Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Swanson, James L. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. Scholastic Press, 2009. 198 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-439-90354-7; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-0-329-87737-8


TL;DR: Do I Recommend This? Yes


Genre: Nonfiction (history)


Part of a series? No.


Plot Summary:

Written much like a thriller, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer immerses readers in the days leading up to and immediately following the assassination of President Lincoln. Even as an adult who should remember from history class how the event turned out, I was completely absorbed and had to know what happened next. Swanson writes dramatically about Booth’s confidence, his charisma, and his Confederate sympathies as he plots the murder of the president of the United States and several important members of his administration. Action jumps from assassination to assassination attempt, leaving readers with some cliffhangers until we return to those people. The information about Booth’s hideout, trip across the river, and firestorm/shootout in the tobacco barn unfolds like the climax of an action film.


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Some of the language was a bit too dramatic, and the author takes some liberties assuming the attitudes or mindsets of different people throughout the account, but overall the book was an exciting look at this moment in American history.


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I definitely recommend this book to young history enthusiasts or someone working on a project – this could be a “fun” read that would be of assistance during a Civil War assignment. Students looking to research Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, and the end of the Civil War will enjoy having this book on hand.


Grade Level: 5 and up (SLJ)


Awards and Starred Reviews:

Publishers Weekly starred 1/12/09

School Library Journal starred 1/1/09


Review referenced:

Owens, P. A. (2009). Chasing Lincoln’s Killer: The search for John Wilkes Booth (Review of the book Chasing Lincoln’s Killer). School Library Journal, 55(1), p. 130.



ChopChop — the book!

Sampson, Sally. ChopChop: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013. 185 pages. Tr. $17.04, ISBN 978-1-45168587-9

Interest Level: 3-6

Cuisine: Varied

This book is by Sally Sampson, the founder of the organization that publishes the previous entry, ChopChop the magazine. This book has great photographs, encouraging language when telling children that they can cook even difficult dishes, and also talks about food realistically (i.e., that breakfast on a school day can be a rushed meal!). The book also addresses children as equals (rather than being a book talking down to young chefs), so the tone was enjoyable. The reason I chose this book despite already opting to pay for a subscription by the same group (ChopChop Kids, founded by Sally Sampson) is that some children would feel better having another book to reference rather than just the rotating selection of magazines. I also count this separately from the magazines as it comes in a different format, so I would want to budget those two items differently.


Hit it out of the park: The Ballpark Cookbook

Jorgensen, Katrina. Ballpark Cookbook: The American League: Recipes Inspired by Baseball Stadium Foods. Capstone Press (a Capstone Imprint), 2016. 63 pages. PLB $24.04, ISBN 978-1-49148-232-2

Interest Level: 3-6

Cuisine: Fast Food

This book contains recipes for foods inspired by snacks available at various baseball stadiums. While I was not able to evaluate this book in person, it sounded like a wonderful addition to any collection, especially in a library where some readers might want to learn more about foods but not necessarily prepare them (as Horn Book Guide points out, this book is “not for novice cooks”). The recipes that I could see on an Amazon book preview looked varied and interesting, and the photographs looked clear. It sounded like a fun and interesting addition to this purchase order, especially as I have already planned on ordering other themed cookbooks (Harry Potter, the “Gross” cakes, and the U.S. History themed cookbook). This book will have factoids to satisfy our Weird But True fans, and the actual recipes will be exciting experiments for our young chefs, particularly sports fans who might not yet have had a chance to visit other stadiums.


Reviews Referenced:

Horn Book Guide. (2016). (untitled) (Review of the book Ballpark Cookbook: The American League: Recipes Inspired by Baseball Stadium Foods). Horn Book      Guide, 27(2). Retrieved from

Willey, P. (2016, Apr. 12). Make me! Arts & activities | Series nonfiction. School Library Journal. Retrieved from  made-simple/make-me-arts-activities-series-nonfiction/


Show ’em how it’s done: Cooking for Kids

Cooking for Kids: Complete Volume 1., 2006. 254 minutes. 4 DVDs, $69.05. ISBN 978-0-9726945-8-2

Interest Level: 5-8

Cuisine: Varied

This video set includes six episodes of Desiree Dorwart, an instructor of culinary arts at The Art Institute International Minnesota, teaching children how to cook. I was not able to view the entire set, but I did find and watch a clip of the sushi episode. I really enjoyed how Dorwart teaches kids the steps in preparing sushi, and what I saw in that nearly nine-minute clip reinforced what I read in Stephanie Bange’s review of this series for School Library Journal: Dorwart is clear in her explanations, and when she talks to kids, she makes sure to tell them what they need to know without ever being condescending (Bange notes this in her review, too). The video I watched was well lit, and the camera angles are good and allow viewers to see what is happening and understand what they need to do at home. Viewers also get to see kids cooking, so it is not just a video of an adult cooking while children watch. The reason I chose this video series was because some young chefs would prefer to have a video to watch rather than trying to teach themselves how to cook out of a book. It is helpful to see what a process is like before doing it oneself, and for kids who want to figure out cooking on their own, having a video to watch will help them be more independent in their cooking journeys.


