by First Mate Keira, guest reviewer

Title: I Learned a New Word Today… Genocide
Author: Elizabeth Hankins
Format: Paperback
# of Pages: 150 pages
Grade Reading Level: 5th – 8th grade

Summary: Javier Mendoza is a 5th grade student at Franklin D. Roosevelt Elementary. As part of an assignment for social studies he must keep a journal and tell what he learns about the new unit being taught by Mr. Steinberg, his social studies teacher. The unit is about genocide and specifically six genocides that happened in the last 100 years. It’s a fictional story filled with factual information.

Why I Read This Book:

This book was given to LYAF as an ARC. My sixth grade sister was going to read it but she found the subject too sad to really get into it for pleasure reading. I picked it up after that and read it over a couple of days.


  • Elizabeth Hankins keeps everything age appropriate. There are no gory details. When things are tough she keeps it light by having Javier boil the topic down to its basic components: genocide is sad, evil, terrible, and devastating.
  • A lot of factual information is condensed into this 150 page book and through Javier’s definitions, reiterations, lists, and commentary one learns a lot. It will be easy for kids from 5th grade to 8th grade to understand.
  • Two of the things gone over in the book are how genocide starts and how it is hidden or glossed over by others.
  • It is a thinking book. Young and older readers will think about what genocide is and figure out how to spot it even when it’s not being labeled as genocide.


I have only one dislike. Javier begins to question God’s presence in a world where genocide exists and He doesn’t stop it. Javier also questions whether or not God is good (page 58-59).

I was hoping at the end of the book Javier would come to a conclusion about both, but it was left unresolved and that really bothered me. I couldn’t tell why it was left that way even after Javier came to the conclusion he wanted to be a doer and not a watcher. What was the purpose?

One of the reasons for genocide listed in the book is religion and how people worshipped God. The book does say religion by itself does not cause genocide and Javier thinks if God is good and fair He would hate people fighting over Him. In my opinion genocide doesn’t happen because of God. It happens because there is a lack of Him, even and especially if people are using God as an excuse to do what they do.

In addition, faith groups are mentioned as great sources for good in the fight against genocide.

Still, I really wish once it had been brought up it had been dealt with more thoroughly. It is my only concern about the book because the message is unclear.

Last Minute Thoughts: Genocide is a sad topic and while the book a little heavy it is not overwhelmingly so for young kids. I think it would be a great companion for a unit study or in a literary group. I also think it would be a good book for adults looking to learn more about the subject without getting too wrapped up in the horrors involved. You can fill in the blanks well enough.

Buy: I Learned a New Word Today … Genocide

Book Rating: 4 Treasure Chests

Keira runs a book review blog for readers by readers on romance novels entitled Love Romance Passion. She’s been reading romance since she was in her teens and began blogging about romance so she could share her passion for her favorite genre. She loves reading paranormal, Regency, historical America, and highlander most of all and completely adores blind and wounded heroes.