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Where history and biography meet

The following six nonfiction books for middle-grade readers merge the lines between history book and biography to create compelling works of narrative nonfiction. See also Tanya Lee Stone’s September/October Horn Book Magazine article “The Art of Visual Storytelling in Long-Form Nonfiction,” including her upcoming YA title Peace Is a Chain Reaction; and Elizabeth Partridge and Lauren Tamaki’s interview in this newsletter issue about their new book Seen and Unseen.

 

Speak Up, Speak Out!: The Extraordinary Life of “Fighting Shirley Chisholm” by Tonya Bolden
The list of New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s accomplishments during a time when race and gender were overt factors in exclusion from politics makes her an iconic figure in American history...
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I Begin with Spring: The Life and Seasons of Henry David Thoreau by Julie Dunlap; illus. by Megan Elizabeth Baratta
Dunlap begins her illustrated biography with a question posed by Thoreau in a school report, his earliest known writing: “Why do the seasons change?”...
 
Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South by Wade Hudson
Co-founder (with his wife, Cheryl Willis Hudson) of the pioneering Black publishing company Just Us Books, Wade Hudson here recalls his childhood and teen years in the small northern Louisiana town of Mansfield in the 1950s and 1960s...
 
The Waiting Place: When Home Is Lost and a New One Not Yet Found by Dina Nayeri; photos by Anna Bosch Miralpeix
“When home is lost and a new one not yet found, children are sent to the Waiting Place.” In this powerful photo-essay, the Waiting Place is the Katsikas refugee camp in Greece, which Nayeri and ­Miralpeix visited in 2018...
 
Because of You, John Lewis: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Andrea Davis Pinkney; illus. by Keith Henry Brown
What could have been a straightforward story of a boy meeting his idol becomes in Pinkney’s skilled hands a tapestry of intertwined stories looking back to the past and forward to the future...
 
Underground Fire: Hope, Sacrifice, and Courage in the Cherry Mine Disaster by Sally M. Walker
Walker opens her solid account by providing background about mining, immigration, and coal before getting to the events of November 13, 1909, when the Cherry Mine fire started after kerosene from a torch began dripping onto bales of hay...
 

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