Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Nonfiction I’m reading to my children

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 

NFPB 2014

I have always read aloud to my children who are now eleven and in Grade 6 (boy/girl twins). Our reading history includes books of all kinds: board books, poetry, picture books, nonfiction, comics/graphics, and novels.

And now? My children are still happy to be my “test children” for new picture book titles. And we ALWAYS have a novel on the go. But do we read nonfiction together? We do. But much more avidly than we ever did! In the past, it was a title here and there. Now, that I am an active participant in this challenge hosted by Alyson Beecher at KidLit Frenzy, my nonfiction reading and awareness has been transformed. I am aware of so many fantastic titles and I have transferred my passion and commitment to nonfiction, to my read aloud time with my children. Usually, we have a longer title on the go that we will read over a week or two – just a little each night. Our evening reading often looks like a section of our nonfiction title and then a chapter or two (depending on the time and the begging) of our novel. Sometimes, we are so engrossed in the nonfiction title, we just read that.

My children and I have all benefitted from the talk that happens with our nonfiction reading. Sometimes one of us is not all that interested in the topic and it requires more talk time and initial research of the topic (watching a video, looking at other books, etc) Other times we are all incredibly curious right from the beginning. Always it is worth it for the connections we make, the questions we share and the learning that we do. How amazing is it to be learning alongside my own children every day!

I highly recommend adding more nonfiction to your read aloud diet!

Our last few nonfiction read alouds were Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill, Dare the Wind written by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully and Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia written by Sy Montgomery with photographs by Nic Bishop. I have featured all of these on my blog in recent weeks.

What’s up next for us?

Sea Turtle Scientist by Stephen R. Swinburne (published 2014)

I find these Scientiest in the Field titles the perfect read alouds for this age group (10 – 13). My children and I are quite enamoured with sea turtles and I am particularly interested in sharing details of the conservation efforts to protect turtles.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Nonfiction I'm reading to my children

Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats written by Sy Montgomery with photographs by Nic Bishop (published 2014)

Another Scientist in the Field title. Children are fascinated by cheetahs and my children are no different. But, we have talked more and more about how many of Africa’s animals are at risk of extinction. This is an important read.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Nonfiction I'm reading to my children

The Skull in the Rock: How a Scientist, A Boy and Google Earth opened a New Window on Human Origins by Lee R. Berger and Marc Aronson. (published 2012)

I found this book in my school library and immediately signed it out to bring home and share with my children. A nine year old boy out fossil hunting with his Dad (Dr. Lee Berger) finds a piece of bone likely two million years old. This book looks just fascinating! My learning curve will be big. My husband, who loves all things fossils, wants to sit in when we do this read aloud.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Nonfiction I'm reading to my children

Shimmer and Splash: The Sparkling World of Sea Life by Jim Arnosky (published 2013)

Gorgeous paintings by Arnosky and the stories of his experience and knowledge of each of the creatures featured here. We have been reading many nonfiction titles about the ocean so have lots of interest in various sea life.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Nonfiction I'm reading to my children

Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth’s Strangest Animals by Michael Hearst and illustrated by Arjen Noordeman, Christie Wright, and Jelmer Noordeman (published 2012)

I found this in one of my favourite book shops on a weekend walk. It has what looks like a tiny nibble out of one corner (my theory is that one of these creatures featured in this book is secretly alive and comes out at night and dines on the book it now lives within) so it was in the half price bin. Giant Gippsland Earthworms up to 10 feet long. A Mimic Octopus that wasn’t discovered until 1998 (too busy hiding by being able to mimic other creatures!). Leafy Sea Dragons that look like floating seaweed. Really, how could I resist this book? Can’t wait to share and hear the chorus of “Cool!” and “Gross!” that my children are sure to repeat on each page!

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Nonfiction I'm reading to my children

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: 63/65 complete!

