Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some favourite nonfiction titles for older readers (List 1)

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 

In July, I published a series of posts about using more nonfiction titles in the classroom. I included numerous recommendations of book titles geared to the primary/early intermediate classroom.  In case you missed them, here are the links:

Part 1: Everywhere you look . . . let there be nonfiction!

Part 2: The importance of the nonfiction read aloud

3A: Generating excitement, making choices and having time to read

3 B: Reading and working with the texts 

Through twitter and from a few comments, I heard from some teachers that their middle school students (Grades 5-8) have lost their passion for nonfiction reading. Linda Baie from Teacher Dance addressed this here with some great book suggestions. At first, I thought that this was not something that I could talk about since my students are younger and I don’t have first hand experience working with these older readers. But the more I thought about it, I realized that my own children (boy/girl twins) are eleven and we share a lot of nonfiction together. And I started another list . . .

For the next few weeks, I will share thirty of my favourite nonfiction books for older readers – ten at a time. If you are an intermediate teacher, I hope you have students eager to read nonfiction! If not, maybe some of these titles can persuade them to spend some time with this genre.

The first ten:

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some favourite nonfiction titles for older readers (List 1) There's a Book for That

The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest – and Most Surprising – Animals on Earth by Steve Jenkins (published 2013)

 The Animal Book Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some favourite nonfiction titles for older readers (List 1) There's a Book for That

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by  Brian Selznick (published 2001)

 The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some favourite nonfiction titles for older readers (List 1) There's a Book for That

The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin by Peter Sis (published 2003)

 The Tree of Life Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some favourite nonfiction titles for older readers (List 1) There's a Book for That

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

 Chasing Cheetahs Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some favourite nonfiction titles for older readers (List 1) There's a Book for That

Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia written by Sy Montgomery with photographs by Nic Bishop (published 2009)

 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some favourite nonfiction titles for older readers (List 1) There's a Book for That

If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World’s People by David J. Smith and illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong (first published in 2002, second edition 2011)

 If the World were a Village Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some favourite nonfiction titles for older readers (List 1) There's a Book for That

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909 written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (published 2013)

 Brave Girl Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some favourite nonfiction titles for older readers (List 1) There's a Book for That

Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill (published 2014)

Shackleton's Journey Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some favourite nonfiction titles for older readers (List 1) There's a Book for That

Zombie Makers True Stories of Nature’s Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson (published 2012)

Zombie Makers  Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some favourite nonfiction titles for older readers (List 1) There's a Book for That

The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle (published 2011)

 The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Some favourite nonfiction titles for older readers (List 1) 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 books you need to read!

My goal is to read 65 nonfiction picture books for 2014. Progress: 99/65 complete!

klf_nonfiction2014_medium (1)

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Mr. Darwin, Mr. Darwin

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 


Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin was one of my favourite nonfiction titles of 2012.

I bought a copy for my son for Christmas and he has been examining the detailed drawings and asking me questions about Darwin, his travels, his theories and all of the fascinating animals of the Galapagos.

This prompted me to look for other picture books on the same topic to share with my children and we have been spending our nightly read aloud time reading more about Mr. Darwin, his voyage on the HMS Beagle and his theories of evolution.

Both of the books described below would be best shared as interactive read alouds with an early intermediate class or for independent reading for children in Grade 4 and above. Some vocabulary and concepts would need support.

We started with A Natural History Museum selection – What Mr. Darwin Saw by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom (published 2009). This book is written like a diary and includes amusing thought bubbles and detailed drawings of the animals and the places where Darwin travelled. End pages are a map of Darwin’s route on board the HMS Beagle. The final pages of the book explain Darwin’s theory of evolution with visuals of chalkboard drawings and notes. It offers the beginning of an understanding of Darwin’s complex ideas.   My children had some background knowledge on this topic already and so they were able to ask some informed questions to build on their understanding.

what mr darwin saw

Next we read The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin by Peter Sis (published 2003). I don’t know if read is the best way to describe our experience with this book. Instead we studied, examined and flipped back and forth through the pages learning about Darwin’s life. My children loved the maps, found the illustration with Darwin’s own family tree fascinating (“He had so many children!” “Lots of them died young.” “His wife must of been so tired and sad.”) and liked the lists that outlined his daily routines at different times in his life. (“How did his wife get anything done if she was always reading to him?” my daughter wanted to know after finding out that Emma read to Charles multiple times a day.) We found some of the drawings and text too small – stunning but hard to interact with. Maybe this book needs a magnifying glass!? Many illustrations were perfect though and made the topic so much richer. This book is certainly a biography – we learn much about Darwin’s upbringing and about his later life that Sis divides into the public, private and secret realms. I’m leaving this book out so that we can continue to pore over it.

Tree of Life

Looking to learn more about Charles Darwin? These three titles would be a great place to start!

Interested more in the concept of evolution? This book does a wonderful job of explaining it in a story that allows children to understand the concept.

Charlie and Kiwi. . . an evolutionary adventure – created by Peter H. Reynolds and the NewYork Hall of Science.

Shared in my classroom here.

Charlie and Kiwi

Thanks to Alyson from KidLit Frenzy for the inspiration to participate weekly in this challenge.


My original goal was 60 nonfiction picture books for 2013. Progress: 7/60 complete 🙂


Dusted off treasures

When I think about the tangible things I value, books top the list hands down. My whole house can be disorganized, but my books never are.  I consider books to be treasures. They each have a story, an experience and many memories attached. I looked through my picture books last night and selected ten little treasures to dust off and share. These are some of many books that line my family book shelf that I adore – books that often have sat there for quite some time and bring inevitable joy in being reread and shared. Nobody loves new books more than me, but this is about honouring beautiful books that have been with me for some time. Their stories tell mine.

