Non-Fiction for Young Readers
In 1916 a young woman named Ruth Law attempted to fly from Chicago to New York City in one day–something no one else had ever done. This is the story of that daring attempt. Beautifully detailed watercolors dramatize a dangerous journey made by the pilot President Woodrow Wilson called “great.” Full-color illustrations.A Reading Rainbow Selection.
Don Brown introduces us to yet another little-known heroine. On June 9, 1909, twenty-two-year-old Alice Ramsey hitched up her skirts and climbed behind the wheel of a Maxwell touring car. Fifty-nine days later she rolled into San Francisco, becoming the first woman to drive across America. What happened in between is quite a tale! Through words and pictures, the author shares this story of a brave and tenacious young woman who followed her vision to conquer the open road – even when the road was nothing more than a wagon trail. Alice Ramsey’s adventure offers a unique perspective on turn-of-the-century America and pays tribute to the pioneering spirit that helped create it.
As a young boy, Neil Armstrong had a recurring dream in which he held his breath and floated high in the sky. He spent his free time reading stacks of flying magazines, building model airplanes, and staring through a homemade telescope. As a teenager, Neil worked odd jobs to pay for flying lessons at a nearby airport. He earned his student pilot’s license on his sixteenth birthday. But who was to know that this shy boy, who also loved books and music, would become the first person to set foot on the moon, on July 20, 1969.
Brown (One Giant Leap, 1998, etc.) opens with the thrilling incident from Mary’s infancy: while her nursemaid and two companions died under a tree struck by lightning, Mary survived. Taught by her father to hunt for fossils on the rocky beaches and cliffs near Lyme Regis, Mary continued to do so after his death, to help support herself and her family. Without formal education, she studied and read and always pursued fossils, despite physical danger. Richard Owens, the scientist who coined the word dinosaur,’ came to hunt fossils with her. Brown’s prose has a light and poetic touch, and his watercolors, with their dramatic vistas, small figures, and fossil sketches, suit the tone nicely. He effortlessly imbues a small, appealing package with a lot of information, and a little inspiration besides. Kirkus Reviews
Mary Kingsley spent her childhood in a small house on a lonely lane outside London, England. Her mother was bedridden, her father rarely home, and Mary served as housekeeper, handyman, nursemaid, and servant. Not until she was thirty years old did Mary get her chance to explore the world she’d read about in her father’s library. In 1893, she arrived in West Africa, where she encountered giant Xying insects, crocodiles, hippos, and brutal heat. Mary endured the hardships of the equatorial country—and thrived.
In her time, Alexandra David-Neel was the most famous woman in France. She had traveled extensively in China and Tibet and, in 1924, was the first Western woman ever to enter Tibet’s forbidden capital, Lhasa. Alexandra was a self-taught Buddhist scholar and spoke Tibetan flawlessly. And she did it all as a mature woman—she was in her mid-fifties when she arrived in Lhasa.
Not only is Alexandra David-Neel’s story one of high adventure, of trekking through snow-choked mountain passes and wild encounters on the Tibetan tablelands, but it is also about a prolific writer and passionate advocate of Tibetan culture. Far Beyond the Garden Gate reveals an unforgettable life’s journey with vibrant, graceful prose and stunning illustrations.
Columcille was born in a remote corner of Ireland in the year 521. Legend has it that as a child, he was fed a cake filled with the letters of the alphabet, and so learned to love writing. He grew up to become a monk and a scribe a thousand years before the invention of printing, when books had to be copied by hand.There was one book, a beautiful volume of psalms from distant Rome, that Columcille especially loved, and even though its owner refused him permission, Columcille secretly copied it. The copy was discovered, and a dispute arose over who it belonged to: Columcille, who made it, or the owner of the original. So better was the argument that a battle was fought between the two men’s powerful friends; although Columcille’s side won, the victory felt hollow to him. To punish himself, he set out in a tiny boat, vowing to leave Ireland forever.A revered figure in Celtic history, Columcille (also known as Columbia) founded the famous monastery on the Scottish island of Iona and left a legacy of learning that illuminated a corner of the Dark Ages. History, drama, and a love of books and reading fill a story–told here in exquisite watercolors and deflty understated prose by noted author and artist Don Brown.
