My Bio

My Bio
My name is Sharon Levin and I've been reviewing children's literature for 20 years. I founded and run the Bay Area Children's Literature List. My biggest passion (outside my family) is getting books into the hands of children and teens. My favorite thing is getting non-readers to realize that they're readers. I also LOVE t-shirts that have to do with books or literature. As soon as I figure out how to do it, I'll have a click through on the above picture so you can see my entire collection (and where to get them).

October 26, 2017



Last week I got to work the Hillary Clinton signing at the bookstore where I work (yes, I begged for the opportunity, you may have noticed I’m a bit of a fangirl woman).

I worked the book table (meaning after people went through the line to meet her, we had signed books waiting for pick up) and as I watched and talked with the people coming out, I got angrier and angrier. 

Why?  Because of mainstream media’s ENDLESS insistence that Hillary didn’t ‘click with voters’ or ‘didn’t inspire passion/enthusiasm’ (or UPDATE: There wasn’t ‘joy’ in her campaign, sigh, time to STFU Joe Biden)

Let me tell you what I saw.   I saw well over a thousand people (there would have been more, but it was a ticketed event and it sold out in 30 minutes after going on-line).  I saw children, women, men, and gender queer people wearing Hillary shirts, buttons, stickers and in a couple of cases, jumpsuits made of fabric with Hillary faces all over them.

I saw people shaking in excitement as they waited in line, people in tears before meeting her, while meeting her, after meeting her.  People bringing their daughters and telling Secretary Clinton how much she meant to them, especially as parents of girls.

I listened to the African American man outside singing (beautifully), My Girl, but changing the words to My President.

So, what did I see?  I saw passion, I saw enthusiasm, I saw LOVE.

Who did I see it from? (not just at this event, but in my life and on social media) I see (saw) that the love, adoration and respect for Hillary comes mainly from People of Color, Women, the Differently Abled, the LGBTQIA community etc. AKA  The Overlooked/Ignored/Condescended to/Denigrated Communities. 

Hillary Clinton and her run for the presidency means so much to so very many.  Her struggles as a woman in a man’s world (and yes, that’s how it’s treated.  Look at the passes given to Trump and Sanders – while Clinton was under a microscope for EVERYTHING).

99.99% of us who voted for Clinton will not run for president, but I would say 99.99% of us can relate to being cut down, ignored, patronized, in addition to having to do everything in ‘high heels and backwards’ to be given 1/10th of the credit that white cis heterosexual men get.

Hillary Clinton walks the walk and those of us who spend our lives dealing with bullpucky know what the real deal looks like.

So, let’s be clear Mainstream Media,  HILLARY INSPIRES JOY, ENTHUSIASM, LOYALTY, AND LOVE. (and you can quote me on that)


P.S. Did I get a Hillary moment?  YES! She came in the door where I was working and when she spotted my t-shirt (photo above), she gave me that beautiful wide eyed grin and said “I LOVE your t-shirt!” I told her that I loved her (I do) and we had a lovely, warm two handed handshake as I thanked her for everything she has done.

September 25, 2017


 Nic Stone has hit the ground running with her debut novel Dear Martin, the story of Justyce McAllister, an African American teen boy, who is SO MANY things, but much of the world wants to see him in only one way.

 I am so pleased and honored that Nic Stone took the time to answer my questions.  I cannot praise Dear Martin highly enough. It is brilliant and heartbreaking.  It is thought provoking and it is infuriating.  It is fiction, but it is not.   Dear Martin needs to be on EVERY high school's Must Read list.

