Odd Bods

Odd Bods
One of my favorite non­fic­tion pic­ture books so far this year is Odd Bods: the World’s Unusu­al Ani­mals by Julie Mur­phy. Here’s a brief description: Long snouts, bright-red lips, pointy heads … the ani­mal king­dom is full of crit­ters with unique fea­tures. Learn about the incred­i­ble adap­ta­tions that help these ani­mals – and their odd bods – sur­vive and thrive all around the globe!
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Nonfiction to the Rescue, Part 2

By featuring both nonfiction and fiction during storytime, you provide children an opportunity to experience the contrast between what is real and what is imaginative. Both are important for a successful reading experience. Here are 18 of my favorite nonfiction books to use in storytime programs.

Ideas and Details

What Do They Do With All That Poo?
When I was doing lots and lots of author vis­its, many schools were focus­ing pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment — and writ­ing instruc­tion — on Six Traits: Voice, Ideas, Pre­sen­ta­tion, Con­ven­tions, Orga­ni­za­tion, Word Choice, and Sen­tence Flu­en­cy. I liked to show ways that I, a pro­fes­sion­al writer, also dance and wres­tle with those traits. In par­tic­u­lar, I liked to focus on ideas and details.
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Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life
One of my favorite STEM-themed pic­ture book biogra­phies is Hedy Lamarr’s Dou­ble Life: Hol­ly­wood Leg­end and Bril­liant Inven­tor by Lau­rie Wall­mark and Katy Wu. Here’s a brief description: To her ador­ing pub­lic, Hedy Lamarr was a glam­orous movie star, wide­ly con­sid­ered the most beau­ti­ful woman in the world. But in pri­vate, she was a bril­liant inventor. Dur­ing World War II, Hedy col­lab­o­rat­ed with anoth­er inven­tor to devel­op an inno­v­a­tive tech­nol­o­gy called fre­quen­cy hop­ping.
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Geography, Part 1

Juanita
Many picture books have anonymous settings, but some include authentic landmarks identifying locations that can be pinpointed on a map. Traveling from west coast to east coast, several Caldecott Award books feature settings in the United States, and we can become armchair travelers through the illustrations.

Nonfiction to the Rescue, Part 1

As a children’s librar­i­an, a pri­ma­ry goal for me is to help chil­dren embrace imag­i­na­tion through books, from imag­in­ing we are super­heroes to going on a hunt to find a bear, fly­ing in the sky, explor­ing a new land, to div­ing deep in the ocean. For some time how­ev­er, includ­ing non­fic­tion titles in my pro­grams has been a top request from par­ents and edu­ca­tors.
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Library Love:
Children’s Author Shares Her Passion for Research

Lady Bird Johnson, That's Who
Author Tracy Nelson Maurer shares, "My heart leapt when I learned that I was old enough for my first library card—the key to that vast kingdom of words. I’ve treasured each library card since then."

Books about the Night

The Tinaja Tonight
Night­time is a mag­i­cal time for kids. It’s a time for explor­ing the night skies. It’s a time for dream­ing cozy dreams.  It’s a time of mis­chief when it comes with the thrill of being allowed to stay up late. Night­time pic­ture books have always had an allure for me because of the top­ics they explore and the amaz­ing and var­ied art by illus­tra­tors chal­lenged with the task of draw­ing the dark.
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Nomad Press

Nomad Press
Andi Diehn (pho­to: Bob Eddy) For teach­ers, par­ents and any­one look­ing for “school-at-home” non­fic­tion books, Nomad Press is an excel­lent resource for activ­i­ty-based non­fic­tion books. With Nomad’s infor­ma­tion­al series, stu­dents not only “read about” impor­tant top­ics of our times but also inves­ti­gate, “ask about” and “do about” these topics. First I tried out sev­er­al of their books. I found excel­lent infor­ma­tion com­bined with engag­ing activ­i­ties and chal­leng­ing ques­tions. 
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Science + History = Whole Picture”

