Nonfiction Wednesday – Snowflake Bentley

The Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge is a celebration of children’s informational texts hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. 


Snowflake Bentley

From the time he was a small boy in Vermont, Wilson Bentley saw snowflakes as small miracles. And he determined that one day his camera would capture for others the wonder of the tiny crystal. Bentley’s enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes was often misunderstood in his time, but his patience and determination revealed two important truths: no two snowflakes are alike; and each one is startlingly beautiful. His story is gracefully told and brought to life in lovely woodcuts, giving children insight into a soul who had not only a scientist’s vision and perseverance but a clear passion for the wonders of nature. Snowflake Bentley won the 1999 Caldecott Medal.

As any kindergartener will tell you, people are like snowflakes – each one is unique. It was through the pioneering work of the pioneering photographer and self-taught scientist Wilson Bentley that the intricate beauty of snowflake crystals was first revealed and captured for posterity.

I was first introduced to the wonderful Mr. Wilson Bentley through one of my favourite adult nonfiction titles, Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich. Though he only plays a small role in the book, Bentley’s dogged pursuit of his passion for snowflakes fascinated me. I’ve always been inspired of people who possess the courage and the determination to follow their dreams, regardless of the roadblocks life places in their path, and Snowflake Bentley was certainly one of those individuals.

Born in 1865 in rural Vermont and largely self-educated, Bentley grew up fascinated by the “small miracles” of snowflakes. His supportive parents spent much of their life savings on a camera for their son for his 17th birthday, and ignited in him a life-long passion for highly detailed photography. Bentley made history in 1885 by becoming the first person to photograph a single ice crystal. Still, for all his accomplishments, Bentley never achieved fame or fortune – he contributed thousands of photographs to scientific journals and books and even penned several essays on the subject of snow crystals, but remained a Vermont farmer until his death in 1931.


Snowflake Bentley is a biography on two levels, with a simpler primary text that’s supplemented by additional information in sidebars. This allows the book to be used with audiences of different ages, broadening its appeal. The format can be a bit confusing at times, but it doesn’t detract too significantly from the story. The woodcut illustrations beautifully capture the spirit of the story, and earned a Caldecott Medal.

Bentley’s fascinating life story is of perseverance, self-belief, hard work, passion and a deep appreciation for the small miracles that make our world such a breathtakingly beautiful place. Inspiring and timeless, it once again proves the incredible power of the picture book biography to bring to life historical figures who perhaps might not be as well known, but whose stories deserve to be celebrated and shared.


Nonfiction Wednesday: Tooth by Tooth


The Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge is a celebration of children’s informational texts hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. 

So…my teeth and I haven’t really had the best relationship over the years. You might even say we don’t get along all that well. I’ve had pretty much every tooth in my head filled (sometimes more than once), despite my best efforts to the contrary. I’ve chipped teeth, cracked teeth and stained teeth. Given my dental experiences, a book all about teeth isn’t normally my first choice in reading material. Fortunately, this week’s nonfiction title is a fun and funny book all about the “fangs, tusks and chompers” that fill different mammalian mouths in the animal kingdom.

Tooth by Tooth looks at different sizes, shapes and combinations of teeth, and introduces readers to some of the many different functions that teeth can serve.

For example, what kind of mammal would you be if you had really, really long canines?

Well, you’d likely be a seal or a cat or a dog or a bear or another type of carnivore, because big canines are sharp, cutting tools designed for killing and eating other animals.

Image result for tooth by tooth book sara levine

The great scientific information in Tooth by Tooth encourages children to make deductions and inferences based on the facts provided, while the fanciful illustrations keep the tone lighthearted and accessible.  

Tooth by Tooth is a nice introduction to the different forms and functions of mammalian teeth, and a great way to start conversations about animal adaptation. Toothy  fun for everyone!

Also – check out the website for the strangely yet aptly named illustrator T. S. Spookytooth – quite an interesting, offbeat fellow by the sounds of it.

Nonfiction Wednesday: Sept 21, 2016

Nonfiction Wednesday is brought to you by Kid Lit Frenzy, and is a weekly celebration of children’s nonfiction material.

Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, because today you’re in for a blast from the past!

The World’s Greatest Blunders by Sue Blackhall


Gaffes galore from the world of entertainment, the never-to-be-forgotten 1987 hurricane howler, the canonical con-trick that solved a medieval cash flow problem and still keeps believers on their knees in Turin, the US ex-president’s broadcasting bloomers, the Spruce Goose’s 1-minute-flight, the Sinclair C5’s short run, the Hitler diaries hoax that fooled the wise and worthy, these are among a list of dropped changers resounding worldwide and zippily related here.

Wrongful imprisonments and a near-fatal shoot-out resulting from mistaken identity, the heroic failure of Antarctic explorer Captain Scott and the death dice of air race ace Amy Johnson, as well as a catalogue of tragic human errors leading to disasters the whole world mourns, are also recorded.  Goodreads.

First published in 1989, this fascinating collection of strange and sometimes mind-boggling true stories has been a fixture on my bookshelves for HALF OF MY LIFE. I bought it at a bookshop in New Zealand when I was sixteen years old and spending part of my summer holidays with my grandmother. I think I picked it up at a shop in Hamilton, though it might have been in Auckland. Either way, this book has travelled a long way to be here today!


There are very few books that have survived my many moves, and for some reason I just can’t seem to part with this one. When I say I’ve been a life-long nonfiction addict, here’s the proof – at sixteen years of age, instead of buying a fashion or pop culture magazine or a teen novel, I picked up this adult collection of true tails. I’m mean, just look at that summary – who wouldn’t want to read a book like this? With language level and content in mind, adult nonfiction can be a great option for young people who simply aren’t interested in fiction, or who are hungry for something new and different to sink their death into. If I was a sixteen year today, I would find the dystopian trend just horrifically boring, and would gag at soppy teen romances. Call me crazy, but I’d rather have read about the Spruce Goose than find out if Jenny will finally get a date to the prom, or if Annie will be able to save the universe while figuring out her love triangle!

So, why not think outside the box when it comes to book recommendations – sometimes young people who “hate reading” just haven’t discovered the right books yet!

Nonfiction Wednesday – Sept 14, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.

As anyone who’s ever worked with tweens and teens can tell you, crafts are majorly popular. Being able to express their creativity through different artistic pursuits is extremely important for many tweens/teens, and there’s something immensely attractive about being able to make something special with their own hands. I used to spend a lot of time scrolling through Pinterest in search of new craft ideas for tween/teen events.

There are a couple of factors that youth librarians or group leaders usually keep in mind when selecting craft projects for their participants – the activities must be simple and straightforward enough for everyone in the group to manage, they must be fast enough to be completed in a set amount of time, and they need to be CHEAP to construct, as most of us are working on shoestring budgets.

Lazy Crafternoon is a beautiful collection of 50+ fast, fun, beautiful craft activities and projects. There’s a real emphasis on using readily available, basic crafting supplies, which is always appreciated! The book is geared towards tweens/young teens, but a lot of projects would be popular with older teens or even “new adults” as well – I mean, who wouldn’t want a beautiful personalised mug to take to college, or beautiful little cards to send to a best friend?


The photography in this book is stunning, making the book extremely appealing, and most of the projects are pretty straightforward and clearly explained. I do wish the book included step-by-step photos – each project is photographed in its completed form, but newbie crafters would benefit from photos of the project at different stages.


Still, this is a beautiful crafting book that will likely appeal to tween and teens, featuring practical, easy to complete projects that young people will be thrilled to show off to their family and friends. Definitely worth taking a look at, particularly if you work with this demographic!

Nonfiction Wednesday – Sept 7, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.

Fashion Rebels: Style Icons Who Changed the World Through Fashion



Get to know the women who’ve wielded the power of fashion and brought about change with this illustrated biography that features twenty-five of history’s most influential fashion icons.

Throughout time, daring women have made fashion choices that have altered the course of history. From Marie Antoinette, who wore a hairstyle as large as her presence, to Coco Chanel, who imagined a world without rib crushing corsets and heavy gowns, to Katharine Hepburn, who walked around the studio in her underwear when studio executives refused to let her wear her then-scandalous jeans, these women were mavericks as well as rebellious icons.

