YALSA Announces 2018 Excellence in Nonfiction Award Finalists

The shortlist for YALSA's 2018 Excellence in Nonfiction Award has been revealed. Check out SLJ's reviews of the finalists.
The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association, announced the five finalists for the 2018 Excellence in Nonfiction Award on December 7. First given in 2010, the award honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12–18) during the November 1–October 31 publishing year. The winner is announced annually at the ALA Youth Media Awards, with a shortlist of up to five titles named the first week of December. All five titles on the shortlist made the 2017 SLJ Best Book list.  Check out SLJ‘s reviews and interviews with some of the creators below.
ARONSON, Marc & Marina Budhos. Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism. 304p. appendix. bibliog. index. notes. photos. websites. Holt. Mar. 2017. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780805098358. Gr 7 Up–Robert Capa and Gerda Taro carved out careers as photojournalists, striving to capture the victories and defeats of the anti-Fascist freedom fighters during the Spanish Civil War. As European Jews, they understood the dangers of Nazi ideology. Thus, together with thousands of young idealists and a handful of literary giants (Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Neruda), they fought to defeat Franco and prevent another world war. Though their efforts were thwarted and countless lives (including Taro’s) were lost, their photos, snapped in the middle of the action, were instrumental in bringing the war’s horrors to the forefront of the global community and in firmly establishing a new kind of journalism that remains crucial to news reporting. Aronson and Budhos provide a detailed account of Capa’s and Taro’s sometimes conflicting romantic and professional lives. They also convey the brutality and senselessness of war in descriptions of battles and their aftermath. Original black-and-white photos complement the text, while explanatory charts, notes, and appendixes offer historical context. The use of present tense, interspersed with past tense references, occasionally distracts from the overall powerful content. VERDICT Intriguing and unusual subject matter for this age group; recommended for teen collections that serve patrons with an interest in journalism and history.–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2017 issue. redstarCHARLEYBOY, Lisa & Mary Beth Leatherdale, eds. #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women. 112p. illus. photos. Annick. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781554519583; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781554519576. Gr 10 Up–According to the foreword, Charleyboy’s intent for this anthology is to provide a “space to not only write a love letter to all young Indigenous women trying to find their way, but also to help dispel those stereotypes so we can collectively move forward to a brighter future for all.” Charleyboy and Leatherdale have selected art, poetry, and prose created by Indigenous teenage girls and women that touch on a plethora of topics, from Standing Rock to ReMatriate, a collective of Indigenous women dedicated to showing the multiplicity of Indigenous identity through social media. Each entry is titled and accompanied by the author’s name and their tribal ancestry or affiliation. In addition to the text, art pieces such as Lianne Marie Leda Charlie’s Tagé Cho (Big River) and Pamela J. Peters’s Real NDNZ Re-Take Hollywood, which recasts iconic movie stars as Indigenous actors/actresses, deepen the conversation and provide alternative ways of looking at identity, history, and inherited trauma. Some entries are in dialogue with readers, while others offer deeply personal insights—and all emphasize the damage that ignoring or changing the rich histories of Indigenous people does, especially in regards to women. This portrait of girlhood is a necessary addition in line with #ownvoices and We Need Diverse Books movements. And with a hashtag as a title, it should garner much-needed attention on social media, in libraries, and on bookshelves. VERDICT A stunning anthology of creative writing and art—a love letter, indeed. All YA collections will want this.–Alicia Abdul, Albany High School, NY This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

redstarHEILIGMAN, Deborah. Vincent and Theo: The van Gogh Brothers. 464p. bibliog. chron. ebook available. index. notes. reprods. Holt. Apr. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780805093391.

Gr 7 Up–Central to understanding the artist Vincent van Gogh was his relationship with his younger brother Theo, recorded for posterity in the nearly 700 surviving letters they wrote to each other. Here, Heiligman delivers an exquisitely told, heartfelt portrayal of that deep emotional and intellectual bond. It was an attachment solidified in the brothers’ youth and, at times, a volatile one, given the artist’s passionate, often obsessive connection to his work and his financial insecurity. Despite Vincent’s fluctuating moods and fragile mental health, Theo’s support and love never flagged, even when his other responsibilities and personal health issues intervened. The author frames their lives in “galleries,” from their childhoods to their early deaths, delicately detailing their work, frustrations, successes, differences, and difficulties. Interspersed are croquis—impressionistic sketches of events and family members, friends, lovers, and fellow artists. Despite knowing how this story ends, readers will be deeply moved by Heiligman’s portrayal of the brothers’ poignant relationship, experiencing with them its highs and lows. Reproductions of van Gogh’s sepia ink drawings open the sections, and a color insert of reproductions is included. An extensive bibliography and source notes conclude this well-documented title. Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan’s compelling Vincent van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist takes a more straightforward approach to the artist’s life and features quality reproductions. VERDICT A breathtaking achievement that will leave teens eager to learn more. Libraries would be wise to purchase a volume of the brothers’ letters along with this book.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

