Earlier this month I was trying to find a list (comparable to the many lists of potential Printz and Newbery candidates) of YA nonfiction to watch for 2012 and couldn’t find much. So I decided to come up with a list of my own and share it with any interested readers of The Hub. This is pretty unscientific stuff: it’s mostly books that received stars from library journals or were that written by established nonfiction authors, but it definitely has given me a good start on where my reading should be. Please let me know what other nonfiction I should be reading in the comments.
New books by past winners and nominees of the YALSA Nonfiction Award
- Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (Flash Point, September 2012)
Sheinkin won last year’s YALSA award for The Notorious Benedict Arnold. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book about the building of the first Atomic Bomb at ALA, and I think it is every bit as good as his last book. A huge contender.
- Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal (Feiwel and Friends, February 2012)
Blumenthal wrote last year’s Bootleg, and her new one has a star from Booklist.
- Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies by Marc Aronson (Candlewick, April 2012)
Aronson (Sugar Changed the World) always has something interesting to say, and the book has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus, so I’ll definitely be looking for this one.
- Their Skeletons Speak: Kennewick Man and the Paleoamerican World by Sally M. Walker and Douglas W. Owsley (Carolrhoda Books, August 2012)
Walker (Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland) is back with more archaeology, this time much more ancient. This new one skews a bit young, and isn’t quite as illuminating as Written in Bone, but is definitely worth reading.
- Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, July 2012)
The author of the much beloved Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice already has stars from Booklist and Hornbook for this book about an exceptional but endangered bird.
- Superman versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate by Rick Bowers (National Geographic Children’s Books, January 2012)
Bowers (Spies of Missippippi) explains the amazing story of how Superman’s Jewish creators turned the Man of Steel against America’s most notorious terrorists.
A pair of books about hoaxes
- The Giant and How He Humbugged America by Jim Murphy (Scholastic Press, October 2012)
Murphy (An American Plague, Blizzard!, and many more) tells the story of the Cardiff Man, one of the great hoaxes in history.
- The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure (Candlewick, March 2012)
Another of my favorite all time hoaxes: two working class girls who fooled Arthur Conan Doyle and many others into believing in fairies with some very beautiful (but faked) photographs. I just finished this, and it is excellent. Stars from Booklist, Hornbook, and School Library Journal
A Trio of New Biographies
- The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne by Catherine Reef (Clarion Books, October 2012)
True story: when I found out my first child would be a girl, I semi-seriously tried to convince my wife to have two more girls so we could name them Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. You know I’ll be reading this biography with its starred review from Booklist.
- His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue, and Mystery During World War II by Louise Borden (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, January 2012)
Personally, I was unconvinced by the blank verse format of this story, but VOYA (5Q review) and School Library Journal (starred review) disagree, and there’s no denying the power of Wallenberg’s story: he was a Swede who went to Hungary during World War II to save as many Jews as he could using his neutral country’s diplomatic immunity.
- Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, April 2012)
Another book with a 5Q from VOYA and a star from School Library Journal. Plus a great pedigree in Montgomery (Kakapo Rescue).
A quartet of books about the Civil Rights Movement
- To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement by Charlayne Hunter-Gault (Flash Point, January 2012)
This deeply personal memoir takes the reader from the author’s senior year in high school in 1959 to the 2009 inauguration of our first black president, charting Hunter-Gault’s participation in 50 years of civil rights. Starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal.
- Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights, and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Hours by Ann Bausum (National Geographic Children’s Books, January 2012)
Bausum is one of my absolute favorite nonfiction writers, for both her politics and her impeccable prose. Here she intertwines the stories of the 1968 Memphis garbage strike and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last days. Starred review from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Book.
- Miles to Go for Freedom: Segregation and Civil Rights in the Jim Crow Years by Linda Barrett Osborne (Abrams Books for Young Readers, January 2012)
Osborne looks at the period leading up to the prior two books, taking the reader from the late 19th century to the mid-20th. Starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal.
- We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson (Peachtree Publishers, February 2012)
A photo-essay about the role of teens and children in the Civil Rights Movement, this book has tons of teen appeal, along with a heap of critical praise: starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal.
A Sextet of Assorted Other Works
- The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves edited by Sarah Moon and James Lecesne (Arthur A. Levine Books, May 2012)
Including essays from YA authors like Julie Anne Peters, Jacqueline Woodson, David Levithan, and Brian Selznick, and with a starred review from Booklist — let’s just say I’m a little excited about this book.
- Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives by Albert Marrin (Knopf Books for Young Readers, January 2012)
Written by the author of last year’s acclaimed Flesh and Blood So Cheap. Personally, I wasn’t blown away by this one, but I could see it being a huge eye-opener for the right teen.
- A Passion for Victory: The Story of the Olympics in Ancient and Early Modern Times by Benson Bobrick (Knopf Books for Young Readers, June 2012)
A history spanning over 2500 years (from 776 BCE to 1948 CE) seems like an awful lot for a 144-page book, but Booklist assures us that Bobrick has succeeded.
- Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy and Allison Blank (Clarion Books, July 2012)
Another one this year from Murphy, this one with stars from Kirkus and School Library Journal. After his amazing take on yellow fever in An American Plague, I can’t wait to see what Murphy makes of tuberculosis.
- Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story behind an American Friendship by Russell Freedman (Clarion Books, June 2012)
Freedman returns to Lincoln (after his Newbery-winning Lincoln: A Photobiography), adding in another titanic American hero, and has picked up starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal for his efforts.
- The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, June 2012)
Space exploration seems to be making a bit of a comeback, if YA nonfiction is to be believed, and this volume, with stars from Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal, appears to be another great entry.
So that’s my tour of the year so far (and into the next few months) in nonfiction. I’m looking forward to getting to a lot of these, and I’m sure there are even more that missed my radar. What do you think: What did I miss? Are any of these award-bound?
— Mark Flowers, currently reading The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan