Review of Symphony for the 
City of the Dead

anderson_symphony for the city of the dead

Symphony for the 
City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and 
the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson High School   Candlewick   424 pp. 9/15   978-0-7636-6818-1   $24.99   g Accomplished novelist Anderson presents an ambitious work of nonfiction encompassing the life of composer Dmitri Shostakovich, the early political history of the U.S.S.R., and the nation’s horrific suffering […]

Stories behind the stories

bird_wild things

Bird, Betsy, Danielson, Julie and Sieruta, Peter D. Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature Middle school, high school    277 pp.     Candlewick     2014 Sieruta, a Horn Book mainstay before his unexpected death in 2012, is joined by Bird and Danielson for a lively historical survey of scandals and secrets from the children’s-book biz. Sandwiched […]

Review of Stonewall


 Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum Middle School, High School     Viking     120 pp. 5/15     978-0-670-01679-2     $16.99 Bausum begins her history of the gay rights movement with a careful, detailed exposition of the June 1969 Stonewall riots, laying out the events leading up to the clash between the […]

Lives and times

kamkwamba_boy who harnessed the wind

The settings of these narrative nonfiction titles span decades and geography — from WWII Denmark to contemporary Malawi — but the issues they explore are incredibly timely. When heavy rains, then drought, devastated his country of Malawi and the corrupt government didn’t respond, young William Kamkwamba used his scientific ingenuity to help people in need. […]

At the museum


Museums are great places to experience fun, learning, and often even hints of mystery. They spark the imagination and make us question things we have never considered before. As such, they make a great setting for stories that can inspire a love of museums, history, and art. Perhaps because the middle school years often include […]

Women’s History Month

Bertha Mahony Miller

It’s Women’s History Month and thus the Kidlit Celebrates Women’s History Month blog is back. I’ll be over there later this month to write about our beloved Bertha; but go over there now to see accounts of the likes of Emily Brontë, Julia Morgan, and Temple Grandin. On a related note, I’ve been enjoying my […]

Who would we put on our walls?


Yesterday afternoon, my friend Kirk and I went to see Marilyn Horne give a masterclass at Harvard. The location was incidental, as the event was actually sponsored by Oberlin, where Horne is Distinguished Professor of Voice, and the four singers had all worked with her there. (Many thanks to Oberlin alum Elissa, who scored us […]

Nonfiction: What’s Really New and Different — and What Isn’t

In the age of preschool princesses and teenage werewolves, nonfiction, conspicuously, has class. That came across buoyantly in the March/April 2011 issue of the Horn Book, where prominent persons in the field wrote about their work and what today’s nonfiction aspires to.

Their aims are admirable, their commitment is impressive, their enthusiasm is infectious; as a cadre, they have a lot to be proud of. But not because their work, however fine, surpasses the work of their predecessors. It isn’t better researched or better illustrated, as some of the contributors suggest, and it certainly isn’t more venturesome. In kids’ nonfiction, “going where no adult book has gone before” is nothing new.