An unusually strong volume—a smorgasbord for young nonfiction readers (both boys and girls) and a good pick for the...

TRUE STORIES

From the Guys Read series , Vol. 5

A stellar lineup of nonfiction writers offers true stories, which, like the previous volumes in the Guys Read series, are written to appeal especially to boys.

Steve Sheinkin leads off with a survival tale, as Capt. James Riley and his crew are shipwrecked off the coast of West Africa in the summer of 1815 and survive the Sahara desert by drinking their own urine and eating their peeling, sunburned skin. Enslaved, they are eventually saved by Muslim traders, and Riley joins the anti-slavery movement upon his return to the United States. Sy Montgomery writes a beautiful ode to the rain forest of French Guiana and profiles tarantulas and Sam Marshall, a scientist who studies them and who is featured in Montgomery’s The Tarantula Scientist (2004). Jim Murphy delivers an unsettling history of dental horrors from 6,500 years ago to the present day (or at least his second visit to the dentist); Candace Fleming profiles Jumbo, the world’s largest elephant; Elizabeth Partridge writes about Alan Lomax and Muddy Waters; and T. Edward Nickens is almost killed canoeing frigid Alaskan waters. The stories—prose, poetry and a graphic story—are full of action and lively, sometimes-gross details that make their subjects come alive.

An unusually strong volume—a smorgasbord for young nonfiction readers (both boys and girls) and a good pick for the classroom. (Short stories. 8-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-196382-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A mighty portrait of poverty amid cruelty and optimism.

FREE LUNCH

Recounting his childhood experiences in sixth grade, Ogle’s memoir chronicles the punishing consequences of poverty and violence on himself and his family.

The start of middle school brings about unwanted changes in young Rex’s life. His old friendships devolve as his school friends join the football team and slowly edge him out. His new English teacher discriminates against him due to his dark skin (Rex is biracial, with a white absentee dad and a Mexican mom) and secondhand clothes, both too large and too small. Seemingly worse, his mom enrolls him in the school’s free-lunch program, much to his embarrassment. “Now everyone knows I’m nothing but trailer trash.” His painful home life proffers little sanctuary thanks to his mom, who swings from occasional caregiver to violent tyrant at the slightest provocation, and his white stepdad, an abusive racist whose aggression outrivals that of Rex’s mom. Balancing the persistent flashes of brutality, Ogle magnificently includes sprouts of hope, whether it’s the beginnings of a friendship with a “weird” schoolmate, joyful moments with his younger brother, or lessons of perseverance from Abuela. These slivers of relative levity counteract the toxic relationship between young Rex, a boy prone to heated outbursts and suppressed feelings, and his mother, a fully three-dimensional character who’s viciously thrashing against the burden of poverty. It’s a fine balance carried by the author’s outstanding, gracious writing and a clear eye for the penetrating truth.

A mighty portrait of poverty amid cruelty and optimism. (author’s note, author Q&A, discussion guide, writing guide, resources) (Memoir. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-324-00360-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history.

ON THE HORIZON

In spare verse, Lowry reflects on moments in her childhood, including the bombings of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. 

When she was a child, Lowry played at Waikiki Beach with her grandmother while her father filmed. In the old home movie, the USS Arizona appears through the mist on the horizon. Looking back at her childhood in Hawaii and then Japan, Lowry reflects on the bombings that began and ended a war and how they affected and connected everyone involved. In Part 1, she shares the lives and actions of sailors at Pearl Harbor. Part 2 is stories of civilians in Hiroshima affected by the bombing. Part 3 presents her own experience as an American in Japan shortly after the war ended. The poems bring the haunting human scale of war to the forefront, like the Christmas cards a sailor sent days before he died or the 4-year-old who was buried with his red tricycle after Hiroshima. All the personal stories—of sailors, civilians, and Lowry herself—are grounding. There is heartbreak and hope, reminding readers to reflect on the past to create a more peaceful future. Lowry uses a variety of poetry styles, identifying some, such as triolet and haiku. Pak’s graphite illustrations are like still shots of history, adding to the emotion and somber feeling. He includes some sailors of color among the mostly white U.S. forces; Lowry is white.

A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history. (author’s note, bibliography) (Memoir/poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-12940-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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