Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: A Bear’s Life

It is always a priority to be able to show students places in the world that they may not have seen. Places in their world that are not that far away – in our own beautiful province’s rain forest? Even more important.

A Bear’s Life by photographer/author Ian McAllister and author Nicholas Read is not to be missed.  Ian McAllister and his wife Karen McAllister were named by Time Magazine as “Leaders of the 21st Century” for their efforts to protect British Columbia’s endangered rainforest. Ian and Karen cofounded Pacific Wild

This title includes absolutely stunning wildlife photography by McAllister as readers are introduced to what bear cubs in the Great Bear Rainforest do everyday. We meet black bears, grizzly bears and the incredible spirit bears. Come along as these cubs sleep, play, learn to fish and forage and prepare for winter.

There is lots of information here but it is also easy to become lost in a single photograph.

This will be a title I share with my Grade 3 class this fall as we learn about the animals that live with us in British Columbia and how we can protect them.

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2017. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: This is How We Do it

We all have a curiosity about how other people live – especially people from different places around the world. People just like us but yet, completely different. Children love the conversations we have in classrooms about what it is like in other countries where we once lived or places we have visited.

It’s the daily routines that are as interesting as the unique sights and physical characteristics of the land.

The tiny details. The things that make sense but seem so unusual.

What do you eat for dinner? What is school like? Do you have pets? What are the conveniences in your home? The hardships? What is your daily routine? What do you do for fun? What is served for dessert?

These details define us and unite us. They make us realize how we all have similar routines even though things in our day can be vastly different.

This is How We Do it: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World by Matt Lamothe (Chronicle Books May 2017offers a glimpse of the daily lives of seven children from around the world. Each child is between ages seven and eleven. All of these wonderful details are here:

  • What’s for breakfast?
  • What does your home look like?
  • What do you wear?
  • What is school like?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What is your family like?
  • What do you do with your friends?
  • What do you eat for dinner?
  • Where do you sleep?

All of these questions and more are answered in detail by Kei from Japan, Ribaldo from Peru, Kian from Iran, Oleg from Russia, Ananya from India, Romeo from Italy and Daphne from Uganda.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: This is How We Do it

I shared this with my own children, who at age fourteen, were still very intrigued by all of the details. Some of the things they found especially interesting:

  • Breakfast foods like egg yolks mixed with sugar and milk in Italy and miso soup, consumed in Japan. Soup in the morning was a shock.
  • In many countries, students call their teachers by their first names. My children went to an Elementary school where this was done but it isn’t common here in Canada.
  • How late some children ate dinner. “What time do they go to bed?”
  • The differences in homes and sleeping arrangements.
  • That in Japan, children have to clean their own classrooms.
  • That kids in Peru have coffee with their dinners.

What makes this book so wonderful is revealed in the final pages. These children featured are real. We meet them in a photograph with their families and find out through the author’s note that all the details of their lives are based on their actual lives shared through photos and details given to author/illustrator Matt Lamothe.

I appreciated the balance of boys and girls and that the children who were chosen came from families who had lived for generations in the same country. Lamothe points out that these children can be seen to be representative of their country but of course only to a limited degree. All families and children are incredibly unique. I also appreciated that there was not a child from North America! While all families are depicted are two parent families, not all are two parent, two children families. There is some diversity in terms of number of children and ages of the children. One family has a tiny baby and so may still be growing. Another family mentions four older, grown siblings that no longer live with the family.

What an absolutely brilliant idea for a picture book!  An ideal book for classroom and school libraries. Children will delight in all of the details. Recommended for Grades 1 to 6.

A detailed glossary in the back explains unfamiliar terms.

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2017. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

Thank you to Fernanda from Raincoast Books for this review copy

Stand Up and Sing!

The older I get, the more I think picture book biographies are some of the most inspirational seeds that allow meaningful conversations in classrooms to happen. Maybe it’s because I clearly see that a life is a story and that anytime we hear a story told, we have the opportunity to learn. As we connect deeply to a person through their story, we reflect on ourselves and our communities. We have the chance to think about things in new ways. Kids get it too. A few years ago I asked some of my students why biographies needed to be shared. Their responses revealed a lot. Some highlights:

  • “I like those books that tell the story of someone who can’t but then they did.”
  • “It’s so we can know that one person can change things.”
  • “These books teach us about community and dreams. We should think about that.”
  • “They show me not to be scared.”

I have a new must read biography that I think is particularly timely for its messages about standing together for truth and justice:

Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice written by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Adam Gustavson Forward by Peter Yarrow (Bloomsbury 2017)

This detailed biography would make an incredible read aloud. It is a story to share over multiple read aloud sessions. There is much on every page for discussion and elaboration. The full page illustrations tell a beautiful story as well. Looking closely at these allows the reader to move through one life and decades of history.

