Bergers Book Reviews

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
Buy it at Amazon

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

Good Question!

Good Question! history and science books provide fascinating glimpses into specific topics using question and answer format. Each book is filled with fun facts and beautiful illustrations.

Why Does Earth Spin?
Title: Why Does Earth Spin? And Other Questions About Our Planet
Author: Mary Kay Carson
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Genre: Children / Science
ISBN: 978-1-4549-0675-9
Pages: 32
Price: $5.95

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How big is the earth? How old is it? What creates our weather? What is the hottest, coldest, highest or deepest place on earth? Why is the moon important to earth?

How Does a Seed Sprout?
Title: How Does a Seed Sprout? And Other Questions About Plants
Author: Melissa Stewart
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Genre: Children / Science
ISBN: 978-1-4549-0671-1
Pages: 32
Price: $5.95

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What is a seed? Do all plants make seeds? What is a plant’s secret weapon? Does a plant ever stop growing? Why do some flowers smell bad?

How Many Planets Circle the Sun?
Title: How Many Planets Circle the Sun? And Other Questions About Our Solar System
Author: Mary Kay Carson
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Genre: Children / Science
ISBN: 978-1-4549-0669-8
Pages: 32
Price: $5.95

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Which planet in our solar system is the hottest? Which has the shortest year? Are there other planets beyond our solar system? Why is there life on earth? Why are there footprints on the moon?

How Does a Caterpillar Become a Butterfly?
Title: How Does a Caterpillar Become a Butterfly? And Other Questions About Butterflies
Author: Melissa Stewart
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Genre: Children / Science
ISBN: 978-1-4549-0667-4
Pages: 32
Price: $5.95

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What is a caterpillar, and how did it get its name? What do butterflies eat? How do butterflies help plants? What do caterpillars do all day?

How Does the Ear Hear?
Title: How Does the Ear Hear? And Other Questions About the Five Senses
Author: Melissa Stewart
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Genre: Children / Science
ISBN: 978-1-4549-0673-5
Pages: 32
Price: $5.95

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Why are two ears better than one? Why do your ears stick out? What causes an itch? Why can’t you tickle yourself? Do all animals see the way people do?

Who Were the American Pioneers?
Title: Who Were the American Pioneers? And Other Questions About Westward Expansion
Author: Martin W. Sandler
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Genre: Children / History
ISBN: 978-1-4027-9047-8
Pages: 32
Price: $5.95

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Who were the mountain men of the west? What was gold fever? What did the pioneers use to build their first homes? What did pioneers do for fun? How did railroads help America’s westward expansion?

What Was America's Deadliest War?
Title: What Was America’s Deadliest War? And Other Questions About The Civil War
Author: Martin W. Sandler
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Genre: Children / History
ISBN: 978-1-4027-9046-1
Pages: 32
Price: $5.95

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Who fired the first shots of the Civil War? Why did the south rebel? Why were horses so important in the war? Why did so many people die in the war? How did America’s deadliest conflict end?

June 21, 2014 Posted by | children, history, science | Leave a comment

A History of the World With Google Earth

A History of the World With Google Earth
Author: Penny Worms
Illustrator: William Ings
Publisher: Carlton Books
Genre: History / Children
ISBN: 978-1-78097-113-1
Pages: 32
Price: $9.95

Buy it at Amazon

Google Earth is a useful tool to see various places we’d like to visit. Just plug in the coordinates and zoom in to view the Roman Colosseum, the pyramids of Egypt, and other interesting places. Some locations even include older photos, so we can see what something looked like 50 years ago.

But to imagine the far distant past, illustrations are provided with fun facts to accompany them. Searches in “Where’s Waldo?” style encourage kids to find specific people and objects in the midst of the crowds as they study the scenes.

History can be fun when it’s turned into an interactive experience with puzzles and games. A History of the World with Google Earth would be a great classroom tool to get kids more interested in learning about these fascinating places.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

May 20, 2014 Posted by | children, history | Leave a comment