Teaching with a passion for nonfiction picture books: Part 1

I recently had a conversation with author Melissa Stewart about sharing nonfiction titles in the classroom. We were discussing ways to introduce more nonfiction titles to our young learners.

I started thinking about some of the things I do, looked back through blog posts and classroom photos and realized that I was potentially going to write one of the longest blog posts ever written! For ease of reading (and writing!), I have broken things up into three distinct posts and will share these over the next week:

Part 1: Everywhere you look . . . let there be nonfiction!

Part 2: The importance of the nonfiction read aloud

Part 3: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together

The intention with each of these posts is to share a practical “how to” list of how to read more, celebrate more and use more nonfiction picture books in the late primary/early intermediate classroom. For reference, last year I taught a Grade 2/3/4 class.

Always, my goal is to increase an interest in and a love of nonfiction reading. I am sure that many of you are already doing many of these things – probably many of them differently and better than me! But it is always informative to read about what is happening in other classrooms to help us think more about what is happening in our own. Please feel free to offer suggestions and ideas in the comments.

Teaching with a passion for nonfiction picture books:

Part 1: Everywhere you look . . . let there be nonfiction!

Know your books.

There are so many fantastic nonfiction titles being published and keeping current is important if we want to nurture a love of nonfiction in our students. One of the biggest issues for teachers wanting to share more nonfiction with their students is where to begin. What books are out there? Are they a good fit for specific grades/readers/interest levels? What books are wonderful read alouds? Which books are ideal for independent reading at different reading and interest levels?

It is hard to know where to start. Best piece of advice – start with the educators, authors and illustrators who have not only started but are immersed in the land of nonfiction books. Let their passion and knowledge inspire and inform your choices.

  • Read blogs (see a list of recommendations at the bottom of this post)
  • Check out the new titles in your favourite bookstore and public library.
  • Pay attention to best of lists (see below) and award winners (again see below).
  • If you are on Pinterest, follow boards that highlight nonfiction titles

Read nonfiction picture books for your own enjoyment.

We are passionate about titles that we have read and enjoyed. Set a goal to read more nonfiction titles and you won’t be able to resist sharing. One of the best things I did was join Alyson Beecher‘s nonfiction picture book challenge last year. Alyson challenged educators to read more nonfiction picture books and share updates by participating in the #nfpb20i4 (this year’s twitter hashtag) meme. Here is a link to Alyson’s challenge for 2014. The best thing about participating in this challenge is being part of a reading community who is excited and passionate to share nonfiction titles with students and educators.

Bring these books into the classroom!

Children need to look up and find nonfiction titles in their learning environment, not just associate nonfiction with one section of the library where you go to learn research skills. I regularly rotate nonfiction from the library into my classroom displays. But I also purchase new nonfiction titles for our classroom collection. When I buy new books, I am conscious of making sure I have both fiction and nonfiction titles. Sometimes I go shopping strictly to add new nonfiction books that represent current student interests. Students will often ask me to find more titles about a particular topic or “a book that is like ________”(some current favourite). In my classroom this year, there was a lot of interest in insects, gardens and life in the ocean. I keep a little notebook full of sticky note requests and take it with me when I go book shopping. Often I take photos of a book shopping spree so these pictures help illustrate the balance in my book purchases.

Teaching with a passion for nonfiction picture books: Part 1 There's a Book for That Book talk nonfiction books.

I keep a basket of books to book talk by my chair at our carpet area. The students know that they aren’t supposed to peek and what is in the basket is always a source of anticipation and excitement. There are always fiction and nonfiction books in this basket so that I ensure I am giving equal “rave about/celebrate” talks to both genres. On certain days I will just book talk some new nonfiction. Other days I book talk a variety of titles. The consistent thing, I am book talking every day. If I have limited time, I set a timer and grab a pile and challenge myself to “sell” those books before the timer goes off. The students think this is hilarious. I think it is highly effective because about 95% of the time all of the books have been nabbed and landed in student book boxes or in reader’s hands by the time I am finished.