 

Ocean wonders: twenty nonfiction picture books about sea life

My class and I have fallen into a theme of ocean and sea life without really knowing we were heading in that direction. And just like dipping your toe into the deep blue sea and being lured into the depths, we have found that everywhere we turn, there are more books on this theme for us to discover. Here are twenty nonfiction picture book titles – some we have read, some that are in the pile to share and some we might not get to this time around. I hope that some will be ones you want to share with the children in your lives.

Books with a theme of Exploration:

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins  

How can we not be intrigued at the idea that we may only have encountered half of the large animals living in the sea?

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Éric Puybaret

Cousteau was fascinated by a world that he couldn’t spend prolonged time in. Without being able to breather underwater, how could Cousteau explore its mysteries? Read a more detailed review here

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jaques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino

Another fantastic picture book biography sharing the life of the inspiring Jacques Cousteau.

Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester

This title is based on the author’s real experience of travelling to Antarctica. Full of all kinds of facts about icebergs, icebreakers, life in a research station. Read a more detailed review here.

 Ocean wonders: 20 nonfiction picture books about the sea There's a Book for That Nonfiction picture book Wednesday

Books with an Environment theme:

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A Nivola 

The depiction of Earle’s curious childhood in the water, descriptions of moments in her life that truly shaped and changed her, beautiful and enticing illustrations and this very important message: “You can’t care if you don’t know.”

Winston of Churchill by Jean Davies Okimoto

This book tells us about Winston, the bear from Churchill, Manitoba who decides to mobolize a group of polar bears to teach the tourists who come to see the polar bears about the effects of global warming on the melting ice in the Arctic.

Ice Bear (In the Steps of the Polar Bear) written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Gary Blythe 

Nicola Davies tells us how polar bears survive in the Northern landscape weaving facts on each page into the beautiful story she tells in lovely poetic text.

Read about how I used this title in my room to practice deep thinking questions here

Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm 

Narrated by the sun. Learn about ocean’s life cycles and the importance of phytoplankton.

Environment  Ocean wonders: 20 nonfiction picture books about the sea There's a Book for That Nonfiction picture book Wednesday

Books about Specific Sea Creatures (one or many):

Here Come the Humpbacks written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Jamie Hogan

Through a story of a mother whale and her calf’s migratory journey, we are able to learn many things about humpback whales.

See What a Seal Can Do written by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by Kate Nelms

The reader is then invited into the world of seals. Learn all about gray seals – how they move, how they hunt and how their body is perfectly suited to their ocean home.

Read more about this book here.

One Tiny Turtle written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Jane Chapman

The amazing story of the lifecycle of the loggerhead turtle.

Surprising Sharks written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by James Croft

Learn lots about sharks including how humans pose many threats to their survival.

Bubble Homes and Fish farts written by Fiona Bayrock and illustrated by Carolyn Conahan 

How do animals use bubbles? In quite amazing ways! From the bubble nets of humpback whales to the bubbles sea otters use to stay extra warm in the cold ocean water.

In the Sea written by David Elliot and illustrated by Holly Meade

Poems about various sea creatures. Gorgeous illustrations.

Giant Squid: Searching for a Sea Monster by Mary M. Cerullo from the Smithsonian

Written like an active investigation. Just what is the giant squid? Why is it so elusive? How is it studied?

Shimmer & Splash: The Sparkling World of Sea Life by Jim Arnosky 

Learn about different fish and sea animals that live in the ocean. Amazing fold out pages.

Sea Creatures  Ocean wonders: 20 nonfiction picture books about the sea There's a Book for That Nonfiction picture book Wednesday

Books that begin on the Shore or wade into the Coral Reefs:

Coral Reefs by Jason Chin 

In this title, being lost in a book means getting lost in a completely different world – in this case the magical world of coral reefs.

Hello Ocean written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, with illustrations by Mark Estrella

Not exactly a nonfiction title but a poetic text that speaks to all of our senses close to the shore.

Star of the Sea: A Day in the Life of a Starfish written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Joan Paley

The book itself reads like a story – we learn about how sea stars hunt for food, how they eat (by extending a stomach out through the mouth) and how they are vulnerable when the tide goes out to being eaten by seabirds

Looking Closely Along the Shore by Frank Serafini 

Look at the shore in ways you have never quite imagined it through the camera lens and close up shots of Frank Serafini.

