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Currently browsing books in Biography, and Ecology And Nature, for Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Graders
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  • Recommended for grade(s): 8, 9

    Details the amazing courage and bravery of the black sailors who, desperate to escape slavery, became whalers on the dangerous high seas, as well as Frederick Douglass, Paul Cuffe, and other significant figures in the whaling industry and abolitionist movement. Coretta Scott King Honor Book 2000. –from Scholastic.

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 8, 9, 10

    Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, his revolutionary tract on evolution and the fundamental ideas involved, in 1859. Nearly 150 years later, the theory of evolution continues to create tension between the scientific and religious communities. Challenges about teaching the theory of evolution in schools occur annually all over the country. This same debate raged within Darwin himself, and played an important part in his marriage: his wife, Emma, was quite religious, and her faith gave Charles a lot to think about as he worked on a theory that continues to spark intense debates. Deborah Heiligman’s new biography of Charles Darwin is a thought-provoking account of the man behind evolutionary theory: how his personal life affected his work and vice versa. The end result is an engaging exploration of history, science, and religion for young readers. National Book Award Finalist. Winner of the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award 2010. 2010 Michael Printz Honor Book.   Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist. —from the website at Macmillan

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 9, 10, 11, 12, College Plus

    Finding Everett Ruess by David Roberts, with a foreword by Jon Krakauer, is the definitive biography of the artist, writer, and eloquent celebrator of the wilderness whose bold solo explorations of the American West and mysterious disappearance in the Utah desert at age 20 have earned him a large and devoted cult following. More than 75 years after his vanishing, Ruess stirs the kinds of passion and speculation accorded such legendary doomed American adventurers as Into the Wild’s Chris McCandless and Amelia Earhart. “I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrant life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the street car and the star sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities.” So Everett Ruess wrote in his last letter to his brother. And earlier, in a valedictory poem, “Say that I starved; that I was lost and weary; That I was burned and blinded by the desert sun; Footsore, thirsty, sick with strange diseases; Lonely and wet and cold . . . but that I kept my dream!” Wandering alone with burros and pack horses through California and the Southwest for five years in the early 1930s, on voyages lasting as long as ten months, Ruess also became friends with photographers Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange, swapped prints with Ansel Adams, took part in a Hopi ceremony, learned to speak Navajo, and was among the first “outsiders” to venture deeply into what was ...

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  • Hawking

    By: Jim Ottaviani
    Recommended for grade(s): College Plus

    From his early days at the St Albans School and Oxford, Stephen Hawking’s brilliance and good humor were obvious to everyone he met. A lively and popular young man, it’s no surprise that he would later rise to celebrity status. At twenty-one he was diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative neuromuscular disease. Though the disease weakened his muscles and limited his ability to move and speak, it did nothing to limit his mind. He went on to do groundbreaking work in cosmology and theoretical physics for decades after being told he had only a few years to live. He brought his intimate understanding of the universe to the public in his 1988 bestseller, A Brief History of Time. Soon after, he added pop-culture icon to his accomplishments by playing himself on shows like Star Trek, The Simpsons, and The Big Bang Theory, and becoming an outspoken advocate for disability rights. In Hawking, writer Jim Ottaviani and artist Leland Myrick have crafted an intricate portrait of the great thinker, the public figure, and the man behind both identities.  –From First Second

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 11, 12, College Plus

    Fifty-two inspiring and insightful profiles of history’s brightest female scientists. In 2013, the New York Times published an obituary for Yvonne Brill. It began: “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” It wasn’t until the second paragraph that readers discovered why the Times had devoted several hundred words to her life: Brill was a brilliant rocket scientist who invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites in orbit, and had recently been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Among the questions the obituary—and consequent outcry—prompted were, Who are the role models for today’s female scientists, and where can we find the stories that cast them in their true light? Headstrong delivers a powerful, global, and engaging response. Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby’s vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one’s ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they’re best known. This fascinating tour reveals these 52 women at their best—while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats. — From Broadway Books

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 8, 9

    From the author of Mayflower, Valiant Ambition, and In the Hurricane’s Eye–this riveting bestseller tells the story of the true events that inspired Melville’s Moby-Dick. Winner of the National Book Award, Nathaniel Philbrick’s book is a fantastic saga of survival and adventure, steeped in the lore of whaling, with deep resonance in American literature and history. In 1820, the whaleship Essex was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale, leaving the desperate crew to drift for more than ninety days in three tiny boats. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents and vivid details about the Nantucket whaling tradition to reveal the chilling facts of this infamous maritime disaster.  — From Penguin

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  • Lab Girl

    By: Hope Jahren
    Recommended for grade(s): 11, 12, College Plus

    An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime friendship; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see the natural world. Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more. Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work. Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home. Jahren’s probing look at plants, her astonishing tenacity of spirit, and her acute insights on nature enliven every page of this extraordinary book. Lab Girl opens your eyes to the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every lea...

