Fiction and Non-Fiction for fans of The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones

Tim Wynne-Jones’ latest work The Emperor of Any Place, has popped up on a lot of recommendation lists recently. It is one of YALSA’s 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults, is one of School Library Journal’s best books of 2015, and is on Horn Books fanfare list. Any Place has a great deal to recommend it and, like many works with an historic element, has the potential to awaken a desire to learn more in its readers.

In Any Place Wynne-Jones delves into such topics as the Pacific Theater in World War II, the mythology of Japan, the experience of that war from the viewpoint of both Japanese and American soldiers, and relationships ranging from those of enemies in battle to beloved family members. It will appeal to those with an interest in history,  as well to those who enjoy both realistic dramas, mysteries, and magic realism.

The Emperor of Any Place tells the story of a 16-year-old boy named Evan whose father has very unexpectedly passed away.  With little other choice, he contacts his estranged grandfather for help. At the same time he discovers a copy of the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a mysterious island in the Pacific during WWII, which Evan’s father was reading just before his death. The diary’s prologue, as well as some of Evan’s father’s last words, hint that his grandfather may have played a sinister role in the author’s life. Evan makes the decision to hide the diary and read it in secret while at the same time clashing dramatically with his militaristic grandfather and dealing with his grief.

The vivid and exciting diary that comprises at least half of the novel grabs a reader’s attention and makes them wonder about what is happening beyond the purview of the story. Was the battle of Tinian really as it was described? Did Japanese civilians and soldiers really believe that the Americans would commit horrible acts of savagery, such as eating babies? And are the strange and terrible creatures that haunt the island made up just for this novel, or do they have a basis in Japanese mythology?

To answer these questions, readers may consult a number of non-fiction resources that can help to answer these questions and more. While the uniqueness of the story makes it hard to find solid read-alikes, I have also included a few fiction novels that might be good follow-ups for fans of Wynne-Jones’ compelling story.

Non-Fiction Resources on WWII in the Pacific

More than half of Any Place is composed of diary accounts of the lives of Isamu Oshiro and Derwood Kraft, both of whom are stranded on the same island in the Marianas. For those students who fall in love with this more personal and individual approach to history, there are a number of other accounts, both in print and available online, with which they might like to follow up. Continue reading Fiction and Non-Fiction for fans of The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones

Booklist: Nonfiction Adventures in Space

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORofwzirfRo

There is always some exciting news being made in the areas of space exploration, astrophysics, and the International Space Station, but it is only occasionally that this news is able to make it on to mainstream headlines.

This has very much been the case recently with the announcement of the possible discovery of a ninth planet  in our solar system (sadly, not Pluto.) The last few weeks have also witnessed the blooming of one of the first flowers ever grown entirely in space,  and a rather fantastic crash landing of a SpaceX reusable rocket that is used to restock the International Space Station.

Whether you’re hoping to provide encouragement to a future astrophysicist or NASA engineer, or entertainment for a teen who just saw the amazing footage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 explosion and wants to know more, there are a great number of space related non-fiction resources out there that can compliment their specific interests.

Two great options for the visual learners and also those who are looking for a friendly introduction to topics in space exploration are Space:Information Graphics by Simon Rogers and Rocket Science for the Rest of Us by Ben Gilliland.
science but not as we know it  space information graphics

Space: Information Graphics can serve as a light and friendly introduction to the subject, especially for younger readers.  The infographics themselves, illustrated by Jennifer Daniel, are eye-popping. In glaring electric greens, oranges and pinks, each portion of Space: Information Graphics addresses a different topic, ranging from types of galaxies to the biographies of important personages in astronomy.

Students who have learned some of the topics discussed in school will be glad for the refresher (now that their interest has been captured outside of class), and for those who are new to the subject it will serve as a fun and unusual way to explore their budding interest.

