Kid Lit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge is one of my favorite reading challenges. So many wonderful nonfiction picture books! Visit Alyson’s blog to learn more and find out what others are reading this week.
My campus library has recently expanded its nonfiction juvenile collection with dozens of Sibert and Orbis Pictus Award and Honor Books. All of the new books are currently on a New Books display shelf, and I nearly get palpitations every time I go to the library and see all of them sitting there, wanting to be checked out and read by me. I want my students to be able to check out these books and read them too, so I’m trying to limit my check-outs to a reasonable number each week, but what I really want to do is gather up about 50 books and take them home.
Steve Jenkins’s Hottest Coldest Highest Deepest is a very short book about extreme places on earth that’s very big on wonder. My jaw dropped multiple times reading this book. Text is minimal, which makes this an excellent choice for very young readers, but the information is so mind-boggling that older readers will be equally engaged. Jenkins’s collage art is always inviting, and each spread features a map, additional information in smaller font, and a fascinating comparative illustration to drive home the information visually. For example, in the first spread about the longest river in the world (the Nile), Jenkins includes an image of the United States with four lines beneath representing the comparative length of each of the world’s four largest rivers. It’s one thing to tell me in the text, as Jenkins does, that the Nile is 4,145 miles long. It’s quite another to show me visually how much longer it is than the US is wide. Jenkins’s infographics using the Empire State Building for comparison are also striking. Seeing the comparative smallness of the Empire State Building in comparison to Angel Falls or Mt Everest helps the brain fully comprehend the scope and size of these natural features. Highly recommended for all classrooms.
David Adler’s picture book biography of swimmer Gertrude Ederle, America’s Champion Swimmer, illustrated by Terry Widener, shares the life of an inspiring athlete who became a competitive swimmer (she won three Olympic gold medals in 1934) and a record-breaking long-distance swimmer (she became the first woman to swim the English Channel). Ederle’s no-nonsense competitive spirit really comes through in this story, and Adler has a strong eye for the telling detail that brings a relationship or situation to life. The main focus of the story is Ederle’s attempt to swim the Channel–unsuccessfully in 1925 and successfully a year later. The swim itself is highly dramatic. There is a note from the author at the end with more details about Ederle’s historic swim and life.
Leda Schubert’s Monsieur Marceau is a picture book biography of famous French mime Marcel Marceau written for younger readers. This is an extremely well-written and engaging life story. What I found most interesting was Schubert’s connection of Marceau’s choice to act without words with his experiences as a Jew during World War II (his father died in a concentration camp.) Marceau joined the French resistance, heroically saved hundreds of Jewish children, and rescued American parachutists. He later explained that those who returned from concentration camps couldn’t talk about their experiences and speculated, “Perhaps that, unconsciously, contributed towards my choice of silence.”
Schubert’s writing is especially strong when she’s describing Marceau on stage. The illustrations by Gerard Dubois effectively convey Marceau’s movement and craft.
My favorite moment, though, is a quote from Marceau:
Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.