Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – 11/3/2015

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

I missed Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday last week, and I missed it terribly, so I made sure to block aside some time for my favourite post of the week!


Title: Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World
Author/Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Reader
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s SummaryIn his latest eye-popping work of picture book nonfiction, the Caldecott Honor–winning author-illustrator Steve Jenkins explains how for most animals, eyes are the most important source of information about the world in a biological sense. The simplest eyes—clusters of light-sensitive cells—appeared more than one billion years ago, and provided a big survival advantage to the first creatures that had them. Since then, animals have evolved an amazing variety of eyes, along with often surprising ways to use them.

My Two CentsI don’t think it’ll surprise anyone when I say that I really enjoyed this book! I love Steve Jenkins – his nonfiction picture books are consistently impressive. This one, all about the anatomy of animal eyes, is indeed eye-popping (ha ha..), thanks to Jenkins’ signature blend of paper cut illustrations and engaging facts. The natural world is just so breathtaking, and I think nonfiction picture books like this work so well because they seem to share and indeed validate children’s natural curiosity and sense of wonder. There’s also a bit of a gross factor via the illustrations of the inner workings of animal eyes, which is always a kid pleaser. 🙂

Side note: There’s a brilliant adult nonfiction book that touches on evolution, including the evolution of the eye across different species: You Inner Fish by Neil Shubin.


Title: When I Was Eight
Author: Christy Jordan-Fenton, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

Illustrator: Gabrielle Grimard
Publisher: Annick Press
Publication Date: 2013
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s SummaryNothing will stop a strong-minded young Inuit girl from learning how to read. Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. She must travel to the outsiders’ school to learn, ignoring her father’s warning of what will happen there.The nuns at the school take her Inuit name and call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do chores. She has only one thing left — a book about a girl named Alice, who falls down a rabbit hole. Margaret’s tenacious character draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But she is more determined than ever to read. By the end, Margaret knows that, like Alice, she has traveled to a faraway land and stood against a tyrant, proving herself to be brave and clever. Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to young children. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.

My Two Cents: This adaptation of Jordan-Fenton’s novel Fatty Legs is a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s experiences as a child in a residential school. Although made gentler for young audiences, Olemaun’s story is a deeply painful one –  a story of separation, neglect, cultural destruction, and abuse, but it is also a story of strength, determination, and hope. In a particularly heartbreaking twist on the residential school story, Olemaun actually begs her father to allow her to go to the school, believing that the “outsiders” will teach her to read. Instead she faces an almost unending series of attacks, both physical and psychological, not only from the nuns running the school but from the other students, as well. It takes all of Olemaun’s inner strength not to lose her sense of self or her dream or reading. When I Was Eight is an important story, beautifully presented, that should be shared with children in a supportive environment- children will likely have questions about Olemaun and her experiences, and this information needs to be shared in a sensitive and respectful way. This would be perfect as part of Canadian history studies or a unit on residential schools or Aboriginal history. Beautiful, and highly recommended.

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.


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!


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 Wednesdays – September 9, 2015

nonfictionThis week has been a bumper week for reading, so I have a couple of fascinating nonfiction titles to share with you today as part of Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday.


Title: Jemmy Button
Author: Jennifer Uman, Valerio Vidali, Alix Barzelay
Illustrator: Jennifer Uman & Valerio Vidali
Publisher: templar publishing
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary: Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali discovered a mutual interest in this story and overcame language obstacles with the help of translators. Jemmy Button, a native of Tierra del Fuego, was brought to England in the mid-1800s to be “educated and civilized.” The book illustrates Jemmy’s adventures in England, his extraordinary encounters, his homesickness and experiences as an outsider in a strange land, and his return home.

