Biographies, Memoirs, and such…

Odd Boy Out:  Young Albert Einstein

by Don Brown

Ages 5 to 20

Odd Boy Out:  Young Albert Einstein by Don Brown, is a short biography of Albert Einstein, highlighting his younger years.  As a children’s picture book, the text is not lengthy nor is it extensive in details.  It is, however, written accurately, citing several sources in the bibliography.   Brown also included some supplementary details in his “Author’s Note.”

My Rating:  5 stars


Bad Boy:  A Memoir by Walter Dean Myers

Ages 14 and up

Walter Dean Myers attempted to give a balanced depiction of himself, and his own life in Bad Boy: A Memoir.  At the end of his book he wrote “In my heart I’ve always wanted to do the right thing and be thought of as a good person.  Even here I see that I’ve excluded many of the discipline problems I had in school.” (p. 205).  Myers describes his humble beginnings, living in a flat in Harlem.  “The apartments weren’t designed for that many, but that was what Harlem was about working people doing the best they could.” (p. 22).  Myers discusses the fights he got into, his best friend who had been homeless, and the poverty of his own family.  He also shared how his father’s advice was about hard work providing the only success “The white man won’t give you anything, and the black man doesn’t have anything to give you.  If you want anything out of life, you have to get it yourself.”  (p. 122).  This statement is consistent with portraying a subject (or in this case oneself) accurately, as it glorifies the eventual hard work that Myers put into writing rather than any superhero gifts that he was  showered in from birth.

My Rating:  4 stars


The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler

by James Cross Giblin

Ages 15 and up

Giblin, in trying to reflect Hilter fairly, wrote The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler as a balanced look at a human being.  Giblin wrote of Hitler’s early years, with a father who took his rage out on his sons, including Adolf.  (pp 6-7).  Giblin also described the shame that Hitler felt when rejected twice from art school in Vienna, and how he stayed on in Vienna regardless.  (pp. 10-13).  Once Hitler joined the German army and began his rose to power, he showed signs of stress and anxiety.  Giblin mentioned these episodes of anxiety several times throughout the book, including page 66 “… he admitted to the local Party leader that he suffered constantly from outbreaks of perspiration, trembling in his arms and legs, and severe stomach cramps. “  Giblin was also sure to include times when Hitler felt the opposite, like on page 156 “He might still suffer from stomach upsets and sleepless nights, but he confided in one Nazi commander that he felt as if he had evolved into a ‘superhuman state’ so that he was now ‘more godlike than human.’”  Giblin also was certain to incorporate the several times that Adolf Hitler contemplated suicide, right before being arrested in 1923 (p. 44), in 1932 when Hitler was trying to become the Chancellor of Germany (p. 70), again in January, 1945, after Hitler’s defeat in the Battle of the Bulge (p. 201), and finally when he and Eva (his wife of about twelve hours) ended their lives on April 29, 1945.


My Rating:  5 stars




More Historical Fiction

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Ages 10 and up

Annemarie is in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1943, when Nazis have taken over.  At first, Annemarie doesn’t think much about it, as she hasn’t been directly affected.  Eventually, her best friend Ellen, and her family, are in danger so Annemarie takes greater steps to be brave, courageous and to see as much of the truth as she can handle.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars


Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Ages 11 and up

The book is written in freestyle verse, from the viewpoint of Billie Jo, the female protagonist. Billie Jo, her father, and her mother (who is with child) live in Cimarron County (in the panhandle of Oklahoma) during the dust storms of the 1930s.  Billie Jo describes life, and the way that her family tries to keep going in spite of the dust and dirt on everything they own.  Early on in the story, Billie Jo’s mother (and the baby) after a horrible accident that was caused by carelessness.  The rest of the story is about how Billie Jo and her father exist around each other while they each grieve.

My Rating:  5 Stars

Some Historical Fiction

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Ages 10 and up

Delphine, and her younger sisters Vonetta and Fern, visit their estranged mother in Oakland, California during the summer of ’68.  When Delphine and her sisters go to a summer camp, run by the Black Panther Party, their eyes are opened to new ways of thinking about things:  some scary, some reasonable.  Through all of this, Delphine and her sisters also struggle to come to terms with their mother, her nonchalance about their existence, and who they are regardless.

My Rating: 4 stars

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Ages 10 and up

Moose and his family have just moved to Alcatraz Island, where his dad will be working as a guard.  Set in the 1930s, Moose is worried about the prisoners on the island, including Al Capone.  Moose meets Piper, the outgoing, overbearing, and very cute daughter of the warden. Piper is very talented at breaking the rules, while she has her dad convinced that she is blameless.  Moose has to deal with Piper,  his own sister who is autistic, a dad who is so busy keeping the Island safe that he isn’t around to keep his own family safe.

My Rating: 5 stars