Thursday, June 28, 2018

Why I love middle grade non-ficton


I recently started acquiring middle grade non-fiction and it's been so much fun I can barely consider it work.

Brooklyn Bridge is the latest book I've read in this category. Published in 2001 it's a lovely lyrical look at the building of the iconic "New York and Brooklyn Bridge!"

When I turned the last page, I went to the MTA map to figure out which subway got me closest cause all I wanted to do was go see what I had just read about.

I know these books are intended for young readers, but surely I can be in that group, right? 

Here's another that will delight you.






and this



Have you discovered juvenile non-fiction?
Do you have any favorites?
I'm looking for good stuff to read.

And yes, when you start acquiring in a new category, the first thing you do is
(all together now!)

read 100 books in that category!

33 comments:

Kitty said...

When my daughter was in grade school, the children got to buy books on a regular basis. One of the books Gretta chose was "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit," by Judith Kerr. It's not strictly non-fiction, but it is semi-autobiographical. I ended up reading it, too, and we both loved it. I passed it along to one of the grands and missed it so much I bought another copy.

Then there's "The Diary of Anne Frank"
and "The Upstairs Room," by Johanna Reiss.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Ironically the latest kid lit I have read comes from recommendations by our Queen. Having a grown kid, I have lost my interest in the genre. Heck, I tired of so called children’s books by 2nd grade and started devouring my parents’ bookshelves. A little kid lit would probably do me some good. Warped as I am.

Dena Pawling said...


I write MG fiction. Would LOVE to write MG non-fiction but I have no idea what sort of platform I'd need to have. Right now my platform is “I have a 22yo disabled son who absolutely LOVES to read [despite the fact that all his doctors told me when he was younger that he would never speak, never mind read] and he is VERY PROUD OF HIMSELF that he can read ALL BY HIMSELF and he has his OWN library card and he already FILLED UP his reading log for the summer reading program which just started June 16 and he made sure to write LIBRARY in capital letters [this is the child who was never supposed to speak, remember?] on our calendar for Saturday so he can get his prizes.”

Have you ever sat with a 6yo who just learned to read? Moving their finger under the words and sounding out each one. And when s/he gets to the end of the page, turns their face to you and smiles that big smile that says “I read this all by myself!” My son learned to read at about age 12. He prefers picture books but will also check out chapter books, especially if it's something like Thomas the Tank Engine or a book based on a Disney movie etc. He no longer needs to trace his finger under the words or sound out most of them, but he will STILL turn to look at me with that huge smile when he gets to the end of the book.

>>When I turned the last page, I went to the MTA map to figure out which subway got me closest cause all I wanted to do was go see what I had just read about.

My son will do this. I took him to a college baseball game a few months ago. He walked up and down the rows of seats with a big smile on his face, shaking hands and telling people “my first baseball game”. The next time we went to the library, he looked for books about baseball. Or he will find a book on a subject and insist we go visit that subject. If the subject is too far away [like the Brooklyn Bridge], I can usually find a local substitute. If I can't, I'm in big trouble LOL

>>I know these books are intended for young readers, but surely I can be in that group, right?

Absolutely.


Amy Johnson said...

I love kid lit! I'm about to pull an I-know-but, which ordinarily I don't like to do. I know Janet asked for non-fiction recommendations, but I have a fiction recommendation.Just last night, I (again) told one of my twenty-something kids I think she'd really like reading the book I'm reading now: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. (I've also recommended it to my other twenty-something, and my youngest is reading it with me.) The book was published back in 2007, but somehow I missed it until now-probably something to do with age gaps between children and what I've been writing/reading over the years. It's a cool book: interesting characters, a good mix of insightfulness and humor, and the kind of magical I like. And mystery--ha!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Sounds like a fun genre, perhaps I will check it out one day.

Amy Johnson said...

Dena, Thank you so much for sharing about your son. Beautiful!

Margaret Turkevich said...

Reporting Under Fire: Women War Correspondents

Kerrie Logan Hollihan.

Jeanne DuBois said...

I'm spending the summer reading my way through Newbery Award books. The first to receive one, in 1922, was THE STORY OF MANKIND by Hendrik Willem van Loon, a super fun read. The latest, HELLO, UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly, knocked my socks off. And then there's OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon M. Draper, about a girl who cannot speak. Awe inspiring.

Lennon Faris said...

So many books to read. I wish, when you started reading, the universe-clock would stop!

John (mss) Frain, - that was a TERRIBL-y good dad joke yesterday.

RosannaM said...

Dena, waking up to a story about a boy who loves books was pure joy. Thank you for sharing.

And maybe you are the person to write a nonfiction book along those lines...

Kelsey Hutton said...

Jeanne, have you heard of the "Decoding the Newbery" series on the book review site The Book Smugglers? Author Catherine Faris King reviews different Newberry winners across the decades. It might be really fun to read along with the rest of your summer list :)

OK folks, I'm going to attempt the linkifying. Colin, will you lend a gentlemanly hand if this doesn't work?

The Book Smugglers - Decoding the Newberry

Kelsey Hutton said...

And the linking worked! I probably shouldn't feel this proud, but I'm gonna roll with it.

Claire Bobrow said...

I've been happily plowing through MG fiction and all kinds of PBs, fiction and non-fiction. I don't have a good sense of the non-fiction MG offerings. Grand Canyon is one of my all-time favorites, but I thought it was considered a non-fiction PB...? Whatever it is, it's spectacular! Neal Porter was at our local SCBWI conference, and I took my wobbly knees over and asked if he would sign Grand Canyon. That copy now occupies a special place on my bookshelf.

