A Must-Have Non-Fiction Chapter Book

As an upper elementary school teacher, it’s hard to find interesting and well-written non-fiction texts for kids ages 8-12. Non-fiction books for younger readers are easy to find, with amazing authors like Seymour Simon and Gail Gibbons. For middle-school-aged students, there are plenty of narrative non-fiction chapter books that are engaging. But for the middle-level reader, there seems to be an absence of rich, substantive non-fiction books for them to grow their skills as readers of this genre.

That’s why I get SO very excited when I discover a non-fiction book that is not only interesting and well-written, but perfect for this age group. Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood From Creative Legends is one of these books.

Kid Artists… by David Stabler focuses on the childhoods of the most well-known artists, their lives before they became famous. The reader does not even need to know who the artist is in order to appreciate their experiences growing up. This book humanizes the legends, from Dr. Seuss to Keith Haring.

Each chapter features a different artist and the book is organized into three different sections: Call of the Wild, It’s a Hard-Knock Life, and Practice Makes Perfect.

For example, Georgia O’Keefe’s chapter is in the section Call of the Wild because she grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and drew so much of her inspiration from nature and the world around her. In her childhood, Georgia O’Keefe challenged gender norms, from her favorite pastimes to her preferred clothing. Readers can easily relate to the competitive dynamic among siblings as well as receiving and responding to academic criticism. For Georgia O’Keefe, art became a way of expressing herself and communicating with others.

 

Kids will be delighted to read the chapter about Ted Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss. Ted Geisel grew up near a zoo and he spent a lot of time as a child studying and drawing animals, though his drawings did not resemble the real living ones. His animals were imaginary and wonderful. Word-play was also a big part of his upbringing, which contributed to his interest in language.

When the U.S. went to war with Germany, Ted Geisel became the target of teasing for being a German-American. He stood up to the bullying and became determined to demonstrate his patriotism. Kids will learn about the importance of advocating for social justice and how Ted Geisel’s own experiences with discrimination and intolerance influenced his work as a children’s book creator.

There are so many aspects of Kid Artists that make it a strong non-fiction book. It is ideal in that it is organized into sections and chapters. Kids can examine why the author made the decision to arrange the book this way and how each chapter connects to the greater section. Within each chapter, readers can be challenged to examine the cause and effect relationships, how events or experiences in each artist’s childhood impacted his/her later work. Not to mention, readers do not have to read this book from beginning to end, they can use the table of contents to decide what chapters are interesting to them and read just those sections.

Doogie Horner’s illustrations are peppered throughout each chapter. They support the text, helping the reader envision elements of the text, while adding elements of humor to keep the reader engaged.

*I received a complimentary copy of Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood From Creative Legends in exchange for my honest review.

 

Click here to purchase a copy of this book (affiliate link).

 

 

Books to Give

Thanksgiving weekend is the time I always devote to thinking about holiday gifts for the kids in my life. As I have previously confessed, I am a big fan of gifting books. Not just any books, books that I think will match kids’ interests and personalities. This year I have spent a lot of time perusing the aisles of bookstores to familiarize myself with the newest released books. I am compiling some books that I am planning to give this holiday season.

First up…. Dr. Seuss’ instant classic What Pet Should I Get? for kids ages 3-7.

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A young brother and sister go to a local pet store to pick out a new family pet. Choices include the obvious cat and dog, but are quickly followed by some imaginary creatures. This book follows the familiar Seussian rhyme scheme infused with humor. At the end of the story, they leave with a pet, it just remains a mystery to the reader. A great opportunity for young readers to use their imaginations.

Up next… The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak, a hilarious great for readers ages 5-9.

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Here’s how this book works. The reader of the book has to read the words on the pages exactly as they are written. It quickly unravels into funny noises and silly proclamations that will leave all young readers giggling and begging you to read it again. I read this book to my 4th graders earlier this year for a birthday read aloud, and many of them remarked, “I need to get this book and have my mom/dad read it to me right away!”

And, finally for our non-fiction enthusiasts, I’d recommend Locomotive by Brian Floca, for readers ages 6-11.

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This is a visually stunning book about the Transcontinental Railroad. It is detail rich in the descriptive text and beautiful illustrations. The book takes you on a historical journey from east to west, set in the summer of 1869.

Stay tuned for more recommendations of books to give!