Author Candice Ransom
On my “final” draft of Bones in the White House: Thomas Jefferson’s Mam­moth, I drew a line of lit­tle mastodons troop­ing across the bot­tom of the man­u­script pages. Each ani­mal bore a date that matched a side­bar fact or ref­er­enced the main text. I thought this was a clever way to remind read­ers of the march of time.  The first lit­tle mastodon (or “mam­moth,” as the crea­ture was called in Jefferson’s day) was labeled “700 mil­lion years ago,” the sec­ond “13,000 years ago,” the third “11,000 years ago,” inch­ing along like an Ice Age glac­i­er to the time peri­od of the sto­ry. … more

Dead Ends on the Long Road of Nonfiction Research

Susan Latta
Researching in nonfiction isn’t much different. You run into many dead ends. But the key may be in knowing when to find a different route and when to change up your purpose. Is the story important and viable? Then I believe there are ways to work around those dead ends and get the car moving again.

Ann Angel and Her Reading Team
September 2020

Soar High, Dragonfly
As our Rais­ing Star Read­ers col­umn kicks off anoth­er school year, edu­ca­tors and care­givers both con­tin­ue to face the kind of chal­lenges few of us could have imag­ined last fall. Here, Ann Angel describes how her Read­ing Team is coun­ter­ing the “pan­dem­ic bub­ble” by adding non­fic­tion books to their list of favorite reads:  Hey there, par­ent or grand­par­ent, raise your hand if you’re a pan­dem­ic teacher.… more

Growing a Nonfiction Reader
and Even a Nonfiction Writer

Candice Ransom
It is more impor­tant to pave the way for the child to want to know 
than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assim­i­late
.  —Rachel Car­son One would nev­er guess from the fol­low­ing excerpts that a cer­tain nine-year-old would grow up to write more than 50 non­fic­tion children’s books.  This is from my fourth-grade book­let on Florida: The Cypress swamp is a part of the Everglades.more

What Gets Left Out

Jen Bryant
In my three decades as a pro­fes­sion­al author, I’ve writ­ten about many intrigu­ing, accom­plished peo­ple: the Wyeth fam­i­ly of artists, painter Geor­gia O’Keeffe, abo­li­tion­ist Lucre­tia Mott, author Peter Mark Roget, poets William Car­los Williams and Mar­i­anne Moore, self-taught artist Horace Pip­pin, inven­tor Louis Braille, and most recent­ly Pulitzer Prize-win­ning play­wright August Wil­son. In every case, I’ve focused my research on the words and the work of the sub­ject them­selves and have cre­at­ed what I hope are poet­ic and acces­si­ble books about these impor­tant men and women for young readers.… more

Pterodactyls and Dragons

Candice Ransom
The Boy chiefly dab­bled in nat­ur­al his­to­ry and fairy-tales, and he just took them as they came, in a sand­wichy sort of way, with­out mak­ing any dis­tinc­tions; and real­ly his course of read­ing strikes one as rather sen­si­ble.” The Reluc­tant Dragon Ken­neth Gra­hame wrote “The Reluc­tant Drag­on” as a chap­ter in his book Dream Days, in 1898, ten years before pub­lish­ing The Wind in the Wil­lows.… more

Humanimal

This book is a page-turner in all of the right ways. It's an immensely readable nonfiction book that delivers memorable information. Best of all, I believe it will change hearts and minds about our relationship to animals, a necessary step in our evolution if we're engaged in saving our planet.

What is Research, Really?

