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February 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
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Achilles versus Hector. The Montagues versus the Capulets. Alexander Hamilton versus Aaron Burr. Sound familiar? Thanks to Homer, Shakespeare, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and countless others, we’re well steeped in a longstanding literary tradition of raging rivalries—and the bitter, bloody ends that come with them. But what about the feuds that fueled scientific discovery? The spats that sparked great art? The lone revolutionaries who took on centuries of systemic oppression and seething prejudice?
The nonfiction books below, split into five categories—“Scientific Spats,” “Sports-Centered Squabbles,” “Rivalry as Resistance,” “Landmark Legislation,” and “Feud or Friendship?”—cover everything from Revolutionary-era riffs and the War of 1812 to Civil War injustices and the heated rise of roller derby.
There’s no doubt many of these battles were brutal; in antebellum America, Sarah Roberts and her family fought for school desegregation; during WWII, civil rights activist Fred Korematsu resisted Japanese internment-camp imprisonment; and in 1967, Mildred and Richard Loving overturned a Virginia statute prohibiting interracial marriage. But beyond the blood, sweat, and tears—and the lurid finales we’ve come to know and love—these stories boast technological advancement, legal breakthroughs, and life-changing camaraderie.
They have something else, too: glimmers of hope, unflagging defiance, and the power to inspire young readers, fledgling scientists, musicians, athletes, activists, and so many more, for generations to come.
Battle of the Dinosaur Bones: Othniel Charles Marsh vs. Edward Drinker Cope. By Rebecca L. Johnson. 2012. Lerner/Twenty-First Century, $33.27 (9780761354888). Gr. 5–8.
This entry in the Scientific Rivalries and Scandals series focuses on two pioneering nineteenth-century paleontologists, Marsh and Cope. Their rivalry to discover the largest, most unusual dinosaur fossils of the American West became known as the Bone Wars. Packed with photos, maps, and diagrams, this book emphasizes the importance of the scientific method and the misconceptions that arise with shoddy research. A rare glimpse into the historiography of biological science.
Decoding Our DNA: Craig Venter vs. the Human Genome Project. By Karen Gunnison Ballen. 2012. Lerner/Twenty-First Century, $33.27 (9780761354895). Gr. 9–12.
This volume introduces the race to sequence the human genome, with scientists competing for fame, fortune, and “a place in history.” On one side, players include James Watson, who headed the U.S. branch of the international Human Genome Project, and Francis Collins. On the other side is researcher Craig Venter. Readers with a solid grounding in genetics will be intrigued by the narrative, which features both professional rivalry and ethical concerns.
Duel of the Ironclads: The Monitor vs. the Virginia. By Patrick O’Brien. 2003. Walker, o.p. Gr. 2–6.
Raising the hull of the U.S. Navy’s partially destroyed Merrimac, the Confederates crafted an ironclad vessel named the Virginia. Meanwhile, the Union navy built its own armored ship, the Monitor, and engaged the Virginia in combat—the first ever between ironclads. Well-composed and colored by drama, the watercolor-and-gouache paintings complement the clear-cut text, illuminating the design and construction of the ships as well as their eventful stories.
Plants vs. Meats: The Health, History, and Ethics of What We Eat. By Meredith Sayles Hughes. 2016. Lerner/Twenty-First Century, $34.65 (9781467780117). Gr. 7–12.
Hughes offers a compact but comprehensive guide to food production and consumption in the U.S., taking on its history as well as ethical and health concerns. Although the title implies a focus on vegetarianism, the scope is far broader. Hughes lays out an array of dietary options, including vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian, and omnivore, rooting the discussion in personal choice. Fact boxes and color illustrations further enhance this admirably balanced, bite-size primer.
Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game. By John Coy. Illus. by Randy DuBurke. 2015. Carolrhoda, $17.99 (9781467726047). Gr. 2–4.
In 1944, Coach John McLendon, of the North Carolina College of Negroes, invited players from the Duke University Medical School, an all-white team, to play a “secret game” in his college’s gym. Coy describes the game—with white players blown away by the new, fast-break style of McLendon’s players—in lively detail. DuBurke’s photo-like illustrations and a time line round out this exciting account of a landmark game played ahead of its time.
Martina and Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry in the History of Sports. By Phil Bildner. Illus. by Brett Helquist. 2017. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763673086). Gr. 2–5.
Bildner and Helquist bring a notable sports rivalry to the pages of this picture book about tennis stars Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. While Bildner’s energetic, conversational text conveys each woman’s story (Navratilova’s begins in Communist Czechoslovakia; Evert’s in Florida), Helquist’s acrylic-and-oil illustrations highlight pivotal matches between the two. This engrossing story, containing an inspiring message and enough information for the fact-hungry, is a fantastic addition to all sports collections.
Roller Derby Rivals. By Sue Macy. Illus. by Matt Collins. 2014. Holiday, $16.95 (9780823429233). Gr. 1–3.
Before the National Roller Derby League was founded in 1950, two women paved the way for its popularity. “Glamour Girl” Gerry Murray and roller-derby villain Toughie Brasuhn built up a rivalry so potent that they were slamming and jamming in front of sold-out audiences. Macy tells their story in short, descriptive lines. Meanwhile, Collins’ exaggerated perspectives depict perilous tension. Young fans of the sport will appreciate this revealing glimpse into its history.
