Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nonfiction... Tuesday?

ARGH! I really wanted to get this posted yesterday, but for many reasons, it just didn't happen (I even had the day off, and yet... ah well.)

So, ALA announced the winners of their Youth Media Awards yesterday
, as I'm sure you know by now.

There are now two nonfiction awards-- The Sibert award is for children and then YALSA (the division of ALA that deals with teens) has a new nonfiction award (rather boringly called the "YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award").

Both winners are books I've read and haven't reviewed yet! How's that for luck?

But, can I just say I'm gutted that The Frog Scientist didn't get any love?

First up, the Sibert winner was...

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream Tanya Lee Stone

(This book was also shortlisted for the YALSA award)

This is the story of the women who wanted to be astronauts in the early days of the American Space Program. At that time, a woman pilot was an idea that didn't sit well with many people, let alone a woman astronaut. But, some women tried and proved they were better suited than men for the job.

But, in the end, the groundbreaking women who tried, failed to get into space. It wasn't until 1983 that the US sent its first woman into space. Even then, she was a Mission Specialist, not a pilot. It wasn't until 1999 that the US had its first woman commander of a space shuttle.

With a lot of cultural history thrown in, this book focuses not only on women in flight and space, but also on the role of women in society in the last fifty years. The end looks at why there still aren't that many women in space. Part of the problem is lack of women going into science and engineering and possibilities why.

There has been a lot of talk about how this is history that's trying to make a point. See, for instance, Liz's excellent post. I don't have a big problem with that. Most history books (and this gets truer the older the intended audience is) have an agenda or point of view. Personally, I like a more blatant point of view, because it's easier to then think about what's not getting said to prove the point. This is a very good teaching moment for children in evaluating sources and knowing that just because a source has a point of view doesn't mean it's not valid.

Overall, this was very interesting and an enjoyable read. It's also very well documented, with a further reading list, extensive bibliography, source notes, and index.

I read this for the Cybils and would have been on my personal short list if I were allowed 10 books instead of 5.

Book Provided by... the publisher, for Cybils consideration.

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith Deborah Heiligman

This is the story of Charles and Emma Darwin's marriage and life together. There is certainly much of Charles's work and research, but it is more a sketch of their home life, and the work is mentioned in how it affected their family. When it comes down to it, it was a question of faith-- Charles's science led him more and more towards atheism, while Emma, although rather liberal (especially for the time) in her theistic views, was still deeply religious and often feared for her husband's soul. But this didn't cause much strain in their relationship, instead, Emma acted as Charles's sounding board, helping him determine all the objections he would have to address in order to make a convincing argument.

We also see how Darwin observes everything around him to think about his theories of evolution-- he looks at his children, at the plants in the garden, and spends much time talking to experts in every field to learn more and more and more.

I most enjoyed seeing how they raised their children. Unlike many Victorians, their children were allowed to run all over the house and freely voice their thoughts and feelings. It was nice to have proof that even though the Darwin's weren't the norm, some people didn't believe that children needed to be "seen and not heard."

An engaging read, and interesting and different window into Darwin's life. One of the things that makes it so engaging is how much the Darwin's wrote to each other (especially about religion, deep fears were hard to express face to face, so they'd write letters, even when they weren't apart) so there is a lot more dialog and feeling in this biography than you normally get. AND! It's all sourced at the end, so you know it's not fictionalized. There's also a really helpful family tree in the back that I wish I had noticed before I finished the book! Everyone's related and several people have similar (or the same) names, so it can be a little hard to keep everyone straight.

While I don't think this book will be picked up by many teens on their own, it will be enjoyed by those that give it the second look and open it up.

Book provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

No comments: