Thursday, February 7, 2013

2012 Nonfiction Round-Up (Part One)

In which I briefly review several titles that I read last year but never got around to reviewing in depth. I totally blame this oversight on Game of Thrones.

 Miles To Go For Freedom: Segregation and Civil Rights in the Jim Crow Years by Linda Barrett Osborne

I looked at many books on civil rights last year, and this one stuck out for me because of its handsome design and wealth of photographs and illustrations. The book was published in association with the Library of Congress, and the pages of this book are saturated with of its treasures. Osborne clearly depicts how the Supreme Court ruling in Plessy Vs Ferguson allowed for segregation and the devastating effects on Americans' lives that resulted. The sources in the back led me to this great website: This book was named a Booklist Editor Choice for Youth.

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose

B95 is the hero of the story, a nearly 20-year-old rufa red knot who thrives in a harsh world. He's nicknamed Moonbird because he's flown at least as far as the moon, and most likely further. As a long-time survivor among a species that seems destined for extinction, it's hard not to root for him. The design of the book is very similar to the wonderful "Scientist in the Field" series, and the abundant maps and color photographs make it easy to follow along with the birds as they migrate over 9000 miles from the southern tip of Argentina to the Arctic Circle. My favorite picture is the blimpish red knot on page 31, who's fattened up to prepare for the journey. Moonbird was named a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction and Sibert Medal honor book, and was named an Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12 by the National Science Teachers Association.

Black Gold: The Story of Oil In Our Lives by Albert Marrin

This slim volume offers more breadth than depth in telling the story of oil - including its science, history and politics - from its making to our current struggle to find alternatives for it. Marrin presents thought-provoking and informative text that is aided by many helpful illustrations and diagrams. It was named an Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12 by the National Science Teachers Association.

Superman Vs the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate by Rick Bowers

Well-researched, fascinating parallel stories of the history of the Klan and Superman collide in 1949, when the writers of the popular Superman radio show decide to tackle hate groups. Created by a couple of Jewish kids from Ohio, Superman stood for the underdog and sought justice from the very beginning, but it wasn't until after World War II that social issues became a main focus of his adventures. The staff of the Superman radio were aided by the work of "Klan busters" like Stetson Kennedy, a Florida native who infiltrated the organization with the goal of exposing its secrets and bringing it down.

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson 

Hopkinson follows several passengers and crew of the ship as they go about their daily routines. Once the boat hits the iceberg and begins to sink, the narrative transitions into a riveting struggle for survival. I was most captivated by the accounts of the men who survived by clinging to an overturned lifeboat. Their stories provided the most suspense, as they were engaged in a life or death struggle where I didn't already know the outcome. Though both the text and illustrations were enlightening, I wish that the book included a diagram of the ship that labeled the decks and locations of all the lifeboats. This book was named a Sibert and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction honor book.

Next week, I will post brief reviews of We've Got A Job, Steve Jobs, October Mourning, My Friend Dahmer and Bomb.