I first read this book about three weeks ago. It was a humbling experience. I closed the book and felt a strange mix of fired up and sad and quiet. I began to do some of my own further reading about Pete Seeger, often realizing songs I have known all my life were songs he had written. This took me down further thinking paths.

The sadness came from a reaction to current day news and media coverage. There is so much in stories about people that is about self rather than other. Pete Seeger clearly lived a life where self and others were completely intertwined. His motivations were clear and strong. He respected the truth. He valued its importance. He valued social justice as our most important goal to attain. I think my sadness came from just acknowledging the loss of Pete Seeger who passed away in 2014. In many senses, my sadness has no place because Pete did his work through music and music has some of the most incredible lasting power of any medium. Power to wash over people. Become part of their motivation. Become part of their own story.

I picked up and reread this story a few times over the past few weeks. Over multiple readings, I have been inspired by Seeger’s commitment to use music as a vehicle to unite people over important issues. Pete Seeger was motivated early on in his life by folk music and the connection between audience and musician. He recognized that the content of songs could be transformative.

I was reminded of precious Thursday afternoons of recent years experiencing a room full of music. My class had the weekly opportunity to sing with the talented Jill Samycia from St. James Music Academy. Singing together brought a joy and a connection to our community. There is such power in singing together especially when the lyrics hold messages of hope.

Susanna Reich’s account of Seeger’s life brings particular questions to the surface numerous times:

What do we notice?

What speaks to us?

How do these things shape our work? Our actions? How do they form our truth?

Pete Seeger‘s life work was his music. Through music he conveyed his love of people, equity and justice. Reich explains that Pete “saw that music could fill a room with peace and harmony. . . ” A wish to make this happen is what motivated him to become a more accomplished musician.

Seeger‘s path was not an easy one. His end goal wasn’t fame and fortune. It was to lead people in song. He wanted to “sing for – and with – average working folks.”

His courage, his commitment to peace, the rights of everyone in a society and hope for our world live on in his music.

Such an incredible story of one man. Back matter includes an important author’s note, a list of quotes, detailed sources and a list of popular recordings.

Recommended for Grades 3 to 8.

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2017. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Penguin Day – A Family Story

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Penguin Day - A Family Story

I have been waiting three years for this book to be published. Three years ago I had the honour of introducing Nic Bishop at the Western Washington Children’s Literature Conference. He entertained the audience for a good hour telling tales of his world travels as a photographer, author and photo journalist. He has done some pretty incredible and often highly amusing things to get some of his photographs. At the end of his talk, he spoke about Rockhopper penguins and his travels to the Falkland Islands to photograph these mighty little penguins.

I remember him making a joke about these penguins writing their own hairstylist guide. They do have some pretty fantastic yellow fur stretching out from their “eyebrows”! He also spoke about penguin porpoising and penguin showers (both depicted in the book). What stuck with me though was his story of how the Rockhopper penguins are able to swim in rough, violent waters, how colonies make nests 100 feet up the sides of rocks where their nests are and how the penguin population is on rapid decline since commercial fishing was established in the area.

I was so excited to see Penguin Day: A Family Story by Nic Bishop (Scholastic Press 2017) at the bookstore the other day. This title allows us to follow a penguin family through a typical day. Mama penguin heads out to fish for food. The photograph of penguins diving underwater to ride the waves is amazing! Father penguin stays back to guard the chick. When he is distracted, we learn about dangers like the sea birds that attempt to make off with a penguin chick that is not being watched.

This title has simple text with engaging full colour photographs. Back matter includes more detailed information in the author’s note. Recommended for classroom libraries K-5.

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2017. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

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Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Swimming with Sharks

Imagine being called the “Shark Lady” . . .

I can’t! My fear is too great to wrap my head around being calm enough, focussed enough and determined enough to dedicate my life to both studying and swimming with sharks.

Sharks!

With all of those teeth and those great big jaws.

Sharks!

Yet, reading this book allowed me to start to consider sharks from Eugenie Clark’s perspective.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Swimming with Sharks

I learned that sharks are many things – even, as Clark saw them – remarkable.

In Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark by Heather Lang and illustrated by Jodi Solano (2016 Albert Whitman & Company) sharks are described as timid, sophisticated and clever.

Clark herself was remarkable: a persistent student – curious, dedicated and inspired by her subject. Clark was able to train sharks to press an underwater bell and then swim somewhere else to retrieve a food reward. She dove with sharks, swimming with them and noting all kinds of discoveries about their habits and behaviour. She was determined to learn about sharks so she could address people’s fears. Help us change our minds. See sharks in new ways.

