A Dozen of Tracey’s Favorite 2012 Nonfiction
It’s time for that most strenuous time of year. No, not the holidays—but the making of the top 10 lists. Let me confess: I just can’t do it. I don’t think I have ever been able to cut a list of books down to ten titles. You’ll notice that this list is a dozen, and for the life of me I can’t pick two titles to remove. All of these books (and those in the runner-up list below) are excellent titles for Common Core use, as well as just plain interesting to read.
Island : A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin. 9781596437166. 2012. Gr 1-4.
In Chin’s earlier books, a child is drawn into a habitat by opening a book on redwoods or coral reefs. But as the reader of Island, I felt like I was that child, being drawn into and observing the life cycle of the Galapagos Islands. Beautiful art and engaging text give a clear explanation of the evolution of the islands and their inhabitants.
Snakes by Nic Bishop. 9780545206389. 2012. Gr 1-4.
One has only to look at the cover of Snakes to see that award-winning photographer Nic Bishop has done it again. I’d like to say that even people who do not care for snakes (hate them?) will be able to see the beauty of these marvelous creatures—however, I have a few sisters that will disagree with me. But Mr. Bishop can capture the diversity and nature of snakes—and provide fascinating information in a conversational tone. In an afterword, he tells about the difficulties of photographing snakes.
Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It : False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine. 9780061787263. 2012. Gr 2-5.
Each of these hilarious poems is patterned after William Carlos Williams’ poem, “This Is Just to Say,” and contains a false apology—one in which the person apologizing is not really sorry. Read more in my post about using poetry as writing examples.
Wild Horse Scientists (Scientists in the Field) by Kathryn Frydenborg. 9780547518312. 2012. Gr 4-8.
This book, as do the rest of the Scientists in the Field series, is a work of narrative nonfiction that focuses on the work of scientists. These scientists, Ron Keiper and Jay Kirkpatrick, are studying the wild horses on Assateague Island near Maryland. The scientists keep records and have developed a birth control vaccine so that the population of horses does not get out of control and disturb the ecosystem of the island. (Find out more about this excellent series in this post.)
Invincible Microbe : Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy. 9780618535743. 2012. Gr 5-8.
This biography is about a killer that has caused the death of over a trillion people throughout history. This serial killer is the germ that causes tuberculosis. Invincible Microbe describes the symptoms and history of treatment of the disease, and I learned that TB can attack many parts of the body, not just the lungs. Murphy also explains how the discovery of antibiotics almost led to a cure, but drug-resistant varieties have appeared. A clearly written and fascinating true tale, with a frightening ending.
Temple Grandin : How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism by Sy Montgomery. 9780547443157. 2012. Gr 6-8.
When Temple was young, no one realized that she had autism. Her doctor recommended that she be institutionalized, and her father agreed. Her mother, however, insisted that she go to school. She grew up to make changes to the livestock industry that took account of the feelings of animals. This book describes Temple’s childhood, her education, and friendships, as well as how she came to realize that her autism helps her to understand animals. (Books written by Temple are now on my bedside table.)
Iceberg, Right Ahead! : The Tragedy of the Titanic by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson. 9780761367567. 2012. Gr 6-9.
McPherson’s excellent narrative account of the voyage and sinking of the Titanic goes back to her construction. Personal accounts, photographs, and diagrams help the reader to understand and experience the disaster. See more posts about the Titanic here and here and here.
Beyond Courage : The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust by Doreen Rappaport. 9780763629762. 2012. Gr 7-12.
Many Holocaust books describe the plight of European Jews in the ghettos and in the concentration—those Jews who did not understand or would not believe what the Nazis planned to do. Rappaport’s book looks at those Jews who understood and took matters into their own hands, describing their courageous efforts to help Jews and their acts of resistance, many of which ended in tragedy. Some of these stories have never been told, but all should be heard.
Moonbird : A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose. 9780374304683. 2012. Gr 7-10.
B95, or Moonbird as he is also known, is a red knot shorebird that was caught and banded in 1995. Red knots migrate each year from the southernmost tip of South America to the Canadian arctic and back—a round trip of over 18,000 miles. B95 is famous because he has survived the destruction of his kind (over 80 percent of the population has disappeared due to human interference in their immigration patterns) and is still flying at the estimated age of 19. Scientists call him Moonbird because he is thought to have flown over 350,000 miles—about the distance from the Earth to the moon. A fascinating book with clear text and colorful pictures, giving the inside story of this remarkable bird and the people who watch for him.
Faces from the Past : Forgotten People on North America by James M. Deem. 9780547370248. 2012. Gr 7-12.
The skeletons and skulls of people from long ago have been found in forgotten burial sites, and little was known about who they were. But scientists, including forensic anthropologists and bioarchaeologists, have developed processes to discover the identities of these people. They can find out about the way these people lived, diseases they might have suffered, and how they died. The book covers five such examples, including how artists using clay have been able to reconstruct the skulls to give a face to these unknown people.
Global Weirdness : Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas and the Weather of the Future. 9780307907301. 2012. Gr 10-Adult.
Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization, provides clear analysis and reports about climate science, and has been featured in many respected news sources. In this book, they provide easy-to read answers to 60 questions about climate change in these areas: What the Science Says, What’s Actually Happening, What’s Likely to Happen in the Future, and Can We Avoid the Risks of Climate Change. The short chapters provide facts in plain language, avoiding hysteria and partisan bias.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers : Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. 9781400067558. 2012. Gr 10-Adult.
Katherine Boo has written a heartfelt account of what life is like in the slums of Mumbai in India, where people live in cardboard shacks near rivers of raw sewage; where suicide is a fact of daily life; where the kind of medical care and human rights you get depends on how many rupees you can pay to the doctors and the police; where families survive by digging through the garbage and recycling what they find. This book reads so much like a novel that I thought it was fiction; sadly, it is not. Pair it with Andy Mulligan’s Trash.
Here are some other nonfiction titles that Mackin’s librarians are raving about, but I haven’t had time to read. Are there any others that you would like to add?
Bomb : The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. 9781596434875. 2012. Gr 7-10.
King Peggy : An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman. 9780385534321. 2012. Gr 11-Adult.
Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan : The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate by Rick Bowers. 9781426309168. 2012. Gr 6-9.
Their Skeletons Speak : Kennewick Man and the Paleoamerican World by Sally M. Walker. 9780761374572. 2012. Gr 7-12.
We’ve Got a Job : The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson. 9781561456277. 2012. Gr 5-8.
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