Sunday, April 29, 2012

They Stood ALONE! 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference

Since readable, engaging nonfiction for eight-to-twelve-year-olds is hard to come by, parents and teachers alike will want to have a copy of They Stood Alone:  25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference. Sandra McLeod Humphrey's volume of short biographies spans Christopher Columbus to Neil Armstrong, and includes innovators of science, technology, charity and peace.

Every chapter begins with a black and white photo, a large-print quote, and the words, "Imagine this. . . ."  Readers are instructed to put themselves in the hero or heroine's shoes, and imagine life from their perspective.  Humphrey's clever questions give us a perfect introduction to the person, and provide a natural break to allow students to write out a response imagining themselves in various situations.  The next four and half pages of each chapter are devoted to a biographical sketch of people such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Henry David Thoreau, Booker T. Washington, Marie Curie, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, and Jackie Robinson.

Humphrey's choice of heroes and heroines reflects her belief, "In every age there are courageous men and women who break with tradition to explore new ideas and challenge accepted truths."  She ends the book with Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Less Traveled," and an admonishment to readers to ". . .always follow your heart and never give up your dream."

What I Like:  I especially like the beginning question in each chapter. The questions provide an excellent hook to get readers interested and convince them to continue reading.  I also like the fast-pace of the  biographies, and the short chapters.  Young people will read the stories before they even realize they are reading non-fiction!

I also like Humphrey's eclectic mix of subjects.  They are all admirable, interesting, and willing to stand up for their beliefs despite societal expectations.
What I Dislike:  There are a couple of minor typos, but nothing too distracting. 

Overall Rating:  Very Good

Age Appeal:  8-12

Publisher Info: Prometheus Books, 2011; ISBN: 978-1-61614-485-2; Paperback, 176 pages, $14.00

 Buy it at for $11.97.

Special Info:  Humphrey includes a biography of Margaret Mead because she influenced the women's movement of the 1960s by publishing anthropological studies showing gender roles were based on societal expectations, rather than genetics.  Though not mentioned in the book, Mead, an Episcopalian, had a very  liberal view of marriage and sexual expression.   

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