Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some recent reads

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 

NFPB 2014

While I am still in the middle of many nonfiction books, I am sharing a few recent reads here. These titles are heading into my classroom and I can’t wait for the right opportunity to share each of these engaging reads! I think each one of them needs to be part of the classroom or school library collection. So many rich learning opportunities . . .

The Same Moment Around the World by Clotilde Perrin (published 2014)

Simply – this book depicts a day in the life of the world. More complexly, it is a day in the world – all over the world – one page for each hour, beginning at 6 a.m. in Dakar, Senegal. Hour by hour, we see children in various places doing regular everyday things. But the settings are exotic and mysterious because so many may not be known to us. Children learn about time zones and gather a more complete understanding of what it means when we say that on the other side of the world people are going to sleep just as we are waking up. I am partial to books with interesting shapes – love that this title is tall and rectangular. Fantastic fold out map in the back to explore all of the places mentioned in the book.

 At the Same Moment Around the World #nfpb2014 There's a Book for That

How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge (published 2013)

Lita Judge’s illustrations are so rich. They inform. They amuse. And they delight. Each dinosaur featured here is drawn next to something that children already know to allow them to imagine the exact size of the dinosaur. For example, the velociraptor was only the size of a modern day dog. A leaellynasaura? Two feet tall and wintered near the South Pole. Not all dinosaurs were towering huge “monsters”! But some sure were gigantic!

How Big Were Dinosaurs? #nfpb2014 There's a Book for That

Feathers Not Just for Flying written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen (published 2014)

I am very excited to share this as a read aloud. So excited that I just read it to my family over dinner – it needed an audience! More specifically, I needed some people to help me guess: what else could feathers be used for besides flight? We had a great time listing what we knew around the table and then reading to find out how many we got and how many we missed! Gorgeous illustrations – feels like you could pluck some of these feathers right off of the page. My daughter made a comment part way through about Stewart’s writing style.

“Each time, she gives an example to explain it more. I completely understand all of the different ways the feathers are used!”

Feathers Not Just for Flying #nfpb2014 There's a Book for That

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: 50/65 complete!

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Bird Assembly 101

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 

NFPB 2014

This book is swoon worthy! And seriously odd at the same time.  Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth

Unique and in many ways is difficult to categorize. It is a picture book. That’s an easy one. Beyond that – it gets interesting. There is a fantasy element to it and it does have a “fiction” feel. But I love books that blend genres. I am calling this a nonfiction title as well. It’s part instruction manual. Part bird anatomy. Part a warning to avoid bird extinction. All of these things fall in the nonfiction realm*. Thus, I have decided to share this beautiful book on nonfiction picture book day!

*Not everyone will agree but I think the instruction manual aspect tips it over the edge to favour my creative license on categorization. And heck, I’m writing this blog . . .

#NFPB2014 There's a Book for That Bird Assembly 101


Quickly head over to Seven Impossible Things and take a peek at the inside images.

So what can you learn from this book – set if you look carefully at the title – in 2031? How to build your own bird of course! This book includes an order form, details about all of the parts and some helpful assembly instructions. Always keep balance and proportion in mind seems to be a big theme.

Beyond patience and optimism, this handbook explains, you will need the right parts. And right parts are here in gorgeous, colourful glory. With details beyond your wildest imagination. Like impressionist tinted feathers, Persian designs on the beaks and Wattles and Combs with names such as Beethoven and Aphrodite. (Haven’t gone to look at the inside pages? Go! See link above)

The delight and hilarity in creating quite preposterous birds is tempered by the underlying feeling the reader has throughout: What if such a catalog was actually real? Necessary? The book jacket warns:

. . . that it’s not really a catalog at all. It’s a dark and funny look at what might happen if we let natural habitats disappear.

Favourite pages for me?

