YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Winner

The winner for YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults was announced at Midwinter!

YALSA 300x213 YALSA Nonfiction Award Shortlist

The winner:

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb. From my review: “In 1960, a group of Israeli spies and operatives captured the Nazi fugitive, Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann had been in charge of “Jewish affairs,” the head of operations for the Final Solution. In the chaos of the aftermath of World War II, he had disappeared. The Nazi Hunters traces the rumors of Eichmann being in Argentina; the steps to investigate whether the old man living in a small house is, indeed, the man responsible for the death of millions of men, women, and children. And, then, what was involved in Israel sending in a team to capture Eichmann and get him back to Israel for a trial.


Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd. From my review: “A book about graphic design, designed in such a way to both show and tell what graphic design is. To be honest, the nonfiction titles on the YALSA Nonfiction Finalist that are about history are ones that I would want to read anyway. One thing I like about my self-imposed challenge to read all the titles on the list is it pushes me to read outside my typical scope of interests. GO is terrific. I love how Kidd both tells the reader what graphic design is, but also shows it, using pictures, fonts, and other design features.

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler. From my review: “I was familiar with the general story of the Japanese American internment camps. Mostly, I admit, from a line or two in history class, and books and movies. Imprisoned shares all the details, the years of prejudices and fears that led to politicians and others believing, without any proof, that Japanese American citizens, of all ages, were a significant military threat justifying their imprisonment. And, because of the nature of the imprisonment, it was also the loss of property and homes and businesses that had to be left behind or sold at a loss; it was the nature of the imprisonment; the loss of freedom, the humiliation.”

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone. From my review: “During World War II, the US Armed Forces were segregated. This discrimination also included what roles African American men were, and weren’t, allowed. Combat? No. Cleaning? Yes. Courage Has No Color is the story of one group of men who challenged and helped change the status quo: the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the “Triple Nickles.” What is courage? What is strength? Perhaps it is being ready to fight for your nation even when your nation isn’t ready to fight for you.

The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson. From my review: The past November — the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK — I watched a lot of specials and documentaries about Kennedy, his life, his presidency, his death, the assassination, the aftermath. While “where were you when Kennedy was shot” is a defining question for the generation before mine, a moment of cultural unity, a loss of innocence. For the rest of us, it’s a story. A story known from fragments, here and there: a short home video; a handful of photographs; names and moments, recognized before they were understood or comprehended.



YALSA Nonfiction Award Shortlist

YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults has released it’s shortlist!

YALSA’s the Hub has the list of titles, with the official annotations. Here is the list, with my comments:

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi written by Neal Bascomb, published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. Placed on hold at the local library.

Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design written by Chip Kidd, published by Workman Publishing Company. Placed on hold at the local library.

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II written by Martin W. Sandler, published by Walker Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc. Not at the local library.

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers written by Tanya Lee Stone, published by Candlewick Press. Placed on hold at the local library. Placed on hold at the local library.

The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy written by James L. Swanson, published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. Placed on hold at the local library.

As you can see, I’ve read none of titles, and only 4 are at my local library.

I’ve got some work to do before the winner is announced at the Youth Media Awards at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting on January 27.

More on the Award is at the YALSA website.

YALSA is doing a Morris/NF Reading Challenge — I usually try to read all the nominated titles so will be participating in this.

A big thank you to the members of the 2014 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults award committee: Chair Jamison Hedin, Ludlow (Mass.) High School; Kathy M. Burnette, Discovery Middle School, Granger, Ind.; Molly M. Collins, Charlotte Mecklenburg (N.C.) Library; Maria E. Gentle, Arlington (Va.) Public Library; Dorcas Hand, Annunciation Orthodox School, Houston; Sarah Holtkamp, Chicago Public Library; Sherry L. Rampey, First Baptist Church of Gaston (S.C.); Scott Robins, Toronto Public Library, Ontario, Canada; and Patti Tjomsland, Bureau of Education and Research (BER) Longview, Wash; and Gillian Engberg, Booklist Consultant, Chicago, Ill

Review: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal. Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. 2012. Review copy from publisher. Finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award.

It’s About: A biography of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, Inc.

The Good: Reading books like Bomb, Titanic or We’ve Got a Job are easy for me, because they are about topics I enjoy. With Moonbird, I noted how I could better judge the book because I’m not an animal person so was neutral about the topic. With Steve Jobs, I had a different dilemma: the more I read, the more I disliked the person this biography was about.

My role is not to like Steve Jobs; it’s rather to talk about the books, what makes it work for me, why I think it’s on the list. As with Moonbird, it is easier to see that when I’m  not connected to the subject. I know I’m not being swept away by personal interest; so my role is to make sure that my dislike doesn’t factor into it. Part of the reason I’m sharing this with you is I get tired of posts that say a book isn’t good because the reader doesn’t like a character or topic or genre. It is entirely possible to evaluate a book based on the book.