From Nic Stone's website: 
Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Q: It looks like you made up the names of the victims of police violence, i.e. Tavarrius Jenkins, was there a reason you chose to make them up rather than use real names?
A: I made the names up primarily out of respect for the families who, every morning, wake up to a world their loved one is no longer a part of. We’ve been talking a lot about *representation* in the book world, and how important it is to Get It Right, especially when writing an experience that isn’t one’s own, and I personally feel that’s an even BIGGER deal when referencing individuals who exist(ed) in the real world.
I was also very deliberate about the names I chose—Shemar, Tavarrius, Justyce as opposed to Jim, Bob, and Ted—because I knew no one would have a problem suspending disbelief when they saw the names I chose attached to news headlines involving police brutality. Which says a lot about the world we live in.
Q: How did you decide what situations (i.e. the school) to put Justyce in as the framework for his life and letters to MLK?
A: Well Jus is essentially a high school kid, and it was very important to me that his circumstances read that way. Oftentimes, when the name of a teenager becomes a hashtag (as of this interview, the most recent one was #JordanEdwards, a fifteen-year-old high school freshman who was shot in the head by a police officer while in the passenger seat of a car leaving a party), the actual life of the teen gets swallowed by the tragedy of the untimely death. Yes, we’ll get details here and there that fuel our sense of injustice (“Jordan was a straight-A student and standout athlete, who was beloved by his schoolmates…”), but the life actually lived has ended, so people don’t think too much about what it might’ve looked like.
That’s what I wanted to highlight with this book: the daily life of a seventeen-year-old African American boy in the thick of his senior year of high school. Trayvon Martin was seventeen. Jordan Davis was seventeen. Mike Brown was eighteen and killed eight days after graduating from high school.
And before their deaths, these boys were just… boys. Waking, eating, drinking, going to school, doing homework, playing video games, hanging out with friends, disagreeing with their parents, dealing with difficult people, applying to college, falling in love, turning their music up too loud and ruining their hearing…
That’s the stuff I wanted to highlight in this book.

Q: The conversations in the book are amazing, frustrating, irritating, insightful (just grab a thesaurus, I’m not done yet).  How many came from real life?  Are there some that you wish you had said in the moment? (I certainly saw things I wish I’D said to people.)
A: While the exact conversations are fictional, the circumstances and concepts they refer to—like stereotype threat and the Superpredator Myth—definitely come from real life. The fact of the matter is that this stuff is hard to talk about. People either don’t know how to articulate their thoughts/feelings, or they’re afraid to because of societal taboos. So the conversations were really designed to provide 1. language for these types of discussions and 2. insight into wildly different perspectives.
Hopefully, after reading the discussions in the book, people will be better prepared for these types of conversations.

Q: Weird question:  Did you have a photo of MLK above your desk that you looked at while writing the letters to him?
A: Ha! I didn’t, but he was constantly staring off into the distance from the cover of This book which was by my side for the duration of the writing since it was my main source of research. Highly recommend it, by the way.

Q: We ALL need a Societal Evolution Class.  Was it based on one you took or taught or do you just wish it existed?
A: I’ll confess that the *class* is me being a sneaky writer who needed a believable setting for difficult and atypical classroom discussions. After writing it, I definitely see the potential value in such a course and do wish it existed, especially at the high school level. (I volunteer as tribute to teach it!)

Q: So, SJ is brilliant, with the perfect cohesive, cogent argument.  Is she you? (she’s who *I* want to be).
A: So, SJ is… interesting. There are many things about her that are very Middle/High-School-Me: debate, athletics, and multiple school leadership positions, for example. But I definitely wasn’t as self-or-others-aware as she is. So I guess in a way, she’s teen and present-day me shoved into a seventeen-year-old Jewish girl, but with more snark and sass. (I have a deep and abiding disdain for sarcasm, believe it or not).

Q: I realized when I said I wanted to be SJ, that I had focused on the white girl.  I also realize SJ has to be white in order to have the situation with Justyce’s mom.  She is the main voice/face of Liberal thought (Justyce is living the situation, so I don’t think of him as the representative of Liberal thought - does that make sense?) So, does this make SJ a ‘white savior’?  I’m thinking of Chapter 7 in particular. 
A: I love this question, and I’m glad you asked it exactly this way. The short answer is no, I don’t see SJ as a white savior; I see her as an ally. 
The main difference between the two has to do with motivation: allyship is focused on breaking down systems of oppression simply because they’re wrong, whereas saviorism slips into a focus on individuals/specific groups and becomes about “helping” those who “can’t help themselves.”
I was very, very deliberate about SJ’s identifiers. She’s racially white, cisgender, heterosexual and upper-middle-class—all areas of overt privilege—because people are typically more open to hearing the perspectives of those they most easily identify with. The societal problems she points out in the book are common knowledge to most American Americans, but I had her point them out because I knew white readers would be more likely to listen to her than they would to a black character. But she’s also female and Jewish, both of which give her insight into marginalization. 

