Category Archives: Blog Challenge

February 10 for 10! Ten Nonfiction Books I Can’t Live Without!

I’m excited to participate in the first Nonfiction 10 for 10 event celebrating fantastic nonfiction picture books. Thank you to Cathy Mere from Reflect and RefineMandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning  and Julie Balen of Write at the Edge for hosting this.

So what are the 10 nonfiction picture books I cannot live without?   As I did with my 10 for 10 picture book list in the summer, I have decided to organize this list around Nonfiction Reading Power strategies I use for helping students read and understand informational texts.   There are 5 strategies – so I have selected two anchor books for each!   The books I chose are not only my “tried and true” books in my classroom but often books I share with teachers at workshops.   It’s tough to narrow it down – but here we go….

Zooming In – to Nonfiction Text Features

My Map Book

1. My Map Book – Sara Fanelli

This is a wonderful anchor book for teaching students about using nonfiction text features – in particular – mapping and labeling.  I LOVE this book and have used it SO often as an anchor book for many lessons that my cover is nearly falling off!  This book is a collection of child-like drawings of different types of maps:  map of a neighbourhood, map of my bedroom, map of my family, map of my heart (My students make a “Map of my Heart” for Valentines day every year – using this book!)  There are unique maps that can stimulate all sorts of lesson extensions.  A MUST for your nonfiction collection!

Imagine You're a Knight!: Lady Megavere, Lucy D'Ancealot

2.  Imagine You’re A Knight – Lucy and Meg Clibbon

Lucy and Meg Clibbon are sisters from the UK.  They have created a series of books about different people including Knights, Pirates, Astronauts, Princess, Wizards, Mermaids and Ballerinas.  They are incredibly funny and visually appealing andI love how Lucy and Meg use LOTS of nonfiction text features (labels, maps, charts, captions, etc) to represent the information.   While some may consider this style of book to be to be more fiction,  they are excellent examples to show students the use of text features.

Determining Importance

Sorting out main idea from supporting details can be a challenge for students.  When practicing this strategy – I look for books with short, interesting sections I can use for a read-aloud during a guided lesson.  Here are two of my favorites:

How Big Is It?

3. How Big is It?  – Ben Hillman

This appeal of this book are the amazing photographs.  Ben Hillman uses amazing photographic juxtaposition (that was a mouthful!)  to show comparisons of size.  The book is large enough to hold up for students to see the pictures easily.  I love the short informational passage explaining each photograph.  Be prepared for a lot of “Whoa’s!”  and “Wow’s!”

Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth

4. Extreme Animals – The Toughest Creatures on Earth – Nicola Davies

This is another great book for using to practice determining importance.  Nicola Davies has included many interesting facts about animals who need to adapt to survive extreme heat and extreme cold. The unique thing about the book is that from one side, the book is about animals adaptation to extreme cold – flip it over and start from the other side to learn about animals adapting to extreme heat.  As always, I love Nicola Davies use of voice and humor in her writing.  Hilarious illustrations and comic-like animation.  (My favorite page is about “Frogcycles”!)

 Making Connections 

You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, and Kids Around the World

 5. You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, Kids Around the World – Barbara Kerley

I could not have a list of favorite nonfiction books without including a book by Barbara Kerley.  Barbara Kerley is a photographer for National Geographic – so her photography in all of her books is amazing.  In this book, she captures images of the relationship between parent and children from different places in the world.  With very little text, she is able to capture this bond beautifully.  I love to read this book to students and invite them to make connections.  Information about each photograph and where it was taken is included in the back of the book.

The Great Big Book of Families

6. The Great Big Book of Families – Mary Hoffman

Many primary curriculums include a focus on families and communities.   I always tell teachers at my workshops that this book encompasses an entire unit on family, community, school, cultural celebrations – you name it and you will find it in this book!  The book is well laid out and has colorful, interesting illustrations.  I like how Mary Hoffman recognizes different family make ups and adopted children.

