Category Archives: non-fiction picture book

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 →

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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.

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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 →

Life in the Ocean – Sylvia Earle and a lesson in protecting our earth

ocean coverOur earth’s surface is about 71% water and 29% land, yet much of our seas have barely been explored. Life in the Ocean is the true story of Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer and activist. While the book is about how she fell in love with the sea at an early age, it is also a message that we need to take better care of our oceans.

The start of the book tells of Earle’s early life in New Jersey and her natural curiosity that developed while she was  living on an old farm. Earle investigated the world around her and studied nature and animals. A move to Florida and a pair of swim goggles showed her the amazing life that lived in the ocean and would forever change her life.

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The book then takes a quick turn by briefly describing Earle’s achievements. Between being the only woman doing the kind of research that she was involved in to developing equipment that would allow her to dive deeper in the water, she was obviously an important force in her field. I would have liked to have seen this developed more, but that is where the book becomes less of a biography and more of a book about the ocean and its future. Continue reading →

Standing up for the Statue of Liberty

This week my younger daughter is at a camp where she is getting to do a wide variety of arts and crafts project with the theme – Party in the USA. They are fully involved in celebrating this great country that we live in. So far, her favorite day has been where they focused on the Statue of Liberty. In addition to painting a picture, they created her crown and torch.IMG_0008

Back in April, I wrote about a few books that we had found about the Statue of Liberty after visiting her during our spring break. Now there is a new book coming out this September that takes a very interesting look at Lady Liberty, specifically, her right foot.

right foot cover

In Dave Eggers’ new book, Her Right Foot, readers get the usual history of the great statue – how she was designed and built, why she is green, and what the symbolic significance is behind aspects of her design. But then about half-way through the book, Eggers draws the reader’s attention to a little discussed part of the statue – her feet. Continue reading →

Learning about the Canadian Indian Residential Schools

There are moments in our collective history that we would rather forget happened, but that we must never forget and never allow to happen again. Whether the extermination of Jews in Europe, the internment of Japanese Americans in the United States, the slave trade that took so many people from Africa, or the Indian Residential School program in Canada.Learning about Canadian Residential Institutions

This last item is one that many of us don’t even know existed, but it was a program that attempted to assimilate native children into Euro-Canadian culture for over a century. Indigenous children were taken from their homes, placed into special residential schools, treated poorly, and forbidden to speak their own native language of Cree. In the last twenty years, former students have pressed for recognition and restitution. There are now two books from Second Story Press that deal with this subject, albeit in very different ways. Continue reading →