  • The two page spread about Flight Patterns. Choose wing shape carefully for the type of flight you want your bird to be able to accomplish
  • The images for Steps 3 and 4 Attaching the Tail and Attaching the Legs
  • Troubleshooting pages which features questions (with attached images) and answers such as what should one do if the bird has been taught to sing an annoying song and won’t stop. The answer, if you are curious, suggests attaching a full set of wings and “sharing” your bird with the world! (In other words – fly far away and sing to someone else!)
  • The end pages are gorgeous drawings of bird parts.
  • And not a page at all, but please peek under the book jacket!

My advice? Find this book and savour its creative energy. Think about how to have fun with this is in the classroom. I’m thinking art projects, some of our own question and answer writing . . . And then? Head outside. Watch for birds. Celebrate their natural beauty. Their form and function. Their freedom and wild natures. Their song.

In case you, like me, were wondering just what else Kate Samworth has done . . . this is her first book. Her website is here.

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: 41/65 complete!

Five Favourites from the Week

Report card writing means book blogging is a diversion I shouldn’t be taking! But we did so much great reading aloud last week, I can’t help but highlight five favourites. The power of reading aloud is always worth celebrating!

Bird, Butterfly, Eel with story and paintings by James Prosek. We shared this book in our reading group where we have been reading a variety of information storybooks and focusing on evidence that supports specific questions we pose. Right away we were curious what these three creatures on the front cover might have in common. In reading the book, we discovered that there were many things. Students summarized key points in their writing: each creature starts out on a farm near the sea, they each migrate over a large distance and they each return to the farm after a long return journey. We did note that only the bird travels south and returns and that the monarch and the eel who return are part of a new generation. Fasincating. This book prompted a lot of discussion and further investigation.

One of the books we read during our morning book sharing was not actually a book but one story from the book Tom Thumb (a collection of Grimms’ tales) illustrated and retold by Eric Carle. We read The Fisherman and his Wife and I was surprised at how instantly engaged the students were with the story. There was constant chatter and commentary and we frequently stopped the story to discuss what might happen or what we thought about the actions of a character. The Fisherman’s wife got few points; generally, we thought her quite awful and selfish! We were glad when she lost her grand homes and titles. “She’s so greedy that she can’t be trusted with all of that power,” someone aptly pointed out. Students have been asking me to read the three other stories in this collection.

I found the book Virginia Wolf written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault at the public library and asked my Reading group to give me some feedback. Should we put this book on a list of books Ms. Sheperd-Dynes should purchase for the library? Personally, I loved this book. I appreciated that it explored sadness, sibling relationships, the negative influence one child’s mood can have in a house and that it celebrated the perseverance of a sister to lift her sibling out of a dark funk. But . . . what would kid’s think? They loved it too! They told me it had a theme of “emotions” and “wrong-side-of-the-bedishness” and “being transformed.” They were fascinated to see what Virginia really did look like. Many read this book again on their own during independent reading. The verdict? It’s on the “we need this book for the library” list!

I have had Albert written by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Jim LaMarche sitting on my desk for months waiting for the perfect time to read it aloud. It is rather long for a picture book and I wanted to make sure that we had time enough to read and spend time discussing the plot. When we returned from our canoe trip on Monday afternoon, students were tired and in need of a quiet activity. After a little bit of play time on the playground, we settled at the carpet for a story. In this book, Albert fears the outside world, so the author has the outside world come to Albert. It comes through a bird who nests in his outstretched hand. A truly delightful story that inspired many, many discussions. A book we savoured after a wondefully active day. I have blogged about this book before. Read here for more details.

The Tooth was another book I read with the students during our morning picture book sharing time. This book is written by Avi Slodovnick and illustrated by Manon Gauthier. We used this book to practice our prediction and inferring skills. From the title and cover picture, what might it be about? Our list was quite detailed and included many tooth possibilities- teeth that wouldn’t come out, teeth full of cavities, teeth that got lost before making it to under the pillow. We didn’t manage to capture all of the complexities of what this book contained however as this book is also about being homeless, about wanting to do something and not knowing what and about being compassionate and kind. Definitely worth reading for the rich discussion that ensues.