Asking Questions

I Wonder

7. I Wonder – Tana Hoban

This simple beginning reader has become one of my favorite anchor books for questioning.  Tana Hoban takes readers on a “wonder walk” outdoors and questions simple things she sees along the way.  “Have you ever wondered how hard it is to spin a web?”  “Look at that tree – there’s moss growing on one side but not the other.  I wonder why?”  Beautiful photographs and clear close ups make this a perfect nonfiction read-aloud.   I like to read this book to my students and then take the on a class on our own “Wonder Walk”.

Why?: The Best Ever Question and Answer Book about Nature, Science and the World around You

8. Why?  The Best Question and Answer book about Science, Nature and the World around You – Catherine Ripley

This book really is the best question and answer book about the world around you!   There are questions and answers about just about everything you can think of:  Kitchen Questions, Bathroom Questions, Farm Questions, Night time Questions.  I like to read one question just before I send my students home as “thinking homework”. Have you ever wondered why some eggs are white and some are brown?    They think about the question and come back to school the next day and share their thinking.  After sharing our “maybe’s” – I read them the answer from the book.  They LOVE it!


It's Our Nature

9. It’s Our Nature – Rebeca Orozo

This delightful book explores the character traits that the animal kingdom shares with humanity — altruism, community, generosity, responsibility, trust, commitment, solidarity, brotherhood and tolerance.  The illustrations are delightful.  I start by listing the character traits from the book and discussing them with the students.  I  then read a description of one of the animal’s behavior and invite the students to infer which trait this animal is demonstrating .

A Strange Place to Call Home: The World's Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals That Call Them Home

   10. A Strange Place to Call Home:  The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals That Call Them Home                         – – Marilyn Singer

The art in this book by Ed Young is amazing.  The poetry, by renowned poet Marilyn Singer, is amazing.  This is a collection of 14 poems, each highlighting  a specific relatively unknown animal who have, against the odds, adapted to their extreme environments.  Students can use the clues in the poems to infer what type of environment they live in and what features they need to survive.  Great additional information included at the back.


Often when teaching students about synthesizing information, or what I refer to as “transformed thinking”, I look for books that provide students with information that can potentially change their thinking in some way.

What Do You Do When Something Wants To Eat You?

11.What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You? – Steve Jenkins

My top nonfiction list would not be complete without a Steve Jenkins book.  While I have and love many, this is one I use most when teaching students about how books can sometimes change our thinking.  In his classic collage illustrations, Jenkins explores the many fascinating and unique ways animals defend themselves against predators.   Many students find new meaning to the expression “run for your life”!

What Does it Mean to Be Present?

12.  What Does it Mean to be Present? – Rana DiOrio

This recently published book has made it’s way to the top of my favorite pile!   Rana DiOrio has created a vibrant, thought-provoking picture book that simply and effectively teaches us to be present, mindful and caring citizens.  When teaching students about books that transform our thinking, I like to write the word “present” on the board and ask students to “take stock of their thinking” before we read.  Most students make connections to birthdays, Christmas, wrapping paper and boxes.  After reading the book – we talk about how our thinking about the word “present” now looks different than before we read the book.

And there you have it!  My top 10 (Ok.. I went over by two!)  Nonfiction Picture Books!  Thanks for reading my post!

Which picture books are on the top of your “can’t live without” pile?


Filed under Blog Challenge, Connect, Infer, Lesson Ideas, NFPB Challenge 2014, Nonfiction, Picture Book, Question, Reading Power, Transform

Sharing the Sunshine!

Some of you may have seen the posts circulating – some call it “homework” some Sharing the sunshine . . . But it basically works like this.

Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
 Share 11 random facts about yourself.
 Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
 List 11 bloggers.  They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
 Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

I am honoured to have been nominated by my dear friend, blog mentor and fellow Vancouver teacher Carrie Gelson who writes the amazing and inspirational blog There’s A Book For That.

So here goes . . .


Eleven facts you might not know about me:

1. I am the mother of two amazing boys – both of whom are now in high school and are taller than me but who still look little when they sleep.

