Category Archives: Biography

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2018

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Nonfiction picture books are invaluable read-aloud experiences and provide so many opportunities to link to content learning and inspire deep questions and rich discussions with your students! With 2018 coming to a close, I thought I would highlight my favorite Nonfiction picture books of the past year.  From animals, to insects, health, mapping, land and water, seasonal changes, ecosystems and biographies, there is sure to be a book on this list you can share with your students next term!

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Who Eats Orange? – Dianne White

Lots to love about this colorful, interactive concept book that introduces young children (Pre K- K) to different colors, animals and foods.  Engaging read-aloud filled with guessing-game pattern and rhyming text that students will enjoy, not to mention the stunning illustrations.  Lots of extra information at the back about what exactly the different animals eat and the biome they live in.

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What Do They Do With All That Poo? – Jane Kurtz

You can’t really go wrong with a book about poop in a primary class.  This one is perfect for reading aloud and practicing “The Knew-New” connection activity.  (“I knew this, but this is new to me”) Great information in this book (I learned a lot) and I like the question-answer format:  Why is hyena’s poop white? Do lions hide their poo like domestic cats? What animal has square poo? And of course, what do zoo’s do with all that poo? Sure to be a hit in your classroom!

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Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth – Kate Gardner

This beautiful book which breaks down myths of “scary beasts” with gentle tenderness.  Gorgeous illustrations include subtle shift from black and white depictions of our negative first impressions to full color when we learn the importance about each animal.  Just enough facts for younger students and I love the use of the “one word” activity in this book!

Terrific Tongues! – Maria Gianferari

Who knew that world of animal tongues was so  full of fascinating facts?   Tongues can be like a sword, like a straw, like a mop, and more. The story is carried by a cute monkey who investigates the mechanics of his animal friends’ tongues.  The guessing game format makes this a great read aloud and hard to resist a book that encourages kids to  stick out their tongues in a positive way?!  Love!

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Beavers: The Superpower Field Guide  – Rachel Poliquin

An engaging, entertaining graphic novel nonfiction book for middle grade students.  Love this unique format packed with amazing information as well as great illustrations and text features.  Hilarious and fast paced and I love the “guide book” size.  I look forward to more Superpower Field Guides!  (“Moles” is being released in June!)

Bugs Don’t Hug: Six-Legged Parents and Their Kids – Heather L. Montgomery

How do insect mama’s and papa’s take care of their babies?  Believe it or not, they have more in common to us than you would ever expect!  Such a fun read filled with so many amazing  and surprising insect facts.  Large format and humorous scenes will make this a very popular read-aloud!

Water Land:  Land and Water Forms Around the World – Christy Hale

Creative, clever cut-outs help readers learn about different land and water formations.  Simple, spare text even younger readers will understand.  This would be an excellent anchor book for introducing geographical terms and includes information at the back.  An excellent concept book!  LOVE this one!

The Squirrel’s Busy Year: A First Science Storybook – Martin Jenkins

Readers follow two squirrels as they travel through the changes of the seasons.  This is a simple concept book and would be a good one for teaching changing weather, plants, and animal patterns. There are teaching tips in the front and back of the story and a small index.

Stretch to the Sun: From a Tiny Sprout to the Tallest Tree on Earth – Carrie A. Pearson

There is much to love about this picture book which introduces readers to a a 600 year old Redwood – the tallest known tree on earth.  Through stunning, detailed illustrations and beautifully written sparse text (lots of triple scoop words!) this book takes us on a journey through an old growth forest ecosystem and all inter-conectedness of nature.

See How We Move – Scot Ritchie

I am a fan of Scot Ritchie books so was excited to see his new book about health and well-being.  (His other books on Community BuildingMapping Skills, and Buildings and Structures are well worth having in your library!)  Set within a story of five young multicultural friends who are competing together at a local swim meet, this book introduces young readers to a wealth of healthy habits:  importance of safety equipment (goggles, bike helmets), importance of exercise for your body, warming up before exercising, teamwork, practicing skills, enjoying the exercise, handwashing to stop spread of germs, proper nutrition, interaction of the brain and the body, and visualization.  Several games that kids can play to keep moving are included at the back.  Another MUST HAVE for your classroom or school library!

