Nonfiction

Nurse, Soldier, Spy: A Civil War Hero

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. This isn't an anniversary to "celebrate", but such a pivotal conflict in our nation's history is certainly one to commemorate and learn more about through the amazing stories told by the people involved. Sarah Edmonds was one of those people.

In the picturebook biography Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, A Civil War Hero,
we learn that when she was just 16, Sarah disguised herself as a man and ran away from her home in Canada to escape an arranged marriage. She came to the United States and assumed the name Frank Thompson. When the call came in Michigan for young men to join the Union army, "Frank" wanted to sign up as a way to thank the country she had been living in for the last three years. While the other soldiers teased Frank about her small feet, no one ever guessed that Frank was actually a woman.

Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout

This book describes my dream job, being a fire lookout out west. I could handle the wild creatures, the solitude, even the lightning strikes, but maybe not cleaning out the cistern after vandals pollute it. In the tradition of writers, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Edward Abbey and Norman Maclean. Philip Connors leaves his job as a Wall Street Journal editor and while on vacation signs up on the spot to detect fires for the National Forest Service, or as he jokingly calls it "The National Forest Circus."

The Ends of the Earth: An Anthology of the Finest Writing on the Arctic and Antarctic

Ends of the EarthOK, here's my technique to get through these incredibly hot days. Wet your hair--I mean really soak your mane without drying it, fill a huge glass with ice cubes and read a book about the arctic or antarctic. In five New Orleans' summers, I covered a lot of very northern and very southern territory including many of the authors represented in The Ends of the Earth.

Queen of the Falls

In a couple weeks, I get to visit the Adirondack region of New York State. (Can't wait!) On the way, we plan to stop at Niagara Falls. When I get there, I'll be thinking of a woman named Annie Edson Taylor, who in 1901, on her 63rd birthday, dared to cram herself into a wooden barrel and go over Niagara Falls! I had never heard of Taylor, but author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg brings her back to life in Queen of the Falls, the fascinating tale of a determined ex-teacher who wanted to make her mark on the world. Watch Van Allsburg talk about how he created this carefully crafted book . Recommended for grades 1 and up.

The Daring Book for Girls

I purchased a copy of The Daring Book for Girls for myself a couple years ago and was reminded of all the cool content it contains when I conducted a program this week featuring hopscotch games and jump rope rhymes. Perhaps I'm partial to this book since it was written by women who, like me, "were girls in the days before the Web, cell phones, or even voicemail. Telephones had cords and were dialed by, well, actually dialing."

Today, you may have your own cell phone, email account and iPod, but certainly a deck of cards and a good book should still be included on the list of "essential gear" you keep close at hand. In The Daring Book for Girls, you'll find the rules for playing card games like "Hearts" and "Gin" as well as the rules for outdoor games like Four Square, various games of tag and hopscotch - a game that was initially played by Roman soldiers and is now played in countries around the world.

Mark Twain: Man in Whte

"The report of my death was an exaggeration." Most people have heard this famous quote by one of our most beloved writers. Mark Twain: Man in White focuses on the last four years of Twain's life when his fame was at its peak, and the problems that dogged his life, including the bad health of loved ones and the stealing of his money by associates also continued.

But what a wonderful man Twain was--always up for a good practical joke, always putting his entire self into his writing and gosh, thoroughly addicted to playing pool. Not only addicted to it, but he was one of those hosts that had to beat you if only by a little.

Into the Storm

Tuscaloosa, St. Louis, Joplin, Missouri? Do these names ring a bell? Unfortunately, they've been ground zero for a few of this season's most serious tornadoes. While checking the new shelf, I came across Reed Timmer's new book about his odyssey from a geeky 19 year-old college student to the most famous "storm chaser" around.

How Bad Are Bananas?

ImageIt seems common knowledge that riding your bike to work is a low carbon activity. What you might not know if that if you fuel your bike ride with air-freighted off season asparagus, then your carbon footprint increases dramatically and you'd be better off commuting buy Hummer. The art and science of taking into account many aspects of what constitutes a carbon footprint has often been ignored.

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

OK, who can resist a title like How I Killed Pluto...? It promises and then delivers a light, interesting take on the Pluto demotion from one of the nine big ones to a dwarf planet at the edge of our solar system. "My very excellent mother just served us nine pizzas." Do you remember that line from science class in grade school? The words helped us remember the planets and their order in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. Alas, now mother is just serving us nine___?

No More Dirty Looks

No More Dirty LooksHave you ever read the back of your shampoo bottle and wondered what all those ingredients actually are? Then No More Dirty Looks by Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt is for you. The beauty product industry is both huge and powerful and generally don't want consumers to know that most of their products contain thousands of chemicals that can readily be absorbed through our skin. Many of these chemicals are known irritants, and some are possible carcinogens.

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