The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb



The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi
Author: Neal Bascomb
Expected Publication: August 27th, 2013 by Arthur A. Levine

Summary: Adolf Eichmann was one of the world’s most notorious Nazis as the head of operations for the Nazis’ Final Solution. Essentially, he organized the transportation of the Jewish people to ghettos and concentration camps. This work of narrative nonfiction begins with the background of Eichmann’s role in the genocide. Then, in 1945, Eichmann disappeared from Germany and went into hiding. Due to the bravery of more than a dozen individuals, Eichmann is captured and put on trial for the world to view.

Review: This is an excellently researched work of nonfiction. I was amazed at the number of intricate details that went into the investigation and capture of this criminal. Neal Bascomb (who is also the author of Hunting Eichmann, the adult-marketed version of this book) was extraordinarily honest in this text. At times, I had to slap myself when I felt pity for Eichmann, as I tend to be too empathetic in my search for humanity in murderers. Bascomb doesn’t glorify the details—his account is genuine and based on numerous interviews of individuals who were connected to this hunt. I find that, in general, I become a bit disengaged when I read nonfiction, but this book kept me hooked; I wanted to read more about the courage and bravery of the Nazi Hunters. I highly recommend this text for all readers.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Nonfiction is, arguably, absent from many classrooms. English curricula tend to focus more on fiction, and I am interested to see if the Common Core will truly shift this reality (err, as much as the creators think it will, anyways). This text bridges the gap between fiction and nonfiction because it is written in narrative form. For students who despise nonfiction texts, this book will have appeal because Bascomb weaves in great characterization and detail. Teachers who enjoy employing literature circles in their classrooms might consider a nonfiction focus for the circles, and this book would make for a fantastic choice for students. Alternatively, it would pair very well with other texts from the Holocaust, such as Night by Elie Wiesel. When I finished reading this book, I couldn’t help but scour the internet for more details about other Nazi criminals and their captures/trials. I imagine that students will feel this same curiosity after reading this text, so I envision it would work well at the center of a research project.

Discussion Questions: Was Eichmann just following orders or is he a murderer? At what point does the excuse of “I was just following orders” become baseless and unreasonable?; Does Eichmann give up? Do you see him as a strong individual by the end of the text?; Do you think Eichmann’s wife was truly ignorant to his crimes? Do you think she should have turned him in?; How do Eichmann’s children’s views reflect on his character and views?

We Flagged: “‘For the first time in history the Jews will judge their assassins, and for the first time the world will hear the full story of the edict of annihilation against an entire people'” (Chapter 10).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. The e-book (a galley) did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Night by Elie Wiesel, Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb, Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial by Joseph E. Persco, books in the The Real Justice seres, or other works of nonfiction that concern WWII, Crime, Police Investigation, War, and Justice

Recommended For:

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Thank you to NetGalley and Arthur A. Levine books for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy!

Feynman by Jim Ottaviani



Author: Jim Ottaviani
Art by: Leland Myrick
Coloring by: Hilary Sycamore
Published August 30th, 2011 by First Second

Goodreads Summary: Richard Feynman: physicist . . . Nobel winner . . . bestselling author . . . safe-cracker. In this substantial graphic novel biography, First Second presents the larger-than-life exploits of Nobel-winning quantum physicist, adventurer, musician, world-class raconteur, and one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century: Richard Feynman. Written by nonfiction comics mainstay Jim Ottaviani and brilliantly illustrated by First Second author Leland Myrick, Feynman tells the story of the great man’s life from his childhood in Long Island to his work on the Manhattan Project and the Challenger disaster. Ottaviani tackles the bad with the good, leaving the reader delighted by Feynman’s exuberant life and staggered at the loss humanity suffered with his death. Anyone who ever wanted to know more about Richard P. Feynman, quantum electrodynamics, the fine art of the bongo drums, the outrageously obscure nation of Tuva, or the development and popularization of the field of physics in the United States need look no further than this rich and joyful work.

