Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Award Winning Wednesday — Jim Murphy

Today's Award Winning Wednesday post is the first that isn't being written about books I read during this challenge. I read two of Jim Murphy's award winners long before this challenge started. But, since the Newbery Non-fiction winners get a little overlooked (in my opinion) I wanted to talk about some of it today.

Jim Murphy wrote The Great Fire (the big Chicago fire) and An American Plague (about the yellow fever epidemic in 1793). He's written many, many other books, but these are his Newbery Honor winners that I've read. (He might have one or two more, but I can't remember off hand).

I believe Jim Murphy to be a pretty much perfect writer of non-fiction for children. His writing is very easy to follow, easy to understand but it isn't basic. He doesn't dumb the history down, or assume that his readers are going to be stupid. And, something I believe to be very important when writing history for young kids — he tells the history like a story. It makes it more interesting for kids (... for adults too, actually) and the storyline is easier to follow because it's not just a parade of facts.

And Jim includes 'characters'. He'll pull real life experiences and thoughts/writings from people who lived through the event and include their experiences, and when possible, he includes photographs of them. It gives people something to latch onto, something to focus and follow, and I think it works wonderfully.

Murphy's books also include a lot of pictures, maps and writings from the actual event, and most pages include at least a small image. It gives you something to focus on and it gives you a frame of reference. In The Great Fire, every so often there is a full two page sized map of Chicago, and it shows the spread of the fire as you read about it in the book. So the street names and locations that Murphy mentions are more meaningful, because you can see the fire overtake them on these maps.

These are really great books to give to kids interested in the history of a time period, or for kids needing to write a report and unsure how to research. (More on him later, but Russell Freedman is also a Newbery nonfiction author, although he does biographies and is great to keep in mind if you work with kids) I'm interested in reading more by Murphy, even some if his that aren't Newbery titles. These are great for kids, and great starting points for adults who are interested to learn more. I highly recommend Murphy.