At the end of the day though, the most important things about SJ are that she sees injustice and she cares about changing it. Would that we ALL be a bit more like her, regardless or race, religion or otherwise.   

Nic, thank you so very much for your time, your heart, your voice.  Thank you for bringing Justyce McAllister and Dear Martin into the world.

Dear Martin will be released on October 17, 2017.  You can pre-order through Indie Bound, or just call your local independent bookstore. 

Visit Nic Stone at 

July 12, 2017


Ah, yet another instance of children's books making me smarter (and better at trivia games).  KATE WARNE: PINKERTON DETECTIVE by Marissa Moss, illustrated by April Chu (Creston Books, 2017) tells the fascinating story of the first female detective in the United States.

We've all heard of the Pinkerton Detectives, but I'm sure most of us have a visual of men in suits and hats, not a young woman in a corset (Note: this originally read corset and a bustle, but I checked with Marissa Moss and she informed me bustles were not worn at that time.  AGAIN, getting smarter through children's lit).

At first, Pinkerton was reluctant to hire her, he did not think it was work that a woman could do.  Kate was ready for his objections. "'s precisely the sort of thing a woman should do... As a woman, I can go places your male agents can't.  A criminal may confide in his wife or lady friend.  And those women will talk to another woman. Not to a man."

In 1856, the Pinkerton Agency was given The Adams Express Case, in which $40,000 was embezzled or stolen from pouches.  The pouches were all locked (numerous times) and no one person had all the keys,  so where had the money gone?

There were a couple of suspicions, but no proof, and how to get that proof when no one can find the money?

Well, I"M not going to tell you how it was done, you have to read the book for that!

I WILL tell you that the case could not have been solved without Kate's ideas and undercover work, so, not only was Kate the first female detective, she helped solve the case that made the Pinkerton Agency's stellar reputation.

To add to the depth of this book are the illustrations by April Chu.  As a non-artist, I am not quite sure how to describe the page layout, some are in thirds, some are split screen, all draw the reader further into the story. The end papers, filled with wanted posters and early versions of mug shots, get the story started as soon as the book is opened.

Honestly, I cannot recommend this book enough.  History, mystery, womenstry (sorry, I was on a roll) it's a fun, challenging (I couldn't figure out the mystery) and informative read.

June 13, 2017


 This post originally appeared in Her Campus, the UC Davis edition.  It is used with permission of the author (um, who is my daughter, #ProudMom)

“They must have made a mistake." This is the first thought I have when something goes well in my life. Whether it’s a good grade on a test, an internship, or organizing something important, I don’t think about the hours I put in studying or the effort I put into my application. The imposter phenomenon, also known as Imposter or Fraud Syndrome, was first described in 1978 by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD. Clance defines imposter phenomenon as a phenomenon in which people who have been successful by “external standards” feel as though their success has occurred due to luck, fluke, or “great effort.” People who resonate with Imposter Syndrome believe that it will be found out that they do not have what it takes to complete a task, feel a need for everything to be perfect, and often feel anxiety and depression throughout the process of completing tasks. They overthink everything and are afraid that people will discover this. I definitely recognize these feelings within the experiences of my own life and mental health.

Clance developed the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS). Although this scale is not validated for official diagnosis, it can be used to see how one compares to others and has been used in peer reviewed research. The test is scored from 20-100 and can be found here if you are interested in taking it yourself. The higher the score, the “more frequently and seriously the Imposter Phenomenon interferes in a person’s life." I received a score of 67, which corresponds with frequently having imposter feelings. It is difficult for me to even admit that I frequently experience feelings of being an imposter. To admit so is to say that I think I am successful. The test is predicated on one being successful to a certain degree by external standards. By external standards and through other people’s eyes I can see that I am successful. I go to an amazing university, have done well, have the opportunity to write and have my words read. But many times I do not feel the least bit successful, continuing the cycle of feelings of being an imposter.

