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Advanced Pre-Teen Reads #5: Non-fiction

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APTR5: Biographies, memoirs and other non-fiction

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts by Emma focussed on Advanced Pre-Teen Readers (APTRs). Find the first one here.

Biographies and autobiographies are a great way to expand reading horizons. Popular adult biographies often have children’s or YA versions developed if the subject is someone of particular interest to young people. Check the catalogue for biographies of your children’s favourite authors.

Perfect for animal lovers; much lighter subject matter than many other books on this list. Gerald Durrell (Gerry) recounts his almost magical childhood on the Greek island of Corfu. The story of how he got there from England, with his mother, siblings and dog, is hilarious. Then he describes the animals he encounters, the pets he rescues, and how he developed his passion for natural history.

If your kid cares about the environment, they’ll enjoy learning about twelve people who are fighting to save it. Written in 2015, it doesn’t include anything about Greta Thunberg, but does include a vet, a teacher, an insurance broker, a nurse, a psychologist, a lawyer and more.

Malala Yousafzai (now 24) was 15 when she was shot in the head by the Taliban because she wrote and spoke about the importance of education for girls in Pakistan. In this autobiography she describes her childhood and the close relationship she has with her family and school friends. I read the regular edition and was swept up in how normal and relatable her life seemed to me. This edition, adapted for young people, will be more accessible. Her love for her region, Swat, and her country is evident. She recalls what it was like when the Taliban began to have a larger presence in Pakistan, and then in her life. She tells what she remembers of the day she was shot, and her subsequent move to the UK for life-saving medical care. I was struck by how childlike she seemed compared to ‘western’ girls of her age: she wasn’t used to swearing, she found the film Bend it Like Beckham too risqué, and enjoyed playfully teasing her younger brothers. She talks about her longing to return home and her decision to continue fighting for girls’ education. This was the autobiography that made me love the genre. Highly recommended.

Columnist Albom describes his meetings with his friend and sociology professor, Morrie Schwarz in the last months of his life. They discuss death and dying, life and living.

I used to keep a copy of this in my classroom when I taught high school English. Year 9 and 10 students loved it. Dahl writes with his trademark humour about his own childhood, complete with neighbourhood villains and boyhood pranks. An excellent insight into growing up in the 1920s and 30s in Britain.

Written by the lawyer and social justice advocate who fights to free those who are wrongfully imprisoned. The movie version (rated R13) is available on Netflix. 

Nujeen is 16, has cerebral palsy, and uses a wheelchair. She tells the story of her migration with her sister from Syria to Hungary as a refugee. If your young reader (or you) enjoy this and Malala’s story, follow up with Yousafzai’s We are displaced.

A moving graphic novel about two Somali brothers in a Kenyan refugee camp.

A biography aimed at 8-12 year olds.

One of a number of refugee stories to be found on the junior non-fiction shelves in the 940s. This one is about the ship St. Louis that left Hamburg in 1939 with 937 passengers, mostly Jewish, and focuses on two girls, Lisa and Sol.

Not an autobiography, but for kids who love to learn about wars and battles, Davidson writes engaging history for older children. Check out his Scarecrow Army: Anzacs at Gallipoli too.

Come back for more

This series of blogs covers a selection of books from the children’s, YA, and even adult collections that are suitable for advanced young readers.

Look out for other APTR blog posts on:

If your APTR has read something great, let us know so that we can let other parents know! Email us or leave a note with staff at any of our libraries, letting them know to pass it on to Li and Emma. 

6 December 2021

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