Friday, August 10, 2012

10 for 10 - Great New Nonfiction Picture Books

I will be honest; up until a week ago, I hadn't thought much about this challenge since life had gotten so busy.  But then, I made a trip to Cover to Cover last Friday, and all of that changed.  When I was there, I found several amazing new nonfiction books that I'm thrilled to add to my classroom library.  I will be starting the year with a nonfiction study, and will be weaving nonfiction in throughout the year.  Finding these books just added to my already strong nonfiction mentor text collection.  I knew I had my pile of 10 For 10!

As usual, I play a little loose with my format toward the end of the list, but I'm pretty sure I can justify why I will call them picture books, so just bear with me. :)

Anyway, with no further ado, here is my 2012 10 For 10 Picture Book list:

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer -- I was a huge fan of Energy Island, which is another book that dealt with an entire island embracing the idea of harnessing the wind for energy use.  So when I saw this book, I had to have it.  What makes this story even more powerful is that a child is the hero here.  And the pictures by Elizabeth Zunon are stunning.  Great find!

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan -- This book belongs in my nonfiction library because it's so beautiful, and shares with me a culture I knew very little about.  However, I need to know; several of my students the past few years are Muslim, and I've never really had a book in our library that honored their culture.  It will be a great conversational starter as we look at many cultures throughout our school this year.

Bug Off! Creepy, Crawly Poems by Jane Yolen -- I love the format of this book; it reminds me of The Dark Emperor.  There is a poem on each page about a specific bug, but it is followed by a "typical" nonfiction paragraph that gives us even more information.  For kids who love bugs this is a great find.  For a writing mentor, it is even a better find!  And the photographs by Jason Stemple are amazing.

Penguins: Meet the Heroes of a Frozen World -- this book comes from the Scholastic "Discover More" series; I will most definitely be looking for more of these books.  In a time where our students need to negotiate and make sense of nonfiction, this book will be a great addition to our classroom library.  Each page has different nonfiction characteristics, so the learning about how to find information and read more deeply about the topic of penguins would be great mini-lesson material.  Again, the photographs used will make the reader happy.

Animal Eyes by Beth Fielding -- Once again, the photographs really are the highlight of the book.  The author was able to get amazing close-ups of a variety of animals - I was totally enthralled as I looked at all the eyes.  The nonfiction text that accompanies the photographs is just icing on the cake - great descriptions of how the animals' eyes are used.  This would be a great mentor text for anyone writing research and having a difficult time getting a narrow enough focus - an entire book just about eyes!

Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives by Gene Barretta -- What a wonderful book!  I knew Thomas Edison was much more than just the inventor of lightbulbs, but I'm not sure I realized just HOW much more.  This book has a user-friendly layout -- for every 2-page layout, on the left side it shows something we use in present day, and on the right hand side, the author details in accessible language how they looked in Edison's Lab.  The book doesn't focus at all on the man, but more his contributions to our everyday life.

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies -- This book was actually recommended to me by Katie from Creative Literacy.  This is a thicker book than your average picture book, but still easy to access.  The author has divided the books into seasons, and has written gorgeous poems that reflect that time of year.  But the poems are far more than just beautiful words; they also inform.  The illustrations by Mark Hearld are a perfect accompaniment.

**My last 3 entries break the rules somewhat since two of them are graphic novels.  But I'm including them here because the pictures in each help the reader understand the text.  Like I said, I played a little loose with the guidelines. :) **

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert -- I think biographies can sometimes be cumbersome for students, so I've always enjoyed picture book biographies and have many in my classroom library.  But the next two graphic novels take it a step further; by looking at and thinking about the story one frame at a time, students will glean much more information from this sort of biography. Both this book and the next one were published by The Center for Cartoon Studies.  Not only does this graphic novel do a great job making this story accessible to children, but for those who want even more details, they have included panel discussions in the back of the book that shed even more light on certain situations.

Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean by Sarah Stewart Taylor and Ben Towle -- I loved last year's Amelia Lost, and thought it was an amazing example of nonfiction, but I never really thought my 5th graders would love it as much as me, and that seemed to be the case.  However, I predict that this graphic novel of Amelia's life will get far more attention.   Artistically, the illustrators stuck to a pretty monochromatic pallette of blue, black, and white, so there's not a lot of color popping off each page.  But it still draws the eye in, and allows the reader to really focus on the combination of words and pictures.  I really plan on getting even more of the biographies from the Center for Cartoon Studies!

Edgar Allen Poe's Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems by J. Patrick Lewis -- I am a huge fan of the very prolific J. Patrick Lewis so when I saw this book at Cover to Cover, I needed to have it.  I think Lewis is amazing when it comes to sharing information through poetry.  He doesn't disappoint here -- I don't usually buy math books, but this is one students will want to curl up with as they try to figure out the different number puzzles.

So there you have it, my 2012 10 For 10.  Thanks so much to Cathy and Mandy for hosting this event; I look forward to reading all the unique ways other folks have grouped their picture books.  Happy picture book reading to all!!


  1. Oh my, Karen, you found so many wonderful books! I love that authors are doing such good biographies within the picture book format. The idea of learning about an inspirational figure in our history for our youngest students is terrific. Thanks for sharing every one of these, although I hope I can take some time and not run out to buy every one. I think we have the longer Boy Who Harnessed The Wind in our school library, & I really want to get both poetry books. The Muslim book is a good addition, happy to know about it. Thank you again.

  2. What a great list of non-fiction books. Most are new to me although I know the authors. I will be adding several to my n-f list.

  3. LOVELOVELOVE the NF/Poetry slant of your list! Great picks!!

  4. I love your selection of nonfiction titles. Thanks for your recommendations especially Golden Domes, Silver Lanterns and Edgar Allen Poe's Pie. Great additions for the Doucette Library for student teachers.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  5. I love your twist to the list and then bending your list to fit books you want to share. Thanks for joining us.

  6. Great list of nonfiction titles! Thanks for sharing.