Over the years, this has damaged and heavily impacted my mental health. I constantly compare everything I do with the highlight reels of those around me. I feel fake and like I am going through the motions of life without actually being able to take the time to step back and enjoy the situations I find myself in. I worry about what will happen ten years from now and imagine situations where someone will come up to me ask me why I am there, what gives me the right to be here?  But with the recognition that these are valid feelings, I have come to work through them and cut myself more slack. If you recognize these circumstances within your own life, I want you to know that it is possible to work through. It is very common, especially among women college students, and you should not feel that what you are facing is not important. There are many ways to get help, including, talking to someone about it, working on changing your thinking, and making realistic assessments of your abilities.
I wanted to talk about this because I feel like mental health is a stigmatized issue no one likes to talk about, even though most people deal with some mental health issue at some point in their lives. My personal mental health is not something I really like to discuss or bring attention to; a lot of people tend cover up their mental health issues. However I think the first step to destigmatizing these situations is to talk about it. It is important to me for people to realize that they are not alone in any circumstance they may face.
None of the images used belong to the author or Her Campus UC Davis.

May 9, 2017

We are here, We are here, WE ARE HERE!!!!


On November 9th I lost hope.

Our country had elected a racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, Anti-Semitic, self-described sexual predator. I had truly believed that our country would elect Hillary, the only question was how much of a landslide she would get.

I mean, come ON, look what Barack Obama said about her, "I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as President of the United States of America."

But,  this is not a rant about Tr**p and the racists who support him ('economic insecurity' my ass), this is about the reclaiming of hope, when I thought it was gone forever.

I wore the shirt in the photo on a recent trip to Barcelona.  I had ordered it for the trip, since I wanted to let the Europeans know that we did not all support this horrific administration (as we know, a MAJORITY of us do not).

The reactions were WONDERFUL!! I had women from all over the world taking pictures of the shirt, people thanking me for my vote, people defying my own stereotypical thoughts (although a couple fit stereotypes perfectly).

The first day I wore the shirt was to La Sagrada Familia and as we stood in line some young women (20 somethings) looked at my shirt and smiled and started talking to each other while looking at my shirt.  Since I am very shy (you're welcome for the laugh), I smiled and said, "Do you like my shirt?" and they started chatting with me and asked if they could take photos. 

Other women in line and at the entrance commented positively on my shirt.  I said to many, "I get positive feedback from women, not so much from men."  So, of course, within 30 seconds a young American man said, "I like your shirt." I smiled and told him he blew my statistics, but I was glad to have that happen.  He was travelling with a group of grad students from Stanford and he said, "Yeah, one of the women in my group ADORES Hillary." (as do I, as do I).

About a minute after that, an older, white man made sure to catch my eye and glared at me as he walked past me (I smiled beatifically back, I find that pisses people off more).  I heard him talking later, and he was definitely American.

I had such a great time meeting people and seeing their reactions to the shirt, that I wore it a second day (so 1/4 of the days we were there, I was 'repping' Hillary).  On that day we went to a restaurant where across the room, I saw a young woman (just pretty much figure when I say young, I mean 20's) who looked at my shirt, smiled and then spoke to the man next to her. They both looked, made eye contact with me and smiled.  I giggled and the spousal unit asked what I was giggling at, I said, "That woman and her friend like my shirt."  A group of Spanish men who were sitting near us at the bar said, "So do we, so do we."

At the Picasso Museum I had a group of women come up to me and say, "WE voted for her too." They were white, wealthy and Southern and I would have put them in the Tr**p camp (yes, I am guilty of stereotyping).  Were they liberal?  Hell, no.  But they hated Tr**p and everything he stands for.  They were from Alabama and were incredibly angry at Sessions as well.  I told them to keep making phone calls and speaking up, that was our only hope.

