Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy, by Kenneth C. Davis, (Oct. 2020, Henry Holt), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250205643
Historian Kenneth C. Davis, best known for his Don’t Know Much About… series, takes a deep, disturbing look at authoritarianism and the fall of democracy by examining the reigns of five of history’s most brutal dictators: Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, and Saddam Hussein are each profiled in Strongman: a term used for leaders who use control by force of will and character or military methods. Profiles of each dictator, timelines of their lives, and a look at the roots of democracy place readers in history. A chapter on a “New Generation of Monsters” is what I can only hope is a wake-up call to the dangers of extreme nationalism, “othering”, and attacks on our everyday freedoms under the guise of “draining swamps” and “making great again”.
Black and white photographs throughout accompany solid research and Kenneth C. Davis’s powerful writing. Profiles on each dictator’s past helps uncover clues that may have led to the murderous tyrants each figure became, both in childhood and historical context. Relevant and readable, with back matter that provides a base for further reading and research – bibliographies, notes, and an index – Strongman is essential reading for teens and adults.
All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team, by Christina Soontornvat, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536209457
In June 2018, a group of 12 young soccer players and their assistant coach entered a cave in northern Thailand, looking for an adventure to pass the time after practice. The heavy rains were still weeks away, and Coach Ekkapol Chantawong had been promising to take them out. But the rain has arrived early, and the cave begins to flood as the team and coach are still inside. What began as an after-practice adventure became a 17-day ordeal as the world waited and watched the rescue operation take place, hoping that the group would emerge all right despite having no food or clean water, and existing in total darkness. Award-winning author Christina Soontornvat tells the Wild Boars’ story in All Thirteen. Meticulously research and reading like a taut thriller, Ms. Soontornvat goes through a day-day-by, moment-by-moment retelling of the boys’ ordeal and rescue and includes interviews, color photos, maps, and detailed source notes. Callout sections on the country and on calming techniques like meditation and Buddhism, the faith followed by most of the boys, help readers understand how the boys drew on their inner strength to survive. Source notes, a bibliography, and full index make this a great addition to your nonfiction collections and fantastic reading for any of your readers who loved and possibly aged out of the I Survived books and wants more books about true-life survival.
All Thirteen has starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus, BookPage, The Horn Book, and Publishers Weekly. Publisher Candlewick offers a free, downloadable educator’s guide and sample chapter.
2 thoughts on “Riveting nonfiction from two powerhouse authors”
I was very lucky to have received ARCs of both of these books. All Thirteen is amazing and Strongmen taught me much about how a dictator takes control (reminded me a bit of Trump if we didn’t live in the US).
He’s definitely on that track.