Your Friday Five
Let's face it: sometimes informational books, especially those published for kids, can be formulaic or uninspiring in both their packaging and their content. At the same time, many kids -- struggling and reluctant readers, in particular -- prefer nonfiction, and by the end of middle school, Common Core standards suggest that students spend 55 percent of their reading time on informational texts. Finding interesting, dynamic, and appealing nonfiction titles, then, is super important even if it sometimes seems challenging.
Here are five that I'd suggest for the late elementary and middle school set:
Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson
Get ready to learn about insects, fungi, and other creatures that (for real!) take over the brains and bodies of other living things and force them to do things they wouldn't ordinarily do, like real-life zombies. This book is fascinating, disgusting, and slightly scary.
Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust by Doreen Rappaport
Units about the Holocaust don't always cover -- and certainly not in much detail -- organized resistance by Jewish folks against the Nazis. This book tells 21 such stories of bravery in which regular people, many of them kids and youth, tried to stand up for what was right, save lives, and survive against the odds.
Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America's First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone
This book chronicles another amazing, under-told World War II story: that of the Triple Nickles, the first black paratroopers in the U.S. military, who fought the Japanese on U.S. soil during a time when the military -- like most of America -- was still segregated.
Funny Business : Clowning Around, Practical Jokes, Cool Comedy, Cartooning, and More by Helaine Becker
An excellent handbook for budding comedy nerds, this guide provides solid background and how-to information on types of comedy such as improv, stand-up, joke-writing, clowning, cartooning, and more. It also contains facts, jokes, pranks, crafts, recipes, games, and activities to get you (and your future fans!) laughing.
Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert
This graphic novel does not try to sugarcoat the story of Helen Keller, a blind and deaf girl who, with the help of her teacher, Annie Sullivan, learned to communicate and went on to be a writer, political activist, and lecturer. It also doesn't try to tell the whole thing. Instead, through bright, crisp artwork, it tells the tumultuous story of her childhood and youth, ending in her young adulthood at a rather ambivalent place, which left me eager to learn what happened next. Luckily, there are historical notes and a fantastic bibliography in the back to quench that thirst for more.