Nonfiction Wednesday – January 27, 2016


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


Title: Take Shelter: At Home Around the World
Author: Nikki Tate and Dani Tate-Stratton
Publisher: Orca
Publication Date: 2014
Genre/Format: Nonfiction

My Two Cents: From caves to trees, mud huts to glass skyscrapers, boats to caravans, people live in a staggering variety of dwellings. The creators of Take Shelter examine the incredible diversity of human habitation, traveling across the globe to showcase dwellings both ancient and cutting edge. Ample colour photography captures the people, places and homes in great detail in this Red Cedar Award nonfiction nominee. Because of the sheer breadth of information covered, no single entry is examined in much detail, making this more of an introduction to cultural and environmental diversity, rather than a research-focused text. Perhaps more than anything, Take Shelter is a celebration of the ingenuity of human kind and our ability to adapt to our surroundings and to thrive in the most unexpected environments.

Nonfiction Wednesday – January 20, 2016


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

We’ve got another Canadian title on the blog this week!


Title: It’s Catching – The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes
Author: Jennifer Gardy, PhD / Illustrator:  Josh Holinaty
Publisher: Owl Kids
Publication Date: 2014
Genre/Format: Nonfiction

My Two Cents: This week we’re upping the “so gross it’s awesome” factor with a book all about infectious diseases! It’s actually much more palatable than it might sound, thanks in no small part to Josh Holinaty’s cute illustrations and Dr. Jennifer Gardy’s humorous text. In It’s Catching, kids are introduced to the microscopic world of germs and microbes, learning a bit about the history and science of pathology and epidemiology, and getting up close and personal with several different diseases, from the common cold to the terrifying ebola virus.


The book cleverly balances potentially frightening facts (“Measles is a big problem in the developing world, where it kills over 750,000 people every year”) with cartoon illustrations to create a text that is accurate and informative but still age-appropriate.

I also appreciate that the book starts with an introduction by the author, who happens to be a pretty cool woman. It’s always satisfying to be able to provide kids with real-world examples of women pursuing exciting, nontraditional careers, being successful, and challenging industry stereotypes (remember the “distractingly sexy” fiasco from a few months back?).

I do wish that the book included a bibliography or cited sources, both to give kids further sources for further research and to provide an example of properly cited work.

Still, that teeny-tiny critique aside, this Red Cedar Award-nominated ode to the weird and wonderful world of the microscopic makes for infectiously good reading.

Nonfiction Wednesday – January 13, 2016

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

I’ve only got one book to share this week (it’s been a bit of a crazy week!) but it’s a good one!


Title: Tastes Like Music : 17 Quirks of the Brain and Body
Author: Maria Birmingham / Illustrator:  Monika Melnychuk
Publisher: Owl Kids
Publication Date: 2014
Genre/Format: Nonfiction

My Two Cents: Sometimes getting books into the hands of skeptical young readers can take a bit of subterfuge on the part of the crafty, determined teacher or librarian. Last week I relied on the appeal of a video game to get a National Geographic book past the reluctant reader gates, and this week I’m relying on the almost universal childhood interest in all things weird to book talk this Red Cedar-award nominated nonfiction title.

Tastes Like Music is an ode to the human body, and in particular to individuals whose bodies function in unique and unusual ways. Author Maria Birmingham introduces a number of wacky and wonderful quirks of the human body, some of which children might be familiar with (sleepwalking, for example, or being double jointed), and other which are likely to be entirely unfamiliar (such as tetrachromacy, which is the ability to see the world in one hundred million colours, while the average person only sees about one million). Humorous illustrations help explain each condition, while information is presented in clear, easy to read paragraphs, ideal for children who may be intimidated by longer texts.

Tastes Like Music is significant too in that it is a very positive text – no one with these conditions is presented in any way as being a “weirdo” or a “freak”. The illustrations are diverse, with a wide range of individuals represented. In fact, the author herself is included as an example of an individual with an usual condition, as she has isolated congenital anosmia, and is entirely unable to smell. Individuals with these “quirks” are just like you and me, the text suggests, they just live their life in different ways because their bodies work in different ways.