So! Steve Jobs is a fascinating look at a complex man. Yes, he was, at times, self centered and not the greatest manager. But what really is a “great manager”? Is it someone who is liked, or is it someone who gets things done? Jobs got things done — and part of the value of a biography like this, that is not all puppies and daffodils and rainbows, is showing the reader this. Since this is a book for teens, I think it’s almost more valuable for them, who are still figuring things out, to know that someone who isn’t “nice” can accomplish great things; and that just because someone accomplishes terrific things, it doesn’t mean they are “nice.” Life is not that simplistic. I don’t say this as an excuse for how someone conducts their own life, but, rather, as something that people  need to be aware of as they get jobs, start businesses, and work with others.

While telling the story of Jobs, Steve Jobs is also a look at technology that the intended reader has always known, and is a great (and easy for the non-geek to understand) look at the start and growth of computers, as they became the desk top and lap top devices that are everywhere. It is also, more specifically, insight into specific devices that the readers probably either use or want to own: iPhones and iPads.

Business, economics, stock shares — not the type of thing generally taught to teens. Steve Jobs, using Apple, Inc., as well as other companies, does a terrific job of explaining and showing how business works. It’s not enough to invent something: where does the money come? Who takes care of the business? What is the role of advertising?

Other reviews: The Nonfiction Detectives; The Non-Traditional Librarian; Interview with author at SLJ’s Curriculum Connections.


Review: Titanic

Titanic: Voices From The Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson. Scholastic 2012. Review copy from publisher. Finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award. Edited to add: Sibert Honor.

It’s About: The sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic on April 15, 1912, resulting in the loss of over 1,400 men, women and children.

The Good: I believe the first Titanic movie I saw was 1958’s A Night to Remember and the first book I read about it was Walter Lord’s 1955 novel on which the movie was based.  I am by no means even an armchair expert, but I’ve read a bunch of books (fiction and nonfiction) and watched a few of the films and documentaries.

Hopkinson’s Titanic gives a thorough look at the disaster, from building to setting sail, to the night it hits an iceberg, the sinking and the aftermath. There are plenty of photographs and other original documents, adding to the information provided.

The story is told using the first-hand accounts of the men, women and children who were on the Titanic, both crew and first-, second-, and third-class passengers. While some of the people were familiar to me (teenage Jack Thayer’s miraculous survival), others were not, such as Frankie Goldsmith, a young boy travelling third-class with his family. Their voices add an immediacy to the story, emphasizing the personal stories of survival. Particularly heartbreaking are the final moments between family members.

For those who want more, Hopkinson includes a bibliography of both books and websites.

Other reviews: Bookends, a Booklist blogGuys Lit Wire; Someday My Printz Will Come.

Review: We’ve Got a Job

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson, Peachtree Publishers 2012. Review copy from publisher. Finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award.

It’s About: In May, 1963, African Americans marched for freedom in Birmingham, Alabama. The marchers were school children. Just as with adult protesters,  they were met with police resistance; fire hoses and dogs were used against them; they were arrested, responding to Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to “fill the jails” as a protest against segregation.

Why children? Why march?

The Good:  I’ll be honest: I hadn’t heard about the May 1963 Children’s March. (Or maybe I had, yet don’t remember.) I love finding out new things, even when it’s accompanied by a “how come I didn’t know this before?”

We’ve Got A Job is a unique look at the civil rights movement, by looking at an event that was primarily about children and teenagers. Four teenagers are highlighted, Audrey Hendricks, the youngest participant at age nine, and three high school students, Washington Booker III, James W. Stewart, and Arnetta Streeter.

Audrey, Wash, James, and Arnetta reflect the diversity of the African American community in Birmingham in 1963, in terms of involvement in the civil rights movement as well as socioeconomic background. Some, like Audrey, are from families active in the movement; others get involved on their own. Being African American in Birmingham 1963 means that whether a person is the child of a dental assistant or doctor, those different backgrounds don’t matter when it comes to using a library, attending to school, eating at a restaurant, or attending a movie. It’s not about whether you can afford the dress in the store or the ice cream at the lunch counter; it’s about the color of your skin.

Levinson does a terrific job of creating the world these children lived in. The details are the type that make the past all the more real, such as not being allowed to try on clothes in dressing rooms and what parents did when confronted with a day out and no access to bathrooms.

Why did they, as children, march? We’ve Got a Job explains how adults were committed to ending segregation, but not necessarily to being arrested and risking jail and loss of jobs. Children and teenagers didn’t have the fear of job loss. Levinson explains how the leaders in Birmingham came to the decision to include children; and how that came to be.

