5 Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2014 #nfpb2014

nonfiction picture book challenge button

I’ve read over 100 nonfiction picture books in 2014, and I’ve given 5 stars to many of them. Nonfiction picture books seem to be consistently the strongest genre I read. Maybe it’s because so much work goes into a nonfiction picture book. Maybe it’s because I have really good book pushers recommending books to me (the regulars at Kid Lit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday feature). Regardless, it’s a daunting task to narrow a list of favorites to just 5 titles when I easily have 20 favorite nonfiction picture books of the year.


But for one of the bookish prompts for A Month of Favorites, I’m selecting just 5.


Josephine, Patricia Hruby Powell’s biography of Josephine Baker, is a tour-de-force. Powell manages to capture in words the rhythm, feel, and style of Josephine’s unique dance, and her narrative conveys the scope of Josephine’s complicated, eventful life. Christian Robinson’s illustrations are magnificent: distinctive, energetic, bold. Such care has been taken with every design feature: the book is a pleasure to look at and hold.

creature features

I probably would have fallen in love with Creature Features from that cover alone, which I think is one of the best of the year. Steve Jenkins’s images inside don’t disappoint either. The text is also clever and engaging: 25 creatures explain why they have developed particular features or color patterns. The book targets very young readers but was just as interesting to the adult readers in my house.

right word

Illustrator Melissa Sweet found the perfect project for her talents in Jen Bryant’s The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. Even as a child, Peter Mark Roget collected words and made lists. It was fitting that he grew up to create the world’s greatest word list, the thesaurus.

parrots over puerto rico

Parrots Over Puerto Rico has another of my favorite book covers: isn’t Susan Roth’s cut paper collage gorgeous? Cindy Trumbore’s story of the near-extinction of the Puerto Rican parrot is a conservation race-against-time page-turner.

noisy paint box

The Noisy Paint Box, Barb Rosenstock’s biography of abstract painter Vasily Kandinsky, follows the artist from childhood to adulthood, tracing the development of his bold, colorful, distinctive style. Kandinsky had synesthesia and heard music when he painted (he also saw colors when he listened to music). Although others tried to get him to conform, Kandinsky ultimately found his own path as a painter. Mary Grandpre’s whimsical illustrations perfectly suit the narrative.

11 responses to “5 Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2014 #nfpb2014”

  1. Who was that composer that you reviewed the children’s bio of? His music was very cacophony-ish, but I was so intrigued by the little book, that I listened to some of his music online. I have not read all the nonfiction picture books that you have reviewed this year (I would love to read the parrot one if you own that one), but I remember the composer book very clearly because of the amazing presentation by the author of what everything/life may/must have sounded like to this man when he was a little boy.
    I really enjoy this regular feature on your blog!

    • That’s Mordecai Gerstein’s What Charlie Heard, and it’s a superb book! If I were doing a list of 10, it would be on it for sure. I will bring the Parrot one home from my office for you. I am so in love with that book.

    • I’ll probably be doing 20-25 titles for my Mock Caldecott in my Children’s Lit class in January. And it will be a challenge to narrow it down to 20-25! So many great PBs this year. Can’t wait to read about your Mock Caldecott!

  2. I still haven’t read Creature Features, & think I might get it for my granddaughter for Christmas. She loves animals. My favorite is The Right Word–I look and look at all that those two have put into the book. I do like the others you share, too, each in its unique beauty. Thanks!

    • I think The Right Word is my favorite of the year as well–and my favorite for the Caldecott. I’m going to be very disappointed if it doesn’t receive at least an honor! Creature Features is a delight, though for a younger audience, I think, than some of his more recent books.

  3. I LOVE Creature Features. Currently reading 2 Jenkins titles in my room – Eye to Eye and Sleep. Kids love his work. I have ordered The Right Word and anxiously await its arrival.

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