Nonfiction favourites from 2017

I haven’t read as many nonfiction titles as I would have liked to read this year. There are still titles on my To Read list that are likely to become favourites, perhaps even making their way on to this list. I definitely haven’t posted many #nfpb2017 posts.

Bur I have been reading and sharing and appreciating. Books from my nonfiction picture book collection are always well used and well loved. There have been some pretty amazing titles that I have had the pleasure of reading and I am sharing them here.

Here are my top ten of 2017 (published in 2017). Listed alphabetically by author.

Give Bees a Chance by Bethany Barton

Follow along as a reluctant bee enthusiast becomes convinced of the wonder and importance of bees. Entertaining and informative!

Penguin Day: A Family Story by Nic Bishop 

This title allows us to follow a penguin family through a typical day. Incredible photographs by Bishop of Rockhopper penguins in the Falkland Islands.

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

Jason Chin is incredible. I believe that more and more with each book I read. Take a journey back and forth through time as you hike down, up and around the Grand Canyon.

What Makes a Monster?: Discovering the World’s Scariest Creatures written by Jess Keating and illustrated by David DeGrand

The second title in this series by Jess Keating. So. Much. Fun. Keating makes learning an adventure in the wow and wild!

This is How We Do it: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World by Matt Lamothe

What do you eat for dinner? What is school like?  What is your daily routine? What do you do for fun? How do you help your family? 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. Based on the lives of seven real children from around the world.

Gift Books 2017: 25 Picture Books to Gift this Season There's a Book for That

If You Were the Moon written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Jaime Kim

What would you do if you were the moon? A poem travels line by line, page by page on one side of each two page spread and on the other, more information about the moon. Incredible illustrations by Jaime Kim accompanies a lyrical poem.

Can an Aardvark Bark? written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Created by nonfiction royalty, this book is a winner! Animal sounds. And many other cool things you might have wondered. I recently listened to Melissa Stewart talking about this book with Matthew Winner on an All the Wonders Podcast.

The Hidden Life of a Toad by Doug Wechsler

A photographic journey of the life cycle of the toad. Clear specific language, lots of essential vocabulary and incredible close up images.

If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams

A nonfiction title exploring ecosystems and the importance of keeping oceans healthy. Children will develop an understanding of food chains and how living creatures are interconnected in specific environments.

The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zana Hadid by Jeanette Winter

Zaha Hadid had incredible vision but having her designs come to life was a struggle. Learn more about the architect’s life in this nonfiction picture book biography. Images by Winter are spectacular.

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: Library finds

Sometimes, my library has everything I am looking for and more. I love when I discover specific titles I have never even heard about. Other times, even when I search the entire system, I can’t find what I want. So visiting another library in another city, another country actually, meant nonfiction jackpot! 🙂 Thank you Seattle Public Library Central branch for being so well stocked!

And for the gorgeous views . . .

Nonfiction Picture book Wednesday: Library finds There's a Book for That

Plant a Pocket of Prairie written by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Betsy Bowen (published 2014)

I am a once was-almost am again gardener. Working full time means less time in my garden. Now it is all about low maintenance, wildlife friendly plants. I love rainy late fall afternoons sitting in the window and watching birds swoop in to feed on rudebeckia and echinacea seeds. And summers when a butterfly lands, well . . . So this book really appealed. I certainly don’t live on the prairies. The Pacific Northwest is a far cry from flat, farm land. But, I as this book suggests, one might plant a pocket of prairie. And then, the visits from the birds and insects who love these prairie plants might begin. I know from experience, that they certainly do. I loved the detailed information in the back of birds, animals and insects who might visit these prairie flowers. Beautiful book.

Plant a Pocket of Prairie Nonfiction Picture book Wednesday: Library finds There's a Book for That

Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter (published 2014)

Inspirational accounts of young people standing up for their rights and the rights of other children are so important to share with our students. I can see this book hitting my students hard. They know Malala’s story of perseverance, tragedy and recovery. Iqbal’s story is not one of survival but his courage is just as strong. I hope that our school library can purchase this title so that my students will be able to read it. This book will be an excellent title to begin discussions and to prompt further research.

Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan:Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan Nonfiction Picture book Wednesday: Library finds There's a Book for That

Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History! written by Shana Corey and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (published 2009)

I love this biography! It is full of energy – from its inspirational story to the gorgeous, bright illustrations. I had no idea about how the changes to women’s swimsuits came about and I love that the change was influenced by an athlete wanting more women to experience the joy of swimming! What I loved even more though was how the water was Annette’s ticket to health and athleticism after being weak and ill as a child. I would love to get a copy of this book for our picture book biography collection.

Mermaid Queen- The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History! Nonfiction Picture book Wednesday: Library finds 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 2015. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

#nfpb2015

Monday February 24th, 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. One of the very best ways to discover what to read next!

