Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

12479015

This nonfiction account of the Titanic disaster focuses on a handful of passengers and their testimony of events. Passengers range in age from young children to older adults, as well as from all class levels. Coupled with these first-hand accounts, the author includes a narration of the history of the ship, guiding readers from her inception to tragic end. Also provided are timelines (including a minute-by-minute record of the sinking), historical documents, and further resources for students who would like to pursue the subject further.

I LOVE books about the Titanic. I’m totally biased. That said, this book was still really good. Though it’s still a historical nonfiction, the author uses a brisk pace and the subject matter is anything but boring. Because the book is told using first-person narrative, you get to “experience” the sinking through the eyes of passengers. It will not be hard to image what the night of April 14, 1912 was like.

Rating: 4.5/5

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

Advertisements

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

18527498

Told from contrasting viewpoints, Revolution follows Sunny, a twelve-year-old white girl living in Greenwood, Mississippi, and Raymond, a black teenage boy also living in Greenwood in the 1960’s. Though they are roughly the same age and live in the same city, Sunny and Raymond’s experiences are vastly different. Sunny gets to go to the air-conditioned movie theater, swim in the city pool, and live in a nice house. Raymond is not allowed anywhere that white people go, and is not even able to play baseball on a field with lights. Amid this disparate setting, Freedom Riders arrive in Greenwood. With the mission of supporting integration and the newest Civil Rights act, these young people bring a storm of trouble to Mississippi. Sunny and Raymond are witness to this storm, and, over the course of the summer, their lives change forever.

So, this book is LONG. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, but it was long even for me. It’s split up so that it has two narrators (and sometimes a third, omniscient, storyteller) and non-fiction pieces are interspersed throughout the book. While I thought the non-fiction parts were pretty cool for the most part, I did feel like some of them were too long. For example, I don’t need an eight page biography on Lyndon Johnson when he’s not even in the book that much. I did like some of the testimonials from real Greenwood citizens, but some of those sections could have been cut out or shortened. Aside from its length and occasional boringness, this was a solid piece if you’re into the 1960’s and/or Civil Rights. Have patience with it (or just skip the non-fiction if you’re bored with it).

Rating: 3.5/5 

*National Book Award Finalist for Young Adult Literature, 2014

*YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2015

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

Tomboy by Liz Prince

20256612

Labeled as a “tomboy” from a young age, Liz struggles to find a place in a hyper-gendered world. In this unique graphic novel memoir, Prince chronicles her battle with mainstream society in all its awkward glory. With each humiliating, painfully real episode, Liz sheds much needed insight into the consequences of forcing gender on individuals, as well as highlights the need for each person to determine his/her gender identity independently.

I LOVED this book! It’s a graphic novel, so that automatically catches my attention, and it’s a memoir. I love hearing people tell their stories! Liz’s book was particularly good because she talks about what it’s like to not fit in because of the way others perceive you. Because of her looks, people call Liz a boy. Liz doesn’t see anything wrong with being a boy (in fact she likes doing “boy” things), but she’s still made fun of because of it. In short, Liz isn’t allowed to be herself because the way she is isn’t “normal”. It was sad to read some of the parts of her story, but I feel like this is also an important book. Through Liz’s story, readers can really see what it’s like for someone who doesn’t fit into a predetermine role — whether gender or otherwise. This book really got me thinking about how I look at and treat other people, as well as the ridiculous standards society/the media places on gender.

Rating: 5/5 

*Maverick, 2014

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

The President Has Been Shot: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson

17381972

Swanson presents this in-depth look at the Kennedy assassination, complete with detailed diagrams of the book depository, the motorcade route, and Kennedy’s wounds. Aside from the assassination itself, the author also delves into Lee Harvey Oswald’s personal life, his affiliation with the communist party, and his suspected mental illness. Swanson makes good use of historical photographs (including stills from film reels) and organizes the piece so that it reads more like fiction than a historical work. This is a worthwhile piece to incorporate into lessons involving or related to the event.

I have to admit, I’m fascinated with the Kennedy assassination. I don’t know if it’s the tragedy of the situation, the national grief, the conspiracy theories, or just Jackie, but I’m always interested in learning more. This book is focused only on the assassination, so it goes into a good amount of detail about the event. There’s a lot of pictures, diagrams, and maps which are especially helpful in trying to figure out exactly what happened the day of the shooting. My only criticism of this book is that it takes a pretty rosy view of JFK and his administration. I’m not saying that JFK wasn’t a good president, but I am saying that the author intentionally ignored some of the shadier aspects of his history, family life, and presidency. If you’re interested in those juicier bits, I would recommend doing a little research — there’s some good stuff out there.

Rating: 4/5

*YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, Finalist, 2014

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

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery by Steve Sheinkin

8685554

Though remembered by American history as the most notorious traitor of the American Revolution, Sheinkin’s work illustrates that Benedict Arnold was once a hero. Daring in battle and with an unbreakable will, the general won key battles for the Americans, but felt his achievements were ignored. Interestingly, the same impulsiveness and combative nature that made Arnold a military hero ultimately led him to betray his country. Sheinkin’s work is a well-researched, non-traditional look at Benedict Arnold which demonstrates to students that there are two sides to every story.

What I loved about this book was getting to see Arnold’s side of the story. So often, people are remembered only for the terrible things they do — no one thinks about why they did them. In a way, I could understand Arnold’s frustration with feeling unappreciated and ignored. The treachery, however, is the only thing he will be remembered for. While I loved the “other side of the story” aspect, this book was still boring. Some parts are action-packed and read like a novel, but there are plenty of parts that don’t. I’m actually surprised this won the YALSA nonfiction award. Then again, so did Charles and Emma. I recommend this book if you’re already a fan of the American Revolution, or interested in Benedict Arnold. It’s not as good as Sheinkin’s more recent work, though.

Rating: 3/5 

*YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, winner, 2012

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

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

17239855

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

16075924

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.