The 2018 Nerdies: Long Form Nonfiction, Announced by Carol Jago and Donalyn Miller

Engaging, relevant nonfiction texts provide opportunities to expand our knowledge of the world and our understanding of both the past and future’s potential. We are delighted and honored to share with you the outstanding long form nonfiction books selected as 2018 Nerdy Book Club Nerdies winners. Congratulations to the winners and thank you to the hundreds of educators and families who nominated books. Every title on this list has the power to inform and inspire young readers.




Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

After living in the United States for ten years, Sara Saedi learned that her family was undocumented and had overstayed their vistors’ visa rather than return to their war torn home in Iran. While her parents spend years navigating the complex and lengthy process to become legal residents, then citizens, Sara navigates adolescence, high school drama, and the constant fear of deportation. Enhanced with Saedi’s family photographs and personal journal entries, Americanized gives a funny, honest, in-depth glimpse into the real challenges of undocumented immigrants in our country and one teen’s journey to find her way in the world.–DM

NPR’s Fresh Air interview with Sara Saedi.

Sara Saedi’s website


back from the brink


Back from the Brink: Saving Animals From Extinction by Nancy Castaldo (HMH Books for Young Readers)

At a moment in history when the Endangered Species Act is under siege, Back from the Brink kindles interest and commitment towards preserving animal diversity in the natural world. Castaldo describes how many different factors have pushed seven species towards extinction and illustrates what has been done to reverse this trend. A complex web of circumstances: climate, geography, predators, food, and politics hold these animals’ lives in the balance. Creative thinking on the part of scientists and environmental activists has resulted in solutions that will surprise (and delight) readers young and old. Remarkable photographs taken by the author herself accompany these compelling stories.–CJ

Nancy Castaldo’s website

You can follow her on Twitter at @NCastaldoAuthor.


boots on the ground americas war in vietnam


Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge (Viking Books for Young Readers)

Elizabeth Partridge is haunted by the Vietnam War. Her 2011 novel Dogtag Summer revolved around the issues faced by a returning Vietnam veteran. For Boots on the Ground she wanted to write narrative nonfiction. Turning to oral histories, photographs, recordings, and interviews as source material, she has created a compendium of historical documentation and personal storytelling. As readers experience the war and its aftermath through the eyes of six soldiers who served at different points during the war, one nurse, and a Vietnamese refugee, the complexity of the times becomes apparent. Interspersed with these stories are hundreds of photographs that tell a story of their own. The short chapters help to make this important history digestible for middle and high school students.–CJ

Elizabeth Partridge’s website

Boots on the Ground page


chasing king's killer


Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin by James L. Swanson (Scholastic Press)

James L. Swanson has done it again. After the resounding success of Chasing Lincoln’s Killer and “The President Has Been Shot” on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the author has turned his gaze to the life and death of Martin Luther King Jr. As in the earlier works, format of the book is extraordinarily appealing to young readers with photographs, primary documents, and a creative use of page layout throughout. Alternating chapters describe first the civil rights work of Dr. King and then the actions of his killer, James Earl Ray. You feel as though you are reading a thriller. Once begun, students will not find this an easy book to put down. Swanson also provides a plethora of source materials that serve as invitations for further study.–CJ

Publisher’s Weekly interview with James L. Swanson


dog days


Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends by Sarah Albee (National Geographic Children’s Books)

From poop to poison to fashion, award-winning author Sarah Albee has a knack for finding fascinating, disturbing, and entertaining information and sharing it with kids with her engaging style. In her latest book, Dog Days, Albee follows humans’ relationships with our dogs from ancient times to the modern day. Whether you own and love dogs or want to learn more about how wild dogs evolved into working animals who herd livestock, protect our homes, and give us loyal companionship–you’ll find this book is an invaluable and entertaining resources. Packed with true stories of amazing dogs throughout history, dogs’ importance in culture, dog photographs, dog puns and jokes, and statistics and trivia about dogs and their role in our lives. Dog Days is the perfect book for dog-obsessed kids and educators looking for a credible, kid-friendly classroom and library reference.–DM

