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Hi everyone and welcome to the Books Between Podcast! I believe in the power of books to help us see our world more clearly and to see each other more clearly. My goal is to help you connect kids between 8-12 with those amazing books and share inspiring conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.
I’m your host, Corrina Allen – a mom of a 9 and 11 year old, a 5th grade teacher and currently in a battle with Japanese beetles! Argh! My hollyhock has finally bloomed after three years and those buggers and destroying it! A green thumb, I do not have.
This is Episode #53 and today I’m discussing more fabulous nonfiction and sharing a conversation with Diane Magras, author of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter!
A couple quick announcements for you! The July Middle Grade at Heart Book Club pick is Just Under the Clouds . Where the Watermelons Grow is the read for August and the September pick is The House That Lou Built.
And don’t forget that Monday nights are our #MGBookChat Twitter chats with upcoming topics like graphic novels, ending gendered labels of MG books, and the importance of refugee stories. So set a reminder for Mondays at 9pm EST and check out #MGBookChat for conversations and collaboration between educators, librarians, and authors. I’ll warn you though – if you think your TBR stack is bad now… it only gets WORSE after one of those chats! (There are worse vices to have, right?)
Alright – take a listen…
Book Talk – More Fabulous Nonfiction
A couple weeks ago, on episode #51, I started a list of fantastic nonfiction reads with the promise that I would continue the list in the next episode. Well, the conversation with special guest Nikki Mancini was so good that I didn’t want to cut any more and so I bumped this nonfiction book talk to today. So here are more fabulous nonfiction books that you and your middle grade students will love this year!
First up is a brand new book called Squidtoons: Exploring Ocean Science with Comics by Garfield Kwan and Dana Song. I love this book for its bright, bold comics that are easy to read and with just the right amount of humor to keep a smile on your face as you learn about cool creatures like the moon jelly, and the narwhal, and seadragons! It reminds me a lot of the Science Comics series (which I mentioned in that last episode) but this one is a tad easier to read with bigger font. So I think the readability on this one could hit a younger audience. I’m really excited to share this one with my class in the fall.
Another nonfiction book that bubbled up into my awareness late last school year is Discovering Black America: from the Age of Exploration to the Twenty-first Century by Linda Tarrant-Reid. This books offers 200+ pages of in-depth history from the black sailor who traveled with Columbus to the indentured servants of the colonial era and tragedies of enslaved Africans to the Harlem Renaissance and up to the presidency of Barack Obama. And those stories are set in a greater context of the entire history of the United States. This is a book that is great to read cover to cover but also a helpful resources to have on hand to offer a perspective about a historical topic that might not be covered completely in a traditional history text. For example, there is an entire section on black patriots who fought for independence and the black women in the Women’s Army Corps in the 1940s. Definitely check this one out.
Another couple of books that were really popular with my 5th graders – and frankly, with me too, since they were my personal books that I brought in – were the Star Wars Visual Dictionaries. The two I have (so far) are the ones for The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens. These books are must-haves for any Star Wars fans because they let you see in detail all the little things go by so quickly in a movie. Like, everything that’s in Rey’s salvage kit. The names of the Resistance pilots and their backstory. And little surprises like Ben Solo’s calligraphy set. Visual Dictionaries are really fun to explore and DK Publishers does a really incredible job with them. So have a few on hand that appeal to the interests of your kids.
Also – if you and your kids have not yet read any of Sarah Albee’s nonfiction books – you all are in for a treat! My daughters and I just read Bugged: How Insects Changed History and were simultaneously enthralled and appalled! From the disturbing fact of where that brilliant red dye comes from to how bugs were a factor in the Louisiana Purchase. It’s a COOL book and can either be read cover to cover or just read the textbox features. Sarah Albee is also the author of the incredible Why’d They Wear That – a gorgeous, glossy book all about fashion through the ages with an introduction by the amazing Tim Gunn.
Note: I mistakenly say on the podcast that How They Croaked (about the awful deaths of famous people) and How They Choked (all about the epic fails of the super famous) are by Sarah Albee. They are both, in fact, by Georgia Bragg and Kevin O’Malley.
Albee’s latest book is called Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends – featuring, well – stories of dogs through history!
A really interesting book that blend forensics with history is Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland. By Sally M. Walker. It’s a gorgeous full color book showcasing new insights gained about this era based on information scientists have gathered by examined the newly excavated bones of Europeans and Africans from colonial sites in Virginia and Maryland. And again even if kids don’t read this one cover to cover, I think reading and discussing a chapter would really help children understand how our knowledge of history changes over time as we make new discoveries and have better tools to analyze.