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 7, 8, 9

    Jim Ottaviani returns with an action-packed account of the three greatest primatologists of the last century: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and BirutŽ Galdikas. These three ground-breaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology_and to our own understanding of ourselves. Tackling Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas in turn, and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century. Thanks to the charming and inviting illustrations by Maris Wicks, this is a nonfiction graphic novel with broad appeal. –From the website at Macmillan

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 11, 12, College Plus

    Set against the backdrop of the war in Afghanistan, Saving Cinnamon chronicles the love story of Navy Reservist Mark Feffer and a stray puppy he bonded with while stationed outside of Kandahar. When Mark is about to return stateside, he decides to adopt Cinnamon and sets up her transport back to the U.S. But the unthinkable happens and Cinnamon is abandoned by the dog handler who was supposed to bring her home, and disappears with out a trace. Mark and his family start a desperate search for the puppy which lasts 44 days and ends dramatically when Mark and Cinnamon are finally reunited. This is a touching memoir told by Mark’s sister, who initiated the rescue efforts. — From St. Martin’s Press

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 11, 12, College Plus

    Tells the inspiring story of Sergeant Mike Dowling and his bomb-sniffing dog, Rex, as they navigated the always-dangerous Triangle of Death region in Iraq in 2004. — From Simon and Schuster

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 9, 10, 11, 12, College Plus

    Lynne Cox started swimming almost as soon as she could walk. By age sixteen, she had broken all records for swimming the English Channel. Her daring eventually led her to the Bering Strait, where she swam five miles in thirty-eight-degree water in just a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. In between those accomplishments, she became the first to swim the Strait of Magellan, narrowly escaped a shark attack off the Cape of Good Hope, and was cheered across the twenty-mile Cook Strait of New Zealand by dolphins. She even swam a mile in the Antarctic. Lynne writes the same way she swims, with indefatigable spirit and joy, and shares the beauty of her time in the water with a poet’s eye for detail. She has accomplished yet another feat–writing a new classic of sports memoir. –From the website at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 9, 10, 11

    In August 1914, days before the outbreak of the First World War, the renowned explorer Ernest Shackleton and a crew of twenty-seven set sail for the South Atlantic in pursuit of the last unclaimed prize in the history of exploration: the first crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. Weaving a treacherous path through the freezing Weddell Sea, they had come within eighty-five miles of their destination when their ship, Endurance, was trapped fast in the ice pack. Soon the ship was crushed like matchwood, leaving the crew stranded on the floes. Their ordeal would last for twenty months, and they would make two near-fatal attempts to escape by open boat before their final rescue. Drawing upon previously unavailable sources, Caroline Alexander gives us a riveting account of Shackleton’s expedition–one of history’s greatest epics of survival. And she presents the astonishing work of Frank Hurley, the Australian photographer whose visual record of the adventure has never before been published comprehensively. Together, text and image re-create the terrible beauty of Antarctica, the awful destruction of the ship, and the crew’s heroic daily struggle to stay alive, a miracle achieved largely through Shackleton’s inspiring leadership. The survival of Hurley’s remarkable images is scarcely less miraculous: The original glass plate negatives, from which most of the book’s illustrations are superbly reproduced, were stored in hermetically sealed cannisters that survived months on the ice floes, a week in an open boat on the polar sea...

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 11, 12, College Plus

    The term fisherwoman does not exactly roll trippingly off the tongue, and Linda Greenlaw, the world’s only female swordfish boat captain, isn’t flattered when people insist on calling her one. “I am a woman. I am a fisherman. . . . I am not a fisherwoman, fisherlady, or fishergirl. If anything else, I am a thirty-seven-year-old tomboy. It’s a word I have never outgrown.” Greenlaw also happens to be one of the most successful fishermen in the Grand Banks commercial fleet, though until the publication of Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm, “nobody cared.” Greenlaw’s boat, the Hannah Boden, was the sister ship to the doomed Andrea Gail, which disappeared in the mother of all storms in 1991 and became the focus of Junger’s book. The Hungry Ocean, Greenlaw’s account of a monthlong swordfishing trip over 1,000 nautical miles out to sea, tells the story of what happens when things go right–proving, in the process, that every successful voyage is a study in narrowly averted disaster. There is the weather, the constant danger of mechanical failure, the perils of controlling five sleep-, women-, and booze-deprived young fishermen in close quarters, not to mention the threat of a bad fishing run: “If we don’t catch fish, we don’t get paid, period. In short, there is no labor union.” Greenlaw’s straightforward, uncluttered prose underscores the qualities that make her a good captain, regardless of gender: fairness, physical and mental endurance, obsessive attention to detail. B...

