New Biography and US History Stand-alone Nonfiction


Andrews, Arin with Joshua Lyon. Some Assembly Required. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014. 978-1-4814-1675-7. 248p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

In this easy to read memoir, Arin, a female-born, transgender teen, details his journey thus far.   Growing up, Arin always considered himself more of a tomboy and resisted his mother’s attempts to get him to wear dresses or compete in beauty pageants.  At first, Arin thinks he might be gay, and has his first romantic relationship with a girl in his dance class.  As he explores online the notions of gender and sexuality, Arin comes to the realization that he is transgender.  As with many LGBT youth, Arin struggles with peer bullying, depression and thoughts of suicide (all of which he openly recounts).  While his mother is initially upset and resistant, after a period of time, she supports her son.  Also key to strengthening their relationship during this time are regular appointments with a therapist and attending LGBT support group meetings.  Arin is very open in the memoir about his transition process and addresses issues such a surgical options and testosterone shots.  An appendix at the end includes resources ranging from books, movies and websites.

921; Biography       Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS




Sutcliffe, Jane. The White House is Burning: August 24, 1814. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2014. 978-1-58089-656-6. 120p. $19.99. Gr. 5-8.

Through the use of numerous primary source accounts, Sutcliffe re-creates a notorious date in American history—August 24, 1814.  It was on this date during the War of 1812 that British troops invaded Washington, D.C. after defeating American troops outside of town.  Finding the nation’s capital abandoned by the government (and many citizens), the British burned several government buildings, including the Capitol and the White House.  Sutcliffe takes readers nearly hour by hour through the day, introducing the prominent players on both sides and explaining military tactics of the time.  Firsthand accounts from a cross-section of Washingtonians (from First Lady Dolley Madison, to businessmen, a female young tourist, and slaves) help to make the story come alive and show how the invasion impacted all in the capital city.  The text is supplemented by numerous illustrations, paintings and maps.  A nice addition for American history research or for casual reader with an interest in history.

974; History  Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS




Walker, Sally M. Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line settled a family feud & divided a nation. Sommerville, MA: Candlewick, 2014. 978-0-7636-5612-6. 202p. $24.99. Gr. 8 and up.
While most tend to associate the Mason-Dixon Line with the Civil War era and the separation of North and South, its history actually extends back to the earliest days of colonial America.  In this comprehensive history, Walker first introduces readers to the Calvert (Maryland) and Penn (Pennsylvania) families, who were granted charters to start colonies in the New World.  Due to conflicting language in their land grants, boundary disputes soon arose between the two colonies.  In an effort to settle the matter, two astronomers, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, were hired to conduct a land survey.  The majority of Boundaries describes the arduous surveying task undertaken by the Mason and Dixon.  They not only had to conduct astronomical observations using the tools available at the time, they had to perform complex mathematical computations, and supervise a large crew of men who assisted them, blazed trails and set markers to mark the boundary.  Walker presents and explains the astronomical concepts and mathematical methods used by the two men during the survey process.  The book concludes with a look at the Line’s role in the pre-Civil War era as slaves crossed the line northward into freedom, perused by their owners or slave catchers.  The text incorporates numerous primary source accounts as well as pictures, maps, drawings and diagrams.

974; History                                                   Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS


As a native Pennsylvanian (and history buff), I found this an intriguing read.  Walker not only presented historical information regarding colonial politics and the need for the Mason-Dixon Line, she also did an admirable job of explaining the surveying process and the mathematics behind it (not easy concepts to make understandable to a layperson!).  If you don’t live far from the Mason-Dixon Line, this book might just inspire you to check it out.  I was able to locate a Line marker only 20 miles from my home.  A recommended purchase for schools not only near the Mason-Dixon Line, but schools that have a strong curriculum in Pennsylvania history.

They All Fall Down


St. Claire, Roxanne. They All Fall Down. New York: Point, 2014. 978-0-545-63997-2. 312p. $16.20. Gr. 7+.

