Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

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Using plenty of visuals, including historical photographs, log entries, official reports, and telegraph transcripts, Hopkinson presents this chronological telling of Titanic’s sinking. Rather than presenting a summary of events, the author focuses in on a few of the ship’s passengers, individuals ranging from 1st class to crew members, and imagines what their voyage was like through transcripts and personal accounts. The human-centered approach of this piece, along with the action surrounding the sinking, make this book a good recommendation for readers interested in the event or who are branching out to nonfiction.

I can’t lie — I love Titanic stuff. Way before it was even a big thing because of the movie, I was pretty obsessed. I’m still fascinated, so I was really looking forward to this piece. Unfortunately, it’s good, not great. I loved the subject matter, and loved how the author included viewpoints from all types of passengers (from crew to first class), but the writing itself was sometimes boring. The pictures were really cool, but just didn’t make up for the so-so writing. This is great book if you’re already interested in Titanic, or in history, but I don’t know if I would recommend it to someone just starting out in the genre.

Rating: 3.5/5

*YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, Finalist, 2013

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

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Show Off: How to Do Absolutely Everything. One Step at a Time by Sarah Hines Stephens and Bethany Mann

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This highly visual how-to book presents a wide variety of skills and projects. Everything from doing stunt tricks to baking “stained glass” cookies is covered. The authors use a step-by-step pictorial approach, allowing readers to see exactly how each project should progress. While the pictures are an excellent addition to this book, limited text is used and so readers may not get a sense of how the finished project comes together. Tips about successfully completing each project and mistakes to avoid are also missing.

The best thing about this book is that it includes SO many different types of projects and skills. Seriously. However, as awesome as the variety is, the layout can be confusing. Many of the instructions are in picture format only, with very little text to help guide you. Additionally, some of the stunts featured are pretty dangerous, but no safety guidelines are given! I definitely won’t be trying to bounce off a wall after reading the steps in this book. BUT, if you like how-to’s or if you just want to get ideas for your next project, this is a good place to start.

Rating: 3/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Red Madness: How A Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow

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It’s probable that few young adult readers have even heard of the disease Pellagra, though it ravaged the South through much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Jarrow presents readers with a glimpse into a world in which “germ theory” was finally being accepted as fact, “quack” doctors concocted poisonous “cures”, and the nation was scrambling to find a cure for the ugly disease which had just become rampant. Written as a mystery, Jarrow’s piece hold readers’ attention even through the more technical, scientific parts, and the ending may surprise readers as it illuminates why a well-known ingredient today became so common.

So this book was really good. I was unsure about it, because I usually don’t like science-y things and it’s about a scary/gross disease. BUT, it was really good. I liked the fact that it really does read like a mystery — there was more than one part when I was like “Oh, that’s what caused the disease”…but I was wrong. I have to appreciate that suspense in a nonfiction book! So, if you like medicine, science, weird diseases, history, or you just need a good nonfiction book, give this one a try! My biggest take away: I’m so glad they figured out the cause/cure for this disease!

Rating: 4/5

*School Library Journal, Best Books, Nonfiction, 2014

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

Cooking Comically: Recipes So Easy You’ll Actually Make Them by Tyler Capps

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Tyler Capps uses a mix of photography and comic art for his humorous cookbook. Along with easy-to-follow directions (with lots of pictures to guide readers), Capps peppers (pun intended) his book with “geek” references sure to register with gamers and pop culture fans. True to his title, Capps keeps all his recipes short and simple, with a full shopping list and tips for great finished product at the end of each.

This book was awesome!! There were step-by-step pictures, hilarious jokes, and the food looked so good. Nothing seemed particularly hard to make, so there’s no need to be intimidated by your lack of cooking skills. Even more advanced cooks might be able to make some recipes more complex. The one downfall of this book is that the recipes aren’t exactly for health food — there’s bacon, cheesecake, burgers, and more. If you don’t care about the lack of healthy alternatives, though, give this one a read!

Rating: 4.5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

100 Questions You’d Never Ask Your Parents by Elizabeth Henderson and Nancy Armstrong

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Using a brief, question and answer format, authors Henderson and Armstrong present relevant issues teens face today. Ranging from how to use protection during sex to questioning gender and/or sexuality, the book provides straightforward answers, including sources readers can use for further information seeking. Readers of all levels will appreciate the simple organization of this piece, as well as the judgement-free nature of the answers given.

Have a burning question, but you’re too embarrassed to ask? This book might have your answer. It’s short, well organized, and full of questions and answers relevant to teens today. Though this certainly isn’t a cover-to-cover read, it is one that might come in handy when you need it!

Rating: 4/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

The Fashion Book by Kathryn Hennessy

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Using a mix of photography and illustrations, DK publishers presents this historical look at the development of fashion. Beginning in Ancient Greece, the book progresses chronologically, with sections spotlighting key fashion figures, styles, and even a look into the daily life of various fashion professionals. The piece also examines the modern boom in the fashion industry, questioning whether the current speed of fashion manufacturing is sustainable. With its readable text and high use of graphics, this would be a good choice for all readers interested in the fashion industry.

This was a fun read! I love looking at fashion, so I’m a little biased, but I still think this book would be appealing to others. It’s arranged by fashion period, starting with the earliest, and progress to modern times. It was really cool to see all the major time period together, and there were a lot of little facts about fashion along the way. It’s a pretty surface level book and does not go in-depth about careers in fashion, but it’s definitely worth a read if you’re interested in that industry. There’s LOADS of pictures!

*Rating: 4.5/5

* ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2014

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Snow Falling in Spring: Coming of Age in China during the Cultural Revolution by Moying Li

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During the late 1960’s, the government of China attempted to propel its society into the modern century. Following this push to overtake “Westerners” was an uprising that called for Chinese to learn from its peasants, thus adopting a simpler way of life free from western ideas. During this time of political and cultural turmoil, Moying Li struggled to find an identity and secure herself an education. This memoir is an account of that turbulent time, as well as her never-ending fight to achieve her academic and intellectual potential.

Much like some of the other government-upheaval memoirs I’ve read, this one was pretty heavy. It’s heartbreaking to read about how Moying loses everything she loves during the Cultural Revolution, as well as her struggle to obtain basic rights such as freedom of speech and the right to read. If nothing else, Moying’s memoir shows us how lucky we are to live in such a different society (whether or not we always feel that way). If you’re a fan of memoir or are studying Chinese history, give this book a try.

Rating: 3.5/5

*IRA Young Adult Nonfiction Award, 2009

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.