Category Archives: Nonfiction

It’s Monday, What are you reading? – Favorite Books of 2013

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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: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

It’s been an amazing year of books!  So many great books were published this year that have  become “favorites” that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few.  Which books did I hug extra tightly or put under my pillow just to keep them with me a little longer?

Inspired by my friend and book blogger extraordinaire Carrie Gelson,  I have decided to choose 13 books (for 2013) and organize them into categories I read the most of:  picture books, nonfiction books and novels.

Picture books:

1. Journey – Aaron Becker

Mesmerizing watercolor illustrations that take the reader on a journey of adventure, self discovery, courage, hope and unexpected friendship.  This book will likely top many 2013 lists and it certainly tops mine.

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2.  The Man With the Violin – Kathy Stinson

This book, based on a true event, celebrates the power of music and reminds us that in the business of our lives, we need to stop and appreciate the beauty around us.  (also 3 cheers for Canadian authors)

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3. The Day the Crayons Quit – Drew Daywalt

Oh, how I love clever  books!   Oh, how I love a book that makes me laugh out loud and wish I had written it myself!  Oh, how I love a book that I read and immediately start thinking of ways I will be able to use it in my classroom.  This book has all my loves tied up together.

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4. Ben Rides On – Matt Davies

Ben loves his bike.   Ben’s bike is bullied away.  Ben figures out a way to get his bike back.  There is tenderness amidst the lightheartedness and Ben is my hero.

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5. The Dark – Lemony Snicket

 This is the story of how dear Little Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark. My oh my,  there is something magical about this book.  Personification at its best.

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6. Water in the Park – Emily Jenkins

Community, neighborhood, water, time;  From dawn to dusk we witness the comings and goings in a park. Simple. Beautiful.

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7. Silver Buttons – Bob Graham

(or “The Silver Button” )

The celebration of a single moment and all that happens – from one moment in a an apartment room to that same moment all over the world.  Extraordinary.  Brilliant.  Hugging this book.

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8. Hello, My Name is Ruby – Philip C. Stead

I fell in love with Ruby this year.  She is all that represents fearlessness, curiosity, courage, adventure, wisdom all wrapped up in a sweet little bird body who asks questions.  By far my favorite character of 2013.

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9.  The Matchbox Diary – Paul Fleischman

This book is a celebration of memories, keepsakes, treasures, life stories and relationships.  A grandfather opens his matchboxes of memories, his life story and his heart to his granddaughter.   My favorite “connect” book of the year.

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Nonfiction:

10.  The World is Waiting for You – Barbara Kerley

Following your passion amidst all that the world has to offer.  Imaginative and inspiring.

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11. Walk this World – Jenny Broom

A celebration of the everyday similarities and differences that exist between cultures around the world.  A new country on every page – with windows to peek under and many surprises to discover!  Wow!  An adventure from cover to cover!

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

Carpe Diem, seize the day, appreciate the moment, be present, be grateful, give back.  How could anyone NOT want to share this message with children.  Love x a lot for this one.

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12. The Animal Book – Steve Jenkins

Happiness is a new Steve Jenkins book.  Happiness is being amazed by his signature collage illustrations and the intriguing facts he wows us with.  Happiness is adding this book to my Nonfiction Book list for 2013.

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Novels:

The Runaway King – Jennifer A. Nielsen

When a grade 6 boy tears up with joy because his back order Scholastic Book order copy of The Runaway King has just come in – you know it is a great book.  This follow-up is equally as good as the first.  I will get my box of Kleenex ready for the 3rd installment!

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Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library – Chris Grabenstein

Funny, crafty, twists and turns, puzzles and adventures.  Some were less impressed with the “too close for comfort” to legendary Charlie Bucket but both my students and I LOVED it!

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Wake Up Missing – Kate Messner

Concussions, Treatment centers, stolen identities and friendships = fast paced, page turner, grab-the-book -from-your-son’s-room-while-he’s-sleeping-because- you-can’t-wait-to-find-out-what-happens -book!

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The Real Boy – Anne Ursu

A magical  fantasy –  beautiful, enchanting, mysterious, sad, hopeful.  This one ended up under my pillow.

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Well, there are my top books for 2013.  (And for anyone who happened to be counting – I believe I went way over my original “13 picks for 2013” by several titles!)  It was, indeed, a very good year for books!  What books did you celebrate in 2013?

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Filed under It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Nonfiction, Novels, Picture Book

Summer Reading – Day 30! Nonfiction Picture Books!

Well… due to my busy week starting back to school and unpacking boxes of books into our new library, I have missed  Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday by several days.  But I have read a lot of nonfiction in the past few weeks that I would like to share anyways!

