Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Fourteen favourites (Part 1)

As 2014 comes to a close, avid book lovers and book bloggers start amassing favourites. As I looked over the close to 150 nonfiction picture book titles I have read this year, I realized that there are many to highlight. So, I have decided to do two top fourteen lists (in honour of 2014). This one contains my favourite titles read in 2014 but with a publication date of 2013 or earlier. Next week I will share my favourite fourteen titles published in 2014.

Favourite Nonfiction of 2014

Shared alphabetically by author:

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Éric Puybaret (published 2008)

A gorgeous introduction to Cousteau and his passion for the underwater world. I shared my students’ responses to this title here.

manfish

Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate (published 2013)

Written in conversational, humorous style, this title encourages us to pay a little more attention to the natural world in general and to the beauty of birds in particular.

look up!

Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile written by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb (published 2011)

An inspiring story about Dorothy Thomas, an absolute book hero. True testament to how books change lives and connect community.

miss dorothy

Can We Save the Tiger? written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White (published in 2011)

This book introduces students to a huge variety of endangered and extinct animals. With some creatures, like the tiger, more details are provided about the animal including reasons for its vulnerable status.

can we Save the Tiger?

How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge (published 2013)

Lita Judge’s illustrations are so rich. They inform. They amuse. And they delight. Each dinosaur featured here is drawn next to something that children already know to allow them to imagine the exact size of the dinosaur.

dinosaurs

One World, One Day by Barbara Kerley (published 2009)

Spectacular photographs showcasing the daily routines that many of us share – all a little different in different places but yet, so much the same.

one-world

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

How can a book about searching for snow leopards be so amazingly interesting when the snow leopards are never actually seen? Montgomery and Bishop tell an incredible tale about these magical and elusive creatures and their champion, scientist Tom McCarthy who has devoted his life’s work to their conservation.

snow-leopard

Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears written by Jill Robinson and Marc Bekoff; illustrated by Gijisbert van Frankenhuyzen (published 2013)

Jasper is a bear that was rescued by Jill Robinson (the author) and her Animals Asia team and brought to a sanctuary in China. Jill describes Jasper as courageous and loving; a symbol of forgiveness and hope.

jaspersstory

Volcano Rising written by Elizabeth Rusch and illustrated by Susan Swan (published 2013)

One of the very best, if not the best nonfiction picture book I have read on volcanoes. Two layers of text (one section with more details for those who want to read more information) and incredible illustrations.

Volcano Rising 2

Songs of the Water Boatman written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beckie Prange (published 2005)

Come to the pond and experience it like you have never imagined through vivid images, fascinating facts and gorgeous illustrations.

Songs of the Waterboatman

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors poems by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beckie Prange (published 2010)

Poet and artist celebrate nature’s successes. Who has been around for a long time and continues to thrive?

Ubiquitous-Celebrating-Natures-Survivors

Under the Snow written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Constance R Bergum (published 2009)

Informative and beautifully illustrated. Feel like you are peeking into winter hiding places of animals and creatures that seemed to disappear.

Under the Snow

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (published 2013)

This title inspired some amazing discussion in my classroom. An important biography about determination, changing general opinion and beliefs and following a dream.

WomenDoctors_cvr_lorez

Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Cindy Trumbore and Susan L. Roth (published in 2013) Winner of the 2014 Sibert Meda

So often when we hear about animals on the brink of extinction, there is no happy ending story to share. Here, we have a story of hope and promise. Through much hard work the endangered parrots of Puerto Rico are once again flying through the treetops.

parrots

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!

klf_nonfiction2014_medium

My goal is to read 65 nonfiction picture books for 2014. Progress: 142/65 complete!

Next week I will share my top nonfiction titles for 2014. 14 of them 🙂

Celebration: Following the questions

celebrate link up

I love ending each week thinking about all that I have to celebrate. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link up on her blog each week. Thank you to Ruth for the inspiration.

This week I am celebrating the power of books to cause a stir. To inspire questions. To promote thinking and lots of discussion.

Last weekend I read a title that I just knew I had to share with my class: Ruby’s Wish written by Shirin Yim Bridges and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

I brought it in early in the week to read aloud. Students were surprised by so much in this book about a little girl in a prosperous Chinese family wants an education like her brothers and male cousins. She doesn’t want to settle with only marriage and motherhood. This story was especially powerful because it is based on the life of the author’s grandmother. A beautiful example of a little girl who speaks up and the grandfather who hears her. The children were shocked that at one time in China’s history, a man could have multiple wives. They were most surprised that boys could go to University when girls could not. When Ruby received an admission letter for University from her Grandfather, there was lots of nodding. And then the questions. The biggest one: “But why could the boys go to school and the girls couldn’t?” I asked the children if they would like to read more books that explored this question. The room erupted, “YES!”