And, here we are, back at that word, hope.

And why do I feel hopeful now?  The Democrats finally, FINALLY got a backbone and started speaking up.  Grassroots campaigns, taking the playbook from the Tea Party, started calling, texting, e-mailing and, most importantly, SHOWING UP at meetings with elected officials.

It takes EVERY Who in Whoville (yes, that's where the title of this post came from) to speak up, to let them know that WE ARE HERE (and DAMMIT we ARE here!!)

And as long as we speak up, hope is alive.


March 14, 2017

Let's Hear it for the Girls (and Women)! Part 1

It's Women's History Month and since I seem to actually be getting blogs out on time, I may be able to review some books while it's still March (no promises though).

Let's start with The Youngest Marcher:  The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton (Atheneum, Books for Young Readers, 2017)

Audrey was inspired by their friend Mike, who used to sit at their dinner table, say grace and talk about civil rights, while enjoying "hot rolls baptized in butter".  Mike would talk about segregation and that "An unjust law is no law at all." Audrey knew that meant that it was right to stand up to segregation and laws that forced her to use the back of the bus, never sit at the lunch counter, or drink from the 'white fountain'.

If you haven't guessed, 'Mike' is Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. (Mike was the name given him at birth, his father was Mike Sr., Mike Sr. changed both their names to Martin Luther after the religious reformer).

Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and Reverend James Bevel called for protest at Monday night church services at Reverend Shuttlesworth's church.  The congregation would sing songs like We Shall Overcome and then congregants would give testimonies about how segregation and racism were affecting their lives.

At first, there was a call for 'filling the jails' with adult protesters, but adults were too afraid (and with good reason).  "Boss man will fire me! Landlord will evict me! Policemen will beat me!"

Reverend Bevel came up with a new idea, "If grown-ups won't do it, fill the jails...with children!"

Audrey immediately wanted to participate (keep in mind, she was 9 years old), and with her parents' blessing, she showed up two days later in a nice outfit (protesters should look nice) and with a game her father gave her and walked out in the street with all the other children.  She was the youngest one there, but she kept her head high and sang loudly "Ain't gonna le-e-t nobody turn me 'round, turn me 'round, turn me 'round."

Audrey and all the marchers were arrested that first day.  Prison was miserable, lonely (she was so much younger than the others), the bed was awful and the food was worse. 

BUT, children marched every day until by the 5th day the PRISONS WERE FULL! After a week, Audrey and the others were sent home.

Now, I love this book and I love learning about Audrey, but I do find the pages that follow the protest a bit simplistic. "No one else could be sent to jail. Everything had changed." 

It makes sense in a way, since this book is written for younger readers, so this is a good 'entry' book to the Civil Rights Movement.  However we do know that it wasn't this easy and even though Birmingham took the segregation laws off the books two months later (this is 1963), it didn't mean that African Americans had an easy time sitting at lunch counters, getting jobs, or, of course, voting.

Sadly, this book is even more timely, given that we are seeing a resurgence in voter suppression (specifically of voters of color).  The Youngest Marcher reminds us that battles are never over and that we all can (and MUST) speak up and take action when we see injustice in our world.

p.s.  As a DELICIOUS bonus, there is the Hendricks' family recipe for 'rolls baptized in butter'.

Further Reading:

We've Got a Job :The 1963 Birmingham Children's March By by Cynthia Levinson, (Peachtree Publishers)


March 7, 2017

CENSORSHIP! (or is it?)

 Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

                              First Amendment to the United States Constitution

Censorship has been at the top of the news recently.  

 We just had the ‘Milo Debacle’ at UC Berkeley which has a lot of liberals defending free speech.   (On a semi-side note, I truly believe that those 100 ‘demonstrators’ were Milo plants, stirring up trouble to get Milo sympathy and air time on mainstream media, sadly, it worked).