Beautiful birds

Division 5 continues to study birds. This week we enjoyed Robins: Songbirds of the Spring by Mia Posada.




We enjoyed learning how these birds make their nests, care for their young and about how the fledglings learn to fly. Posada’s robins are lovely – and it sparked an interest in bird body parts. We spread out bird books on all of the tables and students made lists of all the important parts of the bird: beak, breast, feathers, wings, talons or feet, etc. Students then drew and coloured their own birds. Our bulletin boards are now covered in gorgeous birds designed by the students and inspired by a variety of real birds in nature.

First students made pencil sketches.




We then added colour using crayons, oil pastels and pencil crayons.



Finally we shaded around our bird’s outline and cut them out. Some finished pieces:







Charlie and Kiwi

Right at the time I decided to do a unit on birds in the classroom, this amazing book caught my eye – Charlie and Kiwi. . . an evolutionary adventure – created by Peter H. Reynolds and the NewYork Hall of Science.

I purchased a copy for my son who is intrigued by concepts of evolution and on a shopping trip to Kids Books with Ms. Sheperd-Dynes, Seymour’s Teacher Librarian, I convinced her (wasn’t a hard sell!) to buy a copy for our library. Two copies of this fantastic book meant that when Ms. Hibbert came in on a Thursday afternoon, we could each take half the class and share the book. Smaller groups and an interactive read aloud session means more opportunities for students to share questions, opinions and connections to other learning. We strive to provide many opportunities that allow students to develop oral language skills: listening, speaking in turn, adding to what someone else has said, responding to a question, etc. This book inspired lots of talk!

Story Summary: Charlie needs to write a report about a bird for school. He wanted to choose a bird that nobody else would choose and decided on a kiwi bird. But when he announced his selection to his classmates, they were a little confused. How could this strange flightless creature with whiskers be a bird? Charlie needed to know why the kiwi was so different from other birds and why? The next thing Charlie knows, he is zooming through space with his stuffed kiwi bird heading back in time to meet his Great x 5 Grandpa Charles who happens to be an expert on birds! This time Grandpa, Charlie and kiwi travel back in time to 30 million years ago. Charlie learns how the kiwi bird was just right for life in New Zealand and how and why it had likely evolved to be this way.

Grandpa Charles explains. “Little changes in each generation add up to big changes.”

Then the time travellers are whizzing back through time to meet the very first birds 150 million years ago! Charlie learns that the first birds were actually dinosaurs (with feathers!) So the many diverse birds that we have on the planet today all descended from the first birds – dinosaurs and changed and adapted to survive in different environments. Charlie returns to class armed with this new knowledge and a fossil of an early bird and explains to his class how all birds came from the same ancestor: the dinosaur!

Student reactions: Students then had the opportunity to think about what they had learned and share their learning on a Knew-New Connections sheet (adapted from Adrienne Gear‘s Non-fiction Reading Power text)

Here is some of what they shared:

I KNEW this already!

* Birds lay eggs.  Shae-Lynn

*I knew that most birds fly. Reiko

*I already knew some birds don’t fly. Purity

*I knew that kiwis were birds, not just fruit! Catriona

* Birds eat with their beak. Markus

This is NEW to me!

* Kiwis have a good sense of smell. Khai

* These birds have big feet. Jacky

* Kiwis eat bugs at night. Shae-Lynn

*Dinosaurs lived 150 million years ago! Carmen

* I didn’t know that kiwis say keee weee keee weee. Truman

* I learned that Kiwi Bird whiskers help them hunt in the dark. Raelyn

*Kiwis evolved from birds that flew and changed because of danger in the air and better eating of bugs. Catriona

* I thought a kiwi was a fruit, but I found out it was a bird. Mai

This Knew-New Connections response sheet is an ideal way for students to express their new learning and connect their prior knowledge to new information.

