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Posts Tagged «nonfiction»

What if?

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

what ifby Randall Munroe, 295 pages, All ages

“What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?”

“If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?”

“What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?”

These questions and many more are scientifically considered and answered using diagrams and line drawings by Randall Munroe, the creator of xkcd.

 

If you enjoy nonfiction books that answer curiosity, you might also enjoy: Cool Stuff 2.0 and How It Works, by Woodford and Woodcock, Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, by Glenn and Larsen, or Pick Me Up, by Roberts and Leslie.

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

Friday, March 29th, 2013

by Russell Freedman, 119 pages, Grades 5-9

“‘He was the architect of his own fortune, a self-made man,’ Douglass wrote of Lincoln.  He had ‘ascended high but with hard hands and honest work build the ladder on which he climbed’ –  words that Douglass, as he was aware, could easily have applied to himself” (Freedman 103).

 

Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had a lot in common:  they both grew up poor and uneducated, they both taught themselves because they greatly desired knowledge, and they both wanted to end the practice of slavery in the United States.  They were also very different men: Douglass was born a slave, Lincoln was born free, Douglass had to spend the first part of his life tortured and enslaved, and though Lincoln’s family was poor and he had to work hard he was never tortured.  Douglass and Lincoln also had different approaches to the problem of slavery, but they respected one another greatly even when they did not agree.

 

Freedman’s book is not only interesting, but also an easy read; you feel compelled to continue reading every word as though it were a suspenseful novel keeping you on the edge of your seat.

 

If you enjoy nonfiction, you might also like other books by Russell Freedman like:  The War to End All Wars, Who Was First:  Discovering the Americas, or The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marion Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights.  

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Outcasts United

Friday, March 29th, 2013

by Warren St. John, 226 pages, Grades 7 and up

This is a book of many true stories beginning with Luma Mufleh.  She is a Jordanian exchange student and avid soccer player, who decided to remain in the United States after completing her education at Smith University in Massachusetts.  She made her way to the suburbs of Atlanta Georgia and stumbled upon a very interesting city called Clarkston.  

The U.S. government had been relocating refugees since the 1980s and this little town had become extremely cosmopolitan.  People fleeing wars in their homelands of Bosnia, Afghanistan, Liberia, Ethiopia and many other countries all ended up thrown together in the town of Clarkston.  Mufleh was drawn to the place when she noticed their grocery store carried food she missed from home, but the thing that really grabbed her attention was the groups of young boys playing soccer on every available field she saw.  All of them were playing in bare feet, but they showed more passion for the game than any of the kids she was coaching in the suburbs.  She decided to bring a soccer program to Clarkston.  Mufleh coaches three teams of boys called the Fugees; this book is a collection of their stories and the teams’ stories.  

To watch a video about the team go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ItUYQhQ_CHg#!

 

 

Kids of Kabul

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

 

by Deborah Ellis, 137 pages, Grades 6-8

This is a nonfiction collection of stories from the perspective of different kids living through the wars of Afghanistan. These children have lived through the violence of war and the challenges of survival in war’s aftermath.  Each chapter is a heartwrenching story of survival; the characters are pragmatic and realistic, and most unbelievably remain hopeful as they look toward the future.  

If you enjoy reading nonfiction books about kids your age you might also enjoy Girl, 13, by Starla Griffin, From Jazz Babies to Generation Next: The history of the American teenager, by Laura B. Edge, or Claudet Colvin: Twice toward justice, by Phillip Hoose.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

Monday, August 13th, 2012

food-rules-cover-484by Michael Pollan, Illustrated by Maira Kalman, 207 pages, all ages

Eating healthy food has become complicated in the modern western world.  According to Michael Pollan many of us have grown up eating “edible foodlike substances” instead of, or in addition to real food.  The food industry’s advertising and marketing has made finding healthy food very complicated.  Pollan has a simple message:  “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.”  He breaks into some clever and easy-to-follow rules for healthy eating including:  “Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary person would keep in the pantry,” “Eat animals that have themselves eaten well,” and “Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored.”
If you enjoy reading about the food we eat you might also enjoy Man Eating Bugs: the Art and Science of Eating Insects, by Peter Menzel.

The Poet Slave of Cuba

Friday, September 24th, 2010

poet slaveBy Margarita Engle, Art by Sean Qualls    p. 183  – Grades 7-12 – biography

Trapped as a slave in a wealthy home in Cuba, Juan Francisco Manzano lived his life in fear of the cruel punishments of his masters.  This sad and harrowing story was uncovered because the young slave,  Manzano, wrote vivid poetry that describes his time as a slave.   In Cuba poetry is like television; many people perform poetry for others and stories are often carried across the country because people repeat the poems they have heard.  It is for this reason that the author, Margarita Engle, was inspired to write this biography in verse, paying tribute to Manzano’s work.  While enslaved Manzano could not stop creating poems in his head; sometimes his owners praised him for his creativity and other times he was severely punished.  The poems were part of Manzano and came to him as naturally as breathing; no punishment, no matter how harsh, could stop him from being himself.

