2016 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 winner

* denotes finalists

*Anderson, M.T. Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad. Candlewick Press, 2015. Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony was completed during the horrors of the 900-day Siege of Leningrad during World War II. Anderson’s sweeping history of the first half of the twentieth century in Soviet Russia and his focus on the life of the slight, bespectacled composer is dramatic, challenging, and immersive. Political and cultural revolutions and upheavals enveloped Russia over the decades during which Shostakovich grew into one of the West’s most celebrated composers. Meticulous research and a captivating narrative celebrate courage, perseverance—and music.

Bausum, Ann. Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights. Viking Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2015. 978-0-670-01679-2. Bausum begins with the June 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City to document the ways that spirit and solidarity informed the growth of the gay rights movement in the United States over the last five decades. A powerful and moving account of the people and events that have helped galvanize support for homosexuality, as well as create political and societal change.

Brown, Daniel James. The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation): The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics. Viking Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2015. 978-0-451-47592-3. This deft adaptation of Brown’s adult bestseller focuses on Joe Rantz, one of the eight ragtag young men who formed the University of Washington’s Depression-era rowing team, which went on to represent the U.S. at the Berlin Olympics. The elegant, Art Deco-influenced book design features a visual who’s who, generous black-and-white photos, and even a primer on rowing.

*Engle, Margarita. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2015.Cuban? American? Lush island paradise or fast-paced city living? These are the two worlds that Margarita Engle eloquently describes through lyrical, free-verse poems as she attempts to define herself, her family, and her country within the context of being biracial during the United States’ invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The power of this book lies in the emotional connections and vivid imagery evoked by observing the simple differences between Engle’s two families as she deftly explores both cultures’ customs and traditions.

*Grove, Tim. First Flight Around the World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won the Race. Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS, 2015. In 1924, a team of American aviators embarked on a race to circumnavigate the globe. During their 150-day journey, the crew faced hostile weather, pesky reporters, mechanical failures, and agonizing disappointments. Drawing on archival materials, Grove enlivens this story of historical achievement with humor and fascinating travel anecdotes, while portraying the perseverance and dedication of the crew. This suspenseful tale is a visual feast with heart.

Hoose, Phillip. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club. Farrar, Straus Giroux for Young Readers, an imprint of Farrar, Straus Giroux, 2015. 978-0-374-30022-7. Ashamed of the Danish government’s response to the German occupation during World War II, Knud Pedersen and his brother organize a secret group named the Churchill Club to resist the Nazis in dangerous acts of sabotage. Eventually the teens are imprisoned, but their bravery sparks further resistance efforts in Denmark. Hoose interviewed Pedersen and his voice resonates throughout this compelling narrative.

Jarrow, Gail. Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary. Calkins Creek, an imprint of Boyds Mills Press, 2015. 978-1-62091-597-4. This well-researched and gripping history of typhoid fever is told through the story of Mary Mallon, an asymptomatic carrier notorious for infecting many New Yorkers at the turn of the twentieth century, and George Soper, the “germ detective” intent on stopping Mary from spreading the deadly disease. Archival photos supplement graphic descriptions of disease and poor sanitation, and connections are drawn to modern epidemics.

Kamkwamba, William and Bryan Mealer. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition. Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2015. 978-0-8037-4080-8. With patience and perseverance, self-taught William Kamkwamba builds a windmill of salvaged metal and bicycle parts in drought-stricken Malawi. Kamkwamba’s spirit and voice flow through this skillful adaptation, as Mealer imparts the inspiring story of a young teen who provides his village with water and electricity, saving them from crop failure and starvation.

Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip through the Motown Sound. Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan’s Children’s Publishing Group, 2015. 978-1-59643-973-3. Using the storyteller voice of “The Groove,” Pinkney relates the history of Motown and its founder, Berry Gordy. Gordy produced hit after hit from his Detroit studio, creating music legends such as Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, and the Jackson Five. This was background music for the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War. Excellent back matter includes a time line and discography.

*Plain, Nancy. This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon. University of Nebraska Press, 2015. John James Audubon traveled the length and breadth of North America in service of his monumental Birds of America, the work that marked his lasting reputation as a naturalist. Plain’s account, drawn from Audubon’s journals and letters, conveys the artist’s determination (some regarded him as a madman) to document the continent’s rich variety of birds and other wildlife. This elegantly designed book deftly blends art and ornithology, and includes lovely reproductions of Audubon’s work.

Rubin, Susan Goldman. Hot Pink: The Life and Fashions of Elsa Schiaparelli. Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Abrams, 2015. 978-1-4197-1642-3. Shocking pink was the creation and signature color of Elsa Schiaparelli, a forward-thinking fashion innovator. This elegantly crafted book showcases Schiaparelli's ingenuity while highlighting how she lived by her motto that "what mattered most was feeling good about oneself and having confidence.”

**Sheinkin, Steve. Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan’s Children’s Publishing Group, 2015. Sheinkin’s latest is a thrilling journalistic account of government insider Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers and exposed the questionable decisions that led to the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. This cinematic work simultaneously recounts a history of the Vietnam War, details the complete reversal of one man’s loyalties, chronicles the downfall of a presidential administration, examines First Amendment rights, and explores honor and morality. A timely exploration of American history that crackles with tension and excitement.

Silvey, Anita. Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall. National Geographic Children’s Books, an imprint of National Geographic, 2015. 978-1-4263-1518-3. This well-written, handsomely designed introduction to Jane Goodall includes an account of her childhood and the beginning of her lifelong work with chimpanzees, along with wonderful photos of the naturalist and her subjects. Silvey concludes with a glimpse of Goodall at 80, still a generous, inspiring, and passionate advocate for animals and the environment.

Thrash, Maggie. Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir. Candlewick Press, 2015. 978-0-7636-7382-6. This graphic-novel memoir recounts Thrash’s emotional coming-of-age experiences at a Christian summer camp for girls. Through captivating images and realistic dialogue, she expresses her confusion and conflicted feelings as a 15-year-old coming to terms with her first love and same-sex attraction to one of the counselors. Her story is filled with euphoria and heartbreak, played out beneath starry skies.