Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Historical Nonfiction for Young Readers

Here's another great collection of nonfiction history books written for young readers. This time around, we have several books featuring presidents and politics. I'm a big fan of Teri Kanefield's Making of America Series, and I'm thrilled to be featuring the first three books in the series today and plan to read each and every addition to the series as they come out. We also have several books that explore the contributions of women in history. And to round out the post, we finish up with a book about WWI (just in time for the centennial of the war's conclusion) and one about Buffalo Bill. Although aimed at a middle-grade or young adult audience, many of these books are fascinating at any age.

Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America by Teri Kanefield: 
Alexander Hamilton is having one heck of a cultural moment. Teri Kanefield begins her Making of America series with a biography of the star of the hit musical. This book will give young fans a fuller picture of Hamilton's life. I especially appreciated the chapters on the work Hamilton did between the revolution's end and the creation of Washington's first cabinet. During this time, Hamilton served in the Continental Congress and on a delegation that met in Annapolis where Hamilton drafted a resolution calling for a convention to revise the Articles of Confederation. Teri Kanefield's history books are very readable, and I flew through this one in a couple of days. Out March 7, 2017 from Abrams Books for Young Readers. Review copy from NetGalley. 

Andrew Jackson: The Making of America by Teri Kanefield:
There are, of course, many books about the controversial presidency of Andrew Jackson, some even for young readers. Jackson was a very interesting person, and this book hits all of the highlights and low points of Jackson's life, from his childhood during the Revolutionary War, to his elopement with Rachel Donelson, his military ambitions, and divisive politics. I didn't have a lot of good feelings about Andrew Jackson going into this book, and I don't feel much better about him after finishing, but I do feel like I have a more complete picture of his life, legacy, and the lasting impact of his politics. Out March 13, 2018 from Abrams Books for Young Readers. Review copy from NetGalley.

Abraham Lincoln: The Making of America by Teri Kanefield:
Abraham Lincoln routinely scores the number one spot on lists of greatest United States Presidents. Most people know the highlights of Lincoln's career--securing the presidency, leading the country during the Civil War, signing the Emancipation Proclamation, and delivering the Gettysburg Address. What I really loved about Teri Kanefield's biography for young readers, is that it clued me in to how Lincoln began his path to the presidency, where he gained his abolitionist convictions, and the role Mary Todd played in his life. I've loved every one of the Making of America Series, and I'm hoping for many, many more additions to the series. Out September 4, 2018 from Abrams Books for Young Readers. Review copy from NetGalley.

Assassins' America by Jessica Gunderson and Joe Tougas:
This book explores the stories behind the four presidential assassinations. Moving from Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Garfield and onto William McKinley and finally John F. Kennedy, Assassins' America shows how the lives of these presidents and their killers came together. It also explores the possibilities of what might have happened had the president not died. I really enjoyed this brief, but thorough, introduction to these national tragedies. I learned a lot about both the presidents and the assassins. We all know about the great deeds of Abraham Lincoln, but I also was impressed with the potential of Andrew Garfield who didn't live long enough to do much in office. Out March 1, 2018 from Capstone. Review copy from NetGalley. 

Eleanor Roosevelt: Fighter for Justice by Ilene Cooper
It was an absolute pleasure to read about Eleanor Roosevelt. She is an impressive and much-admired historical figure. I did not know much about Eleanor's childhood and youth, and I am now thoroughly convinced that Eleanor is one of the main reasons that her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had four successful presidential terms. Ilene Cooper's biography of Eleanor specifically emphasizes her work in social justice, civil rights, and racial equality. I really like how Cooper conveys Eleanor's growth in terms of these issues. She was not a perfect person; she held racial prejudices that were wrong and needed to be overcome. I was so impressed by Eleanor's Roosevelt's willingness to listen and learn from other people. This is a trait that I deeply admire. Out August 7th, 2018 from Abrams Books for Young Readers. Review copy from NetGalley.

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg 
I grew up on Anne Shirley. I read all of the Anne books as a girl and watched the 1985 miniseries countless times, so I jumped at the chance to read and review this new biography on the creator of Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery. One thing that I found so fascinating is how much Maud Montgomery pulled from her own life and personality in the creation of Anne. The similarities go far beyond the setting of Prince Edward Island. Maud was raised by her grandparents; she was a lonely child with a vivid imagination; she was a bright student; her college years were very similar to Anne's; she worked as a teacher; she turned down many proposals. And I could go on. Maud's life is a mixture of high highs and low lows. Maud dealt with some significant mental health issues in a time when treatment was very limited. She had an unhappy marriage and a child who brought on a lot of heartache. She was also wildly successful in an era when being a woman with a career was an uphill battle in every sense. Out June 12, 2018 from Candlewick Press. Review copy from NetGalley.

Coco Chanel: Pearls, Perfume, and the Little Black Dress by Susan Gilman Rubin:
Rubin chronicles the life of the extremely influential fashion designer Coco Chanel. I didn't know much about Chanel's biography, besides her dicey World War II period, and it was very interesting to learn about her childhood spent in a Catholic orphanage and her years developing and growing her young business. Rubin also discusses Chanel's influential designs, from the little black dress, to the menswear inspired pieces, to Chanel No. 5. I read this slim volume in one sitting, and enjoyed every minute. The book itself is also quite lovely in its design, which is only fitting. Out March 13, 2018 from Abrams Books for Young Readers. Review copy from NetGalley.

Innocent Heroes: Animals in War and the Battle of Vimy Ridge by Sigmund W. Brouwer:
Thousands of animals played a crucial role in World War I. Brouwer's book explores the contributions of these creatures. Each chapter begins with a fiction story about an animal who crosses paths with the Storming Normans, a fictional Canadian Platoon. After the story, a nonfiction section provides facts about World War I and the animals who were involved in the war. The format of this book was a really engaging way to learn history. The stories are all interconnected and feature the same characters, one of whom is First Nation, which gives readers a look into the prejudices and injustices faced by native peoples during this period of history. The nonfiction sections explain how the facts inspired the story. Readers meet a variety  of animals, a cat, two dogs, a mule, a pigeon, a horse, all of whom play a crucial role in the Storming Normans' platoon. Out February 14, 2017 from Tundra Books. Review copy from NetGalley.

Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West by Candace Fleming:
In 2015 I read and loved Andrea Warren's The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill and Candace Fleming's The Family Romanov. With that background, reading Fleming's new book on Buffalo Bill was a given. Fleming's book covers all of Buffalo Bill's life. It was interesting to learn about how the Wild West Show got started and about its tours to Europe. Although, his final years were rather sad. I was pleased to find that this book corroborates Buffalo Bill's respectful attitude toward the Native Americans who performed in his shows (and their respect for him). Fleming begins each chapter with a description of one of the performances from the Wild West Show, and I liked that I walked away from the book with a little bit of knowledge about the performances themselves and what it would be like to be an audience member. Fleming takes a real demystifying approach in this book. She was pretty skeptical about a lot of the things that Buffalo Bill said he did. Out September 20, 2016 from Roaring Brook Press.

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