We are hoping that Peter H. Reynolds is going to create more books like this! We learned so much!

How to Heal a Broken Wing

How to Heal a Broken Wing written and illustrated by Bob Graham is the second picture book we have read on our theme of kindness.

This book is not wordless, but words do the least work. It is the illustrations – multiple panels on some pages, a full page illustration on another that tell this lovely story of kindness, hope and compassion.

A pigeon hits a tall skyscraper and falls into the busy streets. Nobody notices until Will happens by with his Mom. Maybe he is more observant? Smaller and more focussed on the ground perhaps? But he is the only one to notice the hurt pigeon. We noticed right away how Graham paints Will in bright colours while the rest of the people walking the streets are in dull greens, browns and greys, nothing that stands out. We came back to the page where Will first notices the pigeon and decided that Will made an important decision here – to pick up the bird or to walk away.

“It’s a decision to be kind or not.”

“If you don’t want to be kind, it’s okay, but you should . . .”

Amongst a busy street scene, crowded with people, Graham shines a light on little Will picking up the bird with the broken wing.

“The light on him makes us look much more closely and think about what is important about what he is doing.”

Will takes the injured bird home and despite his parents initial reservations, they help him to begin to care for the bird. Absolute silence as students studied the panels showing Will and his parents bandaging the wing, setting up a box for the bird and settling him in for the night. We follow the picture panels that show us the bird gaining mobility, eating and drinking and looking longingly out the window at the sky.

What has Will’s family given to the bird? We listed off what we had noticed: food, water, rest, a cage to protect him, shelter, care, hope and kindness. In time, the pigeon healed and Will’s parents take Will back to the city streets to let the pigeon fly free.

Two important things we learned about kindness from this book:

  • We need to notice when kindness is needed
  • It is a choice to be kind.

So – how aware are you? What choices do you make every day? This book is a story that reminds us to look at ourselves and think about what we do and what we don’t do everyday.

An Egg is Quiet and so Much More

We are studying birds but I am very mindful of student interest as we decide on what to learn more about. Last week we read a book about birds and their nests and students were fascinated by the stunning blue of a robin’s egg. Most students wrote about it when asked to write about something new they had learned. So. . . I decided that Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long‘s exquisite book An Egg is Quiet was a must read.


Students were fascinated to learn many new things about eggs – including that many creatures hatch out of an egg, not just birds (reptiles, insects, fish, etc). Sylvia Long’s gorgeous illustrations had everyone mesmerized. With many pages we just gazed at the pictures and chatted to our neighbour about our observations and questions. Sharing was fascinating and we all learned to look at eggs a little differently from each other.

Colours, specks, stripes! Eggs can be so different! We saw eggs that looked like chocolate (a paradise riflebird), eggs that looked like they were covered with sand (a scarlet tanager), eggs that shone (Atlantic salmon) & eggs that looked to be entwined in vines (a common murre). Then . . . fossilized eggs and tubular eggs and eggs that are perfectly round (Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle).

After sharing the book together, students completed a modified sheet from Adrienne Gear‘s Reading Power Non-Fiction book: connecting new learning to what they already knew (New-Knew Connections)

This is Catriona‘s completed sheet:


Carmen shared what she already knew.


Markus shared his new learning:


What I love about this activity is that sharing on the Knew/New sheet allows students to honour prior knowledge, acknowledge new knowledge and start from anywhere. There are no right answers or essential facts – just a sharing of a knowledge base being extended. We spent over an hour with this book and doing our writing and everyone was very engaged. Later, I saw students reading the sheets posted up on the bulletin board and talking about what other students had chosen to highlight. An exciting afternoon learning about how unique, beautiful and fascinating eggs can be!

A wall of learning shared!

A wall of learning shared!

Calvin Can’t Fly

Our BLG reader this week was Maria. She read the charming Calvin Can’t Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie – written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Keith Bendis.