“Sharks are magnificent and misunderstood!” This was Clark’s message to the world. Sharks need our respect and our protection.

In the back matter, Lang points out that Eugenie Clark was still swimming with sharks into her nineties. She published over 175 articles about fish in her lifetime and made 72 submersible dives.

I particularly appreciate biographies that feature passionate scientists asking questions and doing work that transforms and enhances our current understanding of a subject. Eugenie Clark was such a scientist. Her life’s work is absolutely inspiring.

A fascinating biography ideal for young naturalists. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2017. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

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Thank you to Tracie Schneider for providing a copy of this beautiful book for review

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Nonfiction in 2017

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Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday begins again! I am so excited to be participating in this challenge!

Link to host Alyson Beecher‘s blog Kid Lit Frenzy to read about all of the nonfiction titles being shared. This year the image for the challenge was created by Sarah S. Brannen.  I think it’s pretty perfect!

I am setting a goal to read at least 50 new-to-me nonfiction picture books this year. While I may not be reading as many books as usual, I plan to be utilizing many of the books I have read and loved so much in the past. Often I ended up purchasing titles and wasn’t able to use all of them in the classroom because of teaching a younger grade. I have read numerous favourite titles in depth with my new Grade 4 and 5 classroom and continue to be impressed with the learning that happens and the future learning that is inspired.

The perfect example? Tomorrow I will be sharing Giant Squid written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann (2016) as part of my Mock Caldecott unit.

giant-squid

It is one of 12 titles I chose this year. The nonfiction titles are on the list were intentional. Not only are these beautifully illustrated books but they are books that remind us that learning engages us on so many levels. Nonfiction picture books inform. They make us question and wonder. The visuals add another level of learning – giving us closeups, revealing aspects of an animal or place that a photograph just might not capture.

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I am especially excited to share Giant Squid because it not only provides us with questions, it leaves us with questions. We learn that there is much not yet known about these deep sea giants. Getting all of the answers can be satisfying. Realizing that there are answers not yet known plants a quest for knowledge in our students that we consistently hope for them. We want them stopping to be awed. Shaking their heads. Protesting – “But. . . ” “How come. . . ?” “Why . . . ?” Being driven to go learn more.

I know this book will lead to research. Looking for images. For videos. For more . . .

Beautiful books like this one are introductions. First access points. The beginning of lots of learning ahead.

I am excited about another year being committed to reading nonfiction picture books! I benefit just as much as my students!

Nonfiction favourites from 2016

While I haven’t read my usual numbers of nonfiction titles this year, I have read enough to have some clear favourites. Here are my top ten of 2016 (published in 2016)

Looking for some incredible nonfiction? I highly recommend all of these. In fact I own all but two of these titles and plan to remedy that soon. All of these books are titles I can see multiple reasons to use over and over in a classroom. A real reason to celebrate them here.

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

An incredible title with layer upon layer of stories and illustrations about a beloved author for so many. This is a longer picture book biography (176 pages) perfect for both adults and students.

some Writer!

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Simply beautiful. I featured this book here

Cloth Lullaby

Dorothea’s Eyes by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Gérard DuBois

I look forward to sharing this fantastic biography of photographer Dorothea Lange with my students later in the year. I plan also to share these photos she took in a Japanese Internment camp.

Dorothea's Eyes

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

The art in this book is beyond, beyond. Absolutely stunning. An incredible biography made accessible to children. I particularly appreciated the back matter here. Information on Motifs and symbolism in Basquiat’s work is something I will certainly share with students when we explore this book. Steptoe’s author’s note is very important too.

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Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

There are so many reasons to share this story with children. It is a story of hope, of change, of perseverance, of the power of music and the beauty of community. A story of transformation.

adas-violin

Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers written by Sara Levine and illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth

“What kind of animal would you be if your teeth were long enough to stick out of your mouth, even when it was closed?” This is one of many questions posed in this informative and engaging book. Students love to guess and check and this title allows for a lot of that. I highlighted this book here

Tooth by Tooth 1

The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond

The ideal blend of mesmerizing art and story that informs and prompts more questions. I plan to use this title with other books on polar bears and videos about the shrinking ice in the Arctic seas.

the-polar-bear

Pink is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals written by Jess Keating with illustrations by David DeGrand

I featured this book here (lots of ideas for how to use in the classroom). This book has been a huge hit in my classroom and we have gone on to become fans of Animals for Smart People videos. You will never think the same about pink again.

Blobfish

Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre

The photographs, the lyrical language . . . absolutely captivating.

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Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins

As always – such interesting information. All communicated via infographics? Perfect.

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Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2016. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

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