It’s Monday – What Are You Reading? October 26, 2015

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? was initiated by Sheila at Book Journey, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus – perfect for a children’s librarian like me. This weekly roundup is a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share recommended (or not so recommended….) titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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Since we’re just days away from Halloween, I thought I’d continue to share a few Halloween favourites, but this time I’m going to take a look at nonfiction. Nonfiction is often woefully neglected when it comes to book talking (if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know I’m a bit of a nonfiction nerd), so let’s change that! Here are a few Halloween-appropriate nonfiction titles to share with kids at your school/library this week.

Title: Mummies: Dried, Tanned, Sealed, Drained, Frozen, Embalmed, Stuffed, Wrapped and Smokes…and We’re Dead Serious
Author: Christopher Sloan
Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books
Publication Date: 2010
Genre/Format: Nonfiction
Publisher’s Summary: Investigate mysteries from the grave in this vividly illustrated book, a creepy-fun compendium of the world’s most fascinating mummies. National Geographic’s unparalleled photographs bring kids up close and personal with ancient remains, while Chris Sloan’s mesmerizing text reveals what the experts have discovered about each mummy’s life and death. Kids will clamor to read this book in the classroom or at home—and they’ll absorb science, ancient cultures, geography, and more, as freaky photos and intriguing stories keep them glued to every page.

My Two CentsPublished in 2010, Mummies is a bit of an “oldie but goodie”. The real star of this nonfiction guide to mummies is of course National Geographic’s stunning photography. This is a veritable feast for the eyes, be that a slightly disgusting feast – just look at the face on that cover! Talk about grabbing kids’ attention. Make no mistake, though, this book’s no lightweight in the information department – kids will be fascinated and pleasantly disgusted by the images, but they’ll also be exposed to a variety of carefully researched facts and figures. Everything’s delivered with a bit of a sense of humour (as evidenced in the title) to balance out any potentially disturbing or frightening information or images. This is nonfiction the way it should be – engaging, exciting and visually appealing.

Title: 100 Most Feared Creatures on the Planet
Author: Anna Claybourne
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: 2013
Genre/Format: Nonfiction
Publisher’s Summary: The next book in the successful 100 MOST series, 100 Most Feared Creatures features the scariest beasts in the animal kingdom!
This book will explore the world’s most ferocious creatures and reveal the deadliest facts about these terrifying animals. Who fights off predators by spraying blood from its eyes? How does the slender, deep-sea gulper swallow prey twice its size? Who sucks out body fluids with its short, sharp mouthparts? Readers will learn everything they ever wanted to know about some of the scariest creatures on the planet.

My Two CentsLeeches and sharkes and spiders, oh my! Facts and figures presented in an engaging manner and interspersed with eye-catching illustrates – this is fodder for “reluctant readers” at its best. Books about the darker side of the natural world are a great way of hooking kids who are drawn to scary books, proving that the animal kingdom can be just as spooky as anything a writer can imagine.

Title: Bones
Author: Steve Jenkins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 2010
Genre/Format: Nonfiction
Publisher’s Summary: This book is far from skinny! It’s the definitive nonfiction titles about human and animal bones, delivered with in-your-face accuracy and intrigue. In this visually driven volume, prepared with cut-paper illustrations, kids come face-to-face with some head-to-toe bony comparisons, many of them shown at actual size. Here you’ll find the differences between a man’s hand and that of an elephant’s leg paired with the feather-light femur of a stork; and rib-tickling info about snakes and sloths. How many bones in the whole human body? Kids find out when they open one of the three giant gatefold spreads that reveal the hard (yet enjoyable) truths about the bony insides of Earth’s many creatures.

My Two CentsLove love love. I love Steve Jenkins, so it’s no surprising that I had to share this book – what could be more Halloween-appropriate than a book about skeletons? As usual, Jenkins delights with his signature cut-paper illustrations, bringing inanimate objects brilliantly to life. The giant spreads are awesome, and are sure to catch the attention of young readers. Fresh, fascinating, and fun, this is an engrossing introduction to anatomy, and would be an excellent addition to any Halloween display or a unit on biology or anatomy. Highly recommended!

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Title: National Geographic Readers
Author: Various
Publisher: National Geographic
Publication Date: Varies
Genre/Format: Nonfiction / Early Readers
Publisher’s Summary: National Geographic Science Readers is a high-interest, science inquiry series in an exciting and easy-to-read format. Each book falls into one of five reading levels and is labeled by level on its front cover. The simple, fun text with pull-quotes is only the beginning: National Geographic photography and kid-friendly diagrams draw kids in and get them reading about their favorite subjects.

Developed by National Geographic in close consultation with literacy education experts, this new series is one teachers, librarians, parents, and grandparents know they can trust to nurture every child’s love of reading.

My Two Cents: I love nonfiction early readers! I’m in the process of planning an Early Readers Book Club, so I’ve been digging through a LOT of readers, and I’m really enjoying the variety of nonfiction titles available. These are a great alternative to the never-ending superhero/Star Wars/Lego readers that crowd library shelves, and the variety of subjects makes it easier to find something to excite just about anyone. There are a couple of really great Halloween-appropriate subjects, including snakes, spiders, sharks, mummies, and deadliest animals, with the kind of incredible photography you’d expect from National Geographic. Scary stuff! 

