Sunday, June 19, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday

Here are two book from that don't come out for a while, but they were both FABULOUS. Lerner Books usually have great stuff, and it's nice to be able to see E-ARCs, since I don't always get a chance to read the nonfiction before I buy it, and it does tend to be on the expensive side.

Havelin, Kate. Dressing a Nation: Hoopskirts, Union Blues and Confederate Grays: Civil War Fashions from 1861-1865.
Nicely broken up into chapters on women's clothing, men's, slaves, soldiers and the emerging fashion industry in general this was a very complete account of what people wore during this time period. No details are missed; underwear, accessories, and even hair styles are covered. Illustrations are copious and well-captioned and sidebars add interest. This is exactly what I have needed in the past (and could not find) when students do projects on clothing during this time period, so I'm thrilled to see it. This series is entitled Dressing a Nation and includes four other titles, all of which come out on October 1. I want them all, especially Zoot Suits and the Little Black Dress, but this is the only title that aligns with our curriculum. Sigh.

McPherson, Stephanie Sammartino. Iceberg Right Ahead: The Tragedy of the Titanic.
There are bound to be a lot of books coming out this year because of the Titanic centennary, including a Gordon Korman trilogy and a Barry Denenberg title, but this was a particularly well done nonfiction title. While all of the facts of the Titanic were presented in a straightforward manner (history, production, staffing, survival statistics broken down by gender and class of passengers), the inclusion of individual stories of passengers gave a poignancy to the book that made me understand why my students are still enthralled with this event even after 100 years. Heck, I even wanted to check out the movie just in order to see a depiction of the ship and the period costumes! This will be a definite purchase and will circulate frequently.

The only problem with the above titles was the fact that they were E-ARCs. They could not be read on my Nook; in order to get the excellent pictures AND have font big enough to read, I had to read them from the computer. This gave me pause about the future of digital textbooks.

Myers, Walter Dean. Bad Boy. (2001)

This memoir is one I've been meaning to read for some time, since my hard core fans of Myers will hunt this one down in the biographies, and I finally listened to it on a recent car trip. This marks the first time I have listened to an entire audio book, but also points out that I am not an auditory learner and had trouble remembering everything in the book. I was particularly struck by the fact that readers who are expecting Myers to be as bad as some of the characters in his book will be very disappointed that he wasn't very bad at all, and by the fact that he ruminates quite a bit about why he liked to read and why he became a writer.

Paulsen, Gary. Masters of Disaster. (2010)
The second book I've finished listening to was this recent Gary Paulsen. Again, I am a visual learner, and while I got a great sense that the boys in my school will love this story, replete with people caroming around on bikes into garbage pails full of dirty diapers, I can't give you a coherent plot descriptions and will have to read a print version. But I am really, really pleased with this new trend in Paulsen's writing toward the humorous. He has quite the knack; we just weren't seeing it with his slightly ponderous survival stories or introspective books about odd people. I've been wary of blindly buying Paulsen because of his older work, but I now look forward to his new titles avidly. Quite an improvement! (And I know a lot of people who think everything he is written is utterly brilliant anway!)


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