Calvin is a little black starling who is born with a passion for . . . books! He immerses himself into the world of adventures, legends, space, and drama. Places that he could never travel to in flight. And, there was one other small problem when it came to flying: having spent so much time with his “beak in a book,” Calvin actually had never learned to fly! When the group of little starlings were working on swooping and hovering and flying, Calvin was at the library! His starling cousins were not very understanding – he was called a “nerdy birdie,” a “geeky beaky” and a “bookworm.” Being a bird, Calvin took special offence at being called a worm!

When it was time to head south, Calvin was grounded. His flock was not about to abandon him however and he was carried along literally (by strings around his middle) on the starlings’ journey south. On route, Calvin saved the flock with his knowledge about hurricanes derived from a book about weather. In his excitement while celebrating his life saving heroics, Calvin begins to jump and hop and flap. And . . . yep, you guessed it! Calvin began to fly!

We love how reading and literacy are celebrated and that knowledge turns out to be the hero!

Little Black Crow

We were very inspired by the gentle repetitive text and muted art in Chris Raschka‘s book Little Black Crow. This book begins with the question Little Black Crow, Where do you Go? and goes on to ask 26 more questions all inspired by the wondering of a little boy who spies a crow up in the sky. Simple, engaging, lovely to read again and again.

We took pencil to paper and practiced making crows in Raschka’s style and went on to create art pieces and added our own “mini poems” also borrowed from Rashka’s style of wondering verse. Finished pieces look gorgeous.

Below is Sergio‘s poem.


Some students, like Khai, chose to use bright colours as a background.


Others were inspired by the paler colour scheme Raschka used in his book.


Truman really captured the loose lines that come together to create a charming crow in Raschka’s style.


Owl Moon and inspired Owl Artists

One of my favourite books to read aloud in the cold dark days leading up to winter is Owl Moon, the 1988 Caldecott Medal winner written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr. This book fits in with our theme of Courage that we are exploring through various picture books but also allowed us to have a wonderful springboard for some gorgeous owl art.

A little girl goes owling with her father for the very first time and we, the readers, get to creep along with this pair over hard packed snow illuminated by the moon. We breathe the cold air, feel our own cheeks burn and marvel at the wonderful sound of crying out “Whoo-whoo-whowho-who-whoooo,” and then feeling the silence (heavy and full of wonder) surround us. Yolen’s text is poetic and the illustrations magical. A treat for the senses! When an owl is finally discovered, all of us gasped at the huge wing span and bright yellow eyes depicted in the pictures. A gorgeous book and one I never tire of reading with a class.

We discussed why the little girl in the picture was so courageous even though she was out on a dark night deep in the forest. Some insightful suggestions from the group:

  • She was too excited to feel fear
  • Being with her Dad made her feel safe and secure
  • Watching and listening for the owl distracted her
  • She pushed her fear away because she was doing something (going owling) that she had been waiting a long time to do

After the story, Ms. Gelson led a mini “how to draw an owl” lesson inspired by this wonderful blog post from Art Lessons for Kids.

And wow, did students get engaged with making beautiful owl scenes to fill up our room!

First we drew owls on plain paper and added details and colour. Hailey did a lovely job of filling up her whole page with an adorable looking owl and baby.


Catriona drew her owl in flight!


Some owls seemed to be waiting to jump into a picture book as the main character of an exciting story. Purity‘s owl is very dramatic.


Students then cut out their owl (s) and glued them to black paper making a scene. Khai made a whole family of owls perched on a branch.


Carefully positioning owls on the page.


Sergio was very clear that his owl was pregnant and put an awaiting nest on the branch. Many debates began whether an owl could be pregnant if it lay eggs. Some people thought an owl should be called “ready to lay eggs” and not pregnant. Sergio made it clear he liked his idea best and made a label on his picture pointing to the owl’s belly “pregnent” 🙂


Truman made lightly grey owls with beautiful ear tufts. Striking against the black background and yellow moon.