Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: First read alouds in a Grade 4 & 5 classroom

Last year when I taught a Grade 2 & 3 class, I made a list of titles I might initially share to grow curiosity, introduce new concepts and spread the love of nonfiction picture books.

This year I am teaching Grade 4 & 5 in a new-to-me school and again, I have been going through my shelves thinking about first read alouds. At this point, I am less concerned about content and thinking more about exposing students to a variety of nonfiction titles so that their ideas about nonfiction picture books can grow. I want to also introduce them to a variety of genres, prolific authors and nonfiction series so that they can plan some of their future independent reading. In all of this reading, I want there to be room for questions, laughter and much discussion. Here are ten titles that I have placed in a pile to possibly share in our first month together.

Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats written by Sy Montgomery with photographs by Nic Bishop

Kids love cheetahs. But what is the story of their endangered status and what is being done about it? That is the story that this title showcases – in particular the story of  Laurie Marker and the work she does at theCheetah Conservation Fund (CCF)‘s African headquarters in Nambia. This is a Scientist in the Field title – a series ideal for young scientists, naturalists and kids with questions.

 Chasing Cheetahs Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: First read alouds in a Grade 4 & 5 classroom

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

Nonfiction picture book biographies are some of my favourite titles to share. They are full of information and inspiration. I think this fantastic biography of photographer Dorothea Lange will generate interest in other biographies.

Dorothea's Eyes Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: First read alouds in a Grade 4 & 5 classroom

How to Swallow a Pig: Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

This title is particularly interesting because of the “how to” aspect. Of course it is also a great model for instructional writing. Additional information is always rich in Jenkins/Page titles. Jenkins and Page have collaborated on multiple nonfiction titles. All have huge kid appeal.

How to Swallow a Pig Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: First read alouds in a Grade 4 & 5 classroom

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.

Tooth by Tooth Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: First read alouds in a Grade 4 & 5 classroom

What if you had Animal Ears!? written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Howard McWilliam

This series is lots of fun. It gets kids talking and asking questions. They can later read more of the series on their own or with a buddy. Markle writes lots of great nonfiction. Win. Win. Win to share this one.

What if you had Animal ears?Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: First read alouds in a Grade 4 & 5 classroom

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

Just the cover captures interest but you need to open the book for the full impact. Lots of weird and interesting = perfect for curious minds. Jess Keating also writes middle grade novels – some are sitting on my book shelf and I predict they will be very popular after we share this title. And then there are the videos on her Youtube channel: Animals for Smart People

Pink is for Blobfish Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: First read alouds in a Grade 4 & 5 classroom

Feathers Not Just for Flying written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

Such a beautifully written and organized book – almost like a nature journal or a scrap book.  Perfect as an interactive read aloud experience.Allows the reader to consider and learn about many uses for feathers. Melissa Stewart has written many nonfiction titles in my collection. Students will know her by name by year’s end (or sooner).

 Feathers Not Just for Flying Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: First read alouds in a Grade 4 & 5 classroom

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Nonfiction picture books introduce us to situations, history and struggles we may no nothing or little about. Such an important story about a family’s fight for their children’s equal education.

Separate is Never Equal Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: First read alouds in a Grade 4 & 5 classroom

I, Fly The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are written by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Jennifer Plecas

We can laugh a lot as we learn. This book showcases this perfectly!

I, Fly Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: First read alouds in a Grade 4 & 5 classroom

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors poems by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beckie Prange 

Poet and artist celebrate nature’s successes. Who has been around for a long time and continues to thrive? Introduced in order of their evolutionary arrival, read poems and facts about such creatures as the squirrel, ants, geckos and diatoms. Fascinating and a lyrical experience all at once. Blending of art, poetry and nonfiction. I love to share nonfiction poetry and hope this is a form of writing that we will explore this year in Writer’s Workshop.

Ubiquitous-Celebrating-Natures-Survivors Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: First read alouds in a Grade 4 & 5 classroom

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!


Monday May 18th, 2015

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

I have been sharing a reading photo of the week each week. This photo perfectly captures what happens when a new, impatiently waited for title arrives in our classroom library! An instant list posted to the cover and a happy little smirk for the first reader!

Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

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. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.


I wasn’t able to post a #IMWAYR post last week so this post captures two weeks of reading.

Favourite picture books (fiction and nonfiction)

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach 

One of those read alouds that must begin again as soon as it ends – this isn’t the story it first appears to be. Adorable, hilarious and full of delight.