 Ocean wonders: 20 nonfiction picture books about the sea There's a Book for That Nonfiction picture book Wednesday

 

NFPB 2014

I learn so much by reading all of the blog posts that link to the Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday event that KidLit Frenzy hostsVisit Alyson’s blog to see what books are shared this week.

My goal is to read 65 nonfiction picture books for 2014. Progress: 42/65 complete!

Do you have favourite nonfiction titles on any of these themes? Please share in the comments!

Nonfiction 10 for 10 List for 2013!

I’m so excited to participate in the first Nonfiction 10 for 10 event celebrating fantastic nonfiction picture books. Thank you to Cathy Mere from Reflect and RefineMandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning  and Julie Balen of Write at the Edge for hosting this new meme.

In many cases, I have shared the books on my list with students, often more than once. If I have used a book with my class and blogged about it, I have provided the link (for more information about the book/possible ideas on how to use it).

An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long Shared in my class here. I love all of the Aston/Long titles (there are now four) but I think this is my favourite. Maybe it is that I love birds – my backyard is full of feeders and specific plants to attract them. But it is also the simplicity of an egg and the wonder of what it might contain. In this book we learn about more than bird’s eggs – we see the eggs of frogs, insects and various reptiles. The text is soothing and informative and the illustrations stunning. It is fun just to pore over the end papers trying to match various eggs with the creatures that may have hatched from them. I find this book is as lovely shared in the classroom as it is read aloud to just a few (my own children adored it). It inspires so much inquiry and amazement.

Nonfiction 10 for 10: There's a Book for that

Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin A simply gorgeous book detailing the birth of the Galapagos islands over millions of years and the fascinating creatures that inhabit them. Why is this book so great? The illustrations are certainly stunning and detailed but it is much more than that. I also love that big concepts: evolution, natural selection, migration of specific species and environmental changes are made so accessible for young readers. I think this is best introduced as a read aloud and then left for children to visit and revisit. This is a book to return to often to further study the illustrations and explanations. I want to get a hold of Chin‘s other nonfiction titles now too (Redwoods and Coral Reefs)

Nonfiction 10 for 10: There's a Book for that

Over and Under the Snow written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal Shared in my class here. This book is truly magical and I would be thrilled to see Kate Messner do another picture book in this genre. Of course, Neal’s illustrations are also stunning – I love the muted colours – the gorgeous blues and white. I have frequently given this book as a gift to young readers especially if they have the opportunity to get out into a snowy wood and imagine all of the life happening under the snow. My students think it is absolutely fascinating that this subnivean zone (the small open spaces and tunnels between the snowpack and the ground) exists and marvelled at the animals that inhabit it. More detail about each animal is located in the back of the book for further reading. The text itself reads beautifully and repeated readings are a must!

Nonfiction 10 for 10: There's a Book for that

Every Human has RightsA Photographic Declaration for Kids A National Geographic book with a forward by Mary Robinson. I seem to collect books that explore the United Declaration of Human Rights. I have many favourites. What I particularly love about this title is the poetry that accompanies the list of rights. All written by children and teens. The photographs from around the world make the rights so much more powerful, real and worth defending. I would share this book with intermediate students over primary children because of the more mature message in the poems and some of the photos. For books more suitable to younger students, I recommend I Have the Right to be a Child written by Alain Serres, illustrated by Aurelia Fronty and We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures (with Amnesty International).

Nonfiction 10 for 10: There's a Book for that

Poop – A Natural History of the Unmentionable written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Neal Layton. Shared in my class here and here. Really what child is not going to be engaged when you open up a book that is all about poop? There is a lot to learn in this title!   Do you know how often a sloth poops? How about a kind of messy thing that hippos do with their poo? Why is there hair in the poop of some animals? Wonder what follows when there is a title Sloppy or Ploppy? You must read this book! Better yet, you must share it with a group of curious children! And giggle. And oooh and ahhh.