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 10, 11, 12, College Plus

    In October 1991, three weather systems collided off the coast of Nova Scotia to create a storm of singular fury, boasting waves over one hundred feet high. Among its victims was the Gloucester, Massachusetts-based swordfishing boat the Andrea Gail, which vanished with all six crew members aboard. It was the storm of the century, boasting waves over one hundred feet high a tempest created by so rare a combination of factors that meteorologists deemed it “the perfect storm.” When it struck in October 1991, there was virtually no warning. “She’s comin’ on, boys, and she’s comin’ on strong,” radioed Captain Billy Tyne of the Andrea Gail off the coast of Nova Scotia, and soon afterward the boat and its crew of six disappeared without a trace. In a book taut with the fury of the elements, Sebastian Junger takes us deep into the heart of the storm, depicting with vivid detail the courage, terror, and awe that surface in such a gale. Junger illuminates a world of swordfishermen consumed by the dangerous but lucrative trade of offshore fishing, “a young man’s game, a single man’s game,” and gives us a glimpse of their lives in the tough fishing port of Gloucester, Massachusetts; he recreates the last moments of the Andrea Gail crew and recounts the daring high-seas rescues that made heroes of some and victims of others; and he weaves together the history of the fishing industry, the science of storms, and the candid accounts of the people whose lives the storm touched, to produce a rich and informed narrat...

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  • The Wilderness Family

    By: Kobie Kruger
    Recommended for grade(s): 11, 12, College Plus

    When Kobie Krüger, her game-ranger husband and their three young daughters moved to one of the most isolated corners of the world – a remote ranger station in the Mahlangeni region of South Africa’s vast Kruger National Park – she might have worried that she would become engulfed with loneliness and boredom. Yet, for Kobie and her family, the seventeen years spent in this spectacularly beautiful park proved to be the most magical – and occasionally the most hair-raising – of their lives. Kobie recounts their enchanting adventures and extraordinary experiences in this vast reserve – a place where, bathed in golden sunlight, hippos basked in the glittering waters of the Letaba River, storks and herons perched along the shoreline, and fruit bats hung in the sausage trees. But as the Krugers settled in, they discovered that not all was peace and harmony. They soon became accustomed to living with the unexpected: the sneaky hyenas who stole blankets and cooking pots, the sinister-looking pythons that slithered into the house, and the usually placid elephants who grew foul-tempered in the violent heat of the summer. And one terrible day, a lion attacked Kobus in the bush and nearly killed him. Yet nothing prepared the Krugers for their greatest adventure of all, the raising of an orphaned prince, a lion cub who, when they found him, was only a few days old and on the verge of death. Reared on a cocktail of love and bottles of fat-enriched milk, Leo soon became an affectionate, rambunctious and adored member of the family. It is the reari...

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 9, 10

    Birds were “the objects of my greatest delight,” wrote John James Audubon (1785–1851), founder of modern ornithology and one of the world’s greatest bird painters. His masterpiece, The Birds of America depicts almost five hundred North American bird species, each image—lifelike and life size—rendered in vibrant color. Audubon was also an explorer, a woodsman, a hunter, an entertaining and prolific writer, and an energetic self-promoter. Through talent and dogged determination, he rose from backwoods obscurity to international fame. In This Strange Wilderness, award-winning author Nancy Plain brings together the amazing story of this American icon’s career and the beautiful images that are his legacy. Before Audubon, no one had seen, drawn, or written so much about the animals of this largely uncharted young country. Aware that the wilderness and its wildlife were changing even as he watched, Audubon remained committed almost to the end of his life “to search out the things which have been hidden since the creation of this wondrous world.” This Strange Wilderness details his art and writing, transporting the reader back to the frontiers of early nineteenth-century America. Finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award 2016.  –from University of Nebraska Press

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  • Recommended for grade(s): 10, 11, 12, College Plus

    Through a Window is the dramatic saga of thirty years in the life of an intimately intertwined community — one that reads like a novel, but it is one of the most important scientific works ever published. —from the website at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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  • Wave

    By: Sonali Deraniyagala
    Recommended for grade(s): 11, 12, College Plus

    A brave, intimate, beautifully crafted memoir by a survivor of the tsunami that struck the Sri Lankan coast in 2004 and took her entire family. On December 26, Boxing Day, Sonali Deraniyagala, her English husband, her parents, her two young sons, and a close friend were ending Christmas vacation at the seaside resort of Yala on the south coast of Sri Lanka when a wave suddenly overtook them. She was only to learn later that this was a tsunami that devastated coastlines through Southeast Asia. When the water began to encroach closer to their hotel, they began to run, but in an instant, water engulfed them, Sonali was separated from her family, and all was lost. Sonali Deraniyagala has written an extraordinarily honest, utterly engrossing account of the surreal tragedy of a devastating event that all at once ended her life as she knew it and her journey since in search of understanding and redemption. It is also a remarkable portrait of a young family’s life and what came before, with all the small moments and larger dreams that suddenly and irrevocably ended. –from Vintage.

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