Kenzie Summerall can’t believe it.  How in the world was she just voted as fifth on a list of the hottest girls in school? After dealing with her brother’s death, her parents’ separation, and her mother’s overbearing anxiety, Kenzie can bask in the happiness the list brings her: popularity, new friends, and boys chasing after her – the hottest boys in school!  Except the list is different this year, the thirteenth year of the list.  Because one by one, the girls on the list are meeting a tragic end. Is it a coincidence that several of the girls on the list have been in awful accidents, or is there a curse that no one is allowed to talk about?  With several close calls of her own, Kenzie needs to figure out what is going on before she’s next!
A suspenseful thriller, teen girls will zoom through this book by an author who has recently switched over to YA after writing many romance mysteries for adults!
Mystery/Suspense    Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS/Upper Adams MS

Series Nonfiction…Fashion, Thinking Critically, Issues in Sports,

Spilsbury, Louise. The True Cost of Fashion. New York: Crabtree Publishing, 2014. 978-0-7787-0483-6. $15.31. 48p. Gr. 5-8.
Explore the realm of fashion and what it means to be a consumer nation.  The matter covered allows readers to ponder the impact their clothing habits and purchases have on others, the problems with subcontracting and sweatshops, and how changing the way we shop can reshape the future of fashion.  The Fashion World Map shows a breakdown of the top ten exporters and importers.  Bright colored Supply and Demand callouts and text boxes add interesting facts and details.  The pages are ladened with photos while  headings and subheadings clearly label sections of the text.  Back matter includes a glossary, bibliographical references, and an index.
With a conclusive message focusing on the importance of being a responsible consumer and an awareness of poor working conditions and pitiful pay, the reader realizes consumers can play a major role in creating an alternative, favorable future.
338.4 Fashion (Consumer Nation Series)                 Christine Massey, JWP Middle School

Issues in Sports (series). Minneapolis: ABDO, 2014. 64p. $22.95 ea. Gr. 6-8.

Basen, Ryan. Injuries in Sports. 978-1-62403-123-6.

Bowker, Paul. Violence in Sports. 978-1-62403-125-0.

Hudson, Maryanne. Concussions in Sports. 978-1-62403-120-5.

Hudson, Maryanne. High-Pressure Youth Sports. 978-1-62403-122-9.

King, Tony. Performing Enhancing Drugs in Sports. 978-1-62403-124-3.

Miller, Tracy. Equality in Sports. 978-162403-121-2.

As any viewer of television knows, the nightly sports reports feature more than just a list of results.  Many controversial and challenging issues are currently facing the world of sports.  The Issues in Sports series aims to examine some of these controversial issues in-depth.  The history of each issue is presented and numerous examples from the world of sport are used to illustrate the topic(s) under discussion.  Sidebars utilize primary source accounts in order to further illuminate topics.  Overall, the series is quite readable, presenting information in a straightforward manner that would be of use to both researchers and the casual reader.

796; Sports      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS





Thinking Critically (series). San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2014. 80p. $28.95 ea. Gr. 8 and up.

Dudley, William. Stem Cell Research. 978-1-60152-586-4.

Mooney, Carla. Cell Phones. 978-1-60152-580-2.

Nakaya, Andrea C. Gun Control and Violence. 978-1-60152-606-9.

Nakaya, Andrea C. Social Networking. 978-1-60152-588-8.

Reference Point Press expands their existing Thinking Critically series with the addition of these four titles.  The aim of the series to expose readers to controversial issues currently in the news and to encourage them to critically examine the topics under discussion.  Each chapter tackles a sub-topic related to the main issue under examination. An overview of the sub-topic is presented, and then a pro/con format is used to present facts, evidence, statistics, and more. Diagrams, charts/graphs, and sidebars are utilized to supplement the text.  The text is clearly written and easy to understand.  Ideal for research projects, speech assignments, etc.

