The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (2014)

family-romanovA dramatic true story.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   304 (for ISBN 9780375867828)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, history

Tone/Style: informational

Pace: moderate

Topics: Russia, royalty, wealth, revolution

Themes: family, excess, class struggle, war, leadership

Summary:  Here is the riveting story of the Russian Revolution as it unfolded. When Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared to do so. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew. 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

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson (2012)

titanic

The tragedy of the Titanic is brought home through the stories of people who were there.

Recommended grade level: 6-10

Pages: 289 (for ISBN 9780545116749)

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

Tone/Style: informational, personal

Pace: moderate

Topics: Titanic, ships, disasters

Themes: sacrifice, selfishness, perseverance, courage, mistakes resulting in loss of life

Summary: Critically acclaimed nonfiction author Deborah Hopkinson pieces together the story of the TITANIC and that fateful April night, drawing on the voices of survivors and archival photographs. Continue reading

“The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson (2013)

presidentThis tense historical piece puts a magnifying glass on the days immediately surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy.

Recommended grade level: 6-12

Pages: 336 (for ISBN 9780545490078)

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

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