Bergers Book Reviews

The Historical Heroines Coloring Book

Author: Elizabeth Lorayne
Illustrator: Kendra Shedenhelm
Publisher: White Wave Press
Genre: Women’s History / Coloring Book
ISBN: 978-0-9979098-9-0
Pages: 80
Price: $14.93

Author’s website
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In the 18th and 19th centuries, women made significant contributions to the math and sciences community. But they lived in a society where their roles were limited by their gender, and their achievements were often discounted or credited to the men they worked with.

The Historical Heroines Coloring Book introduces kids to some of these pioneering women through one-page summaries of their lives and accomplishments. An accompanying coloring page shows each woman in action in her field of science.

In the introduction, author Elizabeth Lorayne proclaims, “My hope is that through coloring these illustrations of strong, brilliant, hard-working women scientists, you will feel inspired to go forth and seize your own dreams and that you will in turn continue the circle of empowering yourself and others.” After reading this interesting and inspiring book, I believe she has achieved her goal.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

November 29, 2017 Posted by | art, children, history | Leave a comment

The Ringmaster’s Wife

Author: Kristy Cambron
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-7180-4154-0
Pages: 368
Price: $15.99

Author’s website
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Lady Rosamund Easling of Yorkshire, England has a secret passion – riding bareback on her Arabian mare. So when Colin Keary arrives with the intention of purchasing her beloved horse, Rosamund is understandably upset. But what she doesn’t expect is Colin’s enticing invitation to run off to America and join the circus.

Mable Burton is living the simple farm life in Ohio, but the excitement of the city is calling her. A chance meeting in Chicago introduces her to John Ringling, but they won’t meet again until several years later in Atlantic City. John has never forgotten her, and they are soon married. Now she, too, is joined to the circus, but only peripherally.

The Ringmaster’s Wife alternates between these two women’s perspectives, as a circus season progresses. Rosamund’s career begins on a shaky note, but as she gains confidence, she has to handle the rivalry that develops between her and the former star. Mable is a strong and steady force in Rosamund’s life, as she cheers for the young lady to be successful. And Colin is an enigma to Rosamund, as she tries to determine if he is interested in her as a woman or simply a circus performer.

Faith and courage in the midst of overwhelming circumstances are the hallmark themes in this beautifully written historical novel. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

October 6, 2017 Posted by | fiction, history | Leave a comment

The Hollow Ground

The Hollow Ground
Author: Natalie S. Harnett
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Historical fiction
ISBN: 978-1-250-04198-2
Pages: 320
Price: $24.99

Author’s website
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Brigid Howley lives with her family under a curse issued by a priest to her long-ago Molly Maguire relative. After being forced out of Centereach by a mine fire, the family moves back to her father’s childhood home in Barrendale, where another fire burns. But before the fire started, a tragic mine disaster badly injured her father and killed his brother.

As Brigid learns to cope with living just outside the fire zone, she also has to come to terms with the curse, which is destroying her family. And when Brigid makes a gruesome discovery in the mine, everything changes, as old buried secrets suddenly come to light. Brigid needs to know the truth, and she’s determined to get answers from the only people who can tell her. But what if her worst fears are realized?

As a Pennsylvanian fascinated with our coal mining past, and especially the mine fires in the area, I especially enjoyed the feeling of being transported back to a time of an actively raging fire. Places are renamed in this story, but most are still recognizable to locals. But although the fire and the mysterious circumstances in the mine shaft held my interest, seeing this dysfunctional family come completely undone was disappointing. History buffs will enjoy this glimpse of Pennsylvania’s past.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

August 9, 2016 Posted by | history | Leave a comment

Martyrdom: The Coloring Book

Martyrdom - The Coloring Book
Author: Hallie Fryd
Illustrator: Julia Gfrörer
Publisher: Zest Books
Genre: Catholic / Art
ISBN: 978-1942186069
Pages: 112
Price: $16.99

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The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. As such, the martyrs for the faith have always been revered by the Catholic Church, and their legends have grown through the ages. In this unique coloring book, these martyrs are shown in scenes depicting their untimely deaths.

