Monday, January 23, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Blizzard of Glass, the Halifax explosion of 1917 by Sally Walker

I love middle grade history books and it's a constant sorrow to me that, like picture book biographies, they so seldom circulate. It seems almost impossible to hit on the right combination of a thrilling and attention-grabbing story, meticulous research, readable prose, and a design that keeps the reader's attention on the book.

However, Sally M. Walker has hit all those points with her newest nonfiction offering.

Great story with a hook that's easy to booktalk? The Halifax explosion was the biggest man-made explosion until the atom bomb. Thousands of people died or were injured and the surrounding towns and cities of the harbor were never the same again. Walker starts out with a broad overview and then narrows her focus down until the reader sees the position of a variety of real people minute by minute before the explosion.

Meticulous research? Clearly shown in the resources and in the text following the lives of the people who bring the story alive. After the aftermath of the explosion and an explanation of some of the ways it changed the area, Sally Walker explains how authors and historians like Janet Kitz preserved the stories of survivors and made sure they were not forgotten.

Readable prose and design? Yep, the text isn't too small, there are plenty of photographs, all clearly captioned, and the author perfectly walks the line between too much information and not enough. She deftly juggles a wide cast of characters, making each one become real to the reader as we share in the shock and horror and also the kindness and generosity that resulted from the disaster.

Verdict: This is one middle grade nonfiction history that will fly off the shelves - I've already booktalked it to instant interest. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 978-0805089455; Published November 2011 by Henry Holt; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

1 comment:

Tammy Flanders said...

This one will make a great addition for the Doucette Library (curriculum librar). Thanks for the recommendation.