Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri & illustrated by Randy Duburke

Bibliographic Citation:
Neri, G. (2010). Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty. New York, NY: Lee & Low Books. 978-1584302674.

Yummy tells the story of 11-year-old Robert “Yummy” Sandifer who shot and killed his 14-year-old neighbor, Shavon Dean. It details the aftermath of the shooting and his days in hiding before he is ultimately murdered himself.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I liked this book. I am a true crime junkie and juvenile delinquency and gang life have always peaked my interest. The story is told from the point of view of a fictional character named Roger who lives in the same neighborhood and sort of knows Yummy from school. Also, Roger’s older brother leads a similar life to Yummy. The book is Roger’s quest for truth, examining Yummy’s life to try and understand Yummy’s death.

I was already familiar with the story so I didn’t learn too much from it but it did make me think. And it was a quick read. Two things I love in books. If you’re interested in what happened to Robert “Yummy” Sandifer” check it out. This quote was really moving, “I don’t know which was worse, the way Yummy lived or the way he died.”


Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell (author) & Shadra Strickland (illustrator)

Bibliographic Citation:
Powell, P. H. (2017). Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. 978-1452125909.

In the 1950’s in Caroline County, Virginia, during a time of racism, prejudice, and injustice, Richard and Mildred fell in love. Their life together was against the law, but their determination to be a family whenever and wherever ended up changing it. Mr. and Mrs. Loving were the face of the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage. This documentary novel is this couple’s story of fighting discrimination and winning.

lovingvvirginiaCritical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
Nonfiction is my first love, and this book is very special to me. I’m in an interracial relationship that will (whenever we get around to it) evolve into an interracial marriage. At one point in history, loving the man I love would’ve been illegal just like it was for Richard and Milly. I experienced a range of emotions with this book as I tried to imagine what it would’ve been like if the law tried to keep me from Andrew. I couldn’t put this book down.

This book is still extremely relevant today because of the political climate and white nationalist movement that’s been taking place. This documentary novel is beautifully written in free verse, and alternates between Richard and Milly’s perspectives. It is evident that the author did her research through the interviews, photos, and news clippings. This is a must-have book in school and public libraries alike.


How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg

croaked_Bibliographic Citation:
Bragg, Georgia. (2012). How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA Children’s. 978-0802727947.

How They Croaked tells the story of how nineteen prominent figures in history died without sugarcoating anything.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
Nonfiction is my first love. True crime came after that. As morbid and peculiar as it sounds, I love reading about death. How people died. What did it. Who did it. Where did it happen. I’m basically the Clue game of readers, so this book was right up my alley. More than that, I feel like I learned so much from this book. Am I the only person who didn’t know that C-Sections were named after Julius Caesar? Perhaps, but now I know. Am I the only one who didn’t know that President Garfield was assassinated but literally only died because people kept putting their germy hands in his wound? This book is seriously awesome. I learned all about Einstein’s brain being cut out and cut up during an unauthorized autopsy. Who wouldn’t want to read this book? I loved it. It’s a fast read, too. It is informative, gross, and creepy — it is everything a middle school kid wants in a book!


  • 2012 ALSC ALA Notable Children’s Books List 2012
  • 2012 International Reading Association Best Non-fiction Award
  • 2012 Top Ten Audio Books
  • 2012 YALSA ALA Quick Picks List for Nonfiction
  • 2012 Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street
  • 2012 Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles For Children and Teens
  • 2011 Cybils Awards Finalist (nonfiction)

Author Info:
Georgia Bragg is an artist and an author raised by artist parents in Los Angeles, CA. How They Croaked is her second book, and her most recent book is How They Choked Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous. 

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Bibliographic Citation:
Backderf, Derf. (2012). My Friend Dahmer. New York, NY: Abrams ComicArts. ISBN 9781419702174.

Image from Amazon.com (Click to redirect to site)

Image from Amazon.com
(Click to redirect to site)

Plot Summary:
My Friend Dahmer is a graphic novel that follows the adolescent life of Jeffrey Dahmer. The novel chronicles his parent’s rocky marriage, his strange and antisocial behavior in school, experimentation with animal corpses, and finally heading down the notorious path we all know he takes to become a serial killer. Derf Backderf provides first hand insight into who or what Jeffrey Dahmer was and how he got that way.

