This early tale of biomimicry is based on historical fact. The Gobukson (or turtle ships) were known for their powerful design that included ironclad covering long before any western ships did. The story follows a young boy who observes a turtle in nature and then takes him to the emperor to illustrate his idea. This is a great book for budding inventors and could easily be paired with a maker's activity on boat building. The illustrations are intricate collages that lend the book a sense of warmth and solidity; you can almost feel the textures beneath your fingers. This really helps showcase the various design elements of the ship.
A city of millions cut off from the rest of the world and left to starve. People killing for ration cards, which provide a mere 125 grams of bread made with sawdust mixed in to the flour. Desperate people resorting to cannibalizing the plentiful corpses lining the street. It sounds like the premise for a YA dystopian novel, but it really happened. In 1941 Nazi forces blockaded the city of Leningrad in a siege that would last two and a half years and result in the deaths of over a million people. One of the people trapped in the city was composer Dmitri Shostakovitch. When he escaped the city, he wrote a symphony that would commemorate those lost and give hope to those still trapped. This is his true story.
This thick, nonfiction tome should have taken me ages to slog through, but instead I tore through it like it was the latest sci-fi thriller. The story is at turns moving, disturbing, and triumphant. It is a prime example of the power of narrative nonfiction.
Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson
Erica's Picks 8th & up Tags: biography, dystopian, global perspectives, history, nonfiction
When Hitler invaded Denmark, the adults reluctantly accepted the occupation, too terrified of the overwhelming Nazi forces to fight back. But teenagers rose up to spark a resistance. Knud Pedersen founded the Churchill club with other students and together they started to sabotage the occupying Nazi forces. When the members were finally caught and it was revealed that the brave resistance fighters were teens, it sparked the Dutch resistance among adults. Read the history of the Churchill Club in their own words in this thrilling nonfiction account.
This is an inspiring true story of teenagers organizing themselves in a fight against overwhelming evil. The book is meticulously researched and quotes extensively from interviews the author conducted. A great choice for narrative nonfiction.
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose
Erica's Picks 7th & up Tags: biography, history, nonfiction
A Change of Heart By Alice Walsh Growing up in the 1930s in Georgia, young African American Lanier Phillips lived in fear of the Ku Klux Klan. When he grew up, Phillips joined the Navy looking for a more just atmosphere. Instead he faced more racism and discrimination as the black sailors were made to do menial tasks. Tragedy took no note of skin color when the USS Truxtun was shipwrecked off the coast of Newfoundland with few survivors. Phillips was the only black man rescued and taken into the home of good Samaritans. Never having seen a black man, they thought that the oil from the ship had seeped into his pores. When he tells them that his skin is that color he expects their treatment of him to change. The community’s kindness and care remain constant and their affirmation of his humanity changes his outlook on life forever. He says, “I was wounded in mind and soul, but I was healed in St. Lawrence, Newfoundland .” He went on to march for civil rights with Martin Luther King, Jr. This remarkable true story celebrates the healing power of love and kindness.
Tessa's Picks, 2nd-5th grade, Biography, History, People if Color, Social Justice
During the Nazi invasion of France, thousands of Jewish people found sanctuary in the Grand Mosque of Paris. This book describes how Muslims in Paris helped their Jewish brothers and sisters during World War II. They saved lives in a myriad of ways ranging from writing false papers identifying Jews as Muslims, to secreting Jewish people and resistance fighters through hidden tunnels and out of Paris in emptied wine barrels.
There are so many fascinating vignettes of courage and defiance in this book. The actions described were secretive by nature and never officially documented, but the authors have hunted down the scraps of information they could find to present these stories. Full-page oil paintings throughout illustrate the story. There's a glossary, bibliography, index and further information in the back.
