Nonfiction Honor List 2009

Nonfiction Honor List Books Meet the Following Criteria

  • Suitable for middle school/junior high readers in grades six through eight
  • Address curricular needs or personal reading interests
  • Published in 2009
  • Contain some elements that raise them above other books on the same topic, such as unique research, creative presentation, inventive use of photography, or filling a niche at the middle level

Publishers: How to Nominate Your Books for the Next VOYA’s Nonfiction Honor List

If you’ve published quality nonfiction—drama and poetry included—in 2010 for middle school and junior high school youth (grades six to nine), you may nominate up to five of your most outstanding titles per imprint.

  • Send six copies of each nominated 2010 title to:
    VOYA Nonfiction Honor List Selection Committee 2010, Ernie Cox, Chair, 109 Emerald Circle, Durham, NC 27713.
  • Be sure we receive your books as early as possible, but no later than our nominations deadline January 31, 2011.
  • Refer procedural inquiries to
    Winning selections will be featured in the next edition of VOYA’s Nonfiction Honor List, an annotated bibliography, in the August 2011 issue of VOYA.
  • Submitted titles are not automatically reviewed in VOYA. Send review copies to E L Kurdyla Publishing LLC, 16211 Oxford CT, Bowie, MD 20715.

VOYA’s Nonfiction Honor List 2009

Another wonderful selection of almost 150 books were sent to this year’s Nonfiction Honor List committee, so there were some hard choices to make, but we kept our focus on those middle school teens and what we felt would be right for them. In the end, we selected thirty books that will be of interest to both avid and reluctant readers, books to browse and books to use for reports, and even some books that have the ability to inspire teen readers to try something totally new. A big thank you goes out to the middle school students at both Berea City Schools and North Olmsted City Schools, whose input was invaluable to our selection process. It’s been a wonderfully fun challenge to chair this committee and I would like to thank my fellow librarians who’ve been willing to share in the adventure. Let’s do it again sometime, shall we?

Allen, Thomas B., and Roger MacBride Allen. Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War: How the North Used the Telegraph, Railroads, Surveillance Balloons, Ironclads, High-Powered Weapons, and More to Win the Civil War. National Geographic, 2009. 144p. $18.95. 978-1-4263-0379-1. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Biblio. Source Notes.

Focused on President Lincoln’s interest in seeking out new ideas and the impact that idea had on the Civil War, this book covers the simple to the difficult concepts with precision and clarity.

Barnhill, Kelly Regan. Do You Know Where Your Water Has Been? The Disgusting Story Behind What You’re Drinking. Capstone, 2009. 32p. $18.99. 978-1-4296-1995-0. Glossary. Index. Photos. Further Reading.

Simply and clearly stated, this book has brief information on: what you might find in untreated water, historical water delivery systems, how water is treated, and from where your water might be coming.

Benson, Michael. Beyond: A Solar System Voyage. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2009. 121p. $19.95. 978-0-8109-8322-9. Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Charts. Biblio. VOYA April 2009. 5Q 4P M J S A/YA

Browsable and informative, this book has beautiful photographs that enhance the text about the history of space exploration and how all the interplanetary pieces are connected. Detailed descriptions of each planet are also provided.

Bryant, Megan E. Oh My Gods! A Look-It-Up Guide to the Gods of Mythology. Scholastic, 2009. 128p. $39. 978-1-60631-026-7. Index. Illus. Photos. Charts. Further Reading.

Written with a sense of humor, this could become your go-to title on Greek gods. Each god has “Family, Flings, Friends, and Foes” listed, but the more powerful gods have “Profiles” with pronunciation help, a top ten list of facts, and more.

Bryant, Megan E. She’s All That! A Look-It-Up Guide to the Goddesses of Mythology. Scholastic, 2009. 128p. $39. 978-1-60631-027-4. Index. Illus. Photos. Charts. Further Reading.

This title includes the same wide array of information as Oh My Gods!, but now it’s all about the ladies. Such fun to peruse, and it still retains a nicely educational twist.

Buller, Laura, and Richard Walker. Open Me Up. DK Publishing, 2009. 256p. $24.99. 978-0-7566-5532-7. Index. Illus. Photos.

What it means to be human, how all the internal and external pieces of your body work, and how all the tangibles and intangibles work together to make you unique are found in this easy-to-browse book useful for reports.

Butcher, Kristin, and Martha Newbigging. Pharaohs and Foot Soldiers: One Hundred Ancient Egyptian Jobs You Might Have Desired or Dreaded. Annick Press, 2009. 96p. $16.95. 978-1-55451-170-9. Index. Illus. Charts. Further Reading. Chronology.