Melissa Stewart
From an ELA point of view, “research” is some­thing you do to gath­er infor­ma­tion for a report or project. But if you’re a sci­en­tist, research has a whole dif­fer­ent mean­ing. It’s a way of devel­op­ing a new under­stand­ing of the world and how it works. Every once in a while, my hus­band and I have a con­ver­sa­tion about why two seem­ing­ly dif­fer­ent pur­suits have the same name.… more

Pairing Verse with Nonfiction

Roxane Orgill
Why write non­fic­tion in verse? If you do, is it still non­fic­tion? Good ques­tions in a time when gen­res are expanding. I’ve used verse in two non­fic­tion sto­ries: a pic­ture book, Jazz Day: The Mak­ing of a Famous Pho­to­graph, and a book for ages ten and up, Siege: How Wash­ing­ton Kicked the British out of Boston and Launched a Rev­o­lu­tion (Can­dlewick Press).… more

Five Things I Learned
Writing My First Picture Book Biography

Sarah Aronson
You would think that being friends with Tanya Lee Stone would mean I wrote lots of non­fic­tion. But the truth is, until I decid­ed to try and write a biog­ra­phy of Rube Gold­berg, I stayed far away from this genre. As a read­er, I loved it. As a friend, I learned so much read­ing Tanya’s work — not just about the facts — but about the foun­da­tions of sto­ry­telling.… more

The Writing Process as a Living Story

Melissa Stewart
In some ways, it’s too bad that the cur­ricu­lum in most schools calls for writ­ing per­son­al nar­ra­tives at the begin­ning of the school year because I think stu­dents could learn a lot by craft­ing a per­son­al nar­ra­tive about the process of research­ing, writ­ing, and revis­ing an infor­ma­tion­al writ­ing assignment. What do I mean by that? Well, late­ly, I’ve been think­ing about my non­fic­tion book-mak­ing process as a liv­ing sto­ry.… more

Putting Emotion into Nonfiction Books

Carla Killough McClafferty
Many peo­ple think writ­ing non­fic­tion is just string­ing togeth­er a bunch of ran­dom facts. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. While writ­ing non­fic­tion, I use every sin­gle fic­tion tech­nique a nov­el­ist uses. I feel strong­ly that I need to write my text in a way that will lead my read­ers to invest emo­tion­al­ly with my non­fic­tion text. Real. Raw. Emo­tion. But I don’t tell read­ers what to feel.… more

Skinny Dip with Carla McClafferty

Carla Killough McClafferty
We’re pleased to wel­come author Car­la Kil­lough McClaf­fer­ty to our Skin­ny Dip col­umn. She is known for her fine and care­ful­ly researched non­fic­tion books, such as The Many Faces of George Wash­ing­ton: Remak­ing a Pres­i­den­tial Icon; Some­thing Out of Noth­ing: Marie Curie and Radi­um; Fourth Down and Inch­es: Con­cus­sions and Foot­bal­l’s Make-or-Break Moment and her most recent Buried Lives: The Enslaved Peo­ple of George Wash­ing­ton’s Mount Ver­non.… more

Perfect Pairs

Perfect Pairs
Bookol­o­gy is delight­ed to fea­ture a sam­ple les­son from Per­fect Pairs: Using Fic­tion & Non­fic­tion Pic­ture Books to Teach Life Sci­ence, K‑2 by children’s book author Melis­sa Stew­art and mas­ter edu­ca­tor Nan­cy Ches­ley (Sten­house Pub­lish­ers). When this book (and its com­pan­ion for grades 3 – 5) first came across our desk, we were blown away by its per­cep­tion and use­ful­ness.… more

Perfect Pairs

Perfect Pairs
Bookol­o­gy is delight­ed to fea­ture a sam­ple les­son from Per­fect Pairs: Using Fic­tion & Non­fic­tion Pic­ture Books to Teach Life Sci­ence, K‑2 by children’s book author Melis­sa Stew­art and mas­ter edu­ca­tor Nan­cy Ches­ley (Sten­house Pub­lish­ers). When this book (and its com­pan­ion for grades 3 – 5) first came across our desk, we were blown away by its per­cep­tion and use­ful­ness.… more

