in the series that would be great for handing to reluctant readers. 

AUTHOR GUEST POST

Judy Dodge Cummings was a high school history teacher for 26 years and has written 20 nonfiction books for children and teens. When she isn’t researching or writing, she is busy building a time machine. The test run is scheduled for April 1, 2050. Connect with Judy on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Think like a Historian to Time Travel
I read history books so I can travel back in time, and I write history books so young readers can do likewise. But with the right mental equipment, kids don’t need my books. They can learn how to time travel themselves. All they have to do is think like historians.
What does it mean to think like a historian? Students will be happy to know it does NOT include memorizing dates, places, and names. They can look that stuff up in a book.
Historians are detectives of the past.
They frame questions about important events and unsolved mysteries, and then they interrogate historical sources to answer these questions. Those historical sources open up doorways through which historians experience life from an earlier era. Of course, speeding across dimensions of time and space in a machine traveling faster than the speed of light is way cooler than time traveling like a historian, but we have to work with what we’ve got.
Until a real time machine is invented, educators should follow these steps to help their students time travel the historian’s way.
First, reframe your concept of what history is. Define history as a verb, rather than a noun. The Greek word for history is ἱστορίa, “learning or knowing by inquiry.” History defined this way demands action. It is not enough for students to read a chapter of the social studies textbook or listen to a teacher lecture, even if that teacher is a riveting storyteller. To really understand the past, students need to actively engage with historical data. For more on how to mentally reframe history as a verb, check out my post Doing History.
Second, teach kids how to ask good questions about the past. The questions they frame are the GPS coordinates for their time machine. The right questions will lead students to sources that will bring their topics to life. The internet is full of resources to help you breakdown the essential elements in a well-written historical question. A good place to start is Glenn Wiebe’s History Tech blog.
Third, teach students how to interrogate primary sources. Diaries, letters, photographs, newspaper articles, and court proceedings recorded by people of the past offer students the chance to view a previous era through the eyes of its contemporaries. When I was teaching, I introduced the process of dissecting primary sources with documents from my own youth—report cards, notes written to a crush, angst-filled poetry. The kids eagerly explored this glimpse into their teacher’s private life.
http://judydodgecummings.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/homecoming-court-300x94.jpg
Homecoming Court 1978--Can you find me?
Model how to find the author, date, and purpose of the document and then teach students how to do a close read of this source. The Stanford History Education Group has a lesson plan on how to close read the image in this poster. (sign up for a free account to access their stuff)
Fourth, corroborate the evidence. If a student was traveling back in time to Lexington, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775, what if the only person he talked to was an officer in the British army? Almost certainly that student would conclude that the upstart American rebels fired the shot that launched the American Revolution. But the truth is much more complicated.
Historians never just interrogate one witness in their quest to interpret the past. Guide students in evaluating multiple sources and identifying and reconciling the disparities and biases in these sources. Another great lesson from the Stanford History Education Group called Who Started the Lunchroom Fight teaches the skill of corroboration in a way kids can relate to.
Fifth, contextualize. A real time machine would not take you back to 1863 just so you could meet Abraham Lincoln in an empty void like the place Eleven visits in Stranger Things.
Image result for eleven in empty room in stranger things
Darn it, I forgot my book!
You’d see Lincoln in the White House, coordinating the Union’s war effort. You’d hear people debating the Emancipation Proclamation and you’d read newspaper coverage of the war. It’s impossible to understand the poetry of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address without some knowledge of the three days of carnage that occurred in Gettysburg just a few months before Lincoln penned those memorable lines.
Contextualization is the skill of placing events in their proper framework. This is where the teacher’s riveting lectures, the dramatic History Channel clips, and the books from that awesome nonfiction author Judy Dodge Cummings (shameless plug), come into play. These secondary sources provide the background students need to understand the people and events they meet in the primary sources.
Every time machine must return to the present. Your students will emerge from their investigation of the past, and their next job is to interpret what they discovered and communicate their position to the public. Historians develop written and verbal arguments in defense of a thesis. The blog Two Writing Teachers offers lots of ideas and resources for how to help students write history.
Someday we’ll get to time travel in a DeLorean like Doc and Marty in Back to the Future.
Image result for back to the future
Why Didn't We Just Think Like Historians?
But until that day comes, encourage your young charges to enter the past by thinking like historians. They never know who they might meet.
Guess who he Claims Started the American Revolution?

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