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Recommended Narrative Nonfiction: Intermediate

bartoletti_terrible typhoid maryBartoletti, Susan Campbell Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America
230 pp. Houghton 2015. ISBN 978-0-544-31367-5

What was it like to be a servant, an immigrant, a woman in the early twentieth century? Bartoletti weaves the answers into the beginning of “Typhoid Mary” Mallon’s story — using Mary as a lens to view a wider swath of American society — then covers epidemiologist George Soper’s cat-and-mouse game of tracking Mary down. Excellent nonfiction with a novelistic trim size and narrative. Timeline. Bib., ind.
Subjects: Medicine, Human Body, and Diseases; New York (State); Diseases—Typhoid fever

Skull in the RockBerger, Lee R., and Aronson, Marc The Skull in the Rock: How a Scientist, a Boy, and Google Earth Opened a New Window on Human Origins
64 pp. National Geographic 2012. ISBN 978-1-4263-1010-2
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4263-1053-9

Paleontologist Berger and son Matthew’s recent find gave scientists a nearly intact skeleton from a new species, Australopithecus sediba. Detailed accounts of advances in the field and the supporting technology are intertwined with the story of Berger’s not-always-straightforward career path. The book is enhanced by illustrative material, including photographs and striking facial reconstructions of these ancient ancestors. Reading list, websites. Glos., ind.
Subjects: Science—Prehistoric Life; Paleontology; Archaeology; Evolution; South Africa; Fossils; Anthropology

brown_drowned cityBrown, Don Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans
96 pp. Houghton 2015. ISBN 978-0-544-15777-4

A comic-book format delivers the full force of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on New Orleans. When the storm hits the city, Brown hits readers with the consequences: flooding, fear, desperation, death, and frustration. Meticulously documented facts and quotes from victims caption the commanding art. If a book’s power were measured like a hurricane’s, this would be a category five. Bib.
Subjects: Natural disasters—Hurricanes; Disasters; New Orleans (LA); Graphic novels

freedman_angel islandFreedman, Russell Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain
81 pp. Clarion 2014. ISBN 978-0-547-90378-1

Chinese poems translated by Evans Chan. Freedman’s slender volume on the history and importance of California’s Angel Island Immigration Station — the portal for Asian immigration to the U.S. — covers a lot of ground. He weaves a clear and straightforward narrative history with abundant quotations, excerpts from diaries and wall poems, and archival photographs. This is a clearly written account of a lesser-known side of American immigration history. Bib., ind.
Subjects: North America; Asian Americans; Angel Island (CA); Immigration; San Francisco (CA); Chinese Americans

Invincible MicrobesMurphy, Jim and Blank, Alison  Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure
149 pp. Clarion 2012. ISBN 978-0-618-53574-3

Tuberculosis has been a medical scourge through much of human history, and new drug-resistant strains keep the threat of a pandemic always on the horizon. This book brings young readers up to speed with a scientific explanation of the microbe as well as medical and social histories of the disease. Despite disparate elements, the information comes together cohesively for an engaging read. Illustrations and photographs are included. Bib., ind.
Subjects: Medicine, Human Body, and Disease; Diseases—Tuberculosis; Microbiology; Epidemics

Heart and SoulNelson, Kadir Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
108 pp. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray 2011. ISBN 978-0-06-173074-0

The unnamed narrator of this graceful and personalized overview of African American history provides a sweeping account that covers history from the Colonial era to the present day. Each page of text is accompanied by a magnificent oil painting, forty-seven in all, including six dramatic double-page spreads. The illustrations, combined with the narrative, give a sense of intimacy. A tour de force. Timeline. Bib., ind.
Subjects: History—North America; African Americans; Slavery; History, American

silvey_untamedSilvey, Anita Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall
96 pp. National Geographic 2015. ISBN 978-1-4263-1518-3

Foreword by Jane Goodall. This accessible account of Goodall’s life explores her nontraditional entry to scientific fieldwork; the attention from the National Geographic Society that made her famous; her work ethic and innovative scientific methods; her efforts to reform the use of chimpanzees in research laboratories; and current technological advances in primate research. Silvey accompanies her main narrative with informative text boxes and vivid photographs. Map, timeline. Bib., ind.
Subjects: Goodall, Jane; Animals—Chimpanzees; Scientists; Women—Scientists; Women—Biographies; Animal behavior

From the August 2015 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes Good Narrative Nonfiction?”

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