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: 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…