Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin

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Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
By Susan Kuklin
5 Stars

Several teens share their story of their gender identity. I liked this book because it gave different scenarios. There were the more well known male to female transition and the female to male transition, but also more fluid transgender situations. I think this is a great book for those teens feeling like this is or might be what they are going through. It can be a great support for those who are struggling through the process. I found this book incredibly interesting, learning about the thoughts and feelings of teens who are struggling in this. I loved that the book included stories that ranged in situations. You could tell that some still struggled incredibly, and some were much more comfortable in their transitions. I think it successfully demonstrates that this really can be a process mentally, physically, and emotionally. I have handed this book to several teens who may really relate, and they all seem to become instantly engrossed. I am so glad there is a resource like this available.

*As a side note, I recently had a teen ask me for only fiction books about transitioning. My teen stated that every nonfiction book on the topic had “giveaway words” on the cover, and wouldn’t allow her to inconspicuously explore the topic. As I went through the options, I realized that this was the case. And although I love the idea that some teens are out and proud, I recognize that some need a way to be able to explore their feelings in what they feel is safe.

Posted in Uncategorized, Young Adult Nonfiction

Symphony for the City of the Dead, by M.T. Anderson

24727079Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad
M.T. Anderson
2015 by Candlewick
ISBN – 9780763668181
Genre – Biography
Age – High School, Adult
6 stars (on a scale of 5)

Dmitri Shostakovich was an incredible musician by a very early age. By the time Hitler and his soldiers surrounded Leningrad, Shostakovich was writing well known symphonies. The siege went on for an incredible amount of time in which more than one million citizens died. Hitler blocked food and supplies from entering the city. People died in the military, they froze to death, and they starved. The tragedy is unimaginable. M.T. Anderson writes a beautiful and detailed account of Shostakovich throughout his life, but focusing on the time of the siege. He writes about how an entire city faced intense hardship, and how they came out in the end. His focus on Shostakovich allows readers to have a glimpse of the pain that one man experienced, and how his actions affected his city and the world. He used not only his music, but his name to inspire hope around the globe. He faced backlash and criticism, but he never gave up.  This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is by far Anderson’s greatest work (in my opinion.) Books like this are change the genre of nonfiction for the better. It was full of historical information, but his ability to portray personal accounts so well, made me relate to a time and a place that seems so distant. I can’t say enough good about this book. I have chills just thinking about it. Gah!

Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story, by Josh Sundquist

21822422We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story
Josh Sundquist
2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780316251020
Age – High School
Genre – Biography, Humor
4 Stars

Josh has not had the best luck with girls, in fact, his only girlfriend was in the 8th grade. It lasted less than a day. This is not for lack of trying. So Josh goes back to all the girls he tried to date to find out what went wrong.

This book is full of hilarious stories that brings me back to the most awkward years of my life. Dating can be tough, but Josh seems to struggle a bit more than others. As a result of a major illness, he is left with one foot, and has a prosthesis for the second. I loved the way he shamelessly talked about all of the silly mishaps, some having to do with his prosthesis, and some just having to do with his shy personality. I think it takes a brave person to go back many years to learn about your mistakes, but I think there is a lot to be learned from an act like that. Josh writes with humor, and unfaltering honesty, and it make this an easy story to follow. In a way it kind of seemed like the real life version of An Abundance of Katherines. I thoroughly enjoyed this one! ***SPOILER ALERT*** Worry not folks, he got married last year! He is also hugely successful, so good things…those who wait. Yes.

Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

One, by Sarah Crossan

23524610One
Sarah Crossan
2015 by Greenwillow Books
9780062118752
Genre – Novel in Verse
Age – Middle School, High School
4 Stars

Tippi and Grace are conjoined twins, two separate people, always together. Their life has always been complicated and fragile to say the least. And now they have to go to real school after years of homeschooling. We all know that high school is hard enough, when you are “normal” much less when your situation is a bit more unusual. The two begin experiencing a so called normal life. They make friends, have crushes, and get made fun of. Everything seems to be going well until they get sick, and the only way to have a chance to save them is to separate them. Not only is the procedure extremely dangerous, but do they even really want to be apart after all these years?

This book made me think. Things that I would never imagine having to think about are common place for Tippi and Grace. I applaud this book for making me look at life with a new perspective. Everyone has challenges in life, but this book goes to show how vastly different those challenges can be. I thought it was interesting that Crossan chose to make Tippi and Grace so vastly different, almost opposite. I understand the point that just because they are literally connected, does not mean they are the same person. However, I wonder if she overdid their stark personality differences. At times it really made one or the other twin seem very selfish and mean. This book is written in verse, which usually I am not a fan of, to be honest. I just feel like most of them are not super poetic, its just a gimmick to be different. And although I didn’t feel like this book was very poetic, the format didn’t bother me. To be honest, I am not a huge fan of poetry to begin with, so it probably works better for me this way. It does make for a fast read!

Posted in Children's Nonfiction, Young Adult Nonfiction

They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

7029188They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group
Susan Campbell Bartoletti
2010 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780618440337
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – High School, Middle School
4.2 Stars

I recently learned that the Ku Klux Klan was founded in Tennessee, and since I just moved to Tennessee, I thought it a good idea to learn some history. “They Called themselves the KKK” starts by describing the Civil War and the implications on the social, political, and economical aspects of life in the South. It goes on to talk about the founding and evolution of the group over the last 150 years.

