Friday, August 25

Top Nonfiction Books of the Month

The Football Fanbook: Everything You Need to Become a Gridiron Know-it-All
(A Sports Illustrated Kids Book)
by Gary Gramling

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1683300076
Publisher: Sports Illustrated
Date of publication: August 8, 2017
Age: Grades 4 and up
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: football, NFL, facts & trivia, stats

"So you're a football fan and now you want to take your passion for the game to the next level? The Football Fanbook is filled with fun trivia and unique lingo to impress friends, illustrated behind-the-skills how-to's, important game-winning strategies, and much more, including an analysis of each NFL team. Readers will sound like experts in no time."

Now THIS is a football book! Somehow Gramling manages to fit in records, cool facts, team summaries, and an index of valuable lingo all within a manageable size of book--totally accessible to the middle-grade audience it's targeted towards. The anecdotal way it's written keeps the stats and numbers personable and exciting. Gramling really knows what he's talking about. I don't know that there's much to criticize, except that I do wish the book itself was bigger, more like the reference book that it is rather than a small chapter book. A small complaint, because football fans are going to appreciate this book in any case. Very much recommended, especially as football season gets underway.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Benjamin Franklin's Wise Words: How to Work Smart, Play Well, and Make Real Friends
Written by K. M. Kostyal, illustrated by Fred Harper

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1426326998
Publisher: National Geographic Kids
Date of publication: January 24, 2017
Age: Grades 3 - 7
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: copy from publisher

Themes: Benjamin Franklin, self-improvement, biography, quotations

"Discover history through the eyes of one of the smartest, funniest, and coolest figures from America's past. This book presents 50 of Benjamin Franklin's famous 'wise words' from Poor Richard's Almanack, his personal letters, and other writings, with sage advice on everything from good citizenship and manners to friendship and being happy. Sayings are paired with hilarious illustrations and witty translations for modern audiences. It's a great go-to for inspirational and innovative ways to practice mindfulness, industriousness, and self-improvement."

This was actually a really interesting book that not only helped me learn more about an important figure in American history, but also helped me find a way to improve my own life. I'm not even kidding. I mean, some of BF's (how the author often refers to Franklin) sayings are pretty cheesy or archaic, but some are definitely applicable (hint: my favorite is on page 53). The author's interpretations of them, however, were not always as admirable; I wish she'd left more of the interpreting up to the reader to apply it to their own understanding as they choose. Either way, I did love the stories she told from BF's life that showed how he lived up to his own advice--well-researched and well-delivered. I don't think it'd be very useful as a biographical reference, but overall, more for fun.

The illustrations are very bold and heavily caricatured, adding plenty of humor and punch to this book of advice. Some are abstract in and of themselves, which seems fitting for BF's advice. I just hope the kids like them. Overall, it would take some hand selling, but you should read some or all of these sayings with your kids.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Virginia Hamilton: America's Storyteller
Julie K. Rubini

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0821422694
Publisher: Ohio University Press
Date of publication: July 13, 2017
Age: Grades 5 - 8
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: copy from publisher

Themes: Virginia Hamilton, biography, authorship, race

"Long before she wrote The House of Dies Drear, M. C. Higgins, the Great, and many other modern classics, Hamilton grew up among her extended family around Yellow Springs, Ohio. The stories she heard from her family fueled her imagination, and the freedom to roam the farms and woods nearby sharpened her powers of observation and encouraged her creativity. As she grew older, witnessing racial discrimination and the response of the early civil rights movement established in her a lifelong commitment to representing a diversity of experiences in her work."

Now here's a very traditional biography, and it's about someone who really does need more credit, especially in light of the recent #weneeddiversebooks movement and the like. Hamilton really was an amazing author who always featured characters of diverse races and backgrounds. This story of her life highlights the origin of the inspiration for her books; how her life provided her experience to tell an expert story. I also appreciated the little side notes and inserts about what was going on in history during the time of her life (e.g. notes about the Civil Rights Movement in Ohio, etc). Overall, very informative and well-written. The writing is a bit advanced, though, so I would definitely put the target age solidly in middle-grade.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

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