This week in my blogging world, I . . .

  • shared my ten favourite nonfiction picture book biographies featuring inspiring women for the #nf10for10 event. My post was called The Wonder of Women.  Check out all of the lists featured here.
  • celebrated my rich reading life for The Celebration Link Up hosted by Ruth Ayres

It is report card writing season so . . . I always feel like I don’t get the reading in that I want to 😦 But this week, I managed to read some wonderful picture books. Here are my favourites:

My Name is Blessing written by Eric Walters and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

This was quite the story – based on the author’s actual visit to Kenya in 2007 where he met the little boy this book is based upon. This little boy is raised by a Grandmother raising many of her grandchildren who are now orphans. They have little food and lack adequate shelter and sleeping space. Muthini (Grandmother) must make the best decision for her grandchild. This is the story of what this means for a special little boy eventually called Blessing.

My Name is Blessing #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

What’s Your Favourite Animal? by Eric Carle and Friends

I was on the lookout for this title and when my Teacher Librarian and I went book shopping on Friday, it didn’t take much (she was as enchanted as I was!) to convince her we needed this title for our collection. In fact, I think every library must have this title! It celebrates art and illustration, story telling and the unique tastes and favourites of beloved picture book illustrators. Automatically, one is tempted to answer two questions. What’s my favourite animal? and Which favourite do I like best from this book? I am sure that my answers will change often but in this moment I am going with: The owl as my favourite (wise, secretive and majestic) and my favourite here? I’m with Jon Klassen, ducks.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Snow Leopard by Jackie Morris

How to describe this title? It is lyrical and full of myth, magic and enchantment. A story of a Guardian spirit who must pass into another world (the star filled sky) and so teaches a new Guardian to lead and watch – this one a child who takes the form of the beautiful and elusive snow leopard.

The Snow Leopard #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Bird Child written by Nan Forler and illustrated by Francois Thisdale

This isn’t a new read for me but I it feels fresh anytime I read it with a new group of children and it has been much on mind this week after sharing it with this current group. So I am sharing it here. This is one of the best books to illustrate the power of the bystander to stand up and not stand by. My students were so sympathetic to the character of Lainey who had been bullied.

“Maybe those bullies buried her smile when they buried her hat in the snow.”

“Those bullies undug the sadness in her.”

When Eliza stands up to the children who are bullying Lainey and others follow her lead, it is so powerful.

“One girl did it!”

“She is a leader and others are doing the right thing now too!”

Bird Child #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Quayside Cat written by Toby Forward and illustrated by Ruth Brown

This was our BLG book this week. I shared student reviews on my class blog. We loved getting lost in the illustrations that made us feel as if we were rolling about on the high seas. One cat with “sea legs” so to speak, leads another cat on an ocean adventure.

The Quayside Cat #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Coral Reefs by Jason Chin

Nobody depicts getting lost in a book quite like Jason Chin. But lost in a book means lost in a completely different world – in this case the magical world of coral reefs. Simply gorgeous. Worth reading and rereading to examine all of the clever details from beginning to end when our little reef explorer passes this book onto new readers and stands to watch – drip, drip, drip . . . My son was fascinated with locating the underwater creatures he had seen while snorkeling this past summer.

Coral Reefs #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter

Both Margie Myers-Culver and Linda Baie have raved about this book and for very good reason! Another title I would love to own and keep in my picture book biography collection. This book focuses on the time in Matisse’s life when he was too ill to paint and draw and discovered a new way of making art through paper cut outs. Beautifully told.

Henri's Scissors #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

I also finished one novel – Listening for Lucca by Suzanne LaFleur

This was a #Mustreadin2014 title for me. My daughter is a huge fan of LaFleur and I was lucky enough to win a copy of this title in a Goodreads giveaway – Suzanne signed the book to my daughter and I gave it to her at Christmas. She carried it with her on every holiday visit to show people and then finally sat down to read it. I “borrowed” it from its special place on her bookshelf. This is an ideal MG title – perfect for readers 10 and up who are beginning to be more independent in the social world but still remain very connected to family and home. There is plenty of introspection and soul searching in this book as we get to know Siena. But there is a whole lot more: ghosts, spirits, visions and mystery. Yet everything is very grounded in the story of a young girl growing up and searching for answers for herself and her family – from the typical questions of this age (Do people think I am strange?) to more complicated questions like why does three year old Lucca refuse to speak? I read this mostly in one early morning read and it was wonderful to be carried away to Maine beaches, old houses and the warmth of family connection.

Listening for Lucca  #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Up next? I’m going to continue on with the theme of ghosts and channeling spirits and have begun Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy. My children and I are reading two nonfiction picture books and started The Shadow Throne by Jennifer Nielsen earlier in the week. How impatiently we had been waiting for this title!

