Shackles From The Deep by Michael H. Cottman

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SHACKLES FROM THE DEEP:
Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship,
a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy
by Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael H. Cottman
(National Geographic Kids; $17.99, Ages 8-12)

Starred review – Booklist

cover image off Shackles From The Deep by Michael H. Cottman

 

A fascinating and fast read, Michael H. Cottman’s compelling Shackles From The Deep will open middle grade readers’ eyes and minds to the abhorrent “international business” that was the slave trade. In 22 brief but gripping chapters, Cottman, an avid scuba diver, goes in search of the dark history behind the 17th century slave ship called the Henrietta Marie. Through diving below the surface and delving above the surface with the help of a dedicated team of professionals, Cottman learns not only about “the bitter past” that shrouded the ship, but about himself and the African people forced into slavery who could very well have been his ancestors. 

Possibly the world’s oldest slave ship discovery, and certainly the oldest in North America, the Henrietta Marie and its bounty of watch bell, iron cannon, and iron shackles helped shed light on the inhumane industry that ripped West Africans from their homes, separated families, and brought them against their will to places such as Barbados and Jamaica to work on plantations. This slave ship, found accidentally while looking for a different wreck, had been torn apart during a hurricane off Key West in Florida in the 1700s. 

Cottman’s journey to find answers about the individuals who captained the ship, commissioned the ship’s slave cargo, and made the shackles and weapons on board led him to three continents over four years. And though he was never able to find definitive proof of who exactly might have been carried below deck in wretched conditions for months on end, Cottman did meet a family in Jamaica whose roots likely could be traced back to the Henrietta Marie if those records were available. One of the most moving parts of Shackles From The Deep was when Cottman travelled to Senegal and toured Gorée Island. There he visited the House of Slaves, built in 1526, and home to the infamous Door of No Return named as such because those enslaved Africans leaving through it never ever came back.

Cottman felt it was important to retrace the route the Henrietta Marie would have taken and, by taking us along with him as engaged readers, we quickly learn why. Tearing families apart and treating them like animals made no sense as one missionary’s account detailed:

The English take very little care of their slaves and feed them very badly …The overseers make them work
beyond measure and beat them mercilessly…and they seem to care less for the life of a Negro than a horse.

Ending his journey in Africa where it all began after those earlier visits to Barbardos, Jamaica and England, provided a way for Cottman to return through that Door of No Return on behalf of all the unfortunate souls who never had the chance. The story ends, having come full circle from the initial discovery, with the author’s visit to an underwater memorial at the wreckage site of the Henrietta Marie. 


“I had learned that the site of the wreck is a place where I am never really alone,
a place where I feel connected to my past and ancestors. I had learned that lasting
friendships can be forged––regardless of racial backgrounds––even while exploring a sunken slave ship.”

There are several ways for readers to approach this well-written narrative nonfiction novel. From the sheer storytelling perspective, it is completely absorbing and satisfying, in fact I read it in one sitting. As a page turning detective novel, it’s rich in detail with Cottman’s journalistic abilities highlighted as he asks the right questions and tracks down individuals around the globe to piece together the puzzle that is the Henrietta Marie. When children read Shackles From the Deep they will gain a better understanding of slavery and the dehumanization of people that was perpetrated for 300 years, and hopefully be the force to prevent such cruelty from ever happening again.

Click here to visit Michael H. Cottman’s website.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

 

 


Weird but true! FOOD from National Geographic Kids

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Weird but true! FOOD:
300 bite-size facts about incredible edibles!
by National Geographic Kids
(National Geographic Children’s Books; $7.99, Ages 8-12)
PLUS: A Rafflecopter Giveaway for three books!

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It’s very easy to understand the ongoing popularity of the Weird But True! fact-filled paperback book series. They’re inexpensive, portable, packed with fab photos, and are always excellent entertainment. Likely “weird” is a word you hear often at home from your 8-12 year olds, so why not give them this book to help them refocus their energy onto things genuinely incredible or unusual.

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Interior spread from Weird but true! Food, National Geographic Children’s Books, ©2015.

 

Here are some facts I found fascinating, funny and/or very WEIRD:

1. Mycophobia is the fear of mushrooms. Use that next time you play hangman!

2. The Carolina Reaper is the world’s hottest chili pepper.

3. Breakfast waffles inspired the co-founder of Nike to put a bumpy tread on running shoes.

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Interior spread from Weird but true! Food, National Geographic Children’s Books, ©2015.

4. Los Angeles recently passed a resolution encouraging people not to eat meat on Mondays. I live in L.A. and didn’t even know about this one!