Rocket Science for the Rest of Us: Cutting-edge Concepts Made Simple by Ben Gilliland, while still a hugely visual resource, goes into much greater depth than could be achieved in Space: Information GraphicsRocket Science offers very funny, light overviews of a number of heavy topics and is a great go-to resource to help readers gain a basic understanding of everything from black holes, to the search for alien life, to exploring Mars and much more. One of my favorite sections is the “bluffer’s guide” to the Higgs boson (an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics), which gives a reader just enough information to have some idea of why it is so important and, just maybe, to have a conversation with someone about it. Continue reading Booklist: Nonfiction Adventures in Space

Booklist: Nonfiction, Memoirs, and Resources on Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Rape

February in Teen Dating Violence Prevention month. On the YALSAblog, you can read about the need for programming that addresses this problem as well as strategies for working with community partners to tackle the issue. In addition to highlighting fiction that tackles tough subjects like sexual assault, rape, and dating violence, these are some nonfiction titles that focus on the subject. These can supplement programs and community resources to provide teens with the information they need to prevent violent relationships and build healthy ones.

unhealthy teen relationships prevention resources
CC image via UN Women

Nonfiction and Memoirs

UnSlut: A Diary and a Memoir by Emily Linden
A recent publication, this book juxtaposes Emily’s diary as an eleven-year-old who is branded a slut with commentary from her perspective as an adult.

Tornado Warning: A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect On A Woman’s Life by Elin Stebbins Walda
The author recounts her personal experiences with an abusive romantic relationship during her teen years.

Lucky by Alice Sebold
While harrowing to read, this memoir about the aftermath of being raped at eighteen and the subsequent investigation and prosecution of her attacker is full of wit and candor. Sebold speaks frankly about her subsequent drug abuse and mental illness.

In Love and in Danger: a Teen’s Guide to Breaking Free of Abusive Relationships by Barrie Levy
This is a resource that recounts the experiences of teens who have been in abusive relationships as well as offering strategies for breaking the cycle of abuse and developing healthy relationships.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
A searing indictment of rape culture, this book follows Krakauer’s attempt to understand the effects of rape by someone the victim knows as they navigate the criminal justice system in on college town. Continue reading Booklist: Nonfiction, Memoirs, and Resources on Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Rape

2016 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: An Interview with Nancy Plain

The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a Nov. 1 – Oct. 31 publishing year. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Jan. 11, 2015.

Nancy Plain is a writer for children and young adults. Her works include many books about the American West such as Light on the Prairie and With One Sky Above Us among others. Her most recent book, This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon, has been listed by Booklist as one of the “10 Best Children’s Biographies of 2015” and by Kirkus as “Nine Teen Titles That Adults Shouldn’t Miss.” The book tells the story of Audubon’s travels throughout the United States and his legacy of conservationism and art.

this strange wilderness


Nancy, Congratulations on your nomination for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award for the lovely This Strange Wilderness: The life and art of John James Audubon! You’ve written a lot about historical persons and especially American Indians and the American West. Why Audubon?

I began writing about the history of the American West mainly because during my travels to national parks and on a long-ago camping trip from Colorado to Alaska, I fell in love with the land–the magnificent mountains, plains, and forests.  And it was Audubon’s connection with the American wilderness that drew me to him as a subject.  That and, of course, his spectacular bird paintings.  As a member of the Audubon Society myself, I’d always been curious about the man who inspired a powerful movement to protect and preserve wildlife and wild places.

A book and bird nerd question: Did you get to look at the double elephant folios of Birds of America for your research? I bet they would incredible to see in person!

Yes!  This book and bird nerd did get to see the Double Elephant Folio and it was mind-blowing!  This was at the fabulous Audubon exhibit held at the New-York Historical Society, in New York City.  But even better than the folio were Audubon’s original life-size watercolors on display.  The New-York Historical Society had audio for each painting, so that when I stood in front of the great horned owl, for instance, I could press a button and hear its haunting call.  This was a very emotional experience, sort of like a visitation from a world that is normally hidden from us.

You have a Masters in Music Education and you write history books. What a fascinating combo! Do you have any plans to write about music or musicians?

I don’t have any plans right now to write about music or musicians, but I’m not ruling it out.  Aside from books, music was my first love.  I used to play piano and was quite a serious cellist for a while.  My first biography, however, was on the artist Mary Cassatt, and I found that I really enjoyed writing about artists.  Whatever I want to say about an artist’s work, the work itself says it better!

Your books are for children and teens. Is there a special appeal to you for writing for that age level or does it just happen naturally?

