Monday, November 16, 2009

Nonfiction Monday - Slobodan Milosevic

(From Lerner's "Dictatorships" series.)

Once you hit about third grade, it seems, teachers start assigning book reports on a variety of subjects, usually including biographies. Many kids get stuck in the rut of reading yet another book about Harriet Tubman or Andrew Jackson. No offense to either of the aforementioned, but - yawn! Yes, they were incredible people who led interesting lives and contributed to mankind, but don't you already hear about them in class each year? Give us a good bad guy any day!

This series hits on a few familiar names, such as Saddam Hussein, as well as several villains kids may not know of - Pol Pot, Than Shwe, Mao Zedong. There is a definite bias in the books - no "history will judge" here - but, what would you expect from the series title? Kind of hard to defend a dictatorship (except, of course, the benevolent dictatorship run by Mom. That one goes unquestioned.)

The cover is attractive, and shows Milosevic's trademark arrogant stare (okay, we're not exactly unbiased ourselves). It is actually hard to critique the book without critiquing the man it is about, which I suppose is good, as it attests to how well the writing draws you in. While written at a middle/high school level, it is very readable - even the historical background at the beginning doesn't get as bogged down as in some books - and the personality of the subject becomes very 3-dimensional. We think teens or adults who read this one will come away from it feeling they are familiar with a person they perhaps didn't know anything about to begin with. definitely a series to add to your middle or high school library. Rather than that 16th book on Abraham Lincoln.

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