One of the most exciting chapters of my writing life has been adapting important nonfiction books into versions for young readers. Here are the adaptations I’ve written, with a few of the reviews they’ve received:

A YOUNG PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, 2nd revised and updated edition, 2022, Seven Stories Press, adapted from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States

HOW TO CHANGE EVERYTHING: A YOUNG HUMAN’S GUIDE TO PROTECTING THE PLANET AND EACH OTHER, 2021, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, adapted from the writings of Naomi Klein

—–This guide to climate justice for young people shows the roles of individuals, corporations, and governments in fighting for the planet and vulnerable populations. Divided into three parts—“Where We Are,” “How We Got Here,” and “What Happens Next”—this book explains some well-known facts and exposes many less-acknowledged realities about climate change and its disproportionate impact on poor communities and communities of color. Readers will find details about climate science, disaster capitalism, youth activism, geoengineering, the original New Deal and the Green New Deal, and more. With coverage of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Indigenous people’s initiatives for change, and lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic, the authors make a solid case for changing everything and offer practical and realistic steps for doing so. Klein’s journalistic credentials and Stefoff’s vast experience writing nonfiction for young readers merge to create an engaging account of how and why we find ourselves confronted with these urgent issues as well as how and why we might find our way out—if we work quickly. With its wide focus and pull-no-punches real talk, this book stands out among climate change books for its uniquely inclusive perspective that will inspire conviction, passion, and action. If you can get only one climate change book for youth, let it be this one.–Kirkus


—–Idealists seeking a more racially just America met the deep-seated racism of Mississippi during Freedom Summer. In 1964, hundreds of mostly college-aged students, many of them White, were drawn to work alongside local African Americans seeking voting rights and better education for their children. Based on Watson’s adult title Freedom Summer (2010) and adapted by Stefoff, this is a searing account of the difficulties of affecting change in a state that persistently held onto racial inequality and division. The volunteers who would register voters and operate Freedom Schools were carefully trained and organized, and an additional goal was challenging Mississippi’s Democratic Party leaders to seek political involvement that reflected the state’s population. Resistance was often violent, as shown by as the murders of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. This is also the story of civil rights activists—including Bob Moses, Stokely Carmichael, and Fannie Lou Hamer—who worked tirelessly, often at great personal risk. The compelling narrative highlights national leaders, such as President Lyndon Johnson and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who pushed legislation but balked at providing protection to citizens in hostile situations. Moving personal stories of volunteers who wanted to make a difference and found themselves changed forever round out this narrative that provides a valuable level of intimacy for readers. An in-depth look that contributes to understanding a violent painful chapter in recent history. —Kirkus


—–A slimmed-down version of Loewen’s (Sundown Towns, 2018, etc.) damning indictment of the way United States history is taught. As in the adult edition, the author bases his argument on critical examinations of 18 high school textbooks published between 1974 and 2007. He sees clear tendencies to blandly hero-ify not only historical figures—such as Helen Keller, commonly presented in relation to her disabilities, not for her lifelong social and political radicalism—but also American culture and government, which are consistently portrayed as international forces for good despite centuries of invasion-based foreign policy. To freshen his material, the author slips in more recent statistics and general comments that newer textbooks seem to have filled in at least some of the more egregious gaps. More provocatively, he also flings down a gauntlet to young readers by not reproducing two of the five photos he discusses as iconic images of the war in Vietnam, arguing that they are still too edgy for some school districts. He also offers alternative narratives about the conflicts between European immigrants and Indigenous residents, slavery, racism, social class, and the ideal of “progress.” Overall, he presents a cogent argument for studying historical nuances. He argues that young people should not be deprived of hearing the incredible truth of American history in service to avoidance of controversy or blinkered, parochial nationalism. An accessible, eye-opening invitation to look for hidden—and not-so-hidden—agendas in supposedly authoritative sources.–Kirkus                        

EIFFEL’S TOWER FOR YOUNG PEOPLE: THE STORY OF THE 1889 WORLD’S FAIR, 2019, Seven Stories Press, adapted from Jill Jonnes’s Eiffel’s Tower

ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES: YOUNG READERS EDITION, 2018, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, adapted from Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species

—–This attractive, oversize adaptation of Charles Darwin’s classic work of science has been shortened, updated, and streamlined for clarity and readability. Stefoff’s introduction provides biographical detail about Darwin and how the naturalist’s excursions on the HMS Beagle were instrumental to his theory’s development. She also describes the fundamental concepts behind Darwin’s “Big Idea” as well as its significant controversy. Vocabulary words appear in bold throughout the text, while sidebars and supplemental sections delve into related topics: myths and misinterpretations of evolution; how modern research has deepened scientific understanding of evolutionary processes; and the concept of “artificial selection” as it applies to modern dogs. Bright photographs and illustrations of plants, animals, and habitats provide an expansive and inviting visual element. With valuable modifications and enhancements, Stefoff preserves the richness of Darwin’s content for contemporary young readers.–Publishers Weekly

THE THIRD CHIMPANZEE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE: ON THE EVOLUTION AND FUTURE OF THE HUMAN ANIMAL, 2014, Seven Stories Press, adapted from Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee

1493 FOR YOUNG PEOPLE: FROM COLUMBUS’S VOYAGE TO GLOBALIZATION, 2014, Seven Stories Press, adapted from Charles C. Mann’s 1493.

A DIFFERENT MIRROR FOR YOUNG PEOPLE: a HISTORY OF MULTICULTURAL AMERICA, 2012, Seven Stories Press, adapted from Ronald Takaki’s A Different Mirror

A YOUNG PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, 2009, Seven Stories Press , adapted from Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States

BEFORE COLUMBUS: THE AMERICAS OF 1491,2009, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, adapted from Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

—–In this beautifully illustrated and concise adaptation of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus(Vintage, 2006), Mann paints a superb picture of pre-Columbian America. In the process, he overturns the misconceived image of Natives as simple, widely scattered savages with minimal impact on their surroundings. Well-chosen, vividly colored graphics and photographs of mummies, pyramids, artifacts, and landscapes as well as the author’s skillful storytelling will command the attention of even the most reluctant readers. Eye-catching sidebars and oversize chapter headings seem to pop from the pages. Mann constructs the narrative around three crucial questions that continue to confound historians today: Was the New World really new? Why were the Europeans successful? What ecological impact did Natives have on their surroundings? From the pre-Columbian genetic engineering of maize to the existence of pyramids older than the Egyptian variety, Mann’s lucid answers to these questions represent current scholarly opinion and point the way toward future exploration and discovery. Students and teachers will benefit greatly from this engaging exploration of America’s most overlooked and misunderstood historical periods.—School Library Journal, starred