And yes, they ended up in jail. Even nine year old Audrey.

Other reviews: The Happy Nappy BooksellerEducating AliceGuys Lit Wire 

Review: Moonbird

Moonbird: A Year On the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2012. Review copy from publisher. Finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award. Edited to add: Sibert Honor.

It’s About: B95 is a rufa red knot, first tagged in Argentina in 1995. Since then, B95 has been seen again and again, not just in Argentina, but along the varied places in the migratory cycle of a rufa red knot: Argentina, the Delaware Bay, Canada. Moonbird (a nickname for B95) uses the life and journey of one small bird to show the intricate life of this small shorebird, as well as bigger lessons about ecology, interdependence and extinction.

The Good: As you may remember from my review of Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, I am not an animal person. For readers who are animal people, Moonbird is an easy fit and recommendation. Nature lovers will love it. It also shows, from the many scientists and volunteers who appear in the book, the various career and vocational paths for those who love animals. I already know who I’ll be recommending this book to.

The good thing about being a non-animal lover reading a book like this is I don’t get swept away by the topic. See, in nonfiction, I have to be vigilant and aware to make sure that my liking a topic or subject matter doesn’t influence what I think about the actual book. What is it about Moonbird that made it a finalists for the YALSA Award of Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, an award to “recognize the best in the field of nonfiction books (at this time, only books will be considered for the award) materials for young adults,” and it must include “excellent writing, research, presentation and readability for young adults.”

Most of Moonbird is about the year-long migratory cycle that the rufa red knots make. Woven in is deeper information, from the process of banding birds (how the birds are captured, the color-coding different countries have used since 2003) to the relatively recent discovery that the Delaware Bay is one of the stops on that path. This is a part of New Jersey culture I didn’t know about, not at all! I love how Moonbird doesn’t just present facts and figures; it explains how that knowledge was gained. It’s not just the findings of scientists, it’s also the work of scientists, which is always ongoing.

The number of rufa red knots have dropped since B95 was first seen. Part of that has to do with their journey. The book starts with Argentina, where B95 was first tagged, and the food sources that the shorebirds pursue, moving on in a set pattern to best take advantage of the ideal food sources and temperature. If something happens to one part of that intricate chain, it affects all, which is why the threat of extinction now exists for a bird that was plentiful just a couple of decades ago. When I went looking for more information, I found A Red-Knot Celebrity Is Back in Town from The New York Times, dated this past May! B95 survives.

For how much longer, though? B95 is the perfect bird to use to illustrate the dangers of extinction, the intricacy of the earth’s resources and how different organisms and animals rely on each other and are interdependent.

I can easily see why Moonbird is a finalist. For “readability,” it combines narrative and information seamlessly. The research is explained in the Appendix and Source Notes, as well as the author’s own knowledge and experiences with rufa red knots. While this is about a shorebird, I also see it as inspiration — not just “what you can do” in terms of the rufa red knot as Moonbird spells out in the Appendix, but in what a teenager who loves science can do in terms of a career. Isn’t “best” about that type of inspiration? And while I personally am more a history nonfiction reader, I love that there are such terrific science nonfiction books for readers!

Other reviews: Bookends, a Booklist blog (this includes Common Core connections); SLJ Heavy Medal; LibrariYan.

YALSA Nonfiction Award Shortlist

As you may remember, I was on last year’s committee for YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

This year’s committee just released it’s shortlist. Here are the titles, from YALSA’s the Hub:

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, written by Deborah Hopkinson, published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic

Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, written by Steve Sheinkin, published by Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. From my review: “One of the reasons I like non-fiction is it shows why spoilers don’t matter. Most readers will know that the Americans were indeed the first to create and use the atomic bomb; so it’s not about whether it happens, but how and why.”

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95, written by Phillip Hoose, published by Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan children’s Publishing Group

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different, a biography by Karen Blumenthal, published by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March, written by Cynthia Levinson, published by Peachtree Publishers.

As you can see, I’ve only read 1 of the 5 titles so I’ve got some work to do before the winner is announced at the Youth Media Awards at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting on January 28.

More on the Award is at the YALSA website.

YALSA is doing a Morris/NF Reading Challenge — I usually try to read all the nominated titles so will be participating in this.

A big thank you to the members of the 2013 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults award committee: Chair Angela Frederick, Nashville (TN) Public Library; Ruth Allen, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR; Roxy Ekstrom, Schaumburg (IL) Township Library; Angie Manfredi, Los Alamos (NM) County Library System; Judy Nelson, Pierce County Library System, Tacoma, WA; Maren Ostergard, King County Library System, Issaquah, WA; Laura Pearle, VennConsultants, Carmel, NY; Adela Peskorz, Metropolitan State University Library, Saint Paul, MN; Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington (VA) Public Library; Sara Morse, Nashville (TN) Public Library; and Gillian Engberg, Booklist, Chicago.

