Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – September 30, 2015

nonfiction

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.

I’ve come across a bumper crop of nonfiction picture books this week, particularly biographies, that I’m thrilled to share with you.

Title: The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
Author: Michelle Markel
Illustrator: Amanda Hall
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s SummaryHenri Rousseau wanted to be an artist. But he had no formal training. Instead, he taught himself to paint. He painted until the jungles and animals and distant lands in his head came alive on the space of his canvases.
Henri Rousseau endured the harsh critics of his day and created the brilliant paintings that now hang in museums around the world. Michelle Markel’s vivid text, complemented by the vibrant illustrations of Amanda Hall, artfully introduces young readers to the beloved painter and encourages all readers to persevere despite all odds.

My Two Cents: This biography of French artist Henri Rousseau is a beautiful account of one man’s undying belief in himself and his dreams. Henri Rousseau had no formal training, didn’t start painting until he was in his forties, and was savagely attacked and belittled by critics, but he never let any of this stop him from pursuing his passion. He truly believed in the beauty and power of his artwork, regardless of what anyone else thought, and eventually his hard work and determination were rewarded. While it’s important to encourage children to pursue their passions and follow their dreams, it’s even more important that they realize that pursuing their passions might bring them ridicule and hardship, and that following their dreams might take hard work and sacrifice. A person should not let other people determine their level of success, or let others decide if they’ve achieved their goals.

Amanda Hall’s vivid illustrations capture the lush wildness of Rousseau’s painted jungles, and contribute wonderfully to this inspiring picture book biography for older children.

Title: Fifty Cents and a Dream
Author: Jabari Asim
Illustrator: Bryan Collier
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary: Born into slavery, young Booker T. Washington could only dream of learning to read and write. After emancipation, Booker began a five-hundred-mile journey, mostly on foot, to Hampton Institute, taking his first of many steps towards a college degree. When he arrived, he had just fifty cents in his pocket and a dream about to come true.  

My Two Cents: Booker T. Washington might be less well-known in Canada than he is in America, but his story of triumph over adversity is an inspiring account with appeal that extends beyond cultural or national boundaries. Washington was born a slave, but through sheer determination and hard work he was able to make his dream of getting an education a reality. This stunning picture book biography includes extensive notes from the author and illustrator, as well as a bibliography for additional reading. Even children without previous knowledge of Washington or even of American history can be inspired by Washington’s life, which, like The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, reveals what an ordinary person can accomplish through hard work and an unwavering belief in their own self-worth.

Title: Barnum’s Bones – How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World
Author: Tracey Fern
Illustrator: Boris Kulikov
Publisher: Margaret Ferguson Books
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary:Barnum Brown’s (1873-1963) parents named him after the circus icon P.T. Barnum, hoping that he would do something extraordinary–and he did! As a paleontologist for the American Museum of Natural History, he discovered the first documented skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, as well as most of the other dinosaurs on display there today. An appealing and fun picture book biography, with zany and stunning illustrations by Boris Kulikov, BARNUM’S BONES captures the spirit of this remarkable man. Barnum’s Bones is one The Washington Post’s Best Kids Books of 2012.

My Two Cents: Like the previous two picture book biographies, Barnum’s Books is the story of a man who pursued his life-long passion and made his dreams come true, through hard work and determination. While many children dream of becoming dinosaur hunters when they grow up, Barnum Brown actually did, becoming one of the most successful dinosaur bone hunters in American history. This is the most text-heavy of the three biographies in this post, and is definitely better suited to older children. While the text adequately illustrates Brown’s eccentricities and his unusual accomplishments, it’s the slightly madcap illustrations that really shine, showing Brown using dinosaur bones to make rafts in Canada, riding elephants festooned in dinosaur bones in India, and scuba diving in his suit and hat in Cuba. Also included are an author’s note and selected bibliography for additional reading.

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11 thoughts on “Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – September 30, 2015

  1. I have a special spot for picture book biographies and have a pretty good collection at this point. I have Booker T. Washington which is really lovely, but not Barnum’s bones yet.

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