What do I highlight when I book talk nonfiction titles? Some of these things (depending on time available and purpose)

  • information about the author and illustrator/photographer: What motivated them to write the book? Have we read their work before?
  • some of the features in the book i.e. maps, timelines, close up photography, etc. I also use this time, when possible to review how to use some of the features in the book. For example, I might be sharing a book about grasshoppers. I will wonder aloud how high they can jump. I then ask students about how I might find that information. They might suggest the index, table of contents or page headings. We would go through the process of actually looking to see if we could find the answer to my question.
  • ways to interact with the book i.e.  skipping to a life cycle chart as an overview of the stages of life before reading sections in more detail
  • ways to buddy read a title (i.e. how to take turns reading sections/what kind of questions that might be asked, turn taking looking up words in the glossary, etc.)
  • suggestions of other books in the room on the same topic/theme or asking students if they can think of any other books in the room on same topic (as they get to know our library better I do this more and more)

I also might

  • read aloud an interesting fact or two
  • share my favourite photo/illustration and ask a few questions about it
  • “quiz” the students and take guesses before sharing information in the book i.e. “Does anyone want to guess how long a mountain gorilla lives in the wild?”
  • read aloud a passage that reinforces something we have just learned so that students know that they can increase their knowledge on a topic we already know something about

Think about your book displays

I have a shelf of nonfiction titles right beside our carpet area where we gather for many lessons and read alouds. I believe that proximity leads to curiosity so I was strategic about placing these titles close. This photo was taken early in the year when I was still bringing titles out to book talk. Now, the bins have many more titles and have been rearranged a little bit to reflect interests.

Teaching with a passion for nonfiction picture books: Part 1 There's a Book for That

I also use a tiny bulletin board in another area of the classroom to display the book covers of the nonfiction books we are in the middle of reading or have just finished. Because we do so much reading, writing and talking about these titles, I like highlighting the covers in a place of importance.

Teaching with a passion for nonfiction picture books: Part 1 There's a Book for That

I also have a display stand of nonfiction titles where I can display books with the covers facing out. It sits beside an identical stand of fiction picture books. This is deliberate – to convey the message to students that we read widely – choosing both fiction and nonfiction titles. (Sorry don’t have a photo of these displays)

Also near the carpet area is an every changing book display of books from the classroom and school library that we have recently read or book talked. As you can see in the photo below, both fiction and nonfiction feature prominently. We know from our own reactions when we walk into a library space that our eye is drawn to books that are displayed covers out. Be conscious of what students see when they look around the classroom.

Teaching with a passion for nonfiction picture books: Part 1 There's a Book for That

My students also see that I have bins dedicated to nonfiction titles in my own teaching areas. They get excited about peeking into these bins and making read aloud requests.

Teaching with a passion for nonfiction picture books: Part 1 There's a Book for That

One of my favourite memories of this school year was after we read Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman Later, I found one of my students snooping through my Picture Book Biography bin. “Do you have any more of those girls can’t or people can’t kind of books?” she asked. Of course, I did. We went on to read Every Day is Malala Day and our discussions and learning continued.

Every Day is Malala Day Teaching with a passion for nonfiction picture books: Part 1 There's a Book for That Teaching with a passion for nonfiction picture books: Part 1 There's a Book for That

Further reading/information:

Blogs that highlight a lot of nonfiction titles:

KidLitFrenzy and all of the blogs that regularly participate in the #nfpb2014 challenge. All of my posts from 2014 are here and from 2013, here.

The Nonfiction Detectives

Celebrate Science

Librarian’s Quest

Delightful Children’s Books

Best of Lists:

The Nerdy Book Club: Nonfiction Picture Book Winners:  2013 winners

School Library Journal’s Best Nonfiction of the year: Here is the 2013 list

Waking Brain Cell’s best nonfiction list: Top 20 2013 titles 


Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award

Cook Prize (STEM) Award 

Pinterest boards featuring nonfiction picture books:

My boards: Nonfiction and Wishlist: nonfiction picture books

2014 Best Children’s Nonfiction by Tasha Saecker

Best Non-fiction for Kids by Pragmatic Mom

Great Nonfiction for Kids by Choice Literacy

Melissa Stewart has started a board that highlights blogs that share lots of nonfiction: Blogs Worth Reading

Some posts on my blog which feature a number of favourite nonfiction titles:

Wonder Inducing Nonfiction Read Alouds

Swoon Worthy Nonfiction Picture Books

If you are a blogging teacher or a reader of blogs consider following and participating in the #nfpb2014 hashtag and link up on the blog KidLit Frenzy every Wednesday. There is also a Nonfiction 10 for 10  blogging event that has run for the last two years in February. This is hosted by Cathy Mere from Reflect and RefineMandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning  and Julie Balen of Write at the Edge. Follow on twitter with the #nf10for10 hashtag. My #nf10for10 post this year was The Wonder of Women. It featured 10 picture book biographies about women in history.