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My friend, Carrie Gelson  (There’s A Book for That) posted a wonderful collection in her 10 for 10 post a few weeks ago that focused around the theme of connections across the generations.  I came across this book Grand by  Marla Stewart Konrad in one of my book tubs the other day and thought about how it would be a great book to add to Carrie’s list!  It’s one of several books published by World Vision and celebrates grandparents around the world.  The amazing photographs and simple text  remind me of Barbara Kerley’s books and introduce younger children to themes that show how much we share in common, no matter where we live in the world.  Great for making connections!  The other books in this collection includes Play, Mom and Me and Getting There. 

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Another focus this week, linked to my exploration of different text structures, has led me to a new interest in “Guidebooks” or “Handbooks”.  I think this is a wonderful way of incorporating Social Studies content while teaching different forms of writing.  These “How to” guide books, published by Crabtree, are written in second person and definitely read as “instructions”  but with an almost humorous undertone.  In the Treasure Hunter’s Handbook, readers will learn everything they need to become a pirate – from a pirate wardrobe  to winning a pirate battle,  rules to follow on a pirate ship and how to avoid walking the plank!  The books are filled with great text features and simple text for beginning readers. Similar books include A Roman Soldier’s Handbook,  Knight Survival Guide, Go Greek and Coastal Treasure Hunter.  Intermediate or middle school teachers could use these books as inspiration for having their students create handbooks for any study on ancient civilizations.

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Meghan McCarthy’s Astronaut Handbook is another great example of writing that follows a procedural structure.  Written in second person, this simple book takes the reader through a rigorous training program in astronaut school.  Everything from deciding what kind of astronaut you want to taking a ride on the “Vomit Comit”  where you will learn how to float are included. The illustrations are great and I appreciated the “Fascinating Space Facts” that are included in the back. This book would be a great compliment to a Science unit on Space.  I’m already thinking of ideas for my students to create a “Pioneer Handbook” to end our study of early settlers.  Pages might include: how to dress like a pioneer, tips on building a log house, pioneer food and wagon-ride tips.

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When I was in elementary school, I remember doing a research project on houses around the world.  I remember making a poster for my presentation and researching and drawing examples of different houses.  Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by the subject.  So when I came across If You Lived Here: Houses Around the World by Giles LaRoche in the library, I was immediately drawn to it.  I only wish I had had this book when I was  doing my project!   It is not only interesting, but the layered paper illustrations, reminiscent of Barbara Reid and Steve Jenkins are amazing.  From a village in South Africa to the mountains of Spain, this book will show children not only the different structures of homes, but the reasons behind why they were constructed that way.  I learned a lot of fascinating information about homes around the world and can’t wait to share this book with my students!

And finally, here is a book dedicated to those of us who leave our pumpkins out on their porches a few too many days after Halloween!   Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices by David H. Schwartz is part story-part fact exploration in the stages of decomposition of a pumpkin left outside to rot.  Watch as a jack-o-lantern transforms from a happy holiday porch decoration into a slimy, moldy flattened puddle in 32 pages!  (Makes me wonder why we don’t carve our pumpkins on October 1st and then let them rot for a month.  They’d certainly be a lot more creepy by Halloween!)  A warning that this book is pretty disgusting – and the close-up photographs of the moldy decomposing pumpkin flesh do not leave anything to the imagination!  High on the scale for “gross factor”, I can hear the “Ewwwwww!!!!!!!’s” already!  A great link to science.

So what nonfiction books have you been reading lately?

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Filed under Connect, New Books, Nonfiction, Picture Book, Science, Social Studies

Summer Reading – Day 28! Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday with Linda Glaser

It is Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday and I’m happy to be participating in this weekly celebration of information books.  Today I am highlighting books by Nonfiction author – Linda Glaser.  Her books are  interesting and visually appealing.  I noticed that she has many different illustrators accompanying her different books.  She uses simple text and concepts suitable for a younger audience but also includes a question and answer guide at the end of each book with additional information about her subjects.

Sometimes a search for one book leads to a surprising discovery of another.  Yesterday, while searching for something completely different, I found myself drawn to the cover of a book.  There was something very appealing about the title and the calm, soft greeny-blue hues of the illustration on the cover.  Not a Buzz to Be Found by Linda Glaser begins with a question: Where do insects go in winter?  Now any book that starts with a question has my attention – and this one kept my attention.  The text is simple, the illustrations are beautiful – and I learned how 12 different insects survive the winter. I loved how she included some unusual bugs like Mourning Cloak Butterflies or Common Pondhawk Dragonfly.  My favorite pages showed what was happening under the layers of frozen snow or pond (T-T connection with Kate Messner’s Over and Under the Snow)

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This led me on a search for other books by Linda Glaser.  I discovered that she has written MANY nonfiction books for children, some of which I was already familiar with.  Here are some highlights from her collections.

