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Southwest Book Review Archive

Ann Cummins (and two Flagstaff students) recommends Holiday Kids' Books


This year, I've asked two friends to join me in reviewing our holiday picks. Both Isabella Berglund Brown and Valerie Schlosberg are eighth graders at Northland Preparatory Academy in Flagstaff.

We'll start out with Isabell's review of "A Boy Named Beckoning," by Gina Capaldi.

"A Boy Named Beckoning" tells the true story of Dr. Carlos Montezuma, a Yavapai Indian who was kidnapped by Pima Indians in 1871. In this picture-book biography, the narrator, Dr. Montezuma himself, shares the account of his life through a letter to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

The book tells the history of the Yavapai nation. Throughout Dr. Montezuma's life he was called by two names; Beckoning by the Yavapai and beyond his tribe he was known as Carlos Montezuma. Because the story is told in first person, the emotional reactions of the characters are very true.

When Capaldi writes, "There were screams everywhere I scrambled under a clump of bushes and waited for the terror to end," I felt like I was experiencing Dr. Montezuma's kidnapping right along side him. Although this book only tells the account of one Yavapai's experiences, it gives us a revealing glimpse into the encounters of others.

Gina Capaldi's combined picture and art illustrations help young readers envision real historical figures, though I found the colored pencil illustrations a little bland.

This book, intended for ages 5-9, leaves the reader wanting to learn more about the history of the Native peoples of the United States. It helps young readers realize what Native Americans have been through. A Boy Named Beckoning is an intriguing tale and leaves you wanting to learn more about Yavapai culture and history.

Valerie Schlosberg reviewed "Down the Colorado: John Wesley Powell, The One-Armed Explorer," by Deborah Kogan Ray.

Down The Colorado" tells t"he epic story of John Wesley Powell's life and his groundbreaking adventure in 1869. The tale begins when Wes is a young child living in Ohio. It follows his escapades as he grows up, and the reader gets to see critical moments in history - from the Civil War to the first expedition down the Colorado - through Wes' eyes.

The book manages to be extremely informative while still being entertaining. The danger of the rapids and the perils Wes and his crew face on their journey spring to life with vivid and gripping descriptions, leaving readers feeling like they, too, are experiencing the excitement of the voyage. Like the bright watercolor illustrations in the book, the details illustrate each historical happening in a colorful and relatable way: "At noon on the ninety-sixth day, Wes and his crew pulled to the side of a rapid, and stared in horror- the fall was more terrifying than any yet encountered." Although sometimes the historical details can be a little bit tedious, for the most part the facts are woven into a great story, making the book not only educational but also fun to read.

Anyone interested in Southwest culture and history would enjoy this book. I would especially recommend it for children in third through fifth grade. Down the Colorado is a fun and fantastic way to learn a little more about John Wesley Powell, and the heritage of the Southwest.

And Ann Cummins reviews "Saguaro Moon: A Desert Journal."

Author Kristin Pratt-Serafini is passionate about nature. While still a teenager, she wrote and illustrated three best selling books: A Walk Through the Rainforest, A Swim Through the Sea, and A Fly in the Sky. Her new book, Saguaro Moon, A Desert Journal, is filled with gorgeous illustrations of desert life: the regal horned lizard, the black-tailed jackrabbit, the Sonoran mud turtle.

Through a fictionalized young guide named Megan, the author gives young readers an educational tour into the Sonora desert. Megan keeps ears and eyes open, pen and paintbrush ready. She journals about what she sees and what she learns from desert custodians like the Tohono O'odham who harvest saguaro fruit for wine to celebrate wind and rain, and to give thanks for the desert's bounty. This book is a good model for budding scientists, nature lovers, and artists who want to use journaling as a dynamic tool for learning and writing.

Ann Cummins is a writer and a creative writing professor at Northern Arizona University. She had help this week from Isabella Berglund-Brown and Valerie Schlosberg. KNAU's monthly Southwest Book Reviews are funded by The Babbitt Family of Flagstaff, proud supporters of the arts and KNAU.