Fashion Rebels: Style Icons Who Changed the World Through Fashion by Carlyn Cerniglia Beccia (2016)

A celebration of women throughout history who had confidence in themselves and used style to make a difference.

Recommended grade level: 4 and up

Pages:  176 (for ISBN 9781582704876)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, reluctant readers

Tone/Style: informational, celebratory

Pace: fast

Topics: fashion, politics, celebrities, women’s rights

Themes: self-expression, confidence, being oneself

Summary: Throughout time, daring women have made fashion choices that have altered the course of history. From Marie Antoinette, who wore a hairstyle as large as her presence, to Coco Chanel, who imagined a world without rib crushing corsets and heavy gowns, to Katharine Hepburn, who walked around the studio in her underwear when studio executives refused to let her wear her then-scandalous jeans, these women were mavericks as well as rebellious icons. Continue reading

Comparative Religion: Investigate the World Through Religious Tradition by Carla Mooney (2015)

comparativeAn introduction to the world’s 5 largest religions: Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.

Recommended grade level: 4-8

Pages:  128 (for ISBN 9781619303058)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction

Tone/Style: informational

Pace: fast

Topics: religion, religious conflict, coexistence, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam

Themes: moral codes, God/gods, the purpose of existence, the origins of the universe

Summary: Over 7 billion people live on the earth, and 84 percent of them describe themselves as being religious. What does that mean? Few topics incite such passion as religion. Why are humans invested in ideas that may never be proved? Why has religion played such an important role in history? Continue reading

Debunk It! How to Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation by John Grant (2015)

debunkMisinformation can have serious consequences, and this irreverent book exposes rhetorical fallacies and teaches important critical thinking skills to help teens cope.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   288 (for ISBN 9781936976683)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction

Tone/Style: informational, irreverent, scornful

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: misinformation, hoaxes, fallacies, logic

Themes: critical thinking, honesty

Summary: We live in an era of misinformation, much of it spread by authority figures like broadcasters, politicians, and religious leaders. (The various pundits on blogs and websites don’t help either.) With so much bogus information from so many sources, how can anyone be expected to discover the truth? Continue reading

Samurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner (2016)

samBlood and battles abound in the epic story of one of Japan’s first samurai.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   236 (for ISBN 9781580895842)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, action, history, international, Asia (Japan)

Tone/Style: grimly gleeful

Pace: fast

Topics: samurai, medieval Japan, war, revenge

Themes: loyalty, honor, death

Summary: Child exile. Teenage runaway. Military genius. Immortal hero.

Yoshitsune had little going for him. Exiled to a monastery, he had no money, no allies, and no martial training. He wasn’t big or strong or good-looking. His only assets were brains, ambition, and a dream. But childhood dreams can change history.

Continue reading

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings

jazzReading this memoir of one of today’s most famous transgender teens feels like sitting down for an eye-opening conversation with a friend.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   256 (for ISBN 9780399554643)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, memoir, LGBTQA+

Tone/Style: personal, youthful

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: transgender people, coming out, media attention, dating, legal battles

Themes: courage, gender identity, being oneself, speaking out

Summary: Jazz Jennings is one of the youngest and most prominent voices in the national discussion about gender identity. At the age of five, Jazz transitioned to life as a girl, with the support of her parents. A year later, her parents allowed her to share her incredible journey in her first Barbara Walters interview, aired at a time when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. This groundbreaking interview was followed over the years by other high-profile interviews, a documentary, the launch of her YouTube channel, a picture book, and her own reality TV series—I Am Jazz—making her one of the most recognizable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults. Continue reading

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (2015)

most-dangerousThis tense story of a lesser-known figure from the Vietnam War era is a timely look at whistleblowing and patriotism.

Recommended grade level: 6-12

Pages:   384 (for ISBN 9781596439528)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, history, thriller, award winner

Tone/Style: informational

Pace: moderate

Topics: the Vietnam War, government secrets, peace movements, the news media, Watergate, information leaks

Themes: privacy, dissent, loyalty

Summary: From Steve Sheinkin, the award-winning author of The Port Chicago 50 and Bomb comes a tense, exciting exploration of what the Times deemed “the greatest story of the century”: how Daniel Ellsberg transformed from obscure government analyst into “the most dangerous man in America,” and risked everything to expose the government’s deceit. On June 13, 1971, the front page of the New York Times announced the existence of a 7,000-page collection of documents containing a secret history of the Vietnam War. Known as The Pentagon Papers, these documents had been commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Chronicling every action the government had taken in the Vietnam War, they revealed a pattern of deception spanning over twenty years and four presidencies, and forever changed the relationship between American citizens and the politicians claiming to represent their interests. A provocative book that interrogates the meanings of patriotism, freedom, and integrity, Most Dangerous further establishes Steve Sheinkin as a leader in children’s nonfiction. (Source)

Who will like this book?: Most Dangerous reads a bit like a cerebral spy thriller.  Those interested in secrets and conspiracies will gobble this up. Deep thinkers will be spurred to ask themselves questions about morality and patriotism for which there are no easy answers. As with all Sheinkin’s work, this will appeal to a wide swath of readers and will likely sway some fiction-only readers to give nonfiction a try.

Who won’t like this book?: This is a bit more rooted in politics and less rooted in action than some of Sheinkin’s other works. The moral questions posed may be over some readers’ heads.

Other comments: This is an incredibly timely peek into the past. If I didn’t believe before that history repeats itself, I certainly do now. Sheinkin includes a fascinating section at the end tying Ellsberg’s story to the story of Edward Snowden and Wikileaks. This is a 2015 National Book Award Finalist and the winner of the 2016 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction.

Sequel(s):

Readalikes: In The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery, Sheinkin offers a close look at another morally murky figure from American history.  Though the Vietnam War isn’t a popular topic in young adult lit, there are lots of nonfiction books involving resistance and espionage from the WWII era, including The Boys Who Challenge Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose and The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb.

-Kylie Peters

Image source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23310694

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin (2012)

lincolnThe master of historical nonfiction takes on a little-known event in American history.

Recommended grade level: 6-10

Pages: 224 (for ISBN 9780545405720)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, history

Tone/Style: conspiratorial

Pace: moderate

Topics: counterfeiting, cons, grave robbing

Themes: respect and disrespect for history

Summary: The action begins in October of 1875, as Secret Service agents raid the Fulton, Illinois, workshop of master counterfeiter Ben Boyd. Continue reading