Rivalry as Resistance
Long May She Wave: The True Story of Caroline Pickersgill and Her Star-Spangled Creation. By Kristen Fulton. Illus. by Holly Berry. 2017. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $17.99 (9781481460965). K–Gr. 3.
In this bio, Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore widow, gathers a group of women unable to vote, hold property, or work and defies public opinion to start a flag-making business. Her daughter, Caroline, helps make one enormous flag, and when the British attack in 1812, the flag becomes a symbol of freedom. Fulton’s accessible language pairs with Berry’s colored-pencil prints to create images of the women’s effort and the battle that inspired a nation.
Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero. By Marissa Moss. Illus. by John Hendrix. 2011. Abrams, $18.95 (9780810997356). Gr. 2–5.
This picture book introduces Sarah Emma Edmonds, a Canadian girl who began dressing as a man at 16, escaped an arranged marriage, and joined the Union army under the name Frank Thompson. Moss spotlights Edmonds’ experiences in great detail, including her recruitment as a spy and a successful mission to disguise herself as a slave and gather information behind enemy lines. Author’s and illustrator’s notes, a glossary, and source bibliographies are appended.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. By Chelsea Clinton. Illus. by Alexandra Boiger. 2017. Philomel, $17.99 (9781524741723). K–Gr. 2.
After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Senator Elizabeth Warren to stand down, he noted afterward that “she persisted.” Clinton uses this admonition as a jumping-off point to introduce 13 women, including Nellie Bly, Clara Lemlich, and Helen Keller, who overcame obstacles to affect history. Exemplary watercolors, showing both delicacy and strength, complement the concise text. This well-curated list will show children that women’s voices have made themselves emphatically heard.
Brown v. Board of Education: A Fight for Simple Justice. By Susan Goldman Rubin. 2016. Holiday, $18.95 (9780823436460). Gr. 6–9.
Though the story behind the landmark case has been told before, this large-format book is particularly valuable. Rubin sets the stage well, discussing each of the five cases and the students involved and going beyond the court’s unanimous decision by noting resistance to school desegregation in the years that followed it. The book’s design and well-chosen archival photos make the story more readable, and the appended time line will be useful to student researchers.
The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial. By Susan E. Goodman. Illus. by E. B. Lewis. 2016. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (9780802737397). Gr. 1–4.
In 1847, Sarah Roberts’ day at the Otis School comes to a shocking close when police force her to leave the building—Otis is for white children only. Outraged, Sarah’s parents launch a years-long court case, which they ultimately lose. Their loss, however, sparks a movement. Although the lengthy text and advanced vocabulary make this a better choice for middle-grade readers, the emotional tone and moving story will appeal to a broad audience.
Fred Korematsu Speaks Up. By Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi. Illus. by Yutaka Houlette. 2017. Heyday, $18 (9781597143684). Gr. 4–7.
The story of Fred Korematsu, a resister of U.S. attempts to intern Japanese Americans during WWII, is an absolute keystone in the history of U.S. civil liberties. This book details Korematsu’s upbringing in California, imprisonment for resisting internment, quest to legally marry his white wife, and 40-year legal battle. Complete with practical strategies for kids taking on injustice in their own communities, this resource honors the legacy of an oft-forgotten champion of human rights.
Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case. By Patricia Hruby Powell. Illus. by Shadra Strickland. 2017. Chronicle, $21.99 (9781452125909). Gr. 7–10.
Mildred and Richard Loving are hauled to jail in 1958 for violating a statute prohibiting interracial marriage. In the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia, the law is overturned. Written in free verse, Powell’s novel unfolds in concise, evocative first-person narratives alternating between Richard and Mildred. Placing their personal stories within the broader context of the major events of the civil rights movement, sections feature archival photos and significant quotes.
Feud or Friendship?
Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story behind an American Friendship. By Russell Freedman. 2012. Clarion, $18.99 (9780547385624). Gr. 5–9.
It’s 1863, and Frederick Douglass, the well-known writer, speaker, abolitionist, and former slave, is the only black man waiting in the crowded room outside Lincoln’s office in hopes of meeting the president. After illuminating Douglass’ rise from slave to influential public figure, the discussion shifts to Lincoln, focusing on his life and his involvement in the Civil War and the issue of slavery. A well-researched, wonderfully readable book on a “brief but telling friendship.”
The Fabulous Feud of Gilbert and Sullivan. By Jonah Winter. Illus. by Richard Egielski. 2009. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $16.99 (9780439930505). K–Gr. 3.
For many years, Gilbert and Sullivan collaborated on successful operas, but now Sullivan finds Gilbert’s stories silly and his plots repetitive. First they quarrel; then they feud. But, eventually, Gilbert takes the criticism to heart and, inspired by Japanese artifacts and performers, writes The Mikado, which Sullivan sets to music. If the artists’ quarrel seems an unlikely topic for a picture book, its resolution is hopeful for any audience. A showstopper.
Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the True Story of an American Feud. By Suzanne Tripp Jurmain. Illus. by Larry Day. 2011. Dutton, $16.99 (9780525479031). Gr. 1–3.
Can presidents be friends? “Not often” is the short answer. This picture book tells of an exceptional pair of friends, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who bonded as they worked for America’s independence. Later, after a heated political disagreement, they stopped speaking . . . but not for long. Jurmain introduces two major figures in American history and brings them to life in this celebration of the resilience of friendship.
Briana Shemroske is the Books for Youth Editorial Assistant at Booklist.
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