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Have You Seen my Monster? by Steve Light

There are monsters everywhere – look very closely. You might also find a triangle, a circle and a quatrefoil. Yes, really.

Have You Seen my Monster? Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton

A chicken. With arms. Wings? Nope, none of those. Henny learns to embrace her unique possibilities. Quirky but sweet.

Henny Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

I Don’t Like Koala written by Sean Ferrell and illustrated by Charles Santoso

Is your stuffed animal watching you? This little koala just might be. An odd little book about a stuffed creature that is not beloved but is everywhere.

I Don't Like Koala Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

I, Fly The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are written by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Jennifer Plecas

Wow, such learning happens when a fly arrives to plead his interest quotient to a bunch of children studying butterflies. Such voice! I can’t wait to share this with a class.

I, Fly Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Outstanding in the Rain by Frank Viva

So very, very clever.

Outstanding in the Rain Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries. Four Families. One Delicious Treat. written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

This book does so much. As we travel through time with a recipe for a simple summer dessert, we are treated to a history lesson that is much more than how kitchen utensils and appliances have changed. I am in more than a little bit of awe.

A Fine Dessert Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Emu written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Graham Byrne. Papa Emu plays a starring role in this nonfiction title. Read my review here.

Emu Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Drive: A Look at Roadside Opposites by Kellen Hatanaka

There is a commercial I have seen a few times that celebrates a driving experience that has the children in the back seat fully plugged into their devices while the parents sit peacefully in the front seat pleased as can be to be avoiding noise, arguments, etc. from their children. While I will admit to ordering my children at times to “Be quiet!” I don’t want them zoned out on a device while we are in the car. I would prefer that they are watching the passing scenery, drawing or listening to an audio book. Even, oh my goodness, using the time to think and be. So I love this book that honours the view out the window and connection to the world as we travel through it. Tuned out to be tuned in is not my idea of the way things should be. Look out the window and notice! This book gives one a great starting point for lots of examples.

Drive- A Look at Roadside Opposites Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

In novels, I read . . .

A graphic title

Zita The Space Girl by Ben Hatke

I don’t always love graphic novels with lots of adventure and action. But this one? It’s a keeper! I now want all three titles for my classroom collection.

Zita The Space Girl Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Yes, it is really as good as you’ve heard. Beautifully written, beautifully imagined. An absolute must, must read!

Echo Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard

I read this in almost one sitting. One family, almost completely cut off from the rest of the world have their lives shaped and controlled by a step-father’s prophecies about the future. What happens when the one who protects might also put you at risk? How can one boy live a double life? Haunting. Upsetting. Utterly addictive.

Watch the Sky Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

A story about family and connection, grief and moving on. Ari and her older brother Gage are basically homeless – couch surfing and staying in shelters while trying to turn their lives into something stable with a real future. The secrets, the instability, the worries are huge. Can they keep their little family together and still hope for the future? I couldn’t put this one down.

 Paper Things Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

The Shadowhand Convenant by Brian Farrey

I read this title aloud to my children. We read the first in the trilogy about a year ago and were completely captured by these unique characters in such a fresh fantasy story. This story continued to keep us guessing right until the last pages.

Shadowhand Covenant Monday May18th, 2015 There's a Book for That

Updates on my 2015 Reading Goals:

2015 Chapter Book Challenge: 25/80 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 188/415 books read

#MustReadin2015: 10/24 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 40/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2015: 18/50 books read

Up Next? Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin My children and I waited (and waited and waited some more) for the 3rd title in The Books of Beginning trilogy to be released. Finally, it is here and so we are happily reading The Black Reckoning by John Stephens. The Emerald Atlas was published in 2011 and The Fire Chronicle published in 2012 so as you can see, our wait was long!

Monday October 22nd, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Join in with Jen and Kellee’s meme and share what you are reading from picture books to young adult reads. Always an opportunity to learn about new titles!

I had huge amounts of picture book love this week! A large part of that was having tickets to go see Jon Klassen at Vancouver Kid’s Books. Wow! Such an interesting and engaging presentation. Jon is charming and then some.

And  . . . it gets better. I was able to take my class to the Vancouver Writer’s Festival to see Sheree Fitch and Kyo Maclear. Their event was called High and Low and All Around. All of these author and author/illustrators impressed me to no end. (Sheree Fitch can recite her poems at super sonic speed. She is spellbinding!) I was inspired to continue sharing the love of literature, the beauty of the written word, the magic of the clever illustration, and the images of joy via the wonder of picture books. One of my favourite moments was when Kyo Maclear talked about how she loves reading and one of my students whispered intently to me, “She’s just like you!” Phew! Six weeks in and I’ve conveyed my love of books. So many weeks still ahead to pass this love on to each child in my room! 🙂

So because this post is all about picture book gushing, I thought I would try to place these books loosely into categories to bring some kind of organization to this post . . . that way you can just locate a section you are interested in!

