Category Archives: non-fiction picture book

Women in Sports

We talk a lot about allowing children to see themselves in the books that they read. That’s why Multicultural Children’s Book Day was created. There is one area that I don’t see a ton of, but that we slowly see building steam – books that portray women participating in athletics.

Women in Sports(1)

I thought about this concept after checking out a new nonfiction picture book from our local library – Long-Armed Ludy and the First Women’s Olympics. This is an interesting story about Lucile “Ludy” Godbold. She never quite fit in – by the time she went to college in 1917 she was already 6 feet tall and rail thin, but she was always supporting and encouraging those around her. When her track and field coach suggested she try shot put, she found her true calling. It took great amounts of work and determination, but she kept at it. After winning an important track meet she was given a slot on the first Women’s Olympic team (not at the Olympics we know, since women still were not allowed to compete). What stands out is that, just as she had backed all of her teammates, when she couldn’t afford to go to France for the games, the entire school backed her. On August 20, 1922, she became the first female to win the shot put at the Women’s Olympics. This is a story of girl power. It is a story of supporting those around you and believing in yourself. It was a very different time, made evident by the clothing the women wore, but Ludy Godbold loved being an athlete and didn’t let anything stand in her way. (Although I must admit that shot put just makes me think of The Hammer from Matilda) Continue reading →

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Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing

It’s Wednesday which means it is time for the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Alyson Beecher at KidLitFrenzy. I love the idea of trying to focus on at least one nonfiction picture book a week here, though I don’t always manage to stay on focus. But a new year, a new goal, right? For my first real week back at writing here, I decided to share a book that I found about one of my favorite artists, Keith Haring.

boy who just kept drawing

Keith Haring was an artist whose work has always stood out to me. Perhaps it is because I was a child in the 1970s and 80s, but his art is instantly recognizable and was something that seemed to be everywhere during a part of my childhood. When I think of Keith Haring, in addition to seeing his drawings in my head, I think of him as an important part of the AIDS community and all of the world that he managed to do even after he died in 1990. In her book, Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing, Haring’s sister, Kay, shows us a different side of the artist and hopefully will encourage young visionaries and philanthropists alike. Continue reading →

Dorothea Lange – Picture Book Biographies

We have lots of picture books come in and out of our house. My 5th grader still loves to see a new pile from the library and settle in to see what she can experience. Lately, I have been getting a  lot of non-fiction, I just haven’t had a chance to write about them all. But there is something special when a random selection from the library proves meaningful to something she is studying in school.

migrant mother

In one of my recent library trips, I discovered Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression, by Carole Boston Weatherford. I have long been fascinated by the faces that Lange was able to capture with her camera and the way she put such emotion into the reality of the Depression and her role in the Farm Security Administration. Photojournalism has long been a passion of mine, and she is vital in the field.

So I found it comical when my 5th grader came home with an assignment about the Depression that featured Lange’s iconic photograph, Migrant Mother, and she recognized it because she had read this picture book. Continue reading →

Picture Book Biographies of Literary Giants

One of my favorite books when I was younger was Little Women. I still have my beloved copy for my daughters to be able to read. J has read an abridged version, but hasn’t yet delved into the meaty version of the classic yet. So finding a beautiful biography of Louisa May Alcott was like reading about an old friend.

louisaYona Zeldis McDonough’s wonderful book, Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott, is a joy. Louisa’s early life is reminiscent of Little Women, which is not surprising since she based that book on her own experiences. Louisa became who she was due to her parents’ unusual, at the time, beliefs, which are explained fabulously. She had a challenging upbringing and knew that she would find a way to contribute.

I loved reading about how her writing came about and her sheer determination. Her family and experiences shaped who she was and the work that she created. The back of the book also has some great quotes from Louisa May Alcott and samples of her poetry. Continue reading →

Learning about Weather from Bel the Weather Girl

With all of the hurricanes swirling around the east coast, my girls and I were curious about weather, so we of course checked our local library. One series that we found does a really amazing job of taking complex weather systems and breaking them down in a way that any child can understand – Bel the Weather Girl.

bel the weather cover

This creative series was written by Belinda Jensen, a meteorologist based in Minnesota. Believing that knowledge is power, Belinda developed a series of engaging and enlightening presentations that reveal the science behind weather, and discovered, just as she hoped, that children aren’t nearly as frightened when they are informed. We managed to get our hands on 4 of the 6 books in the series. They are a great way to educate children about big weather concepts and hopefully help them have less fears about harsh weather patterns. Continue reading →

The Libraries of Andrew Carnegie

I’m a sucker for a book about a library. So for today’s non-fiction picture book challenge I give you the book The Man Who Loved Libraries: The Story of Andrew Carnegie, written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Katty Maurey.

