In celebration of World Elephant Day, Grandma Elephant’s In Charge by Martin Jenkins offers a wonderful look at who is often in charge of a herd. Great information here in part story, part handy informational text box form. The focus on the playfulness and loving interactions among elephants works wonderfully with the illustrations.
non fiction picture book (dewey 599)
2nd grade and up
great for shared reading
Eleanor by Barbara Cooney
One of my favorite picture book biographies about one of my favorite people. Great introduction to Eleanor Roosevelt, specifically her childhood and growing into a confident, influential woman. This is a great mentor text for it’s fabulous opening paragraph and concise, powerful paragraphs. Such a better choice than the standard biography found more easily in the big stores.
Grades 3 and Up
Picture Book Biography
Used successfully with ESL adult learners, too.
Mesmerized. How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled all of France by Mara Rockliff
Mara Rockliff has an easy, enjoyable reading style which manages to include a good dose of history. I particularly like how this picture book biography of Ben Franklin focuses on his use of the scientific method. The author does a great service here by explaining what this is and how Ben actually used it. The story itself is also weird and thus naturally appealing.
Grumpy gripe: I find the constant changes in font very annoying. Many kids can’t read script and struggle to read with confidence when the words aren’t printed clearly. Stick with a basic font; the writing is strong enough to keep the readers interested and the illustrations are also terrific.
Grade 3 and up
Picture book biography
Kid Appeal: 4th grade and up
Always looking for a book that can appeal to a young reader, has a strong writing style, and actually teaches something. This book definitely qualifies.
How did I know about it? I’ve never heard of it before. But I’ve read other books by Dennis Fradin that I liked. I was browsing, saw his name, and pulled it off the shelf immediately.
As a mentor text: The beginning is a straightforward account of the evening the slaves left Kentucky for Ohio. No teaser, no setting the scene, just straight into it. It’s good for the student writer to see that simple can work, too. The ending is effective not so much because of the writing but because of the placement of a photograph of the actual men involved. The townspeople’s pledge is that much more powerful when we can read it and look at them at the same time.
As a teaching tool for discussion: It provides lots of talking points. The Fugitive Slave Act itself which doesn’t come up in most reads, seeing an issue from both sides, the role of community and the more philosophical consideration of “are all laws just?”
Readability: Narrative of a specific moment in history. Story and hourly timeline will keep readers interested. My guess is it will get a good rating even from most kid readers, even those who say they don’t like reading about history.
It shouldn’t be that difficult to find a good book. But when it comes to non fiction for kids, it truly is. I mean, people actually can’t find the books.
They are in the back of the library where no one every seems to browse.
They are relegated to one small shelf in the bookstore which no one seems to notice.
Most recommended reading lists have little, if any, non fiction mentioned. I’ve read a lot of books by educators who teach reading and writing and, still, their non fiction lists are woefully underdeveloped.
This blog is my response to this problem.
Here I will recommend some great non fiction for kids. I will try to give you a non fiction reading list I’ve always wished I could find. I’ve been looking for a while now with no success. I’m ready to build my own.
Please join me.