I’m liberal, I love free speech,  I also believe that I get to use speech to fight hatred, bigotry, ignorance, etc.  I also know that the First Amendment is about the GOVERNMENT restricting my speech, not my fellow citizens restricting it and believe me, there are a LOT of people who would LOVE to restrict my speech (probably starting with my daughters).

So, is calling out a book, movie, t.v. show for racism, hate speech or homophobia (to just name a few), censorship?  Nope.  I don’t understand why people are so gung ho to say that bigots can speak up but for us to speak up against them is suppression (especially we liberals, we are so busy trying to make nice – yeah, ‘make nice’ got us a fascist President, but I digress)

Last fall I was at a publishers’ presentation night with various publishing reps showing us their top choices for Fall and Winter.   I started flipping through a book called Bad Children’s Books, a parody of the often treacly, old fashioned covers of the classic Little Golden Books for children.

Having the maturity level of an adolescent, I kept giggling and showing pages to some of my co-workers.  My favorite was Woody Wakes With a Woody, showing a little boy with, um, you know, a ‘tent’ when he wakes up in the morning. (I told you I had the sense of humor of an adolescent).

There was a raffle at the end of the evening and if your number was called, you could choose two books.  I immediately picked this one, with the intentions of reviewing it the next day.

I brought it to my Shut Up and Write group and before we hit the ‘shut up’ part, I was showing everyone this HILARIOUS book.  Then, I turned the page to an illustration of a little girl in a burka holding a ticking bomb and offering it to a little boy.  The title was Happy Burkaday Timmy!  We all gasped, we could not believe what we were seeing.

It was incredibly offensive, hurtful, shocking and, in my opinion (and I get to have one) unacceptable. 

I vowed immediately to write a scathing review of the book.  However, being the Queen of Procrastination, I didn’t do it immediately.  I did send it out to a couple of groups that I’m in. One is my own Bay Area Children’s Literature List and another is the Child Lit listserve.  Thank goodness people on those lists are not the procrastinors that I am and negative reviews were written and an outcry was raised.

The author, who writes under the pseudonym Robert Gackley (but, is children's book author/illustrator Bob Staake - this is public knowledge) asked Abrams (the publisher) to stop publication of the book.  It was not withdrawn from bookstores, but more copies would not be made once it was gone.

Gackley is quoted as saying "The book is clearly not being read by some in the way I had intended – as satire – and, more disturbingly, is being misread as the very act of hate and bigotry that the work was meant to expose, not promote. For this reason, I have asked Abrams to cease publishing the book.”

Let's look at this. Is Gackley owning that he crossed a line? No, he doesn't believe that he has.  Does he at least feel bad that it is hurting people?  No.  Look at his language "not being read..."  "being misread"  Let's call this what it is, it's  'blame the victim'  language.  It's "I didn't do anything offensive/wrong. It's those humorless people who aren't smart enough to read my book in the correct way."

As a woman and a Jew, I can tell you that this is what ALWAYS happens when 'jokes' are made about a gender, race, religion etc.  It's not that the joke is offensive, racist, bigoted, sexist etc.  it's that the offended person just 'doesn't have a sense of humor'.

Or as Abrams says “taking elements of the book out of context and failing to recognise it as an artistic work of social satire and comic parody”.

Again, blaming the humorless victims.  'ARTISTIC work?!?!" so now, those of us who are offended are just uncouth as well as humorless. Wow....

Abrams also released this statement:

“At Abrams, our books and our publishing house have never, nor will ever, stand for bigotry or hatred. Those misrepresentations, aspersions, and claims surrounding the book, and the attempts to promulgate them, fly in the face of the values that our company and our employees hold dear.”

Oh, okay, as long as you say that you don't stand for bigotry or hatred, I should believe you.  Hmm, do you also think I should believe Trump when he says that he's not Anti-Semitic and that his Executive Order is not a Muslim ban?

Just saying it doesn't make it true Abrams.

Recently, Simon & Schuster has come under fire for giving Milo (see above) a quarter of a million dollar advance for a book he hasn’t written yet.  Milo is a dangerous hatemonger who incites violence against transgender people, among others. 

