Thursday, May 19, 2016

Who Was, Where Is and What Is--Four Cool Nonfiction Books for Boys

Kids everywhere like the Who Was...biographies. I can tell because we can never keep them on our shelves here at the library. And there are good reasons behind that--the books are interesting, informative and make good quick reads. Plus the writers really know how to move the stories along and keep a reader hooked until the last page. Today the Iron Guy will tell you about a Who Was.. biography and three other books published by the same company. And what stories they tell!! Epic lives and epic struggles. Building magnificent structures under impossible conditions. Conquest, assassination, deadly diseases, endurance, heroism and dictatorship--all here in these terrific books!

The first is Who Was Julius Caesar? by Nico Medina and it starts off with a terrific story. When he was twenty-five, Julius Caesar, sailing from Rome to Crete, was captured by pirates, who intended to hold him for ransom. Did he he cry out in fear? Plead for his freedom? No, he laughed in their faces and told them he was worth more than twice the ransom they asked! Furthermore, he wasn't afraid of what they'd do to him; he thought about what he would do to them when he got free--and he did!
Julius Caesar was inspired by Alexander the Great and tried to accomplish great things--and he did! He  became governor of many provinces, spent ten years conquering new territories for Rome, and eventually was the most important man in Rome. And he became Rome's first permanent dictator. He carried many good projects but did he love power too much? Especially as permanent dictator? What finally happened to him? You'll have to read this book to find out! But when you do, you'll see why Julius Caesar and his story dominated the ancient world and still casts its shadow to this very day.

Then we have three books (Where is the Great Wall? by Patricia Brennan Demuth, Where is the Brooklyn Bridge? by Megan Stine and What is the Panama Canal? by Janet B. Pascal) that are related because they are about huge structures built with old technology that, incredibly, are still in use today. It's amazing that these things ever got built. People had to build on tops of mountains, under and over rivers and through dense, hot, steamy, disease-infected jungles. Brilliant people had to figure out, sometimes from scratch, how to build where no one ever attempted such things before, how to solve problems that no one had ever encountered and cure diseases that no one knew how to deal with. People worked long and hard on these structures for years and sometimes died--from yellow fever in Panama, from "the bends" on the Brooklyn Bridge or from just plain being worked to death on the Great Wall. But, in spite of all these obstacles, the work persisted and the projects were completed. We have the results of all that determination today in the Great Wall, the only human structure visible from space, and the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal, which are not only still used but still marveled at by thousands of people every year.

And what larger-than-life personalities you meet in these books! Emperor Qin, the first emperor of a united China (believe me, you would not want him to be your boss!), Washington Roebling, who helped put out a fire in the "cassions," the underground foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge and ruined his health, his brilliant wife Emily, who ran the building of the bridge for many years, Ferdinand De Lesseps, the Frenchman who had built the Suez Canal and was certain he could build the Panama Canal (he was wrong!) and, of course, Theodore Roosevelt, one of the most colorful presidents this country ever had.

All four of these books tell the amazing stories of amazing people. You will definitely want to read these, guys! As I said, the writers know how to make the stories move and you will turn page after page to see what will happen. In addition, there are good timelines at the back of each book and bibliographies that lead to more books about these subjects.

How could you lose, guys? Check these out and read these terrific stories.

(PS to teachers--these books would be great if you ever have lessons on any of these topics!)

UPDATE--today is Nonfiction Monday. Be sure to take a look and see what other cool nonfiction books people are reading.


Greg Pattridge said...

I like the straight forward simplicity of these titles. Great resources for students and teachers. Thanks for recommending.

Iron Guy Carl said...

And really good for those boys the grownups call reluctant readers.

Ms. Yingling said...

I do like these, but I wish they had more photographs of recent people and places. They are popular.

Iron Guy Carl said...

Good point. I just checked in Who Was... bios of Jim Henson and Maurice Sendak and neither have photos. But the Panama Canal book has several pages of photos. But the Brooklyn Bridge has none. Go figure.