Review referenced:

Bange, S. (2006, Dec. 1). Cooking for kids (Review of the video Cooking for Kids). School Library Journal 52(12). Retrieved from


Video watched:

Cooking.For.Kids (screen name). (n. d.). Sushi roll recipe. Retrieved from   


Oh, yuck! Gross-Out cakes!

Barlow, Kathleen. Gross-Out Cakes: The Kitty Litter Cake and Other Classics. Silverleaf Press, 2006. 64 pages. Tr. $11.06, ISBN 978-1-933317-48-9

Interest Level: 5-8

Cuisine: Desserts

This book is disgusting. Flipping through the book is a truly amazing experience in gross-out foods. The photographs are clear, and more complicated processes have step-by-step photographs, which are hugely helpful given that this cookbook is all about making foods look like other things. Recipes include the infamous Kitty Litter Cake (complete with recommendations for varying levels of “grossness”), Toenail Torte, and Phlegm Brulée, amongst many, many others. Many recipes call for box cake mix, pudding mix, and store-bought cookies, but this helps make some of the complicated recipes easier for younger grossologist chefs; one does not need to know how to bake a cake from scratch to make these cakes, especially if the cake in question is going to be crumbled to make kitty litter “sand.” The reason that I chose this book was that it is so perfectly disgusting. Kids will find the illustrations nasty and giggle-worthy even if they do not wish to attempt a Blood Clot Cake, and I cannot build a cookbook selection without including this one. In a world filled with Pinkalicious Cupcake books, I have to balance out a collection with a “gross-out” collection, too. It might also entice some of my younger chefs who might not want to pick up a traditional cookbook just yet.


Review referenced: I turned to Amazon to see if book purchasers found this book useful, and found it to have 67% of all of its ratings be a 5-star review rating.


The SuiteQueen (screen name). (2006, Sept. 30). Perfectly gross!!! (Review of the book    Gross-Out Cakes: The Kitty Litter Cake and Other Classics). Retrieved from Classics/dp/1933317485


Grow your greens: Garden to Table

Hengel, Katherine. Garden To Table: A Kid’s Guide to Planting, Growing, and Preparing Food. Scarletta Junior Readers, 2014. 144 pages. Tr. $13.61, ISBN 978-1-938063-42-8

Interest Level: 3-6

Cuisine: American New – NOT vegetarian

This book not only provides recipes for foods kids can make, but it also gives detailed instructions as to how kids can plant, nurture, and grow different herbs and vegetables. “Farm to Table” is something that I know many California schools are trying to teach their students more about, and having a book in the collection that will give students a “garden to table” experience can help kids figure out what goes into growing your own food and feeding your family. The photographs are amazing and give quite a bit of detail, and the instructions for both the planting and food preparation activities are clear and easy to follow. Each “planting” section includes graphics that show how deep seeds should be planted and how one’s pot should look inside (i.e., layers of soil, plant food, etc.). This book also includes allergy warnings where appropriate, explaining to readers what allergies are and why it is important to be aware of others’ allergies when preparing food for other people. Recipes in this book include ideas for Basil Parmesan Dip, Caprese Melts, Green Bean Salad, Potato Cakes, and more. This book leans towards savory dishes, but some cake recipes are included, so our young farmers can also make themselves some dessert. The reason that I chose this book was that it includes information not only on how to cook but also how to grow things that you can cook.


Reviews referenced:

Booklist. (2014, Feb. 15). (untitled) (Review of the book Garden To Table: A Kid’s Guide to Planting, Growing, and Preparing Food).   Booklist, 110(12). Retrieved from

Gueorguiev, R. (2014, June 1). Garden to table: A kid’s guide to planting, growing, and     preparing food (Review of the book Garden To Table: A Kid’s Guide to Planting, Growing, and Preparing Food). School Library Journal, 60(6). Retrieved from

Kirkus Reviews. (2014, May 1). Garden to table: A kid’s guide to planting, growing, and   preparing food (Review of the book Garden To Table: A Kid’s Guide to Planting, Growing, and Preparing Food). Library Media Connection. Retrieved from