My Two Cents: I first came across the story of Jemmy Button in Evolution’s Captain, an excellent account of the voyages of the Beagle to Tierra del Fuego. I was curious to see how this story could be translated into a children’s picture book. The result is a bit of a curious affair – an admittedly fictionalized version of history that provides Jemmy with a much happier ending than the one he actually experienced. Jemmy Button would probably work best as a classroom text – although there is a brief historical note at the end of the book, critical information is still missing. Children may not grasp the complexity of this historical event, which is a far sadder tale than the text makes it out to be. By all accounts Jemmy Button was kidnapped, and was treated more like a circus animal than a guest by his new owners. Upon returning to his homeland he was left trapped in limbo between his original self and his European identity, struggling to readjust to his traditional way of life.

Jemmy was also only one of several locals who were taken to Europe as souvenirs – the other individuals are not mentioned in the text, but their stories were no less fascinating, or sad. The group included a young girl, labelled Fuegia Basket, who was less than 14 years old. The circumstances surrounding Jemmy’s return to his homeland are also shown in a more positive light – the text notes that “the visitors agreed that he should go back and teach his people what he had learned”, and suggests that Jemmy himself decided it was time to go home. In reality it was a series of scandals that motivated the groups’ return to Tierra del Fuego, and which became source of great embarrassment to the English captain who first purchased them.

The true story of Jemmy Button is a dark tale of kidnapping, abuse and neglect. It is a story of imperialism, slavery, racism, and cultural disintegration – the people to whom Jemmy Button belonged were eventually driven to extinction. If Jemmy Button were an entirely fictional account, rather than a fictionalized version of actual events, I might be more comfortable with its edited, more optimistic storyline. Readers who aren’t familiar with the original historical event, however, might simply enjoy this beautifully illustrated, simply told, and quietly elegant story.This picture book will likely appeal to adults and older children, rather than to the younger children to whom picture books are typically marketed.

Woodpecker Wham!

Title: Woodpecker Wham!
Author: April Pulley Sayre
Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s Summary: Enter woodpecker world and get a bird’s eye view of everyday life: hiding from hawks, feeding hungry chicks, and drilling holes to build homes. Woodpeckers are nature’s home builders, creating holes that many other animals live in when the woodpeckers move on.

A variety of woodpecker species fly through these pages–perhaps some that live near you!

My Two Cents: Here’s a fun nonfiction picture book that could easily be incorporated into story times. The rhyming text is rhythmic and repetitive, with plenty of opportunities for audience participation. The mixed-media collage illustrations are the true stars of this picture book, with bright, bold colours and inviting textures bringing different woodpeckers brilliantly to life. A comprehensive facts section at the end of the book provides extensive information, making Woodpecker Wham! an ideal classroom text. This is a visually-attractive informational picture book that would work well for independent or group reading.


Title: Everyone Smiles!
Authors: Ashley N. Grisham, Gary L. Kersey, Jr.
Publisher: Ambassador International
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Nonfiction
Publisher’s Summary: Everyone Smiles is a child’s educational step-by-step guide on how to keep one’s smile clean and healthy. The steps empower all children with an independent sense of pride and responsibility that they too have the ability to keep their smile strong. Advocating that the power of the smile touches each and every culture around the globe, in addition to the easy to learn dental health lesson for kids, this book includes pediatric diversity in the form of age, race, gender, and both mental and physical disabilities.

My Two Cents: The rhymes are sometimes clunky and the rhythm can at times lack smoothness, but none of that really matters, because it is the incredible photography in this book that makes it a winner. Everyone Smiles really means everyone – boys and girls of all ages, sizes, colours, abilities and backgrounds are celebrated in this beautifully inclusive children’s book. Even more beautiful is the fact that many of these children are depicted together, enjoying each other’s company in joyfully diverse groups.There’s even a lovely photo of little girl with a cleft palate – showing that all smiles are truly beautiful. I will happily overlook any faults of the text (and they are pretty minor faults) to have a book this positive, diverse and inclusive in my collection. It might not be a picture book per se, but a book this awesome I just had to share.

Quite the range of material this week – what are your favourite nonfiction books this week?