Wednesday, August 28, 2019

History Books for Young Readers

Here's another great collection of nonfiction history books written for young readers. I love putting these lists together. This time around we have some excellent commemorative choices and we have quite a few books about women making history from the Revolutionary War to the present day. Although aimed at a middle-grade or young adult audience, these books are fascinating for readers of all ages.

American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley
July 20th, 2019 was the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. The young reader's edition of Brinkley's book is just one of many histories that revisit the era. This book focuses almost exclusively on the political aspect of the space race, specifically President Kennedy's contribution. Kennedy famously proclaimed that the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. This book explains how and why space exploration became an important aspect of Kennedy's policies. Brinkley also briefly discusses the early years of rocketry with the German's V-2 rockets of World War II. It was interesting to learn about the connections between the war years and the space age. Communism and the Cold War is also a huge factor in Kennedy's embrace of the space program, and this book does a nice job explaining that aspect of the equation. If you decide to read this book, keep in mind that Kennedy does not live to see Neil Armstrong take those first steps on the moon. Out April 2, 2019 from HarperCollins. Review copy from Edelweiss.

1919: The Year that Changed America by Martin W. Sandler
With 1919 we have another commemorative book, and one you will want to be sure to read in 2019. Sandler looks back 100 years to a watershed year in United States history that included fights for suffrage to race riots to strikes for labor rights and more. Sandler lays the groundwork for each big event by discussing the events leading up to the momentous actions of 1919. At the end of each chapter, Sandler includes a timeline of events going forward to today, driving home how the events of 1919 have shaped our present. Extremely well-written and informative and filled with images, 1919 is an engrossing read and a fantastic concept. I love a good commemorative read, and I'm so glad that I didn't miss out on this one.Out January 8, 1919 from Bloomsbury Children's Books. Review copy from NetGalley.

Susan B. Anthony: The Making of America by Teri Kanefield
After my last History Books for Young Readers post, it's abundantly clear how much I love Teri Kanefield's Making of America series. The fourth installment features Susan B. Anthony, and it is every bit as great as the first three. With each book in the series, Kanefield selects a prominent figure from American history who has helped to shape the laws of the United States. With Anthony we learn about a figure who is well known for her fight for women's rights. Kanefield does a great job dealing with some of the trickier aspects of Anthony's life. In recent years, especially, the early suffragists have fallen from grace a little due to their lack of support for African American rights. What struck me as I was reading this, is how intersectional these early suffragists were. Most were abolitionists and suffragists until the causes of women's rights were abandoned by the leaders of the abolitionist movement after the Civil War. At that point, due to lack of funds and support, Anthony and Cady do make some questionable decisions. Kanefield convincingly explains how this came about. In the end, Anthony would not live to see the ratification of the 19th amendment, but it certainly deserves the nickname "The Susan B. Anthony Amendment." Out March 26, 2019 from Abrams Books for Young Readers. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets by Sarah Miller
On May 28, 1934, five identical baby girls were born to a French Canadian family in Ontario. Their survival was both miraculous and the result of the tireless work of the doctor, midwives, and nurses who delivered the girls and worked round-the-clock in their infancy. Controversy and celebrity followed the girls, who were separated from their family and raised by the state until the age of nine in a hospital built especially for them across the street from their family home. Everything about this true story is mind-blowing. The title is apt in every way. That Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie, and Marie all lived was truly amazing. The exploitation, experimentation, and trauma they experienced as a result of their celebrity was horribly tragic. Sarah Miller's narrative is gripping and filled with quotations from primary sources and interviews with the surviving quintuplets. Miller does a fantastic job navigating the nuances of these events. Once so famous, the story of the Dionne Quintuplets has been out of the spotlight for decades, but it's not a story that will easily be forgotten.  Out August 27, 2019 from Random House Children's. Review copy from NetGalley.

