Narrative Non Fiction/Fiction book pairs

Last week, I was fortunate to attend and present at a library conference in North Texas, #ntxlibcamp (check out the hashtag and see all the great stuff/presentations that happened by amazing librarians!) One of the sessions I did was great narrative non-fiction for young adults 6-12.  And when I had more time, I also presented and shared a fiction/non-fiction booklist with everyone too!  So, if you’re looking for great non-fiction, try out these titles!!  And if you want to display them with fiction, here are some great pairs!
Here are some great non-fiction titles:

Here are some great fiction/non-fiction pairs:

What History Books Don’t Teach: Two Great NF Books!

History teaches us a lot, and students are taught how the past has changed the present in classes like American and European history. Students learn about different wars, different generals, and different campaigns. But what textbooks don’t teach are the great stories hidden between the lines of history. The next two books I’m reviewing are exactly that…amazing stories about heroes and survivors of World War I and II and the accomplishments and trials they went through.

grand escapeThe Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb.  Arthur A Levine Books, 2018

World War I was fought so much differently from technology they had to the rules of war.  The planes flown during WWI weren’t much more than a frame and canvas with an engine.  But men, both young and old wanted to join to help fight for their cause, whichever part of the divide they supported.  And when they were taken as prisoners of war, they faced the conditions in prison camps as found in other wars.  

In 1899 and 1907, delegations across the globe came together to set out rules on the treatment of prisoners.  These rules included that if an enemy surrendered his arms or couldn’t defend himself, he could not be killed or wounded.  Anoterh rule were prisoners were to be treated as fairly as the government of that country as they would their own.  But golden rules don’t last long in warfare.  

Holzminden was one such prison camp.  Located in Germany, the commandant was cruel and heartless.  Those who were in this camp were considered “trouble makers” who tried time and again to escape their confines.  Commandant Karl Neimeyer bragged that his camp could not be escaped.  This became a challenge for the prisoners there, especially a specific group of prisoners from around the country.  They learned how to hide their work and tunnel under the compound to escape.  What was even more ingenious was how they were able to secure uniforms, create documents, and work together to ensure their secret was safe. 

Bascomb has become one of the leading YA non-fiction authors for good reason.  He uses his skills as a researcher and author to tell the soldiers’ narratives from the beginning of their ordeal until well after the war was over and the bond of brotherhood that was created during this time.  Images, maps, artifacts and written letters are incorporated very nicely into this  book to keep readers engaged and intrigued.  Excellent all young adult readers, JH-HS.  

                                                          Paired Fiction Novel: code name










greatest treaureThe Greatest Treasure Hunt in History: the story of the Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel.  2019, Scholastic Focus.  

Many atrocities against humanity occur during war, especially World War II.  Hitler stood at the forefront of these atrocities that are remembered to this day.  Stealing a person’s identity through torture was only one part of what Hitler did.  He also made sure to steal their identity through theft of their cultural, religious, and national artifacts and monuments. 

Because this war would be fought in countries that were hundreds of years in the making, the United States and England worked together to create a small team of men to help preserve as much as possible the heritage and culture of priceless works of art and architecture from the ravages of war and to find those the Nazis stole and bring them back.  

War in Europe claimed many lives and damaged many cities and towns.  The Monuments men, made of up museum curators, artists, sculptors and architects, were asked to come after the battle to see what treasures the Nazis pillaged and assess damages to famous and monumental buildings that had withstood the test of time.  

The Nazis stole from museums such. as the Louvre, and from private collections, such as the Rothschild family collection.  They stole priceless work from Rembrandt to Michelango; Da Vinci to Rembrandt and many many more.  And each time theft occurred, the Monuments men could only hope they found the pieces safe.  But not all they found came back in one piece and many are still missing today.  

Edsel’s novel is narrative non-fiction in its truest sense.  The reader follows different characters in the book on their journeys, whether it be in Italy or elsewhere.  They get to see and experience everything the characters did, including landing on a beach during D-Day to walking the streets of Florence and seeing it ripped apart.  What makes this book richer are the images of priceless treasure that was stolen, maps that showed where the Monuments men found them, and the letters they wrote home to their families.  Excellent for young adult readers JH-HS.  

