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 ūüôā

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:

 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

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Migration Stories

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 

I will admit to being absolutely fascinated by the whole concept of migration – the effort exerted, the distances travelled and the whole idea of living life in different places in different seasons. Animals are amazing.

A new migration favourite: Is This Panama? A Migration Story written by Jan Thornhill and illustrated by Soyeon Kim (published in 2013)

A little Wilson’s warbler wakes up to a colder than usual morning and realizes that it is time to make the journey south to Panama. But, where are all of the other warblers? They must have left without him! How would he make it to Panama alone? So begins this story of Sammy (the warbler) and his quest to find his way to Panama on his own, without knowing the way.

Is this Panama? NFPB Wednesday There's a Book for That

Sammy meets many other animals who are also migrating, adapting for the changing season or planning to sleep away the winter. A ptarmigan explains that he doesn’t need to travel south because his changing white feathers keep him safe from predators while he continues to find lots of food in the north. A flock of sandhill cranes give Sammy a lift further south but not nearly close enough to Panama. They do however teach him that their migration strategy is to search for landmarks that they count on every year. Darner Dragonflies explain to Sammy that they follow the shoreline because flying over open water is much too dangerous. Other warblers (some redstarts, warbler cousins) show Sammy how they follow star maps by flying at night and a sense of knowing awakens in Sammy. Unfortunately, as he sets out with a clearer sense of his destination, he is confused by the bright lights of a city. In a terrible storm, Sammy finds refuge on the backs of a group of social humpback whales on route to warmer waters to calve. They bring him farther south and give him the rest he needs to find some new energy to fly. Finally, Sammy finds himself just where he needs to be. What a journey.

In the back of the book is a map revealing the regular route warblers take from Alaska to Panama and then Sammy’s much longer round about route. All of the creatures Sammy encounters are described as well – with important details about migration routes, reasons for migrating and migration strategies.

Did you know that Hudsonian Godwits can fly almost 10, 000 km in one go? Really! Humpback whales use the position of the sun and Earth’s magnetic field to guide their journey. Caribou migrate farther than any other land animal.

There is also a page titled How Animals Migrate detailing the various strategies animals use to guide their migration, why animals migrate and what are some of the dangers of migration (most happen to be caused by humans).

An amazing story and so much more on the topic of migration, I highly recommend this title. It would be a great read aloud in primary classes and ideal for independent reading for early intermediate students.

Interested in other picture books about migration?

These are also favourites:

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

Bird, Butterfly, Eel NFPB Wednesday There's a Book for That

The Journey: Stories of Migration written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Lambert Davis

Stories of Migration NFPB Wednesday There's a Book for That

My original goal was 60 nonfiction picture books for 2013. Progress: 50/60 complete

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2013! Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction titles.

NFPB2013leaves

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.