I am passionate about sharing lots of nonfiction titles with my students and increasing their excitement about reading nonfiction books.  I welcome any feedback. In particular, please feel free to suggest favourite blogs, lists and Pinterest boards that others might enjoy.

Happy nonfiction reading!

Next post? Part 2: The importance of the nonfiction read aloud





Swoon Worthy Nonfiction Picture Books

I am a huge fan of nonfiction picture books in our Elementary classrooms. They are the jumping off point into deep, deep learning. But it is not just the learning that infuses these pages, it is also the beauty of the images that helps lure readers in.

Reasons for nonfiction read alouds? There are many: opportunity for rich discussion, shared learning experiences, new information conveyed, etc. But there is also the visual treat that so many titles provide. The inspiration to wonder, to marvel and to be in awe of our world.

For some students, just the lure of new knowledge is the gateway to reading fantastic nonfiction titles, others need a little nudge. Something beautiful . . .

I have a few students who resist picking up nonfiction titles without some persuasion. I try to entice them with the amazing facts that they might learn. Thinking of a few students in particular, I realize I have been approaching it all wrong. With these children, I should be starting with the images and let them work their magic. Many of our visual learners begin with the illustrations. They become lost in the pictures and then begin reading to answer the questions that start to form.

Do I have enough nonfiction picture books in my collection (or on my wish lists) for these readers?

I started a list. And then I thought I should share . . . .

Each of these titles has made me stop and stare.  Here are 25 of the most gorgeous nonfiction titles out there – absolutely swoon worthy, in my opinion :-)

Learn more about the Natural World:

Swoon Worthy Nonfiction Picture Books: 25 beautiful titles to entice young readers with stunning illustrations From There's a Book for That

An Egg is Quiet written by Dianna Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long

Over and Under the Snow written by the Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. (Note: This title is actually fiction but offers a beautiful invitation to begin learning more about the world under the snow)

Feathers Not Just for Flying written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

Bird, Butterfly, Eel with story and paintings by James Prosek

The Long, Long Journey: The Godwit’s Amazing Migration written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Mia Posada

Nest by Jorey Hurley

Weeds Find a Way written by Cindy Jenson-Elliott and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher 

Books about Creatures: Small to Gigantic, and all sizes in between:

Swoon Worthy Nonfiction Picture Books: 25 beautiful titles to entice young readers with stunning illustrations From There's a Book for That

Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World by Steve Jenkins 

Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Cindy Trumbore and Susan L. Roth

Mama Built a Little Nest written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Big Blue Whale written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Nick Maland

Jumping Penguins illustrated by Marije Tolman with text by Jesse Goossens

See What a Seal Can Do written by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by Kate Nelms

Information/Concept titles:

Swoon Worthy Nonfiction Picture Books: 25 beautiful titles to entice young readers with stunning illustrations From There's a Book for That

Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animals’ Lives  written by Lola Schaefer and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Swirl by Swirl (Spirals in Nature) written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes

Gravity by Jason Chin

Locomotive by Brian Floca 


 Biographies/Memoir Swoon Worthy Nonfiction Picture Books: 25 beautiful titles to entice young readers with stunning illustrations From There's a Book for That

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Orani My Father’s Village by Claire A. Nivola

Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill 

Dare the Wind written by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully 

Grandfather Gandhi written by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Evan Turk

The Boy who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by LeUyen Pham 

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

(I featured a few of these titles in this post last year: Wonder Inducing Nonfiction Read Alouds Some are clearly my favourites!)

What beautiful nonfiction picture books make you swoon? Please share them in the comments.

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2014! Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction titles.

NFPB 2014

Monday July 21st, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?



Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. You are guaranteed to find something new to add to your list.

A strange #IMWAYR post for me because there are no picture books included here. We were away for an entire week and I just packed novels in my bag. But, oh, what novels . . . The first two were titles on my #MustReadin2014 list

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Eerie. Haunting. Painful. Beautiful. Captures family dynamics – holding these messy aspects up in all of their raw and real glory. If you have read this book, you know, it isn’t possible to write details that aren’t spoilers. So leaving it here. Wow.