Fly Girls' Young Reader's Edition: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O'Brien
Between World War I and World War II, aviation was still young, and men and women raced to test the limits of flight. I've been drawn to the early years of aviation history over the past couple of years, and I especially gravitate towards the female fliers of this period. (Posts here, here, and here.) These women were defying the odds in so many ways. Keith O'Brien centers his book on five female aviators of the 1930s: Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, and Louise Thaden. Earhart is the most famous of the bunch today, but I found that I most admired Louise Thaden, who was not only a skilled pilot but also a smart one. This book has a lot of plane crashes and really drives home the sexism of the 1930s; the women were frequently told they couldn't fly, race, or compete with the men. Out March 5, 2019 from HMH Books for Young Readers. Review copy from NetGalley.

Dreaming in Code: Ada Byron Lovelace, Computer Pioneer by Emily Arnold McCully
Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the celebrated and notorious poet Lord Byron, was one of the world's first computer programmers. Ada had a very unusual upbringing. Her mother left Lord Byron when Ada was just a baby and took a very strict approach to her daughter's education. Ada's education far exceeded that of most girls of her time. She had a succession of tutors and proved to be very gifted at mathematics. After meeting Charles Babbage at the age of 17, she and the inventor collaborated and exchanged ideas. His knowledge of inventing and machinery married with her knowledge of mathematics far outstripped the technology of the day. I really enjoyed this brief biography of Ada Byron Lovelace. It's a very fast and engaging read. Ada Lovelace is a fascinating person, and her life was so usual and in many ways very tragic. All of that was conveyed very well in Emily Arnold McCully's book. Out March 12, 2019 from Candlewick. Review copy from NetGalley.
Anna Strong and the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring by Enigma Alberti
This is the third book in the Spy on History series. Each book in the series features a spy in a war from American history. I've read and thoroughly enjoyed them all (featured here and here).  With this third book, we've gone back to the Revolutionary War. Anna Strong and her husband lived on Long Island under the occupation of the British and were part of George Washington's spy ring. When Anna's husband was arrested, Anna took over so the spy network would not be broken. She communicated to her contact with her laundry, hanging certain colors to communicate certain information. She traveled into New York City multiple times to relay information. The Spy on History books are a great way to get young readers interested in history. They come with activities in back and a message to decode. Out April 2, 2019 from Workman Publishing Company. Review copy from NetGalley.

Heroism Begins With Her: Inspiring Stories of Bold, Brave, and Gutsy Women in the U.S. Military by Winifred Conkling
In nearly 70 short biographies, Winifred Conkling features the women of the United States' past and present who have served in the military. In doing so, she also traces the progress made by women who sought to gain more acceptance, greater recognition, and an official status for their service. In the early years, many of the women who served were camp followers, nurses, spies; although, a surprising number of women also disguised themselves as men and officially enlisted. In later years, as women were official instated into the military, Conkling continues to emphasize the diversity of roles played by women. She also features a number of women who are firsts in their fields. This book is not one that needs to be read cover to cover. Read about the women who served in one war or, for instance, thumb through the book to find all the medical professionals. This book would be a good starting point for a research project. Out August 6, 2019 from HarperCollins. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Bad Boys of Fashion: Style Rebels and Renegades Through the Ages by Jennifer Croll
This book is a fantastic choice for any fashion lover. In ten chapters, Jennifer Croll takes her readers through small biographies of big names in fashion from Louis XIV to Oscar Wilde to David Bowie. I really enjoyed how this book was organized with three thematically related fashion icons in each chapter. Not only will readers learn a lot about each individual figure, but they will also learn about how their fashion responded to and influenced events in history. One of the best parts about this book is seeing how fashion and history collide, mingle, and respond to one another. Also, this book has good diversity in terms of race and sexuality. I liked this it so much that I now really want to read the author's related title, Bad Girls of Fashion: Style Rebels from Cleopatra to Lady Gaga. Out April 9, 2019 from Annick Press. Review copy from NetGalley. 

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