YA Nonfiction – Buffalo Bill; Born a Crime; ABCs of LGBT

Fleming, Candace.  Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West.  New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016.  978-1-59643-763-0. 273 p.  $19.99.  Gr. 7 and up.

William “Buffalo Bill” Cody is perhaps the most famous figure of the “Wild West.”  In this biography, Fleming examines the legendary figure and attempts to separate fact from myth.  According to Cody’s own autobiography as well as the Wild West show he created, life on the American frontier was never dull; rather, it was full of gunfights, raids, racing horses, and skirmishes with Native Americans.  Although there was a great deal of violence in the West, this exciting image fabricated by Cody is not entirely true.  Comparing Cody’s account of the Wild West to other primary source materials, Fleming attempts to address the inaccuracies. Beginning with his childhood, Fleming presents a thorough account of Cody’s life up through his tours with his Wild West show and his death.  Complete with a bibliography, source notes, and period photographs, this compelling title gives readers an objective look at frontier life and the legendary figure known as Buffalo Bill.  THOUGHTS: This is an outstanding addition to any middle or high school U.S. history collection.  Not only does the fast-paced, story-like narrative keep the reader’s attention, but I could see the book being used in the classroom in a variety of ways.  It provides an excellent introduction to important events, issues, and establishments in U.S. history, such as the Civil War, the Pony Express, Bleeding Kansas, slavery, and Native American relations.  I could also see it being used to introduce historical research.  Fleming’s sidebars describing the inaccuracies in many of Cody’s stories are intriguing and set the stage for additional research and debate.  A definite must-have for school library collections.

978 U.S. History; 92 Buffalo Bill Cody      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School


Noah, Trevor. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2016. 978-0399588174. 304 pp. $28.00. Gr. 10 and up.

Trevor Noah, best known as host of The Daily Show, delivers a memoir that’s both moving and humorous. He’s a comedian, after all!  Noah was “born a crime” in 1984 to his South African mother and Swiss-German father; under apartheid, their relationship and their son’s very existence was illegal. Each chapter opens with a little background on the author’s home country, including the mechanisms of apartheid, the role of language in South Africa, and the quagmire of racial identity in a former police state. Noah then relates youthful episodes, escapades, and misadventures, with his close relationship to his mother anchoring the entire narrative. The book’s final and most gut-wrenching chapter chronicles his mother’s marriage to an abusive man, which nearly ended in her murder. THOUGHTS: Trevor Noah is a popular TV personality, but this exceptionally well-written book demonstrates that he is also a gifted author.

Memoir     Amy Pickett, Ridley High School

Trevor Noah narrates Born a Crime on audiobook, and his gift for impressions and accents makes it a must-listen. Play the excerpt in which Noah gets his hair straightened for the first time, and I guarantee there will be a holds list for this book!


Mardell, Ashley. The ABC’s of LGBT+. Mango Media, 2016. 978-1-63353-409-4. $16.95. 190 p. Gr. 6-12.

Popular blogger and YouTuber Ashley Mardell gives readers a crash course in LGBT+ terms, identities vocabulary, and labels. Designed for all, from novices to experts, Mardell starts off with a very thorough cheat sheet of terms used throughout the book which readers can refer to at any time. Readers then dive into informative and easy to understand chapters focused on spectrums, sex and gender, and sexual and romantic identities. Mardell successfully brings a voice to many LGBT+ identities that are not portrayed in mainstream media and offers personal anecdotes and drawings throughout to help engage the reader. THOUGHTS: An excellent nonfiction title that brings visibility and voices to all identities and strengthens the field of gender and sexual diversity.

306.76; Sexual Orientation; Gender identity     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

Middle Grades Historical Fiction – Some Kind of Courage; The Inquisitor’s Tale; Isabel Feeney

Gemeinhart, Dan. Some Kind of Courage. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0545-665773.  $16.99. 234 pp.  Gr. 4-9.
In Washington state in 1890, Joseph Johnson has lost his mother and younger sister to typhoid and his father to a wagon accident.  He’s left in the care of a miserable man who underhandedly sells Joseph’s last remaining link to his family, his horse Sarah.  This action emboldens Joseph to take his father’s gun and most of the money from Sarah’s sale to follow Sarah’s trail and retrieve her.  Moral and resolute, Joseph encounters quite a few setbacks in his long journey, but he never wavers.  He frequently remembers wise pieces of advice from his parents, and that advice guides him in his decisions, notably, the decision to bring along an orphaned (it would seem) young Chinese boy in a time and place where racism is relentless.  Despite being unable to speak one another’s language, Joseph and Ah-Kee develop a strong understanding and full respect for one another.  The journey and its resolution are rife with adventure, a longing for home, and heartache.  It is this mixture, lived through the morally steadfast Joseph, that makes the tale such a needed one for young readers. THOUGHTS: A strong second novel that has me seeking out Gemeinhart’s first (The Honest Truth) and third novels (the just-published Scar Island).  Geminhart expertly reveals Joseph’s character and makes believable the people and places he encounters.  Highly recommended.  
Historical Fiction        Melissa Scott, Shenango High School


Gidwitz, Adam. The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. New York: Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-0-52542-616-5. $17.99. Gr. 6-12.

In 1242, travelers gather over ale at a dark inn to hear the story of three children and their greyhound. Each traveler, from a wizened nun to a thieving jester, relays a chapter (or more) of their run-in with these children, who, during the course of the tale, go from enlightened thieves to cold-hearted criminals. The story begins with prophetic Jeanne and her faithful greyhound, Gwenforte, returned to life 10 years after her death. Accused of witchcraft and on the run, Jeanne runs into William, a larger than life monk-in-training with incredible strength and a kind heart, and Jacob, a gentle, thoughtful Jewish boy who can heal wounds with his hands. On their travels, the children run into malicious knights, a farting dragon, a kind-hearted king, an evil queen, and many others each as unforgettable as the last. While set in the Middle Ages, the story explores issues of race, religion, and sexism that are still relevant today. In a tale not unlike the famous Canterbury Tales, readers young and old will delight in the story of these young adventurers, and are treated to phenomenal artwork by Hatem Aly throughout.  THOUGHTS: This is a delight for readers of all ages. Aly’s illustrations, inspired by medieval illustrated manuscripts, add depth and humor to Gidwitz’s excellent story.

Historical Fiction               Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


Fantaskey, Beth. Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 978-0-544-58249-1. $17.99. 334 pp. Gr. 4-7.

Nineteen twenties Chicago; a time of mobsters, prohibition, and murder, and ten year old Isabel Feeney is smack dab in the middle of it all.  A newsgirl for the Chicago Tribune, Isabel aspires to be a reporter, like the infamous Maude Collier, but for now, she must help her mother with the rent by selling newspapers.  One evening, after selling a paper to Miss Giddings, one of her best clients, Isabel hears a gunshot in the alley just past her news corner.  When she arrives, she sees Miss Giddings covered in blood, a gun, and mobster, Charles Bessemer, dead on the ground.  Isabel knows that Miss Giddings couldn’t have killed Charles Bessemer, her fiance, but Detective Culhane sees things differently.  As Isabel sets out to find the true murderer, she befriends her idol, Maude Collier, and the children of Miss Giddings and Charles Bessemer, who help with the investigation, but is also threatened by those who want Miss Giddings to take the blame.  THOUGHTS:  This is a fun historical mystery for middle school and upper elementary students.  Fantaskey does not rely too much on the history of the 1920s, but more on the girl-detective and female independence.  

Historical Mystery      Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area MS/HS