Best of Teens 2010 - Nonfiction
The Power of 11.5 Inches of Plastic
Love her or hate her, there’s no escaping Barbie. Sibert Award winner Tanya Lee Stone tackles the American icon in her latest book, The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie. Tracing the doll’s origins, as well of those of her creator, Stone offers a thorough investigation of Barbie and her resounding impact on American society and beyond. Here, the author talks with Kirkus about the controversy surrounding Barbie’s figure, why the doll inspires such simultaneous loathing and love, and her own experiences with Barbie growing up.
Behind the KKK
The Civil War may have been one of the darkest periods in American history, but its aftermath often provoked worse violence. In her probing nonfiction book for young adults, They Called Themselves the K.K.K., Newbery Honor winner Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Hitler Youth, 2005) explores the birth of and inspirations behind one of America’s earliest homegrown terrorist groups—the Ku Klux Klan. In the end, Bartoletti finds that it’s a very American story, with all the darkness and hope that only a young country can muster.
2010 Best for Teens: Sugar Changed the World, by Marc Aronson & Marina Budhos
When husband-and-wife team Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos realized that both their family histories involved the sugar industry, they took it as a challenge. For the next five years, they researched, wrote and shared their book
with teachers to make sure they were hitting their dual target audience—instructors and their students. The authors then reworked the book to thoughtfully cover some 10,000 years of sugar’s political and social history and also to find a person or story their readers could relate to, “shaping narrative that brought you into the sort of intimate scale of the sugar experience, yet at the same time swept you through the epic tale,” says Budhos. The story builds on what many young scholars already know and adds many details. For example, slavery in the United States is a typical school lesson, but the authors disclose that the other 96 percent of enslaved Africans worked in the sugar industry in other parts of the world. Aronson and Budhos have also built online elements to continue the journey at sugarchangedtheworld.com
. “We are taking on new topics and talking about them in new ways, but still keeping the children’s-book commitment to beautiful book making,” says Aronson.
2010 Best for Teens: Smile, by Raina Telgemeier
Junior high school—there ought to be a law against it, maybe some provision of the Geneva Convention as a crime against humanity. Puberty, pimples and poisonous pals—pick your potion. Add a Sisyphean regimen of dental barbarity—braces, headgear, retainers—and welcome to Raina Telgemeier’s graphic memoir of adolescence. “When I was 11 years old, I tripped and knocked out my two front teeth,” says the author. “Smile
attempts to recapture my insecurity about my appearance and the isolation I felt as my friends seized the opportunity to tease and torment me.” But wait. Amid the grief of classrooms, boys and even an earthquake (Telgemeier grew up in San Francisco), there is something else at work. The illustrations are buoyant and strong, even as they take cues from an angst-ridden everyday to which any junior high schooler can relate. A smile, despite the hardware, may well be the ticket to survival.
2010 Best for Teens: The War to End All Wars, by Russell Freedman
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife were killed while visiting Sarajevo, a newly acquired territory of his family's empire. "The assassination triggered a diplomatic crisis," reads the text-as well as a world war. Russell Freedman's account was inspired by the 2007 Broadway revival of R.C. Sheriff's Journey's End. "The play reminded me that World War I was my father's war," says Freeman. "As a 16-year-old private...he was shot and gassed in France and spent months recovering at Walter Reed Army Hospital. My father was proud of his service to America…but like so many wars, this one was unnecessary and futile. It was said at the time that if the war could just once be described in honest and accurate language, people everywhere would demand that the fighting be stopped." The veteran historian uses first-person accounts left by men in the trenches to present an accurate portrait in The War to End All Wars.