Critical Analysis:
Derf Backderf had the unique and unsettling opportunity to grow up and know Jeffrey Dahmer. It has been said that this book will satisfy someone’s morbid curiosity, and it definitely does. The art and text are interdependent to a degree, but the illustrations are so exquisite that they can almost tell the story without words. But of course you want to know more, you want more details, you want to know WHY Jeffrey Dahmer became such a prolific serial killer and why no one seemed to notice there was something off about him. And so there are words, and you read on…

Backderf segments the story into parts: the preface, the prologue, Parts 1 – 5 and the epilogue, each shedding a bizarre light on the dark history of Jeffrey Dahmer. Backderf transitions between panels and segmented sections flawlessly. He is a master of his craft and makes the reader enjoy an otherwise creepy and haunting chain of events. You turn page after page devouring the text, and studying the comic. The art is monochromatic, all done in grayscale with entire frames predominately black. All very fitting for such a gloomy tale. It is pure evil packaged into something beautiful.

Perhaps the most harrowing detail of it all comes at the end. Backderf receives a phone call from a friend who tells him that someone he graduated high school with is a cannibal, necrophiliac, serial killer. This friend asks Derf to guess who it might be and his second guess, that’s right his second guess, out of everyone in his class, is Jeffrey Dahmer. So on some level his capabilities, his tendencies, and who he would become were always known.

So what is there not to like about My Friend Dahmer? Well, not much. The subject matter and content can be a bit too mature for a young adult. At times it can even be a little much for an adult reader, but you have to expect a certain level of repulsion and maturity when reading a book about Jeffrey Dahmer. My biggest qualm with it all is that the title is very misleading. Jeffrey Dahmer was never Backderf’s friend. Backderf under no circumstances liked Jeffrey Dahmer or considered him to even be a part of his friend circle. Dahmer was just this guy that he knew and that’s about it.


Lincoln Tells a Joke by Kathleen Krull & Paul Brewer

Krull, Kathleen and Paul Brewer. c. 2010. Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President and the Country! Ill. by Stacy Innerst. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-15-206639-0.

Plot Summary:
Lincoln Tells a Joke is a biographical tale of the United State’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. The story starts off with Lincoln in his early years as a boy and how reading and the power of words were part of his life early on. The story continues through life events like the passing of his mother and sister on to running for Illinois state legislature and becoming a lawyer. As the story unfolds and we see the present through public office, marriage, and presidency, the reader sees how Lincoln’s love of words and humor helped him through tough times all the way up until the last night of his life.

Critical Analysis:
Lincoln Tells a Joke is a short, simple and enjoyable story written by well-known nonfiction writers, Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer. Krull and Brewer have written other biographies, and show enthusiasm for nonfiction, humor, and children’s stories. The authors present a side of Lincoln that many people may not know. The story is presented in chronological order starting with the beginning of his life first in Kentucky and then Indiana all the way until his death at age fifty-six. Throughout the book, the authors intertwine an attractive, inviting, and funny tale with well-known facts about President Lincoln. Though the story is informative, it is not an overload of information, and therefore is not overwhelming to young readers.

The sources used for this text are cited properly and include a note from the authors about the origin of some sources. One of the best things about this book is  its use of quotes throughout the story. In the back of the book, the authors mention that some quotes come from famous speeches and others from eyewitness accounts. A works cited for all sources can be found in the back of the book.

Illustrator, Stacy Innerst uses appealing illustrations to complement the text. The pictures flow with the text and help execute the story effectively. Lincoln Tells a Joke is not only a great children’s book, but sure to be a favorite of nonfiction lovers of all ages.

If my critical analysis didn’t say it already, this is a great book. I loved this book and plan to use it with my students around President’s Day. Not only is this story historically accurate, but it is all the more appealing since it provides potentially unknown facts to the reader. I mean, I was not aware that Lincoln wrote nonsense poetry. How cool is that? I plan to acquire as many Kathleen Krull books as I can for my library.

