This Best & Brightest list was created by Denver Public Library librarians to celebrate our favorite recently published teen nonfiction. Enjoy!
Best & Brightest Teen Nonfiction of 2018
Courageous Women Of The Vietnam War : Medics, Journalists, Survivors, And More
9th grade & up. Why should men get all the glory? Women participate in armed conflicts, yet we often know little of their history. This book is relatively small in size, but packs a big punch information-wise. It divides the war into five chronological sections, starting in 1945 and ending in 1975. Within each section are stories of the many brave women who risked their lives in combat zones and beyond. Hailing from Vietnam, the United States and other countries as well, women profiled within were doctors, nurses, journalists, revolutionaries and more. This book gives a general view of the war alongside very personal experiences of the women who participated. Connections between personal stories to events in the war will keep readers engaged while also providing a more comprehensive understanding of this point in history. Supportive elements include a glossary, notes at the end of each chapter, a bibliography and an index.
Brazen : Rebel Ladies Who Rocked The World
8th grade & up. This nonfiction graphic novel, originally published in French, introduces readers to little known women who are finally and deservedly getting their time in the spotlight. Readers will recognize some names, but many of the others are not as well known. These biographies reach across space and time, pulling stories from places like modern day Afghanistan, early 20th century Paris and ancient Greece. No matter the time or place, each story ignites a spark of emotion both relatable and inspiring. Each profile is just a few pages long, yet Bagieu’s use of panels allows a wealth of information to be included. The vibrant yet delicate illustrations that accompany the text use a limited color palette. New information is presented both textually and visually, which is great for readers with a variety of learning styles.
March Forward, Girl : From Young Warrior To Little Rock Nine
6th grade & up. Melba Pattillo Beals writes movingly about growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Beals relates how harsh Jim Crow laws made life unbelievably oppressive, violent, terrifying and difficult for African Americans. Despite this unrelenting pressure, Melba retained her hope and defiant spirit. In 1957, at the age of 14, she became one of the “Little Rock 9,” African American students who integrated the all white Central High School. All of the African American students at Central endured death threats and constant harassment from other students and adults. The Governor of Arkansas went as far as closing Little Rock’s high schools in 1958, rather than continuing to desegregate. Melba moved to California that year to finish high school and was astonished at the kindness and safety she found there. This is a powerful, evocative history lesson from a person who lived it. This is a great teaching tool for anyone interested in the Civil Rights Movement.
Bonnie And Clyde : The Making Of A Legend
7th grade & up. “To few it’ll be grief, to the law a relief, But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.” This sad epitaph is part of The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde, written by Bonnie herself. Bonnie and Clyde were criminals who brought harm and grief to many, but they were also human beings shaped by the brutal economic conditions that existed during the 1930’s. Societal issues of the time period, including criminalization of poverty, unequal wealth distribution, a harsh and unbalanced criminal justice system and environmental degradation are, unfortunately, still with us today. There are fascinating inserts in some chapters that describe changing technology, fashion of the day and other topics which play a role in the duo’s story. This suspenseful book, which reads like fast paced fiction, will appeal to true crime fans and history buffs alike.
Strange Fruit. Volume Ii, More Uncelebrated Narratives From Black History
6th grade & up. The names George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman are easily recognizable to many. What about Willie Kennard, Cathay Williams or Victor Green? This second installment of Strange Fruit, continues highlighting people who faced extraordinary circumstances and deserve their spot in our history books. Not all of the stories have happy endings, but the resiliency and courage of these people shine through the pages. Gill truly brings history to life through the use of vibrant, full color sequential art. Readers will be won over by this collection of inspirational stories and well researched information often left out of classroom textbooks. A bibliography and “did you know?” section is included in the back for anyone wishing to do further research.
Bringing Back Our Oceans
7th grade & up. The reality of plastics destroying the ocean and harming animals that live within can be overwhelming. Thankfully, this entry in the Conservation Success Stories series relates a positive message. The book details efforts to return crucial biodiversity, while removing plastics from the ocean. Hand’s straightforward language is easy to read and understand, while steering clear of oversimplifying the subject. The richly detailed text is supported by photographs in clean and clear layouts. Well placed pop-outs provide additional details and source notes are included at the end of the book for further reading.
Ginger Kid : Mostly True Tales From A Former Nerd
7th grade & up. Comedian and YouTube personality Steve Hofstetter will make readers laugh out loud with this story about his difficult high school years. Steve grew up in Queens, and had a great experience in elementary and middle school. When he transferred to a more elite high school in Manhattan, Steve encountered bullies and received threats. Eventually, he found a group of friends and discovered his love of improv comedy and comedy writing. In fact, one of the most interesting things about his ultimate career choice is that Steve (and some of his friends) got into improv to escape bullying and harassment at school. Teens who are struggling to define and honor themselves during high school will easily relate to this story, finding inspiration to persevere.
