Thursday, November 10, 2016

Historical NonFiction for Young Readers

Last year I did our first post featuring nonfiction books for young readers. I'm so excited to be bringing this series back again this year. This time we have a number of books that explore politics (timely in an election year). Also, several books explore the contributions of women in history. A surprising theme is that quite a few of these books have to do with science and medicine. Although aimed at a middle-grade or young adult audience, many of these books are fascinating at any age.

Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of a Legendary Nurse by Catherine Reef:
I've been eager to learn more about Florence Nightingale ever since I did a study abroad in London many years ago. Many have lauded Florence Nightingale's accomplishments, but I did not know how much resistance toward her life's work she received from her family. It was also fascinating to gain a little more insight into Nightingale's personality. She was not easy to get along with! Catherine Reef does an excellent job establishing historical context. I enjoyed hearing about the other famous historical figures that Nightingale knew personally. Out November 8, 2016 from Clarion Books.

Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring by Enigma Alberit and Tony Cliff:
I've long thought that the work of female spies during the American Civil War was a topic well-suited to a YA novel, so I'm excited to see that a few books on this fascinating aspect of American history are making their way into the hands of young readers. In this nonfiction book, readers follow the actions of Mary Bowser, an African American women who became a servant for Confederate President Jefferson Davis in order to spy on him. Mary Bowser's story is incredible. This was a brave, daring woman. The story is told in an engaging manner and includs "spy" activities for the young reader to solve. Out January 10, 2017 from Workman Publishing Company.

Blood, Bullets, and Bones: The Story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA by Bridget Heos:
Bridget Heos uses historical cases to tell the history of forensic science and criminal investigation. This book is absolutely fascinating. Although it is a bit macabre at times; we are dealing with criminal investigations after all. I loved how Heos used actually cases from history to steer the book and show the progression of forensics as well as its limitations. In many ways, this book is demystifying, in that it takes a profession that has become so popularized through TV and novels and gives us the gritty details and actual facts. Despite the abundance of names and medical details, Heos delivers a very readable, intriguing book. Out October 4th from Balzer +Bray.

Eureka! 50 Scientists Who Shaped Human History by John Grant:
Something you probably don't know about me is that I actually loved science as a student (especially basic-level science classes before heavy math gets involved). John Grant basically provides an encyclopedia of great scientists beginning with the ancient Greeks and concluding with scientists like Stephen Hawking. Each short entry gives a basic outline of the scientist's life and work. I would have loved this book as a kid. I think my 11-year-old self would have read and reread her favorite entries again and again. As a lover of history and admirer of science, I quite liked the book today. Out August 2, 2016 from Zest Books.

Bleed, Blister, Puke, and Purge: The Dirty Secrets Behind Early American Medicine 
by J. Marin Younker:
The early history of American medicine is not pretty or particularly refined. Younker's book chronicles the development of American medicine from the colonial days until the late 1800s. The books covers a wide range of topics, some I found a little dry, some made me squeamish, and some I found fascinating. I struggled a bit to find my stride at the beginning of this book, but I raced through the final chapters that discussed Civil War medicine and women's medicine. This book is a good one for anyone who is interested in medicine or American history. I think most history lovers will be quite fascinated by a least a chapter or two. Out October 25, 2016 from Zest Books.

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam Way by Steve Sheinkin:
Steve Sheinkin is the master of engaging young adult history books. The Vietnam War has been more of a hole in my historical knowledge than I'd like. This book helped to fill in some of the gaps. Government insider Daniel Ellsberg risked everything to expose secret government documents to a country very divided over the war. It was fascinating to learn these how various elements of history that were distinct in my mind are, in truth, very related. The major themes in this book are still very relevant today, and I've been telling everyone I know to read this book. Out September 2015 from Roaring Brook Press.

This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audobon by Nancy Plain:
I really enjoyed this gorgeous biography of John James Audobon. Audobon is one of the most fascinating early-American artists. He was an artist, a naturalist, an explorer, and a writer. His life's work was to publish a book containing illustrations of all the birds of America. He spent his life rambling through the country collecting birds, and he discovered many species. Nancy Plain's book is both engaging and informative, and it is filled with glorious reproductions of Audobon's art. Out March 1st, 2015 from University of Nebraska Press.

A Kids' Guide to America's First Ladies by Kathleen Krull:
This encyclopedia of America's First Ladies is absolutely charming. In the introduction Kathleen Krull grabbed my attention, and she never lost it. Krull advances chronologically and gives a brief biography of all the First Ladies. I think she handled both the positive and less-positive aspects of each woman's life quite well and in an appropriate way for young readers. The result is that the reader gets a good picture of the various personalities and challenges each woman faced. A timely book, for certain and one that I would have loved when I was young. Out January 3, 2017 from HarperCollins.

March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardner Jones and the March for Voting Rights
by Zachary Michael Jack:
In 1912 Rosalie Jones organized a march from New York City to the state capitol in Albany. Incredibly, she and two other women took only two weeks to walk the entire 175 miles, arriving at their destination just before New Years. I enjoyed learning about Rosalie and her compatriots. It was interesting to learn about those who supported them and those who did not. This topic seems particularly timely to me. As the 100th anniversary of the nineteenth amendment approaches, I would love to read more about the women who paved the way for women's suffrage. Out September 27, 2016 from Zest Books.

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