IMG_0059Larsen gives young readers a very brief introduction to the rags to riches story that was Andrew Carnegie. They quickly learn that he was born in Scotland in a poor family. When things became too difficult in Scotland, they made the journey to America to try their luck. Andrew worked hard always trying to be the best at whatever job he was doing. He became a messenger, taught himself how to operate telegraph equipment, and worked long hours.

He loved to read, but at the time there were no public libraries and books were expensive, so he rarely got the chance. Fortunately for Carnegie, a local businessman in Pittsburgh owned his own library and opened his doors to others on Saturday afternoons. The more Carnegie read, the more he learned. Continue reading →

The Wondrous Non-Fiction of Jason Chin

Back in June, I finally read Jason Chin’s beautiful work Grand Canyon. I was completely blown away by his illustrations and methods used to capture a child’s attention and teach them a wealth of information on the Grand Canyon. When I learned about the other titles he has written, I decided that I had to gather them up to see what there was to learn. Not surprisingly, his other books were just as beautiful and just as important for young researchers, adventurers, explorers, and inquisitive minds.

The Wondrous Non-Fiction of Jason Chin

Island – A Story of the Galápagos is a fascinating look at the evolution of the Galápagos Islands and of the animals who lived there. Chin, in his remarkable way, takes the reader from birth to death of an individual island in a manner that is both entertaining and educational. Continue reading →

Lighter Than Air – Flying High with Sophie Blanchard

 

In 1783, two brothers in Paris flew the first hot air balloon. Sophie Armant Blanchard was 5 years old at the time, but even at that age, she knew that here place was up in the clouds. Matthew Clark Smith and illustrator Matt Tavares tell her story in the beautiful book, Lighter Than Air: Sophie Blanchard, The First Woman Pilot.

sophie 1

As the synopsis says: “Behold the story of Sophie Blanchard, an extraordinary woman who is largely forgotten despite her claim to being the very first female pilot in history. In eighteenth-century France, “balloonomania” has fiercely gripped the nation . . . but all of the pioneering aeronauts are men. The job of shattering that myth falls to a most unlikely figure: a shy girl from a seaside village, entirely devoted to her dream of flight. Sophie is not the first woman to ascend in a balloon, nor the first woman to accompany an aeronaut on a trip, but she will become the first woman to climb to the clouds and steer her own course. The words of Matthew Clark Smith bring Sophie’s story to light after so many years, while Matt Tavares’s atmospheric art and unique perspectives take her to new heights.” Continue reading →

Kate Warne, Pinkerton Detective

I first learned about Kate Warne, the first female detective hired by the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency, in Kate Hannigan’s middle grade novel, The Detective’s Assistant. That was a fun novel based on her life, but now there is an awesome picture book biography that not only talks about Warne’s life, but can get kids excited about detective work and all of the creativity that it entails – Kate Warne, Pinkerton Detective.

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Marissa Moss does an excellent job of looking at how Kate Warne got her job at the Pinkerton Detective Agency and just how unusual that was in 1856. When Kate Warne applied for a job with the Pinkerton Agency, Pinkerton assumed she wanted to cook or clean, but he agreed to try her out as an agent. Assigned to a tough case with high stakes, Warne went undercover and not only found the stolen money, she got almost all of it returned. Continue reading →

Thirsty, Thirsty Elephant

All animals are pretty amazing, but what child hasn’t been fascinated by elephants?  In North Carolina we are fortunate to have one of the largest natural habitat zoos, so watching the elephants roam and frolic is pretty special. The huge animals are pretty awesome to watch, especially if they are coating themselves in dirt or playing with each other.

elephant coverOne thing that we have been told about elephants is that they have amazing memories. In Thirsty, Thirsty Elephant, author Sandra Markle tells us of the true story of an older elephant in Tanzania who helped her herd find water during a drought. As the synopsis explains:

During a drought in Tanzania, Grandma Elephant is in search of water for her herd. Little Calf follows along and mimics her grandmother at each stop on their journey. When Grandma leads them to a watering hole she recalls from years before, the elephants are overjoyed and Little Calf splashes about with her tender leader. Grandma’s persistence and powerful memory is something Little Calf will never forget.

The story is told through the fascinating generational differences between Grandma Elephant and Little Calf. While Grandma leads the herd in search of water, we see how Little Calf hasn’t yet mastered getting water from her trunk to her throat. Unfortunately, the watering hole is being used by a wide variety of animals and soon there is not enough to go around. Continue reading →