The publishing/literature world blew up.  Some saying How DARE Simon and Schuster do this? Others saying,  CENSORSHIP to those who objected.

Let’s visit this again.  It is not censorship to disagree with the contents of a book or movie and to call out that book or movie for its racism etc.  To question a publisher for publishing/promoting racism and bigotry is not only acceptable, it's necessary.

Note: Since I wrote this, S&S has cancelled Milo's book since he came out in favor of pederasty.  I appreciate they did this, but they also sent the message that transphobia, racism and doxxing your  critics (Milo puts personal information about his critics out on the internet, thereby putting them in danger from his followers) are COMPLETELY ACCEPTABLE.  

Again, especially at this terrifying and unsure time in our country's history, it is our duty to speak up, to shine a light on bigotry and hatred. 

To read more, I HIGHLY recommend these blog posts that really nail the issues:

And, this article has some brilliant thoughts, stating the issues so much better than I can:

February 28, 2017

REVIEW: BLEED, BLISTER, PUKE, AND PURGE: The Dirty Secrets Behind Early American Medicine

Bleed, Blister, Puke, and Purge: The Dirty Secrets Behind Early American Medicine  by J. Marin Younker,  (Zest Books, 2016)

Remember how I say that children’s books make me smarter? Sometimes they totally gross me out WHILE making me smarter. Bleed, Blister, Puke and Purge definitely fills requirements in both categories (making this a PERFECT YA book!)

Want to get that reluctant reader who loves all things ghoulish interested in a book?  Get them to read the first paragraph about Union soldier Corporal Quick who was shot behind the jaw. It wasn’t the bullet that killed him (directly), it was the treatment. First they told him to rest and poop (cuz the jaw is connected to the intestines?), when that didn’t work, they tied off his carotid artery (he was awake for the procedure), which of course, killed him. It took nine days (miserable, horrible days for Quick) but he finally died.

Or about John Hunter who wanted to study STDs so he knowingly infected himself with syphilis (this may be an urban legend).  Hunter wanted to document the symptoms of syphilis, in order to be able to separate its symptoms from those of gonorrhea.   Unfortunately the sailor he got the syphilis from (by taking, ugh, pus, from the sailor’s penis and putting it on his own, had both diseases.  I also learned that Goodyear (yes, GOODYEAR) started mass producing rubber condoms in 1885.  I wonder if they also sold retreads (rimshot).

We also learn that women and minorities were blocked from studying/practicing medicine (SHOCKED, I’m SHOCK…. Wait, no I’m not).  Many of the women burned at the stake or drowned for being witches were actual healers and midwifes.  Women doctors still earn about $20,000/year less than their male colleagues according to a 2016 study.  This may be because many women doctors are in the ‘female side’ of medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology, which often pay less (don’t get me started on how we place less value on things that affect women and/or children).

Want a fun fact to share with your teen readers?  Well, you can serve them Graham Crackers and let them know that the original purpose for these was to “restrain sexual appetite, improve digestion, and cure insanity” Yup, Dr. Sylvester Graham believed in clean living which apparently included “curbing lust” or, as the book states, “The common phrase of the Graham movement was: (no pun intended re: digestion)  “If it feels good then don’t do it.”

We learn about how insanity was seen and often used (especially against women) to keep people in their “place” Such as Elizabeth Packard, whose husband had her committed, essentially for disagreeing with him and his very conservative and controlling religious views.  Or, the heartbreaking story of John Rush, who was institutionalized for 27 years, after he tried to commit suicide (probably suffering from PTSD, not a known diagnosis in 1810)  His father, Dr. Benjamin Rush, was known as the “Father of American Psychiatry” but he could not help his own son.

Bleed, Blister, Puke, and Purge  is informative and HIGHLY entertaining.  It’s 105 pages of text (so it works for those teachers, who, for whatever reason, require that a book be more than 100 pages) and great graphics.  The cover displays various, TERRIFYING medical ‘tools’

Additional Reading:  Breakthrough (reviewed on May 16, 2016) and Fortune’s Bones by Marilyn Nelson