Booktalking “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba

William was a boy born into poverty in Malawi. He watched his entire family grow thinner during the winter. He has many sisters, and his seven-year-old sister got into the habit of greedily grabbing chunks of food. His other siblings objected to this, of course. They were just as hungry as she was. William found it very difficult to concentrate at home or at school, due to the constant hunger pains. Some kids left school at recess in search of food, and they did not return. Then, a school official informed the students who had not paid their school fees that the money was due the next day. If they did not pay, they were not welcome to continue their schooling. The youngster asked his father for the money, but the impoverished family had no money to spare. That was the end of formalized learning for William, for the moment.
But William’s curiosity would not die.

He ended up tinkering with electricity and electrical wires, and it emerged that he may be a budding electrical engineer. William started off by wiring a home, and he graduated to working with a colleague to create a windmill. This remarkable accomplishment rightly generated some media attention. Shortly thereafter, William was able to attend a secondary school in another town, then a school in South Africa, then eventually Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

William is very interested in science, and he refuses to give up on his dream of science. Despite his many years of lack of educational access, the poverty, his rural place of residence and the many other obstacles that he faced throughout his journey, William’s positive attitude, energy and intellectual verve is an inspiration to us all.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, 2015

This was a very interesting story about Malawi culture and electrical engineering.

Books about electrical engineering


Booktalking “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles

Gene is a super-star student who excels in the classroom. He likes order, he likes to plan, be safe, and conduct himself in accordance with school rules.

Phineas’s middle name is trouble. A daredevil whose wit and charm manage to always talk him out of any deleterious consequences for his lackadaisical behavior.

Devon School brought them together. They room together at school, and they both stay there during the summer months. The boys form a secret club which holds meetings every evening. Boys will be boys, but diving into the water from a high tree branch reeks of tragedy… both for Finny and Gene. Gene hears the talk at school: those boys who hint subtly and not-so-subtly that he knew ahead of time about the incident or that he caused it to happen. Meanwhile, Phineas recovers at home. The two have discussed the situation, but resolution seems far afield.

WWII permeates all aspects of the boys, lives. The rising high school juniors are relieved that they are not yet old enough for the draft. Indulging in luxury is frowned upon, and materials are rationed. The talk of the town includes speculation about the presidents, actions. The boys banter about the tragedy, and everyone wishes that the war would end. Somehow, though, there has to be some fun amid the chaos.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles, 1959

This book illuminated why people compare Covid 19 to a wartime scenario. I have not lived through a war that drastically altered my daily life, but the corona virus definitely has impacted my life, along with everyone else’s.

Books about WWII


“You Too? 25 Voices Share Their #metoo Stories” edited by Janet Gurtler

Incest that occurs in your family that you are too ashamed to speak of.

A friend’s father who touches you in his van.

A boy who keeps talking about your private parts while you are wearing a swimsuit.

Accompanying a friend to her attacker’s rape trial.

Turning down a boy for a date, then being harassed mercilessly at school because of it.

These are a few of the stories of people who have been sexually mistreated by others. Work, school, home and public areas should not be places where people are open fodder for the egregious sexual gratification of predators. At least sufferers are speaking out openly and in large numbers so that the hurt and betrayal can finally stop.

Teachers talking suggestively to teen students, then touching them.

Waiters reaching down the front of your shirt, then observing your mother tip them.

Having a boyfriend’s roommate make advances to you and watching your lover enjoy that.

A high school coach walking into a girl’s changing room, only to make lewd comments about their bodies.

None of these things should happen. The first step is telling the world that it is not okay.

You Too? 25 Voices Share Their #metoo Stories, Ed. Janet Gurtler, 2020

I am not generally a fan of short stories, but I loved the variety of perspectives in this book.

Books about sexual assault


Booktalking “Path To the Stars: My Journey From Girl Scout To Rocket Scientist” by Sylvia Acevedo

Sylvia loved growing up in Las Cruces, NM with her siblings, Mario and Laura, her Tia Angelica, Mami and Papi. In good weather, the kids would go outside and play with whatever other kids were around. Everything was peachy keen until Laura contracted meningitis. After many tense and lonely days when Mami and Laura were in the hospital, the two finally returned home. But it was a hollow victory, since the toddler’s sight and ability to learn had been diminished. Still, the young girl was thrilled to see her sibling once again.

