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Enthralling Nonfiction: January 2016 Middle School Titles

December 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | Middle School | January

patient zeroPatient Zero: Solving the Mysteries of Deadly Books for Middle School AgeEpidemics by Marilee Peters. Annick Press, 2014.

“Who’s our Patient Zero?” Today this is one of many questions scientists ask when looking at a disease outbreak. This captivating look at the development of the field of epidemiology, which blends hard science and social science, looks at seven significant outbreaks of disease over the past 350 years. Starting with the Black Death in London in 1665, readers see how the approach to investigating diseases has developed over time. Each account, which include the Soho Cholera outbreak (1854), Yellow Fever in Cuba (1900), Typhoid in New York City (1906), Spanish Influenza (1918–19), Ebola in Zaire (1976), and AIDS (1980), reads like a mystery as those on the front lines looked for clues to understanding what was happening, where it started, and how it spread, often developing better practices that applied to both the specific illness and the broader field of epidemiology. (The current Ebola outbreak had not yet happened when this book was written; but the discussion of Ebola notes that a re-occurrence is an ongoing concern.) A paperback volume with an engaging design includes numerous visual elements and informative sidebars, as well as a glossary, chapter-by-chapter sources, suggestions for finding out more, and an index.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What does Patient Zero mean? Do you think this is fitting title for this book? Why?
  2. What were some of the similarities of the different epidemics? How does the time period each epidemic was set in influence how each epidemic was handled?
  3. What are some elements of this informational text (text size, organization, design, illustrations) that are engaging to you as a reader?
  4. Which disease would you like to learn more about? Why?

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, courage has no colorAmerica’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone. Candlewick Press, 2013.

In 1943, Sergeant Walter Morris, a guard at Fort Benning, Georgia, saw how his fellow Black soldiers were struggling with morale. He began leading his men through the ground training exercises he saw the white paratroopers doing. No one had given him permission, but he wanted to prove to them that they were just as capable as white soldiers. Instead of being reprimanded, Morris got official go-ahead for formation of the first Black paratrooper unit, the 555th Parachute Infantry Company. Tanya Lee Stone follows Morris and other soldiers through the first training classes, and their subsequent expectation that the newly minted Triple Nickles would be sent into battle—the war in Europe was raging. Instead, they were sent to fight forest fires in the Pacific Northwest and California as smoke jumpers. A repeated theme in Stone’s narrative is how the members of the Triple Nickles had to swallow bitterness over and over. But they did, performing the jobs they were asked to do with distinction because they knew the long road was important. Stone introduces a number of the unit’s members, some of whom she interviewed as part of her research. She also provides broader social context for the racism that defined much of the experience of Black soldiers both within and beyond the military during World War II. Her author’s note is an informative discussion of her research and decision-making as a writer—the difficulty of gleaning some facts, and the choices she made at certain points as she gained information and insight through reading and first-person interviews. Numerous black-and-white photographs, and detailed source notes, are included.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are specific ways the author shows how racism was a barrier and a burden for individual members of the Triple Nickles and the group as a whole?
  2. How did the Triple Nickles change history and people’s perceptions of African Americans? Cite evidence from the book.
  3. Do people of color experience the same kinds of prejudice today?

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