Kirkus Reviews List of Best Children’s Books for 2010 includes:

Kubla Khan: Emperor of Everything
(Viking, illustrated by Robert Byrd) by Kathleen Krull. 2011 Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award winner

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot
( Houghton Mifflin, Nic Bishop photographer) by Sy Montgomery, 2010 Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award winner

They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group (Houghton Mifflin) by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, 2009 Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award winner

Year of Goodbyes
(Hyperion) by Guild member Debbie Levy

See the entire Kirkus list here.

Here’s what Kirkus had to say about these special books:

The Emperor of Everything, indeed! Droll writing and detailed, almost encyclopedic, pen-and-watercolor illustrations make a perfect marriage for young readers trying to apprehend the totality of Kubla Khan’s personality, history and accomplishments. The vivid description of Kubla’s life as the grandson of Genghis Khan, the son of a watchful, hovering, ambitious mother, the husband of four wives and “countless” concubines and the father of 100 children is one that will impress even the most disaffected modern child. Krull's narration is typically earthy: "All the accounts of the time described Kubla's mother as a woman nobody messed with." The beauty of this story is in the details: thirsty riders cutting into the skin of their ponies to drink a little blood; Kubla sitting with his tame lion at his feet, on a throne covered with the skins of white horses; the postal system that would put the Pony Express to shame. On every spread, Byrd's illustrations invite readers to slow down and pore over every inch. This account is like Kubla Khan himself—amazing. (author’s and illustrator’s notes, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-12)

Under the careful supervision of forest rangers and volunteers on an island off the New Zealand coast, the nearly extinct, flightless Kakapo parrot is the object of an intensive rescue effort described by this experienced writer-photographer team. Montgomery and Bishop waited five years for the opportunity to visit Codfish Island to document this work. They’ve hatched a fascinating account of their all-too-short but eventful stay. The author’s well-organized narrative includes information about the parrots’ habits, their near disappearance and current island habitat and the activities of those who monitor each individual parrot through occasional physical capture and daily radio telemetry observations, watch nests and provide supplemental food. Describing triumph and tragedy, she movingly conveys the magic of the forest and of an accidental encounter with a parrot in the wild. As always, the photographer’s remarkable and clearly reproduced photographs support and enhance the text. The book’s careful design is unobtrusive: The progress of an opening egg sets off page numbers, and fern patterns provide a subtle decoration. Bibliography and a website encourage readers’ further explorations. Wonderful. (Scientists in the Field Series) (map, fundraising plug, acknowledgments, index) (Nonfiction. 9-13)

On a May evening in 1866, in Pulaski, Tenn., six men lounged about a law office. “Boys, let us get up a club or society,” John Lester said. And they did. Two of the men suggested that they call themselves “Kuklos,” the Greek word for “circle” or “band,” but that wasn’t mysterious enough, so they made up a variation: Ku Klux Klan, which literally means “circle circle.” They delighted in dressing up in flowing white robes, riding about town pretending to be ghosts of Confederate dead and playing pranks, but they also understood the power of anonymity to stir up fear and thwart the new Freedmen’s Bureau programs to help former slaves. Balancing the stories of the Klan and the former slaves’ determination to remake their lives, Bartoletti makes extensive use of congressional testimony, interviews, journals, diaries and slave narratives to allow the players to speak in their own voices as much as possible. Documentation is superb, and even the source notes are fascinating. An exemplar of history writing and a must for libraries and classrooms. (a note to the reader, time line, quote attributions, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12 & up)

Writing for modern readers about the Holocaust is fraught, and when children are the intended audience, the difficulties can be insurmountable. Levy meets the challenges admirably, partly because she had access to unique primary sources: Her mother’s autograph book, a poesiealbum, written by friends and family in Hamburg in 1938 and a diary from that same year, when she was 12, form a poignant and chilling basis for the true story of her family’s experiences. Each chapter is a translation of an album or diary entry followed by a poem that evokes sadness, despair, anger and longing to escape. The author’s introduction and afterword are integral to the work, as they explain some of the history and tell the fates of friends and family members—those who escaped and survived, those who “died at the hands of the Nazis” and those whose exact fate she was unable to discern. While writing as truthfully as the subject demands, she also spares young readers the gruesome details of those deaths. An immensely powerful experience that needs to be read with an adult. (Poetry/nonfiction. 10 & up)



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