Mapping Sam – Joyce Hesselberth

Excellent blend of fiction and nonfiction in this one.  Readers follow an adventurous cat named Sam as he journeys and maps his way through the neighbourhood at night.   This would be a great way to introduce different types of maps to young students.  More details about each type of map can be found in the back of the book.

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House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery – Liz Rosenberg

“Anne with an E” is one of my favorite characters from my childhood!   I so enjoyed reading and learning about the fascinating life of the author and creator of the beloved Ann of Green Gables books in this very readable biography.  I learned so much about Maud’s fascinating life, her relationships, her mental illness and her battle to overcome it.  Recommended for older students and I recommend teachers pre-read it for appropriateness if planning to read it out loud.

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Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement – Stephanie Roth Sisson

For those who may not have read Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring (first published in 1962), it was the groundbreaking book which introduced and exposed the impact of pesticides and herbicides on the life cycles of plants and animals. This picture book biography tells the true story of this inspirational environmentalist, leader, activist, scientist, and author Rachel Carson, highlighting and recounting her incredible accomplishments and contributions to science that changed the way the world thinks about our environment.  Timely and a great anchor to any unit on the environment.  Pay close attention to the amazingly detailed illustrations in this one!

The True Tale of a Giantess

The True Tale of a Giantess: The Story of Anna Swan – Anna Renaud

This is a fascinating picture book about one of the “exhibits of curiosities” of P.T. Barnum.  Anna Swan was born in the 1800s in Nova Scotia, and grew up to be extraordinarily tall.  As people whispered and pointed at her, she decided to make the most of her situation.   Well written, simple language, told from the point of view of Anna.  The author does an excellent job of comparing her size to plants and animals.  There are additional facts and real photographs at the back.  I plan to add this title to my “Reading and Thinking Across Canada” unit.

Shaking Things Up – 14 Young Women Who Changed The World – Susan Hood

Amazing collection of tributes to 14 extraordinary rebel girls and women who changed the world.  Written in verse, each poem is paired up with an amazing illustrator.  Uplifting, powerful and inspirational and would certainly lead to further reading.  Reading one per day to a middle grade class would stimulate great discussions, questions, connections and inferences!   (in other words…. a little Reading Power!)

Thanks for stopping by and hope you found a title or two that caught your eye!

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Filed under 2018 releases, Animals, Biography, Ecosystems, environment, Favorite Books of the Year, Health, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Mapping, New Books, Nonfiction, Nonfiction Picture Books

Top 10 Tuesday -Top 10 Nonfiction Picture Books of 2016!

From snow, to frogs; from giant squids to seeds and monsters – 2016 has been an amazing year for new Nonfiction picture books.  Here is a list of my favorite top 10 (well, okay… I’ve gone over a little!) books for sharing and reading aloud to your class.  These books would make excellent additions to your classroom or school library!

Canada – Year By Year – Elizabeth MacLeod

With Canada’s significant birthday coming this spring, this is a perfect book to explore the timeline of Canadian history from its beginning on July 1, 1867 to the upcoming 150th anniversary in 2017. It includes famous people, politics, sports, culture and significant events.  Accessible and interesting.

Best in Snow – April Pulley Sayre

Stunning photographs and simple, poetic text describes the beauty of winter in its various states and the way animals respond to the coldest season. Snow/meteorology facts included in the back. A great read aloud for Pre-k – Grade 2 and excellent anchor for word choice and imagery for Gr. 2-4.

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snow Day – Andrea Davis Pinkney

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney is a wonderful tribute to the author of this iconic book. Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day helped open the door to children’s books being published with diverse main characters. I love learning the “story behind the story” – of how Ezra Jack Keats pinned a series of photographs of an adorable African-American boy to his wall. Twenty years the boy in the photos became “Peter” and inspired him to write his first children’s book. Andrea Davis Pinkney writes with such poetic and lyrical language. Mark this as an anchor book for word choice!