Their fashion choices mirrored and redefined what it meant to be a woman in their era. They didn’t follow trends or cultural conventions, but instead set the course with their own style. Their brave and inventive fashion choices paved the way for female empowerment.

Featuring hairstyle tips, DIY projects, inspiration boards that break down each icon’s style, and illustrated timelines that cover the evolution of pants, skirts, the little black dress, and more,Fashion Rebels: Style Icons Who Changed the World through Fashion invites readers to treat fashion as an act of fearless creativity—and even become fashion trailblazers themselves.

Think fashion is just about looking cool or following trends? Think again – for women throughout history, fashion could be an act of rebellion against a patriarchal society that denied them the most basic of rights. Through the clothes they wore or designed, the women in Fashion Rebels found a way to change the world around them.


If you’ve got a fashion-obsessed tween or teen, this look at fashion pioneers is a definite winner. Twenty-three trailblazing women across history are featured and celebrated, from Cleopatra to Frida Kahlo, and each woman’s unique sense of style and historical impact is explored and considered. There are plenty of full-colour illustration that are reminiscent of fashion drawings, and each spread is packed with fascinating information and intriguing facts.


Fashion Rebels encourages readers to look at fashion in a new way, and to look beneath the trends to find the cultural and historical factors that have shaped and influenced them. Young women in the western world enjoy unprecedented freedom when it comes to personal style and expression, and this freedom was won for us in large part thanks to the determination and fearlessness of women throughout history.


Fashion Rebels could be a great springboard for a fascinating research assignment looking at fashion throughout history, and the causes and repercussions of different trends.

Eye-opening and thoroughly-researched, this would be a great choice for budding fashionista or history buff in your life.

Nonfiction Wednesday – August 31, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.

My partner and I went to our local summer fair over the weekend, and one of the exhibits was an indoor kitchen garden showcasing some of the more common herbs and veggies available in grocery stores and farmers markets. Some of the plants I’d seen before, but some of them were (somewhat embarrassingly) entirely new to me! Like many life-long city-slickers, I buy most of my food prepackaged from the grocery store, and rarely see fruits and veggies in their natural environment.

Grow! Raise! Catch! : How We Get Our Food aims to introduce children to the farm-to-table movement, and help raise awareness of where our food actually comes from, and what goes into producing the foods we so often take for granted.


Bright, beautiful pictures take children through the processes involved in growing, raising, catching and producing different fruits and veggies, meat and fish, and grains. A diverse cast of children and adults are shown working in different environments and happily enjoying the fruits of their labour. This is a beautiful, eye-catching introduction to food production awareness and healthy, earth-friendly consumption.

Studies have shown that when children are involved in growing and raising their food, and have a better understanding of where their food comes from, they are more likely to make healthy eating choices and develop healthier food habits. Not every family has access to a community garden or backyard, and not every school has a gardening program, but every school can have access to great books like this that encourage children to be better aware of the work that goes into making the foods they enjoy.

All in all, a beautiful title to share with young children to help start conversations about how we can keep ourselves, and our planet, healthier and happier.

Nonfiction Wednesday – Aug 17, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.

The Toad

Elise Gravel is back with another entry in her so-gross-it’s-cute Disgusting Critters series! Having looked at such icky critters as slugs, flies, spiders, worms and head lice, this newest critter doesn’t really seam all that disgusting by comparison! It’s time for the common toad to get the Disgusting Critters treatment, and once again Gravel blends interesting facts with silly illustrations to create a very kid-friendly nonfiction entry-level graphic novel.

Part of a book for kids that I’m working on. Toads and frogs: we need them! #kidlit #science #illustration

I’ve used this series twice with my Early Readers’ Book Clubs at the library, and plan to use them again in the future. I love being able to give the kids some choice in what they read, while still creating that traditional book club atmosphere where everyone talks about the same book. In our last meeting we created little books about our different animals, which allowed the kids to take on the role of expert and teach their friends all about the different disgusting critters.