2. I started teaching when I was 21 and I’ve been teaching over 25 years – you do the math!

3. I taught English at a private girls school in Tokyo for three years.

4. I am the author of 3.89 professional books for teachers.  (my 4th book is nearly finished – and I am writing this when I should be working on my revisions)  My books have been translated into French and one is currently being translated into Chinese.

5. Sometimes when I meet people, I see colors around them.  I also sometimes see colors when I hear music – especially the oboe.

6. My father was a high school English teacher and later an elementary principal in Vancouver and was passionate about literature, poetry and all things related to Robbie Burns.  He died on Robbie Burns day when I was 28.  I miss him every day.

7. I am a quote queen and am constantly writing quotes in notebooks.   My latest favorite quote:  “The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso

8.  I bought a kitten at Granville Island Market for 50 cents.  I called him Sumo and he lived until he was 19 years old.  It was the best 50 cents I’ve ever spent.

9. I go to boot camp at 5:45 am 3 times a week at Hillcrest Community center.  I have a small crush on the instructor which makes it easier to get up in the mornings.

10. I sniff new books in book stores when nobody is looking.  Try it sometime.  They smell wonderful.

11. I met my husband at a hockey game.  He took me to a hockey game on one of our first dates.  He still plays hockey on a beer league team called “The Rude Boys”.  (yes, really) Both my boys play hockey.  I spend a great deal of my life in hockey rinks. I wrote two of my books in hockey rinks during warms ups and practices.  One of my sons is a goalie and I usually hide in the hockey rink bathroom when he’s in net and text other hockey moms to find out the score.

My answers to Carrie’s questions:

1. Go anywhere for a weekend – where would it be?  

In winter – skiing at Sun Peaks with my family.  In summer – camping in Manning Park with my family.

2. Who in your family is most like you?

My younger son, Oliver.  I look at him and it’s like looking in a mirror – all my faults and talents staring back at me.

3. What 3 strengths do you have that you would use confidently to describe yourself.

Passionate, compassionate, determined.

4. What is your “successful” dinner – always good and one that you might have made and shared often? (It can even be the only thing you can actually cook)

Pulled pork in my crock pot – turns out perfectly every time and is easy and yummy!  fresh buns, homemade coleslaw and baked beans… and of course some good dark beer to wash it down with!

5. What household task do you always feel behind with? 

Laundry, laundry and more laundry – a constant pile of sorrow

6. What genre do you need to read more?

Science fiction – I am trying.

7. What change would make your current work/job better on a daily basis?

I teach at an amazing school and I love the students and the staff.  So all I can think about is better coffee in the coffee maker.  Kirkland brand does not cut it for me.

8. What do you wish you could be braver about?  

My children growing up.

9. If someone were to describe your personal style, what would they say?

That I don’t have one.  But I love long sweaters, tall boots and lots of silver bangles.

10. What makes a book a 5/5 stars book? 

My heart smiles or gets tight when I read it.  I want to hug it or turn it into pajamas and wear it to bed.  It is something I can’t really identify – it just happens.

11. Fill in the blanks. I spend too much on books but it’s okay because they are my friends.

Here are my 11 questions for my nominees:

1.  What movie have you recently seen that you really enjoyed?

2.  Who is the author you would most like to have coffee with?

3,  What was the name of your favorite childhood toy? (or pet?)

4.  Best way to spend a Saturday morning?

5.  What song reminds you of your high school days ?

6.  What city would you most like to visit?

7.  Last time you laughed out loud was…?

8.  Household appliance you could not live without?

9.  Colleague you admire the most and why?

10.  Favorite season and why?

11.  Finish this sentence:  I am most proud of _____________________________

I am nominating seven bloggers to share some stories and questions.   (It’s supposed to be 11 but I’m breaking the rules!)

1. Holly Mueller – from Reading, Teaching and Learning

2. Jill Claytonfrom The Bird’s Nest

3. Myra GB – from Gathering Books

4. Debbie Alvarez – from The Styling Librarian

5. Jody Holford – from Jody Holford Blog

6.Cynthia Alaniz – from Librarian in Cute Shoes

7. Christina Williams – from Mrs. Williams Reads

8. Tara – from A Teaching Life


Filed under Blog Challenge