 Celebration: Following the Questions There's a Book for That

And so, the next day I brought in Every Day is Malala Day by Rose McCarney with Plan International and read it to the students. This book is a photographic thank you letter to Malala Yousafzai for her courage and her determination to speak up for the rights of girls to have an education. Both text and photos (of girls all over the world) are powerful.

“People everywhere wondered why it was so hard for girls to have an education. But you and I know the answer. In many countries bullets are not the only way to silence girls.”

This book inspired outrage. Confusion. Upset and indignation. And rich, important discussion. I overheard two little girls talking about this book as they looked at it again together.

“It’s the ladies who should be having the most education because they are mostly watching the kids and kids have lots of questions. The Moms need to know stuff.”

Every Day is Malala Day  Celebration: Following the Questions There's a Book for That

On Friday Morning, with the intention of sharing Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, I put this statement on the board in the morning:

 Celebration: Following the Questions There's a Book for That

As students noticed it, it became very interesting in the room. There was whispering. Some children raced over to me immediately.

“Ms. Gelson, why did you write that on the board? Womens can be whatever they want!”

More children started to express their upset and confusion.

“I can be a Doctor. I’m a girl. I can be.”

“Really, I can’t be a Doctor?”

“Oh no. The girls are going to be mad about this. I don’t think it’s true.”

“No. It is true. My Mom was told she couldn’t be a Doctor in her country.”

“Are the girls only allowed to be nurses? That’s stupid.”

I had to reassure everyone that I didn’t believe this statement but had put it up as a writing prompt. I asked them to go write for 10 minutes about their thinking. Many leaped up to share their thoughts with each other as they wrote.

 Celebration: Following the Questions There's a Book for That

Excerpts from some student writing are shared below. Note that I am sharing the writing from both boys and girls here:

“Why can’t women be doctors? It is silly. It can be possible for women to be doctors. Women can be whatever they want.”

“Silly! Sad! Because the girls don’t get to be doctors and the boys do. The girls just have to be the stinky old nurses. Why can’t the boys be the nurses and the girls be the doctors?”

“Women can be whatever they want if they put their heart to it! That makes me mad. That’s so silly. That’s not fair. Why would they think that? Wwwwwwhy!!!??”

“Some womens can be doctors if they’re more smarter than the boys. All that matters is about knowledge. It doesn’t matter if you are female or male.”

“Why? It makes me mad because they can. Girls are smart. They should have an education.”

“It seems really unfair if this is true. Because if boys are doctors, girls can be doctors too.”

This little thinker worked out her questions and thinking as she went.

“Why only boys can be doctors, not girls? Can girls and boys be doctors? Can it be girls too? Girls can be doctors too”

This girl who wants to be a doctor, wrote this very powerful statement”

“That is silly. I am a doctor. Why can boys be everything? I am happy because I live in Vancouver. And in Vancouver, I can be everything! And in Vancouver in 2014, I can do everything!”

We came back to the carpet and I pulled out the book to read. But one little girl insisted she had to ask something before we started:

“What is it with all of these books talking about girls who can’t do things and can’t have education and stuff? Girls here can go to school just like boys.”

Then the beauty of classroom conversation took over. I sat back. Some children shared about their mothers in other countries not having the same possibilities. Some children reminded everyone that it is different in history and different in other countries. There was lots of talk and lots of buzz and finally we were able to begin this book.

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

 Celebration: Following the Questions There's a Book for That

We only read the first five or six pages and I had to promise that we will finish it next week. The best request?

“Can we talk more like this next week too?

The Wonder of Women: Ten nonfiction picture book biographies

The Wonder of Women #nf10for10 event There's a Book for That Picture Book Biographies

Nonfiction 10 for 10 event is back for year two! I welcome any opportunity to celebrate 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 meme. Click here to read all of the top ten lists shared.

Nonfiction 10 for 10

On Wednesdays, Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy also hosts the #nfpb2014 event where bloggers can link up to share nonfiction picture book titles. As always, thanks to Alyson for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2014! Go here for this link up.