 We Were Liars #IMWAYR July 21st 2014 There's a Book for That

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner 

Should have been just so sad but somehow this title was light and full of hope. Truly beautifully done -this is the YA fiction I want my daughter to read as a teen. Easily one of my favourite YA titles of 2014. I loved the vulnerability in the characters, the exploration of grief, the superb writing and of course, little Frankie Sky.

 The Summer of Letting Go  #IMWAYR July 21st 2014 There's a Book for That

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

I can’t quite remember who told me that I should read this book. Many, many thank yous! These characters will be with me for some time. A powerful story of the complexities of friendship, the reign of a bully, what it means to stand up and stand out, of finding home . . . Mix in the music of the Beatles, the vibe of the mid-seventies and a stop the world storm and whoa, what a novel. If you haven’t read this book, put it high up on the TBR list.

If I Ever Get Out of Here  #IMWAYR July 21st 2014 There's a Book for That

 Bluffton by Matt Phelan

Purely and perfectly captures long ago summers on the page – specific of a particular place and era - Muskegon, Michigan in the early 1900s with Buster Keaton. Certain images lift of the page and invite you to step right inside. Phelan is brilliant.

Bluffton  #IMWAYR July 21st 2014 There's a Book for That

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

This is an adult novel, a rare read for me. I am including it here because the main character is a 13 year old boy and it is told through his eyes. Upsetting but beautifully written.

 The Round House  #IMWAYR July 21st 2014 There's a Book for That


Next up? I am reading Son by Lois Lowry. And many holds are coming in from the library so due dates will determine what comes after this!

Reading Goal updates:

2014 Chapter Book Challenge: 51/100 novels complete

Goodeads Challenge: 347/650 books read

#MustReadin2014: 20/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 82/65 complete

Monday July 14th, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading? imwayr Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. You are guaranteed to find something new to add to your list.

I read many picture books this week. These were my favourites: Wave by Suzy Lee If you have ever spent time at the beach with a little one, this wordless book will enchant you. It instantly evoked memories of watching my children race waves – all the excitement, fear and wonder expressed in their movements and expressions. Love. wave2 What do you do with an idea? written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mac Besom I placed this on a picture book wish list because it is just so . . . Let’s call it a celebration of imagination and a Must Have/Must Own/Must Share title. Now, don’t you want it too? idea The Fly by Elise Gravel I’ve said it once or twice this week at least. But I will say it again – pretty certain that this Disgusting Critters series is going to cause a nonfiction commotion in my classroom this fall. Nonfiction facts housed in a “fiction like” reader. Hilarious and amusing along with informative. Flies are irksome. Read this and find them a little bit charming. the fly Inside my Imagination written by Marta Artega and illustrated by Zuzanna Celej Gorgeous illustrations – whimsical journey into an imagination landscape Favourite line: “Then the words all hold each other’s hands.” Would be a great mentor text to use as a springboard for writing: What would happen if you could walk around in your imagination? What would you see? What is it like? Inside my Imagination Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai I like this for many reasons. Here are three: the moody blues and darks in the illustrations, the middle of the night courage of a little night explorer stretching her independent spirit and the snuggly last page. Hannahs Night book cover Komako Sakai Stephen and the Beetle written by Jorge Lujan and illustrated by Chiara Carrer Ethics anyone? Love books that prompt philosophical discussion. Should you squash that beetle? Or should you wonder about it instead? Truly wild illustrations which you will really like or won’t. I am in the first camp. stephen and the beetle Caged Birds of Phnom Penh written by Frederick Lipp and illustrated by Ronald Himler I discovered this title on the amazing blog Gathering Books (where I often uncover books I might have missed). It is a story of vulnerability and hope of a better life. Ary wants to release a caged bird in order to set her wishes free. But, the experience is not what she first anticipated. Powerful. caged birds Djanjo: World’s Greatest Jazz Guitarist by Bonnie Christensen I just learned about this title from the Schneider Family Book Award Blog Tour and was thrilled to read another picture book biography and as always, learn so much. This time about guitarist Djanjo Reinhardt. Told in free verse and saturated oil paintings, we learn about how Djanjo taguht himself to play the guitar again after his hands were injured in a fire. bonnie-christensen-django My New Friend is So Fun by Mo Willems Does every Elephant & Piggie title need to come live in my classroom collection? Yep. A friendship theme as always – but really heavy on the friendship angst in this one. my new friend is so fun