Ten treasures that line my shelves: (in no particular order)

The Tale of Urso Brunov written by Brian Jacques and illustrated by Alexi Natchev

This book was a gift from me to my son about four years ago when he was 5 years old and ready for the longer picture book. Urso Brunov is the Little Father of All Bears, a Brunov Bear only the size of your thumb but wiser and stronger than all living creatures. During the time of the long winter sleep, four tiny bears go missing and it is up to Urso Brunov to find them and bring them home. Such a dramatic and beautiful adventure story full of clever heroics.

Hunwick’s Egg written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Pamela Lofts

When my children were toddlers and we lived in the land of picture books, Mem Fox was easily one of our very favourite authors. We read many of her books countless times. Hunwick’s Egg came into our lives later than other of Fox’s stories. We were already expert on many of her captivating Australian animals and fell hard for Hunwick, the little bandicoot who happened upon a very curious egg and fell quickly in love. Hunwick’s egg never hatched although it provided him with companionship, faith and an important secret. Yes, he realized his egg was not an egg at all but a perfectly shaped stone and he loved it all the more. This book is beyond endearing and my heart lifts just pulling it off the shelf.

Oscar and Hoo written by Theo and illustrated by Michael Dudok De Wit

Oscar and Hoo was sent to us by a dear friend who frequently gifts us with beautiful books. This is a book of comfort about a little boy Oscar who gets lost and is befriended by a lone little cloud Hoo who has also lost his flock. These two lone creatures tell stories, share dreams and give new meaning to the phrase “head in the clouds.”

The Cozy Book written by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Betty Fraser

I discovered this lovely book of verse about all things cozy at the public library and swiftly special ordered multiple copies – one for us and many to gift as this book is the perfect gift for anyone who has the honour to snuggle into a cozy corner and read to a child. Beautiful illustrations by Betty Fraser take me back to a simpler time of childhood. Relish in all that is cozy by the rhyming master Mary Ann Hoberman:

Calm Unhurried Smooth Unworried

Fine and dandy tried and true

Lovey-dovey Hunky-dory

Cozy feelings Felt by you.

Plantpet written and illustrated by Elise Primavera

This book came into my life when my husband to be scoured old book stores and discovered treasures, purchased them for me and hid them in funny places – under my pillow, in the bathtub, in the oven. This book has been mine for many years and I still delight in sharing it or just savouring it all for myself. Bertie lives all on his own in a junkyard up on a hill. He discovers Plantpet in a cage and vows to care for it. What he thought was a plant confuses him – is it a pet? It walks and digs and grows. What Plantpet does most though is tend to the long-neglected junk yard garden. But when Plantpet’s digging seems to have no end, Bertie banishes him to a corner of the yard and soon finds himself all alone. When he recognizes how much he misses his friend, Bertie races to find him only to discover a withered little green being. The two revive their friendship in the most beautiful of ways.

Our King has Horns! written by Richard Pevear and illustrated by Robert Rayevsky

This book also came into my life back in the days of the hidden books around my apartment by my husband to be that realized he was always going to have to compete with my love of books! How I have loved this book based on an old Georgian folktale. It has found its way into many read aloud situations with various children over the years and nobody ever tires of this very relevant story about the persistent nature of truth. What happens when we are forced to keep secrets too dramatic to hold? Is there freedom in revealing the truth? Such a clever story.

The Bear Under the Stairs written and illustrated by Helen Cooper

Poor little William thought he saw a bear under the stairs. Don’t bears want to eat boys for lunch? Not if they are well fed deduces William and places many food offerings in the space under the stairs where the bear resided. William’s Mom soon sniffs out the smell wafting sourly from under the stairs and together she and William brace themselves to battle that scary bear. But all that they find is an old furry rug and a broken chair. No scary bear. This book was big in our lives when sleep was frequently disturbed by upsetting nightmares and we read and reread it, finding solace in its honouring of the scary places of dark and shadows.

The Three Golden Keys written and illustrated by Peter Sis

Peter Sis brings the legend and magic of his childhood home alive in this story set in Prague. A man in a hot air balloon is blown off course and finds himself in the city of his childhood. But his old house is dark and there are three rusty padlocks on the door. Can he find the lost keys to let him in? We join in with his search through Prague’s beautiful streets and buildings. Steeped in magic, history and wonder, this book leads us through time and mystery. This book was gifted to me by friends who knew I treasure my time teaching in what was then the country of Czechoslovakia and that Prague holds a special place in my heart and memory – part real, part magic still.

Waiting for Gregory written by Kimberly Willis Holt and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska


This book was a gift from me to my husband when our children were small. It captures the wonder of a child waiting for the arrival of a baby cousin – when will that baby come to be and how long can she possibly wait? She states: “Waiting for a baby is like waiting for a show to begin.” So much to anticipate and waiting and waiting and waiting. A beautiful book – the prose and the paintings both thoughtful and gorgeous. Because we waited first long and then anxiously for our babies, this book has significant meaning in our world.

The Hello, Goodbye Window written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Raschka

This book has special meaning to me. I grew up with grandparents far away and my children have been blessed with grandparents, two sets even, close at hand and very involved. This book celebrates the unique bond of grandparent and child told in quirky observations and Raschka’s joyous full colour stories that explode off the page. Childhood simplicity. Intergenerational love. Gardens. “Oh Susannah.” Oatmeal and raisins. Peek-a-boo. And the wonderful line that we still repeat in our house, “Hello, World! What have you got for us today?” Love to love this book.

Books are treasures. Treasures to be shared.