Would love to hear about more NF MG recs.

Barbara Etlin said...

No personal recommendations, but if you haven't already discovered this (now archived) website, take a look. It has many reviews and book lists. My friend, Linda Salzman, started it.

I.N.K.: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids

http://inkrethink.blogspot.com/

Kjl Hutton said...

Colin, I got this one!

Here is Barbara's link: I.N.K.: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids

John Davis Frain said...

It's a good day to arrive tired at the Reef ... and leave with energy and a smile. Even if you bring no title to contribute.

Jeanne DuBois said...

Ooo, thanks!

MB Owen said...

Anything by Albert Marrin.

Jen said...

My son LOVES the "Who is/was...?" MG biography series. He really enjoyed "Who is Michelle Obama?" and "Who was Thomas Jefferson?" (since we're from Charlottesville originally). They're quick, informative reads, diverse, and absolutely wonderful. I learned things about historical figures I had no idea about... and I used to teach history! :)

literary_lottie said...

I highly recommend Steve Sheinkin's children's nonfiction books, particularly MOST DANGEROUS, about Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (which I as a millennial knew almost nothing about before reading the book), THE PORT CHICAGO 50, about a strike by Black servicemen over unsafe working conditions at a segregated naval base during WWII, and BOMB, about the race to build the atomic bomb. (I think the first two books might technically be YA, but BOMB is definitely middle grade.)

Jennifer Mugrage said...

"How Much Is A Million?"

"The Man Who Walked Between the Towers"

"Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs!"

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Oops, one more ...

"Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales" is a terrific, super well-researched graphic novel series. I have learned more detailed history from these books than I ever learned in school.

Sherry Howard said...

Love today’s post! Dena, you made me smile so much! In my career I saw so many children develop skills never expected—I always told parents to hang in there for skills that often come at a much later age, but they do come!

I’m working on a work-for-hire middle grade book for reluctant readers. It’s been so interesting that I’ve read almost 100 mg NF on the subject of deep sea diving and related info already! If I did NF all the time I’m afraid I’d never come out of that research rabbit hole!!

Gypmar said...

Dena, thanks for sharing your beautiful story.

Amy Johnson, my 12 year-old is now reading the Mysterious Benedict Society series through for the second time. He absolutely loves it.

BrendaLynn said...

I’m going book shopping.
Rena,
Good work on your son’s part. It can’t have been easy. I’m also thankful for strong moms.

Sherry Howard said...

I forgot to add that in a class I took The Great White Shark, published by Chronicle Books, was recommended as a great example of this type of book done well.

Timothy Lowe said...

I second the Nathan Hale stuff. Anyone who can make the Donner Party funny is someone to check out...

BrendaLynn said...

Oops, make that Dena not Rena.

Karen McCoy said...

Not MG, but the nonfiction book Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin is an excellent read about Daniel Elsberg and the Vietnam War.

Claire Bobrow said...

Upon reflection, I do have one NF MG recommendation - Fred Korematsu Speaks Up, by Laura Atkins. And I have Vincent and Theo - the Van Gogh Brothers, by Deborah Heilgman, on my TBR pile.

John Davis Frain said...

I'm about to flip the sand timer (thanks, Julie W), but I gotta tell you that all evening I keep thinking about a scene that I bet played out after Dena and her son went to his first baseball game.

(I know you said a college game, but it changed to an Anaheim Angels game in my story for some reason.)

Anyway, in my mind, I keep playing variations of the story's final scene.

BEDROOM SHOT IN ANAHEIM SUBURB
- A woman returns home and her husband says, "who won the game?" She answers. "Everyone in our section."

CUT TO CITY BUS
- Guy with a Pujols jersey staggers on. Bus driver says, "Bet Trout's homer was the highlight of the game, right?" Guy points to the Number 5 on his jersey. Shakes his head, then smiles. "Actually, it was this kid a few rows down. His first game. He shook my hand. He was MVP before the first pitch."

CUT TO NEARBY APARTMENT.
- Guy is taking off his tie. His partner says, "Washburn get the win tonight?" The guy holds his tie aloft. Gives the question some thought. "Everybody in our section got the win tonight. Coolest thing happened. You're gonna wish you were there after I explain it..."

And so it plays out around the city that night, everybody nearby in the ballpark who got lucky enough to have an encounter with Dena's son that evening, feeling a positive impact on their lives and telling someone else about it.

Julie Weathers said...

Dena,

I love this story so much. My stepmother used to take me to the state mental hospital with her when she was up there doing her visits with her girls and campaigning for better treatment for the patients. Her daughters were mentally retarded and at that time there were very few options, she put them in the hospital for a while, but it was just too horrific.

She had a lot of faults, but she did work tirelessly on behalf of the mentally handicapped and was a force behind a lot of improvements in Montana. I made friends with some regulars up there who would seek me out like radar when we came and visit with me. They were always so excited to show me something new they had or learned. They learned precious little, but when they did, it was a big deal to them. So, I can see this scene very well in my mind.

Good job to all.

Ann Dominguez said...

I think Steve Sheinkin falls on YA more than middle grade, but his book Bomb: The Roace to Build- and Steal-the World’s Most dangerous Weapon knocked my socks off. I just finished his books in Daniel Ellsberg. So good.