I’m always delighted to celebrate Canadian literature, and not only is Tastes Like Music written by and published by Canadians, it is also in the running for a Red Cedar award for nonfiction in 2015-2016. If you aren’t familiar with the Red Cedar awards, they are children’s choice book awards in the Canadian province of British Columbia. You can find out more about the awards and this year’s nominees on their website, at

So let me know, what great nonfiction titles have you been exploring this week?

Nonfiction Wednesday – December 30, 2016


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

Title: Friend or Foe – The Whole Truth About Animals That People Love to Hate
Author: Etta Kaner / Illustrator: David Anderson
Publisher: Owlkids Books
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Nonfiction
Publisher’s SummaryRats, mosquitoes, bats, cockroaches, leeches, vultures — it’s easy to fear and despise them. But are they all bad? You probably know that rats destroy food supplies and can cause house fires when they gnaw on electrical wires, but did you know their supersensitive noses can help detect tuberculosis or even land mines?

Are these conventionally icky critters really public enemies, or do they have merits worth appreciating? Friend or Foe takes a close look at what we dislike about each of 10 unpopular animals, and then presents the flip side: these very same animals are often smart, helpful to humans and the environment, or inspiring to scientists.

After each pair of polarizing spreads, readers are asked to decide for themselves if the animal is friend or foe. Fascinating research and anecdotes, fun design inspired by propaganda posters, and playful use of persuasive language and point of view make Friend or Foe an engaging read that will leave readers reconsidering common perceptions.

My Two Cents: Rats, leeches, and snakes, oh my! This is another so-gross-it’s-cool nonfiction book that’s sure to catch the eye of young readers with its bold illustrations and slightly creepy subject matter. A series of different creatures are examined from different points of few, prompting readers to consider the positive and negative aspects of each animal, and eventually realize that, as the author suggests,

“Animals just are what they are! Seeing them as friend or foe depends on the time and place, and a person’s point of view.”

10 animals in total receive two spreads each, one casting the creature as a fearsome foe ( “The Big, Bad Wolf”, “Spiders: Scary, Sneaky and Spooky”, “Snakes: Silent and Deadly”), the other showcasing its friendlier characteristics (“Wolves are Wonderful!”, Spiders are Spectacular!”, “Snakes are Super!”). The artwork of each spread changes to suit the style of the text, with scary images on one spread, and cute, cartoon drawings on the next.

The “foe” spreads are likely to be more attractive for young audiences than their friendly counterparts, simply because of the appeal of scary/gross illustrations and text, but the entire book would make a good starting point for group discussion, and could inspire engaging classroom activities and research assignments. This is a thoughtful, well-arranged title that encourages children to approach the world with an open mind and to consider multiple perspectives when making a decision.

Title: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Author: William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer / Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Nonfiction
Publisher’s Summary: When fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba’s Malawi village was hit by a drought, everyone’s crops began to fail. Without enough money for food, let alone school, William spent his days in the library . . . and figured out how to bring electricity to his village. Persevering against the odds, William built a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps, and thus became the local hero who harnessed the wind.

Lyrically told and gloriously illustrated, this story will inspire many as it shows how – even in the worst of times – a great idea and a lot of hard work can still rock the world.

My Two Cents: William Kamkwamba, like many young boys, was insatiably curious. He “dreamed of building things and taking them apart”, and while working in the fields of his family’s struggling farm he would watch passing trucks and wonder, “how does its engine make it go?” Denied an education, William educated himself, devouring science books at a local American-founded library, and teaching himself rudimentary engineering. Using bits and pieces of scrounged materials and his own ingenuity, William built a windmill, and though at first he was only able to power a single light bulb, he realized then the powerful potential of electricity.