Sarah Albee’s website

WILK News Radio Interview with Sarah Albee


facing frederick


Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden (Harry N. Abrams)

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass — Douglass’s own account of growing up enslaved — has a hallowed place in many school curricula, but there is more to this great man’s story that can be found on those pages. Tonya Bolden’s biography is a perfect accompaniment to the classic text. Drawing upon new scholarship and Douglass’s correspondence, she brings to life the man’s passions, shortcomings, and indefatigable pursuit of justice and liberty. At the end of the biography Bolden includes Robert Hayden’s sonnet “Frederick Douglass”: “Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric, / not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone, / but with the lives grown out of his life, / the lives fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.” Full of stunning 19th century photographs, this book is a much-needed addition to your classroom library.–CJ

Tonya Bolden’s website

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site


first generation wallace


First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Agata Nowicka (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Written by two investigative journalists, one of them the daughter of refugees, First Generation is an unapologetic celebration of the powerful contributions immigrants have made to this country. Richly illustrated by comics artist Agata Nowicka, the collection provides a counterbalance to the false narrative of immigrants as drains on society. The achievements of Yo Yo Ma, Razia Jan, Madeleine Albright, and Celia Cruz offer incontrovertible evidence demonstrating how much poorer the nation would be without their presence. Each feature opens with a quotation ideal for classroom conversation. Martina Navratalova’s feature begins with, “Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.” Along with celebrities, the volume includes individuals likely to be unfamiliar to you, opening up all of our worlds just that little bit wider.–CJ

Podcast interview with Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace talking about First Generation

Sandra Neil Wallace’s website

The artist Agata Nowicka’s website


marley dias gets it done


Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! by Marley Dias (Scholastic Press)

Although she loved to read, eleven-year-old Marley Dias was tired of reading about “white boys and their dogs” instead of books that reflected her experiences as a Black girl. In 2015, she launched the campaign #1000BlackGirlBooks in an effort to collect 1,000 books featuring positive portrayals of Black girls and women. To date, Marley has collected over 10,000 books, appeared on Forbes’ Magazine’s 30 Under 30 List, spoken at the United State of Women Summit (alongside Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey), created an educators’ guide for #1000BlackGirlBooks, and traveled around the country speaking with parenting groups and legislators about the importance of diverse representation in children’s books. In this wonderful book, part memoir, part call-to-action, part reading celebration, Dias shares her family life, guidance for teens who want to become activists in their own communities, and tips for building your own reading life. Kids don’t have to wait to become adults to change the world; they can do it right now in big and small ways. Marley’s role modeling and advice show other kids tangible steps for making a difference in their communities and finding your own voice. Don’t miss the booklist in the back, which includes Marley’s extensive list of books collected during the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign.–DM

#100BlackGirlBooks Resource Guide

Bustle Interview with Marley Dias


something rotten


Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill by Heather L. Montgomery, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

A compelling read, Something Rotten seeks to answer author Montgomery’s question, “Every day, creatures lose their lives on our highways, what can we learn from them?” From compost methods to cancer research to designing new ways to keep wild animals safe, Something Rotten introduces the scientists, activists, and every day people studying roadkill in their communities. Written with a playful, but respectful touch, Montgomery’s text and O’Malley’s illustrations create nonfiction text that’s both accurate and fun to read. A wonderful addition to both home and school shelves.–DM

Heather L. Montgomery’s website

Nerdy Book Club post, “Rules and Roadkill” by Heather L. Montgomery




Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow (Calkins Creek)

The author of Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary, Bubonic Plague, and Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat has shifted from writing about disease to exploring a unique moment in American history. On October 30, 1938 Orson Welles broadcast a radio drama based on H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, a story about an alien invasion. All over America, listeners thought they were hearing breaking news. Jarrow documents the creation of the show, the immediate reaction of the listening audience, and the controversy and conversation about truth and fiction, fake news and reporting that ensued. Though these events took place 80 years ago, the need to revisit this issue has never been more urgent. The book invites readers to use this historical event to reflect upon their own fact-checking instincts.–CJ