This is a hard history to swallow and it is even still harder to swallow, that some of it is not history. It was interesting and devastating, the pictures added an extra amount of emotion. I really appreciated that at the end of each chapter, there was a personal account of someone who witnessed these horrors. I also appreciated the lack of editing in the primary documents littered throughout the book. Some things may be more difficult to read because of this, but its authenticity is apparent. The saddest part to me about this book is knowing that these behaviors still exist today, so no matter how far we have come, it is not enough. By making ourselves more aware of the history, we can be better equipped to avoid it, hopefully.

Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary, by Gail Jarrow

22825553Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary
Gail Jarrow
2015 by Calkins Creek
ISBN – 9781620915974
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – High School, Middle School
4 Stars

Typhoid Mary is a legend, unfortunately for her. This book discusses the disease of typhoid fever, how it is spread, what the symptoms are, and particularly large outbreaks in history. It focuses on cases and outbreaks that were contracted by a cook in the 19th century. She was very elusive, she didn’t stay at any job for too long. Somehow, the wealthy families that she worked for seemed to fall ill with the disease. When Mary was finally tracked down, the medical officials were very surprised by what they found. Despite the fact that she was a carrier of typhoid fever, she was not and had never been sick with the disease. I thought this was a great telling of the story. It was interesting, it was mysterious, and it was sad. The pictures really helped paint the picture of the times and the settings. It was especially of interest to me, because I actually had typhoid fever as a young girl!

Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

FDR and the American Crisis, by Albert Marrin

21863512FDR and the American Crisis
Albert Marrin
2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780385753593
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – High School
4 Stars

This book follows Franklin D. Roosevelt from childhood, through his presidency and WWII, until the end of his life. It does a great job of really documenting not only his life, but the history of America from the early 1900s until after WWII. What I found to be really interesting was the complexity of the man in the office. He was not always a great man, but that doesn’t mean that he was always a bad man. He had his good days and his bad days. He had great issues that he followed through on, that helped to end the great depression. However, he was also a bit wishy washy on some very important issues, including but not limited to equal rights. You may be surprised at what you learn. I also enjoyed the pictures, as many of them really painted the picture of the twelve tumultuous years that FDR was in office.  Overall, it was very interesting and informative!

Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

Hole in My Life, by Jack Gantos

HoleinmyLifeHole in My Life
Jack Gantos
2002 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN – 9780374399887
Genre – Autobiography
Age – High School
4 Stars

Jack Gantos, author of children’s and young adult books, got into a decent bit of trouble when he was a young adult. He made the mistake of getting on board with a drug smuggling mission, and landed himself in prison. In Hole in My Life, he tells us about his childhood, the events that lead up to his bad decision, the mission, and his time in prison. I like Jack Gantos as a writer even if he is a bit cocky. This book is no different. It is written honestly and bluntly. Just a note, he reads his own audiobook. Although, I love when authors narrate their own books, I felt like this one was lacking in emotion. It made me not feel bad for him at all when he was caught and sentenced. I think I really would have preferred to have read this one myself! Overall, it was a great story about someone who had a rocky start to life, but his dedication and drive helped him to become successful and fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a writer. He proves that you can always turn things around.

Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers, by Steve Sheinkin

LincolnLincoln’s Grave Robbers
Steve Sheinkin
2013 by Scholastic Press
ISBN – 9780545405720
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Middle School, High School
3.4 Stars

In the mid 1800s printing fake money was a big problem in the United States, one that threatened the entire economy. Some of the men responsible for these crimes decided to partake in another heist, stealing Abraham Lincoln’s body from his grave. The book goes into detail about how and why this plot came to fruition, the hiccups in the plan, and how it turned out in the end. It highlights not only the attempts to take the body, but also the efforts to prevent the crime from happening. Littered with pictures of the main players, and settings, the story unfolds into an almost comically unbelievable farce. I liked that it is written in a way that appeals to a wide audience. The language is easy enough to read for middle school aged children, but the content is interesting enough to hold older kids and adults as well. I didn’t find the pictures super compelling, but some did a great job to help the reader picture complicated settings. The history was interesting and all new to me. I did enjoy that I learned not only about the grave robbing, but about counterfeiting culture as well. It really did feel like an action story with an exciting climax.

Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

Call of the Klondike: A True Gold Rush Adventure, by David Meissner

KlondikeCall of the Klondike: A True Gold Rush Adventure
David Meissner
2013 by Calkins Creek
ISBN – 9781590788233
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – High School
3.4 Stars

Stanley Pearce and Marshall Bond were in Seattle when a steamship returned from Canada in 1897. The steamship was carrying miners who had found gold in the Klondike. Very quickly they pooled money and acquired supplies and set off on the next ship out. This is the story of their arduous journey through Canada and Alaska in search of their riches. They tell not only their story, but the story of thousands of others as well. And though the two were not the luckiest of the miners they were not the worst off either.

I like the pacing of this story, it was fast moving and interesting. I also liked the use of letters and diary entries. It helps the reader to feel as if they are inside the minds of the two travelers. I also thought that the pictures added really well to the text in telling the whole story. By no fault of the author, I just didn’t really like Pearce and Bond. I felt like they were very selfish and manipulative. They tended to think of no one but themselves, even as they watched many face greater hardships then themselves. Also, despite the fact that I am not a huge fan of Jack London, I did enjoy his cameo, and learning about his life and the origins of Buck the dog! I found myself disappointed that the end did not have a big climactic (negative or positive) ending. It just ended, and it left me with no real emotion about the pair. However, it made me want to learn about stories of different people who embarked on similar journeys.