The kids spoke Spanish with their mother at home, who did not speak much English. However, her mother grew more proficient with the language over time. Hermana Diaz helped Mario and Sylvia acquire language skills in English by tutoring them at home before they embarked in the land of public education. Sylvia was also fortunate enough to get an opportunity to attend a Head Start program during the summer prior to first grade. She loved the colorful toys. In first grade, she was an advanced reader.

However, the girl was not excited when she learned that her family was again moving into a new house. Sylvia had to leave her friends, and she felt out of place in the new school. Then a girl who shared her name invited her to a brownies meeting. Sylvia did not want to go, but her mother approved the outing. The young girl was pleasantly surprised though. She loved the order and conscientiousness of the brownie troop. It also gave her a sense of belonging and appealed to her tomboyish nature. She loved the outdoors adventures, and she was so proud to wear her brownie uniform to school and to meetings. She obtained a copy of the Girl Scout handbook and devoured every word. Sylvia loved the values of helping others and being productive.

Path to the stars: my journey from Girl Scout to rocket scientist by Sylvia Acevedo, 2018

Sylvia Acevedo is definitely a force to be reckoned with; I loved this memoir.

Books on rocket science

Sylvia Acevedo’s web site


Booktalking “The Perfect Place” by Teresa Harris

Treasure, aka Jeanie, and her sister, Tiffany, lose their father first. Then, their mother dumps the girls with their Great Aunt Grace. The two girls cling to each other, bracing for what might come. Grace certainly does not waste time filling their days with activities. They are assigned to wash clothes, clean dishes and work in the store.

Jeanie does not take to working in the store like her sister does. Tiffany enjoys operating the cash register. Jeanie loathes cleaning shelves. Terrance works there as well, and he makes a point of talking incessantly to Jeanie, which is annoying. It is difficult to determine what is most important to avoid: working in the site, Terrance, Great Aunt Grace, or the four-hour church services that Jeanie is required to endure.

The girl goes to her mother for help.

Unfortunately, her mother does not see the urgency of the situation. She laughs and tells Jeanie that she endured many summers with the dreaded Grace, and she lived to tell the tale. The mother is busy looking for the girls’ father, and she cannot come to retrieve them for at least a week.

Grace’s notorious lack of interpersonal skills are apparent in many arenas, not just in dealing with the sibling pair. She rubs the neighbors and the local sheriff the wrong way, for instance. She is accused of stealing other people’s belongings. Worst of all, she seems indifferent to the treatment that Jeanie is subjected to by mean girl, Jaguar. This visit to Great Aunt Grace seems to last an eternity from the very beginning.

The Perfect Place by Teresa Harris, 2014

The Perfect Place by Teresa Harris, 2014

This book is both whimsical and fun.


Booktalking “From the Desk of Zoe Washington” by Janae Marks

There is nothing Zoe Washington likes better than to bake. She is so excited about the Kids Bake Challenge for the Food Network. Low and behold, her entry wins her an internship at Ari’s cakes. She shows up all ready to bake, only to realize that she is relegated to the role of observer. Chef Victor does not allow her to participate in the cake creations until annoying Trevor buts his ideas into the mix. Suddenly, Arianna is telling the girl how to fill the cupcake cups halfway with batter from an ice cream scoop so that the mix has space to rise in the oven. What fun! Zoe is on her way to becoming a cupcake connoisseur! 

On the home front, the 12-year-old has mixed feelings about the letters that she begins to receive from her incarcerated father, Marcus Johnson. Her grandmother encourages contact between the two, but her mother forbids it. Her dad seems so nice; her calls her “my little tomato.” The relationship progresses, and her grandmother facilitates a phone conversation between them. The youngster is nervous at first, but the man’s voice is gentle and convivial, and they have a congenial talk. She is delighted that he seems so caring, but his conviction eats at her, and she struggles to find the words to question him about it. 

Marcus Johnson was convicted of murder.

Johnson did know the victim, but he had an alibi of a vendor from a garage sale that he was present at when the killing occurred. A destitute man of color, he was stuck with an uninterested public defender who did not adequately investigate the case or the man’s alibi. Instead, he urged Johnson to take a plea deal. When Zoe discovers this, she asks her father for the name of the alibi, which he does not provide. Then, in the local library, Zoe takes a look in the legal section. She discovers the existence of The Innocence Project. Zoe is desperate to help vindicate her dad, and she will do whatever she can to assist.  

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks, 2020

This book was interesting, yet disturbing in the light of recent murders of people of color by police officers.

Janae Marks’ web site