First up: Art and more:

This is Not my Hat written and illustrated by Jon Klassen Love this book. Doesn’t hurt that I got to hear it first read and explained by Jon Klassen himself all the while holding my signed copy in my bag! But I would have loved it anyway. I love the dark pages, the horizontal format, the mood conveyed by the eyes and all of the inferring this book begs you to do. The crab in this book is a fantastic supporting character. (He gets a starring role at the top of this post!) I find Klassen quietly brilliant.

Virginia Wolf written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Kyo read this book to us in the presentation at the Writer’s Festival and when I returned to class, I read it aloud to the children again. They were completely delighted by the story and Arsenault’s stunning illustrations. As soon as it was quiet reading time, this book disappeared to be read again independently. A fantastic title about a dark mood, a hopeful sibling, the magic of imagination and the lightness when sadness lifts. This book can be read again and again and the reader will continue to discover new things.

I read this book last year to my Reading group and they adored it.

In the Wild is written by David Elliot and illustrated (gorgeous woodcuts) by Holly Meade Poems written by Elliot are lifted off the page by Meade’s striking and powerful woodcuts. My wish list now includes On the Farm a previous collaboration by these two.

A few books in the Rhyme and Repetition category:

A Gold Star for Zog written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Alex Sheffler This was our first BLG book of the year and we loved the language, the plot and the bright illustrations. Zog may not be the best at every task at Dragon School but he helps someone else find her way. For that, I think we can call him heroic.

Toot Toot Zoom written by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Matthew Cordell This is a likeable little story about the search for friends. Many adventures and lots of delightful traffic noise fill the pages as Pierre the fox travels to the other side of the mountain.

Books full of humour:

The Younger Brother’s Survival Guide by Lisa Kopelke Supposedly, this book was written by “Matt” Kopelke’s younger brother who entertains the reader by his step by step guide on how to terrorize and torment your older sister (who remains all the while older and more clever).

Please is a good word to say written by Barbara Joose and illustrated by Jennifer Plecas I’ve read some reviews of this book that claim it is a simple, too cutesy book about manners. I found it quite wonderful really. It is definitely a child’s voice that comes through loud and clear as when and how to use polite phrases and expressions are explained. It is hardly simple to understand the proper placement of please so that it sounds polite and gracious vs. whiny and annoying. I can see this book making kids really think about how best to use manners and that it would prompt many conversations.

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas. I first heard about this book from my principal because her five year old daughter was raving about a hilarious book that her teacher had read to her and was insisting that they had to have this very book a.s.a.p. I am always intrigued by book passion so had kept this title in the “be on the lookout for” compartment of my brain. I found it this week at the public library and now see why this little kindergartener was so enthused about it. It is hilarious! Bright and colourful illustrations and a funny little plot. Oh beware the vacuum if you are a dust bunny! The bonus: it also lets the readers practice rhyming! What could be better? I want this book for my buddy reading bin! It is perfect for reading to our little kindergarten buddies.

And also this category: Nature

Mossy by Jan Brett. I have always loved Jan Brett. My children were fed Jan Brett books about as often as mashed carrots in their early years. Always her illustrations are exquisite. Most of the time her stories are good. Sometimes just okay. Sometimes great. This book falls into the great category. It examines a beautifully unique little creature and the human tendency to want to “have” that beauty at the expense of the happiness of the creature. In this case, Mossy is captured and placed in a museum until a young girl senses her unhappiness. Reminds me of the wonderful Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo. In fact, I think I am going to read both books this week with my reading group and do some inspired writing.

That’s not a Daffodil by Elizabeth Honey. This book has many things in it that made it a quick favourite for me: an intergenerational relationship, a theme of nature and gardening and beautiful imaginative language and imagery. A perfect book to inspire looking at nature in creative ways and I can’t wait to share it with my students. It also heads into my school bag this week.

I am also smack dab in the middle of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and must finish it by Friday as it is requested and I can’t renew it at the library! Wish there was more time because I am really enjoying the story. Determined to squeeze in some late night or early morning reading sessions.

What are you reading? Please share!