BOOKS FOR CHILDREN: How do you know what's good?

While there are many places (especially on the internet) where you can read book reviews, how do you really know if it's a good book or not when a single book might receive anywhere from one to five stars?
The answer: read the reviews of a book-addicted teacher librarian.

** The age recommendations are guidelines only; whether or not a certain book is suitable for a particular child depends on multiple factors, including their maturity, reading level, interests, and in some cases their experiences.
** While the ratings are largely based on my own personal appreciation/enjoyment of the book, they are also influenced by my experiences as a teacher and the potential attraction for the target-aged child (acknowledging that what one child may love, another may find exceptionally boring). A rating of 5 indicates the book is likely to be popular with the majority.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Non-Fiction That Reads Like Fiction

Readitforward had a great little list of non-fiction that reads like fiction (Also known as narrative non-fiction). While these titles adult, not juvenile, I can see this list being gobbled up by older teens, especially those who are not really into science fiction or high fantasy.  (Of course, not all adult fiction is suitable for all young adults, so knowledge of the particular child and the particular title would help before recommending these books to teens willy nilly).

Titles include:
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (The incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair)
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (Portrait of Berlin during the first years of Hitler's reign)
  • Dead Wake by Erik Larson (Story of the sinking of the Lusitania)
  • A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre (Portrait of Kim Philby, the greatest spy in history, a brilliant and charming man who rose to head Britain’s counterintelligence against the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War — while he was secretly working for the enemy)
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Reconstructs the murder of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers)
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (About a murder at Savannah's grandest mansion, 1981
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (Also made into a movie. About Christopher McCandless, who died in the Alaskan wilderness)
  • The Hot Zone by Richard Preston (account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus)
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (Story of families striving toward a better life in Mumbai)
  • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown (Story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal at the Berlin Olympics, 1936)
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells, taken without her knowledge, and used for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions)
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (First-hand account of a fatal expedition up Mount Everest, 1996)
  • Pilgrim's Wilderness by Tom Kizzia (True story of a modern-day homesteading family in the deepest reaches of the Alaskan wilderness)
  • Black Count by Tom Reiss (Biography of General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas)
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (Made into a movie. Story of WW2)
  • Two Lives by William Trevor (Made into a movie. Actually two books: Reading Turgenev, a lonely country girl escapes her loveless marriage in the arms of a bookish young man. In My House in Umbria, a former madam befriends the other survivors of a terrorist bombing)
  • Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott
  • Columbine by Dave Cullen
  • A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel (Memoir describes the childhood of the author who grew up in the 1960s in the small town of Mooreland, Indiana)
  • The River of Doubt by Candace Millard. (An expedition is led by Teddy Roosevelt down an unexplored river to see if it connects to the Amazon)
  • The Circus Fire by Stewart O'Nan (Account of tragedy and heroism-the great Hartford circus fire of 1944)

Other suggestions include:
  • Scoop: Notes from a Small Ice Cream Shop by Jeff Miller
  • The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston
  • Five days at Memorial by Sheri Fink
  • The Innocent Man by John Grisham
  • Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer
  • Red Rover by Deirdre Mcnamer
  • Dewey: the small town library cat who touched the world by Vicki Myron
  • The Blooding by Joseph Wambaugh
  • Two Lives by Vikram Seth
  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
  • In the Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III (About 9/11)
  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
  • Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
  • The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne
  • The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
  • Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horowitz
  • The Bounty, the true story of the mutiny on the bounty by Caroline Alexander
  • Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art by Joshua Knelman
  • Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson by William Swanson
  • The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
  • One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
  • The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea
  • A Civil Action Aug 27, 1996 by Jonathan Harr (True story behind the scenes of a civil action lawsuit against environmental pollution and big money)
  • Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, by Johann Hari

The one that comes to my mind would be
  • In Search of the Source by Neil Anderson (About missionaries in Papua New Guinea).

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