2012 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

The Notorious Benedict Arnold

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery written by Steve Sheinkin, published by Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. ISBN: 978-1-59643-4686-8

Treating history as mystery, Sheinkin takes readers through means, motive, and opportunity as he outlines Arnold’s path towards treason. This well researched (with liberal use of primary sources) cradle to grave biography emphasizes the political, social, and military issues within the Colonial army and how Arnold ambitiously maneuvered his own career through grit and determination.

“In this illuminating biography, Sheinkin proves that spoilers don’t matter—it’s not whether or not Arnold betrayed his country, but why,” said YALSA Nonfiction Award Chair Jennifer Hubert.

2012 Finalists


Sugar Changed the WorldBootlegWheels of ChangeMusic Was It

Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science written by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN: 978-0-61857492-6

Blending facts with a fascinating personal narrative, this true tale of the sugar trail provides readers with an intimate and troubling portrait of the white grains that sweeten everything from their coffee to their bubblegum. The authors use both their own family histories and as many individual accounts as possible to demonstrate that sugar changed the course of commerce, government, slavery, invention and immigration. This complex and challenging history is supported by sharp black and white photos (with links to color images) and detailed source notes.

Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition written by Karen Blumenthal, published by Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. ISBN: 978-1-59643-449-3

This impeccably researched account of the history of the Temperance movement provides an interesting look at the societal issues and historical figures behind the passage of the 18th Amendment. Blumenthal also describes the unintended consequences of gangsters (including the famous Al Capone) committing alcohol-related crimes, as well as adults and children ignoring the law to bootleg and smuggle during the 13 years it was in effect. Black and white photos, archival materials, and a glossary enhance this engaging and readable work.

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) written by Sue Macy, published by National Geographic Children’s Books. ISBN: 978-1-42630-761-4

With the invention of the bicycle, women began by riding sidesaddle but quickly switched to riding astride sleek two-wheelers as they left their restraining corsets and petticoats in the dust with bloomers their preferred bicycling outfit. Adventurer or activist, young or old, African American or white, many women quickly adopted this new mode of transportation. As the period photographs, colorful advertisements, sidebars, and primary source material proclaim, bicycles empowered women to seek the freedom they’d long been denied.

Music Was IT: Young Leonard Bernstein written by Susan Goldman Rubin, published by Charlesbridge. ISBN: 978-1-58089-344-2

Rubin entices readers with her lively account of the challenging and passionate life of young Leonard Bernstein, beginning with his childhood in Boston and concluding with his brilliant conducting debut, at the age of twenty-five, at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic.  A short epilogue relates the remainder of Bernstein's memorable life.  A timeline, brief biographies of friends and colleagues, a discography, a bibliography, sources of quotations, photo credits and permissions, and an index add to the informative value of this fascinating glimpse into the formative years of a musical genius.


Read all the books that made the 2012 official nomination list.

2012 Committee

Members of the 2012 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award committee are: Chair Jennifer Hubert, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School, New York; Mary Burkey, Olentangy Local Schools, Columbus, Ohio; Elizabeth Burns, New Jersey State Library Talking Book & Braille Center, Trenton, N.J.; Betty Carter, Consultant, Coppell, Texas; Diane Colson, Tampa, Fla.; Megan Fink, Charlotte (N.C.) Country Day Middle School; Pam Spencer Holley, Consultant, Hallwood, Va.;  David C. Mowery, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library; Mary Anne Nichols, Kent State University of Library and Information Science, Kent, Ohio; John Sexton, administrative assistant, Greenburgh, New York; and Dan Kraus, Booklist Magazine, Chicago.

YALSA’s portfolio of book and media awards helps strengthen library services for and with teens by identifying quality, age appropriate resources for librarians and library workers to share with the teens in their communities.