Pairing Nonfiction and Fiction

Pamela S. Turner
Non­fic­tion and fic­tion are like peanut but­ter and choco­late. Each excel­lent on its own, but when combined…so sublime. INVITE A DISCUSSION My non­fic­tion account Samu­rai Ris­ing: The Epic Life of Minamo­to Yoshit­sune (2016, grade 6 and up) describes the dra­mat­ic rise and fall of a 12th-cen­tu­ry samu­rai. One of the joys of research­ing the life of this Japan­ese hero was learn­ing about the under­ly­ing polit­i­cal, social and eco­nom­ic cur­rents that result­ed in the 700-year-long rule of the samu­rai.… more

Elements of a Nonfiction Booktalk

Melissa Stewart
Not long ago, I saw this list of rec­om­mend­ed com­po­nents for a booktalk: Title Author Genre Main char­ac­ter Plot bit And boy, did it frost my britches. Why? Because the per­son who wrote it assumed the book­talk­er was rec­om­mend­ing a fic­tion title. What about non­fic­tion? It’s impor­tant to book­talk these titles too because many kids pre­fer nonfiction. So here’s my list of sug­gest­ed com­po­nents for a non­fic­tion booktalk: Title Author Audi­ence Cat­e­go­ry Text struc­ture Writ­ing style Voice choice Con­tent bit And here are a cou­ple of examples: The Great Mon­key Res­cue: Sav­ing the Gold­en Lion Tamarins by San­dra Markle is a spe­cial­ized non­fic­tion title per­fect­ly suit­ed for stu­dents in grades 4 – 7.… more

A World of Cities

A World of Cities
A World of Cities
text by Lily Murray
illus­trat­ed by James Brown
Can­dlewick Stu­dio, 2018
ISBN 978−0−7636−9879−9
Those kids in your life, your school­room, your library who are Fact Hunters? They col­lect facts to savor, share with oth­ers, and build their knowl­edge of the world around them. This is a book for them. Not every child can trav­el to the major cities of the world, but this book will leave an impres­sion, a yearn­ing for exploration.… more

Taking Time for a Close Look

Woodpecker Wham!
Jack­ie: Phyl­lis is on the road with her beau­ti­ful and infor­ma­tive new book Search­ing for Minnesota’s Native Wild­flow­ers. [While Phyl­lis is out of the room, I will say that I love this book. It makes me want to get out and find flow­ers. Iowa has many plants in com­mon with Min­neso­ta and I look for­ward to tromp­ing with Phyl­lis and Kelly.)… more

Swimming in a Sea of Ideas

Aimee Bissonette
Where do suc­cess­ful non­fic­tion writ­ers get their ideas? So many places! The top­ics a non­fic­tion writer can write about are lim­it­less. Sure, some ideas have been writ­ten about before, but non­fic­tion writ­ers take that as a chal­lenge. They ask what unusu­al angle they might take or if there is a dif­fer­ent (or bet­ter) for­mat in which to deliv­er the infor­ma­tion.… more

Summer Reading

When I say “sum­mer read­ing,” you think about … a good nov­el, right? I have a cou­ple of suggestions. Every kid should have these two books tucked in their beach bags, ready for a car trip, or packed for sum­mer camp. Seriously. In between the read­ing out loud of those nov­els you’ve been sav­ing up all year, or the lis­ten­ing to an audio book on the car radio, or the flash­light read­ing in the pitched tent in your back­yard, I hope you will share these books.… more

You Write Books with … Messages?

