Nonfiction Monday is a weekly meme in the Kidlitosphere that invites bloggers to read and review a nonfiction book on Monday as a way to promote high-quality nonfiction titles. Each week, a different blogger "hosts" Nonfiction Monday and provides a roundup of all the posts. This week Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Shelf-employed!
Grayson by Lynne Cox
As an adult, world-class open water swimmer Lynne Cox has completed some of the most amazing feats. From holding records for the fastest swim across the English Channel to swimming the chilly waters of the Bering Strait and Antarctica, she has done it all. This memoir is not about any of those swims.
When Lynne was just 17 years old, she went out one Saturday morning for an otherwise routine swim in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. As she was coming in from her swim, she felt a large presence in the water below her, which she thought at first was a shark. It turned out to be a baby whale that had gotten lost from its mother. Though tired and ready to rest and eat, Cox knew that if she came in, she risked beaching the baby whale, so she stayed out in cold waters, swimming out into deeper waters, in hopes of locating the mother whale and reuniting her with her nursing baby.
As an avid reader of nonfiction and first year middle school librarian, I found our narrative nonfiction collection (and my knowledge of such titles for students) to be lacking. I went out in search memoirs and other nonfiction narratives that, even if not written specifically for a middle school audience, had a distinct appeal to younger readers. After posting on listservs, checking all the YALSA book lists and trolling the internet for days, I came up with a list of titles to order, and Grayson was at the top. Our library already had her memoir Swimming to Antarctica, and while it wasn't really circulating, I thought this slim, simply designed memoir would be the perfect gateway book for getting students interested in taking on some meatier nonfiction. Grayson has it all: a teen protagonist, a unique sporting interest (we have students who are competitive skiers, skeet shooters, gymnasts, dancers, fencers, etc.), a precious baby animal, the dangers of the open ocean, and, not to be overlooked, less than 200 pages. This was the book I had been looking for. As soon as it arrived, it went right to the top of my pile and I sat down to give it a read. It was just the quick, tender and suspenseful read that I was hoping it would be. Cox incorporates information about open water swimming and gray whales into the story so well that readers don't even realize they are learning something new in the midst of a tender story.
I always include Grayson in my beginning of the year book talks for 7th grade and I can always be assured that from the moment I show the cover and mention the words "baby whale" that the book will be checked out for most of year. Droves of (let's face it, mostly female) students put their names on the hold list. At the start of this year, knowing how popular animal nonfiction is with our students and that students in the 7th grade had read My Dog Skip over the summer as part of the required reading, we put out a display of animal narrative nonfiction books that included Grayson, Wesley the Owl, Rascal, and Unlikely Friendships. Unsurprisingly, it was a very popular display, and Grayson went out on the first day of school before I even had a chance to mention it to students. Just look at the cover! And the small size. How could you not want to read this book?
I strongly recommend Grayson for every library that serves middle and high school aged students.
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