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Cybils Reading, Part 1

2 Jan

For the fourth time in five years, I am a Round 2 Cybils Judge for Junior and Senior High nonfiction. Guess what I’m reading (or rereading) for the next month. Yup, excellent nonfiction for older kids. Here are the Junior High Nonfiction Finalists.


Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything
by Martin W. Sandler
Candlewick Press

1968 was a difficult year for the United States, but it ended with at least one bright spot—the successful mission to orbit the moon. 50 years later, Sandler expertly reveals the true tale of Apollo 8 from many important angles: the science and technology behind the mission, the lives of the individuals involved in making it happen, and the cultural and historical relevance of both the mission itself and its most iconic image, the Earthrise photograph. The gorgeous design and absorbing storytelling combine to offer something for every reader.


Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam
by Elizabeth Partridge
Viking Books for Young Readers

A stirring account of the Vietnam War told in a mix of profiles of prominent Americans and memories of those who were there. Context and large black-and-white photographs are woven in, but the focus remains on the personal stories, creating a moving, compelling, and immediate look at the war.

Capsized!: The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster
by Patricia Sutton
Chicago Review Press

Patricia Sutton explores why the Eastland disaster has been unknown for so long in a riveting, page-turning history for YA readers. Capsized! is told through firsthand accounts of responders and survivors of this Chicago River passenger ship tragedy. Archive photos give readers glimpses into the lives of the passengers and stand as reminders of forgotten history. A highly worthwhile read and exceptionally documented history.

Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin
by James L. Swanson
Scholastic Press

Swanson has written another compelling narrative account of a heinous crime. Just as in his two previous assassination accounts, Swanson gives the reader both the before and after of King’s assassination. While the book is not a full length biography of Martin Luther King Jr. Swanson does provide enough information to give the reader context and understanding as to why someone might want to kill the man. Using a plethora of sources (which are thoroughly documented at the end of the book), Swanson walks the reader through the days leading up to the assassination and the days following. The book takes the reader past the violence, past the funeral, past Ray’s sentencing, followed by his ongoing efforts to prove his innocence and his escape attempts. The photographs provide a particularly powerful picture of events shared in the book. But after all is said and done, after the burial, and the sentencing, and everything else, one question remains: why did Ray kill Martin Luther King, Jr.? We will likely never know as Ray spent the remaining years of his life denying that he’d done it at all.

Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man
by Tonya Bolden
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Author Tonya Bolden believes there is more to reveal about one man known mostly for his autobiography of emancipation. She has written this illuminating, well-researched biography for YA readers about his character and contributions as a statesman, publisher and suffragist. A unique design feature of Facing Frederick is the use of famous daguerreotype photos of Douglass as focal points on the timeline of his life.

Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America
by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek Books
Nominated by ME!

Author Gail Jarrow reflects on how far hoaxes can undermine trust in legitimate sources in this exceptional history about the 1938 radio broadcast of a Martian invasion. Hoax aficionados will find the well-designed book both informational and engrossing reading. A nifty graphic spread reveals the level of audience outrage from excerpts of letters, postcards and telegrams CBS received following the radio broadcast. Published complete with timeline, a “More to Explore” section, source notes, selected bibliography and index.

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Rivalry, Adventure, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements (Young Readers Edition)
by Sam Kean
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

This young reader’s edition of a 2010 title takes readers on a rollicking journey through the periodic table. In addition to the science of each element, Kean focuses on the personal stories of the scientists involved and the history of the element—including everything from what it’s been used for to the role it plays in current and historical pop culture.

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