Monday, March 19, 2012

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday was started by Anastasia Suen and is hosted this week at EMUs Debuts. Hop on over for a complete list of links with nonfiction reviews.

McClafferty, Carla Killough. The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon.
Who knew? The popular opinion of George Washington nowadays is that he was dour and old, and people don't know as much about him now as they did thirty years ago. To offset this, a group of researchers connected with the Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens decided to put together as much information about what Washington looked like, as well as who he really was, so that modern day people could get to know him. The book chronicles the process used in getting an accurate depiction of what Washington looked like and using this information to make life sized, extremely realistic wax models of him, with descriptions of what Washington's life was like at the various stages portrayed by the models. The science of the research and the art of the models are described very clearly, and information about Washington's life and how this led him to be the person (and president) he was is presented in an intriguing way.
Strengths: This is an excellent book for anyone who is heading to Mt. Vernon to see the site, or for history classes studying Washington. The recreation process is very interesting, and am I the only one who came away with a tiny bit of a crush on the 19-year-old Washington? Who knew that he was such a strapping young man?
Weaknesses: This is a bit much to read straight through, because there is a lot of information. Also, I was a little bothered (as I always am) by the amount of money spent on figuring out someone who is dead when there are so many children who are living who would benefit from some of it. I know, I know; history is important.

Barton, Chris. Can I See Your I.D.?: True Stories of False Identities.
Have you ever wanted to be someone else? This book includes the stories of ten people who not only wanted that, they acted upon the impulse and assumed another identity. From Keron Thomas, who wanted to drive a train even though he wasn't old enough, to Solomon Perel who assumed a gentile identity to survive the Holocaust, to Sarah Wakeman, a woman who fought as a man during the Civil War, these ten people all decided to be someone else and were successful at it, at least for a limited time. Each story covers why the people assumed a new identity, and what happened to them after they were discovered. An long bibliography in the back of the book shows the extensive research that went into this book.
Strengths: Chris Barton (The Day-Glo Brothers) has a knack for telling the story of little known people in very compelling ways. Students love reading about crime and criminals, and with this appealing cover, the book will never make it back to the shelves.
Weaknesses: I found the second person narrative harder to follow, although I understand why this was used. Every year, a language arts teacher asks for a book with a second person narrative style, and since Bright Lights Big City can't really be used in middle school, here's my example!

Hunter, Nick. Inside the Olympics.
This 64 page book starts with the ancient Olympics and continues on through the revival in the late 1800s. It then follows a few notable historic games and then covers how the games are set up, hosted, and carried out. Record holders are mentioned, as are controversies that have arisen over the years. Photos and statistics add to the narrative.
Strengths: I liked how the 2012 games are covered a bit-- how London was chosen, what sort of preparations are being made-- while still remaining primarily a history book. This is a book well worth having, since there is usually a call for more than one copy.
Weaknesses: Most of the record holders mentioned are young enough to be my children!


  1. I am going to look into the George Washington book. My 8th grade talks about him so much during the birth of our country-but doesn't always give interesting details, so it would be fun to teach them from something other than their textbook! :) The Olympics book would be good for my "social studies" library for the kids to read from! :)

  2. My kids and I are into spies lately so Can I See Your ID? sounds really great for us!

    Too bad Bright Lights Big City isn't really appropriate! It's good for me though!

  3. I think I'd like to read this and I'm definitely not anywhere near the 5th or the 8th grade! I love books that bring historical figures to life.

  4. So nice! What a diverse collection of books you have here. Seems like you're also into the Presidential fever. Can I see your ID sounds like something my daughter will be into. :) Thank you for sharing! :)