I also read The Riverman by Aaron Starmer Wild. Creepy. Unsettling. Dark. But so, so well written. It is where your imagination takes you that makes everyone’s reading of this novel so unique. Whoa. Borders on YA – only for some MG readers. Turns out it is the first in a trilogy but has a stand alone feel. the-riverman-aaron-starmer Next up? Well my twitter feed sums it up nicely:

Celebration: Book blogging

Thank you to Ruth Ayres, for the inspiration and her Celebration Link up that she hosts each week. I treasure this #celebratelu community who always find moments of gratitude in our busy weeks.

celebrate link up

As many of you know, B.C. teacher’s have been in some stage of job action for months and were out of our classrooms (full scale strike) for 13 days in June. We still don’t know about our return in the fall. It is hard to carry on as if all is normal, when nothing is normal. My life is not just my job but teaching is a huge part of my life. I am passionate about what I do and I miss it.

This week, I have worked really hard to reclaim a part of who I am – a reading teacher who shares a love of books with my students but also an amazing online community of book inspired colleagues. I have been reading and blogging and sharing and it is this I celebrate. I may not have a definite time when I will be sharing the magic of books in my classroom again. But I am sharing it here everyday and learning and being inspired by a community that shares with me. This has given me new energy and joy.

I celebrate the #booklove my blog allows me to share.

This week I blogged every day.

On Monday, I shared my reading from the week in my It’s Monday, What are you reading? post It was a big picture book reading week for me and I shared lots of treasures. I love learning from the book lists and reviews of the #IMWAYR community. It is a guaranteed day to add to my library requests, my Pinterest boards and my ever growing TBR list on Goodreads. These are readers who know their books. I never have to worry about what to read next!

 Emily's Blue Period Celebration: Book blogging There's a Book for That

On Tuesday, I shared a picture book wish list - ten titles that I would love to own. Book buying may be on hold until there is an income coming into our household again (two teacher family) but making lists is free. And dreaming in picture books is quite wonderful!

Celebration: Book blogging There's a Book for That

On Wednesday, I shared this book about moon bears and a number of other nonfiction titles about bears for my Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday post. Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy hosts a nonfiction picture book challenge and invites bloggers to share their nonfiction reading each Wednesday. In sharing some of my favourite nonfiction titles of 2013 in January, I shared how participating in this challenge has transformed my teaching. I am pleased to report that I have already surpassed my goal of reading 65 new to me titles. Currently, I have read 80 nonfiction picture books in 2014 :-)

 Jasper's Story Celebration: Book blogging There's a Book for That

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of participating in a blog tour to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of The Schneider Family Book Award. My post, written with my eleven year old daughter, featured a 2013 winner A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean. Thank you to Alyson Beecher for asking me to participate in this. It was an honour and an absolute pleasure to help highlight the importance of this award. We all benefit from reading and sharing more diverse literature and titles that highlight the disability experience are an absolute part of this.  This tour and giveaway are running until the 20th of this month. Check out some of the other posts and enter the giveaway to win the three books below. All links are included in my post.

 Schneider Blog Tour Celebration: Book blogging There's a Book for That


 A Dog Called Homeless Celebration: Book blogging There's a Book for That

On Friday, I shared a nonfiction picture book wish list because . . . I also dream in nonfiction. The first comment on this post has already led me to more wishing. Thanks @NorahColvin for the recommendation!

Creature Features Celebration: Book blogging There's a Book for That

And today, Saturday, I celebrate this wonderful week of book blogging here.

Next week we are away and so other than my Monday post which I will write in advance, I won’t be blogging. But I will be taking a little bit of time each day to connect with my online community of book passionate readers and teachers who share so much with me. Part of what I love about teaching is learning. And that I can always do!

Nonfiction Picture Book Wish list: July 2014

Recently I shared a picture book wish list – ten titles that I would love to own (some out now and some to be released later this year). This got me thinking about nonfiction titles I might like.