NFPB 2014

Last year for #nf10for10 I shared favourite nonfiction titles – many that I have used with my class over the last few years in a variety of ways.

This year, I chose to focus on nonfiction picture book biographies that feature inspiring women. I have read numerous biographies to my class this year – including some of the titles below. I am very conscious of making sure my students are exposed to both inspiring women and men. These stories spark so much wonder, discussion and learning.

In honour of wonderful women . . .

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell

The brilliant Patrick McDonnell won a Caldecott Honor for this title for very good reason. It is an absolute detailed dream of the little girl who grew up to be the inspiring Jane Goodall. Little Jane drags her stuffed monkey Jubilee through the woods, around the farm and all about the great outdoors. We see sketches from Jane’s own nature journals. We learn about her lifetime passion for animals. We hear about her dreams to go to Africa. And then it is so . . . Jane’s dreams really did come true.

The Wonder of Women #nf10for10 event There's a Book for That Picture Book Biographies

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

A wonderful read aloud to share with upper primary (and older) students about finding your passion and making it your life’s work. I love this book for many reasons. 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.” In this story, this message applies to ecology and caring for our natural world but it is a message that applies to so many things. One worth thinking a lot about.

The Wonder of Women #nf10for10 event There's a Book for That Picture Book Biographies

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

I love the style of this book – the visual style and the appealing narration. It makes the story both interesting and accessible for young readers. And what a story! An important biography about determination, changing general opinion and beliefs and following a dream. While I want all of my students to hear this story (I have purchased my own copy for my picture book biography collection), there are some children that I specifically have in mind who will rejoice in the messages of this book.

The Wonder of Women #nf10for10 event There's a Book for That Picture Book Biographies

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

A fabulous story made even more spectacular by Melissa Sweet’s illustrations. This book tells the story of Clara Lemlich who was instrumental in the labour movement in the garment industry in the early 1900s. Introduces children to themes of work place safety, worker’s rights and individual strength and resolve.

The Wonder of Women #nf10for10 event There's a Book for That Picture Book Biographies

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry

I will admit that I bought this book because I was captured by its gorgeous cover and I knew it was about an inspirational woman who transformed an entire city. Love it for its passionate celebration of nature. For its gorgeous illustrations. Or for its important historical journey back in time beginning in the 1860s with a little girl named Katherine Olivia Sessions. A little girl who brought lush, green life to the city of San Diego. A woman who studied science when other women and girls did not. A woman who took what she had learned it and applied it in the most important of ways and brought a city to life. And oh, that cover . . .

The Wonder of Women #nf10for10 event There's a Book for That Picture Book Biographies

Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills written by Renee Watson and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Not only a glimpse into the life of Harlem Renaissance singer Florence Mills but a story of courage, commitment and the power to make change.

The Wonder of Women #nf10for10 event There's a Book for That Picture Book Biographies

 Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore created Libraries for Children written by Jan Pinborough and illustrated by Debby Atwell

Well. . . Anne Carroll Moore now has superhero status as far as I am concerned. Loved this story of how one woman acted as a champion for children’s access to books, libraries and beautiful spaces. Moore opened the first children’s room in the New York Public Library. She made that this was truly a place for children full of art, natural collections, story tellers and most importantly books and children to read and celebrate them.

The Wonder of Women #nf10for10 event There's a Book for That Picture Book Biographies

 Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile written by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb

Such an inspiring story about Dorothy Thomas, an absolute book hero. Dorothy’s dreams of a fine brick building where she could be librarian never materialized. But her role in bringing books to a community was huge. True testament to how books change lives and connect community.

The Wonder of Women #nf10for10 event There's a Book for That Picture Book Biographies

Queen of the Falls by Chris VanAllsburg 

How could a 62 year old woman plan and execute a stunt such as going over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Here is the story of Annie Edson Taylor, determined to make her fortune by being the first person to go over the falls.  A compelling and sad story. This blurs nonfiction and fiction as it is told by master story teller VanAllsburg but I feel it has enough connection to Taylor and the events surrounding this stunt to make it fit the nonfiction category.

The Wonder of Women #nf10for10 event There's a Book for That Picture Book Biographies

Helen’s Big World The Life of Helen Keller  written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Matt Tavares

What an incredibly inspirational book about Helen Keller and her brilliant teacher Annie Sullivan. This book has quotations by Keller on every page. Beautifully, beautifully illustrated. What an amazing relationship between teacher and student. What a tribute to the power of education. So much to this book.