The possibilities for Halloween-appropriate nonfiction titles for book talking are nearly endless – just think of all the scary subjects you can pick from! Snakes, vampires, mummies, ghosts, bats, spiders, witches, and more. I hope this helped spark your imagination!

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – 10/21/2015

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

My reputation for being a nonfiction picture book hoarder is such that my coworkers now put aside interesting books for me – I love working in a library!

It’s been a crazy busy week, with some great events coming up that I’m hoping to talk about soon, so I’ve only got a single book to to share. Here it is!

Title: Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child
Author/Illustrator: Jessie Hartland
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s SummaryFollow Julia Child—chef, author, and television personality—from her childhood in Pasadena, California, to her life as a spy in WWII, to the cooking classes she took in Paris, to the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, to the funny moments of being a chef on TV. This is a comprehensive and enchanting picture book biography, told in many panels and jam-packed with lively, humorous, and child-friendly details. Young chefs and Julia Child fans will exclaim, “ooooh la la,” about this book, which is as energetic and eccentric as the chef herself.

My Two Cents: I have to admit I didn’t know that much about Julia Child before picking up this picture book – I knew her mostly as a very tall TV show host and cook book author. I was in for a delicious surprise – Julia Child was quite a force to be reckoned with, and this unique, madcap picture book biography captures her incredible life in energetic detail. What really inspired me about Child was her dogged determination, and her refusal to let life’s disappointments get her down. The publication of Child’s classic guide to French cooking took years, as Child and her co-authors received rejection after rejection after rejection. Still, they remained undaunted, dedicated to bringing their dream book to life. Picture books about inspiring, trail-blazing women are perfect for both girls and boys – anyone can be inspired by the story of an innovative individual.

The style of this picture book is perhaps best described as unique – the text is designed to look handwritten, as if it came from the pages of a diary, which adds charm and whimsy to the story, but which can at times be hard to decipher. The illustrations have an almost child-like quality about them, simple and striking, and filling almost every inch of the page. This is a picture book that just might appeal more to adults than to children. The hard-to-read text and crowded, jumbled pages could be overwhelming or off-putting for younger audiences, but for teens and particularly for adults, this break from picture book conventions is quite nice! I suddenly have this strange desire to try my hand at making a souffle….

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – 10/14/15

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

Here’s what I’ve come across this week:

Title: Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France
Author: Mara Rockliff
Illustrator: Iacopo Bruno
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s SummaryThe day Ben Franklin first set foot in Paris, France, he found the city all abuzz. Everyone was talking about something new—remarkable, thrilling, and strange. Something called . . . Science!

But soon the straightforward American inventor Benjamin Franklin is upstaged by a compelling and enigmatic figure: Dr. Mesmer. In elaborately staged shows, Mesmer, wearing a fancy coat of purple silk and carrying an iron wand, convinces the people of Paris that he controls a magic force that can make water taste like a hundred different things, cure illness, and control thoughts! But Ben Franklin is not convinced. Will his practical approach of observing, hypothesizing, and testing get to the bottom of the mysterious Mesmer’s tricks? A rip-roaring, lavishly illustrated peek into a fascinating moment in history shows the development and practice of the scientific method—and reveals the amazing power of the human mind.

My Two Cents: I really enjoyed this engaging and stylish picture book! The illustrations and overall design are superb, and will certainly capture the imaginations of a slightly older picture book audience. Blending history and science, Mesmerized introduces readers to the pragmatic Benjamin Frank, the enigmatic Dr. Mesmer (for whom the term “mesmerized” was coined), and the basic applications of the scientific method. Proving that neither history nor science need be boring, this is a fascinating study in the early days of modern scientific inquiry. I would have to say that the book’s strongest features are its stunning  illustrations and captivating design. Were the information presented in a more conventional way, it might come across as dry, but Iacopo’s unique style vividly brings these historical events to life. Highly recommended for school-aged children.

Title: A Splash of Red : The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
Author: Jen Bryant
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: 2013
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary: As a child in the late 1800s, Horace Pippin loved to draw: He loved the feel of the charcoal as it slid across the floor. He loved looking at something in the room and making it come alive again in front of him. He drew pictures for his sisters, his classmates, his co-workers. Even during W.W.I, Horace filled his notebooks with drawings from the trenches . . . until he was shot. Upon his return home, Horace couldn’t lift his right arm, and couldn’t make any art. Slowly, with lots of practice, he regained use of his arm, until once again, he was able to paint–and paint, and paint! Soon, people—including the famous painter N. C. Wyeth—started noticing Horace’s art, and before long, his paintings were displayed in galleries and museums across the country.

Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet team up once again to share this inspiring story of a self-taught painter from humble beginnings who despite many obstacles, was ultimately able to do what he loved, and be recognized for who he was: an artist.

