Growing up, one of my favorite books was (and still is) Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. I was fascinated by the Danish Resistance, and clueless enough not to realize some of the characters were part of the Resistance until Lowry revealed it to us. But I never stopped to think how the Resistance got started. I just assumed they’d sprung up organically once the Nazis invaded.
I didn’t know the true story until I read Phillip Hoose’s The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, and the truth is so outrageous it’s truly stranger than fiction. Hoose’s book is the perfect companion to Number the Stars, adding historical context and depth. It got me thinking about other nonfiction/fiction kidlit pairings that work perfectly. This is my initial list:
–if you want to understand the scientist who inspires Calpurnia’s interest in science, Charles and Emma is the perfect biography, especially because Calpurnia would have fit perfectly into Darwin’s life. Darwin raised his kids to have open and inquisitive minds, so Calpurnia is kind of a fictional, surrogate Darwin Jr.
–Sheinkin tells the true story of how the atomic bomb was built, and the espionage surrounding the project. Meanwhile, Klages’ characters are children living on the secret base where the bomb is being built.
–this one’s pretty self-explanatory, and the nonfiction book gets bonus points for being a memoir in verse.
These books don’t quite fit the fiction/nonfiction pairing, but I couldn’t resist:
–yes, LoTR is fiction, but Stars is essentially a spoof/homage to Tolkien’s work, so it’s much more enjoyable for readers familiar with Middle Earth.
And as a spinoff of the above, the new adult nonfiction book The Hobbit, The Wardrobe and the Great War by Joseph Loconte (thanks Fuse#8 for pointing this out) is an obvious pick for anyone interested in Tolkien’s and C. S. Lewis’ books.
Revolution by Deborah Wiles
–a single book that combines fiction and nonfiction: Wiles is a genius. Her books come with all the nonfiction context you need, provided by primary documents and images from the era.