SR! 2012 Season News

Saratoga Reads Announces Selected Books for Young Readers

Titles complement this year’s book of choice

Saratoga Reads has announced its choice of a junior discussion book and a list of some 40 other titles for young readers, selected to complement the program’s book of choice for this year—The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

The list of “companion books” has been designed to appeal to a wide of range of age groups and includes picture books for beginning readers through works for young teens. The books’ themes range from medical discoveries, scientific mysteries, and the natural world to investigative reporting and the Civil Rights era.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a widely acclaimed nonfiction work, tells the story of an African American woman who sought treatment for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. During treatment, and without her consent, samples of her cancer tissue were taken for medical and scientific experimentation. For 60 years, cells reproduced from those samples have been used worldwide in research that has led to dozens of medical breakthroughs, yet Henrietta Lacks has remained virtually unknown. The book is not only a biography of Lacks and her family, many of whom live in poverty, but also a revealing account of medical research and related ethical questions.

As a complementary junior discussion book, Saratoga Reads has selected Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman. The nonfiction book tells the story of a railroad construction foreman who survived for 11 years after a 13-pound iron rod shot through his brain in a rock-blasting accident in 1848. Scientists and doctors were baffled by Gage’s miraculous recovery and by the severe personality changes he experienced, making the case a textbook study of brain science. Phineas Gage will serve as the basis for two special evening discussions at the Saratoga Springs Public Library on successive Thursdays, Feb. 2 and Feb. 9. Designed for grades 4-6, the sessions will be led by student mentors from Skidmore College and Saratoga Springs High School, under the direction of Skidmore Professor of English Catherine Golden.

Said Golden, “The library’s community room buzzes with excitement each year as elementary school, middle school, high school, and college students share a love of reading.” Youngsters interested in participating in the sessions should email or sign up in school libraries in the Saratoga Springs school district.

This year Saratoga Reads will highlight two of its selected picture books by circulating them throughout Saratoga County using the “BookCrossing” system. The program is an international initiative through which individual books are tracked as they are passed from reader to reader, with readers’ comments included.

Look for Saratoga Reads book bags circulating with copies of Hidden Worlds: Looking Through a Scientist’s Microscope by Stephen Kramer (grades 4-8) and Greg’s Microscope by Millicent Selsam (ages 4 and up), as well as instructions on how to BookCross. Saratoga Reads will also circulate copies of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. To learn more about how the program works, visit

Said Tabitha Orthwein, chair of the Saratoga Reads board, “With this list of companion books, there is something for everyone. This is a great way to read together as a family and to engage in community-wide discussions and events.”