Book List

Best Middle-Grade Biography & Memoir of 2018

A spirited biography that fully honors its redoubtable subject.

FACING FREDERICK

THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS, A MONUMENTAL AMERICAN MAN

The story of one of the most iconic and photographed figures in American history.

Frederick Douglass wanted to be viewed as more than an escaped slave, and Bolden emphasizes that point by beginning his story when he makes the decision to break with abolitionist publisher William Lloyd Garrison to begin his own newspaper. Douglass’ history is nevertheless revealed as he contemplates changing his course. In his paper, the North Star, he pressed for an end to slavery and was outspoken in favor of women’s suffrage. Once the nation’s struggles between freedom and slavery led to armed conflict, he pushed President Abraham Lincoln to allow black men to fight in the Union cause. After the Civil War, Douglass remained tireless in seeking to improve the lives of African-Americans until the end of his life. This narrative about a well-known figure feels fresh due to Bolden’s skilled storytelling. It fully captures his outsized personality and provides clarity for nuanced episodes such as his disagreements with Garrison, his refusal to support efforts to colonize blacks outside of the United States, and his reservations about John Brown’s raid. Complications in his personal life are handled with sensitivity. In addition, Douglass was a celebrity at the dawn of photography and became the era’s most photographed figure, and this handsome volume includes many, as well as period illustrations.

A spirited biography that fully honors its redoubtable subject. (author’s note, timeline, source notes, selected sources, index) (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2546-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

Hendrix’s challenging and complex content demonstrates the trust he has in the intelligence of his audience.

THE FAITHFUL SPY

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER AND THE PLOT TO KILL HITLER

In this audacious graphic biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Hendrix crafts a portrait of a man of faith grappling with the question of what it means to be an ethical and moral person.

Hendrix is clear that this account is not a complete biography, noting his goal is “underlining the essential themes found in Dietrich’s life.” Pivotal moments from his subject’s childhood through his execution are chronicled. Bonhoeffer’s worldview is transformed when he goes to New York City in 1930 as a young white seminarian and befriends two classmates—an African-American and a white Frenchman—who help awaken him to systemic racial injustice, pacifism, and the necessity of keeping the church independent from the state. From his year in America, “Bonhoeffer’s theology [is] transformed from thought into action, the creation of something he called ‘civil courage.’ ” This prompts Bonhoeffer to speak out publicly against Hitler, found the breakaway Confessing Church, spy for the German Resistance, and join the plot to assassinate Hitler that ultimately costs him his life. Interwoven with Bonhoeffer’s story is extensive historical information. Hendrix’s striking artwork—done in a limited palette of black, turquoise, and red—relies heavily on typography and visual metaphor. Some of the most striking illustrations depict Nazism as a ferocious, demonic wolf. Another portrays Bonhoeffer as the biblical David with a sling facing a Goliath who holds a bloodied spear and swastika-emblazoned shield.

Hendrix’s challenging and complex content demonstrates the trust he has in the intelligence of his audience. (bibliography, source notes) (Nonfiction. 10-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2838-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Be a best friend and give this book to someone who has not read it

IT'S UP TO YOU, ABE LINCOLN

From the It's Up to You series

One decision can change your life…these 10 decisions turned a man into a president.

The father-daughter Hirschfeld team examines the life of Abraham Lincoln in this quirky and humorous biography. The narrative is written as if it’s speaking directly to Lincoln, using active, directional statements that transport readers into each highlighted moment of history. And what a history it is; 10 key moments in Honest Abe’s life (including the coinage of that moniker) are discussed across 10 chapters. Each chapter concludes with a quiz for readers encouraging them to predict how Abe should react to each situation. Each quiz is followed by “The Reveal,” a summary of how and why Lincoln responded to each specific situation. Sprinkled throughout are facts about Lincoln’s life, vocabulary lessons, and archival images of Abe’s contemporaries embellished with humorous, cartoonish speech bubbles. The overall effect gives readers an image of our 16th president that is humanizing and engaging. After the 10 questions have wrapped, the book continues over an additional 10 chapters that are packed with trivia, information on Abe’s personal and professional lives, and one score and change of bibliographic wonders. The humor doesn’t run out in the second half; readers are challenged to imagine Abe’s reactions to modern concepts from genetic engineering to emojis. Educators will love this title for its wealth of information, and young readers will love it for its welcoming tone.