Mary's Monster : Love, Madness, And How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
9th grade & up. Like her famous novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, the early life of Mary Shelley is a dark and twisted tale. By stepping outside the narrow life choices possible for women and teenage girls in the early 1800’s, Mary became an outcast who was badly treated by her family, her husband and society. She was often filled with grief and despair, which might have actually fueled her creativity and original thinking. Mary’s Monster argues convincingly that the events of Mary’s early life, including the death of her first child, inspired the story. Mary’s groundbreakingly original novel, often considered the first science fiction novel, remains relevant 200 years after its original publication. Both the lyrical free verse and suitably gothic style illustrations reflect the often bleak subject matter.
Note To Self : Inspiring Words From Inspiring People
9th grade & up. Gayle King is known best for her friendship with Oprah and her job as co-host of CBS This Morning. However, she expands her talents with this collection of letters written by various influential people to their younger selves. Note to Self features letters written by Kesha, Tyler Perry, Kermit the Frog, Joe Biden and many more famous (and not-so-famous) people. Through these letters, readers will come way with the message that life might not always be easy, but it’s always worth it. The words are inspirational, relatable, occasionally funny, sometimes sad, but never sugar coated. It is short, sweet and to the point; a fast read, but definitely one that will leave readers uplifted.
Proud [young Readers Edition] : Living My American Dream
5th grade & up. Ibtihaj Muhammad comes from a loving family who treasures education, extracurriculars and religion above all other things. To stay true to her faith, Muhammad chose fencing because it allowed her to retain her modesty while in uniform. Growing up as a black Muslim in New Jersey was never an easy feat for Muhammad. However, her experiences fueled her and motivated her to write this book: “I wanted to chronicle my quest to challenge society’s limited perceptions of what a Muslim woman, a black woman, or an athlete can be.” Muhammad is the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab and the first female Muslim American to win a medal. The cover alone, featuring Muhammad standing tall and strong, is enough to spark inspiration.
Boots On The Ground : America's War In Vietnam
6th grade & up. Beginning with a context-setting introduction and segueing into portraits of real people affected by the conflict, Patridge’s book provides insight into a controversial time in U.S. history. Based on extensive in person and phone interviews, the people highlighted include soldiers, medical staff, protest singers and refugees. Chapters outlining the actions of Presidents Nixon and Ford are interspersed throughout. The effects of war both on the frontlines and Stateside are explored, including a White House that was actively misleading U.S. citizens about the progress of the war, the growing anti-war protests and the news coverage that brought the war right into American homes. The aftereffects of the war in the U.S. and Vietnam are included as well. Historical photographs augment the well-researched text, filled with direct quotes. Back matter includes an extensive bibliography and source notes. Readers looking for a research resource or a deeper dive into history will find much to appreciate in this thoughtfully designed book.
Rad Girls Can : Stories Of Bold, Brave, And Brilliant Young Women
7th grade & up. Author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Stahl first worked together on the 2015 book Rad American Women A-Z. While that work mainly featured established women of advanced ages, Rad Girls Can highlights individuals who accomplished greatness before the age of 20. Readers will find familiar names like Malala Yousafzai and Anne Frank featured, and possibly discover some new names like Madison Kimrey and Yusra Mardini. Madison is a young voting rights activist who accomplished more at age 12 than most do in a lifetime. Yusra was a swimmer and member of the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team in the 2016 Summer Olympics who has also done heroic things while fleeing the Syrian Civil War. This book will make readers exclaim, “How did I not know about this rad girl?” at the turn of each page.
Chasing King's Killer : The Hunt For Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Assassin
9th grade & up. Dr. King’s remarkable life and tragic death still resonate 50 years after his death. This book creates a tapestry of events following Dr. King from 1956 to his death in 1968. Photographs create a visual narrative, helping modern readers understand the divided, turbulent America of the 1950’s and 60’s. The book leads up to the assassination by noting key events in the Civil Rights Movement and by tracing the movements of King’s killer, James Earl Ray. It also takes the reader through the FBI investigation of the crime and the aftermath of the assassination, which literally set the country ablaze. Fans of Swanson’s Chasing Lincoln’s Killer and readers seeking a deeper understanding of Dr. King’s exceptional life, untimely death and his impact on the Civil Rights Movement will appreciate this book.
We Say #neveragain : Reporting By The Parkland Student Journalists
6th grade & up. On February 14th, 2018, a teen gunman opened fire inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 17 people were killed and another 14 were injured. We Say #neveragain features essays from the school’s journalism and broadcasting students, as well as contributions from the editors. The high quality writing showcase the students’ professionalism, even while working through their own grief and trauma. Photographs, greyscale throughout with a special color section in the centerfold, further the emotional impact of this collection. Interspersed throughout are touching tributes to special people who showed true courage this terrible time. Teacher-editors Melissa Falkowski and Eric Gardener provide an introduction with an expressive argument for the protection of student-led journalism programs in schools.