5. On the International Space Station 93 percent of the astronaut’s sweat and urine is recycled into drinking water.

 

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Interior spread from Weird but true! Food, National Geographic Children’s Books, ©2015.

 

Consider giving your tween a copy of Weird but true! Food as an alternative to electronics. It’s educational, interesting, and a great way to amuse friends. How many of us can honestly say we knew that the Ancient Egyptians “ate ham and eggs for breakfast more than 3,000 years ago,” or that it takes “about 350 squirts from a cow’s udder to make one gallon of milk?” Udderly weird but true, and that’s okay! In fact, did you know that “okay” is the most understood word in the world? Yep, but you’ll have to pick up a copy of Weird but true! Food: 300 bite-size facts about incredible edibles! to find out the second most understood word.

Click here for the Kids’ National Geographic website for games, videos and more.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY – See below. Enter then follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/goodreadswithronna for an extra 3 entries into the giveaway. GOOD LUCK!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Animal Poetry for Kids from National Geographic

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We could not let April end without reviewing this fantastic collection of poems. It’s entitled National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs that Squeak, Soar, and Roar! (kids.nationalgeographic.com, $24.95, ages 4-8) which is just how we like our animal poetry to be.  Here’s the bonus – the book is edited by J. Patrick Lewis, the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate.

For fellow Californians, included is an evocative Haiku inspired by Bali Sardines from L.A. local, Joan Bransfield Graham:

Dancing through the waves,
ballerinas of the blue —
the ocean their stage.

You’ll also find poems from UCLA graduate and award winning poet, Janet S. Wong; Pulitzer Prize winning former U.S. Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan; Betsy Franco; and Kenn Nesbitt to name a few. Seeking poems about hamsters and honey bees? You’ll find ’em! Want to read about Roosters and Raccoons? They’re there, too. Eager for elephants? Look no further.

This treasury is really not just for 4-8 year-olds because the photographs are simply spectacular and ideally suited for each poem. I’m certain that even teens and adults will find themselves amazed at the variety of details, colors and moods conveyed in all 186 pages.  Of course all the great poets are here to enjoy, and easy to find with the Poet Index: from Aiken to Sandburg, Frost to Madox Roberts, and Rosetti to Whitman.  The helpful Subject Index, Title Index and First Line Index make this book indispensable for students. There’s also a super spread devoted to writing poems and another for resources, but the poems themselves are what we’re here for.  Broken down into manageable sections, this collection divides the poems into an intro called Welcome to the World. This is followed by other sections called The Big Ones, The Little Ones, The Winged Ones, The Water Ones, The Strange Ones, The Noisy Ones, and a Final Thought in closing.

I have nothing but praise for this marvelous book that is not only an homage to the animal kingdom and its beauty but to every word used to describe it.

-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel


Dare to Explore!

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Our family always loves the yearly National Geographic Kids Almanac and the newest edition is no exception. With fab photos, facts, and an overall coolness quotient of 10, what’s not to love?

The best thing about the latest almanac is that it’s kept up with technology and offers readers a chance to watch neat new videos, play games and get even more facts via a QR Code you can scan with a smart phone or iPod Touch. Dinosaurs like me can also go the website.

So spend summer break the right way by packing a copy of the National Geographic Kids Almanac 2013 ($13.99, National Geographic Children’s Publishing, ages 8 and up). It’ll keep your entire family entertained while on the road or at home. It will also be a great conversation starter, a dispute resolver and something to keep returning to throughout the year.

Broken down into themed sections so fact hungry kids can devour the book in small chunks, the book begins with Your World 2013 then moves into the ever popular Amazing Animals pages packed with amazing pictures and tons of information. Did you know, for example, that there are 10, 158 vulnerable or endangered species in the world?  The list even includes the American crocodile!

Next comes the Awesome Adventure section where kids can learn about different fields of exploration, hone up on their photo taking skills and even get tips on writing an engaging essay. Following is Culture Connection, Super Science and some Fun and Games. The Wonders of Nature section covers world climate, natural disasters, biomes, oceans, coral reefs and so much more.  I appreciated the Going Green section with its out-of-this-world green inventions including Hotel in The Clouds lazily making its way across the Atlantic from New York to London in 37 hours. Talk about a room with a view!

The book ends with History Happens and Geography Rocks saving the best for last in my adult opinion, but kids will be delighted from start to finish. With 500 photos, maps, crafts, fun facts and a slew of other interesting tidbits, National Geographic Kids Almanac 2013 is an adventure on every page.

By the way, I just learned that London is the only city to host the Olympics three times.