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Best Kids' Books 2010: Kirkus Goes List Crazy

Runaway Slaves, Candy Bombing, Bucking Horses: It’s Nonfiction Monday

On Mondays a number of the children’s book blogs offer posts about nonfiction for kids. (See the 11/15/10 roundup of links at In Need of Chocolate.) Because of reading for the Cybils awards, I have given over October and now November to books for tweens and teens. The following are from the list of middle grade/young adult nonfiction nominees; all three are well-documented and indexed, with suggestions for further reading and research.

Prior to this Cybils season, I wasn't that interested in visiting Colonial Williamsburg, but now I'm raring to go and drag the family with me. Reading books about the American Revolution is totally responsible. Margaret Whitman Blair's Liberty or Death concerns slaves who had run away from their owners and joined the British during the Revolution. The author did some of her research at Colonial Williamsburg, focusing on Lord Dunmore's all-black Ethiopian Regiment. All loyalists, including the runaways, were promised land after the war, but the patriots' victory precluded that. Three thousand black loyalists ended up in Nova Scotia and, from there, a smaller group, still in search of their rewards, settled back in Africa, in Sierra Leone, where their descendants live today.

Another military-affiliated book, set nearly two centuries later, is Candy Bomber, by Michael O. Tunnell. This title is a great  way to introduce kids to the Berlin airlift (1948-'49) and the beginnings of the Cold War. Stationed in Germany as part of the American effort to bring food and fuel to West Berlin during the Russian blockade, Air Force pilot Lieutenant Gail S. Halvorsen came up with the idea of dropping small parachutes of chocolate and gum. These were gifts for the children of Berlin, who began to wait for his flyovers and the “bombs” of treats. Many recipients drew pictures and wrote letters to thank him and the others involved in "Operation Little Vittles," and Halvorsen became a hero, not to mention a representative of the U.S. as a friendly, kindhearted counterpoint to the Soviet Union. Halvorsen's ties to the Berlin kids have continued to the present.

The last title today has to do with broncos, not war. Montana resident Sneed Collard III wrote The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale for children who go to rodeos or want to learn more about them. About the annual event in eastern Montana, the author says, "While other auctions and rodeos have come and gone, the Bucking Horse Sale has helped keep Western tradition and culture alive for more than sixty years." With enthusiam, excitement, and colorful photos, The World Famous Miles City depicts bull riding, mutton busting (in which children ride sheep), and two kinds of bronc riding (saddle and bareback), and more. Needless to say, you won't find much here about animal-rights organizations' objections to rodeo.

The books:

Liberty or Death: The Surprising Story of Runaway Slaves Who Sided with the British During the American Revolution
by Margaret Whitman Blair
National Geographic Society, 2010
64 pages

Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot"
by Michael O. Tunnell
Charlesbridge, 2010
110 pages

The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale
by Sneed Collard III
Bucking Horse Books, 2010
64 pages


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