William Kamkwamba’s experiences have been simplified in this picture book edition, but this young man’s persistence and imagination remain the inspiring focus of the story. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind would be an engaging classroom text, a valuable addition to units on renewable energy, environmentalism, Africa, inventors or children around the world. William embodies imagination, creativity, study, persistence and self-confidence – even when his neighbors called him “misala”, crazy, William did not lose faith in himself or his ideas.

Elizabeth Zunon’s cut paper illustrations perfectly capture the spirit of Kamkwamba’s story, mirroring his experiences piecing bits of things together to create something wonderful. An inspiring story for children of all ages.

Nonfiction Wednesday – December 23, 2015

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


Title: I (Don’t) Like Snakes
Author: Nicola Davies / Illustrator: Luciano Lozano
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2015
Genre/Format: Nonfiction
Publisher’s Summary: They’re slithery and scaly, and they have icky, flicking tongues and creepy, unblinking eyes. What’s to like about a snake? You’d be surprised!

This little girl has a problem. Her family doesn’t have dogs, or cats, or birds—they have snakes! And she really, really, really really doesn’t like snakes. Her family can’t understand her dislike, but they canhelp her understand why snakes do the things they do and look the way they look. And maybe once she knows more, she will start to like snakes a little . . . or even a lot. Packed with snake trivia, this clever story includes realistic illustrations and simple explanations of snake behavior sure to make even slither-phobic readers shed their misconceptions about these fascinating reptiles. Back matter includes a note about snakes, a bibliography, and an index.

My Two CentsBefore I start with this review, let me just say – I knew all those hours I spent watching Bill Nye the Science Guy would come in handy one day! One of the illustrations in this utterly charming snake book features what the book calls a poisonous coral snake. Well, that just didn’t sit right with me, because as we all know, when it comes to snakes with red, yellow and black stripes,

If red meets black, you’re OK, Jack

If red meets yellow, you’re a dead fellow!

This snake positively had stripes that went red to black to yellow, making it a harmless milk snake, which imitates the colours of the poisonous coral snake. Imagine my smug delight, then, when I noticed the publishers had stuck a sticker  inside the front page, noting the error. Ha! Thank you, Bill Nye!

All cheekiness aside, this is a highly imaginative, very creative take on the standard nonfiction animal text. A young girl lives in house filled with snakes, but, like Indiana Jones before her, she simply cannot stand them. They’re “slithery and scaly…they have icky, flicking tongues and creepy, unblinking eyes…”. The girl’s parents and brother walk her through all of the different features of snakes, explaining the behaviour that so repulses her. Eventually, she realizes that she only disliked snakes because she didn’t understand them, and joins her family in their love of snakes.

The book mixes different styles of font and illustration, blending the words and actions of the characters with the scientific explanations they share. There’s a note in the back of the book reminding readers to make sure to read all of the text, so as to not miss any information. I appreciate the inclusion of an index, as well as a bibliography, which make the book easier to use for homework or research.


The illustrations are sure to delight and disgust young readers, depicting snakes killing and eating their prey and shedding their skins. The one thing that made me a little bit uncomfortable was the sheer volume of snakes that live with the imaginary family – there are snakes everywhere, and none of them seem to be kept in safe containers. The characters are shown with snakes wrapped around their arms and necks, with little apparent concern for safe handling. While the text explains that snakes can kill through both venom and constriction, there’s no indication that the snake-loving family has taken any precautions to ensure the safety of themselves and their snakes. I know it’s a picture book, and the snakes are imaginary, but I think it would have been nice to include some information on safe and responsible handling and keeping of snakes as pets.


Still, this is a very pretty novel approach to a kid’s nonfiction text, and one that makes a potentially frightening animal a little less mysterious (though not necessarily less scary!)


Title: And the Winner Is…..Amazing Animal Athletes
Author: Etta Kaner / Illustrator: David Anderson
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: 2013
Genre/Format: Nonfiction
Publisher’s SummaryIn this unique facts book, animals compete in sporting events such as high jump, swimming and weight lifting. Readers are encouraged to guess which animal will win before turning the page, while walrus and cockatoo “announcers” provide funny commentary and interesting statistics about the athletes’ amazing abilities. This is a winning format for kids who want to know which animals can be faster, stronger and more powerful, and how humans compare.