Students curious about ancient Egypt will be thrilled to find this humorous presentation filled with interesting facts. The unique presentation of information in the guise of job descriptions may also encourage students to research further.

Cotter, Charis. Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors. Annick, 2009. 167p. $14.95. 978-1-55451-191-4. Index. Illus. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. Further Reading.

A well-constructed, in-depth look at L.M. Montgomery, C.S. Lewis, E.B. White, Madeleine L’Engle, Philip Pullman, and Christopher Paul Curtis. From the authors who influenced them to their own family life to the why they wrote—this book has it all.

Ferris, Julie. Ask Me Anything: Every Fact You Ever Wanted to Know. DK Publishing, 2009. 303p. $24.99. 978-0-7566-5195-4. Index. Illus. Photos. Charts.

Browsable, and informative, this fascinating book covers: space, earth, dinosaurs, plants, animals, human body, science and technology, transportation, places, society and culture, and history, and covers them well. The abundant images nicely enhance the text.

Franco, Betsy, and Michael Wertz. A Curious Collection of Cats. Tricycle, 2009. 40p. $16.99. 978-1-58246-248-6. Illus.

The feline theme and lively illustrations will attract a wide audience of all ages.

Gold, Rozanne, and Phil Mansfield. Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2009. 160p. $17.99. 978-1-59990-445-0.

Nutritional information, kid-friendly recipes, and photos of teens cooking tasty-looking food may just inspire other teens to try something new: cooking.

Grant, Reg. Slavery: Real People and Their Stories of Enslavement. DK Publishing, 2009. 192p. $24.99. 978-0-7566-5169-5. Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Charts. Chronology.

From 1790 BCE to the present day, this all-inclusive look at slavery is engaging and informative. Told with a neutral viewpoint, this book is more than a useful reference tool—it’s eye-opening.

Hillstrom, Kevin. The Dream of America: Immigration, 1870-1920. Omnigraphics, 2009. 290p. $49. 978-0-7808-1070-9. Glossary. Index. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology.

Divided into three sections—Narrative Overview, Biographies, and Primary Sources—this book thoughtfully explains the complex issue of immigration. This intensive resource focuses primarily on the time period when immigration was at its height, but there is also a brief discussion of present day issues.

Hillstrom, Laurie Collier. The Attack on Pearl Harbor. Omnigraphics, 2009. 237p. $49. 978-0-7808-1069-3. Glossary. Index. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology.

Divided into three sections—Narrative Overview, Biographies, and Primary Sources—this book explores every aspect of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Written with a neutral viewpoint and chock-full of factual information, it will encourage students to read out of curiosity.

Hines-Stephens, Sarah, and Bethany Mann. Show Off: How to Do Absolutely Everything One Step at a Time. Candlewick, 2009. 224p. $18.99. 978-0-7636-4599-1. Index. Illus. Appendix. VOYA December 2009 3Q 4P M J S

Weird, useful, gross, unexpected, and mesmerizing all describe this fascinating book. Each chapter has a theme— amaze, investigate, create, explore, cook, and move—with a list of activities explained in detail, primarily through pictures.

Johnson, Jennifer. Gettysburg: The Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War. Franklin Watts, 2009. 64p. $27. 978-0-531-25528-5. Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Further Reading.

A simple book on a complicated subject, this title is a great resource for history buffs and teens with reports to complete. Actual photographs bring a new sense of reality to this very old war.

Lewis, Barbara A. The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference. Paw Prints, 2009. 152p. $14.99. 978-1-57542-338-8. Index. Photos.

A great resource for students in service-oriented organizations or for kids just looking for a way to get involved, this book suggests projects based on a teen’s interests and provides step-by-step instructions, as well as  much-needed contact information.

Mann, Charles C., and Rebecca Stefoff. Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009. 128p. $24.99. 978-1-4169-4900-8. Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Charts. Further Reading.

Vivid descriptions of life in the Americas “before Columbus,” maps, and large-print sidebars make this a valuable resource to students.

Miller, Brandon Marie. Benjamin Franklin, American Genius: His Life and Ideas, with 21 Activities. Chicago Review Press, 2009. 126p. $16.95. 978-1-55652-757-9. Glossary. Index. Illus. Charts. Biblio. Further Reading.

An appealing look at a familiar historical figure, this book not only shares Franklin’s life story but also his ideas, his inventions, and interesting activities for readers to try.

Pluto, Terry, and Brian Windhorst. Lebron James: The Making of an MVP. Gray, 2009. 156p. $15.95. 978-1-59851-059-1. Photos. VOYA June 2010 4Q 4P J S A/YA

Filled with amazing photographs, odd facts, and thorough research, this book recounts Lebron’s journey from high school star to legendary pro-player. Sports-loving kids will read it from cover to cover.