The Wonder of Women #nf10for10 event There's a Book for That Picture Book Biographies

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

Happy reading and sharing everyone! Hurray for nonfiction picture books!

Wonder Inducing Nonfiction Read Alouds

It’s funny how one’s focus can change when looking at the classroom library. For a while, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nonfiction titles in my room. Last summer I started to get anxious about whether or not I had enough books in the room that my Grade 2/3s could pick up and read independently. It seemed like my “best” nonfiction titles were books that I needed to read to my students. Which was wonderful because I had some amazing titles to use as we model strategies, but what about when it was independent reading time? Did I have enough titles that students could read by themselves with success? My book shopping focussed on purchasing titles that I knew my students could manage on their own, especially as we built strategies to read nonfiction text over the year. Some of my favourite books that I added?

  • The Discover More Series by Scholastic
  • Nicola Davies Flip the Flap and Find out books which include Who Lives Here? and Who’s Like Me?
  • Laura Hulbert‘s Who Has This Tail? and Who Has These Feet?
  • A huge array of Bobbie Kalman titles
  • The Are you a . . . ? series by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
  • The Amazing Animal Series by Kate Riggs

NonfictionText for Independent Reading There's a Book for That

Now, here I am a year later. Again, thinking about the books in my room . . . What is my focus now? That I want some “Oh, wow!” titles to read aloud. I want to make sure that just as I am reading a variety of picture books and some engaging novels, that I have a real variety of excellent nonfiction picture books to read aloud. Sometimes to model/practice a strategy, sometimes to enhance our learning on a particular subject and sometimes just because, the more we read, the more we know and I want my students to be inspired and curious about learning all year long!

I am fortunate to be looping my Grade 2/3 class into Grade 3/4 and so I have a sense of this group of children, what they wonder about and what I think might inspire them. Last year, I noticed that they were intrigued by stories – folklore, Aboriginal tales, stories from around the world and stories about things that really happened. They were very curious about the stories of people and how these stories connected to us in our classroom. It made me realize that I haven’t been reading enough biographies. I also want to focus on places around the world and the wonder of the world around us. Last year, students loved learning about animals from each continent and had endless questions about habitats.  I know we love art and books and music. So, I have some sense of what kinds of books I need to share.

Knowing how busy school can get and knowing how I sometimes need a one stop shop when I am planning, I decided to take advantage of the time summer has to offer to amass a huge list of amazing nonfiction read alouds. I was looking for titles that my Grade 3/4 class would enjoy. Some are favourites from previous years and some I have yet to read myself. Thank goodness for the wonderful book bloggers out there that I used for inspiration. So here is my list of 25 “wonder inducing” nonfiction read alouds. A reference for me and one that I am sharing here.

The book I plan to use to launch my year: On A Beam of Light- A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky This book made my own thoughts whirl and swirl and race around my head. It has all the perfect themes of wonder, curiousity and thinking outside of the box.

 On a Beam of Light

Based on some picture book biographies I already loved, I grew that list to include:

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin written by Jen Bryant  and illustrated by Melissa Stewart

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Stewart

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

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon written by Jaqueline Davies illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Biographies - Wonder Inducing NonFiction Read Alouds There's a Book for That

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Melissa Sweet 

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

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

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Biographies Wonder Inducing NonFiction Read Alouds There's a Book for That

Some titles to explore amazing places and the world around us:

Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin

Redwoods by Jason Chin

Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin

The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest by Steve Jenkins

A Rock is Lively written by Diana Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long

Sea Otter Inlet by Celia Godkin

Fire! by Celia Godkin

Infinity and Me written by Kate Hosford and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Energy Island: How one community harnessed the wind and changed their world by Allan Drummond

The World Around us Wonder Inducing NonFiction Read Alouds There's a Book for That

And to learn about creatures great and small:

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins

Ape written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White

How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland

Wonder Inducing NonFiction Read Alouds There's a Book for That

 And a title to be released this fall:

Is This Panama?: A Migration Story written by Jan Thornhill  and illustrated by Soyeon Kim

Is this Panama?

Will I read all of these titles aloud this year? Maybe not. Perhaps interests and passions will take us in different directions. But this list will help keep me on track to make sure I am sharing lots of books that inspire both learning and thinking in my room!

Do you have some other must share nonfiction titles for Grade 3/4 listeners? Would love to hear your suggestions!

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

NFPB2013leaves