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Hot Off the Press Spotlight: Stories of Lives Lived

The Hot Off the Press Spotlight segment showcases new books from our current Hot Off the Press list to further assist parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and other book enthusiasts in finding engaging books for all types of readers.

While fiction is often the go-to for young readers, there’s a whole captivating world of nonfiction out there. Biographies can inspire as much as they can educate, making the struggles and triumphs of various people—both known and unknown— come alive. Our February Hot Off the Press list features several new biographies that offer windows into the lives of some really fascinating folks.

Guts for Glory: The Story of Civil War Soldier Rosetta Wakeman, written and illustrated by Joanna Lapati (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers) — Nonfiction, Picture Book, Biography / Memoir, History, Social Activism / Equality / Feminism, ages 7-12.

A dramatically illustrated biography of Private Rosetta “Lyons” Wakeman, the only soldier whose letters capture the Civil War from a woman’s perspective.

In 1862, the war between North and South showed no signs of stopping. In rural New York, nineteen-year-old Rosetta Wakeman longed for a life beyond the family farm. One day she made a brave, bold choice: she cut her braid and disguised herself as a man. No one suspected that “Lyons” was a woman—not even when she signed up to fight for the Union. As Rosetta’s new regiment traveled to Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Louisiana, she sent letter after letter home to New York. Army life wasn’t easy, but Rosetta knew it was where she belonged—keeping her family safe and her country free. 

Through intricately detailed scratchboard art and excerpts from Rosetta’s letters, this fascinating biography introduces young readers to an unconventional woman who was determined to claim her own place in history.  Memorable and inspiring, Guts for Glory is a stirring portrait of the Civil War and the courage of those who fought on its front lines.

Journey to the Stars, by Laurie Wallmark and Raakhee Mirchandani; illus. by Maitreyi Ghosh (Beaming Books) — Nonfiction, Picture Book, Biography / Memoir, BIPOC Characters and Creators, Science / Nature, ages 4-6.

A powerful story of hope about a woman who fought against all odds to become the first Indian American female astronaut.

Kalpana Chawla set her sights on flight from an early age. She was told “no” many times in life: No, girls don’t study aerospace. No, women don’t become astronauts. No, you won’t succeed in the United States. But Kalpana didn’t listen–she was too busy forging her own path to the stars. And after a long journey of dedication, perseverance, and patience, she finally made it to space. Her inspiring story is a powerful reminder for girls all over the world to never, ever give up on their dreams.

Based on the true story of the first female Indian American astronaut, Journey to the Stars details the challenges and triumphs of Kalpana Chawla’s life up through her first journey into space. Her story is sure to inspire educators and parents interested in encouraging curiosity and a passion for STEM in girls and boys. Backmatter includes an author’s note and a timeline of Kalpana’s life and awards.

The Longest Shot, by Chad Soon and George Chiang; illus. by Amy Qi (Orca Book Publishers) — Nonfiction, Picture Book, Sports / Games / Recreation, Biography / Memoir, Social Activism / Equality / Feminism, ages 7-12.

Larry Kwong became the first player of Asian descent in the NHL when he played one shift with the New York Rangers in 1948.

Even though Larry’s achievement happened more than 70 years ago, his contribution to hockey is only now being recognized. He broke hockey’s color barrier and fought racism and discrimination at every step of his career. From his humble beginnings on the outdoor rinks in Vernon, British Columbia’s Chinatown all the way to playing at Madison Square Garden and in the NHL, this inspiring hero has a timeless story for young readers.

My Antarctica: True Adventures in the Land of Mummified Seals, Space Robots, and So Much More, by G. Neri; illus. by Corban Wilkin  (Candlewick Press) — Nonfiction, Picture Book, Action / Adventure, Biography / Memoir, Science / Nature, ages 7-12.

Antarctica is a land of extremes—the coldest, windiest, highest, and driest place on the planet. It’s a world where the sun stays hidden half of the year and where visitors must undergo a week of special training before it’s safe to go outside (watch out for lava bombs!). It’s also a place of stark beauty, history, and endless scientific research. Join beloved author G. Neri on his long-dreamed-of voyage to the ice, where he taps into his inner child and encounters sea angels, mummified seals, space robots, inquisitive penguins, and so much more. Abundant full-color photographs (many by the author) and annotated comics and illustrations from Corban Wilkin depict an unforgettable stay in a land of baffling mysteries to uncover, epic questions to ponder, and bigger-than-life stories to tell. Robust back matter includes more facts and history, recommended source material, and answers to questions about everything from logistics (how do you sleep?) to cool science (why is Blood Falls red?). This eye-opening, information-packed memoir—shaped by the author’s visits with school groups upon his return—sparkles with his heartfelt journey of discovery.

Follow Coretta Scott King Honor–winning author G. Neri to the end of the world in a captivating travel memoir that explores Antarctica through the curiosity and wonder of his inner child—the kid who dreamed of one day becoming an explorer.

Pedal, Balance, Steer: Annie Londonderry, the First Woman To Cycle Around the World, by Vivian Kirkfield; illus. by Alison Jay (Astra Books for Young Readers) — Nonfiction, Picture Book, Biography / Memoir, Social Activism / Equality / Feminism, Sports / Games / Recreation, ages 7-12.

Annie Londonderry proves women can do anything they set their minds to—even cycle around the world—in this nonfiction picture book for cycling enthusiasts, budding travelers, and anyone who dreams of reaching a difficult goal.

In the 1890s, times were tough, and opportunities for women were few and far between. When mother-of-three Annie Londonderry saw an ad promising $10,000 to a woman who could cycle around the world in a year, something no one thought possible, she decided it was time to learn to ride. She waved goodbye to her family in Boston and set off for Chicago.

Annie was exhausted when she arrived fifty-nine days later—and she realized she’d never make it across the Rockies before winter, and certainly not riding a heavy women’s bike and wearing a corset and petticoats. So Annie got herself a better bicycle and comfortable bloomers, and headed back East to try a different route. Facing robbers, sprained ankles, and disapproving stares, Annie missed her family and wanted to quit. But she journeyed on, all over the world. And, when she finally reached California and the Southwest, she kept pedaling. Her family was counting on the prize money, and people around the world, especially women, were watching.

Annie came through for all of them, arriving in Chicago fourteen days before her deadline and proving that women could do just about anything.

For more great book suggestions, be sure to check out the full February Hot Off the Press list!

List compiled by CBC’s resident book connoisseur, Brooke Pisarsky. Check out other Hot Off the Press Spotlight book lists on our blog.

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