Posts Tagged ‘nonfiction picture books’
There are two facts we know about kids.
- They have lots of questions.
- They love (corny) jokes.
One of the best ways to tap into their natural curiosity and sense of humor is with a book. They may be clever, but with the right book, you can sneak a little bit of learning right past their eagle eyes.
I confess, I am a HUGE Sylvan Dell Publishing fan, and have been for a long time. Their informational picture books consistently offer young audiences quality stories. Each story is built around a practical learning topic, with additional activities in the back that are perfect whether you read the book in school or at home. The fact that you’ll find every title in both English and Spanish shouldn’t be dismissed, either.
This week’s book reviews are a selection of Sylvan Dell Publishing titles that guide kids to discovering answers to their question. These are stories that are more about the show and less about the tell.
Read on BigUniverse.com
Deductive Detective | El detective deductivo
written by Brian Rock; illustrated by Sherry Rogers
Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2013
Book Level: unknown; Audience Level: LG
How can this be? Someone stole Fox’s cake from the Cake Contest … on Owl’s watch, no less. Thirteen bakers and twelve cakes. There’s a thief in the house! Deductive Detective is on the case. He surveys the scene, collecting clues, and shares his process, all while eliminating suspects.
- The story is fast paced. Kids will “quack” up at the clever word play. That said, some of the double entendre may be missed; and some adults may not appreciate the misspellings for effect (e.g., Moose makes a chocolate moose cake).
- Bright, busy illustrations give young listener’s plenty to look at. Some pages are text-heavy, so the quality illustrations will keep their attention.
- In addition to the factual data, each spread includes a subtraction problem … sneaky, sneaky!
- This is a fun story to share and offers opportunities not just for prediction, but as a model on how to solve other problems.
- Highly recommended for school or home. Deductive Detective would make a great gift for an elementary student, paired with a magnifying glass, a small notebook, and a pencil.
Similar to Deductive Detective: Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann, Gobble, Gobble by Cathryn Falwell, and Happy Birthday to Whooo? by Doris Fisher,
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Habitat Spy| Veo, veo un hábitat
written by Cynthia Kieber-King ; illustrated by Christina Wald
Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2011
Book Level 3.7; Audience Level: LG
Visit and explore thirteen habitats, from the arctic to woodland forests above ground, and caves and marine environments below. Each spread asks kids to find natural objects in the imagery. Each habitat is presented with rhyme and action verbs, making it less story and more poetry like.
- Readers use their visual detective skills to find the items described in each poem. Some are easy, like the animals; but others take a little more knowlege, like finding the hemlock in the forest.
- Simple poems and beautiful illustrations make this an excellent selection for developing readers. The text is accessible and the imagery helps them decode words that may be unfamiliar.
- Beyond the natural detective work, there is a broad array of action verbs. This can be useful for helping young writers expand their word bank with more descriptive vocabulary.
- There are four pages of content in the back. The Creative Minds section is always good, but this is one of the best I’ve seen.
- Highly recommended for school, and particularly home. This would be great to read before a trip to the zoo, a hike, or a walk around the neighborhood.
Similar to Habitat Spy: Julie the Rockhound by Gail Langer Karwoski, Deep in the Desert by Rhonda Lucas, Desert Baths by Darcy Pattison, Felina’s New Home: A Florida Panther Story by Loran Wlodarski, and
Posted on November 15, 2012 by Terry Doherty in Reviews.
Tags: Autumn, Big Universe, book review, Charlesbridge, Children's Books for Fall, common core, family literacy, Harvest, nonfiction, nonfiction picture books, Online Children's Books
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I am in a cinnamon-spice-peak-of-autumn kind of mood. When I get in one of those moods, I want a “just so” book to go along with it. In this case, something tasty … smooth like a warm custard pie right out of the oven. So glad I found Pumpkins by Jacqueline Farmer (Charlesbridge Publishing).
In a word: YUM!
Yum because Phyllis Limbacher Tildes’ illustrations are perfect.
Yum because this looks like a picture book but it is pure nonfiction.
And yum because there are great-sounding recipes in the back.