Review: This book definitely showed me that I have HUGE gaps in knowledge in history, science, and math. Reading this book was so challenging for me – probably one of the hardest books I’ve read in a very, very long time. It took me 10 days because most days I didn’t read much because I’d find myself rereading or going online to research or just overwhelmed by the little bit I read. Makes me feel for our struggling readers who are given text that are too hard for them and not given scaffolding. If anyone ever tells you that graphic novels are not complex or challenging texts, hand them this book.

Now, all of this is saying things about myself, not about the book. The book itself was fascinating. I learned so much! I’ll be honest. Physics is still so over my head and most of the physics stuff talked about in the book (and that I researched) just didn’t make sense to me; however, this book also includes a great story of Feynman’s life and history about the atomic bomb, NASA, and the Nobel Prize. All of which I did truly enjoy and learn something from. It was also quite funny at times- Feynman was a character!

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I cannot wait to show this text to the physical science teachers at my school. It is a great text to show content area teachers that there are wonderful texts out there that can be used in the classroom. This book then can expand to even more instruction on Feynman and all of his physics. You can even view Feynman’s lectures online!!

Discussion Questions: When Feynman was working on the atomic bomb, some of his colleagues felt that it was a devastating invention while others continued working on it without thinking of the destruction it would cause. How do you feel about the construction of the atomic bomb? Were the use/construction of them justified?; After watching one of Feynman’s lectures, why was he better at explaining physics than other lecturers?

We Flagged: “But then a miracle occurred. And it’s occurred again and again in my life, and it’s very lucky for me. The moment I start to think about physics and concentrate on what I’m explaining, I’m completely immune to being nervous. No worries about the audience and the personalities. I was calm, everything was good. My talk wasn’t good because I wasn’t used to giving lectures, but there was no nervousness until I sat down. Einstein appreciated that things might be different from his famous theory of relativity – very nice, and very interesting. Pauli had more objections, but Wheeler kept his promise and answered all of them.” (p. 48-49)

Read This If You Loved: Surely Your Joking, Mr. Feynman! and other books by Richard P. Feynman On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne, Who Was Albert Einstein? by Jess M. Brallier, Nonfiction physics books

Recommended For: 

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And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini



And the Mountains Echoed
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Published May 21st, 2013 by Riverhead Books

Summary: Told from various points of view, this novel is a collection of powerful stories, woven with the rich history of Afghanistan. All of the characters are linked in some way, showing the profound impact that seemingly small decisions can have on others in the world. After finishing this story, the character’s voices still speak in my head: Three-year-old Pari and ten-year-old Abdullah, villagers in rural Afghanistan…Nabi, an elderly Afghan who is devoted to the care of the wealthy Mr. Wahdati…Nila, a tortured soul, who is lost in her poetry and past…Idris, a man visiting his homeland of Afghanistan, who recognizes and is embarrassed by his privileged life in America…Markos, a plastic surgeon living in Afghanistan, who works to fix the deformities caused by the war…Adel, a young Afghan boy living in a mansion with bodyguards…these characters and a few others are richly realized and will tug the heartstrings of readers.

Review: Spanning five decades and multiple generations, the stories cross paths in unbelievable ways. Readers might, at the beginning of each section, feel a bit uncomfortable with the shifts in narration, locations, and time periods, but Hosseini makes the connections clear, and the story’s structure is essential to the central messages of loyalty, family, and the devastating effects of war.  I experienced many similar emotions as when I read Hosseini’s other books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Sons, such as grief and anger, and when this book ended, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of catharsis. Emotions aside, this book is quite different. The writing felt more lyrical and complex (if that is even possible) than Hosseini’s other works. I couldn’t help but put the book down at several times because I was in awe of the craftsmanship of the text’s structure and connectedness.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Kite Runner has always been a literature circle choice in my classroom. This novel is much more complex and would need a lot of teacher support, but it would be a fantastic literature circle choice for advanced, high school readers. If used as a whole-class text, teachers might have students diagram the relationships between characters, write journal entries from the perspectives of different characters, or write letters from one character to another. Many of the characters don’t interact at any point, but it would be enlightening to consider what messages they might have for each other. It would be helpful if teachers gave background knowledge of the political situation in Afghanistan to support the reading of this text. This is a great text to teach structure and narration, but additionally, it is a great model of voice. Ranging in age, race, and personality, these characters all have varying insights of the world, and these are reflected in their words and actions. Students would have to think critically to analyze their voices.

