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From The Guide: Narrative Nonfiction

collier_choosing courageThe trending genre of narrative nonfiction is one we have followed closely — see for example our August 2015 What Makes Good Narrative Nonfiction e-newsletter and Marc Aronson’s Writer’s Page article “What Is Narrative Nonfiction?” The Horn Book Guide’s wide-lens view on children’s publishing makes narrative nonfiction’s current popularity and usefulness abundantly clear. All recommended in the Guide, these recent books are great choices for older kids and teens looking for informative accounts with propulsive storytelling.

—Katrina Hedeen
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide

Collier, Peter  Choosing Courage: Inspiring Stories of What It Means to Be a Hero
226 pp.     Artisan     2015     ISBN 978-1-57965-596-9

YA Ranging from World War II through the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, this book offers compelling stories of selected Medal of Honor recipients who performed heroic acts in battle; vignettes of civilians awarded the Medal are also included. Photographs, including personal snapshots and ceremony photos with U.S. presidents, enhance the succinctly told accounts. Sections with relevant historical context are inserted throughout the volume. Glos., ind.

Farley, Terri  Wild at Heart: Mustangs and the Young People Fighting to Save Them
196 pp.     Houghton     2015      ISBN 978-0-544-39294-6

Gr. 4–6 Photographs by Melissa Farlow. Beginning with “Wild Horse Annie,” the 1950s activist who secured legislative protections for America’s wild horses, this wide-ranging volume explores horses’ prehistoric ancestors, herd dynamics, the horrors of roundups by government agencies, and today’s young activists fighting to save them. Emotional language and first-person sidebars try to recruit readers to the cause, while crisp color photos depict beautiful horses in their natural habitats. Bib., glos., ind.

Frydenborg, Kay  Chocolate: Sweet Science and Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat
252 pp.     Houghton     2015     ISBN 978-0-544-17566-2

YA Frydenborg explores chocolate’s complex history, from the cacao tree’s probable origins to today’s Big Candy, without sugarcoating the sweet’s “dark secrets.” The book closes by covering modern-day attempts to make chocolate production more sustainable and ethical. Informative sidebars, photos and maps, and historical recipes interspersed throughout, plus a full-color photographic insert, enhance the presentation. Timeline, websites. Bib., ind.

Huey, Lois Miner  Forgotten Bones: Uncovering a Slave Cemetery
56 pp.      Millbrook     2015      Library ed. ISBN 978-1-4677-3393-9
e-book ISBN 978-1-4677-6300-4

Gr. 4–6 In 2005, while laying a sewer line, workers discovered a slave cemetery near Albany, NY; this book describes what a team of bioarchaeologoists learned from the people’s remains. Huey, an archaeologist herself, explains the scientific and historical research processes in a way that is thorough and informative without becoming too dry. Photos of the excavation add impact. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.

Keyser, Amber J.  Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes
64 pp.     Twenty-First Century     2015     Library ed. ISBN 978-1-4677-2640-5
e-book ISBN 978-1-4677-6309-7

YA With a lighthearted tone; a keen understanding of sociocultural, political, and economic factors; and many photos of athletes and their kicks, Keyser traces the rise of sneakers from the turn of the twentieth century to today. This is an astute portrait of the dynamic relationships among youth culture, athletes, and the sneaker industry, and a glimpse at industry drama. Reading list, websites. Bib., ind.

Rubin, Susan Goldman  Hot Pink: The Life & Fashions of Elsa Schiaparelli
56 pp.     Abrams     2015     ISBN 978-1-4197-1642-3

Gr. 4–6 Rubin explores the life and inventively creative accomplishments of the early-twentieth-century Italian fashion designer known as “Schiap” (pronounced “Skap”) in a biography featuring some of her groundbreaking ideas, including the color “hot pink,” wedge heels, and the runway show. The stylishly designed book’s narrative, supplemented with numerous photos and documented quotes, offers insight into the artist’s vision and outlandish ideas. Bib., ind.

Woollett, Laura A.  Big Top Burning: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and the Greatest Show on Earth
159 pp.     Chicago     2015     ISBN 978-1-61373-114-7

Gr. 4–6 In 1944, a fire broke out at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Hartford, Connecticut, killing 167 people in ten minutes. This compelling account covers the tragedy, as well as the mysteries that remain about the cause and about one of the survivors. The readable text is supported by well-chosen black-and-white archival photos of the scene. Bib., ind.

From the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please click here.

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