Farmer has packed this slim volume with SO much information. Now I knew that pumpkin is a fruit not a vegetable, but I had no idea that people have found pumpkin seeds that are more than 11,000 years old. Did you know that pumpkin family is one of the Three Sisters of Native American culture? There are lots of cool facts like that (dare I say) scattered throughout the book.
I read a lot of nonfiction and what stood out for me is that the text is informational, just like you’d expect, but the illustrations are more like a picture book. There are no insets to sidetrack distractable readers or listeners; the imagery tell pieces of the story not put into words. For example, the spread on pages 12 and 13 cite the fact that nine out of ten pumpkins are used to make jack o’lanterns. Now look at the illustration.
There are nine carved pumpkins on the right-hand page and one pumpkin pie on the left. Ten pumpkins. Your reader can explore their faces and shapes while you read, and when you’re done you can count them together to do the math. What a great way to help kids see what ‘nine out of ten’ pumpkins looks like.
On page 11, two young students are reading a report about the Pilgrims of Plimouth (sic). Yes, we all know it is “plymouth” but a young reader could probably use the help of the “i” in decoding the word. Massachusetts might LOOK harder, but it is easy to parse. Ply-mouth … not so much. Last but not least, the illustration in the back is a glossary with a translation of “pumpkin” in 12 languages. What a great way to show kids in one image that pumpkin is a universal / global product.
This is a book that covers lots of ground. It can be shared as a picture book, but there is a LOT more
- Social Studies – use the material about Native American and European cultures to talk about traditions (turnip carving anyone?);
- Language Arts / Social Studies – take the jack o’lantern story to talk about folklore and traditions;
- Science / Health – grab a pumpkin and try one (or all) of the activities: carving, roasting seeds, baking and cooking.
This is a book you can get out in the spring when the planting season begins and then pull out in the fall when its time for harvesting.
Before I go though, I do have one lingering question. Why are so many pumpkin-related records in Ohio? The world’s heaviest pumpkin (1,725 pounds) grew in Jackson Township, OH; The world’s largest pumpkin pie (2,020 pounds) was made in New Bremen, OH; and Jerry Ayers of Baltimore, OH carved 2,000 pounds of pumpkins “with detailed designs” in seven hours and 11 minutes.
Hmmm. Think I’ll need a piece of pie to figure that one out. You?
You can read and enjoy Pumpkins by Jacqueline Farmer on BigUniverse.com.
Did you know that we had so many nonfiction books on Big Universe Learning?
To find the nonfiction books on Big Universe, simply go to the reading section of the site and click on the Advanced Search link on the right side of the screen. One of the genres you can select is nonfiction. If you just click there and then press the search button, you will get a list of the nonfiction books. You may want to type in some keywords to help you find what you want before you hit the search button.
I have found that when children and reading and trying to understand nonfiction books, they need to be doing something along with reading to help keep track of all the information.
I think a KWL, KWLH, or even FQR chart might work well ….
According to ReadingQuest Strategies:
What Is K-W-L?.
K-W-L is the creation of Donna Ogle and is a 3-column chart that helps capture the Before, During, and After components of reading a text selection.
- K stands for Know
This is the prior knowledge activation question.
- W stands for Will or Want
What do I think I will learn about this topic?
What do I want to know about this topic?
- L stands for Learned
What have I learned about this topic?
Asking questions can engage and inspire learning! It also provides direction for what you want children to learn from a resource. I have shared a previous post on KWL and FQR charts which may work even better for nonfiction … Facts, Questions, and Responses.
These nonfiction information articles provide a place for guided practice on this type of text as well as what to do when you encounter words that you do not know when you read.
Another idea is for children to create posters/signs/lists online or offline of the interesting information the discover. You could even jigsaw this site by having different groups read each section and then report back to the other about what they learned. This could be a time for students to choose how to represent the information to share it!
Here are a few places you can find nonfiction reading strategies and lessons that could be used with the non-fiction books here on Big Universe:
You never know what you might learn from reading nonfiction!
We are in the midst of helping our fifth grader work through her big Language Arts assignment for the year: nonfiction biography (transitioning to autobiography). She’ll be reading the book and writing the requisite book report, but she’s also going to be creating a timeline of the person’s life, as well as an over-sized personalized 3-D book cover. [I love the creativity of that idea!]