SEASONS   I have a slight obsession with the changing of the seasons and I’m drawn to any book that highlights this remarkable, natural cycle.
These four books by Linda Glaser describe the characteristics of each season – from the weather, to daily activities, to the changes in nature.  The cut out paper illustrations by Susan Swan are bright and colorful and reminded me a lot of Barbara Reid’s work.

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BACKYARD CRITTERS:

Here are some books from Linda Glaser’s collection on creatures that can be found in and around your back yard.  These books would be wonderful to use in a science lesson and wonderful resources for the “Knew-New Connection”  strategy.

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THE ENVIRONMENT:
Before composting was “hip”, Linda Glaser wrote Compost! Growing Gardens From Your Garbage.  She weaves the reasons for composting through a charming narrative about a girl and her family who use their resources wisely.  In her more recent book, Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow, Linda Glaser asks: What can you do to help the environment? Make less garbage. How can you do that? Compost!  She explains the why’s and how’s of composting as we, once again, follow a family as they create a compost in their back yard.

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Our Big Home is Linda Glaser’s beautifully illustrated poem about the concept of the co-existence of humans with other living things. The sky, sun, moon, rain and air are shared by all the people, plants, and animals on the planet Earth.  This book is a wonderfully simple introduction to ecology and the importance of taking care of the earth.  The illustrations are incredibly detailed – you could spend hours just looking at them!

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I hope you found a few new titles to add to your nonfiction collection and perhaps got to know a new nonfiction author.   For more great Nonfiction lists, check out Kid Lit Frenzy.

NFPB2013leaves

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Summer Reading – Day 24 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! Compare and Contrast!

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday!
As I continue working on the draft of my book, I am finding many new anchor books which model particular nonfiction text structures. Today I’d like to share some of my new discoveries that focus on the structure of compare and contrast. Compare and contrast, as with all nonfiction text structures, has its own unique set of language features that students need to become familiar with. So it’s important to immerse them in books that include this language. Here is a list of some of my new favorite finds!

The Who Would Win? series by Jerry Pallotta is a head to head comparison of two similar animals.  (I had flashes of TV show “The Deadliest Warrior” ).  There are seven books in this series and I think you can order them as a set from Amazon.  Reading level is about grade 3 and these would certainly be perfect for as read-alouds.  Lots of interesting facts leaving the reader to decide for themselves – who would win?

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In another similar series by Isabel Thomas, pairs of similar animals are put up in a head to head battle.   What makes these books appealing is the point system that is included.  Animals receive points for survival skills such as strength, size, hunting ability, and camouflage. At the end of the book, the points are added up to discover the overall winner.   Lots of great predictions could be made and kids could award their own points for animal skills.

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If you prefer to have shorter compare and contrast passages to read and only one book to buy – then you will love What’s the Difference by Judy Diehl.  In it, she compares and contrast 10 animal look-alikes including: crow and raven, alligator and crocodile, wasp and bee, rabbit and hare, donkey and horse.  I like the simplicity of the shorter passages and have used this book many times with children when teaching how to create a Venn diagram. 61WZSAGASKL._SL500_AA300_[1]

While comparing and contrasting animals is great way to introduce the text structure to students, there are many different topics we can use for comparisons.  In Julie Cummin’s book Country Kid, City Kid, she compares the daily life of two children who live in different communities. And while this book may not be classified as nonfiction, I would certainly use it as an anchor book for the compare and contrast text structure.  I like how she begins with the obvious differences but then begins to infer how many similarities these two children actually have. 51QSGDX6H0L._SX260_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_[1]

In a similar way, Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw compares the life of a boy living in America with a boy living in India.  These two boys are pen pals and the story is presented through their post cards and letters to each other.  I really liked how this book compares these boys daily lives through their letters, leaving readers an opportunity to infer.  I also think it would be an excellent anchor book to launch a pen pal project!

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Saving the best for last, The Sun, the Wind and the Rain by Lisa Westburg Peters is one of those lost treasures.  I debated whether to include this book as I do believe it is out of print, but a visit to your local library or used book store might just be the answer.  I LOVE this book!  The cover and title are relatively deceiving but it is one of those books that I want to hug because within the cover, you have so many different teaching opportunities.

This book is a basic introduction to geology and how mountains are formed.  Elizabeth, a small girl, is imitating nature by building a mountain with sand on the beach. It is simple and beautiful in its description of the evolution of a mountain in comparison to a simple activity on a beach.  I can see this book being used to teach land formation, erosion, evolution and how weather combines to create force to change the earth.   In terms of my purpose, it is an excellent example of compare and contrast and in my search for anchor books – I believe I have discovered a hidden treasure!