Beginning with biblical martyrs St. John the Baptist and St. Stephen, this book tells the stories of the many people who died professing the Catholic faith, and in many cases, attempting to preserve their virginity. Each person is featured in a two page spread, with one page dedicated to the martyr’s legend, and the other a blank coloring book page. While many of the scenes are horrible, none are so gruesome that the sensitive reader can’t bear to view them. But these tragic stories and images remind us of the religious freedom we’ve been granted in this day and age, and of those who died attempting to find that freedom.

Whether you choose to color these pictures or not, Martyrdom: The Coloring Book is a fascinating read, and will greatly enhance your knowledge of these faithful martyrs. And let us pray that no more are added to their ranks, as the war against Christianity continues to rage in the Middle East.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

March 1, 2016 Posted by | art, Catholic, history | Leave a comment

This Victorian Life

This Victorian Life
Author: Sarah A. Chrisman
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: History / Memoir
ISBN: 978-1-63450-237-5
Pages: 332
Price: $24.99

Author’s website
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Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman love history, and especially the Victorian era of the 1880’s and 1890’s. In an effort to truly experience what this period in history was like, they have engaged in a long-term experiment of actually living a Victorian lifestyle, as much as possible in this modern world. This Victorian Life chronicles their journey.

Sarah is a wonderful story-teller, as she blends actual historical facts and anecdotes with her own experiences. Beginning with the purchase of their new/old Victorian house, she describes how they furnished it with antique Victorian pieces. She also explains how actual antique pieces are often more beautiful and functional than their modern copy-cat versions, as well as why certain antique items are still available while others have long since disappeared. Personal care, along with cooking, sewing, and writing are explained from a Victorian perspective, along with the joys and hazards of bicycling. Ghost stories, historical figures, and her experiences in portrait sitting are also featured. Interesting primary source documents and photos from the time period are scattered throughout the text, bringing the history to life.

While some people may not consider themselves up-to-date in modern technology, the Chrismans are a bit more out of step with the rest of society, in this lifestyle they have come to love. Their home is heated with a kerosene stove, they use oil lamps rather than light bulbs, and they make their own clothes, copying them from antiques they have acquired over the years. This Victorian Life gives a glimpse of the Victorian era from the perspective of truly living in it. I highly recommend this fascinating and engaging book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

January 20, 2016 Posted by | history, memoir | Leave a comment

Smithsonian Everything You Need to Know: Grades 4-5

Everything You Need to Know
Author: Ruth Strother
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books
Genre: Science / History / Children
ISBN: 978-1-62686-312-5
Pages: 275
Price: $19.95

Buy it at Amazon

Kids have a natural curiosity about history and the natural world around them. While picking up an encyclopedia might be the best way to look up information about a subject that interests them, reading one of the 275 cards in this box set might also do the trick. Although there is only a snippet of facts, enough is presented on each topic to give kids a chance to research in more depth.

Subjects in this box include: Outer Space, Science, Inner Space, Weather, Earth in Motion, Biomes and Ecosystems, Human Body, Animal Relationships, All About Plants, Insects, Endangered Animals, Lay of the Land, Natural Wonders of the World, Man-made Wonders of the World, Ancient Times, U.S. Presidents, History Makers, and American History.

Although the title Everything You Need to Know might be a bit overly ambitious, there is a wealth of interesting material here that can generate hours of research and exploration. Teachers might also be able to use these cards as idea starters for projects and papers.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

January 5, 2016 Posted by | children, history, science | Leave a comment

Dirty Rotten Pirates

Dirty Rotten Pirates
Author: Moira Butterfield
Illustrator: Mauro Mazzara
Publisher: Ticktock Books
Genre: Children / History
ISBN: 978-1-78325-048-6
Pages: 64
Price: $8.99

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A pirate’s life is often portrayed as fun-loving and adventurous. But was this really the way pirates lived? Kids would be surprised to find out that life aboard a pirate ship was hard work, with vermin, bugs, hunger and disease. And if a pirate crossed the wrong enemy, his life might come to an abrupt end.