And . . . surprise, surprise; another list was born!

Ten nonfiction picture books I would love to possess:

Helen’s Big World The Life of Helen Keller written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Matt Tavares (October 2012) 

I featured this title on a list of picture book biographies about inspiring women. When I had to return it to the library, I vowed to find a copy for my own collection. Such an inspiring and beautifully illustrated title.

 Helen's Big World Nonfiction Picture Book Wish list: July 2014

Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears written by Jill Robinson and Marc Bekoff; illustrated by  Gijisbert van Frankenhuyzen (March 2013)

I just read this book last week and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It is a story that I really want to share with my students and think it would be reread often as part of our classroom collection. Jasper is a bear that was rescued by Jill Robinson (the author) and her Animals Asia team and brought to a sanctuary in China. Jill describes Jasper as courageous and loving; a symbol of forgiveness and hope.

Jasper's Story Nonfiction Picture Book Wish list: July 2014 There's a Book for That

Weeds Find a Way written by Cindy Jenson-Elliott and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher (February 2014)

I do not love weeds in any way. The thought of learning to love weeds is kind of like trying not to itch a bug bit – borderline excruciating. But . . . I have heard that this book is lovely. The trailer looks incredible. I think I should own this book. Then I can love the weeds in this book and still battle with those in my garden. Those weeds that seem to always be winning. They seem to find many a way . . .

 Weeds Find a Way Nonfiction Picture Book Wish list: July 2014 There's a Book for That

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey written by Loree Griffin Burns with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz (March 2014)

Everyone who has written about this book has raved. I have book friends with very good taste.  Just the cover image has me curious about so much. Apparently this image was captured while the photographer watched this pupa for over six hours. Intrigued? Me too.

Handle with care Nonfiction Picture Book Wish list: July 2014 There's a Book for That

The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond written by Patrick Dillon and illustrated by Stephen Biesty (March 2014) 

My students this year loved building structures (in play) and designing structures (in art). I know that this book would be adored. Images and cross sections of sixteen impressive buildings around the world.

 The Story of Buildings Nonfiction Picture Book Wish list: July 2014 There's a Book for That

Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World by Steve Jenkins (April 2014)

Steve Jenkins keeps making books that I simply must have. I have a large collection of Jenkins titles and use all of them frequently. And this cover . . . wow. Can’t wait to get this book and share it with my students.

 Eye to Eye Nonfiction Picture Book Wish list: July 2014 There's a Book for That

Dare the Wind written by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully (May 2014)

I read this book months ago and continue to think about the inspiring story of adventure and bravery. A female navigator setting world records for sailing from New York City to San Francisco around the tip of Cape Horn and its treacherous waters. What a story! I have been collecting picture book biographies and share many of them as read alouds. I am sure this one belongs in our collection.

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wish list: July 2014 There's a Book for That

The Slug by Elise Gravel (August 2014)

I own The Fly, one of the first titles published in The Disgusting Critters series. I know these will be some of the most popular nonfiction titles in the room. I need to place them in our nonfcition bins and know they will never return to their spots until year’s end as they creep from book box to book box, child to child (or slime in the case of this guy below).

the slug Nonfiction Picture Book Wish list: July 2014 There's a Book for That

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (September 2014)

I have seen peeks of the inside of this book on a few blogs. Swoon.  Bryant and Sweet make beautiful books together. Enough said.

The Right Word Nonfiction picture book wish list July 2014 There's a Book for That

Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (October 2014)

Yes, another Jenkins. ANOTHER JENKINS!! Hurrah! One for me please.

Creature Features Nonfiction Picture Book Wish list: July 2014 There's a Book for That


As always, I love to hear suggestions of other titles that must be on my list. List making, after all, is free. Until you put it in your pocket . .




Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway


The Schneider Family Book Award honours an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. As so many of us are trying to include more diverse titles in our classroom libraries and read aloud selections, these award winners are an important resource for teachers and parents.

When Alyson Beecher from KidLit Frenzy asked if I would be willing to talk about a favourite Schneider Family Book award winner, many titles came instantly to mind. I chose to share Sarah Lean‘s touching middle grade novel A Dog Called Homeless (a 2013 winner) because this is a title that both my daughter Beatrice (now eleven) and I adored. I am also planning to read this book with my Junior Student Book Club this fall.

