Reviews of the 2018 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Award Winner and Honor Books

Nonfiction Winner

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide
by Isabel Quintero; illus. by Zeke Peña
Middle School, High School    Getty    96 pp.
3/18    978-1-947440-00-5    $19.95

This 2018 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Award–winning biography introduces readers to “an icon. Orgullo mexicano. Maestra.” Photographer Graciela Iturbide’s (b. 1942) story is told in comic-panel format, with striking black-and-white illustrations, high-quality reproductions of her own photographs, and spare first-person narration drawing upon her writing and interviews; interspersed are section introductions in a more conversational third-person, direct-address text. Together the sections trace, in not-quite-linear fashion, Iturbide’s travels from her home of Mexico City to the neighborhoods of East L.A. and Tijuana; the pueblos of Oaxaca and Juchitán; Jaipur in India; Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Coyoacán; and beyond. We see the development of the many “obsessions” she is compelled to document and understand through her work: birds and the freedom of flight, death, life in “in-between” spaces, ritual, gender politics, the stories objects tell. Iturbide’s photography, frequently featuring strong women at the center of their indigenous communities, is intensely personal and culturally specific, yet universally resonant. Her philosophy is rooted in “intimacy and respect” (“I respect my subjects because I am subject, too. Always”) and in curiosity about liminal places where “the present and past,” “the indigenous and postcolonial,” “the real and the imagined” overlap. As author and illustrator document Iturbide documenting her subjects, they embrace all of these elements of Iturbide’s ethos. A powerful homage to the five-decade evolution of an artist still working — and still evolving — today. Additional biographical information and a recommended reading list are appended. KATIE BIRCHER

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

The 57 Bus
by Dashka Slater
High School    Farrar    306 pp.
10/17    978-0-374-30323-5    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-374-30325-9    $9.99

It was late afternoon on Monday, November 4, 2013. Sasha was napping on the 57 bus in Oakland, California, when Richard, egged on by friends, set their gauzy skirt on fire. (Sasha is genderqueer and prefers the pronoun they.) Sasha survived, but sustained third-degree burns on their calves and thighs. The incident was captured on video cameras installed in the bus, and the next day Richard was arrested for a hate crime and processed in the justice system. From the start, the deck was stacked against Richard, an African American teenager with a criminal history, who had now committed a horrific crime that grabbed media attention, caused national outrage, and fomented local protests. Slater goes beyond the headlines to tell the very human stories behind these individuals and their families (although it’s clear she did not have as much personal access to Richard as she did to Sasha). It’s a powerful story of class and race (Sasha is white), gender and identity, justice and mercy, love and hate. Using interviews, court documents, and news accounts, Slater has crafted a compelling true-crime story with ramifications for our most vulnerable youth. JONATHAN HUNT

From the January/February 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars
by Seth Fishman; illus. by Isabel Greenberg
Primary    Greenwillow    40 pp.
9/17    978-0-06-245578-9    $17.99

“This entire world is filled with crazy numbers, built one on top of the other, making it whole and complete.” Fishman and Greenberg engagingly highlight the wondrousness of numbers and stars, as well as just about everything about our home planet. Fishman exchanges science writing’s traditional stiffness for a confiding tone (“The strange thing is that seven billion five hundred million humans weigh about the same as ten quadrillion ants”). Illustrator Greenberg, too, eschews the typical facts-foisting book’s physical correctness in her kinetic digital art: she presents kids who hoist the earth while stepping on a bathroom scale, fly around the world, and otherwise defy the laws of physics in order to illustrate the ideas presented. The book beautifully succeeds in its mission to convey to young readers the vastness of the numbers in our midst while reassuring them that, although each of us is one of billions of people roaming the earth today, “there’s only one of YOU. Right here, right now, reading this book.” A final illustration suggests a child reading aloud to a captive audience of pets and stuffed animals. An author’s note clarifies that the tallies in this book are only approximations, as the number of each thing being counted is always in flux:  “By the time you’re done reading this book, almost every single number in it will have changed.” NELL BERAM

From the January/February 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
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