The Darkest Dark  – Chris Hadfield

The Darkest Dark by beloved Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is probably my favorite biography of the year.  Inspired by Chris’s childhood and his dreams of becoming an astronaut and his fear of the dark. So much to love about this book: themes of facing and overcoming your fears, dreaming big, not to mention the extraordinary illustrations by the Fan brothers, the adorable family pug, and the short bio at the back. Delightful!  

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Fabulous Frogs – Martin Jenkins

There are so many kinds of frogs in the world — more than 5,000! — and all of them are fabulous.  Gorgeous illustrations combined with great scientific information makes this a fantastic read-aloud for your primary classroom.  I love Martin Jenkins conversational style of writing and have used his previous books  (Emperor’s Egg and Chameleons Are Cool) for modelling “voice”.

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Fish Flying Frogs and Walking Fish: Leaping Lemurs, Tumbling Toads, Jet-Propelled Jellyfish, and More Surprising Ways That Animals Move   – Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

I am a huge fan of Steve Jenkins books as they make for such engaging read-alouds (perfect for practicing “Knew-New Connections”)  The collage illustrations and the fascinating tid-bits and details about creatures are eye-catching and brain busting!  LOVE!

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Animals By the Numbers – A Book of Animal Infographics – Steve Jenkins

How many species are there across the globe?   How much do all of the insects in the world collectively weigh? How far can animals travel?  This second Steve Jenkins book will appeal to your science buffs and makes for a great WOW read-aloud!  Informative and engaging, this amazing book is chocker-block full of scientific research, Jenkins signature collage illustrations and computer graphics.  Ah-mazing!

Giant Squid – Candace Flemming

Wow!  This book is filled with amazing facts, incredible imagery, and gorgeous, rhythmic text.   This introduction to the mysterious Giant Squid is a perfect book for questioning as it is filled with so many unknowns about these creatures. Incredible!

Metropolis – Benoit Tardif

Benoit Tardif introduces young readers to some of the major cities of the world. Each city contains basic facts (country where located, primary language(s) spoken, population) and then spotlights the city through colorful blocked simple illustrations of landmarks, sports, culture, food, and people.  Will inspire your young geographers!  This is a great anchor book for NF text features.

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Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future – Allan Drummond

This interesting and inspiring nonfiction picture book would be a great starting point for discussions about what “going green” and sustainability mean. Told in a narrative style, this book tells the story of a small Kansas town that decides to build a “green city” after it was devastated by a tornado.

The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less to Eat Around the World – Nancy F. Castaldo

Wow!  Wow! Wow!  This book about the history and future of seeds is fascinating, inspirational and important. I learned so much from it – things about seeds I had never heard of: crop diversity, GMOs, biopiracy, how seed diversity affects the food on your plate, and how to get involved in saving the planet’s seeds.   Important call to action – this book would make an excellent resource for an inquiry into seeds in a middle school or high school.

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Monster Science – Could Monsters Survive (and Thrive!) in the Real World? –  Helaine Becker

A totally unique way of exploring science, this book uses a collection of classic monster examples to cover a wide and fascinating range of real science, mostly relating to anatomy and biology.  Engaging, humorous and fascinating!

The Polar Bear – Jenni Desmond

Oh, this book.  This book is extraordinary in so many ways….stunning illustrations, information presented in such an artistic way…immersion into the world and knowledge of the Polar Bear with a quiet message about climate change.   For those of you who loved Jenni Desmond’s The Blue Whale, this book is a must have.  Amazing facts will fill you and your students with wonder and awe.

           There you have it – my favorite Nonfiction Picture books for 2016.                             

What are your favorites?    

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Filed under Animals, Biography, New Books, Nonfiction, Nonfiction Picture Books, Science

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2014

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Last week, I posted my favorite fiction picture books from the past year.  This week,  I’m excited to share my favorite Nonfiction Books of 2014.  Again, book selection is challenging as there are SO many to chose from.  I have also been taking a rather long break from any form of computer work over the Christmas break so I could focus on family and as a result, my descriptors are relatively short! But here they are…

FAVORITE ANIMAL BOOKS

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Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla – Katherine Applegate

A nonfiction companion to the amazing novel The One and Only Ivan.

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Creature Features – Steve Jenkins

Steve Jenkins is a master at capturing information in a captivating way both visually and descriptively.  In this book, the creatures describe their OWN features!  Great for teaching “voice” and a wonderful writing anchor.