                                                     Paired Fiction Novel:lovely war


A YA Fiction and Non-fiction Novel to Read RIGHT NOW

2019 started out with a BANG! I started a TBR list and these two were at the top of the stack. I couldn’t have chosen better. They are STUNNING reads. I included a book trailer (when possible) as well as a book pairing for each. Let’s begin this YA novel joyfest!!

Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Graphix, 2018.  There has to be something said about writing your biography using the talents you possess, which is what this graphic novel is about. It’s also about what the definition of family is and how he learned from them, grew up with them, and loved each and every one of them, including the ones he never knew existed.

Jarrett’s family life has had starts and stops. His mother had him when she was a teenager and trying to balance a baby and life took it’s toll on her. His grandparents tried to help, but could only do so much until she ended up in rehab and Jarrett ended up living with his grandparents. He’d receive an occasional card from his mother (hence the title) but there wasn’t a lot of connection between the two.

His life with his grandparents wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either. He finally found himself with family, something everyone craves, including Jarrett. His grandfather, Joe, worked hard and owned his own business. Sometimes at night he’d come home later than usual and the arguing would ensue. Joe loved his grandson and was a catalyst behind his talent, urging him to use it to find purpose. His grandmother, Shirley, was a woman who had a manage a large family and had a mean streak in her that would rear its ugly head. But it went as quickly as it came and Jarrett knew how much she loved him despite are actions sometimes.

It’s important in today’s society to understand the complexities some kids go through when it comes to family dynamics. This essential graphic novel shows a dysfunctional family dynamic many young adults can identify with. Highly recommended.

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel. 2019, Sourcebooks Fire.  Hannah spent her summer in California, rooming with Agnes while they both worked hard attending courses to get a step up on their college applications. Then Jonah came…he and Agnes became a couple, but that didn’t stop Hannah from letting him know of her affection for him too, which led to a secret relationship to form the perfect toxic relationships.

Now, Hannah finds herself surrounded by four walls, small windows, a narrow bed, and regular visits from a psychiatrist she nickenames “Lightfoot,” which visits her regularly. Before coming here, she tried to see Agnes in the hospital but was told to never come back. It wasn’t her fault what happened to Agnes…it truly was an accident.

Now, all Hannah wants to do is “pass” Lightfoot scrutiny to get back to New York in time for school and finishing her college applications. That’s all she can think about, living by herself in a small room with no interaction with others living there, including eating meals and showering. Hannah scoffs at the label they put on her – A danger to herself and others but she’ll play the game as long as it takes to be able to leave.

What exactly happened and how dangerous is Hannah?

Riveting from the beginning, you’ll wonder if what the main character is saying is true or not, real or not, and how dangerous they think she is. Thrilling throughout, the psychology and psychiatry built into the plot only adds to the thrill.

Book pairs:

One State, Two VERY Different Stories…

Coincidence is an anomaly people don’t really know what to do with, but it happens all of the time.  Sometimes, it’s a good thing, while other times it isn’t as good.  Luckily, my coincidence happened to fall on the good side of things.  I finished reading Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman when I picked up The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman.  Coincidentally, both books take place in California, and they are both about current issues relevant in teen’s lives today.  Everything else about these books are on two very separate spectrums.  Here are short reviews for both:


38355098Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman   2018, Simon & Schuster

Alyssa and her family, including her little brother Garrett understand the drought conditions California is having.  They also know about the restrictions the “Tap-Out” has had on their lives.  But that all changes the day she turns on the tap and nothing comes out.  Day One isn’t so bad, but then Day Two happens and panic begins to set in.  By Day Five, people are turning into water zombies….

Rumors of desalination plants along the beach prompt Alyssa’s parents to seek it out, but they never return home.  Now, Alyssa and Garrett go in search of them and their lives, and those of others they are with become deadly.

Alyssa’s neighbors, including their son Kelton, are survivalists and Kelton’s dad has been waiting for the end to happen.  While others around them are literally wasting away, Kelton and his family are doing quite well, until word gets out they have water….