Library Media Connection. (2015, March/April). (untitled) (Review of the book    Garden To Table: A Kid’s Guide to Planting, Growing, and Preparing Food). Library Media Connection, 33(5). Retrieved from


Historical Flavor: The U. S. History Cookbook

D’Amico, Joan. The U. S. History Cookbook: Delicious Recipes and Exciting Events from the Past. Illustrated by Jeff Cline. J. Wiley, 2003. 180 pages. Tr. $13.65, ISBN 978-0-471-13602-6

Interest Level: 3-6

Cuisine: American/American New

This book does a great job of combining United States history and foods from important moments and eras to give kids a chance to have a multi-sensory understanding of events in the United States. While this book has no photographs, it has a great introduction to what tools are in the kitchen as well as what basic ingredients young chefs should have on hand; each of these items is clearly illustrated in a cartoon style, but the cartoons are very realistic, and there is no confusion as to what each item is. Including recipes for foods such as Depression Cake, Mother Earth’s Zucchini Bread, Awesome Tacos, and Ralph’s Rib-Stickin’ Hot and Spicy Texas Ribs, there is something here for everyone. Instructions are clear, and the information on historical events is interesting. Readers may also find an “American Food and Cooking Timeline” at the back of the book, a fascinating look at ways that seemingly simple items (baking soda, canned goods, or margarine) affected the food and cooking world, particularly in America! The reason I chose this book was that tweens encounter U.S. History at least once in their tween years; many California schools cover U.S. History in fifth and eighth grades. By having a cookbook with information about the history that students are learning, the library can help kids interact with history in new ways. Much like how the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook above is meant to help tweens imagine what life is like at Hogwarts, this book will help students think about life in different points of American History. It even talks about different advances in cooking appliances, which might give tweens something interesting to consider.


Review referenced: When I looked for reviews for this book, I did not find that it was reviewed by School Library Journal, so I checked for user reviews on Amazon. 82% of this book’s reviews are 5-star reviews.


JHB (screen name). (2006, May 29). Absolutely outstanding ! (Review of the book The   U. S. History Cookbook: Delicious Recipes and Exciting Events from the Past.) Retrieved from  Delicious-Exciting/dp/0471136026


Bust out the butterbeer: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

Bucholz, Dinah. The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory—More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Wizards and Non-Wizards Alike. Adams Media, 2010. 239 pages. Hardcover $17.11, ISBN 978-1-44050-325-2

Interest Level: AD according to Titlewave; SFPL has it shelved in the Children’s Section, and I found it to be appropriate for tween readers and relevant to their interests; I would list this as “Interest Level: 6-8”.

Cuisine: English

This book is perfect for older tweens who have read the Harry Potter series and are not eager to leave Hogwarts anytime soon. Recipes include Petunia’s Pudding, Acid Drops, Fizzy Sherbet Pouches, and, of course, pumpkin juice! These recipes allow Muggle readers to experience the food from Harry’s world rather than only dreaming about the pudding that Dobby throws to the ground when Uncle Vernon’s boss is visiting on Harry’s twelfth birthday! This book also includes savory recipes in addition to the many desserts and snacks described in Rowling’s books, so this is not simply a dessert cookbook. Unfortunately, this book has no photographs of the recipes, so this is not great for flipping through, nor is this for beginning cooks. For older tweens with some cooking and baking experience, however, the lack of photographs should not be a problem. At the end of the book, interested readers and chefs can find a list of the sources Bucholz utilized when creating this cookbook and adapting these recipes. The reason I selected this book is because it seems like a very fun book for young readers to enjoy as they finish the Harry Potter books and are looking for something else to keep them “at” Hogwarts. Sometimes “fandom” texts can be a bit lackluster, but Bucholz has done her homework, and the recipes are interesting even if the tweens cannot make them alone.


Reviews referenced: This book was not reviewed by School Library Journal or other publications that I usually turn to. In this case (and in several others included in this assignment), I looked for user reviews at Amazon to see how people feel about this book after purchasing it and, presumably, attempting a recipe or two. 70% of this book’s ratings are 5 stars. Two percent of the reviews are one star; since I agree with some of each of the “top” reviews (positive and critical), I will reference both here.

Aviva (screen name). (2010, Sept. 6). The cookbook we’ve all been waiting for! (Review   of the book The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to      Knickerbocker Glory—More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Wizards and Non-      Wizards Alike). Retrieved from   reviews/1440503257

PenP (screen name). (2011, Feb. 11). Disappointing (Review of the book The Unofficial    Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory—More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Wizards and Non-Wizards Alike).      Retrieved from