Salinger, Michael, and Sam Henderson. Well Defined: Vocabulary in Rhyme. Wordsong, 2009. 64p. $16.95. 978-1-59078-615-4. Illus. VOYA June 2009. 4Q 1P M J S

Using poems to put in context the definition of words that often show up on testing, this book may be small in size but will have a big impact with its witty wordplay.

Smith, David J., and Shelagh Armstrong. If America Were a Village: A Book About the People of the United States. Kids Can Press, 2009. 32p. $18.95. 978-1-55453-344-2. Illus.

Reducing the entirety of the United States into one village through statistics makes an overwhelming subject more relatable. Applicable to Social Studies, English, and Math, this book will please teachers and students alike.

Smith, Hope Anita. Mother Poems. Henry Holt and Co, 2009. 80p. $16.95. 978-0-8050-8231-9. Illus. VOYA April 2009. 4Q 3P M J S

The author of these poems reveals the grief over losing her mother at a young age and how it changed the milestones of her life. This is a thought-provoking and conversation-starting book to share with teens.

Stone, Tanya Lee. Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream. Candlewick, 2009. 144p. $24.99. 978-0-7636-3611-1. Index. Illus. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. Further Reading. Appendix. VOYA February 2009 4Q 4P M J

Discussing the backroom politics and gender discrimination that helped to block the first women invited to apply for NASA’s space program, this book also highlights how much these talented pilots achieved, often surpassing their male counterparts.

Swanson, James L. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. Scholastic, 2009. 208p. $16.99. 978-0-439-90354-7. Illus. Photos. Appendix. VOYA December 2008. 4Q 4P J S

As informative as it is engaging, this thrilling account of the search for President Lincoln’s killer has been taken from the author’s adult book Manhunt and adapted for the younger reader.

Turner, Tracey, and Ben Hasler. Deadly Perils: And How to Avoid Them. Walker Books for Young Readers, 2009. 160p. $11.99. 978-0-8027-8738-5. Illus. Charts.

Snarky humor will draw even the most reluctant teen into reading this book from cover to cover, and readers are likely to ask for more. Also educational from a life sciences angle, this book will spend little time on the shelf.

Walker, Paul Robert. Remember Little Rock: The Time, The People, The Stories. National Geographic, 2009. 61p. $17.95. 978-1-4263-0402-6. Index. Photos. Source Notes. Chronology. VOYA February 2009. 5Q 4P M J

Knowing historical facts is different than living an experience.  Personal stories in context, multiple perspectives and postscripts of key people will allow readers to feel as if they too lived through this experience.

Wallach, Marlene, and Grace Norwich. My Self: A Guide to Me. Aladdin, 2009. 108p. $12.99. 978-1-4169-7912-8. Photos.

Quizzes to learn about yourself, ideas to improve your relationships with friends, family, and the community, and plenty of positive thoughts to reflect upon, every teen girl will be fascinated by what’s inside this book.

Wilson, Hannah, Catherine Brereton, and Philip Steele. Warriors: Morituri Te Salutamus = We, Who Are About to Die, Salute You. Illus. by Steve Stone. Kingfisher, 2009. 64p. $19.99. 978-0-7534-1916-8. Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Charts.

Teens, who love gaming, weapon specs, ancient warfare, and all-around clever books, will be thrilled to find this on the shelf. More than an excellent introduction to ten different cultures, this book is fun to read.

Winston, Robert M. L. Evolution Revolution. DK Publishing, 2009. 96p. $16.99. 978-0-7566-4524-3. Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Charts.

Darwin’s ideas are simply, but fully, explained with just the right mix of images and text to draw readers in. From browsing to beginning a school project, this book will attract many readers.


Mother Poems

I liked the poems and I want to share them with my mother. I liked how the illustrations show people who do not have any faces. The poems could be for everyone.—Tatiana, 6th Grade

It has many nice poems to read.—Sammy, 6th Grade

I liked the illustrations with the poems.—Jessica, 6th Grade

If America Were a Village

This book makes all of those boring facts and statistics easy to understand.—Josie, 6th Grade


This book shows a lot of things you can do if you are bored.—

Anna Marie, 6th Grade

This is a good book to teach you fun and cool things to do.—Kristina, 6th Grade

This book is cool!—Lillian, 6th Grade

This is a good book.—DeVan, 7th Grade

Warrior vs. Warrior

Wow! This book is awesome! I would recommend it to anyone who loves computer games. The pictures are so good that the warriors look like they are alive and will move off the page.—James, 6th Grade

My Self

I think a girl should read this book because it helps a girl feel good about herself.—Tatiana, 6th Grade

