I thought I’d highlight some nonfiction this time! Sometimes it can be hard to convince fiction lovers (like myself!) to read nonfiction, but often a good narrative nonfiction will do the trick. And because I can’t resist all the amazing fiction titles coming out this month, I picked two nonfiction and two fiction books.
“Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series” written by Traci Sorell and illustrated by Arigon Starr
This book tells the story of two men who became the first Native professional baseball players to face each other in a World Series in 1911. Each of them left life on their respective reservations (Charles Bender in Minnesota and John Meyers in California) to play baseball. Each had to persevere through countless insults and slurs. The media was not kind to them, and neither were the fans. Frequently called “Chief” and portrayed as fierce rivals, the two men actually had great respect for each other and the barriers they were breaking together. Not only does this book highlight an exciting moment in history, it also brings attention to current attitudes toward Native players in sports. Author notes in the back give more info about their careers beyond the 1911 World Series.
“The Fastest Tortoise in Town” written by Howard Calvert and illustrated by Karen Obuhanych
Barbara Hendricks is a tortoise who has somehow agreed to sign up for a race. Her best friend and owner, Lorraine, has boundless optimism and confidence in her and promises to help her train. The two lift weights and go for practice runs in the week leading up to the race. Barbara keeps trying, even when an absent-minded worm and a newly walking baby overtake her on one of their runs. When the big day arrives, fueled by Lorraine’s love for her, and a healthy amount of self-love, Barbara keeps putting one foot in front of the other. Instead of the expected hare competitor, Barbara is racing against opponents like sloths and snails. Not only is this book adorable, it’s a great conversation starter about perseverance and determination.
“Race Against Death: The Greatest POW Rescue of World War II” by Deborah Hopkinson
Here’s a narrative nonfiction for you that is as thrilling and inspiring as it is horrifying. Hopkinson writes about the experience of Prisoners of War in the Philippines during WWII. She focuses on first-person accounts while providing plenty of context around their stories to help readers understand, including maps and photographs. Hopkinson describes the Bataan Death March, in which sick and starving POWs were forced to march 65 miles to one of the deadliest POW camps that has ever existed. She shares statistics like the death rate for POWs in the Philippines—40% versus 1.2% in Germany. In the midst of all this death and despair, she tells the story of soldiers and civilians who planned and performed an amazing prison camp rescue. More than 500 prisoners were rescued, in an improbable and heroic raid that allowed survivors to share the truth about POW conditions. For history fans that are fascinated by WWII, this book is an invaluable choice.
“The Manifestor Prophecy” by Angie Thomas
Let’s end on a lighter note, shall we? This book is the first in a trilogy called “Nic Blake and the Remarkables.” Much like other fantasy books you might think of, Remarkables are magic users who are living hidden among Unremarkables or non-magic users. Nic Blake has just turned twelve and is disappointed that her father is still refusing to teach her how to use her Gift. Nic and her father are Manifestors, the most powerful kind of Remarkables, but her dad is extremely wary about magic. When Nic’s favorite author comes to town and she’s forbidden to go to his signing, Nic sneaks out and attends anyway. She learns that the author is also a Manifestor, and that his books are all based on the childhood war he and Nic’s father were involved in. Soon even more secrets catch up to their family, and Nic and her friends are thrust into a quest to recover a powerful magical artifact that was stolen. The Remarkables’ powers stem from a certain African tribe, and the magic system is based on African diasporic mythology and folklore and Biblical stories. This is only the first in the trilogy, but it already takes delight in questioning and subverting fantasy tropes like The Chosen One. Don’t miss this middle-grade debut!