The Grand Mosque of Paris: A story of how Muslims rescued Jews during the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix
The book shares the story of Fred Korematsu, a second-generation Japanese American living on the West Coast during World War II, when the United States forced immigrants and citizens alike into internment camps. Fred resisted the order, and was jailed. The ACLU took up his case, which he eventually lost. He lost more than just the case. Many Japanese Americans turned on him, and he was officially considered a convicted felon. More than 40 years later, the ACLU decided to try his case again after finding new documents showing that the government had lied in his original case… and this time they won, setting an important precedent going forward. Fred knew what was happening was wrong and stood up against it. He was a changemaker. Here’s an excerpt from the main text: "Fred challenged something he thought was unfair. He spoke up– for himself and for all Japanese Americans, even when no one stood with him. It was not easy. But Fred fought to make the United States– his country– a fairer place. And he won. We all won." I love the lyrical, spare text of the book. I love the engaging layout and design featuring illustrations, full-color photos, definitions of terms, and historical timelines. There are also sidebars and pullout boxes that explain concepts in greater detail and add context. In addition to nonfiction text features such source notes, bibliography, photo and text credits, and an index, the book also includes a fantastic section about how readers can stand up for social justice themselves. I urge you to check this one out for the children in your life, for yourself, for our country, and for ALL of its citizens. (Review by L. Thompson)
Tessa's Picks 3rd through 8th grade, History, People of Color, Social Justice.
This book, while non-fiction, reads like an adventure novel. The story of Minamoto Yoshitsune is larger than life and the bravery, betrayals, and brutal ending felt like the best kind of Hollywood epic. When Yoshitsune was just a baby, his father was killed by a rival clan. Raised in a monastery, Yoshitsune was determined to escape and learn the way of the Samurai. Despite a late start in training, he became one of the most famous samurai of all time known for his fearless leadership in battle and the fierce loyalty he inspired among his men. But not everyone loved Yoshitsune, and when he was finally betrayed his death by seppuku would solidify the practice in Samurai tradition. Don't miss this thrilling tale!
Samurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner, Illustrated by Gareth Hinds
Erica's Picks 6th & up Tags: Adventure, Biography, Fast-Paced, History, Nonfiction, People of Color
Have you heard of the great chocolate strike where children took to the streets to protest the rising cost of a chocolate bar? Do you know the difference between the varieties of cocoa bean? How scientists are working towards producing better tasting, more sustainable chocolate? What role does chocolate play in history? How does it influence cultures all over the world? If you like learning about history, science, social justice, and of course chocolate--then this is the book for you!
I love all the different topics this book explores under the unifying umbrella of one of my favorite treats. It is absolutely jam-packed with interesting tidbits and poses many important and eye-opening questions about the future of chocolate and how it is produced today. Plus it includes a few recipes in case all this reading activates your sweet tooth. Don't feel guilty for indulging--there's plenty of health benefits to chocolate that Frydenborg is sure to point out!
Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World's Favorite Treat by Kay Frydenborg
John Brown is a controversial figure: depending on your perspective he could be seen as an inspiration who stopped at nothing to fight for what he thought was right or as one of the earliest domestic terrorists. The truth lies somewhere in the murky area between these two extremes. Read this book to uncover the bloody and complicated history of slavery, the civil war, and John Brown.
I really enjoyed the nuanced approach Marrin took towards John Brown but my favorite parts were when he pulled back to provide further context. His section on the history of slavery was excellent. Marrin doesn't pull any punches and he doesn't come down on any one side but allows the reader to explore the complexities of history and see multiple perspectives.
A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown's War Against Slavery by Albert Marrin
The Romanov family reigned over Russia in a time when unrest was growing and trouble was on the horizon. As the world outside changed, they grew increasingly out of touch as their isolation both protected and endangered them. Then, on one infamous day, the whole family was murdered to end the imperial line. Rumors of the survival of the young Anastasia spread, but the fate of the family was sealed. What led to this event and what was it like to grow up in Russia's last royal family? Find out in The Family Romanov!
This nonfiction book reads like a novel as the characters are developed and the plot races towards its inevitable tragic end. Fleming did an excellent job taking a really complicated era and making it understandable. Additional excerpts about lives of the peasants at the time helps to provide a wider context and make sense of what happened. An excellent read!
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming