Monday, December 7, 2009

Nonfiction Monday and Gift Suggestions

Today we will feature some of our favorite biographies. The first is actually a series, all by author Mike Venezia:

These are sooooooo great for reluctant readers - and, we will admit, we love reading the cartoons ourselves! Comprised of short but informative bits of text interspersed with photographs and cartoons, Venezia keeps each of these biographies lively and interesting. Often biographies of "old dead people" just plain look dry and dusty, because any portraits of the subjects are....dry and dusty. You definitely can't say that about these! Several adult patrons have discovered the series and scraf them off the new shelves as they come in. Don't miss the back pages, where Venezia explains how one of his distant relatives was either related to the subject of that particular book, or almost accomplished the same feats! So far he done artists, musicians, and presidents.

In this hilarious autobiography, Scieszka covers the female readers with his humor, the male readers with the hijinks (making money off your baby brother and blowing things up), and the adults with memories of Catholic schools and family car trips. Each chapter is a story all by itself, making this a great book for read-alouds, the coffee tabvle, or one to just stick in your purse for doctor's office waits (just be prepared for strange looks when you start giggling and shouting "ohmygosh, pagan babies! How could I forget about the pagan babies?!")

We were so happy to see Kathryn Lasky turning her hand to biographies a few years ago (she did a couple, this one and one on Eratosthenes, in the 90's, but has done more in recent years). They have the same rich writing as her historical fiction and fantasy books, making her subjects come to life.

This is part of another series we have really enjoyed. It is always good to see young people getting involved in important causes and using their boundless energy to do something to change things (before they get jaded and cynical like us old folks!) In this particular title, Mr. Kachepa started off as a victim, and is now an advocate for human trafficking victims. Many kids and teens (as well as many adults) will be shocked to discover slavery is still a problem in many parts of the world, including the United States. While this book does not gloss over terrible living conditions, it does not give so much detail as to be inappropriate for anyone around 5th grade and up. The focus is on how the young men in Kachepa's situation were helped, and how he is now helping other victims. A very inspiring book, as are the others in the series. Give these to the thinkers and doers on your list who may need to be encouraged that they are never too young to make a difference.

"A long time ago there lived a thre-year-old author.
I was the best grocery-list writer in the world and a huge help to my mother. When I wrote a word I knew exactly what it said.
And the fun part was that I could turn each list upside down and the words said the same thing."

This is an "oldie", but still in print, and perfect for the budding author on your list. We found it just as adorable as her picture books (Hooway for Wodney Wat, Score One for the Sloths, etc.) It is so full of one-liners and giggles, you will find yourself wanting to read it out loud to another grown-up before you package it up for its recipient. In fact, you may just want to buy two copies, so you can keep one for yourself!

The "For Kids" series combines interesting biographical information with tons of activities to try. These would be excellent either for home schoolers, or for a child who has a special interest in a subject area (in this case, art). The series also includes books about archaeology, the civil war, Harry Houdini, and the solar system, among others.


  1. I have a hard time getting into biographies, but these all sound like they would be interesting.

  2. Lovely, the more people you can get to start reading the better in this computer age.
    My book a biography of a refugee is about to come our which you can find on the following website: Publishers website is: Check it out and add it on your book list. Regards Tiiu Kleyn