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I hope you found some new treasures to add to your nonfiction collection! Please let me know if you have come across any great compare and contrast anchor books that I can add to my list!  Happy Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday, everyone!  For more great lists, check out Kid Lit Frenzy.

NFPB2013leaves

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Summer Reading – Day 23 Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – What do you want to be when you grow up?

Barbara Kerley, a photographer for the National Geographic, is one of my favorite nonfiction authors and I’m excited to be highlighting her most recent book today, along with a few of my other favorites, in my Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday post!

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What do you want to be when you grow up?  This is the question that many children are asked but most aren’t able to answer with any definitive response.  In her latest book The World Is Waiting for You, Barbara Kerley poses this question, but then invites children to explore and celebrate the possibilities by considering their talents and interests and linking them up to professions.  For example – jumping in puddles can inspire scuba diving; dirty hands can lead to digging for dinosaur bones; star-gazing can inspire astronauts.  This book includes inspirational quotes centered around the three core principals of National Geographic’s mission:  adventure, exploration and discovery.

What I love about Barbara Kerley’s books is that they are so simple, yet so profound.  I was overcome with inspiration when I read this book – it made me want to weep with gratitude and all I wanted to do was hug Barbara Kerley and thank her for writing it.  I can’t wait to read it to my students and have them explore their own possibilities.

For anyone who may be interested in more Barbara Kerley books – here are some of the others I have in my collection:  A Cool Drink of Water; A Little Peace; You and Me Together – Moms, Dads and Kids Around the World; A Day in the Life. 

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All of her books are filled with gorgeous images – highlighting the diversity of culture, families and daily life from around the world.  She includes a map and location and background of each photograph at the back of each book.  I have used her books so often for many Reading Power lessons (Connect and Transform).  The books are excellent for read-alouds because the photographs are large, colorful and captivating.  There is little text included but the photographs tell far more than words ever could.  Opening one of her books is like taking a trip around the world without having to leave your chair.

I hope you are inspired to include at least one Barbara Kerley book in your Nonfiction Collection!

 

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Summer Reading – Day 20! – Nonfiction Wednesday

I have am happy to be participating my first Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday post!  (I hope I am not breaking any rules if I focus on Nonfiction Poetry) I was first introduced to Marilyn Singer in a Children’s Literature course I was taking at university.  I remember the Professor, Ron Jobe, sharing a new poetry book by Marilyn Singer called “Turtle in July” (published in 1989 – Yikes!  Am I that old?).  He read aloud the title poem and I was fascinated by how she was able to so effortlessly weave factual information into a simple poem. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since.

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Over the last 2 decades, she has written over 30 poetry books (much of which is based on nature), picture books, novels and nonfiction books.  She gained much attention and earned several awards  in 2010 for her remarkable and unique writing of Fairy Tales Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse.  If you have never read this – it is an incredibly clever collections of poems that can be read both forwards and backwards.  Amazing!  Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems, the follow up, was released this past February.

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Now, on to her Nonfiction books…..I am drawn to her poetry collections and nonfiction books that center around nature and animals.  I’m particularly fond of her poetry books Fireflies at Midnight and The Company Of Crows where she writes poems in the voices of different animals (and birds).   I have used both books as anchors in both reading and writing lessons.  In reading, we practice inferring information about the animals from the poems.  In writing,  I have used them as models for writing with voice.  Both books have inspired amazing animal poetry in my classroom over the years.    Students choose an animal, research its habits and behavior, then write a poem in first person, trying to capture both the “voice” and personality of the animal.

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I recently came across her latest poetry collection called A Strange Place to Call Home (published in 2012) In it, she writes poems about the most dangerous habitats on earth and the animals who live there.  The book is illustrated by Caldecott winner and honor recipient Ed Young.  His illustrations are gorgeous and he uses a torn paper  collage style similar to Steve Jenkins.  Singer uses many different poetic forms in the book, including haiku and sonnets,  as she captures 14 relatively unknown creatures and their unusual homes.  (There is information on each creature included at the back of the book)   Through her unique poetic style, Singer is able to capture so many interesting facts, often through sparse text.  Students will be fascinated to learn about these unusual creatures and I could see how this could be used as an excellent “launch” into a research project.     The book could also be a great way to launch a Science Unit on Extreme Environments or how animals adapt to their environment.

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A Strange Place to Call Home

Where it’s dark                                                                                                              Where it’s deep                                                                                                            Where’s it’s stormy                                                                                                       Where it’s steep                                                                                                               Where the rain rarely falls                                                                                                                                      or the water always races                                                                                     They survive                                                                                                                   strive to thrive                                                                                                                  in a world of risky places

– Marilyn Singer

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