Oh, the struggle that is middle grade nonfiction! I love literary nonfiction like the great Blizzard of Glass, but my readers blanch when they see the length. They would prefer the 36 page canned nonfiction, and those are decent enough with information, but just no fun to read. Books like Poop Happened find a good balance. Here's a wealth of nonfiction for this week!
Dumont, Briana. Famous Phonies: Legends, Fakes, and Frauds Who Changed History
October 28th 2014 by Sky Pony Press
E ARC provided by the author
This well-researched and kid-friendly book covers a variety of important historical figures who were important, but whose legends have outstripped their realities. Included in this group are (copied from the Goodreads.com description): The Yellow Emperor * Gilgamesh * Homer * Pythagoras * Confucius * Mary Magdalene * Hiawatha * Prester John * William Shakespeare * George Washington * The Turk * Major William Martin. For the personalities I knew about, the chapters covered most of the salient characteristics of the legends, and did a good job of covering the reasons why the legends have come under attack at various points in history. I knew about much of the research surrounding Homer, Shakespeare and George Washington, but was glad to see lesser known people covered as well. The only problem with this was that the tone, which was deliciously flippant and made the book much easier to read, occasionally confused me, since I didn't have the background knowledge. This is a good book to keep on hand to use for units on the ways that history can be interpreted, would be useful if students are dealing with any of the individuals, and will be popular with history buffs who don't take history TOO seriously. There are some completely humorless Homerian scholars who would not be amused. (If said Homerian scholars are even still alive, since they were a bit mothbally when I studied Homer thirty years ago at the University of Cincinnati!)
Dipiazza, Francesca. Remaking the John: The Invention and Reinvention of the Toilet
November 1st 2014 by Twenty-First Century Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com
I will have to buy this book because it is a wonderfully complete history of sanitation that will be used for a variety of projects. Even though this comes in at a mere 88 pages, it covers the history of toilets from earliest findings to revolutionary new techniques in waste management. I was especially interested in the chapter on the creation of modern bathrooms in the 1920s, since my mother had an outhouse at the farmhouse where she grew up! The downside to this book is that it is really dryly written. If there were more levity of presentation, I could easily triple the number of readers. Twenty-first Century Books seem to be a more academic press, and while it is great that they publish books on topics that interest students, they might give a little more thought to tone. This author's Friend Me is (again) a great resource on the history of social networking, but a bit long and serious for my students.
Stabler, David. Kid Presidents
October 28th 2014 by Quirk Books
ARC from Baker and Taylor
This book is filled with short, illustrated anecdotes about the presidents when they were children. Instead of going chronologically, it divides the stories up by type. A wide variety of presidents are represented, and at the back of the book there is a list of "fun facts" about each president. This would be a good gift for a president obsessed child (and I have a couple at school), or a good reference to have for augmenting history lessons. I prefer photographs to cartoons, and it would have been nice if a couple were included, since most children have only seen pictures of the presidents when they were in office. Still, young readers will enjoy the cartoons. This is sort of The Presidents ala Wimpy Kid. Not quite as in-depth as The Childhood of Famous Americans books, but fun to browse.
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.