The Disgusting Critters series is so much fun because it introduces kids to the idea that nonfiction can actually be read for enjoyment and recreation, and that fun and educational need not be mutually exclusive. Informational texts can be cartoony, silly, light-hearted, and still informational.

Elise Gravel is Canadian, too, which makes the whole thing even better. 🙂

Nonfiction Wednesday: What Makes a Baby?

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.


What Makes a Baby?

Oh, the million-dollar question that can give adults everywhere anxiety attacks – “where do babies come from?” Many picture books on the subject of reproduction talk about sex, which is a very important topic to discuss with children, but which isn’t always a factor in the baby-making process. Babies are the result of a collision between sperm and egg, and this miraculous collision can occur with or without sexual intercourse between a male and a female. Some children are born to a biological mother and father with the help of IVF, while other babies are conceived to same-sex families through donor eggs or sperm, IVF and/or or surrogates. Just as families come in a variety of shapes, sizes and forms, babies are created in many different ways.

Brought to you by the same team behind the inclusive, sex-positive sex ed book Sex is a Funny WordWhat Makes a Baby is “a book for every kind of FAMILY and every kind of KID”. It’s a great starting point for discussions on reproduction, sex, and childbirth, providing the basic framework of information, and allowing caregivers to customize their discussions. Just as in Sex is a Funny Word, the characters in What Makes a Baby come in a variety of candy colours, and are largely externally without gender, making for a truly diverse and inclusive text.

This is a particularly helpful picture book for same-sex families, as it gives their conception stories the same weight, worth and importance as those of other families, and doesn’t make their stories feel like exceptions to the any rule, uncommon, or unusual. Conception is the same process, no matter how the egg and sperm end up meeting, or how they are introduced.

What Makes a Baby? is a fantastic starting point for discussions of conception and birth, and is a worthwhile addition to any collection.

Nonfiction Wednesday – July 6, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.

This or That? The Wacky Book of Choices to Reveal the Hidden You

My Two Cents: When it comes to crowd-pleasing nonfiction for kids, National Geographic Kids keeps bringing us hit after hit. This or That is a bit of an older title, but it’s definitely still work taking a look at. I recently shared it with a visiting elementary school class, and they devoured it. Personality quizzes are always popular, and This or That turns these quizzes into an activity that’s both fun and educational. Kids go through a series of questions and pick one of two options, with each choice revealing something about their personality while introducing them to interesting and eye-opening facts.

Here are some examples:

a) Your head has a built-in helmet, or

b) Your belly has a built-in suitcase

Pretty weird stuff – apparently you’re picking between being a woodpecker or a kangaroo!

There’s actually a lot of great information packed into this book, together with a tonne of great photos and humorous illustrations. This isn’t really a research resource, especially since there isn’t an index, but it is a lot of fun for recreational reading, especially for reluctant readers or kids who aren’t necessarily huge fans of fiction. Learning can be fun, kids!

Nonfiction Wednesday – June 29, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.

Do Fish Fart? Answers to Kids’ Questions About Lakes

My Two Cents: As a nerdy kid (who grew into a nerdy adult), this book would’ve been right up my alley. It definitely has a sense of humour, as the title might suggest, and uses a blend of photographs and cartoony illustrations to answer kids’ questions about lake ecosystems, while packing enough information in to be a valuable educational resource. .

The book includes a table of contents, a comprehensive index, a thorough listing of advisors and consultants, and a list of credits for the different photographs used throughout the text, which makes this librarian a very happy camper. Being able to point out these different features in information texts is an important part of introducing students to research methods and principles.

I also appreciate the blending of practical and wacky questions (like the question about what would happen to a fish if it drank an energy drink). That pretty much captures the essence of kids – capable of coming up with the weirdest, wackiest, and still most interesting questions!

I grew up fascinated by the natural world, and filled to the brim with questions, so a book of questions and answers like this would definitely have appealed to me, and will likely appeal to nerdy and not-so-nerdy young readers today. Informational texts can be fun and silly without skimping on the educational!