My Two Cents: I’ve always loved facts – longest this, fastest that. This is a fun little animal fact book that imagines a sort of animal Olympics, where groups of animals face off in a series of competitions. On one spread, a gentoo penguin, an orca whale, a sailfish and a sea lion compete in a swimming race, while a grasshopper, a kangaroo rat, a jumping spider and a striped rocket frog fight for a long jump title on another spread. Each animal gets a little introduction, and the winners’ achievements are compared against the equivalent human records.

This definitely isn’t a serious science book – a walrus and a cockatoo provide colour commentary, and there are puns a’plenty – a goat exclaims “you’ve got to be kidding”, while a horse says “I’m hoarse from yelling”. But there are also plenty of facts and figures, and children are left with a great appreciation for the wonders of the animal kingdom.

Nonfiction Wednesday – December 16, 2015

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

Title: Animals That Make Me Say Ewwww!
Author: Dawn Cusick
Publisher: Imagine
Publication Date: 2016 (on sale March 2016)
Genre/Format: Nonfiction
Publisher’s SummaryPrepare to be grossed out by an engaging and unique look at some of the more disgusting survival techniques from the animal kingdom.
From blood-squirting reptiles to blood-sweating mammals to nose-picking primates, learn about some of the most disgusting creatures in the animal kingdom. Author Dawn Cusick and the National Wildlife Federation compile a volume as attractive as its subject is disgusting.

My Two CentsFrom Disgusting Critters to “….Ewww”, I think I’ve got a bit of theme going on with these nonfiction reviews!

Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, because this is one nonfiction title that truly lives up to its name. We’ve got lots of snot, feces galore, blood, guts and plenty of gunk – everything you could want in a gross-out information book for middle-grade readers!

This is definitely an image-heavy book, with stunning wildlife photography balancing the visually-appealing text bubbles to create a nonfiction text that is engaging, rather than overwhelming. The grossness is largely limited to the text, with the photographs tending towards generic images of each animal (thank goodness – I don’t think my stomach could have handled vivid photographic evidence of some of the more disgusting behaviours).

Animals That Make Me Say Ewww! doesn’t talk down to its audience, using appropriate language like “defecate” and “feces”, and providing scientific explanations for this behaviour. While humorous and engaging, this is definitely still a nonfiction book, and children will likely come away from it having actually learned something, amidst the inevitable giggles and gasps.

The author provides a helpful glossary and detailed index to aid with research, and includes a fun “scavenger hunt” extension activity. Part of a series of engaging nonfiction texts for budding biologists, Animals That Make Me Say Ewww! is a comprehensive, yet light-hearted look at the many wonders of our natural world. Highly recommended.

So, which nonfiction books have caught your eye this week?

Note: I received a free digital galley of this book from NetGalley, and have not been compensated in any way for this review. 

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – December 9, 2015

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


Title: The Rat
Author/Illustrator: Elise Gravel
Publisher: Tundra Books
Publication Date: 2014
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Early Reader
Publisher’s SummaryOne in a series of humorous books about disgusting creatures, The Rat is a look at the black rat. It covers such topics as the rat’s long, agile tail (it’s good for balancing and picking noses), long teeth (they can chew through anything, including books) and disgusting taste in food (delicious electrical wires in tomato sauce, anyone?). Although silly and off-the-wall, The Rat contains real information that will tie in with curriculum.

My Two CentsI used Elise Gravel’s series Disgusting Critters with an Early Readers book club back in the summer, and it was a big hit! The children each picked a book from the series (which also includes such kid-pleasing titles as The Slug, The Fly, and The Worm) to read, and shared what they learned with the rest of the group.