The lives of these teens and her kid brother go from bad to worse, especially when they find themselves entangled with two other strangers, both with quirks in their thinking and personality, which could prove to become more dangerous than they imagined.  The only way to survive it all just have one more sip.

If they can….

Told in various voices, the reader gets to see everything that happens to these characters, including the good and the ugly, and can only wish to help them when all the reader can do is turn to the page to see who lives.  Shusterman (both Neal and son Jarrod) take us straight to the beginning of a dystopic piece of our nation (while in other news, hurricanes are devastating others at the same time).  More than that, he takes the reader into the forefront of current social issues and the possibility of what could happen.  Yes, this is a dark read.  Yes there is horror, but there is also redemption.  And yes…you will re-think your thoughts about potable water, one of the most precious commodities in the world.



35795898The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman    2018, Swoon Reads

Elise’s mother has just told her they are moving.  What makes it worse is that they’re moving her senior year.  Elise is devastated by this news, but at the same time, she also knows it’s for the best.  They’ll be living in the same town as her adorable niece she loves and her sister-in-law.  But there’s one person who’s missing and always will.

Elise’s brother joined the armed forces and during his time in Afghanistan, he was killed.  No one really know how or why, but that’s something Elise really doesn’t want to know.  She has enough to deal with in real life, including her distant mother and now, this trip.  No friends, an empty summer.  The only thing that is making her summer bearable is the new puppy her mom got her.

And one day on the beach, she sees a stranger step into the cold water of the Pacific and doesn’t stop.  Without thinking twice, Elise jumps in to rescue this person, whose name it Mati.  When they start talking to each other, Elise recoils when she finds out he’s from Afghanistan, the same country…the same people, who killed her brother.

Since moving to this small seaside town, he and his family haven’t been shown a lot of kindness from the community.  Stereotypes, prejudices and anger make his family’s life difficult and Mati is both confused and depressed by it.  Until he meets Elise.  Has has to make her realize that stereotypes are often wrong, and all it takes is a handful of sand.

Together, they make each other’s lives fuller and richer but they still have many  obstacles to overcome on both sides.  Mati’s family is very traditional, and Elise isn’t welcomed with open arms. Because of Mati’s heritage, Elise’s family don’t want to have anything to do with him.  Can they make a difference, even within their own personal circles?

This book is more than just a summer romance. It’s a snapshot of real life, real prejudices, and being able to see the world through two perspectives. Upperman stitches together a girl who has lost her brother t the war in Afghanistan with a young man living in the US from Afghanistan. Elise’s voice is written in prose and shows the gutsy person she is. Mati’s voice is written in narrative poetry and reflects the person he is. LOVED this book about love, prejudice, and racism of two families and how these teens transcend it.

A Heapin’ Helping of Non-Fiction

Living out in the country, there were a few fun things to do during the summer and one of them was to read.  We had all sorts of books, but I remember in particular a biography of the Red Baron, (Manfred von Richthofen, not the pizza) and became intrigued with non-fiction.

My love for non-fiction has never been quenched and I still read it and love it.  But what has changed in the format of non-fiction.  It’s more narrative and comes in hardcopy or graphic novel.  It comes as stand alones or in series.  It’s also disguised as great fiction too!

So here’s a list of non-fiction you should dive into this summer….so worth it (and you’ll learn a lot in the process!)


Brazen by Penelope Bagieu:  This is a great book that takes a unique approach to women in leadership roles.  Some you may have heard of, others perhaps not.  The author goes into details about women from history (Nzinga and Agnodice to name a few) to current (Betty Davis (the singer, not the actress) and Mae Jemison) to well-known names

(Peggy Gugenheim and Nellie Bly)If only all of the women

who kicked booty throughout history could have been added…

mary's monster

Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge: While this is a

fictional account in novel in verse AND graphic

novel, this book is a must read.  Filled with beautiful images, that author takes the reader down a long, hard road along with Mary Shelley, who wanted to live a beautiful life in love but ended up being emotionally torn and pulled by the relationships she created.  Then along came her monster….