Mack Sennett invented the Keystone Kops, filmed the first pie-in-the-face skit, and introduced Charlie Chaplin to the movies. Here Don Brown tells the story of this American movie genius, from his beginnings as a Vaudeville actor to his triumph as the “King of Comedy”
My father and I settled in Africa in 1906. . . . And it was there, as a small girl, I was eaten by a lion.
So begins a true story from aviatrix Beryl Markham’s autobiography. Here young Beryl and a “tame” lion called Paddy come together in an encounter that challenges our notions of wild and docile, trust and duplicity, punishment and forgiveness. Coupled with Don Brown’s expressive watercolors, The Good Lion is a powerful story that will leave readers wondering about the true natures of man and beast.
Our popular image of Mark Twain is of a gruV, gray-haired eccentric, the outspoken literary giant who created enduring novels such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
But once upon a time, Mark Twain was a boy named Samuel Clemens. His birth on November 30, 1835, coincided with the appearance of Halley’s comet streaking across the sky. A dreamer, a prankster, a lover of great tales, Sam Clemens spent his boyhood years “in high feather,” living out adventures along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. His beloved river would eventually carry Mark Twain far beyond Hannibal, Missouri, but he would return to the freedom, innocence, and vitality of his youth again and again in his writing.
In glowing watercolors and spirited text, Don Brown reveals the glad morning of Twain’s life, now the classic American boyhood, and the forces that inspired his funny, irreverent, insightful, and groundbreaking works of fiction.
Brown has found a winning topic to write about–literally. This grabber of a picture book for older children details the events in the summer of 1899, during which hundreds of young news vendors stood up to two of the most powerful men in the U.S.–William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. The financial circumstance that forced the kids to strike–the extra penny that the newspaper owners wanted to charge the vendors to buy their papers–is clearly explained, but Brown also personalizes the story very well. He does have some vividly named “newsies,” to work with, including Kid Blink, Crazy Airborn, and Tiny Tim, who, when asked how long the strikers could hold out, answers, “Ferever.” Like all David-versus-Goliath stories, this has a natural rooting factor, though the compromise ending may slow the cheering. The loose-lined, sepia-tone ink-and-wash artwork is less successful than the go-go text at capturing the fervor of the strike… The rousing cover, however, with the boys on the march, will grab kids, and the story inside brings history home to readers the same age as those who lived it. Booklist.
When he was born, Albert was a peculiar, fat baby with an unusually big and misshaped head. When he was older, he hit his sister, bothered his teachers, and didn’t have many friends. But in the midst of all of this, Albert was fascinated with solving puzzles and fixing scientific problems. The ideas Albert Einstein came up with during his childhood as an odd boy out were destined to change the way we know and understand the world around us.
Jim Thorpe’s childhood was a mix of hard work in the outdoors and a succession of military-strict “Indian Schools” that relentlessly imposed white culture on Native American children. Then in 1907, wearing overalls and a work shirt, he effortlessly broke his school high-jump record–a feat that launched a remarkable athletic career in track, football, and baseball, culminating at the 1912 Olympics, where Thorpe won the decathlon with a world record score that would stand for almost 20 years and the pentathlon with a points total that would never be beaten.
Dolley was a farm girl who became a fine first lady when she married James Madison. She wore beautiful dresses, decorated her home, and threw lavish parties. Everyone talked about Dolley, and everyone loved her, too. Then war arrived at her doorstep, and Dolley had to meet challenges greater than she’d ever known. So Dolley did one thing she thought might make a difference: she saved George Washington. Not the man himself, but a portrait of him, which would surely have been destroyed by English soldiers. Don Brown once again deftly tells a little known story about a woman who made a significant contribution to American history.
Teedie was not exactly the stuff of greatness: he was small for his size. Delicate. Nervous. Timid. By the time he was ten years old, he had a frail body and weak eyes. He was deviled by asthma, tormented by bullies. His favorite place to be was at home. Some might think that because of these things, Teedie was destined for a ho-hum life. But they would be wrong. For teeedie had a strong mind, as well as endless curiosity and determination. Is that all? No. Teedie also had ideas of his own–lots of them. It wasn’t long before the world knew him as Theodore Roosevelt, the youngest president of the United States.