My Two Cents: Beautiful. That’s really the only way to describe this powerfully moving picture book biography. Horace Pippin was a selfless, hardworking man who overcame a life of hardship to realize his dream of being an artist. Pippin stayed true to himself and to his artistic vision, creating art not to become famous or to impress others, but because it was what was in his heart. A beautiful celebration of art as a form of personal expression and a means for maintaining emotional and psychological well being. Sweet’s intricate yet childlike mixed-media collage illustrations capture Pippin’s signature style of  “pure expression”. A historical note provides additional biographical information on this unsung American treasure.

Title: The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever
Author: H. Joseph Hopkins
Illustrator: Jill McElmurry
Publisher: Beach Lane Books
Publication Date: 2013
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s SummaryKatherine Olivia Sessions never thought she’d live in a place without trees. After all, Kate grew up among the towering pines and redwoods of Northern California. But after becoming the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science, she took a job as a teacher far south in the dry desert town of San Diego. Where there were almost no trees.

Kate decided that San Diego needed trees more than anything else. So this trailblazing young woman singlehandedly started a massive movement that transformed the town into the green, garden-filled oasis it is today. Now, more than 100 years after Kate first arrived in San Diego, her gorgeous gardens and parks can be found all over the city.

Part fascinating biography, part inspirational story, this moving picture book about following your dreams, using your talents, and staying strong in the face of adversity is sure to resonate with readers young and old.

My Two Cents: “No woman had ever graduated from the University of California with a degree in science. But in 1881, Kate did.” If you haven’t already discovered through my constant posts, I adore inspirational picture book biographies, especially those that celebrate unsung or less familiar individuals who did unusual things. No two dreams are alike, and people can change the world in all sorts of different ways. Kate Sessions pursued her passion for nature, turning a barren city into a lush park and inspiring generations to look at trees in a whole new way. She challenged conventions and stuck her tongue out at gender expectations, breaking barriers and living her life her own way. Like Horace Pippin, Sessions didn’t set out to change the world, but rather to express herself and stay true to her dreams. I love books that encourage children to think beyond the tired “be yourself” platitudes, and inspire them to instead strive to be the very best version of themselves that they can be, even if it means going against the grain and challenging other people’s expectations. Beautiful, beautiful stuff.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – September 23, 2015

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

Title: Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives
Author: Lola M. Schaefer
Illustrator: Christoper Silas Neal
Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
Publication Date: 2013
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary: In one lifetime, a caribou will shed 10 sets of antlers, a woodpecker will drill 30 roosting holes, a giraffe will wear 200 spots, a seahorse will birth 1,000 babies.Count each one and many more while learning about the wondrous things that can happen in just one lifetime. This extraordinary book collects animal information not available anywhere else—and shows all 30 roosting holes, all 200 spots, and, yes!, all 1,000 baby seahorses in eye-catching illustrations. A book about picturing numbers and considering the endlessly fascinating lives all around us, Lifetime is sure to delight young nature lovers.

My Two CentsThis isn’t your average counting book! Combining unusual facts, fun illustrations and an extensive factual section at the back of the book, Lifetime is a engaging look both at the wonders of the animal kingdom and the world of mathematics. Likely to elicit a few wow!s and I didn’t know that!s from readers, this engaging book can be incorporated into both biology and math activities – it even boasts a section titled I Love Math, which includes several word problems for readers to solve. This is a fun, fascinating nonfiction picture book that helps make math accessible and engaging.

So, what nonfiction kids books have been catching your eye lately? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear about them!

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – September 2, 2015

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Here’s this week’s entry for KidLitFrenzy‘s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesdays.

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Title: How Big Were Dinosaurs?
Author / Illustrator: Lita Judge
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Publication Date: 2013
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take a Velociraptor for a walk, or try to brush a Tyrannosaur’s teeth? We think of dinosaurs as colossal giants, but how big were they REALLY?
With kid-friendly text and seriously silly illustrations, this fact-filled book puts dinosaurs next to modern animals so that you can see exactly how they size up. And a huge fold-out chart compares the dinos to each other, from the tiniest Microraptor to Argentinosaurus, the largest animal to ever walk the land.
An NPR Best Book of 2013

My Two Cents: Dinosaurs! Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Nobody, that’s who! How Big Were Dinosaurs? is a delightful nonfiction picture book that really brings dinosaurs to life. What makes this picture book so awesome is the way it not only includes less common dinosaurs, such as leaellynasaura, but also uses modern-day equivalents to help children visualize the true size of these creatures. For example, leaellynasaura are pictured with a flock of penguins, while the famous velociraptor is shown beside a dog, to illustrate their actual size (note that the actual velociraptor was much smaller than the fictionalized velociraptors in Jurassic Park, which were actually closer in size to the larger utahraptor. Did I mention I’m still a bit of a dinosaur nut?) Author/illustrator/fellow dinosaur lover Lita Judge provides facts and figures with a smile and a sense of humour, creating an informational picture book that is sure to fascinate young readers. Highly recommended (and not just because I love dinosaurs….)!