Be a best friend and give this book to someone who has not read it . (Biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-50953-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

An exceptionally crafted visual biography of a pioneering entomologist and naturalist who lived a life devoted to discovery.

THE GIRL WHO DREW BUTTERFLIES

HOW MARIA MERIAN'S ART CHANGED SCIENCE

The remarkable contributions of Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th-century self-taught artist and the first person to document the metamorphosis of the butterfly, are not as well-known as those of John James Audubon, Charles Darwin, and Carl Linnaeus, but her discoveries preceded and influenced those later naturalists.

At a time when the most learned adhered to the Aristotelian theory of “spontaneous generation,” that insects came from “dew, dung, dead animals, or mud” and were “beasts of the Devil,” Merian was convinced otherwise. Captivated by the mysterious lives of insects, she wanted to know where they came from. Flouting the conventions of the time to pursue her passion for insects made Merian’s life difficult, but she never allowed adversity to interfere with her dogged pursuit of knowledge. Travelers’ stories inspired her to take an arduous journey to the Dutch colony of Surinam to observe, document, and collect exotic species. With techniques learned from her stepfather, Merian became an accomplished artist, rendering in beautiful, extraordinary detail the intricacies of caterpillars, flies, moths, butterflies, and other insects. She recorded her keen observations in a research journal and published three books about her discoveries. This fascinating account of Merian’s life and work is beautifully designed and embellished with both Sidman’s photographs of what Merian studied and images of her artwork. Informative captions identify and connect each image’s relevance to Merian’s life and work.

An exceptionally crafted visual biography of a pioneering entomologist and naturalist who lived a life devoted to discovery. (glossary, timeline, source notes, bibliography, further reading) (Biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-71713-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

Adapted from her memoir for adults, My Beloved World (2013), in the hope of inspiring children to dream even the dreams they...

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THE BELOVED WORLD OF SONIA SOTOMAYOR

The memoir of a woman who rose from the housing projects in New York City’s South Bronx to become the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.

This is the story of a woman who as a 10-year-old fell under the spell of Perry Mason, a fictional TV lawyer. Her life course was set: She would become a lawyer and, dare she dream it, a judge. With a clear vision, hard work, and determination she set out to make her dream come true. In a series of vignettes that help to illustrate her remarkable spirit and motivations, Sotomayor recalls some of the salient moments of her life. Readers are introduced to her close-knit family, friends, colleagues, and mentors that nurtured her along the way. She chronicles her academic and professional achievements and what it took to be successful. She also presents her core beliefs and struggles, never shying from coming across as human. The account of this exceptional trajectory, told with a storyteller’s talent, is filled with a candor and honesty that make her story eminently accessible to young readers.

Adapted from her memoir for adults, My Beloved World (2013), in the hope of inspiring children to dream even the dreams they cannot at first imagine, this book should thoroughly achieve that goal. A must read. (glossary, Supreme Court overview) (Memoir. 10-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7114-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

A deeply patriotic look at how immigrants’ application of the American ideals of hard work and perseverance can have lasting...

FIRST GENERATION

36 TRAILBLAZING IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES WHO MAKE AMERICA GREAT

The Wallaces and Nowicka take a look at the first members of families who immigrated to the United States and the impacts they have had on our lives and country through minibiographies and bright, illustrated portraits.

We all come from somewhere, and unless you are Native American, your people came here as immigrants or refugees. That is what makes America so beautiful. This book takes figures from all races, nationalities, and religions and looks at them as human beings and at the amazing things they have accomplished, from politics to art to science and everything in between. From the music of Yo-Yo Ma to the statecraft of Madeleine Albright or the runway walk of Halima Aden, immigrants have shaped this country. They gave us Google, the Sierra Club, and salsa music. Young readers will be constantly surprised by the impacts these new Americans have had without their ever having realized it. Bright portraits accompany each minibiography along with a box that includes highlights of each person’s life. The breezy format will give readers a taste of nonfiction and will ignite their curiosity to delve deeper into the lives of the people within the pages. Selected books and websites for further exploration as well as a bibliography will help them get started.

A deeply patriotic look at how immigrants’ application of the American ideals of hard work and perseverance can have lasting effects. (authors’ note, illustrator’s note) (Collective biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-51524-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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