A wizard from the start, Thomas Edison had a thirst for knowledge, taste for mischief, and hunger for discovery—but his success was made possible by his boundless energy. At age fourteen he coined his personal motto: “The More to do, the more to be done,” and then went out and did: picking up skills and knowledge at every turn. When learning about things that existed wasn’t enough, he dreamed up new inventions to improve the world. From humble beginnings as a farmer’s son, selling newspapers on trains and reading through public libraries shelf by shelf, Tom began his inventing career as a boy and became a legend as a man.
Non-Fiction for Older Readers
A straightforward and sensitive book for a generation of readers too young to remember that terrible day.
The events of September 11, 2001 changed the world forever. In the fourth installment of the Actual Times series, Don Brown narrates the events of the day in a way that is both accessible and understandable for young readers. Straightforward and honest, this account moves chronologically through the morning, from the plane hijackings to the crashes at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania; from the rescue operations at the WTC site to the collapse of the buildings. Vivid watercolor illustrations capture the emotion and pathos of the tragedy making this an important book about an unforgettable day in American history.
When James Marshall found a small, soft shiny stone in a California stream, he knew it could only be one thing: Gold! His cry of discovery would be heard around the world. In the third installment of Don Brown’s Actual Times series, Gold! Gold from the American River! is the story of the California gold rush–the uncharted journey across hostile land, the laborious process of panning for gold, the success of savvy entrepreneurs, and the fortunes of the marginalized, from slaves and American Indians to women and foreigners.
One day that changed the nation.
A 26-year-old King George II found himself in financial turmoil after crushing the French, Austrians, and Spanish in battle. Luckily money was no object since he could easily get it back by raising taxes on his American colonies…but what King George didn’t realize was the colonies were beginning to have a mind of their own and had started to set their sights on freedom. The cast of characters includes those we know–the famous silversmith, turned messenger, Paul Revere–and many we haven’t heard of like “Flinty Whittemore,” a 78-year-old who fought off the British with a musket, two pistols, a sword, was bayoneted 14 times and still lived another 18 years to brag about it. Detailed, yet accessible, Don Brown’s award winning nonfiction style brilliantly comes to life in this fascinating account of the start of the American Revolution.
Sam Glodsky lives among the rough-and-tumble gangs on the streets of New York’s Lower East Side. When 13-year-old Sam falls in with fearsome gangster Monk Eastman, he joins an outrageous scheme to rescue Eastman’s prize racing-pigeon from a cholera-ridden steamship quarantined in the harbor. The caper Monk hatches to snatch the bird pairs Sam with his archenemy, the notorious Izzy Fink. Widely acclaimed for his picture book histories, Don Brown’s first historical novel is a fast-paced tale of immigrant life at the turn of the twentieth century.
1968. Steve’s older brother has just broken the news that he’s quit college to enlist in the army. Before David departs for Vietnam in September, their father decides to send the brothers on a canoe trip down the Susquehanna River. Steve knows that David isn’t happy about the plan, and he’s not looking forward to being trapped with his swaggering, tough-guy brother either. “Look out for each other!” is the last thing they hear Dad shout as they round a bend out of sight, David in the rear, controlling the canoe. At first narrow and quiet as a stream, the river soon grows wider and more complicated, carrying the boys through gritty small-town America on a journey that pushes their adversarial relationship into new territory. There is no map or guide for this trip: just two brothers going forward, navigating the twists and turns of the river, learning to fight for each other.
In this lyrical first novel, Don Brown tells the powerful story of two brothers coming of age in a challenging time.
Out of work and out of luck.
Ed “Collie” Collier encounters hobos, misers, racists, and even some kindness while riding the rails during the Great Depression.
Collie leaves home in search of his older brother, who has run off. Battling hunger, hostility, and wrathful weather, he meets an unlikely ally in a young drifter. They jump a freight train, joining thousands and thousands of young boys and men who try riding out the Great Depression by riding the rails.
See Don’ commercial illustration here.