Here are a few titles for the kid who wants to read a nonfiction book and prefers something disgusting or shocking over something delicate or moving.
Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story about Brain Science by John Fleischman. In 1848, Phineas Gage was working on building a railroad when an explosion drove a tamping rod (like a large, iron spear) through Gage’s head, coming in under his cheekbone, going through his brain, and coming out the top of his skull. What makes this story especially interesting is that Gage survived, and lived another eleven years. This book alternates between Gage’s story and information about brain science and medicine at the time of the accident. A great choice for kids interested in brain science, with a fascinating story that brings the science to life.
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley. The title explains it all: disgusting deaths of famous folks like Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Marie Curie, Ludwig van Beethoven, and more. All it took to get a load of sixth grade boys clambering for this one was reading out loud the description of Mozart’s deadly strep infection (there were pustules; there was the “stink of rotting human;” there was vomit and fever and sausage-sized fingers). The writing here is humorous and snarky, and the descriptions truly gross.
Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know about Fast Food by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson. The young readers’ version of Fast Food Nation, this book might stop you from eating fast food altogether (um, poop in the hamburger meat? no thanks!) or it might not (you don’t have to think about what might be in the meat!), but what it will definitely do is give you an interesting perspective on how the fast food industry works in America and its effect on our society. This is one that kids tend to recommend to each other after reading it; it’s the kind of book you want to talk about and share.