Eat Fresh Food

I recommend this book because it tells kids how to cook. The recipes look cool and easy to do. The kids look like they are having lots of fun while they are in the kitchen.—Tatiana, 6th Grade

I really, really, really liked this book with all of the neat recipes!—Hannah, 6th Grade

Born to Write

I can’t believe this book is about some of my favorite authors . . . Lucy Maud Montgomery and Madeleine L’Engle! Wow!—Kristina, 6th Grade

Ask Me Anything

What’s not to like about this book….It has something about everything! Awesome!—Kristina, 6th Grade

This book is fascinating with lots of good information to look at.—Lillian, 6th Grade

Pharaohs and Foot Soldiers

I loved the illustrations and it was easy to browse through for information.—Kristina, 6th Grade

Benjamin Franklin, American Genius

This book gives me some new facts about Benjamin Franklin that I never knew before. He is a more interesting person than the one I have studied in class. I want to try out some of the activities listed. They look easy and fun to do.—Sammy, 6th Grade

Open Me Up

I think the 3D cover is very cool. This has lots of neat drawings. I never knew that learning about the human body could be so interesting! I loved how some of the information was in a comic book format. It was very easy to read.—Jessica, 6th Grade

LeBron James

This book is awesome! LeBron James is the best basketball player of all times and this is the best book ever about him!—Jaret, 6th Grade

Wow! Great book with loads of awesome pictures of LeBron doing what he does the best . . . playing basketball for the Cleveland Cavaliers!—Sean, 6th Grade

Oh My Gods!

I loved Percy Jackson and the Olympians and this book gave me more good information about the Greek gods! It was very fun to read with lots of great pictures.—Haleigh, 6th Grade

She’s All That!

If you like Oh My Gods!, then you will like this one just as much. It’s great with easy to read information and great pictures. These books make Greek mythology fascinating and easy to understand.—Haleigh, 6th Grade

Deadly Perils

This book has something for everyone! I hope I never have to worry about meteorites but if I do, I’ll know what to do! This book may give you some good advice but mostly it is just fun to read through it.—Morgan, 6th Grade

Before Columbus

You will dig this book. It’s real Indiana Jones, but true.—Tim, 7th Grade

The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects

I would like to make the world a better place.—Dominique, 7th Grade


I liked this. It showed slavery for many people.—Summer, 7th Grade


Sheila Benedum has been the K-12 library coordinator for Bay Village City Schools since 1996. She has also taught several courses at Kent State University as an adjunct professor. In 2004, Sheila was awarded the Ohio Educational Library Media Association’s (OELMA) Award of Merit as well as WVIZ’s Betty Cope Award. Benedum was president of OELMA in 1996. She has done consultant work for INFOhio, spearheading several projects including the purchase of the first online encyclopedia for K-12 students in the state. After thirty-six years in the field of school libraries, Sheila will be retiring in June 2010.

Cherie Pandora has been a teacher and librarian for thirty-five years. She has secured more than $99,000 in grants for her library and other libraries in the Rocky River City School district. She is a frequent presenter at conferences, speaking on the Test Preparation for Standardized Testing, Preparing Students to Meet the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Initiative and on the 12 to 13 Transition from High School to College. She is one of two northeast regional directors for the Ohio Educational Library Media Association, a member of Ohio’s LSTA Advisory Council, and the INFOhio User’s Council.

Donna Zmrazek has been a high school, middle school or elementary school librarian for the Berea City School District, Berea, Ohio for thirty years. She has also worked as a substitute librarian in the adult services and children services departments of Rocky River Public Library, Rocky River, Ohio, for nineteen years. She enjoys reading, writing, and talking about all kinds of books especially those with “a happy ending.”

Priscilla Sprano Wiles is the district librarian for the North Olmsted City Schools. She graduated from Kent State University in 2007 with a master’s degree in library and information science. Her twenty years of teaching experience have focused on individual and small-group instruction with an emphasis in literature and history. Reading, baking, and gardening occupy her leisure time when she is not assiduously busy with her husband and five boys.

Committee Chair, Stacey Hayman, has been working the reference desk at Rocky River Public Library (RRPL) for over twelve years now and is consistently surprised by what each day brings. She’s always been a reader and was pretty excited when she was accepted as a VOYA reviewer since that meant someone would be sending her interesting, new books on a regular basis. It was so addictive, she went on to become a reviewer for Library Journal as well. If you’d like to keep current with Stacey and all her co-workers, you can read regular postings in the RRPL blog,

VOYA booklists are reproducible without permission for library, workshop, and classroom use. Reprinting in any medium for sale by a commercial or nonprofit entity or posting on the Internet requires written permission from the publisher.


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