Another nonfiction book that I keep bumping into online – and was FINALLY able to get at my public library – is Two Truths and Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson. It’s a clever book that is just begging to be read with a friend – or out loud in the car! Essentially, each chapter is about a topic. Like, Chapter 1 is Crazy Plants and Chapter 6 is Large Animals. And within each chapter are three stories: A, B, and C. Each story is about 3-5 pages long with lots of bold colors and cool fonts and photos. And the reader has to decide which of those three stories is false. The answer key is in the back and it gives a paragraph or so of explanation. This book is called Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive so I’m kind of hoping there are more in the series.
A book that has recently intrigued my daughters and me is called Survivors: Extraordinary Tales from the Wild and Beyond by David Long with illustrations by Kerry Hyndman. It is a collection of extreme survival stories from all over the world. Some you may have heard of – like Aron Ralston – the climber in Colorado who cut off his own arm to survive. It was made into the movie 127 Hours with James Franco. But others may be unfamiliar – like the story of Poon Lim – the sailor who survived a shipwreck by sucking the blood from a shark. This is definitely not a book for the faint of heart, but for those kids who like shocking stories of people overcoming the most dangerous situations this is the book for them!
Another beautiful new nonfiction book is Grand Canyon by Jason Chin. It’s a large format book about the size of a picture book with such detailed and multi-layered artwork. It’s written in a unique way. It’s written in the 2nd person where the narrator takes you on a tour of the canyon as it gives you information. For example, here is a line: “After climbing out of the Inner Gorge, you’ll find yourself on a broad, sun-baked slope.” And as the narrator gives you information about the Grand Canyon, you see in a center spread, illustrations of a father and daughter exploring the canyon and doing what the narrator just said. And around the edges of the main illustration, kind of in a Jan Brett format, are small drawings of the animals and plants found in the canyon, or a cross section of the layers, sketches of the weathering process… it’s really cool! And some of the pages have holes in them to show the fossils and when you turn the page – you just have to see it for yourself! This book is amazing!
Okay – I hope this has given you some ideas for new nonfiction books to freshen up your informational section of your library. And if you have a suggestion about a great nonfiction book we should all know about, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on Twitter at @Books_Between.
Diane Magras – Interview Outline
Joining me this month for our Middle Grade at Heart interview with Diane Magras is engineer by day and middle grade author by night, Karen Chow. We got an opportunity to sit down together last month to chat about The Mad Wolf’s Daughter.
Take a listen…
CA: For our listeners who haven’t yet read The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, what is this story about?
CA: Love the mix of swashbuckling medieval adventure mixed with humor – at times it reminded me a bit of The Princess Bride. What were your inspirations?
CA: There seem like there might be elements of fantasy in this book. What genre do you see this book falling in?
KC: Drest is very brave throughout the book. Did you take some of her bravery from a historical figure?
KC: Drest is mistaken for a boy several times. Is that because of the way she is dressed? Her short hair? Why did you decide to have Drest this way?
KC: Did real warriors have a code of ethics?
**BONUS SPOILER SECTION: Diane and Karen and I discuss the ending of the novel, and if you’d like to hear that conversation, I moved that part of the recording to after the end credits of today’s episode at the 38:13 mark.
CA: What are you working on now? And will there be a sequel for Drest?
CA: One of the goals of this podcast is to help educators and librarians inspire kids to read more and connect them with amazing books. Did you have a special teacher or librarian in your life who helped you grow into a reader?
KC: Do you have book recommendations for people who liked your book?
CA: What are you reading now?
Diane’s website – https://www.dianemagras.com
Karen’s website – http://www.karenschow.com
Karen on Twitter
Books & Authors We Chatted About:
The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper)
Here Lies Arthur (Philip Reeve)
The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter (Diane Magras)
The Shadow Hunt (Katherine Langrish)
The Serpent’s Secret (Sayantani DasGupta)
The Jumbies (Tracey Baptiste)
Bounders Series (Monica Tesler)
The Parker Inheritance (Varian Johnson)
Where the World Ends (Geraldine McCaughrean)
Alright, that wraps up our show this week!
If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at email@example.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.
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Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at MGBookVillage.org. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher so others can discover us as well.
Thanks and see you soon! Bye!
Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.
Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.