The beginning of the school year is almost here and it’s time to stock up on meaningful and well-written nonfiction titles for your classroom or library. Here are four recently released or upcoming titles that are inspiring as well as informative:
Moonbird by Phillip Hoose (Claudette Colvin; The Race to Save the Lord God Bird; We Were There, Too!). B95 is an approximately 20-year-old robin-sized shorebird that accomplishes an imaginable feat each year. Every March, it flies over 9,000 miles from its home in Tierra del Fuego near the southern tip of Argentina to the Canadian Arctic to breed. In August, it makes the return trip. In this bird’s lifetime, however, significant changes in the weather, terrain, and food supply along the way have caused its species’ numbers to diminish by 80 percent, from 150,000 to hovering near 25,000. Newbery Honor and National Book Award-winning author Phillip Hoose’s book takes readers along for the fly, describing the bird’s journey from continent to continent, the various threats to its habitat, and suggestions on what readers can do to help. Maps and profiles of fellow birders and conservationists are included throughout. Back matter includes an index, an appendix, source notes and a bibliography. (Ages 10+) Bonus material: If you’re not already sold on this book, read this interview with Hoose that was published in Publishers Weekly earlier this year. His plug: “It's a little sly, but I'm out to teach, baiting my readers with a Katniss Everdeen of a bird on a harrowing journey from the bottom of the world to the top.”
One Dead Spy and Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale. Graphic novelist Nathan Hale (Eisner-nominated Rapunzel's Revenge; Calamity Jack; The Twelve Bots of Christmas)—born 200 years after his namesake, an American spy during the Revolutionary War—has made learning history fun (and middle-grade funny) with the first two books in his Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series. One Dead Spy chronicles the life and follies of 21-year-old Hale who was captured behind enemy lines and hanged for engaging in illegal activities (i.e. espionage). Big Bad Ironclad teaches budding military buffs about the race between North and South to see which side could construct the most indestructible ironclad steam warships during the Civil War. We know who won the war, but who won the boat-building battle: the Union’s industrious firebomber John Ericsson or the Confederate’s impish William Cushing? These books are sturdy, easy to digest, and worthy learning tools for reluctant readers. The red accents throughout, the maps on the endpapers, and the kooky and creatively illustrated back matter (bibliography, timeline, history activity corner, a mini-comic, short biographies of people mentioned in the books, a section of humorous Q&A’s called “correction baby”) are a nice touch to a well-presented package. (Ages 8+)
Tales from the Top of the World by Sandra K. Athans. The journey to Nepal’s Mt. Everest’s peak at 29,035 feet is approximately 5.5 miles. From base camp to summit, it often takes at least a month’s time, if not more, depending on which of the 18 routes is chosen. Along the way, climbers face potential death at every turn—sudden blizzards or avalanches, sub-zero temperatures or hyperthermia, lack of oxygen, or by taking an ill-placed step and plummeting off a cliff or into a crevice. Along with providing facts (such as a list of necessary gear and clothing) and figures (such as the names, locations, and heights of the seven highest summits in the world) about trekking to the top of Mt. Everest, alongside full-color photographs of past climbs, the book follows Pete Athans as he scales the mighty mountain (he has done so 14 times and reached the top on seven of those trips). There are a ton of books out there about climbing Mt. Everest, but what makes this one special is the author’s close connection to her subject (Pete is her brother); the questions and answers for “Mr. Everest” such as “How do you go to the bathroom on Mt. Everest?” and “Have there been any deaths on your expeditions?” are an added treat. Back matter includes an epilogue, a timeline, a glossary, a list of source notes and suggestions for further reading, an index, and a bibliography. (Ages 9-14)
And . . . Pre-pub alert! This book is due out in September.
The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure by Martin W. Sandler (Dust Bowl Through the Lens; Secret Subway; Kennedy Through the Lens). Two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and Emmy-winning author Martin Sandler has written more than 70 books for children and adults. His latest effort takes readers on a perilous 1,500-mile overland mission sanctioned by President McKinley to rescue a fleet of eight whaling ships carrying nearly 300 sailors that got stranded in the icy Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska in the winter of 1897. Highlights include combating a scurvy epidemic, surviving a blinding blizzard, caring for tattered and exhausted sled dogs, and transporting two herds of more than 400 reindeer (i.e. food for the whalers) across the ice. All told, the rescue effort took almost 10 harrowing months (including the time spent at sea). The subject matter is exciting enough but Sandler’s suspenseful storytelling is made even more thrilling when backed by actual photographs of and journal entries about the intrepid excursion. Back matter includes a timeline, source notes, a bibliography, an index, and a fascinating chapter that provides much-anticipated closure about what eventually happened to each of the book’s key players. (Ages 10-14)
Like most bookworms, Alexis Burling has loved reading since she could crawl. She has worked in the publishing industry for over a decade and has reviewed both children's and adult books for prominent media outlets such as teenreads.com, Publishers Weekly, and the Washington Post.