I learned so much from this knowledgeable, collegial, opinionated, and dedicated group. For example, the information at the end of a nonfiction book is back matter and ought to be stellar! We searched through definitions, guidelines, and directions to identify a definition we could use. Most of us liked this Celebrate Science blog post: "Behind the Books: The Nonfiction Family Tree".
Seventeen winners are featured in VOYA’s August 2018 issue. You have to be a member to access the entire article, but your library may subscribe to the journal through http://email@example.com .
Each of us had a bias and that showed in our choices. My background is in the humanities, so some of the technical options were not as entertaining for me, but I learned what to expect from a good nonfiction book in the sciences.
However, my favorite winner is literary in scope. Nikki Grimes’. One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissancefeatures the works of poets of that era. She uses the “golden shovel” technique by creating her own poems using the original words from the classics as her last lines or words.
The artwork by contemporary African American young adult/children’s artists adds emotional impact. Language arts teachers should grab this multiple award winner whether teaching the Harlem Renaissance or not, powerful and inspirational tool.
I also love sports stories, but even in you don’t, you will get caught up in Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by the popular, prolific Steve Sheinkin. Thorpe, a phenomenal athlete, set records and helped his coach “Pop” Warner create modern football before he was stripped of his Olympic Medals. Sheinkin doesn’t negate the horrific practices at Indian boarding schools--part of our tragic history of native peoples.
My graduate assistant read Deborah Heiligman’s Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers for this blog. Daneele Dickerson says the story grabs readers and immerses them into the brothers’ close relationship. It’s filled with emotion, based on the actual letters written between famous artist, Vincent Van Gogh and his brother. The book creates a perfect balance between non-fiction and storytelling.
In another life. I taught social studies and language arts in tandem to seventh and eighth graders, and I have not lost my love of history. Heather E. Schwartz unveiled the detention of thirty African American girls in 1963 in Locked Up for Freedom: Civil Rights Protestors at the Leesburg Stockade. The discrimination the young women fought against through their teen activism followed by their subsequent arrest is a little-known incident in the Civil Rights Movement; black-and-white photos add to the power of the text.
Informational books remain favorites with young teens, and popular actress Mayim Blayik wrote Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular for young girls. “Girling up” is her terms for the transition to young womanhood. Told in a conversational style, Blayik relies on factual information coupled with common sense advice. A daughter of a friend, thirteen at the time, claimed that she learned a lot about growing up from the book.
Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees by Mary Beth Leatherdale and illustrator Eleanor Shakespeare is the story of five different teens over several decades who risk their lives to escape horrific living conditions. The mixed-media, collage-focused illustrations provide the backdrop that fits the needs of younger middle school readers.
Simon Winchester’s When the Sky Breaks: Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and the Worst Weather in the World. The photos are powerful and mesmerizing. As a Midwesterner, I went back in time with the recounting of the Joplin, MO, tornado that destroyed much of that town. Winchester outlines the history of meteorology, ties weather events to history, and also examines climate change.
The last nonfiction honor book defies prosaic categorization. Alison Deering and Bob Lentz created Sandwiches!: More Than You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food, a fun-filled collection of unpredictable recipes prepared from top to bottom, along with timelines and factoids.
Most of the winners are currently featured on author websites as they represent their most recent work. VOYA loved the way the group worked together and appointed us to the 2019 Nonfiction Honor List Committee for this year. Books arrive daily when the hurricanes and other natural events documented by Winchester don’t delay the process!