The 2015 Elementary/Middle Grade Non-Fiction Finalists

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
by Laurie Ann Thompson
Schwartz and Wade Books
Nominated by: Maria Gianferrari

Emmanuel’s Dream is the true story of a young man born with only one leg who biked around Ghana. While author Laurie Thompson shared Emmanuel’s story with the intent to inspire young readers,Emmanuel’s Dream is not saccharine. Instead, each word in this picture book is carefully chosen to move the story forward. Illustrator Sean Quall’s folk art-inspired illustrations help tell Emmanuel’s story in a way that is moving but not overly sentimental. Emmanuel’s Dream will both captivate young readers and broaden their view of the world

Amy Broadmoore, Delightful Children’s Books

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary
by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek Books
Nominated by: Heidi G.

A true-life medical mystery, Fatal Fever relates the dramatic story of Mary Mallon, the first healthy carrier of typhoid identified in the United States, and of the men and women determined to stop the spread of the disease. Medical professionals knew that typhoid fever was spread by unsanitary practices but the phenomenon of healthy carriers had only been discovered in the early 1900s. The author pieces together Mary’s history through primary sources, such as the notes of George Soper, the sanitation engineer and “germ detective” who pieced the evidence together and identified cook Mary Mallon as the cause of a ten-year trail of death and disease. Jarrow provides a fascinating exploration of typhoid, the conditions that allowed the disease to spread with such devastating effect, and the difficult decisions faced by the officials entrusted with protecting public health. Jarrow provides a wealth of historic and scientific information in a fast-paced manner that never overwhelms the narrative. For readers interested in learning more, the book also features a list of famous typhoid victims, a glossary, a recommended reading list, an author’s note, detailed source notes, and a bibliography.

Elisa Bergslien, Leopards and Dragons

Guts & Glory: The Vikings
by Ben Thompson
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publisher/ Author Submission

Thompson condenses approximately 273 years of vicious history with a sense of humor and candor, weaving Norse mythology and folktales into the stories and crediting them as (probably) being such. Guts and Glory begins with a view of the world in the year 800, followed by an overview of Norse mythology. My favorite was the transformation of Odin’s Yule time “Wild Hunt” on an eight legged horse named Sleipnir to his melding with Saint Nicholas who now rode the night sky with the assistance of eight reindeer.

Following is a veritable greatest hits of the Vikings, from Ragnar “Hairy-Breeches” and his son Ivar the Boneless (who may have had a musculoskeletal degenerative disease, explaining why he was carried on a shield into battle and his nickname) to Saint Olga of Kiev who just happened to be sainted some time after burying twenty men alive, setting King Mal’s greatest warriors on fire while they thought they were going to clean up in the sauna and then proceeding to set fire to her enemy’s kingdom by way of birds with slow burning candles. Stories like this made “Guts and Glory: The Vikings” hard to put down and left me wanting more. Fortunately, there are two other books in the series (Civil War and World War II) that I can’t wait to check out. An extensive bibliography offers more reading on the topic for the avid historian.

Ellen Zschunke, On The Shelf 4 Kids

I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are
by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

In this lively book, a cartoon fly narrator explains that, even though they aren’t as attractive or iconic as butterflies, house flies deserve to be studied. Readers soon learn house flies go through complete metamorphosis like butterflies, but their larvae and pupae look very different. They also discover facts about house fly flight, anatomy, house fly relatives, and even some problems with flies. This lighthearted approach will capture children’s imaginations and also make an unusual (and sometimes gross) subject more palatable.

Roberta Gibson, Wrapped in Foil

Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents (Kid Legends)
by David Stabler
Quirk Books
Nominated by: Compass Book Ratings

I’m sure you know something about a few or even all of America’s presidents, but how much do you know about the presidents before they were presidents? Did you ever realize that at one time they were kids just like you? David Stabler’s goal is to show kids that the presidents started out as kids just like them and that any kid can dream of being president one day. Divided into three parts, (After-School Activities, Fantastic Journeys, and It’s Not Easy Growing Up) both the stories and the illustrations are engaging and entertaining. Readers will laugh out loud and be inspired to dream big by the childhood antics of America’s presidents.

Bridget Wilson, What is Bridget Reading

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia (Millbrook Picture Books)
by Miranda Paul
Millbrook Press
Nominated by: Pat Zietlow Miller

A plastic bag is helpful when holding things and carrying things, but when it’s no longer needed, it is thrown away. Isatou Ceesay was tired of looking at the garbage on the ground all around her community of Njau, in The Gambia, and with the help of five friends found a creative solution for the trash. The women wove the plastic into new purses and bags, selling the bags in the city to earn money. Miranda Paul writes about this empowering and inspirational solution to a real world problem that everyone can relate to, no matter where they live. Backmatter includes a Wolof language glossary, a timeline of events, and photographs of the women of Njau.

Laura Arnhold, Literacious

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall
by Anita Silvey
National Geographic Children’s Books
Nominated by: Andrea M

Untamed : The Wild Life of Jane Goodall is a chronicle of Jane Goodall’s journey from a childhood fascination with animal behavior to groundbreaking research on the chimpanzees of Africa. This biography is rich with colorful photography and a kid-friendly layout of art and text, capturing stories from Jane’s childhood to her current work on animal activism. Anita Silvey deftly captures Jane’s sense of adventure, her passion, curiosity and love for animals. The engaging narrative describes Jane Goodall’s career and research on chimpanzee behavior and intelligence. Silvey includes examples of Jane’s field notes as well as short briefs on the various chimpanzees that Goodall interacted with during her time in Africa. The book closes with a rich set of resources including a timeline, maps and additional reading notes. This is an excellent book on a fascinating and inspiring woman who transformed our understanding of animal intelligence and paved the way for field research.

Reshama Deshmukh, Stacking Books

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.