Connections:  For other serious stories in verse try Aleutian Sparrow or Out of the Dust, both by Karen Hesse.  For stories about people escaping oppression try 5,000 Miles to Freedom: Ellen and William Craft’s Flight From Slavery, by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin, or The Year of Impossible Goodbyes, by Sook Nyul Choi.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

Monday, August 30th, 2010

the boy who harnessedBy William Kamkwamba,   p. 273 – adult autobiography

When William was a kid he loved to take thing apart.  He dissembled his parents radios and spent hours investigating a neighbor’s bike light, spinning the wheel to turn it on and stopping the wheel to turn it off.  Sometimes this experimenting drove his parents crazy, but it was this kind of thinking that would save his village.  When he was 13 Malawi experienced a two year famine; his family survived, but were left nearly penniless.  It was this struggle that was the spark igniting William’s creative thinking; he just knew that power was the answer to his village’s troubles.  If they could somehow control energy, they could work later into the night, pump water to their crops, farm more efficiently, and farm enough crops to save some for hard times.  He used his local library, a one-room building about a quarter of  our library reference room) and the town junk yard to build a working windmill.  The people of the village thought he was crazy until his house was filled with light.  He was finally recognized by the wider world and was honored at TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design): Ideas Worth Sharing. Check out – William Kamkwamba:  How I Harnessed the Wind. This incredible teenage journey is a compelling read for middle school students and adults as well.

Connection:  For other true stories about overcoming astonishing odds try Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson, Of Beetles and Angels, by Mawi Asgedom, or 5,000 Miles to Freedom, by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin.

All About Sleep from A to Zzzz

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

about sleepBy Elaine Scott, 58 pages.  Grades 5-8

Have you ever wondered why you sometimes feel like you are falling as you go to sleep and wake with a jerk?  Did you ever wonder what would happen to you if you didn’t sleep?  Or, why we have nightmares?  The author explores the science behind sleep walking, dreams, sleeping disorders and the stages of sleep in this nonfiction title.

Connections:  For other books on sleep, try reading Sleep:  The Mysterious Third of Your Life by Jonathon Kastner, Dead on Their Feet:  Teen Sleep Deprivation and Its Consequences by Joan Esherick, and Sleep and Dreams by Alvin Silverstein.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Omnivores-Dilemma-coverBy Michael Pollan and adapted by Richie Chevat, 298 pages.  Grades 6-10

Here is some food for thought. . .

The omnivore’s dilemma in the past: Since we can eat almost anything, how do we know what is safe to eat?

The modern omnivore’s dilemma: We have thousands of choices of food in our supermarkets, but we don’t really know what is in our food or where it comes from.  How do we decide what to have for dinner?

Richie Chevat has taken Michael Pollan’s 415 page answer to the modern question (The Omnivore’s Dilemma:  A Natural History of Four Meals) and cut it down to more bite-sized pieces without losing any of the flavor.  To help us omnivores decide what to eat, the book shows us food production from four points of view:  industrial (think McDonald’s), industrial organic (think Whole Foods), local sustainable (think farmer’s market), and hunter-gatherer (think hunting and gathering).  After you ingest this mouthful, you might never look at food the same way again.

Connections:  For other examinations of the food industry try reading Fast Food Nation or the young adult version called Chew on This by Eric Schlosser.  For a look at the horrors of the early nineteenth century meat packing business that  led to the first regulations in the food industry, read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

sea queensby Jane Yolen, p. 92  Grades 4-7

Ahoy matey!  Pirates bring to mind Blackbeard, peg legs, eye patches, the Jolly Roger, stolen treasure, and not women.  Women were generally considered bad luck on a ship.  Yet, Yolen shares the history and legend of several infamous female pirates.  The beautiful Alfhild from Denmark was protected from unwanted suitors by a pet viper.  The fierce Grania O’Malley from Ireland gave birth to her son aboard ship and climbed out of bed the next day to shoot at the leaders of a Turkish ship that had attacked.  Madam Ching of China “commanded a total of two thousand boats and seventy thousand men, the most any pirate in the world ever led.”  So hop on board and enjoy the tales.

Connection:  For another title telling tales of women in a role typically held by men, check out I’ll Pass for Your Comrade:  Women Soldiers in the Civil War by Anita Silvey.  Check out this video interview with Jane Yolen.

Knucklehead

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

KnuckleheadBy Jon Scieszka.  p. 106 – Grades 4-7

Have you ever wondered where the author of the Stinky Cheese Man gets his wildly hilarious ideas?  Well, this very funny autobiography of Jon Scieszka will answer that question.  Scieszka grew up in a family of six boys, and the stories he tells about his childhood include listing all the swear words he knows for his parochial school nun, charging the neighbor kids money to watch his little brother eat cigarette butts, and playing a game called Slaughterball.  Caution:  includes some bathroom humor.

Connections:  Other humorous memoirs include How Angel Peterson Got His Name by Gary Paulsen, Chicago Days and Hoboken Nights by Daniel Pinkwater, Living Up the Street by Gary Soto, Oddballs by William Sleator, The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan, and the country vet books by James Herriot.  Check out this video of Jon Scieszka.