2015 Nonfiction Award Nominations

In addition to the finalists and award winner, YALSA publishes a list of vetted nominations for the Nonfiction Award. Seals for nonfiction nominees are available in the ALA Store and may be purchased in bulk. Click YALSA's Award Seals webpage for more information.

** denotes winning title.

* denotes finalist

Brimmer, Larry Dane. Strike! The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights. Calkins Creek, an Imprint of Highlights, 2014. 978-1-59078-997-1. The circumstances surrounding the 1965 Filipino farm workers strike place the California UFW fight for farm workers’ rights within the canvas of the civil rights movements and the political tensions of the day. Emphasis is on the hardships and precarious survival while battling injustices. Generously illustrated.

*Burcaw, Shane. Laughing at My Nightmare. Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan’s Children’s Publishing Group, 2014. In this focused, intelligent, and most of all hilarious memoir, Shane Burcaw recalls both the normal and deeply unique experiences he has endured living with spinal muscular atrophy. With a sharp wit, Burcaw is self-deprecating but never defeatist, even in the face of his terminal condition. His anecdotal essays are thought-provoking, and his whip-smart style puts him in a league with some of today’s best humorists. In his eminently readable and relatable memoir, Burcaw’s positive attitude is inspirational without being the least bit cloying.

Farrell, Mary Cronk. Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp In The Pacific. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014. 978-1-4197-1028-5. The contributions of women serving in the armed forces during WWII are often overlooked, but not in this intense study of the nurses stationed in the Philippines. Many of them not only survived combat situations, they also survived POW camps. Farrell tells their story, using firsthand accounts and secondary sources to bring their hardships, courage and commitment to light.

Fleischman, Paul. Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines. Candlewick Press, 2014. 978-0-7636-7102-0. In this persuasive call to action, Fleischman encourages teens to learn the facts about current environmental issues and to find ways to help.

*Fleming, Candace. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia. Schwartz & Wade, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2014. Fleming deftly illuminates the fascinating life of Czar Nicholas II; his wife, Alexandra; and their children, describing their ostentatiously privileged upbringing, the dramatic fall of the Russian Empire, and their tragic deaths in this moving and insightful biography of Russia’s Romanov family. She unflinchingly exposes the flawed but human side of the royal family while simultaneously interweaving details about the rich historical context, from Rasputin and Lenin to the narratives of the poor and working class, told in excerpts from the diaries and letters of Russia’s peasants, factory workers, and soldiers. With captivating photos, extensive primary sources, and recent research about the fate of the Romanov family, Fleming tells a gripping, comprehensive story of life in a pivotal period of Russian history.

Freedman, Russell. Because They Marched: The People’s Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America. Holiday House, 2014. 978-0-8234-2921-9. Personal accounts and photographs recount the dangerous attempts and final success of the march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. With elegant prose that weaves together eyewitness accounts with a clear and succinct retelling of events, Freedman presents a pivotal event in the Civil Rights Movement.

Jarrow, Gail. Red Madness: How A Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat. Calkins Creek, an Imprint of Highlights. 978-1-59078-732-8. Using scientific methods that would be outlawed today, doctors unravel the mystery of a disease called Pellagra in the early 1900’s. Interspersed with case studies of patients from all socioeconomic backgrounds, we discover the gruesome details as patients develop a mysterious rash, go insane and ultimately die.

Kuklin, Susan. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out. Candlewick Press, 2014. 978-0-7636-5611-9. Kuklin interviews six transgender teens as they describe the complexities and heartache of recognizing and claiming their gender identity. Their experiences are presented in a deeply affecting, multisensory way, through the intimacy of their voices and photographic portraits. The very different experiences of the six teens illustrate simply and eloquently the spectrum of gender identity.

*McCully, Emily Arnold. Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business—and Won! Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2014. Born before the Civil War and living in what was truly a man’s world, Ida Tarbell was one of the first practitioners of what we now call investigative journalism. Although she is not well known today, she made a name for herself in her own time by taking on the exploitative practices of John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company. In this fine biography that also serves as a social history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, McCully presents a readable and captivating account of this unusual woman, showing the reader her inconsistencies and faults as well as the grit, determination, and intellect that allowed Tarbell to support herself and her family with her writing.

McMullan, James. Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood. Algonquin, 2014. 978-1-61620-255-2. Growing up in China in the 1930s as the son of a British businessman, and grandson of missionaries, noted children's book illustrator McMullan recounts his life as a young boy as he flees a life of privilege and moves constantly to escape the Japanese occupation during the Second World War. His stunning color paintings perfectly compliment his moving story chronicling his ever changing circumstances during this tumultuous time.

Mitchell, Don. The Freedom Summer Murders. Scholastic Press, 2014. 978-0-545-47725-3. A searing look back at the events of June 1964, featuring vivid portraits of the three young adult victims who lost their lives attempting to secure the vote for all. Mitchell also focuses on the many decades-long investigations and trials, and explores racism and how it has evolved in Mississippi to present day.

Prince, Liz. Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir. Zest Books, 2014. 978-1-936976-55-3. With spare but evocative line drawings, Prince recounts growing up “different”, moving around the country, meeting new friends and foes, and experiencing childhood and adolescence as a tomboy. She deftly explores gender roles and stereotypes in a funny and accessible manner.

Rubin, Susan Goldman. Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi. Holiday House, 2014. 978-0-8234-2920-2. This account of Freedom Summer 1964 presents a broad picture of the attempts to register African American voters in Mississippi, the idealistic college students who participated, the families who put their livelihood and life in danger by housing them, and the murder of three of the Civil Rights workers. Good back matter and photos as well as interviews with participants add depth to the story.

*Sheinkin, Steve. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, 2014. As World War II escalated overseas, African American sailors at Port Chicago were under pressure to load bombs faster and faster onto waiting ships, until finally a horrific explosion killed hundreds. In the days that followed, 50 men refused to work under such unsafe conditions and were charged with mutiny. Sheinkin masterfully weaves interviews, court records, and other primary sources with his driving narrative to tell the complex and little-known history of the Port Chicago Disaster of 1944. Tightly written, this slim volume is rich in information about the history of a segregated military, the emerging civil rights movement, and the exceptional leaders and individuals of the time.

Sutcliffe, Jane. The White House Is Burning, August 24, 1814. Charlesbridge, 2014. 978-1-58089-656-6. A detailed examination of the War of 1812, as seen through the lens of one monumental day, August 24, 1814, the day that British troops burned the White House. Firsthand accounts, maps and illustrations enliven the text. This is history done right, accessible and thorough.

**Van Wagenen, Maya. Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2014. This memoir of Maya Van Wagenen’s eighth grade year is one part 1950s popularity guidebook mixed with two parts courage and one truly modern geek girl. She uses Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide to take on the social hierarchy of her school and manages to achieve acceptance and understanding.

Walker, Sally M. Boundaries: How The Mason-Dixon Line Settled A Family Feud And Divided A Nation. Candlewick Press, 2014. 978-0-7636-5612-6. A family feud and property dispute between the Calverts of Maryland and the Penns of Pennsylvania led to the hiring of two English scientists named Mason and Dixon to establish once and for all the boundary between the two territories. Walker brings the Colonial past to life as she uses Mason’s journals and other primary sources to show what a monumental task the surveying of the Mason-Dixon Line was.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. Nancy Paulsen Books, an Imprint of Penguin Group (USA,) 2014. 978-0-399-25251-8. The National Book Award winning verse memoir describes Woodson’s 1960s childhood and her struggles to learn to read. Her vivid language brings to life her family, childhood antics, the Civil Rights Movement, and the pain of being different.