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Animalium – Katie Scott and Jenny Broom

This is an amazing look into the world of animal classification.  Oversized book – wonderful for sharing with students and is made to feel as if you are walking through a museum.  Gorgeous and unique!

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Mama Build a Little Nest – Jennifer Ward and Steve Jenkins

Who knew there was such diversity when it came to nest building?  Fascinating to read and look at!

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The Slug (from the Disgusting Critter Series) – Elise Gravel

What can I say except that kids LOVE this series!  Interesting facts told with humorous illustrations and slap-stick comments.  A MUST for your classroom library!

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Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands  – Katherine Roy

Up-close and personal with the world’s most deadliest shark!  Captivating and surprising!

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A Baby Elephant in the Wild – Caitlin O’Connell

Excellent photographs and informative and interesting text.  Perfect for questioning and a great introduction to narrative nonfiction for younger students.

FAVORITE BIOGRAPHIES

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Nelson Mandela – Kadir Nelson

Every child should know the story of this most important, courageous, inspiring man and what he did to end apartheid.  Amazing story, amazing illustrations, amazing man.

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Shakleton’s Journey – William Grill

Sir Ernest Shacklton’s amazing scientific expedition across the Antarctic.  Stunning pencil crayon illustrations.  A fascinating account of a great adventure.

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Mr. Ferris and His Wheel – Kathryn Gibb Davis

Amazing facts and stunning illustrations describing George Ferris’s remarkable creation.

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The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus – Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet

Stunning illustrations and a fascinating story of Peter Mark Roget – the man who created the thesaurus.  Inspires list making!

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Families Around The World – Margriet Ruurs

Wonderful look at different families: cultures, food, homes, clothing and customs.  Simple and interesting text – perfect for grade 2-3!

FAVORITE CONCEPT BOOKS:

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 IF:  A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers – David J. Smith

Author of If the World Were A Village, David J. Smith, creates a unique book that shrinks down concepts that are hard to wrap your brain around into a familiar and smaller scale.  Perfect book for linking with Math.

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 Tiny Creatures:  The World of Microbes – Nicola Davies

 An accessible introduction to microbes for primary students.  A great NF read aloud that will invite lots of  “oooos” and “aaahs.” LOVE this book!

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Gravity – Jason Chin

Through simple text and stunning illustrations,  Jason Chin explains what gravity does and why it is so important. A complex concept made simple. 

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As an Oak Tree Grows – G. Brian Karas

SOOOO many different teachable layers to this book including history, timelines, and life cycle of trees.  This unique book depicts the life of an oak tree spanning 200 plus years and how the world changes around it as it grows.  A perfect book to teach TRANSFORM. 

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Clever Concept Books – Jane Brocket

Apparently, there are other books in this wonderful series, but these two titles were released this year.  LOVE them for early primary classrooms – perfect link to teaching science concepts.  Simple text and bright, colorful photographs.

FAVORITE POETRY BOOKS:

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Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems – Paul B. Janeczko (editor)

Creating images using only a few words can be challenging but every poem in this collection succeeds in doing so. An lovely collection of short poems – and a perfect illustration to children that sometimes, less is more.

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Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons – Jon J. Muth

Soft watercolor illustrations and a charming panda bear, along with 26 haiku poems to celebrate seasons.  A treasure of a book.

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Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold – Joyce Sidman

I adore Joyce Sidman’s poetry and love how she weaves learning into her poems.  This is a beautiful collection of fascinating poems about how animals stay alive during winter.  LOVE.

And there you have it – my list of favorite Nonfiction Books of the past year.   Thanks for stopping by!  What were some of your favorites?

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Filed under Biography, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Nonfiction

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – Celebrating Picture Book Biographies

 

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

In celebration of Picture Book Month, I am posting some of my favorite picture book biographies!  I love sharing the true stories of extraordinary people with my students.  Gone are the days of boring biographies – these books are beautifully written, exquisitely illustrated and will inform and inspire you!

 

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela – Kadir Nelson

The courageous life of this man is a must share book.  Nelson Mandela – who stood up for his people and over time, won his fight because of his courage and his values.   He was, in my opinion, the bravest man who ever lived.