Awards and Review Excerpts:
2004 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award
Nomination for a Cybil’s award in 2010.
Smithsonian’s 2010 Notable Books for Children

“Children will be drawn in by the straightforward prose, and librarians will enjoy sharing the book aloud. Innerst’s colorful and unconventional acrylic illustrations cover the entire page and are the perfect complement to both the text and the subject matter, making this a standout biography. Pair it with Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora’s George Washington’s Teeth (Farrar, 2003) for a unique look at two of our most famous leaders.”–School Library Journal, starred review

“Readers will smile, too, at this lighthearted look at Lincoln and the many droll quotations attributed to him.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Laughter is not only good medicine. It can also be a political tool, human motivator, and saving grace, as the authors show in this upbeat overview of Lincoln’s life.”–Booklist

“Innerst’s gorgeous, textured paintings, many of them caricatures, are varied and inventive: When Lincoln’s great height is described in the text, his head and feet are cropped off the page. It’s a quirkily specific biography, but, as with Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora’s wonderful George Washington’s Teeth, illustrated by Brock Cole (2003), it reveals the human side of an American icon in an unusual, lively and thought-provoking way.”—Kirkus

This book would be perfect to be used in an elementary history class with a large emphasis on America’s history. In Texas’s American History is in 5th grade.

*Other books written (or co-authored) by Kathleen Krull:
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez. ISBN 0152014373.
Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought). ISBN 0152008071.
Lives of the Pirates. ISBN 0152059083.

*Other presidential biographies for kids:
Edwards, Roberta. Who Is Barack Obama? ISBN 0448453304.
Edwards, Roberta. Who was George Washington? ISBN 0448448920
Pascal, Janet. Who was Abraham Lincoln? ISBN 0448448866.

The Yanks are Coming by Albert Marrin

Marrin, Albert. 1986. The Yanks are Coming. San Luis Obispo, CA: Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 1893103110

Plot Summary:
The Yanks are Coming is a historical recreation of the involvement of the United States in the First World War. It begins in 1915 with the sailing and subsequent sinking of the Lusitania. The beginning of the book details President Woodrow Wilson’s efforts to keep America out of war. The book goes on to explain President’s Wilson’s decision in the face of everything Germany was doing. Eventually, the United States was forced into war after Germany declare they would sink any ship Allied or neutral and make no effort to rescue potential survivors. The United States joins the Allies in their fight and the rest is history!

Critical Analysis:
Albert Marrin is an award-winning author who has written over 25 nonfiction books for young adults. He is a historian, professor of history and chairman of the history department at Yeshiva University, as well as a former junior high teacher in New York. Mr. Marrin’s writing makes this book feel like a novel, and not a historical account. The ability to retell history in such an engaging way demonstrates his passion for writing for this age group and for nonfiction stories.

The Yanks are Coming is presented in an easy to read layout and logical sequence of the events leading up to America’s involvement in World War I and then the events in the war. The book includes references to songs and rhymes readers may know like the camp song “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall”.

Though Mr. Marrin provides no reference list for his text, the front of the book provides a list of photo credits, and pictures and newspaper articles for reference throughout the story. The photos complement the text, and are appropriately placed around the book’s large font. In the back of the book there is an index and list of other books the reader may find interesting about World War I.

In school history was my favorite subject so I may be a little biased on this book. If you are looking for a quality factual book that doesn’t feel too textbook-y, this may be the right book for you. This book provides factual details with a novel-like feel. For young readers who may be turned off to nonfiction, this could be a potential segue into the genre for them.

Awards and Review Excerpts:

No awards were given for his particular book.

“With excitement and vivid detail, Marrin describes America’s role in World War I from its belated entry in 1917, eager but unprepared, through the war at sea, in the air, and in the trenches to the final hard-won victory. He dramatically re-creates a routine flying mission in the first fragile fighter planes, depicts how the “doughboys” lived at the front and combines such general accounts with tales of individual daring and endurance.” –BookList

This book would be perfect to be used in a junior high or early high school history class.

Other nonfiction books students may enjoy by Albert Marrin include:
Hitler. ISBN 1893103102.
Stalin: Russia’s Man of Steel. ISBN 1893103099.
America and Vietnam: The Elephant and the Tiger. ISBN 1893103080.

Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. 2005. HITLER YOUTH: GROWING UP IN HITLER’S SHADOW. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc. ISBN 043935379.

Plot Summary:
This is a collection of nonfiction stories about the involvement of Germany’s young people in the rise of the Third Reich. The story begins with a story of murder about a young boy named Herbert Norkus who was a member of Hitlerjugend, or Hitler youth. Afterward, the story follow a chronological sequence beginning with Hitler’s rise to power, followed up how Hitler Youth was organized, through Nazi education, preparing for war, the start of the Holocaust, and so forth. The reader follows along as the almost unknown story of the influence and involvement Hitlerjugend had in World War II.

Critical Analysis:
The effort Susan Campbell Bartoletti made to include the reader in her thought process, interest in the topic, and journey in writing this book is remarkable. She avoids stereotyping and presenting theories as facts because she doesn’t tell the story in her words; she lets the story tell itself. Hitler Youth is organized into individual stories all relating to Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth). Some stories are about the murder of a HY member (The Bloody Handprint, The Murder of Herbert Norkus) and others are about preparing for war (Muscle-Tearing Hard Word) or Hitler Youth and Resistance (Long Live Freedom).

This book sparks curiosity in the reader as he/she is sure to become amazed at a side of the Third Reich many don’t know. The text and style of writing are lively and engaging, and will keep you turning page after page to know more. Each story is long enough to be informative and captivating, but not too long as to bore the reader and lose its sense of wonder. If you’re a lover of nonfiction like me, then this book will pull you right in just with the headings of the stories. If nonfiction isn’t usually your forte, the historical black and white photographers will intrigue you.

The information provided is accurate and cited within the text. The author also provides a lengthy bibliography in the back of the book. Additionally, next to each photo in the reading, it mentions when the photo was taken and where the photo came from. Each photograph complements the story it is placed within. For example, in the story “Where One Burns Books” about the Nazi education system, the story talks about how a picture of Adolf Hitler was hanging in every classroom, and there is a picture from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum showing a class with Hitler’s portrait on the wall.

Ms. Bartoletti also personally conducted all of the interviews with the people mentioned and has a quote source page in the reference area. She mentions specific articles and books she read as well as places she visited like the National Archives or Library of Congress in Washington DC and the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Germany. Bartoletti also provides a note about where the pictures come from, and how she chose them for this book. Additionally, the back of the book: Epilogue (What became of the young people in the books), author’s note, about the photographers, quote sources, bibliography, and an index.

History buffs and avid readers alike will enjoy reading this book. If my critical analysis above didn’t sell you on this book then I don’t know what will. Except maybe this: GO READ THIS BOOK, ASAP! Then buy a copy or five and give them to all the history lovers in your life.

 Awards and Review Excerpts:
Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award
A Sibert Medal Honor Award 2006- Chapter Book
Newbery Medal
Orbis Pictus
Parents Choice Award, Gold winner 2006

What was it like to be a teenager in Germany under Hitler? Bartoletti draws on oral histories, diaries, letters, and her own extensive interviews with Holocaust survivors, Hitler Youth, resisters, and bystanders to tell the history from the viewpoints of people who were there. Most of the accounts and photos bring close the experiences of those who followed Hitler and fought for the Nazis, revealing why they joined, how Hitler used them, what it was like.- Booklist

Hitler’s plans for the future of Germany relied significantly on its young people, and this excellent history shows how he attempted to carry out his mission with the establishment of the Hitler Youth, or Hitlerjugend, in 1926. With a focus on the years between 1933 and the end of the war in 1945, Bartoletti explains the roles that millions of boys and girls unwittingly played in the horrors of the Third Reich. – School Library Journal

This book would be perfect in a history class with an emphasis on American history or a modern World History class that goes in depth on World War II. Also, The Diary of Anne Frank is a common read in 8th grade Language Arts classes. Hitler Youth would be a great addition to a nonfiction unit including Anne Frank’s diary to see children in the war on the other side.

Other nonfiction books by Susan Campbell Bartoletti:
They Called Themselves the KKK. ISBN 061844033X.
Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850. ISBN 0756950813
Kids on Strike! ISBN 0618369236
Growing Up in Coal Country. ISBN 0395979145