The American Library Association (ALA) awards dozens of books across many genres with special honors each year. Some of those awards recognize the illustrations of Latino artists while other honors draw attention to books that exhibit literary merit and are written for young adults. The Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults recognizes literature written for an audience ages 12-18 that deals with a nonfiction topic.
The five books that made the list for this award in 2012 all dealt with various topics within American history. The winner was a book that examined the life of Benedict Arnold. The four other finalists examined the subjects of bootleg whiskey during the prohibition years, the life of musical composer Leonard Bernstein, the power sugar had in developing a country and the connection between bicycles and women’s rights. Nonfiction and history don’t have to be the boring and dry topics that many believe them to be; the authors of these five books prove that.
“The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery” by Steve Sheinkin (Flash Point) The name Benedict Arnold has become synonymous in America with traitor. However, before Arnold chose to turn against his fellow revolutionaries, he was one of the colonies’ greatest war heroes. Using first person accounts and historical records, the life and actions of Benedict Arnold will come to life for readers.
“Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition” by Karen Blumenthal (Flash Point) When a Constitutional Amendment banned the sale and consumption of alcohol, those that celebrated the new law had no idea what would happen as a result of making liquor illegal. Supporters of the amendment believed alcoholics and their destructive behaviors would be eliminated. Unfortunately, the making, selling and consumption of alcohol increased at a rate never before known. Full of factual accounts of some of the most notorious bootleggers and period photographs, this book will fascinate anyone interested in the history of America during the Prohibition years.
“Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein” by Susan Goldman Rubin (Charlesbridge Pub Inc) Composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein struggled to make his father understand his passion for music. Although his father was a business minded individual who believed music could be enjoyed as a hobby, Leonard persisted and received an excellent education. The son of Jewish immigrant parents, Bernstein went on to conduct the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in 1943. This is the story of that journey of growing up in Boston and finally achieving his dreams.
“Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science” by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos (Clarion Books) These two authors are a husband and wife who discovered both of their family trees led to the sugar plantations that shaped the lives of millions. The influence of sugar over the slave trade and the ugliness surrounding it cannot be overstated. However, sugar also led to the desire for freedom in America, Haiti and France. Songs, oral histories, documents and photographs help illustrate the power of sugar to change the world.
“Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)” by Sue Macy (National Geographic Children’s Books) Before the invention of the bicycle, women struggled to achieve the freedom and the rights they felt they deserved. When women started riding bicycles they were ridiculed for several reasons. It was seen as unladylike to ride bicycles, to spend time away from the home and family and to engage in pleasurable pursuits on their own. With a lay-out done like a scrapbook, both male and female teens will enjoy this book that shows how the influence of one object, in this case a bicycle, can have over all of society.
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