This series works so well because it matches real biology with a zany sense of humour and wacky illustrations. The rat, a potentially frightening creature, becomes a cheeky little rascal, challenging any preconceived notions about this highly intelligent animal. Kids learn about the animal’s diet, anatomy, habitat, and behaviour in a way that doesn’t actually feel like learning (perfect for a summer program). The last thing an educational text should feel like is, well, an educational text! The entire series is kid-friendly from top to bottom, with a cute font that appears almost hand-written, and a balance of text and illustrations that makes each book an accessible nonfiction text for early readers. Highly recommended – and Canadian, too!


So, which nonfiction books have caught your eye this week?

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – November 11, 2016

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

Title: Hello World! Greetings in 43 Languages
Author/Illustrator: Manya Stojic
Publisher: Boxer Books (England) / Scholastic (United States)
Publication Date: 2009
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s SummaryTake a trip around the world and learn to say “hello” in 42 different languages! This book features vibrant paintings of children from across the globe, simple translations, and pronounciation keys! Bonjour! Hola! Konnichiwa! Learn how to say “hello” in French, Spanish, Japanese—and many more languages! Children from all around the world say “hello” each in their own languages, each and every day. Each page includes a greeting translated in a different language with easy-to-pronounce phonetic spellings.

My Two Cents: This simple picture book is a collection of greetings from around the world – 43 beautiful, happy children saying hello in their different languages. Each picture includes a handy pronunciation guide, but it would have been helpful if Stojic had indicated where each language originates (some of the languages are less familiar to Western readers, like Mandika and Bafia, and teachers/librarians might want to prepare themselves by consulting an atlas, as they are likely to get questions from curious readers!) I like that the illustrations show children in generic contemporary clothes – books about countries around the world often depict children in traditional clothing, which is informative but doesn’t necessarily reflect their modern reality. It’s easy for kids to relate to the children in these pictures, because the emphasis is on their faces, rather than on their costumes. My one finicky little caveat is that most of the Asian children are shown with thin slits for eyes, which is a little stereotypical. Still, I like that there is a bit of variety in how the children are depicted, that is, not all the Europeans are shown with pale skin, blond hair and yellow eyes, which I think better represents the realities of modern Europe.

Title: If…..A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers
Author: David J. Smith

Illustrator: Steve Adams
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: 2014
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s SummarySome things are so huge or so old that it’s hard to wrap your mind around them. But what if we took these big, hard-to-imagine objects and events and compared them to things we can see, feel and touch? Instantly, we’d see our world in a whole new way.” So begins this endlessly intriguing guide to better understanding all those really big ideas and numbers children come across on a regular basis. Author David J. Smith has found clever devices to scale down everything from time lines (the history of Earth compressed into one year), to quantities (all the wealth in the world divided into one hundred coins), to size differences (the planets shown as different types of balls). Accompanying each description is a kid-friendly drawing by illustrator Steve Adams that visually reinforces the concept. By simply reducing everything to human scale, Smith has made the incomprehensible easier to grasp, and therefore more meaningful. The children who just love these kinds of fact-filled, knock-your-socks-off books will want to read this one from cover to cover. It will find the most use, however, as an excellent classroom reference that can be reached for again and again when studying scale and measurement in math, and also for any number of applications in social studies, science and language arts. For those who want to delve a little deeper, Smith has included six suggestions for classroom projects. There is also a full page of resource information at the back of the book.

My Two Cents: Woah…This book is mind-blowing! Abstract concepts or massive numbers are made tangible through real-life examples and illustrations. For example, if your whole life could be represented by a pizza divided into twelve slices, 4 slices would represent the time you spend at work or school, 4 slices would represent time spent in bed, and 1 slice would represent the time spent cooking and eating (among other slices!!) How cool is that?? As I child I really struggled to visualize numbers – the weight of a blue whale in tonnes meant nothing to me, but I could visualize an equivalent number of African elephants. This is a particularly valuable books for visual learners like myself, who learn best through through observing. The author has included a number of extension activity suggestions to help students explore and understand concepts of scale.

So, which nonfiction books have caught your eye this week?

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.

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….