Nonfiction Picture Books

There are a number of reasons why nonfiction picture books are becoming more popular. New Common Core standards are creating more demand, which is prompting writers to approach this genre in a more creative way. This is great!

When I was an elementary student, I rarely visited the nonfiction section of the library (perhaps only for history and science reports). But today, the breadth of a nonfiction section (while still not what it could be) is much more exciting. While my daughters (preschool age) are still drawn primarily to the fiction section at the library, I always manage to pull a few nonfiction titles that they enjoy throughout the week.

Here are a several of our favorites:

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

Meet Tony Sarg, the puppeteer who invented the upside-down puppets that made the Macy’s Parade what it is today. Sweet’s colorful sketches and mixed media collages make the book especially appealing to young readers.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein

This is the story of French aerialist Phillipe Petit, who snuck into one of the the World Trade Center towers at night in order to defy authorities and performed high-wire tricks to a stunned and excited audience a quarter mile above the ground the following morning.

Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cordillo

This light-hearted book is a fun introduction to the girl, movie star, and fashion icon.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

This is the unique story of Clara Lemlich, a young immigrant who helped lead the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history. It’s a great reminder of the power of determination and courage.

Locomotive by Brian Floca

An exploration of America’s first railroads and railcars. The illustrations are incredible.

Lastly, the reading specialist in me reminds you that reading children nonfiction from an early age makes them more likely to develop both the interest in and the skills to read nonfiction later in their school age and adult lives.

So visit the nonfiction section of your library, especially the nonfiction picture book section. You may be surprised what you find there.

My Favorites List … Evolving

When I started this blog, I had a 1 -year-old who was just beginning to enjoy picture books. At that time, my favorite picture books were gleaned from books we’d been given, books I remembered enjoying as a child, and books that were popular enough to catch my attention. A lot has changed in the last couple years.

Now I have a 3-year-old and 1-year-old twins. I’ve been scouring other reading blogs, contest lists, publishing house lists, and children’s writer websites to find the best books to read my kids. Every week we leave the library with (and I’m not exaggerating) 30+ picture books. About half of them are ones I’ve read about and am interested in reading and sharing with my girls. The other half are ones my eldest picks up (usually Arthur, Clifford, Little Bear, and an assortment of others that she remembers enjoying or that have covers that catch her eye).

So here is a list of my of new favorite picture books. I hemmed and hawed and cut it down to 20. (And I made it easier on myself by not including ones that are already on my (old) favorites list, which I’ll be updating soon.) They are SO good. Many are new picture books, written in the last several years.

  1. hello! hello!, Matthew Cordell
  2. Interrupting Chicken, David Ezra Stein
  3. The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson
  4. The Curious Garden, Peter Brown
  5. Flotsam, David Weisner
  6. Mostly Monsterly, Tammi Sauer
  7. Boy + Bot, Ame Dyckman
  8. Cock-a-Doodle-Moo, Bernard Most
  9. Stuck, Oliver Jeffers
  10. The Way Back Home, Oliver Jeffers
  11. Rhyming Dust Bunnies, Jan Thomas
  12. It’s a Book!, Lane Smith
  13. Grandpa Green, Lane Smith
  14. The Paper Bag Princess, Robert Munsch
  15. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type, Doreen Cronin
  16. Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs, Ian Whybrow
  17. Harry and the Dinosaurs Say Raahh!, Ian Whybrow
  18. I Want My Hat Back, Jon Klassen
  19. Extra Yarn, Mac Barnett
  20. I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato, Lauren Child

So please make a list and check these out at your local library. Then pop some popcorn after dinner and snuggle up on the couch for better-than-even-a-good-movie time. And then let me know what you think.

And while I’m on the subject of favorites … I was recently looking at an old post – 10 Great Children’s Authors – and find I need to make some additions there, too. Those are all great authors, but there are so many amazing new authors as well. You’re missing out if you haven’t discovered …

  • David Weisner
  • Oliver Jeffers
  • Tammi Sauer
  • David Ezra Stein
  • Ame Dyckman
  • Lane Smith

… just to name a few.

So let this be a reminder to all the parents like me. The books you enjoyed as a kid will likely delight your child too. And the books you and your child happen to grab off the library shelves are wonderful (I hope). But don’t neglect to search out new and exciting picture books in the ever-changing realm of children’s publishing. Discovering great books is worth your time because they are what shape your children’s view of literature and what a great experience reading can be.