In Dirty Rotten Pirates, kids get an up-close and personal view of pirate life. This unique book introduces some of the most famous pirates, seafaring lingo, and a history of piracy throughout the centuries. Although this is a history book, it’s far from stuffy, with cool illustrations and lots of fun facts. Boys will especially appreciate these horrifying and disgusting pirate tales.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

May 17, 2015 Posted by | children, history | Leave a comment

Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from Slavery

Passenger on the Pearl
Author: Winifred Conkling
Publisher: Algonquin
Genre: History / Slavery
ISBN: 978-1-61620-196-8
Pages: 176
Price: $17.95

Author’s website
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In 1848, a schooner called the Pearl attempted to smuggle 70 slaves out of Washington D.C. Emily Edmonson and five of her siblings were on board when it was captured a day later. Passenger on the Pearl shares Emily’s story, as well as the rest of her family’s attempts to find freedom.

Emily was lucky to have been treated fairly well, but she experienced the horrors of seeing fellow slaves beaten and molested. Husbands and wives, as well as their children, could be separated and sold, without any thought to the devastation done to the families. But the purchase price for freedom was well outside the means of most slaves, and it remained only a dream. Emily had the support of her family, who did everything they could to come up with the ransom, and was finally set free.

Fascinating sidebars about important people and events during this turbulent time in United States history provide a background for the family’s story. Many photos and explanations of slave practices at the time are also included. It’s sad to remember that our great nation once treated a large segment of its population so barbarically, but as young adults read about Emily Edmonson and her family, they are reminded of this truth and can avoid making the same mistakes.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

January 29, 2015 Posted by | history, teen | Leave a comment

Graphic Classics Vol. 24: Native American Classics

Native American Classics
Authors & Illustrators: Various
Publisher: Eureka Productions
Genre: Historical & Literary Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-9825630-6-9
Pages: 144
Price: $17.95

Graphic Classics website
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This volume of graphic classics includes stories, poems and myths of the Native Americans. Some, like The Story of Itksikamahidish and the Wild Potato and The Stolen White Girl are fun and amusing, while others like The Soft-Hearted Sioux and The Cattle Thief are quite disturbing. The native people suffered at the hands of white men, and these stories don’t shy away from this grim reality.

For complete details of the content of this book, please see the website above. Graphic Classics Vol. 24: Native American Classics follows in the tradition of the previous volumes. The illustrations are nicely done and fit the theme of each story well. Anyone interested in Native American legends and myths will enjoy this book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

December 2, 2014 Posted by | graphic novel, history, literary | Leave a comment

A.D. 30

A.D. 30
Author: Ted Dekker
Publisher: Center Street
Genre: Historical Fiction / Christian
ISBN: 978-1-59995-418-9
Pages: 432
Price: $25.00

Author’s website
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Maviah was born of an illicit encounter by her father, Sheikh Rami bin Malik. Sold into slavery in Egypt, she lived there until the birth of her son, and was sent back to her Bedu people. Now her city has been taken by the Thamud, and her father has sent her on a mission to save them. With Saba, her father’s servant, and Judah, a Jew, she travels to see Herod, hoping for his help.

Saba and Judah are able-bodied and trustworthy men, and she soon comes to rely on them for her own well-being. But their mission runs into a snag. A side trip to Capernaum allows them to visit with Yeshua – a Jewish rabbi with a new and radical teaching. Maviah soon becomes convinced that this Yeshua speaks truth, and vows to follow his words.

Maviah is a broken woman who believes herself to be nothing more than a slave. But in speaking to Yeshua, she begins to believe she has value in her Father’s eyes. Can she trust him enough to overcome her fear and rescue her people?

A.D. 30 paints a wonderful picture of desert life at the start of the Christian era. We meet Jesus near the start of his ministry and share in the joy of those who have just found him. And we see, through Maviah’s eyes, exactly why he is so well-loved by his followers. Jesus loves her just as she is – even though she sees herself as unworthy.

I highly recommend this engaging and enjoyable book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

October 29, 2014 Posted by | Christian, history | 1 Comment