 

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau

Manfish A Story of Jacques Cousteau – Jennifer Berne

I remember my dad watching amazing Jacques Cousteau documentaries on TV when I was little.  This is a simple and beautifully told story of Jacques Cousteau, famous oceanographer – following his curiosity and infatuation with the sea as a child, to his inventions, his movies, his explorations and finally his conservation efforts.  This book will captivate your students!

 

The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps

The Watcher:  Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps – Jeanette Winter

I am a long-time admirer of Jane Goodall.  This is a wonderful biography about her life’s work observing and protecting the chimpanzees in Africa.  I love how the theme of Jane being a “watcher” is the thread of the story.   Fascinating, intriguing details of her life without being overwhelming.  Jeanette Winter is a master at highlighting the interesting “chapters” of a life story. 

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The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art – Barb Rosenstock.
When young Vasya Kandinsky was a young boy in Russia, his aunt gave him a box of paints.  To Kandinsky’s amazement, when he opened the box, he “heard” the colors!  This is the fascinating story of the world’s first abstract artist  – the boy to whom colors were sounds.
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever
The Tree Lady:  The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever – H. Joseph Hopkins
The important and inspiring story of Katherine Olivia Sessions – the woman who in the 1860’s,  brought lush, green life to the dry desert landscape of San Diego.  I was so captivated by the gorgeous art on this cover – but loved the celebration of nature as well as discovering the life of a person I had never heard of before.
The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse
The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse – Patricia McLachlan
Well you can’t get much better than one of the greatest writers sharing the story of one of the greatest artists! This is a wonderful introduction of the early life of Henri Matisse – where his creative inspiration came from and the influence he had from his parents (his mother painted on dishes and always laid bright, colorful rugs on the floors of their drap cottage in the south of France; his father bought him pigeons) LOVE the title! 
 
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909
Brave Girl:  Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909 – Michelle Markel
A picture book biography about Clara Lemlich, the brave young girl who organized a strike in 1909 to improve working conditions for the young women employed in the garment industry factories. This is an excellent historical non-fiction biography to show children that one brave girl can make a huge  difference. 
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos – Deborah Helligman
And again, I find myself learning about a person I had never heard of before!  This is the extraordinary life story of Paul Erdos – the mathematician. As a child, Paul was fascinated with numbers.  This biography depicts his life as a young child to an old man as he embarks on a mathematics journey,  traveling all over the world and learning as much as he can from other mathematicians.
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Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller – Doreen Rappaport
This is a gorgeous, poetic, beautifully illustrated introduction to the life of Helen Keller.   Exquisite writing, large pictures and beautiful quotes woven throughout the book.  Inspiring.
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
The Right Word – Roget and His Thesaurus – Jen Bryant
I love words and I love this book!  This book tells the story of Dr. Peter Roget, doctor, inventor, scientist, list-maker, and creator of the thesaurus.  It is such an exceptionally beautiful book – both in the way the story is written and the extraordinary illustrations.  A celebration of triple scoop words – this book isn’t just “good” – it’s remarkable, extraordinary, staggering, incredible, stunning, astonishing, marvelous, phenomenal, outstanding and splendid! 
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Malala and Iqbal – two brave children from Pakistan – Jeanette Winter
This latest release by Jeanette Winter is two inspiring stories of brave children woven into one book.   From the front – we read the story of Malala who stood up for her belief that girls should be allowed to attend school; from the back, we read the story of Iqbol – the young boy who, alone, stood up against the inhumane child slavery conditions in the carpet industry.   Both were brave; both were heroes; both were shot. Their stories must be heard.
  Becoming Babe Ruth
Becoming Babe Ruth – Matt Tavaras
This is a wonderful introduction for younger students to the life of Babe Ruth.   I love the simple text and large life-like illustrations.  I knew Babe Ruth as a famous baseball player but didn’t know of his troubled life and how much he had to overcome as a child.  Life is what you make of it is the message behind this inspiring story.
What are YOUR favorite picture book biographies to share with your students?

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Filed under Biography, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Read-Aloud