Elizabeth Verdick
Yes. Yes I do. Sure, I know there’s a whole school of thought that says “shar­ing a mes­sage” in a children’s book is some­thing to avoid. That chil­dren will learn more, feel more, by read­ing books—sto­ries—that evoke an emo­tion­al response and increase empa­thy through strong char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and vivid lan­guage. Yes. Yes that’s true. But.… Some­times chil­dren, and the adults rais­ing and teach­ing them, need straight­for­ward tools that address social and emo­tion­al chal­lenges and mile­stones.… more

Summery

Peter Lourie
A well-known jour­nal­ist in a local bagel joint, after not see­ing me for a few weeks, would always greet me with, “Wel­come back, Pete.” It wasn’t because he knew where I’d been, but he knew I trav­eled a lot to write my children’s adven­ture books. Since I’d seen him last, I’d prob­a­bly been out climb­ing Aztec or Mayan tem­ples, pad­dling a riv­er, accom­pa­ny­ing biol­o­gists study­ing polar bears, whales, or man­a­tees.… more

Sorry — I Mean Structure—Seems To Be the Hardest Word

Susan Latta
There’s an old Elton John song titled, Sor­ry Seems to be the Hard­est Word. Well, I won­der if he’d mind if I changed the title to, Struc­ture Seems to be the Hard­est Word. Struc­ture is a lot like voice; it needs to be present, yet it must be invis­i­ble and unforced. With­out it, the writ­ing may fall down just like a kindergartner’s block tow­er.… more

Re-claiming Women’s History — Still

Karen Blumenthal
At a meet­ing at the Dal­las Pub­lic Library one day, a retired chief exec­u­tive explained to me his vision for a per­ma­nent dis­play on a soon-to-be-ren­o­vat­ed floor hon­or­ing the men who built up the city’s down­town after World War II. I looked at him skep­ti­cal­ly. “What about the women?” There aren’t any,” he snapped back. Of course there were! But because a group of white men con­trolled pol­i­tics in the city for decades, few peo­ple know them.… more

Capers and Cons

Capers and Cons The Player King
When you (or your stu­dents) want a book that keeps you turn­ing the pages for your week­night and week­end read­ing, here are some sug­ges­tions for books with that nim­ble pac­ing and what-are-they-up-to plots. Many of them are just right for mid­dle grade or avid younger-than-that read­ers, with a cou­ple of teen titles added. (And, of course, all are suit­able for read­ing by adults.)
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The Good Thing about Bad Words

Karen Blumenthal
It’s mid-Jan­u­ary, I have this Non­fic­tionary dead­line, and all I can think about is Pres­i­dent Trump’s lat­est vulgarity. His recent word choice about cer­tain coun­tries jumped from my phone like an elec­tri­cal charge, lit­er­al­ly and phys­i­cal­ly jolt­ing me back­wards. For the rest of the day and beyond, my soul hurt and my spir­it sagged. But it was just a word.more

A Science Rookie: Learning to Craft a Science Narrative When
You Know Next to Nothing about Science

Susan Latta
Enter the fresh­man chem­istry tutor dressed in torn jeans and a flan­nel shirt. His job? To get me through entry lev­el chem­istry at Iowa State Uni­ver­si­ty. My first col­lege plan was to major in Hotel and Restau­rant Man­age­ment because my father owned a com­pa­ny that did busi­ness with these types of insti­tu­tions. So, what the heck, I didn’t know what else to study so I declared that my major way back in the fall of 1977.… more

Biography: How to Decide
What Goes into the Soup Pot (and What Doesn’t)

Susan Latta
It is cold up here in the north coun­try, so late­ly my thoughts have turned to cre­at­ing a steam­ing pot of soup. For soup, you have to hit the high­lights; the chick­en, onions, a car­rot or two. If you toss in too many ingre­di­ents, noth­ing will stand out and the result will be a mud­dled mess. You must also have a spe­cial ingre­di­ent.… more

A Picture and a Thousand Words

Karen Blumenthal
As a reporter and edi­tor for decades, I often heard peo­ple accuse my col­leagues and me of “bias,” of hav­ing a par­tic­u­lar slant on a sto­ry — usu­al­ly a point of view that the accuser dis­put­ed. It was a com­mon charge, espe­cial­ly if the issue was controversial. But in truth, reporters are no dif­fer­ent than any­one else. Every­one comes to a sub­ject with some kind of bias. … more