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New Nonfiction

February 5, 2009

1001 People Who Made America by Alan Axelrod
1001 Events That Made America: A Patriot’s Handbook by Alan Axelrod
These two are just what they sound like — collections of mini-sketches about people and events in American history. The people are arranged alphabetically and the events chronologically. None of the entries are more than a page long, and most are a bit shorter. They are great as reference materials and also great (if you are a history nerd like me) for browsing.

Snake by Chris Mattison — I don’t think this book includes the prehistoric snake I heard about on the radio this morning, but it does include 3000 other snakes. It’s an adult-level book, but a lot of kids have enjoyed looking at the pictures and reading bits and pieces.

Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story by Janet Halfmann with illustrations by Duane Smith — Robert Smalls was a slave in South Carolina during the Civil War. Seven Miles to Freedom tells the story of how he took control of a Confederate ship and navigated his way to north of the Mason Dixon line and freedom. Halfman’s book starts by giving us an idea of what his life was like as a slave and then takes us along for the suspenseful story of his escape. He went on to become the first African American ship captain in the United States, and in 2004 his name was given to the first Navy ship to be named for an African American.

Slinky, Scaly Snakes by Jennifer Dussling — A great snake book for beginning readers.

The Way We Work by David MacAuley — You probably know some of MacAuley’s other books, which are detailed architectural examinations of everything from castles to machines. This time around, MacAuley decided to take on human architecture, with stunning results.

Now What? The Young Person’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Career by Nicholas Lore — The blurb for this book begins by quoting a line you never hear in a college commencement speech: “Many of you have just spent four years and a small fortune studying something you will never use.” I might argue that point — my mind works the way it does because of the things I learned from studying Greek and English and history — but he does have a valid point to make. You have to figure out how to translate those habits of mind into something that pays the rent and doesn’t drive you crazy. Lore’s book is packed full of quizzes and exercises that he posits will find you a job that suits your personality.

Phenomena: Secrets of the Senses by Donna M. Jackson — Pretty much just what it sounds like — an examination of the senses and of extrasensory perception and how it might work.

Stichin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt by Mat McKissack with illustrations by Cozbi A. Cabrera — Although this picture book is fiction, I am including it in the nonfiction section because it tells a true story, that of the former slaves who have been making quilts in Gee’s Bend, Alabama for over a hundred years.

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories About Growing up Scieszka — I think the opening of the Booklist review says it all: “In this arch, glib, unapologetically shame-free outing, Scieszka, who grew up as the second of six sons, has written an autobiography about boys, for boys and anyone else interested in baseball, fire, and peeing on stuff.”

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