Read SLJ's interview with Deborah Heiligman about Vincent and Theo.

redstarSANDLER, Martin W. The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found. 176p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. Candlewick. Mar. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780763680336.

Gr 6 Up–Sandler dispels many popular pirate-related myths and offers a more realistic and factual view of the era of piracy in the New World. Instead of living in abject poverty at the mercy of kings and nobles, many men embraced piracy as a means to support their families and live a comfortable life, though one often filled with barbarous acts. The author weaves a fascinating story about piracy and the legendary 18th-century pirate ship Whydah, which sunk off the coast of Cape Cod on April 24, 1717, during a perfect storm. He delves into the fates of the few survivors, early salvage attempts by poor locals and wealthy governors alike, and the long-term work of explorer Barry Clifford to find the sunken ship. In 1985, Clifford and his crew discovered the inscribed galley bell of the Whydah, and for 30 years, divers, marine historians, and archaeologists have continued to retrieve artifacts from the ocean depths. Occasional sidebars on specific topics, such as the mythic origins of the Jolly Roger flag and artifact restoration, break up the narrative flow but do contain valuable information. Sandler’s approach to the Whydah and other submerged ships as “sunken time capsules” is an interesting angle that is sure to resonate with aspiring archaeologists. VERDICT A captivating read on pirates, with insights into contemporary underwater research techniques. Considering the popularity of the subject, this volume will likely not sit on shelves long.–Anne Jung-Mathews, Plymouth State University, NH

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2017 issue.

Read SLJ's interview with Martin W. Sandler.

redstarSLATER, Dashka. The 57 Bus. 320p. Farrar. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374303235.

Gr 6 Up–On November 4, 2013, Sasha, a high school senior from Oakland, CA, was napping on the 57 bus home from school. Shortly thereafter, Richard, another Oakland teen, boarded the bus with his two friends. When the trio’s jokes took a dark turn, Richard’s and Sasha’s lives were forever changed. Slater, who originally covered the crime for the New York Times magazine, here breaks down the series of events into short and effective chapters, divided into four parts: “Sasha,” “Richard,” “The Fire,” and “Justice.” By investigating the lives of these two teens, their backgrounds, their friends and families, and the circumstances that led to that fateful day on the bus, Slater offers readers a grounded and balanced view of a horrific event. There is much baked into the story of these intersecting lives that defies easy categorization, including explorations of gender identity, the racial and class divisions that separate two Oakland neighborhoods, the faults and limits of the justice system, the concept of restorative justice, and the breadth of human cruelty, guilt, and forgiveness. With clarity and a journalist’s sharp eye for crucial details, Slater explains preferred pronouns; the difference between gender and sex as well as sexuality and romance; and the intricacies of California’s criminal justice process. The text shifts from straightforward reporting to lyrical meditations, never veering into oversentimentality or simple platitudes. Readers are bound to come away with deep empathy for both Sasha and Richard. VERDICT Slater artfully unfolds a complex and layered tale about two teens whose lives intersect with painful consequences. This work will spark discussions about identity, community, and what it means to achieve justice.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2017 issue.

Members of the 2018 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults award committee are: chair Wendy Stephens, assistant professor, Jacksonville State University, AL; Catherine M. Andronik, teacher librarian, Brien McMahon High School, Norwalk, CT; Jan Chapman, retired teen services librarian, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Strongsville, OH; Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal, New York City; Sandra Farag, youth material selector, the New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library; Michael Fleming, librarian, Pacific Cascade Middle School, Issaquah, WA; Sarah Okner, youth & school services librarian, Vernon Area Public Library District, Lincolnshire, IL; Marney Welmers, retired middle school librarian, Mariana USD, Tucson, AZ; Dorcas Wong, teen services librarian, San Francisco Public Library; Catherine Sorensen, school librarian, Scarsdale Schools, NY; and Julia Smith, Booklist consultant, Chicago.

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