2010 Finalists: Nonfiction Books (Middle Grade & Young Adult)

Dark Game: True Spy Stories, The
by Paul Janeczko
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: heather wilks-jones

The Dark Game presents compelling accounts of global espionage from the American Revolution through present-day cyber spying. Chapters focus on old favorites such as Benedict Arnold and Mata Hari and less well-known figures, such as Civil War spy Elizabeth Van Lew and Juan Pujol, the self-appointed World War II agent who confused officials on both sides of the battlefield. Janezcko gets his readers up to speed quickly on the background of each conflict and shares the memorable quirks and unique methods of each espionage endeavor, resulting in a solid, well-researched and highly readable companion to the study of world history. —Jessica Leader

Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe, The
by Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Kate Messner

In this visually stunning book profiling beekeepers and scientists, Loree Griffin Burns traces the research being done to combat colony collapse disorder, which is decimating the honeybee population. This honey bee catastrophe is profiled without being preachy or didactic. However, readers come away from the book knowing more about honey bee hives, the process of making honey, and the research being done to stop colony collapse disorder. Colony collapse disorder is a mystery of sorts, allowing the reader to follow along and urging them to continue to research more after finishing the book. The scientific process if presented from all sides and the narrative is fascinating. Readers will come away from this book knowing more about human-environment interaction, food production, and the how science is practiced “in the field.” —Sarah Mulhern Gross

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot
by Sy Montgomery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Elizabeth Bird

The oversize, flightless and nocturnal kakapo parrots of New Zealand numbered in the millions before 1900, and were thought to be extinct by mid-century. Conservation expeditions in the 1970s discovered two last groups, which were moved to tiny Codfish Island off the southern coast, where the National Kakapo Recovery Team began research to save the species. Montgomery’s fascinating and sometimes funny text tells the history of the parrots and the project, as well as the story of the ten days the authors spent on Codfish Island during the mysterious breeding season. Bishop’s stunning photos of the parrots, the island, and the scientists at work make this an inspiring book for young science fans and budding environmentalists. —Karen Ball

Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing, The
by Suzanne Jurmain
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Trisha

The story takes place after the Spanish American War, when U.S. troops had taken Cuba from Spain. Deadly Yellow Fever was rampant on the island, and four brilliant Army doctors were ordered to Cuba to fight it. Major Walter Reed, M.D., headed the team, who worked with local Dr. Carlos Finlay to find the cause of the dreaded disease and figure out how to prevent its spread. Jurmain uses exceptional amounts of primary source documentation in photos and historical documents to tell the story of the scientific process, the dangerous experiments, and brave volunteers who put their lives on the line to solve this horrific medical mystery. —Karen Ball

Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook
by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter
Flash Point
Nominated by: Vasilly

Warning: this is not your typical writing manual. Potter and Mazer have put together a fantastic guide to the craft of writing that doesn’t actually feel like a guide. Instead, it feels like two friends sitting down over coffee and spilling secrets. This isn’t a book that teaches grammar and conventions. Instead, it teaches the nitty-gritty of writing, like how to actually sit down and get words on paper. Each chapter is filled with practical advice and “dares” that push the reader to sit down and start writing. At the same time, there it is full of practical advice. It’s an inspiring book that is perfect for aspiring writers of all ages. —Sarah Mulhern Gross

Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania
by Haya Leah Molnar
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Greg Leitich Smith

This is Haya Leah Molnar’s beautifully rendered memoir of her childhood in late 1950s Soviet-controlled Bucharest. The story revolves around Molnar’s personal awakening as a seven-year-old to her Jewish identity, which had been kept secret from her, and the struggles she and her family experience while trying to emigrate from anti-Semitic Communist Romania. A vivid and haunting story emerges as they get closer to leaving and the past secrets of her family’s survival are revealed. —David Judge

Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank, An
by Elaine Marie Alphin
Carolrhoda Books
Nominated by: Elizabeth Dingmann

Elaine Marie Alphin presents the harrowing tale of a northern American-Jewish industrialist falsely convicted of the rape and murder of a girl in his factory. Alphin follows the trial through its many injustices, the much-delayed confessions that posthumously exonerated Frank, and its role in reviving the KKK and forming the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. With rich detail about the players and the period, and evocative photos and documents, Alphin spins a story that is equal parts personal heartache, courtroom drama, and a view of a time when public opinion wielded more power than rule of law. —Jessica Leader