Discussion Questions: How might our decisions affect others indirectly connected to us?; What responsibility does a child have to his/her parent?; Am I privileged? How are my life experiences different from those around me?; What will we remember most as we age?

We Flagged: “They say, Find a purpose in your life and live it. But sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind” (p. 127).

“‘J’aurais dû être plus gentille–I should have been more kind. That is something a person will never regret. You will never say to yourself when you are old, Ah, I wish I was not good to that person. You will never think that'” (p. 382-283).

Read This If You Loved: Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Sons by Khaled Hosseini, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Recommended For:

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What do you think about using contemporary adult bestsellers in the classroom? I try to mix classics, YAL, and other bestsellers, while still allowing students the choice to select the texts they read. Do you agree with this philosophy?

Oh, and have you read this one? I would love to hear your thoughts because the characters are still interrupting my daily thoughts. 🙂


Price of Freedom by Judith Bloom Fradin & Dennis Brindell Fradin


NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book). Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!


The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery
Authors: Judith Bloom Fradin & Dennis Brindell Fradin
Illustrator: Eric Velasquez
Published January 8, 2013 by Walkers Children

Summary: In 1856, John Price, his cousin, and a friend risked their lives to cross the Ohio River in hopes of finding freedom on the other side. As slaves, leaving Kentucky and making their way into Ohio was the only way to even hope for freedom. However, the real goal was to get to Canada since the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 stated that slaves could still be returned to their owners if caught in a free state. On his way to trying to get to Canada, John was lucky enough to come across the town of Oberlin, Ohio. A town that did not believe in slavery and even embraced runaway slaves as one of their own. But what would happen when slave hunters came to town looking for John? What is the town willing to do to save their own?

My Review: I love how this book was put together. The best way to teach nonfiction, in my opinion, is to make it into a narrative that catches readers’ attention and makes them want to learn more. The narrative in The Price of Freedom was put together very well- a perfect plot arc- yet leaves you wanting more. It starts out with just enough prior knowledge (not too teachy yet makes sure that it teaches enough that the reader will understand) and takes us through what happens to John Price as a story and finally the end is a bit of a cliffhanger that makes you want to research more. My favorite type of nonfiction. And to add to this the watercolor illustrations bring the story to life and are so very well done adding even more depth to the picture book. This book puts the reader straight into a tense situation and invites them to take part of a historical situation that does not appear in history textbooks. While I’d been taught about the Fugitive Slave Act and realized that there were oppositions to the act, but I had never read a narrative like this one.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: In the classroom, I think this nonfiction picture book is important to start conversations about the two sides of the civil war. It would also be a great jumping off point to start talking about people who stood up against laws, the Underground Railroad, and the transition into the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, etc. The authors even gave websites that are perfect to use as an extension.

Discussion Questions: Why do you think that the people of Oberlin and other Underground Railroad risked their lives to help escaped slaves?; What do you think happened to John Price? Do some research and see if your hypothesis was correct.

We Flagged: “Oberlin student William Lincoln was in his room when some classmates pounded on his door. He was the man to rescue John Price, they told him, offering him a gun. Lincoln hated slavery, but he also hated violence. Unsure what to do, he knelt on the floor with his Bible and asking himself: “if it were your own brother, what would you do?”

His answer? “Rescue him or die!” Lincoln grabbed the gun and raced to Wellington.” p. 23

Read This If You Loved: Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Roodie Joe DiMaggio by Robert Skead, Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, John Brown: His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix, Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea David Pinkney, Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson, Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for providing a copy for review**