Tuesday, December 24, 2013

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction

I recently finished reading all of the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction winners and honors.  Well, all of them at that point.  Since then, the finalists for the 2014 award have been announced (the winner will be announced in January).

Of the twenty titles acknowledged from when it was first awarded in 2010 through January 2013, I rated five stars to four books.

2010 Finalist; also 2010 Newbery and Sibert honors, and 2009 National Book Award winner

Growing up in Alabama, Claudette Colvin lived in a world ruled by segregation and racism. As a teenager, her anger and frustration grew as adults continued to act as if this normalcy of Southern life was alright. In Montgomery, Alabama, on March 2, 1955, Claudette stood her ground by sitting – and staying – in a bus seat, refusing to give it up just because of her skin color. The teenager was consequently dragged from the bus and taken to jail.

This event took place more than a year before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat; however, due to her age and her place in society, Colvin was deemed unfit to be the face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

This book chronicles Colvin’s life leading up to and during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, using both the author’s research and Colvin’s recollections of the events. While most of the time she stood quietly on the sidelines, her participation in the Civil Rights Movement was instrumental in making changes to the “normal” way of life.

It is no wonder that this book won so many honors and awards. The use of Colvin’s own words intensifies the importance of her actions. Here is a woman who, as a teenager, stood up for what was right, proving that regardless of age, anyone can make a difference.  This is one of the best pieces of teen non-fiction that I have read, and a book that I highly recommend to everyone.

I originally reviewed this book in 2010.  

Benedict Arnold:  A man so dishonorable that his name has become synonymous with “traitor”.  Yet before the soldier became a spy for the British army, he was a Revolutionary War hero whose actions turned the tides of war in favor of the American army.  Arnold was a patriot whose brusque personality often annoyed those in power. 

Filled with action and plot twists, this non-fiction account of Benedict Arnold’s rise – and fall – in the American Army is both intriguing and exciting.   I felt sympathy for the man who deeply loved his country, yet felt the only way to save it was to betray the very principles for which he fought. 

I listened to the audiobook of this title.  It was a wonderful production. 

Titanic: Voices From the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson             
2013 Finalist

I listened to the multi-voiced audiobook. What a fantastic production! The multiple narrators made the stories of each passenger portrayed come alive.  Firsthand accounts of the voyage are provided from several viewpoints including the ship’s staff and all classes of passengers.  The ages of the voices range from younger children through elderly adults.   

2013 Finalist
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, children (as young as nine-years-old) and teens stood up for what they believed was right.  Marching on Birmingham, Alabama, the youth fought for justice for all, regardless of race.  They were spat upon, screamed at, and belittled.  Their goal? To fill the jails as they non-violently protested segregation.  Over 4,000 students participated and nearly 2,500 were arrested (including that nine-year-old).  This book uses interviews, archival research, and other published resources to tell the story of how the children of Birmingham invigorated the waning Civil Rights movement.

This book is filled with photographs, timelines, and other resources. 

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