Various Non-fiction         Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS






Resurrections…the conclusion to the Blood of the Lamb trilogy

Hager, Mandy. Resurrections. New York: Pyr, 2014. 978-1-61614-909-3. $17.99. 361p. Gr. 9 and up.
In the dramatic conclusion to the Blood of the Lamb series, readers find Maryam hospitalized, recovering from a broken arm.  Before a full recovery, she is snuck back into the camp and reunited with Ruth but quickly learns Lazarus is being transported to the mainland of the Confederated Territories to settle.  Feeling the veritable shock of his betrayal, Maryam begins planning her own escape.  Fabricating an account of her homeland, she volunteers for deportation.  Given time on this new island, she will build a raft, sail to Onewēre, and disprove the Apostle’s absurd teachings and vicious lies when she reveals the cure for Te Matee Iai.  She believes the most difficult part will be leaving Ruth, who decides to stay after the discovery that she’s with child.  When a storm causes a landslide to bury her raft, Maryam believes she has failed.  Only moments later does she discover Lazarus has found his own sailing vessel and has come to rescue her.  She must abandon her rage and resentment and believe he is a worthy friend.  The two set sail for Onewēre, formulating a plan as they canvas the open water.  When they are discovered by Father Joshua and Lazarus’s mother, her ultimate betrayal accompanied by an unforeseen power struggle may create bedlam the island people will never recover from.
Hager explores the issues of social oppression, religious persecution, and maltreatment of foreigners through the thrilling exploits of captivating, valiant characters.
Science Fiction     Christine Massey, JWP Middle School

Famous Last Words


Alender, Katie. Famous Last Words. New York: Point, 2014. 978-0-545-63997-2. 312p. $16.20. Gr. 7+.

Willa has a chance to make a new start with her life after moving from Connecticut to Hollywood with her mom and new stepfather after her own father dies.  But, this new mansion might be haunted. Willa keeps seeing things that aren’t there, like a dead body and a reflection that isn’t her own! At the same time, there is a serial killer on the loose, one that is targeting young girls and acting out scenes from movie murders.  Is it possible that the visions that Willa sees have to do with the serial killer deaths?  She’s got to figure it out fast before her own life is played out in a movie murder!
As with all of Katie Alender’s mystery thrillers (Bad Girls Don’ Die series), this book has flown off the shelf and both middle and high school girls have enjoyed this fast read.  Along with Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, this book has been chosen as a Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers.
Mystery    Nicole Starner, Biglerville HS and Upper Adams MS

Plastic, Ahoy!


Newman, Patricia. Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Minneapolis: Millbrook Press, 2014. 978-1-4677-1283-5. 48 p. $23.00. Gr. 5+.

This book is a fabulous way to introduce young students to the effect that plastic has on our ecosystems, particularly the ocean. It contains fascinating information made very accessible to young students. The book details how each researcher became interested in ocean research, and their mission to change the way we think about plastic. It includes many fascinating photographs by Annie Crawley. I didn’t even know that an Ocean Garbage Patch existed (called the Pyre), let alone make attempts to reduce my plastic consumption. The book details how the currents of the different oceans converge to keep the Garbage Patch in one place. The book includes a glossary, source notes, hints to help, and items for further reading.

This book was not in one day, and a science teacher grabbed it. She then passed it on to the other science teachers. It is a little simplistic for the grade 8 students, but not overly so. It has spurred a movement in our school to recycle more, use reusable containers, and cut down on plastic use in general. Great to inspire STEM minded students for further study. It has had a global effect on my middle school.

363.738       Kathy Gilbride, North Pocono Middle and High School


Copeland, Misty. Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina. New York: Touchstone, 2014. 978-1-476737-980. 288 p. $24.99  Gr. 9-12.