Gail Jarrow’s website

Jarrow’s educators’ page for Spooked! which includes a link to the original War of The Worlds’ 1938 radio broadcast along with other valuable video resources.


girl who drew butterflies


The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman (HMH Books for Young Readers)

Born in the 17th century to a German-Swiss painter and publisher, Maria Merian grew up surrounded by art and painting. With a naturalist’s eye for detail, her drawings — as depicted in this extraordinarily gorgeous book— portray the life cycles of flowers, fruits, and insects. You could teach a whole science lesson from one of Merian’s paintings (or from a Google image of one). Merian’s life story is also a study in persistence. At 52 years old, this remarkable woman set off for Surinam with her daughter where she documented the indigenous plants and bugs of the region. The resulting publication, Metamorphosis, cemented her reputation as both an artist and a scientist. In the tradition of Joyce Sidman’s Newbery Honor Book Dark Emperor, The Girl Who Drew Butterflies is a thing of beauty.

A National Geographic blog about Maria Merian’s work


two truths and a lie history


Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Lisa K. Weber (Walden Pond Press)

In this follow-up to their wildly popular book, Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive, authors Paquette and Thompson dive into the intriguing world of hoaxes, legends, and bizarre-but-true tales from history. Using the classic two truths and a lie format, every grouping of three anecdotes or stories includes two true tales and one false one. Can you spot the myths and outright lies? Rich with primary sources, photographs, and other text features, this series is an engaging and timely resource providing lively texts and a fun format for teaching children how to evaluate information for credibility and accuracy.–DM

Laurie Ann Thompson’s Two Truths and a Lie page




Unpresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump by Martha Brockenbrough (Fiewel & Friends)

Martha Brockenbrough prefaces her biography of President Trump for young readers with an explanation of how she determined what to include. Wishing to create a book that was both accurate and fair, she explains that, “Fairness demands a writer examine the whole and select representative parts. It demands a writer constantly consider the credibility of sources. It’s not easy work.” For anyone who has been following the news or for that matter anyone who hasn’t, Brockenbrough’s account of the first two years of the Trump administration is compulsive reading. Her lists of “Who’s Who,” timeline, and other subsidiary details make this an important historical resource. Brockenbrough has dedicated her book to the Parkland generation, “You know what to do.”–CJ

Martha Brockenbrough’s website

Katy Waldman’s review from The New Yorker, “A Trump Biography for Teens” 


we rise we resist we raise our voices


We Rise We Resist We Raise Our Voices edited by Cheryl and Wade Hudson (Crown Books for Young Readers)

Legendary publishers and creators, Cheryl Willis Hudson and Wade Hudson, the co-founders of Just Us Books, which has been publishing Black-interest books for children and young adults for 30 years, have gathered an incredible slate of Indigenous creators and creators of color for this outstanding anthology of poems, essays, letters, and artwork. Each piece provides inspiration, empowerment, personal connection, and encouragement for young people, while introducing them to talented artists who they can continue to read and enjoy.–DM

Nerdy Book Club interview with Cheryl and Wade Hudson and anthology contributor Tony Medina

Video preview with Cheryl Willis Hudson and Wade Hudson



Carol Jago has taught English in middle and high school for 32 years and served as president of the National Council of Teachers of English. Her most recent publication is The Book in Question: Why and How Reading Is in Crisis (Heinemann 2019). You can find Carol on Twitter @caroljago.

Donalyn Miller has taught fourth, fifth, and sixth grade English and Social Studies in Northeast Texas. She is the author or co-author of several books about encouraging students to read and creating successful reading communities at school and home including, The Book Whisperer (Jossey-Bass, 2009), Reading in the Wild (Jossey-Bass, 2013), and Game Changer! Book Access for All Kids (Scholastic, 2018). Donalyn launched the annual Twitter summer and holiday reading initiative, #bookaday. You can find her on Twitter at @donalynbooks.