When I was a kid, I didn't really like children's literature. Sure, I read Five Little Peppers and How They Grew and Judy Blume (especially the spicy ones!), but mostly I would sneak books off my parents' shelves. I read Saki and All Quiet on the Western Front. I read Tropic of Cancer at about age ten. (BO-RING!)
What I liked the most, though, were the books my dad would bring home from traveling. Airport paperback crime novels and true crime. Oh, how I ate up that true crime.
Now that my job is helping kids find books that they'll want to read, I have noticed that there's not much true crime for kids. I can't give them what I read at that age - Helter Skelter gave me nightmares for years - decades! So along comes Chris Barton (The Day-Glo Brothers, Shark vs. Train) to fix this flaw.
Can I See Your I.D.?: True Stories of False Identities presents ten deceivers - teenagers, adults, men and women - some playing for keeps and some just trying on a life as someone else. Some of them are criminals and some are embroiled in desperate schemes to save their lives or liberty.
We meet well-known fakers like Frank Abagnale, the con man played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can and Ellen Craft, who pretended to be a white man so that she and her husband could escape slavery in 1848. But there are also forgotten falsifiers like Forrest Carter, who as noted Alabama racist Asa Earl Carter had been a speechwriter for George Wallace ("Segregation now... segregation tomorrow... segregation forever!"), but who assumed a false identity to write the seemingly deeply spiritual Cherokee coming-of-age novel The Education of Little Tree.
It's stories like Carter's - thoroughly researched through primary sources - that will rivet readers young and old. I found myself passing these stories along: "Did you ever hear about the West Indian teenager who drove the A train for a day?" and looking up the perpetrators on the Internet.
Short and exciting, written in the second person, with a "What happened next" at the end of each chapter. I really look forward to handing this to older middle school and up (there's a frightening attempted seduction that keeps this book out of middle grade hands), not only as a "I have to read a non-fiction book" summer reading recommendation, but as a lively piece of leisure reading.
Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by nonfiction author Lisa Owens at L.L. Owens.