“This is for the little brown girls.”
Misty Copeland has worked her way from a “shuffled” sort of childhood to ballet stardom and, through her writing and affiliation with Under Armor, Prince, and more is nearly a household name.  All this from a young woman who first took a ballet class at 13 (far beyond the usual 3 and 4-year-old beginning age) and who didn’t have the right “build” or the right skin color for ballet.  What did she have?  A seemingly innate ability to know and perform the moves, and soon, a love of ballet which fueled her drive to learn and to be the best.  As evidenced in her memoir, she also has writing ability that pulls the reader in, and a kind, forgiving, no-grudges-held attitude.  “This is for the little brown girls.”  It is a line she repeats and a role she takes seriously.  She sees herself as helping to open the body- and race-specific world of ballet to boys and girls of various sizes and races.  This is an uplifting and inspiring biography of a woman to admire not only for her ballet accomplishments, but also for her strong, open-to-life character.  This book fills a gaping need for biographies of contemporary dancers, and will be much in demand by young dancers in your school.  Highly recommended.
792.8 Ballet; Memoir   Melissa Scott, Shenango High School 

Text Styles…new writing series from Crabtree Publishing


Text Styles (series). New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2015.  978-07787-… 32 p. $20.00. Gr. 3-6.

Flatt, Lizann. How to Write Realistic Fiction. -16563
Hyde, Natalie. How to Write an Adventure Story. -16556
Hyde, Natalie. How to Write a Fantasy Story. -16549
Kopp, Megan. How to Write a Drama. -16532
Kopp, Megan. How to Write Science Fiction. -16570
(Also in series: How to Tell a Fable; How to Tell a Folktale; How to Tell a Legend; How to Tell a Myth)

This interesting series aims to walk a person through the process of writing drama, science fiction, fantasy, adventure, and realistic fiction.  The all-color “pieces” of the process are presented in orderly fashion, beginning with examples to review, moving to characters, dialogue, plot, theme, point of view, character flaws, etc.  Each book has two pages devoted to “creative response to (drama, etc)” wherein a well-known example of fiction is used and questions are posed to further the imagination process. For example, in How to Write a Fantasy, Peter Pan is used as an example, and encouraged responses are: “write a description of your own fantasy island.  Add different landscapes and homes for creatures.” Or “In Peter Pan’s world, the rule is that you need fairy dust to fly.  Think of different way that flying could be possible.  Write the scene using this new way.”  While not in each case specific to the reader’s story, these ideas encourage them to see a story in new light.    These books are well-suited for their intended audience of 3-6th graders.  Their content could easily be used 1-2 pages at a time to guide students in creative writing workshops, or to explain and practice writing dialogue, or mapping out a plot.  Of most help to Language Arts lessons would be the pages on dialogue or point of view; “How is the story presented to you?  That’s the point of view.” (Thankfully, this is further explained.)  Strong readers will sort out the differences and the process, but weak readers will be put off by the intrusion or over- examination of reading.  Brief but well-executed.  Each volume includes a short Glossary, Index and Further Resources List (print and online).
808.3 Writing process    Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

Red Madness and Pure Grit…Stand-alone nonfiction


Jarrow, Gail.  Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat. Honesdale: Calkins Creek, 2014. 978-1-59078-732-8. $14.46. 192p. Gr. 6 and up.

The medical mystery of pellagra would bedevil doctors from the first reported case in 1902 until Dr. Joseph Goldberger reluctantly accepted the Surgeon General’s orders to head the pellagra investigation in early 1914.  Dedicating over half his life to solving the dilemma, Goldberger conducted filth parties, animal experiments, and dietary assessments in search of answers.  During the course of his work, he searched for cause and cure, believing in his research and the methods his staff used even when critics attacked his claims and denounced his findings.  Because of his dedication, the symptoms of a rash accompanied with intestinal irritation followed by possible dementia and plausible death, experts learned that the disease was linked to a dietary deficiency.  As a result, the United States Public Health Service instituted changes to dietary standards and enriched foods including bread.  The reader can follow the physicians and scientists through all the complexities of symptoms, misconceptions of diagnoses, and perplexing discoveries while America desperately searched for a cure.