Devils highway

The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea:  I actually stumbled on this read through the Audiosync Summer reading series and boy, am I glad I did.  This is considered an adult non-fiction book, but definitely is on the forefront of current social issues in the US and one teens can enjoy.  The reader goes on a journey from Mexico to the US with a coyote, who smuggles over 20 men into the Arizona dessert…and where few come out alive.  The perspective is layered and the facts can be grim and difficult…altogether a fascinating read.

this is really

This is Really Happening by Erin Chack: This is an autobiography, but not just any autbiography.  This is one written by someone people may or may not know or follow, but who works for an online site most everyone has heard about:  Buzzfeed.  You have to be a unique writer to capture the attention of millions, and this is just what Erin has done.  She takes us through her life from before middle school to her life now and all of its ups and downs, from boyfriends to marriage, to cancer and friendship, all with that unique and humorous prose Buzzfeed is known for.  Short and sweet, a great read for teens and adults.

heart were young

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner: I really should look up to see if Cornelia and her friend Emily are still alive, but I was sucked into their story of their escapades of the 1920s.  What is so unique about this book is that is was written over 76 years ago and details teenaged girls wanting the same independence, fun, and relationships teens want today.  Just another time period that can’t be “faked.”  You’re sitting front and center in this book to experience their lives unfold in very different but similar ways.  Great companion book to The Great Gatsby!

We Are #Diverse: YA Fiction and Non-Fiction pair, Then and Now

NOTE:  I have been told by several people that Loving Vs. Virginia is a work of fiction.  I have adjusted the blog post as necessary to reflect that.

When you get your hands on a great non-fiction book and fiction book pair, it can make an impact far beyond than just being a satisfying read.  This is true of the next two books.

Both happened during my lifetime.  One I had heard about, but only in passing; the other I never heard about even though it took place within the last five years.

Both books made an impact on their social culture.  One became a law; the other created awareness.  One challenged society behind a curtain; the other challenged society with the shutters open wide.

Both books allow the reader to see what happens when the status quo is challenged.  One book showed the horrors of segregation and violence found in our history books that our grandparents or even our parents knew/experienced first hand.  The other shows that this is still happening today and something teenagers could experience first hand during their lifetimes.

Both books also show strength in individuals.  One woman refused to live apart from her husband and was sparked to make a difference, never knowing what path that would lead her down and the strength she would need through herself and others to impact our nation.  One young man showed strength through hours of physical and emotional pain to find the power to forgive and understand the power they created through social media and broadcasts.

Both are books that should be read or listened to.  Written in narrative non fiction format and novel in verse fiction format, they are compelling, each in their own way, but both books are alike in that they show how endurance through a time a change and acceptance can be powerful.

I read The 57 Bus, which is the story of Sasha.  They identify as agender and was more comfortable wearing a skirt that pants or shorts.  They also knew the difficulty of being different, but with the school Sasha attended in Oakland California, they were accepted.  But one day on the bus going home, someone saw the uniqueness that was who this quiet person who loved Russian literature and history was and decided to mess with them.  A lighter came out, and skirt was set on fire, and Sasha was severely burned on over 20% of his body.  But this book is also about teens and the way they think.  It’s about different cultures and opportunities, it’s about the love of families and the pain of making bad choices.  I especially like the fact that the author wasn’t biased in her writing on guilt or innocence but stayed factual through eyewitness accounts, courtroom testimonies and interviews. (non-fiction)

I listened to Loving vs Virginia.  I had heard about this case but really didn’t think anything about it.  Sometimes that happens to important Supreme Court Cases…we don’t really think about them because they happened so long ago.  But this audiobook hit to the heart.  Listening to how Mildred and Richard’s romance blossomed and turned into something deeper through their individual voices and viewpoints created a depth of understanding that this is something we still deal with today in our culture.  The couple’s voices take you through their secretive marriage to the struggles they faced trying to live as husband and wife in the state of Virginia; having their home and lives invaded through police bullying and threats; and the tipping point and amazing people who supported their decision and never gave up.  It took years for interracial marriages to become law, but their were the pioneers.  HIGHLY recommended as an audiobook but keep a hardcopy on the shelves as well. (fiction)