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Genre 4 Nonfiction
Children's and Young Adult Literature Review
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Stanley, Diane and Peter Vennema. 1988. Shaka: King of the Zulus.  New York: Morrow Junior Books. ISBN 0688073425


The story of Shaka’s life begins with his sad and lonely childhood. At the age of six all boys in his village begin working watching over the village’s herd of sheep and cows.  It is very boring work, but very important because the whole village relies on the animals for meat, but also use their hides for clothing.  While on duty a dog kills a sheep, instead of accepting the scolding from his father, the chief, his mother, Nandi steps in talking back to the chief. His father does not like the way Nandi talks back to him and banished Shaka and his mother back to her village.  Her family is forced to return her dowry of cattle and she and Shaka are shamed in front of family and friends.  Shaka grows up very lonely in his mother’s village he only wants to regain his honor in his community by doing an honorable task. Readers will be fascinated while reading about Shaka’s military exploits. 


“Shaka King Of the Zulus” is a biography that illustrated the life of the great Zulu chief. Even though it is a picture book the accounts of his life from childhood, through his rise to power, to his tragic death in 1828 is well researched.  Diane Stanley and her husband, Peter Vennema, award winning non-fiction writers have co-written this book about a historical figure that in not well known.  Beginning with a pronunciation guide and concluding with an extensive bibliography the life story of this extraordinary man is told in an accessible style for young and old readers.  Stanley’s illustration authentically represents the Zulu culture in clothing, homes, and village lifestyle.  Stanley incorporates traditional beaded Zulu beaded borders a pleasing detail adding authenticity.



Simon, Seymour. The Brain: Our Nervous System. 1997. New York: Morrow Junior Books. ISBN 0688146406


Award-winning author Seymour Simon exposes young reader to the wonders of the human brain.   Simons has written over 150 children’s books about science and continues the journey exploring the human brain.   The brain is written for ages 8 and older, it begins the exploration in the study of what makes us who we are.  Text is written either on a black or white page with the printed text in the opposite color.  Large, full-color photographs and illustration show the fascinating areas of the human brain using a position computed tomography (PCT) photo, showing the different levels of stimulation to the brain when your eyes are open or closed.  Simon’s concise writing is contained in two or three paragraphs of large type per page. 



Freedman, Russell. Immigrant Kids. 1980. New York: E. P. Dutton. ISBN 0525325387


Freedman uses photographs to tell the stories of immigrant children at home, school, work and play during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The text verbally tells the story readers see in the eyes of the children in the photographs. Page after page documents the American story of immigration through the recollection of immigrant children.  Readers will learn that some of the children came to America with their parents, while others were the first in their families to be born in America. Jacob A. Rils took many of the photographs Freedman used in the book; a New York City newspaper reported who was an immigrant form Denmark.


Russell Freedman a researcher and award winning author has written many children’s historical nonfiction books.  The book is organized to topics or segments of the day that connect the readers to the daily activities of the immigrant kids. The balance white space, text size and photographs are visually appealing for its intended audience of 4th-6th-grade reader. 


Russell, Freedman.  In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America’s Bill of Rights. 2003. New York: Holiday House.  ISBN 0823415856


“ A nightmare? Secret arrest on secret evidence, secret trials, and even secret executions have always been ugly facts of life in parts of the world where people have few if any right.  Can it happen here? Can it happen to you?  American’s Bill or Rights-462 words written two centuries ago…”


Freedman award winning author discussion of Constitution and Bill of Rights two of the most important document in American history, which protects the freedoms of every American, is spotlighted, in “In Defense of Liberty.”  The first chapter titled “A Knock on the Door in the Middle of the Night” sets the tone for each chapter drawing the reader into past event in history as well as event that effect American’s life today makes it impossible for reader to stop reading. The book begins with the history of the Bill of Rights, pointing out that every Americans did not enjoy many of the freedoms espoused in the document for years. Each amendment has its own chapter discussing it origin, interpretation, landmark Supreme Court cases followed contemporary issues.  He cites many controversial topics that will interest readers such as the Japanese Internment, the round up of Muslim and Arab men following September 11, random drug testing and the Internet.


The layout of the book is visually pleasing with white space. Primary documents, and photographs. The lengthy bibliography will guide reader to resources used in the book.