I love the challenge of writing for young people.  This is the goal always:  to tell the story of my subject’s life in an exciting way, to make a historical period come alive.  Sometimes when history is taught only from a textbook, kids can think that it’s deadly dull.  But history is really an infinite well of dramatic personalities and events–many are stranger than fiction–and I try to bring that to my reader.  I also enjoy introducing young people to a given subject; it forces me to write in a clear and simple way.
Do you have a topic or person that you are researching for a future book?​

Well, right now I’m immersed in editing a cookbook for my favorite organization, Western Writers of America.  I’ve been a member since 2008, and WWA is home to an incredibly friendly and talented bunch of people.  As for my next book, I haven’t decided on a topic yet, but I promise I’m going to do it soon!

Thanks, Nancy!

It really is a wonderful surprise that my book has been recognized by YALSA, and it’s a pleasure to be interviewed for The Hub.

— Anna Tschetter, currently between books Continue reading 2016 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: An Interview with Nancy Plain

Diversify YA Life: LGBTQ Fiction and Non-Fiction

If your library is anything like mine, your LGBTQ displays and books are among the most popular in your collection.  LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction is what we like to call window and mirror books.  When teens see themselves in the book, it’s a mirror.  When teens see other people in the book, it’s a window.  Either way, LGBTQ books serve many purposes.  Bullied teens can find inspiration and the will to live in these books.  LGBTQ books can be cathartic to the teen who feels alone.  Teens with LGBTQ friends or family members seek out these books to understand and/or support their loved ones.

Diversify YA Life LGBTQ

Below is a list of books that feature LGBTQ teens from all genres including non-fiction, humor, paranormal, romance, and graphic novels. Continue reading Diversify YA Life: LGBTQ Fiction and Non-Fiction

Booklist: Nonfiction Lite

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty swamped this month. Somehow, being an adult – or what passes for one – means I’m way busier than I thought I would be. As it turns out, adults are just as busy as college and grad students! I wish someone had warned me before I graduated.

When things get squirrelly, I usually don’t want to be overburdened by emotionally heavy books or movies. I like to turn to something lighter, something that will keep my interest but won’t bring me down. And when even the fluffiest of romances are too much for my over-taxed outlook – because there’s always the part where Our Hero and Our Heroine miscommunicate and almost break each other’s heart – I like to turn to nonfiction.

Nonfiction? Yes – but what I like to call Nonfiction Lite. It’s fun, it’s quirky, and it probably doesn’t have a whole lot to do with what you might traditionally think of as “educational value.” It just goes to show that there really is a book out there for anyone and any situation – just like any good librarian worth their salt will tell you. Continue reading Booklist: Nonfiction Lite

Non-Fiction for Halloween

I don’t know about you, but Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of year. This was especially true when I was a teen and not just because I got to put on a crazy costume and run wild, although that was a big part of it, but also because of the spooky atmosphere and the chance to indulge in scary stories and movies.

Creepy Nonfiction for Halloween
CC Image via Flickr user Alejandro Tuñón Alonso

Thinking back on teen me’s favorite Halloween stories, though, I realized that it never occurred to me to look for something scary in the non-fiction section of the library.To help save the teens in my library from such a mistake I started wandering around the non-fiction shelves in our library and came up with a lot of fun non-fiction materials that show that truth can be even creepier than fiction. Here are just a few examples. Continue reading Non-Fiction for Halloween

Nonfiction: Evaluate Your Life With These Books

Evaluating your life now. Turn it into a day. Sounds ominous and pretty heavy for a Tuesday, but it’s a kick start on those New Year’s Resolutions. It’s nothing to worry about really; it’s just a day to take the opportunity to reflect one’s life. Simple. We are constantly on the go and accomplishing so many things, that we rarely take the time to breathe and to see if we are leading the life that we wish to have. A good way to start is to look at areas in your life to evaluate: Finances, School and Job Performance, Clothes, relationships, and other areas that you want to look at.