Written as an authentic medical manifestation, Jarrow delicately weaves a subtle mystery into the details and factual data documenting pellagra that keeps readers intrigued and questioning the research and hypotheses.  Throughout the text, personal stories are set apart with subheadings and highlighted in a different font.  Bold red captions and headings organize chapters, and graphic photos from people stricken by the disease and fraudulent advertisements promising a cure for a minimal price add to the authenticity of the text and the pain victims suffered.  With compelling technique and captivating personal narratives, Jarrow has written an riveting medical mystery.
Disease; Scientific Discovery     Christine Massey, JWP Middle School







Farrell, Mary Cronk. Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific. New York: Abrams Books, 2014. 978-1-4197-1028-5. $24.95. 160p. Gr. 7 and up.
Nursing during the early 1900’s was considered a paltry profession by some, especially the family members of young, virtuous women who pursued this type of career instead of a more secure and sheltered occupation.   For women who needed some type of income during the Great Depression, though, nursing was the answer.  The young women in Pure Grit were stationed in the Philippines.  At first they enjoyed all the amenities of a retreat.  Wild orchids and other exotic flowers decorated the landscape, and hired help took care of the mundane tasks including laundry, cooking and cleaning.  The blissful peace was unexpectedly interrupted when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and launched a military assault targeting the Philippines.  Nurses with little war-time training were suddenly thrust into triage situations and performing surgeries.   In the midst of their work, these courageous women battled their own emotions and fear while nursing the wounded and comforting the dying.  They witnessed a face so badly burned that the patient was beyond recognition and a sixteen-year-old boy who lied about his true age lose both legs during an amputation procedure.  These altruistic women who put others before themselves and endured hardships and perilous circumstances served their country proudly.


While the nurses were never physically beaten or abused, they suffered under the perpetual presence of the Japanese guards which precipitated mental exertion and made the women feel inconsequential.  Many suffered from diseases and health complications due to the insubstantial food and physical strain suffered.  Their stories, told with a brazen frankness, are intermixed with photocopies of letters and diaries, maps, and photos.  Chapter titles are highlighted with a red background, and bold dates call the reader’s attention.  In the words of Nurse Alice “Swish” Zwicker, “It’s a strange thing about war.  One never gets used to it and yet once it begins it seems always to have been that way.  No beginning and no end.”  Fortunately, Farrell has researched and even interviewed one survivor and several family members so their stories of valor will never be forgotten.


World War II     Christine Massey, JWP Middle School

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone

Griffin, Adele. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone. New York: Soho Teen, 2014. 978-1-61695-360-7. $17.99. 241p. Gr. 9-12.
Even as a young girl, art prodigy Addison Stone amazed her teachers with advanced sketches and captivating drawings.  Her tumultuous home life caused her to hang with her best friend Lucy Lim quite often or sleep in the art room of her high school.  During her junior year, her art teacher and his wife decide to call in some favors, and with the help of a W.W. Sadtler Scholarship, Addison finds herself living in New York, taking art classes and attending exclusive dinner parties and exhibits featuring her work.  Fame and notoriety play havoc on Addy’s feeble mental state, though.  Always fearless and impudent, Addy oscillates between extreme happiness and crippling depression.  With the help of doctors and medication, she finds a tenuous balance, but yearns to create her work and live her life without being in a state of medicated murkiness.  Her untimely and horrific death escalates the mystery surrounding this beautiful and talented young individual.
Adele Griffin takes the role of a writer/reporter looking for answers to Addison’s unfinished story.  She interviews family members, friends, adversaries and lovers as she searches for answers and the indelicate truth of Addison’s life.  Told from the viewpoint of so many characters, the storyline is incredibly fast-paced, and the intensity of the events is elevated, creating a page-turning thriller.

Mystery    Christine Massey, JWP Middle School