Review: Bomb

Bomb: The Race To Build – And Steal – The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. Flash Point, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing. 2012. Edited to add that this is a Finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award. Edited to add: Newbery Medal Honor book; Sibert Book Award; YALSA Nonfiction Award winner.

It’s About: One nice thing about non-fiction titles: they tell you up front what a book will be about. This is about the invention of the atomic bomb, told through three stories: the scientific journey from the discovery of nuclear fission to the creation of and use of the atomic bomb; the spy story, as various people in different countries provide information on the American program to the USSR; and the military story, as commandos worked behind enemy lines in Nazi held Europe to stop the Nazis from being the first to create an atomic bomb.

The Good: One of the reasons I like non-fiction is it shows why spoilers don’t matter. Most readers will know that the Americans were indeed the first to create and use the atomic bomb; so it’s not about whether it happens, but how and why. Because there are three story threads, there is even a possibility that one of those three (the spy story or the commando story) may be new to the reader, providing the suspense some readers need in their books.

One of the reasons I like reading the National Book Award finalists after they are announced is that I can read the book looking for why a title got the nod. Here, I think it’s because of the way the three stories are twined together and complement each other, as well as make each story stronger. It’s also that (like Sheinkin’s Benedict Arnold) the writing style puts the reader in the moment, with the real life characters and events being told.

For those who are aware of the historical events depicted, Sheinkin provides information (or doesn’t provide information) that is enlightening. For example, the details on the raids on Nazi-held plants and planned kidnapping of German scientists; or that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg play such a minor role in the spy ring that they appear on only a few pages and aren’t even mentioned in the index. As a personal aside, when I was growing up the guilt of the Rosenbergs was still hotly debated. (For more on the Rosenbergs, see, for example, The Rosenbergs: A Case of Love, Espionage, Deceit and Betray[al] at the Crime Library.) (As an aside, I would love a book on American Communists for younger readers, especially about things like red diaper babies, with both sympathy and honesty.) While the Rosenbergs don’t figure much in Bomb, many other dedicated Soviets who spy based on various personal and political reasons are mentioned, including both men and women and parents with young children.

See what just happened there? How I wondered about other things, even did a bit of research? That’s one thing I love about a good book: that it satisfies me, yes; but that it also makes me think and want to know more.

Because Bomb shows just how exciting science can be. Because Bomb juggled an amazingly large cast of characters, and it was always clear who was who. Because of the exciting narration and pace. This is one of my Favorite Books Read of 2012.

Other Reviews: BookEnds, a Booklist blog; Educating Alice; at Heavy Medal at SLJ, Nina’s Take and Jonathan’s Take.

The 2012 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction For Young Adults

And the winner is . . . .

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery written by Steve Sheinkin, published by Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

From the ALA Website:  “Treating history as mystery, Sheinkin takes readers through means, motive, and opportunity as he outlines Arnold’s path towards treason. This well researched (with liberal use of primary sources) cradle to grave biography emphasizes the political, social, and military issues within the Colonial army and how Arnold ambitiously maneuvered his own career through grit and determination. “In this illuminating biography, Sheinkin proves that spoilers don’t matter—it’s not whether or not Arnold betrayed his country, but why,” said YALSA Nonfiction Award Chair Jennifer Hubert.”

The finalists:

Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition by Karen Blumenthal, published by Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy, published by National Geographic Children’s Books.

Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein by Susan Goldman Rubin, published by Charlesbridge.

Full annotations are at the YALSA website.

I had a terrific time being on this year’s committee, I loved getting to know my fellow committee members, and wow, what an amazing year for nonfiction!

You’ll never guess what committee I am on now . . .

YALSA NonFiction Award Update

An update on the YALSA NonFiction Award for all of you who are planning on attending Midwinter!

From the YALSA Wiki: “Monday, January 23. Morris & Nonfiction Award Program & Presentation from 10:30 AM to noon. Come to this free event and help YALSA celebrate the 2012 honorees and winners for the Morris Award and YA Nonfiction Award! Enjoy coffee, tea and danish and listen to the winners and finalists speak about their honored titles. After the speeches, mingle with the authors and pick up free copies of their books. The Morris finalists and Nonfiction finalists will be announced the first week of December.”

This year’s ALA Midwinter Meeting is at Dallas, Texas, from January 20 to 24. So, if you’re attending ALA meetings during Midwinter, please come by for this joint program and presentation!