The New Wave of Young Nonfiction
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We’re living in a golden age of adult nonfiction; surrounded by a spectrum of memoir, investigative journalism, essay, and narrative nonfiction. But engaging juvenile nonfiction is also on the rise, which means that fact-filled books are no longer dry and boring for youngsters!
Here are five titles that eleven-year-olds and up will enjoy right off the shelf:
- Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson
One out of every five public schools serves fast food, but kids probably don’t know what they’re eating. In this Fast Food Nation for adolescents, Schlosser exposes the practices of slaughterhouses, meatpacking plants, and restaurants while teaching kids tidbits about fast food, like the history of the Golden Arches, the process of making a hamburger, and the industry’s contribution to the obesity epidemic. Some of the information is hard to stomach, but curious readers will be intrigued.
- American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
This three-part tale weaves ancient fable, autobiography, and fiction to illustrate what it means to grow up as a Chinese American. The first story introduces mischievous Monkey King, a Chinese cultural icon. The second follows Chin-Kee, a “fresh off the boat” stereotype, when he visits Danny, his American cousin. The last thread chronicles Jin Wang, a kid embarrassed about his Taiwanese background. This colorful and innovative graphic novel blends fiction and nonfiction and tackles the identity struggle of Chinese youth.
- In Your Face: Culture of Beauty and You by Shari Graydon
Targeted to preteens and teens and reminiscent of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, this is a critical examination of beauty, and how the media exploits male and female images of beauty to sell products and create unattainable standards. Graydon, a media literacy activist, discusses everything from Miss America and plastic surgery to celebrities and reality TV, using graphics, photos, and comics to appeal to younger readers.
- Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer by Lynne Cox
At fifteen, Lynne Cox set a record crossing the English Channel, and in 1987, she swam across the thirty-eight-degree waters of the Bering Strait in a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. In her inspirational memoir, she recounts these challenges and more, such as her mile-long trek through Antarctic waves. It won’t be hard for students who dive into this book to be overtaken by Cox’s spirit and ambition.
- Understanding the Holy Land: Answering Questions About The Israeli Palestinian Conflict by Mitch Frank
A real understanding of the complex, emotional conflict between Israel and Palestine is hard to come by, and this book — sprinkled with photos, maps, a timeline, and a glossary — offers clear and balanced explanations. Frank discusses the land in question, the history of both groups of people, the spread of terrorism, and an exploration of why peace is so hard to reach in a straightforward question-and-answer format. With their burning desire for worldly knowledge, preteens are perfectly primed to tackle the engaging experience of nonfiction reading. Just don't tell them it's educational, and they'll be cover to cover in no time!
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