Thursday, November 06, 2008

PW Best Books - Children's Nonfiction

This week Publisher's Weekly highlighted the books they feel to be the very best in a variety of categories. Here's what they chose for children's nonfiction.

The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir
Cylin Busby & John Busby (Bloomsbury)
No one with even a marginal interest in true crime writing should miss this page-turner, by turns shocking and almost unbearably sad, alternately narrated by an ex-cop who, in 1979, narrowly escaped assassination in an underworld-style hit, and his daughter, Cylin, then nine.

What the World Eats
Faith D'Aluisio, photos by Peter Menzel (Tricycle)
Visiting 25 families in 21 countries around the world, D'Aluisio and Menzel photograph each surrounded by a week's worth of food and groceries, then use these as a way to investigate different cultures, diets and standards of living as well as the impact of globalization—issues introduced conversationally and examined memorably.

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out
National Children's Book and Literary Alliance, intro. by David McCullough
An all-star roster of more than 100 children's authors and illustrators, as well as a few scholars and former White House employers and residents, offers a history of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in entries that range from poems to presidential speeches, satirical cartoons to stately portraits; a blue-ribbon choice for family sharing.

The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West
Sid Fleischman (Greenwillow)
Amusingly illustrated with period engravings, newspaper cartoons and ephemera, this stylish biography is top-notch entertainment.

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
Kadir Nelson (Hyperion/Jump at the Sun)
No baseball fan should be without this sumptuous volume, a history of the Negro Leagues delivered in folksy vernacular by a fictional player. While this handsome, square book could sit proudly on a coffee table by virtue of Nelson's muscular paintings, it soars as a tribute to individual athletes.

Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry
Scott Reynolds Nelson with Marc Aronson (National Geographic)
Nelson models the study of history as an active and passionate pursuit as he shows readers how he pieced together a panoply of facts and anecdotes to find the real-life subject of the folk song “John Henry.”

Several of these titles appear on the list of nominees for the Cybils in the category of Nonfiction Middle Grades/YA books, including Ain't Nothing But a Man, Our White House, The Trouble Begins at 8 and We Are the Ship.

The list for children's picture books includes only one nonfiction title. It also appears on the list of nominees for the Cybils in the category of Nonfiction Picture books. That title is:

What to Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!
Barbara Kerley, illus. by Edwin Fotheringham (Scholastic)
It's hard to imagine a picture book biography that could better suit its subject than this high-energy volume serves young Alice Roosevelt.


  1. Thanks for this--these best of the year lists are a good way for me to catch things I've missed for the library's collection. Nonfiction, in particular, goes out of print so quickly. If I miss a title too long, I might miss it forever.

  2. Interesting set of books. There are so many unheralded non-fic kid lit books out there. They deserve much more press.