Reading Goal updates:

2014 Chapter Book Challenge: 12/100 novels complete

Goodeads Challenge: 108/650 books read

#MustReadin2014: 7/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 36/65 complete

What are you reading? Wishing everyone some time to get lost in a book!

Monday, September 9th 2013

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 reads!

IMWAYR

Happy Back to School everyone!

This week was about sharing a lot of favourite titles with my new class. I am thrilled to announce that I have a multiage class of students – Grade 2/3/4. Sixteen of these children were with me last year. We have launched right into the celebration of books in a wonderful way. Wordless titles. Nonfiction books. Lots of picture books! Our first chapter book read aloud is Marty McGuire Digs Worms by Kate Messner.

Finally this weekend, I found the time to read some “new to me” picture books I pulled from my public library and school library. My favourites of the week:

Desmond and the Very Mean Word written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams and illustrated by A.G. Ford

Gorgeously illustrated by A.G. Ford, this title handles forgiveness and its power in a totally accessible and meaningful way for children. An engaging story of negative interactions between boys where the negative tension is finally soothed through gestures of apology and forgiveness. A wise adult helps Desmond navigate feelings of vengeance, anger and upset. Set in South Africa and based on a true story in Desmond Tutu’s own childhood.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Rabbityness written and illustrated by Jo Empson

Visually – wow. So much to this story. It is a celebration of self and creativity and joy. It is about inspiration. It is about loss and grief and moving on. A story told equally through text and illustrations.

Rabbityness #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Read me a Story, Stella written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay 

I am a big fan of Gay’s Stella and Sam – I love the connections to nature, the endless questions, Stella’s brave persona and Sam’s style of hanging back until he is sure. This book has all of the magic of the other Stella and Sam books and there is a love of literacy and books thrown in the mix. What could be better?

Read me a Story, Stella #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter This story is based on true events surrounding the invasion of Iraq in 2003. An incredibly brave and determined librarian worked quickly and creatively to protect the books in Basra’s Central Library from the destruction caused by the bombing. A story of heroism and hope in the midst of the ugliness of war. This book could be shared with older primary students and would be relevant right into high school.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter Another incredible story of courage based on true events. I think stories of violations of children’s right to attend school are stories that must be shared. This book tells the story of a little girl living in fear in the middle of Taliban rule. School offers her much more than education. My own children leaped up after I read this story to them, yelling in outrage about the injustices revealed in this book. They immediately made connections to The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis that we read a few years ago.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

In novels,

I finished Cinder written by Marissa Meyer Honestly, I was surprised by how addictive this story was for me. I thought it would be a light read but I was drawn in to the drama and intrigue despite suspecting some of the secrets unveiled late in the novel quite early on. I will definitely continue with this series. Futuristic, fantasy/sci-fi with fairy tale elements and high drama. Can see this being a huge hit for (older) middle school/high school readers.

Cinder #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Next up? I have just started Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein and also want to get to Jinx by Sage Blackwood.

Happy Reading everyone!

Monday December 24th, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you reading? 

Join a fabulous group of readers who share their weekly reads from picture books to young adult novels by participating in Jen and Kellee’s meme. If you are looking for new book ideas, this is a fantastic place to start! Especially if you are looking ahead to some lazy reading days over the holidays!

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

I read a lot of picture books this week, but I must confess, I didn’t love them all. Those titles are not included here. Instead, below are the ones that stood out for me as being titles I would recommend/read again/read aloud.

The Man in the Moon by William Joyce (A Guardians of Childhood book) ConfessionI don’t often know what is going on in mainstream media. Ask me about hip songs and the latest and greatest movie and I likely can’t tell you. So I did not connect these Guardians of Childhood books to the slight movie buzz I was hearing with this same title. Many of you are probably cooler than me and knew all about it.

Wow! Does William Joyce create visually stunning books! I shared this as a bedtime read aloud and the next night my children were begging me for the next title that we had just received from a lovely book gifting friend (The Sandman). I loved the images and how magical the stories felt. My children were intrigued by the whole concept of the Guardians watching over children – how they were brave and majestic yet at the same time teeny and odd. Very interesting.

The MAn in the Moon

The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie by William Joyce (the second picture book in the Guardians of Childhood series

If you, like me, are not so up on this series here is more information. It seems there are so far, two picture books and a handful of novels featuring different Guardian characters.

william_joyce_the_sandman

Singing Away the Dark written by Caroline Woodward  and illustrated by Julie Morstad This book is absolutely lovely and a new favourite of mine. Typically I am wary of  books with rhyming text but this one is done so well. A little girl, all of six years old has an early morning walk through snow banks and spooky trees on a cold winter morning to catch the school bus.