Yet, for me, evaluating my life can sometimes bring me down. Especially if I feel I didn’t accomplish all that I wanted to do; so I seek inspiration from none other than books. Books that help in giving me a different perspective on life and the understanding that life isn’t perfect, but that getting up and trying is the greatest thing we can do for ourselves. It’s a challenge that I love to do every day. So here are some of the books that I have read that really helped me jump start evaluate my life:

Brunette AmbitionYou First Journal Lea MicheleBrunette Ambition and You First: Journal Your Way to Your Best Life by Lea Michele
I absolutely LOVE Lea Michele. Ever since I first watched that pilot of Glee, I have been a fan of hers and when I heard she was releasing a book I jumped at the chance to read it. Brunette Ambition is at its best an auto biography, but it offers helpful advice on how to balance a busy schedule and maintain a healthy lifestyle in your life. Michele continues with a journal that walks the reader through exercises and advice for readers like me to reach my overall goals in life; a perfect read for Evaluate Your Life Day. Continue reading Nonfiction: Evaluate Your Life With These Books

Booklist: Extraordinary New Nonfiction

Can you believe it’s already almost the end of September? I think I must do a lot of my Hub posts at the end of the month because by the time I’m writing them I’m astounded at how it’s suddenly the end of the month.

Anyways. Hubbers! Exciting news! Nonfiction for teens is getting better and better. I had my whole month filled to the brim with great nonfiction that totally read like fiction. I was on the edge of my seat; I wanted to learn more about each topic as soon as I was finished with each book I read. I was excited (for lack of a better word) about typhoid fever, WWII Russia and WWI Russia.

Teens may think that nonfiction is dull and boring (I’m pretty sure that I did when I was a teen), but I think that nonfiction for teens and adults has come a long way. Instead of rote recitation of facts and figures, nonfiction is including stories of hope, triumph, will, starvation, cannibalism (we’ll get to that later), and more in a way that is lyrically beautiful and hooks readers from the very first page.

I actually wanted to read most of these books because I participated in School Library Journal’s annual FREE all-day virtual conference, SummerTeen. If you haven’t participated in the SummerTeen experience, you totally should. It’s a fun day of presentations (Jason Reynolds’ keynote speech was so unbelievable; I’m still thinking about it 2 months later) that you can attend from your desk or in your pajamas – what could be better than that? So, at SummerTeen, I “attended” a great session on new nonfiction for teens that featured some of the books I’ll be spotlighting today. I’ll also be featuring a couple of additional nonfiction books that I loved that I just know the teens in your life will grab up and absorb knowledge from. Join me, won’t you – on this journey through the world of extraordinary nonfiction.

the-family-romanov-candace-flemingThe Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming  (2015 YALSA Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist): This book is the oldest of all the ones I’ll be talking about today; it came out in 2014 and was a finalist for the 2015 YALSA Nonfiction for Young Adults award as well as a 2015 Siebert honor book. And, it’s well deserved – this book was so engaging and entertaining, I wanted it to never end.

Now, I’m sure most of us know the story of the Romanovs: Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Empress Alexandra, and their 4 daughters and 1 son loomed over Russia from 1868-1918, and through their policies created mass inequity between classes while living in decadence. When you first open the book and see that huge family chart with names and dates and all the lines connecting them and theirs, you might feel like “I’m not going to understand one thing in this book” (and “you” was actually me) – but, fear not – this book is so easy to read that first chart will be long forgotten after the first chapter. Fleming does a great job of incorporating not only accounts from those high in power in the government, but also accounts from everyday workers and those so poor they could not afford to eat; it provided a nice balance to the Romanovs who thought that everything was perfectly fine in Russia, and that everyone just wanted to complain. When it finally comes to the end that we all know about, I still ended up learning things that I’m still thinking about many months later (just remember the jewels under their dresses when you get to that part of the story. Good grief.).

Plus, Rasputin. People. That could have been a story all to itself. The book ends with the death of Lenin and the realization that Stalin is now coming into power. I was so mad when this book ended. I wanted to know what happened when Stalin came into power! But, guess what? Then I picked up this next book, and my wishes were granted…

Continue reading Booklist: Extraordinary New Nonfiction

Documentaries for Teens: Varieties of Teen Experiences

Documentaries are sometimes overlooked forms of media for both education and for entertainment. They cover all types of subject matter and can tell intimate, moving stories. This series focuses on documentaries that may appeal to teens, and each installment will focus on a particular theme. This month, we’re highlighting documentaries that capture modern teen experiences from around the world.

Rich Hill

This documentary is an “examination of challenges, hopes and dreams of the young residents of a rural American town.” It focuses on the lives of three young men and their everyday lives. The intimate look at this small Missouri town is deeply moving. Rich Hill is readily available on DVD. Continue reading Documentaries for Teens: Varieties of Teen Experiences