It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday!
I have always been impressed by Nic Bishop‘s incredible close up and fascinating photographs in his nonfiction books for children. But after hearing him speak at Western Washington University’s Children’s Literacy Conference this year, I read books that feature his photographs with even more awe and amazement. What I love best – besides having new understanding for how these photographs actually happen – is that his work is available to students at various reading levels. Today I am featuring three titles that I have shared recently with children. The first two titles I read aloud with my class and the last title I read to my own children who are eleven.
One interesting thing I learned from Nic’s presentation was that the work he does when working on Scientist in the Field titles is called photojournalism and the photos he takes for other nonfiction titles (like these first two) is called photo-illustration. I was pleased to know the correct terms to describe his work.
Spiders by Nic Bishop (published 2007; in Scholastic paperbacks, published 2012)
This is a hugely popular title in my room ever since I book talked the picture book version of this title and showed the students that Scholastic has also published it in a NF reader format. I judge the success of this book by the fact that some students beg to be able to read it next and spend ages marvelling at the photographs of spiders very close up. At the same time, other students insist that I promise to never even put this book near them because the images seriously terrify them! That front cover is pretty menacing.
Chameleon, Chameleon written by Joy Cowley with photographs by Nic Bishop (published 2005)
After a few pages, I had to skip to the back and find out just how this book was created. There was no way that chameleon actors were hired to tell this engaging tale about a chameleon on the move as it encounters different creatures in its habitat (various geckos, a frog, a scorpion, etc.) Yet the photo-illustrations so perfectly accompanied the text . . . Turns out that Bishop spent months with these chameleons in his care – observing them, finding them the perfect food, attending to their special needs. The result is that we are gifted by phenomenal photographs of chameleons to accompany a story that introduces children to lots of information. There are also two pages of additional, more detailed information about chameleons at the back of the book.
Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia written by Sy Montgomery with photographs by Nic Bishop (published 2009)
Over many weeks, I read sections of this book to my own children (it is all the more special as I was able to get our copy signed by Nic Bishop when at the #wwuclc2014 conference) as one of many read alouds we have on the go. How can a book about searching for snow leopards be so amazingly interesting when the snow leopards are never actually seen? Montgomery and Bishop tell an incredible tale about these magical and elusive creatures and their champion, scientist Tom McCarthy who has devoted his life’s work to their conservation. Mongolia is a beautiful place we seldom see – its landscape, people and culture highlighted through Bishop’s photographs and the stories Montgomery relates. We learn why the snow leopards are endangered and how the conservation efforts have centered on having the Mongolian people connect and want to protect these mysterious cats. How can McCarthy remain so passionate about an animal he has only seen in the wild a handful of times?
Protecting an animal is like loving someone. It’s not something you do and then finish. It’s a long-term promise, honored over and over, one step at a time.
I loved this quote in the notes form the photographer at the back of the book where Bishop writes,
“Some people have asked if I was disappointed not even to see a wild snow leopard. But in many ways I am happy not to see one. I love that some things in nature will always remain mysterious and unseen. Just knowing that they are out there is pleasure enough.”
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.
My goal is to read 65 nonfiction picture books for 2014. Progress: 55/65 complete!