 A dog Called Homeless Schneider Family Book Award Blog Tour There's a Book for That

This is a precious and poignant read – one that you can sit down and finish in one emotional sitting and then carry it with you for ages. Lean takes on a tragic topic – losing a parent and explores the complexity of carrying on. We meet Cally Fisher and experience her grief and the healing process she goes through which involves new friends, visions of her mother and a very special dog called Homeless.

Cally needs to talk about her feelings and about missing her Mom but lives in a home with a brother who buries himself in his room and a father who covers himself in work and detective dramas on television and works hard to desperately avoid any memories of his wife. After Cally participates in a “sponsored silence” at school, she stops talking altogether. Without words, she begins to learn there are many ways to listen and to be heard. Sam, a new neighbour and friend who is blind and mostly deaf teaches her some of the most important lessons about communication. He gives Cally space, trust, faith and the companionship that she really needs.

“Sam is the best friend anyone could have. He’s like an angel from another world, and as he held my arm while we walked away, he was reading my heart, guiding me.”

This book is about many things, but at its core is a relationship between daughter and mother. So I asked my daughter to help me write this post. We both reread the novel and wrote up some questions for each other to answer. I asked Bea to write three questions and she gave me ten. An incredible, thoughtful ten! Proud Mama that I am, I’ve included all of them below. We each responded to three questions posed by the other.

Bea’s questions and my answers:

1. Do you think Jed is one of the most important characters in the story?

Jed is the link to both Homeless and Cally’s Mom. But he is also one of the characters that helps us measure the hearts and compassion of the other characters in terms of how they interact with him and the respect that they do or don’t show him.

2. Was there a character in the story that you felt close to? (other than Cally)

Surprise, surprise that I identified with Sam’s Mom, Mrs. Cooper. I loved how she adored her son and was very protective but yet, she had lots of room in her heart to care about others too (like Cally). She was a fun Mom who interacted with children in a natural and encouraging way. 

3. Other than her mother, what do you think Cally needed most in the story. Do you think she got it?   

I think what Cally needs most is a way to go on and be happy without her Mom being physically there with her. Do I think she got that? I think by the end of the story, there is a promise of how that can be possible

My questions and Bea’s answers:

1. Cally’s Dad says to her midway through the book: “You know sooner or later you’re going to have to speak. How else are you going to get what you want.” What do you think about this? 

That wasn’t fair to Cally – her mom just died and her dad should realize that is is so hard on her and maybe he should have asked her to write stuff down rather than pressure her into it. It seems like her Dad doesn’t understand her or try to understand her.

2. All of the characters handle grief in such different ways. How do you think you would handle grief? 

If you died, I would always be crying. I would probably shut off from the world for a while. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it.

3. What made Sam such a good friend to Cally? 

I think Sam knew that Cally was going through something rough and he understood the rules of friendship and knew how to not make her sad but instead make her SHINE. He let her feel like he understood her. And he was also kind of an inspiration to Cally. He had all these disabilities but he got through it and was a better person because of it!

Beatrice’s ten questions:

  • What did you think about how Cally’s friend Mia treated Cally?
  • Do you think Cally’s dad payed more attention to Cally when her mom was alive?
  • Do you think it was proving something to Mia and her teacher that made Cally stop talking for longer than needed?
  • Would you run away from Sam like Cally did? And do you think Sam felt bad when that happened?
  • Do you think Jed is one of the most important characters in the story?
  • What do you think was the role of Homeless in the story?
  • Was there a character in the story that you felt close to? (other than Cally)
  • Do you think that Cally’s dad should have let her keep Homeless in the beginning?What effect do you think that would have on the story?
  • Do you think that Cally’s mother was really there as a ghost at the beginning of the story or do you think Cally just wanted her to be so badly?
  • Other than her mother what do you think Cally needed most in the story? Do you think she got it?

I found a tweet in author Sarah Lean’s twitter feed tweeted the day her Schneider award arrived in the mail. Thank you Sarah, for sharing A Dog Called Homeless with your readers!

Check out all of the blogs participating in the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway:

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award, readers have an opportunity to win a set of all three 2014 Schneider Family Book Award winning titles. Participants must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address. There will be one winner but you can enter from any of the blogs as part of this celebration.

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Click on the link below to enter the giveaway.

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