“When I was six and walked a mile and sang the dark away.”

Woodward recalls images of her own childhood walks in the Peace River region of B.C. Some of us really do have childhoods that included long walks to school and this book takes me back to all the small moments of bravery that once seemed so huge on my own walk to school on my journeys of childhood. Beautifully illustrated by Morstad.

singingaway

The Golden Rule written by Ilene Cooper and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska. This book explores this simple rule of childhood that seems so difficult for so many to follow. It is pointed out that a version of “”Do Unto Others . . . ” is in every religion for people all over the world. A little boy and his grandfather discuss what the world could be like it everyone actually followed this rule. A lovely format to make this concept accessible to children.

The_Golden_Rule_book

Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter The true story of Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and the green landscapes that she returned to Africa. A book in the biography genre that explores ecology, environment and inspiration.

2010-wangari-trees-of-peace-africa

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills I adore books that promote the love of literacy and the magic of reading. Hills captures the delight of putting sounds together to make words and the lure of a story in this lovely little book that features Rocket as student and the little yellow bird as enthusiastic teacher. I would pair this title with How to Teach a Slug to Read, a book I have used in the past to explore the process of learning how to read.

How-Rocket-Learned-to-Read-by-Tad-Hills

Rabbit and Robot The Sleepover by Cece Bell. A fun little story but what excites me most is that it is a fun little story in early chapter book format that can be enjoyed by students just beginning to dive into this genre There are not enough of these titles out there that have this kind of interest, humour and unique characters while still exploring familiar territory: navigating the complications of friendship. Can’t wait to get this book into the hands of students!

rabbitandrobotcover

I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, an adult novel. I rarely read adult novels anymore and quite honestly, I am happy to dive back into the land of middle grade and young adult novels full force. This book was just too full of ugliness. Well written but what characters . . .

Gone Girl

I am close to finishing  Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I cannot put it down.

verity

Mammoths

Our reading group has continued to practice strategies to handle unknown vocabulary in text. See the strategy list that we came up with earlier this month here. We spent part of a few reading classes with this great text: Wooly Mammoth by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom. (A Natural History Museum Selection)

This book reads as an information story book: rhyming text accompanies the large pictures on each two page spread while black and white drawings and information reads in a column down one side of each page. You can read this book as just a storybook, concentrate primarily on the information or focus on both. Students enjoyed the mammoth time line at the end of the book and reviewing what they had learned by quizzing each other on the glossary words.

We then read Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter.

We started by comparing the covers of Kali’s Song with a Wooly Mammoth. All year we have been talking about the different text features of fiction and non-fiction books. It would be interesting to see what we noticed when looking at Wooly Mammoth because it has both fiction and non-fiction elements (what we like to call an information story book). Students observed that even though both covers had illustrations rather than photographs, the mammoth on the cover of Wooly Mammoth looked more realistic. We talked about fur colour and the shape of the tusks. We also discussed how one mammoth was standing in the snow and another on grass/ground next to a little boy and a dog. “How could they stand so close?” someone wondered.

Before we began reading Kali’s Song, I asked the students, “Even though this is clearly a fiction text, do you think we will be able to link some of our learning from Wooly Mammoth to what we read?” We were ready to look for any text to text connections. Would our sense of the story be enhanced by our newly acquired background knowledge? (schema)

Immediately students were excited to see Kali’s mother painting animals on the cave’s wall. “We learned about how they did that in the other book! In the future some people might discover those paintings to see what animals looked like!” 

We also appreciated that a work of fiction had beautiful elements of story telling and images that a non-fiction book wouldn’t have. When Kali plays the bow string, Winter writes: The stars came close to listen. Such a wonderful image that makes the story more powerful. We liked how Kali’s Song challenged our imaginations and had us think about things differently.

Kali’s music lures the mammoths to him and fascinated, all of the other hunters lay down their weapons. Kali must be a shaman they decide. Winter leaves us wondering – do the hunters not kill any of the mammoths? Or do they eventually resume their hunt? In Wooly Mammoth we had learned that the people’s survival depended on the hunt and that they used all parts of the mammoth (meat, fur, tusks, bone) for things that they needed. Our discussion was intense. Kali had the skill to lure the animals and he seemed to love them. But he loved his people. Wouldn’t his skill help the hunt? What would he do? The students decided that Winter left us thinking on purpose. We would have to come to our own decisions.

Because the mammoths seemed so majestic and wonderful we wanted to think they wouldn’t be hunted but now that our knowledge included information about how people who lived thousands of years ago depended on the hunt, we had some different ideas about the outcome. Students were able to make text to text connections and this furthered their thinking.

Kali’s Song is a beautiful book. Highly recommended.

How do you help students make text to text connections? Recognize that their background knowledge influences their thinking?