Although super quiet here online, it’s been a busy shop in real life, with lots of good stuff cooking in my editorial kitchen. I’m working on an exciting, groundbreaking video game for middle schoolers, based on a popular PBS show. And, I’ve been reading lots of good books over the past few weeks, as part of my judging responsibilities for the 2010 Cybil Awards which are given each year by bloggers for the year’s best children’s and young adult titles.
Front and center on my bookshelf have been the Middle Grade Nonfiction Finalists, including The Dark Game: True Spy Stories by Paul Janeczko, The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns, Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery, The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing by Suzanne Jurmain, Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter, Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania by Haya Leah Molnar, and An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank by Elaine Marie Alphin.
And, the winner is
The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing by Suzanne Jurmain
It’s not easy to make science and medicine come alive for any audience, especially middle graders, and this text really worked. Set in Cuba in the early twentieth century, The Secret of the Yellow Death tells the story of an ace team of U.S. Army doctors headed by Walter Reed. Along with Cuban physician Carlos Finlay and many brave volunteers, Reed worked to find the cause of yellow fever and methods to prevent its spread. As I was reading, I found myself cheering for the doctors and simultaneously found myself reading this as a true, real-life mystery. The book had an interactive design and the characters really came alive through weaving in of letters home and archival photographs. (As an aside, this could work nicely as a complementary reading to Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Fever 1793)
The complete list of winners is here.