Share a Story: Nonfiction

ShareAStoryLogo-colorToday’s Share a Story-Shape a Future literacy blog tour explores reading nonfiction. Here are my response to one of the writing prompts.

Do you have an image (photo, chart, illustration) from a nonfiction book that has stayed with you, even though you don’t remember many of the details about what you read?

So many of the nonfiction picture books these days have extraordinary images, it is hard to really narrow it down to a few. I asked my son to help, and here are his favorite books with memorable visuals:

pumpkin-circle Pumpkin Circle:  The Story of a Garden by George Levenson has the most amazing photographs by Shmuel Thaler. This book is sure to excite any child. Who doesn’t love pumpkins and growing things?

He also picked out A Seed is Sleepy by Diana Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long, as well as An Egg is Quiet, by the same pair.

Finally, he said, “The beetle book!” He meant Dragonfly Beetle Butterfly Bee by Maryjo Koch. He helped me make the Amazon widget, and decided to add her other books to remind me to buy them. 🙂

(Am I the only one who thinks these carousel widgets are really cool? I don’t see many people using them.)

Any of these beautiful books is guaranteed to attract a child’s attention and encourage him or her to pick it up.

What books would you add?

Thanks to Elizabeth Dulemba for the great Share -A -Story button!

In the Swim of Things

mermaid-QueenIf you are looking for a rousing book for Women’s History Month, Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History! by Shana Corey and Edwin Fotheringham (illustrator) is a perfect choice. This biography of swimmer and actress Annette Kellerman highlights many of the challenges women faced around the turn of the century. It was a Cybils nonfiction picture book finalist for 2009.

Annette Kellerman was born in Australia in 1886. When she was young, she suffered from weak legs. As therapy, her father taught her to swim and swim she did. After her legs recovered and became strong, she continued to swim. Eventually she was competing and winning awards. She also is credited with inventing “water ballet,” the early form of modern synchronized swimming.

When she went to England and then United States to perform, she met with resistance, not for her performances, but with her skimpy bathing suits. Annette had learned that swimming in the proper bathing dresses of the time was too difficult, so she designed more form-fitting suits. The suits initially caused a scandal and even led to her arrest, but she soon convinced everyone that it was much healthier to swim unencumbered. From these beginnings, our modern swim suits were developed.

As Shana Corey points out, although Annette had many firsts she also had some setbacks. One setback was her failure to swim the English Channel. At that time only one man had done so successfully. People admired Annette’s effort and she went on to increased fame. Her story is a wonderful way for children to learn that they may experience disappointments, but what may look like failure can turn into adventures and triumphs.

As for the physical look of the book itself, the illustrations in Mermaid Queen are bright, colorful and frothy. You can feel the water, energy and motion on every page. The only criticism I have is the choice of font and font size. The fonts jump around and change size. Some of the fonts are quite frilly. It is fun for an adult to read, but difficult for a reader who is struggling or just learning to read.

Mermaid Queen is another great example of a book about someone who has been all but forgotten in modern times, but whose story is inspiring and deserves to be told.

As a Cybils judge, a copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0439698359
ISBN-13: 978-0439698351


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Lost Between The Pages.

Hair Dance

The color, texture and style of our hair is part of our unique individuality, a reflection of our personality. But sometimes that uniqueness can feel more like “different,” especially for young girls. Enter Hair Dance by Dinah Johnson and Kelly Johnson, a celebration of the beauty of African American hair and youth.

hair-dancePhotographer Kelly Johnson introduces the book with a touching story of how she was inspired by her grandparents’ hairstyling business. Her photographs of children are lively, lovely and incredible pieces of art, just like the hairstyles.

The photographs are brilliant enough to carry the book all on their own, but the poetry by Dinah Johnson adds the bows to this hair piece.

As a book by two women that contains many pictures of girls, this is a book full of female energy and wisdom. It would be a great gift for any girl needing a little confidence or struggling with her identity. I can also envision it as a fun part of a birthday party celebration or sleepover where girls style each others’ hair.

Hair Dance is an awesome example of what I mentioned in my last post, how to make a nonfiction work personal and relevant.

The Brown Bookshelf has a post about the author, Dr. Dinah Johnson, as well as many other authors and books in celebration of Black History Month.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1st edition (September 4, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805065237
ISBN-13: 978-0805065237


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Simply Science.

Life Size Zoo is Life Size Fun

Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual Size Animal Encyclopedia by Teruyuki Komiya (Creator), Kristin Earhart (Editor), and Toyofumi Fukuda (Photographer) was a Cybils finalist in the 2009 Nonfiction Picture book category and has won the Parents’ Choice Gold Award.

life-size-zooThe premise of Life Size Zoo is deceptively simple. Each spread shows fantastic life size photograph of an actual zoo animal, its head in the case of the biggest animals. The name of each animal, its gender and age are included. The spare words on the page point to a distinctive feature, such as the tiger’s rough tongue. The sidebar points out a few facts and asks some simple questions. It seems straightforward.

Once you start using the book, however, its real charm and value emerge. Every time I read this book to a group or with an individual child, the story has been different. Often I hear of trips to various zoos, individual animals that are favorites, the child’s observations of each animals, etc. Each time we find something new in the photographs. Often the discussion leads to more questions, which in turn lead to more stories. It is definitely a fun, kid-friendly book that is very much an open-ended story prompt. You won’t get bored reading this one again and again.

A note  to parents:  some of the sidebars include information about the animal’s bodily functions (a selling point to fourth grade boys :-)).

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Seven Footer Press (April 7, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934734209

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Practically Paradise.