children's books, Graphic format, Higher Elementary, nonfiction

Review: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #5: The Undergorund Abductor

23167768Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #5: The Underground Abductor
Nathan Hale
128 pages
First published in April 2015 by Amulet Books
Where did I get this? From my local library

Growing up, I didn’t read much nonfiction. As a kid and even as a teen, I think the closest I got to reading nonfiction was with historical fiction like Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. Kids nowadays have so many engaging non-fiction titles to choose from, that it almost makes me wish I was growing up today. Almost.

In Nathan Hale’s latest volume of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Harriet Tubman is the subject of choice. Readers first meet Tubman as Arminta Ross, a six year-old slave who’s been rented out to a local family. When she can’t get the hang of weaving, Arminta is taught how to check muskrat traps in the swamp. The job is a cold and hard one, as the young girl catches the measles and ends up with bronchitis. After recovering, she’s hired out again and the next family isn’t any better.

Readers also see what happens when Arminta accidentally gets in the way of an irate slaveowner who tries to injure another slave. It took her months to recover from her traumatic head injury and even then, her owner tries to sell her.

After a series of events, Arminta Ross becomes Harriet Tubman, badass abductor of the Underground Railroad. She travels back and forth from the South to Canada and various places to help slaves get to freedom. The journey was so scary that Tubman really did keep a pistol on her in case someone wanted to turn back instead of completing the trip.

I was amazed at Tubman’s courage to go back and forth, helping strangers and reuniting her family. You can’t help but be in awe at her determination even as she risked her own life and freedom. I laughed at the jokes and felt sadness when Tubman was never able to rescue her sister, nieces, and nephews.

Nathan Hale does a wonderful job presenting Harriet Tubman’s life in graphic format. The story is rich with details and includes a bibliography in the back for more information. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor is a book that needs to be on the shelf of every library. It’s a book that’s perfect for readers in higher elementary school to adults. I will warn you; once you read this book, you’re going to want to reread it right away. Plus, there are four more books in the series with a sixth book being published in March 2016.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Graphic format, nonfiction

Nonfiction November: Graphic Memoir/Biography

nonfiction novo

Lu of Regular Rumination and Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness are hosting Nonfiction November, celebrating the power of nonfiction. Each week, the duo ask a particular question and participants are encouraged to answer the question and even post reviews of nonfiction.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about reading nonfiction is watching the emergence of graphic non-fiction. To be clear, graphic non-fiction is nonfiction narrated in a graphic format. The really nice thing about nonfiction in this format, is that there’s pretty much something for everyone. New topics and experiences are being shared in really unique ways that aren’t dictated by any rules. Below you can find a few of my favorite graphic nonfiction reads with a focus on memoirs autobiographies.

Graphic Memoir

telSmile by Raina Telgemeier (2010) I read Smile years ago after reading Telgemeier’s adaptation of the middle school classic series, The Baby-Sitters Club. When Raina was in the sixth grade she fell, severely injuring her two front teeth. As if sixth grade isn’t awkward enough for most people, she had to go to a lot dentist and orthodontic appointments because of the fall, while also trying to figure out who she is and where she fits in. Smile was one of the first middle school graphic memoirs I had ever seen or read. After you finish reading it, you can hand the book over to your middle schooler. My daughter enjoyed the book as much as I did.


Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi. (2004) Persepolis is one of those rare books that if you haven’t read, you need to go out and buy it. Now. Satrapi retraces her childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and the war with Iraq. We see a young fierce girl who’s trying to stay sane in a country that was changing sometimes overnight.

smallStitches by David Small (2009) Small has been one of my favorite illustrators for years as he often teams up with his wife, Sarah Stewart to create wonderful children’s books. Stitches is nothing like the light children’s books he’s co-authored. As a teen, the author was told that he needed to have surgery to remove a growth from his throat. What he wasn’t told was that his parents and doctors thought he was going to die. Secrets played a huge role in the Small family as his parents hide things from their children and each other. After the surgery, David is a mute. With the help of a therapist and new found freedom, he’s able to slowly recover and make sense of the silence of his childhood. Stitches is a powerful memoir about resilience even after being surrounded by dysfunction for so long.


March Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (2013). It always amazes me how simple an illustration can be drawn, yet still remains powerful. In March, the first book in a trilogy, Congressman John Lewis recounts his childhood as a boy living in Alabama to becoming a young man who participated in sit-ins during the Civil Rights era.


We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin (2006). I kept going back and forth with whether or not I should add this book to my list. I finally decided I should after remembering the strong feelings I had for it. We Are On Our Own recounts Katin’s childhood as she and her mother escaped Budapest during the Nazi invasion. Drawn in pencil and told decades after the events took place, readers don’t get a full picture of everything that went on. Much of it is because Katin was just a child during this chaotic and terrible time. I found this book to be raw and powerful.

Graphic biography

rednissRadioactive Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss (2010). Has there ever been a song or book you wished you created? Radioactive Marie and Pierre Curie may be one of those creations. This isn’t your typical biography. Redniss writes about the lives of Marie and Pierre Curie but also includes anecdotes from people who have survived Hiroshima, the aftermath of Chernobyl, and other issues about the effect of radiation on people. Add that to the book’s cyanotype illustrations, photographs, and ephemera and readers get an enjoyable biography.

Feynman by Jim Ottaviani (2011) I like this book so ottaviani feynmanmuch that I usually reread it every year. Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize-winning quantum physicist, adventurer, and breaker of safes. Ottaviani takes a lot of information from Feynman’s books and give readers who haven’t heard or read about the physicist, a nice introduction.

There are many books I could have added to this list but didn’t because this post is long enough as it is. Notables include: Maus by Art Spiegelman which won a Pultizer, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley, Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi, and Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me by Ellen Forney.

Have you read any of these? Are there any graphic memoirs/biographies you would add to this list?