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Of scientists and samurai

These nonfiction audiobooks, recommended for middle-school listeners and up, highlight a variety of memorable moments and important figures throughout human history.

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune is the bloody, heroic saga of an iconic twelfth-century samurai. Author Pamela S. Turner combines meticulous historical detail with conversational modernity and wry asides. Her narrative style is complemented in this audiobook version by Brian Nishii, who effortlessly transitions between authentically voiced Japanese terminology and formal period dialogue to a casual, youthful cadence. Segments of the book’s extensive back matter appropriate to the audio format (author’s note, timelines, glossary) are included; pair with the print edition, which includes masterful illustrations by Gareth Hinds. (Recorded Books, 12 years and up)

Steve Sheinkin’s Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team recounts the lives of star athlete Jim Thorpe and legendary coach Glenn “Pop” Warner, and the history of the school and its football program. The book is brought to vivid life in this audio rendition. Narrator Mark Bramhall’s folksy storyteller’s cadence is well suited to the highs and lows of Thorpe’s remarkable life and career. He conveys both the book’s stirring come-from-behind-victory elements and its graver historical context regarding the treatment of Native Americans. (Listening Library, 12 years and up)

Winifred Conkling’s Radioactive!: How Irène Curie & Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World focuses on Marie Curie’s experiments with radium, her daughter Irène’s discovery of artificial radiation, and their fellow physicist Lise Meitner’s breakthrough understanding of nuclear fission that lead to the development of the atomic bomb. Narrator Andrea Gallo’s use of different vocal qualities to delineate the dramatis personae is accomplished, and her measured pace allows listeners time to catch up with the whirlwind of scientific concepts. (Recorded Books, 12 years and up)

Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II by Albert Marrin is a well-researched recounting of the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Marrin begins with the history of Japan and its relationships with other cultures and continues with the history of America and its founders’ belief in white superiority before turning to the treatment of Japanese Americans in WWII. Marc Cashman narrates smoothly and clearly, varying his tone to reflect the events under discussion. The resonant final chapter comments on current government actions that target specific groups of people. (Listening Library, 12 years and up)

From the September 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College.

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