Listen: A Conversation with the 2020 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalists

Join School Library Journal for a lively conversation featuring the 2020 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award finalists, including Deborah Heiligman, author of Torpedoed. Learn a bit about the inspiration behind these fantastic titles; hear from the authors about their research and storytelling processes; and take away some insights into how publishers select engaging and relevant nonfiction titles for teens.

Teacher’s Guide: Born to Fly

Born to Fly: The First Women’s Air Race Across America by Steve Sheinkin; illustrated by Bijou Karman

Born to Fly is the gripping story of the fearless women pilots who aimed for the skies—and beyond.

Just nine years after American women finally got the right to vote, a group of trailblazers soared to new heights in the 1929 Air Derby, the first women’s air race across the U.S. Follow the incredible lives of legend Amelia Earhart, who has captivated generations; Marvel Crosson, who built a plane before she even learned how to fly; Louise Thaden, who shattered jaw-dropping altitude records; and Elinor Smith, who at age seventeen made headlines when she flew under the Brooklyn Bridge.

These awe-inspiring stories culminate in a suspenseful, nail-biting rate across the country that brings to life the glory and grit of the dangerous and thrilling early days of flying, expertly told by the master of nonfiction history for young readers, National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin.

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Teacher’s Guide : Bringing Down A President

Bringing Down A President: The Watergate Scandal by Andrea Balis and Elizabeth Levy

A middle-grade retelling of Richard Nixon’s downfall, Bringing Down A President: The Watergate Scandal is an inventive and timely look at one of the biggest scandals to ever rock our nation by Andrea Balis and Elizabeth Levy, featuring graphic novel style illustrations by Tim Foley.

Comprised almost completely of primary source quotes (good thing Nixon’s recorder was on) and interspersed with contextual narrative, this captivating account of the trials and tribulations of the Nixon Administration has been rendered screenplay style offering an extraordinarily immediate narrative of one of America’s most turbulent eras.

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Teacher’s Guide: The Startup Squad

The Startup Squad by Brian Weisfeld and Nicole C. Kear

Girls mean business in a brand-new middle grade series about friendship and entrepreneurship!

All the great leaders had to start somewhere. And Theresa (“Resa” for short) is starting with the lemonade stand competition her teacher assigned to the class—but making it a success is going to be a lot harder than Resa thinks.

The prize: line-skipping tickets to Adventure Central. The competition: Val, Resa’s middle school nemesis. And the biggest obstacle to success: Resa’s own teammates. Harriet is the class clown, Amelia is the new girl who thinks she knows best, and Didi is Resa’s steadfast friend—who doesn’t know the first thing about making or selling lemonade. The four of them quickly realize that the recipe for success is tough to perfect—but listening to each other is the first step. And making new friends might be the most important one…

The back of each book features tips from the Startup Squad and an inspirational profile of a girl entrepreneur!

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Teacher’s Guide: The Miraculous

The Miraculous by Jess Redman

In the tradition of heartwrenching and hopeful middle grade novels such as Bridge to Terabithia comes Jess Redman’s stunning debut about a young boy who must regain his faith in miracles after a tragedy changes his world.

Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis is a miracologist. In a journal he calls The Miraculous, he records stories of the inexplicable and the extraordinary. And he believes every single one. But then his newborn sister dies, at only eight days old. If that can happen, then miracles can’t exist. So Wunder gets rid of The Miraculous. He stops believing.

Then he meets Faye—a cape-wearing, outspoken girl with losses of her own. Together, they find an abandoned house by the cemetery and a mysterious old woman who just might be a witch. The old woman asks them for their help. She asks them to believe. And they go on a journey that leads to friendship, to adventure, to healing—and to miracles.

The Miraculous is Jess Redman’s sparkling debut novel about facing grief, trusting the unknown, and finding brightness in the darkest moments.

“A stunning story expressing the complexities and mysteries of love and death in all of its light and darkness. A beautifully rendered and meaningful read for young readers asking deep questions.” —Veera Hiranandani, Newbery Honor–winning author of The Night Diary

“Filled with longing, love, hope, and wisdom, The Miraculous is a small miracle of a book.” —Alison McGhee, author of Shadow Baby and the #1 New York Times–bestseller Someday

“Exquisitely crafted, serious, yet woven through with wry humor, this story’s miracles are its fierce and tender characters. I loved this extraordinary debut.” —Leslie Connor, National Book Award Finalist author of The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle

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Teacher’s Guide: The Bone Garden

The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner

A spooky and adventurous debut illustrated fantasy novel about a girl made of dust and bone and imagination who seeks the truth about the magic that brought her to life.

“This magical story—and the brave girl in its pages—will haunt you in the best way.” —Natalie Lloyd, New York Times bestselling author of Over the Moon

“Remember, my dear, you do not really and truly exist.”

Irréelle fears she’s not quite real. Only the finest magical thread tethers her to life—and to Miss Vesper. But for all her efforts to please her cruel creator, the thread is unraveling. Irréelle is forgetful as she gathers bone dust. She is slow returning from the dark passages beneath the cemetery. Worst of all, she is unmindful of her crooked bones.

When Irréelle makes one final, unforgivable mistake by destroying a frightful creature just brought to life, Miss Vesper threatens to imagine her away once and for all. Defying her creator for the very first time, Irréelle flees to the underside of the graveyard and embarks on an adventure to unearth the mysterious magic that breathes bones to life, even if it means she will return to dust and be no more.

With echoes of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, debut author Heather Kassner’s The Bone Garden is a gorgeously written story–illustrated by Matt Saunders–humming with magic, mystery, and dark imaginings. Perfect for fans of Holly Black, Jonathan Auxier, and Katherine Arden.

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