I’m very excited about tomorrow’s Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10, which is hosted by Cathy Mere from Reflect and Refine and Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. I cannot wait to see all of the nonfiction picture books other bloggers will recommend. Until then, here’s my list of nonfiction picture books I want my daughter to embrace as she flourishes as a reader:
A Seed is Sleepy by Diana Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long: We have an herb garden in our backyard. We plant flowers and trees. Our next door neighbor has an extensive garden, which she’s invited my daughter to sit in and taste from this-coming summer. We’re part of a CSA. Therefore, knowing where our food and plants come from is important. This book is packed with information, but it’s presented exquisitely. I’ve never seen a book on seeds as beautiful as this one. Therefore, it’s going to be one I explore with Isabelle as she gets older and can understand how seeds turn into so much more.
Ann and Liv Cross Antarctica: A Dream Come True! By Zoe Alderfer Ryan and Nicholas Reti: Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen: two women who dreamed of crossing Antarctica. Many people told them they wouldn’t be able to do this because they were women. The naysayers were wrong. As the mom of a daughter, I know she may come up against sexism at some point in her life. Therefore, I want her to hear stories like this one so she knows anything is possible regardless of the fact that she’s a female! Each page spread has a heading that frames the information and the picture, which are exquisite paintings. The final page of the book invites young readers to “Draw Your Dream!” Typically, I don’t advocate my daughter drawing in books, but I cannot wait for her to illustrate whatever her dream is once she’s old enough to draw pictures that are more than crayon scribbles.
Brick by Brick by Charles R. Smith Jr. and Floyd Cooper: I lived five blocks away from the White House (and volunteered there, but that’s another story!) when I was in college. Therefore, when we took my daughter to Washington at the tender age of four months old, we strolled by the White House to take a photo of her there. However, I never really gave much thought to who constructed that great building until I received a review copy of Brick by Brick last month. This book is written in poetic verse and details the “black hands/white hands/free hands/slave hands” that worked together to create the president’s home. Through rhyme and beautiful illustrations, readers empathize with the slaves who worked so hard, without earning a wage, to build an ornate house. The author’s note gave me a pang of sadness when I was reminded of the fire in 1814 that burned down the first White House. After all of that sacrifice, nothing remained. Even though we cannot see the original White House, I believe it’s important for my daughter to know its history. After all, the present day White House was rebuilt to look like the original and is a reminder of the involvement slaves had in creating one of our nation’s landmarks.
Faces of the Moon by Bob Crelin and Leslie Evans: This book features cut-outs that help young readers picture the moon’s phases in a concrete way. My daughter has been fascinated with the moon for a few months now and this book has helped me learn a lot more about waxing moons, waning moons, and gibbous moons. (Stuff I’m sure I learned in science class, but have long since forgotten.)
Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman: A humorous, yet touching, look at one girl’s fascination with our 16th President. This book has a distinct voice and lots of fantastic craft moves one might teach young writers to emulate. Therefore, it’s one I recommend when I speak to teachers about using mentor text to enhance writing instruction.
Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson: Nelson Mandela was in the news so much when I was growing up. I can remember him in prison. I remember the day he was released. And I remember the day he became the President of South Africa. He was a man I heard so much about on the news, but I never really knew much about his early life until I read Kadir Nelson’s book. The book doesn’t overwhelm with text. It includes only the most important details about Mandela’s life, which makes it an accessible biography for a young reader. I loved the spreads of the beach before and after apartheid. Those beach images provide a strong image about what it really meant when the “European Only” signs came down. The visual depictions of Mandela were so lifelike that readers will have a clear picture in their mind of what Mandela looked like at all stages of his life.
Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems for Two Voices by Carole Gerber and Eugene Yelchin: Any time a book can do double duty, I’m a happy camper. This book exposes kids to poetry and teaches them about nature. I long for the day when my daughter can read these poems aloud with me since they are meant for two voices. Until then, I will read them aloud to her on my own, changing my voice when the color on the page changes (i.e., every page is color-coded so you know when to change readers). This book is a nice companion to A Seed is Sleepy for teaching about the plant world.
The Train of States by Peter Sis: This book introduces young readers to all 50 states in their order of admission. (BTW: There’s a special page for Washington, DC.) Our state, the Keystone State, was the second one to be admitted. Its ornately decorated antique circus wagon car includes the state’s motto, nickname, flag, tree, dog, and bird. It also includes sketches of famous people like Benjamin Franklin, President Buchanan, and Betsy Ross. There is so much information packed on to this page that each page can be a springboard to a discussion into further investigation about a given state. Finally, page after page this book is a delight for the senses, especially if you’re sharing it with a child who loves trains.
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone and Marjorie Priceman: The title sucked me in immediately, especially after I couldn’t find a doctor’s costume for my daughter this past Halloween. Once I started reading it, I was immediately drawn in thanks to the narrator’s conversational tone throughout the text. The author’s note in the back includes valuable information and the resource list on the final page encourages readers to learn more about Dr. Blackwell.
You Never Heard of Willie Mays?! by Jonah Winter and Terry Widener: We’re big baseball fans in this house. This book shares the story of William Howard Mays Jr. with young readers. While it’s written as a narrative, it includes text boxes with facts (e.g., about Joe DiMaggio, Mays’ inspiration, and The Negro Leagues) and tables with statistics (e.g., “Best All-Around Hitters in Major League History,” “Great Players Whose Careers Were Interrupted by Military Service,” “Best Defensive Center Fielders in Major League History). These nonfiction text features really enhance the story, as does the author’s note that can be found across from the title page of the book.