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).

 

 

The Trees of the Dancing Goats

Patricia Polacco is a phenomenal author. Her children’s picture books address important issues in a sophisticated way. She crafts strong characters who face real-life problems with courage and integrity. The Trees of the Dancing Goats is no exception.

img_0253

Based on a true childhood memory, Patricia Polacco wrote the story of young Trisha and her family preparing for the eight days of Hanukkah. Everyone is hard at work. Her cherished Babushka makes the candles and potato latkes. Her Grampa is hidden away carving marvelous animals as presents for the kids.

img_0252

Trisha’s mother sends her to the Kremmels’ house for cornmeal and she discovers that the family is quite ill. She learns that scarlet fever is affecting many of the families in the neighborhood. Her own family is one of the few not impacted by the epidemic. They try to continue preparing for the holidays as planned, but it just doesn’t feel right while so many of their friends and neighbors are unwell.

Thinking about the meaning of Hanukkah and the miracle of the light that it celebrates, Trisha’s family decides to make the holidays special for their neighbors as well. Even if they celebrate different ones.

img_0251

They cut down parts of trees to make small Christmas trees and decorate them with their own wooden carvings. Though Trisha is initially sad that she will not be able to enjoy the beautifully carved figures her Grampa made, she knows it’s the right thing to do. They pack baskets with chickens and latkes and her Babushka even puts one homemade Hanukkah candle in each and they deliver them to their ailing neighbors.

The Trees of the Dancing Goats is a fantastic picture book with a powerful message. It teaches the importance of friendship and making personal sacrifices for the happiness of others. It also recognizes one commonality between Hanukkah and Christmas, the coming together of friends and families to celebrate their traditions and histories.

In a classroom setting, this would be a wonderful mentor text for a memoir writing unit.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Trees of the Dancing Goats (affiliate link).

 

Picture Books About Cultivating a Love of Reading

The first picture book I read that was truly a celebration of reading was Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston’s A Child of Books. A young girl and boy embark on a journey to unlock not only the magic of imagination but a love of reading. The illustrations of this beautiful picture book are spectacular! They sprinkle in segments from lullabies, fairy tales and other well known stories. This is a captivating and lovely book.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-9-50-20-am screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-9-50-03-am

Click here to purchase a copy of A Child of Books (affiliate link).

In the past few weeks I’ve discovered two more books about the act of reading Danielle Marcotte’s Mom, Dad, Our Books, and Me and Kyo Maclear’s The Little Good Book*.

img_0261

Mom, Dad, Our Books and Me is perfect for little ones just starting to read, pre-k through first graders. The narrator is a young boy and he describes the different members of his family and how they become completely immersed in the books they read. Everyone around him is reading. (His dog buddy and fish Toto don’t know how to read, and his pet cat Gracie is just too busy.)

img_0259

However, books are not the only things that he sees people reading. His uncle reads a cookbook. His aunt reads her sheet music. And, Madam Dora reads the future!


img_0257

Mom, Dad, Our Books, and Me is the perfect picture book to get young learners excited about reading. It shows not only people of all ages engaged in the act of reading, it shows the different materials that we read in our everyday lives. Books invite readers to embark on many new and exciting adventures, all while connecting them to the people around them. This is a must-have picture book for any home or school library to help build a love of reading from a young age!

img_0260

The Little Good Book by Kyo Maclear is also about developing a love of reading. A boy gets in trouble and is sent to the study to think about his actions. He discovers the good little book which completely transports him to a different time and place.

img_0263

Time passes and the boy does not tire of reading the book. One detail from this book that I love is that it doesn’t change his behavior or transform him into a kid he is not. This book becomes a companion for him. He reads it over and over again until one day he loses it!

img_0262

While he tries desperately to find his good little book, the book finds more than a few new homes and uses. Are the boy and his book ever reunited? It doesn’t really matter you see, because a really good little book will stay with you for life!

The Good Little Book is a great picture book for kids of all ages. The illustrations by Marion Arbona are spectacular and bring Kyo Maclear’s beautifully crafted story to life. In addition to being an ode to reading this book has a wonderful story arc.

As a teacher, The Good Little Book reminds me of the all too often experiences I have with students who “don’t like reading.” I often find myself explaining to young readers that to me that means you just haven’t found the right book. The perfect book, in this case a good little book, has the power to unlock the world of reading for struggling or reluctant readers. I watch it happen every year with at least two kids in each of my classes.

*I received a complimentary copies of Mom, Dad, Our Books, and Me and The Little Good Book in exchange for my honest review.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Good Little Book (affiliate link).

Click here to purchase a copy of Mom, Dad, Our Books, and Me (affiliate link).