Nonfiction 10 for 10: There's a Book for that

Crocodile Safari by Jim Arnosky Shared in my class here and here. Arnosky has so many wonderful nonfiction titles but this is my favourite. Not only do students learn the important difference between crocodiles and alligators, they learn all kinds of facts about crocodiles. The art is true to life and the colours set the mood to make you feel like you really are out in the swamp. One of the best features of this book is the DVD that is included. See Arnosky out in the mangrove swamp doing research and learn how to draw crocodiles. A step by step drawing lesson is part of this DVD. My students loved this!

Nonfiction 10 for 10: There's a Book for that

The Pebble in my Pocket written by Meredith Hooper and illustrated by Chris Coady Shared in my class here. This is a lengthy read but so worth sharing- a book that describes a journey of over 480 million years.  Follow a piece of rock that formed as a result of a volcano and travelled through time to end up in a little girl’s pocket. On this amazing journey, learn how the earth has changed in many dramatic ways over time. The back of the book has a geological time line that explains the main periods in Earth’s history. You might never look at a small pebble the same again.

Nonfiction 10 for 10: There's a Book for that

How to Clean a Hippopotamus by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page Shared in my classroom here. How to choose just one Steve Jenkins book as my favourite? Not an easy task. I adore them all. (And there are always more! Just today I read my class part of My First Day) But if I had to pick a favourite, this would have to be it. I learned the most from reading it and my students were completely engaged with the information  Symbiotic relationships between animals are fascinating and this book details many strange animal partnerships. This book’s format is somewhat like a graphic novel and contains, Jenkins’ stunning artwork/collage.

Nonfiction 10 for 10: There's a Book for that

 Fire!  The Renewal of a Forest by Celia Godkin, the queen of information story books 🙂 Have you ever thought of a forest fire as a positive thing? This detailed picture book explains how fires can be a natural and necessary part of the forest’s cycle of life and growth. The pages are typically set up so that the picture is spread over two pages  allowing for more scope and detail. I once did an entire unit on ecology using Godkin’s books and this was a favourite.

Nonfiction 10 for 10: There's a Book for that

And my favourite nonfiction title? It would have to be Ape written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White Shared in my classroom here.

Ape is a visually stunning book! A book to pore over again and again marvelling at the details – both visual and written. Vicky White’s close up portraits and lifelike illustrations are fascinating while Martin Jenkins’ poetic text provided so much new information it is difficult to turn a page in a classroom of children without endless questions being tossed around the room. Learn about four endangered ape species: Orangutans, Chimps, Bonobos, and Gorillas. The fifth species of ape? Us. Similarities between apes and humans are described – for example, that we usually just have one baby at a time. Read and share the information in this book and then just flip through the pages taking in the pictures – there is so much to notice that a once through won’t do this book justice.

Nonfiction 10 for 10: There's a Book for that

Thanks again to Cathy, Julie and Mandy for the inspiration and hosting this event!

Happy reading and sharing everyone!

Crocodile Safari Take 2

We finished reading Jim Arnosky’s Crocodile Safari today.

Some interesting things we learned?

crocodile safari

  • Crocodiles are not the only dangerous things in the mangrove swamp. Also beware of diamondback rattle snakes and poisonwood trees
  • Those large jaws are full of teeth! Humans have 28-32 teeth but crocs have 80 to 120 teeth!
  • Toothless crocodiles exist but still beware! These crocodiles still have powerful jaws that can crush bones!
  • Crocodiles can be huge! In the U.S.A. they might be up to 15 feet (almost 5 m) long but in Madagascar there are crocodiles up to 30 feet (over 9 m) long! These are the largest living reptiles in the world. Wow!

P1020645Crocodile Safari comes with a DVD that features Jim Arnosky discussing the differences between alligators and crocodiles and how important these differences are to a wildlife illustrator. At the end of the DVD, Mr. Arnosky gives us a drawing lesson. We watched this part twice! All of us brought paper, pencils, crayons and pencil crayons to the carpet to work on our crocodile drawings! Notice the scaly skin and lumps and bumps.