Kathleen Pelley and Reading Aloud

I don’t often write a post solely about another blogger’s post, but today that’s what I’m doing. This lovely and amazing post is on author Julie Hedlund’s blog, and includes a great deal of writing and video by author Kathleen Pelley.

Pelley writes about storytelling and the great importance of being a good storyteller when you read books to your child. According to Pelley, a great read aloud includes:

  • rich, lively, and fresh language
  • rhythm and cadence
  • space (by which she means pauses in the story)
  • emotional/universal truth

Her post is sprinkled with great quotes, and she even includes a list of her favorite read alouds! And don’t miss listening to her read aloud with her Scottish accent.

So whether you’re a parent or teacher or just someone to read to kids every once in a while, it’s well worth your while to take her suggestions to heart and nourish your storytelling roots, by


75 Books that Build Character

About a year ago, No Time For Flashcards posted a list – a book list, my favorite! – titled 75 Books That Build Character. These kinds of lists are everywhere, from to countless individual blogs (like this one), but I think this is a better-than-average list, and a good reminder that books have powerful messages. Our kids and students spend hundreds of hours reading, and, during each of those moments, whether we see clear evidence of it or not, they’re learning about how the world works and what kind of people they ought to be in the midst of it.

Here are several favorites from the 75 Books That Build Character list:

Note: For even more book suggestions, browse the comments section of the post, which includes everything from a heated discussion about the merits of Dr. Seuss, Rainbow Fish, and The Giving Tree to additional character-building books such as Ladybug Girl, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, and A Bad Case of Stripes.

“Mighty Girl” Books

I recently stumbled on a website that I love and wanted to share with you. A Mighty Girl is billed as “the world’s largest collection of books, toys, and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls.” I haven’t explored the toy and movie sections much, but I really like the book section. The site is very well-organized, and includes predictable sections such as picture books, classics, graphic novels, humor, realistic fiction, fantasy, multicultural fiction, etc. But it also includes suggestions for read alouds, environmental books, gardening books, social justice issues, and personal development.

One page I especially appreciated was The Ultimate Guide to Independent Princesses, which included books such as The Paper Bag Princess, Don’t Kiss the Frog, Young Guinevere, The Princess Knight, and The Tough Princess. My 3-year-old is already well on her way to developing a fascination with princesses. In our culture, it’s quite impossible to escape the cultural paradigm that little girls should aspire to be like the Disney princesses they see around them (in books, on clothes, on toys, at the mall, on TV, etc.). I hope to balance that cultural message with texts like those above.

A Mighty Girl also includes information about starting a Mighty Girl book club.

Any other mighty girl book suggestions?

Recent Favorites

I’ve missed a few Fridays (just a few!), so I thought I’d post a quick list of some of my recent favorites. These are all picture books, which incorporate about 90% of the reading I do these days. Such is life with a 3-year-old and 1-year-old twins.

hello! hello! by Matthew Cordell

Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman

Crafty Chloe by Kelly DiPucchio

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Pouch! by David Ezra Stein

Harry and the bucketful of dinosaurs

I know my recent posts have been fairly focused on the younger reading crowd. I promise I’ll get back to writing about older readers as well. It’s just that raising a 3-year-old fills my brain with picture books and early literacy ideas, only a small portion of which are popping up here. So, continuing that streak, here are three new favorites:

Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs, but Ian Whybrow. This is such a lovely tale of a boy and a box of dinosaurs that he finds in the attic. Like most good picture books, there are important story details that only appear in the illustrations, so little eyes and brains are constantly making meaning from both the pictures and the words. And the ending is perfect; even the dinosaurs have a say.

The Bee Tree, by Patricia Polacco. This is a rollicking tale of continuously growing group of Jewish neighbors who chase a bee through the countryside to its home where they are sure to find the sweetest honey in all the land. With all the unusual names and places, it’s a joy to read aloud. And the lesson at the end is one my daughter wanted to repeat (and we did), but you’ll have to read it to find out what is learned from the chase. (I also wrote about two of Polacco’s other books, here and here, as well as included her in my list of 10 great children’s authors.)

The Dot, by Peter Reynolds. This is sweet story about a girl who lacks confidence in her art skills until her art teacher points out that even dots can be art. With encouragement from her teacher and practice, practice, practice, she finally puts on her first show, where she meets another child who lacks confidence in his art skills, and pays the lesson forward.