P1020680Arnosky showed us how to draw the mangrove roots at the side of the water where the crocs like to lurk unnoticed amongst the roots and branches. He mentioned that he likes drawing the mangrove trees because they seem like upside down trees. We learned that water birds sense when the crocs are not hungry and then it is safe to perch near them.

P1020676Jenifer has done a fantastic job of showing how large the teeth can be in a croc’s jaws. Inside the book there is a page with pictures of lifesize crocodile teeth. Some teeth were longer than our little fingers! Yikes! Suddenly those teeth seemed all the more real!

 

P1020669Crocodiles have long narrow snouts. We can see all of their teeth even when their jaws are closed. Alyson has done a lovely job of showing the shape of the croc’s head and all of its large sharp teeth. Many students brought their drawings home to share with family.

What fascinating creatures!

Students are already requesting more books by Jim Arnosky!

Crocodile Safari

We have begun to explore the fact – question – inference continuum using non-fiction books and information storybooks. This process is inspired by Adrienne Gear’s Non-Fiction Reading Power book. When we learn a new fact, what question does it prompt and using our background knowledge (schema), what can we infer? We practiced this today using Jim Arnosky’s Crocodile Safari. This is a detailed account of American crocodiles. Crocodiles were photographed and sketched while Jim Arnosky and his wife Deanna were on their crocodile safari through the Florida Everglades. This book is illustrated with the detailed paintings inspired by the images collected on safari. Stunning!

Today we read about a third of the book learning about the crocodile population in the U.S.A., the differences between crocodiles and alligators (finally, a book that makes this totally clear through text and drawings!), crocodile habits and hunting strategies (a page called Ambushed from Below was quite thrilling!).

Fact/Question/Infer: (some examples)

1. We read that in the late twentieth century there were just 300 crocodiles left in the U.S.A. Now there are approximately 2,000. This led us to question: How were they counted? As we tried to answer this question, more questions arose. What if the same crocodile was counted more than once? Maybe they tagged them. But if they tagged them, how would they get close enough to tag them? We were all fairly worried about those sharp teeth! Perhaps they shot tranquilizer darts at them to put them out long enough to attach a tag. Obviously, some of our background knowledge was helping us think this through. We read on and found out that they were counted when someone flew over their habitat in a helicopter.

2. One page in the book is titled One Famous Croc and it talks about a crocodile famous for migrating hundreds of miles from the Everglades to Sanibel Island. When it was captured and returned to the Everglades, it migrated for a second time to Sanibel Island, where it now lives. Our question was an obvious one: What made it return to Sanibel Island? As we talked this question through, students shared different ideas based on their thinking and background knowledge. Someone knew that birds migrate to warmer places. Why else do birds migrate? Someone shared it was so they could find food more easily. Did this crocodile migrate because of food? Someone pointed out that there was a picture of this crocodile hunting a bird so this seemed logical. Our consensus was that the crocodile migrated to Sanibel Island because it was a great source of water birds (great hunting grounds). A very sensible inference we thought and since we can’t ask this particular crocodile, it’s the answer we are going with! 🙂

Students shared new learning, unanswered questions and some of their own inferences in their writing.

Jenny: I learned today that the difference of a crocodile and an alligator is that the crocodile has teeth sticking out of its mouth when it’s closed and an alligator doesn’t. A crocodile’s mouth is longer and an alligator’s mouth is wider.

Eddy: At night crocodiles hunt. In the day, they like to suntan. They mostly eat fish but they also eat birds and snakes.

Lisa: I have a question about how they communicate with other crocodiles. Maybe they move their tail back and forth in the water.

Jena: Crocodiles eat anything they find. They ambush their prey. They go underwater at night (mostly) to hunt. They rise up to the prey and pull it down and eat it. For example, if you saw a duck and then it just disappears. That’s what just happened to it!

Gary: There are questions I still have. How heavy are crocodiles? How big are alligators? Are alligators stronger than crocodiles?