My daughter has chosen a biography of Michael Phelps. She’s a swimmer with big dreams … and so was he. It taps into her personal passion and also is a “recognizable” individual with great kid appeal. In the process of trying to find that “perfect” book (read: the one that the Kiddo would stick with!) I went to my well of biographies that we’d read together previously. Here’s one that I remembered JUST by looking at the cover!
Bethany Hamilton – Follow Your Dreams
Defining Moments Series
by Michael Sandler
Bearport Publishing, 2007
This is a photo-illustrated biography about a teenager overcoming severe trauma.
Whenever she could, Bethany Hamilton went to the beach to surf. Her parents, also surfers, had moved the family to Hawaii because they loved surfing so much. On Halloween morning 2003, Bethany and her friends went out to catch a perfect wave. Instead, a shark caught her and she lost her arm. That hasn’t deterred her and within a few months she was back in the water.
- The cover originally put off my daughter, but after I started reading the story she moved in closer to see and hear everything. She was very impressed by Bethany’s story.
- This is a book to read with your kids at least the first time through. It might not bother a fifth grader, but third graders probably need that shoulder nearby.
- This is an incredibly well written, well presented story for transitional readers. The photography is incredible. The glossary is filled with words that are probably familiar to kids who play sports but they offer tried-and-true definitions that will help them.
- The story will likely give kids pause to think about their life and, hopefully, inspire them to do more.
You can read our full review, with recommendations on ways to use the book for education, at The Reading Tub® .
If it’s not what’s that? or why? its how does that work / happen? Kids have lots of questions!
Even though the questions may get repetitive and monotonous, the best thing we can do is feed that innate curiosity. Nonfiction picture books are a great way to engage learners of all ages. Pictures are a great way to entice those who are not confident readers. Even if there are words they can’t yet decipher, they can glean information from the images.
I have always loved Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books for their ability to reach kids “where they are.” With nonfiction that’s not always easy. Kids have big questions, some of them require pretty sophisticated answers. What Marshall Cavendish shows us in these picture books is that sophisticated doesn’t mean complicated or confusing.
How Do Waves Form?
by Wil Mara
Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2011
Start with wind, add time and distance, and you can create some waves! From the little ripple at your feet to damaging waves in a hurricane, this book answers this age-old question.
- Using a “recipe” analogy brought the concept into our reader’s world and really demonstrated the scalability of a wave.
- The image of the child blowing out the candles gave us a great idea for letting the kids experiment with the elements of a wave.
Eyes Have It
by Melissa Stewart; illustrated by Janet Hamlin
Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2012
Photographs and drawings illustrate this book that has an eye for everything. From the varying shapes and colors of eyes among species of animals to the gross things kids like to think about and do with their eyeballs, this upper-elementary nonfiction picture book has it covered.
- The book grabbed us with the first sentence: Imagine being able to grab one of your eyeball and pop it out of your head. What kid hasn’t thought about that one?
- I personally loved that it extended the science into everyday living … like reminding kids to blink when they overdo it with the computer screen!
- Kids can pick this book up and start at page 28 if they want to. Being able to move back and forth among the topics, without having to go in order, will be very attractive to curious, wandering minds.
Glass (Use It! Reuse It! Series)
by Dana Meachen Rau
Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2012
This Easy Reader chapter book covers everything about glass from the practical to the aesthetic. Readers will learn about the elements that make glass, both in natural and man-made processes; different uses and shapes of glass; and how glass has been used historically, as well as in today’s world.
- There are lots of pictures and inset text boxes that make it easy for young readers to navigate the pages.
- The glossary is helpful, though it would be nice to have some of those definitions closer to the bolded words.
- Readers can easily get a sense of the use of glass over time, offering a history lesson that is “digestible” for this audience.
Posted on September 13, 2012 by Terry Doherty in Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences, Reading Lists.
Tags: book review, Books, humor, Math books for kids, math concepts, Math picture books, nonfiction picture books, read alouds, Standards of Learning, Sylvan Dell Publishing
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I must confess: math is not my strong suit. I am a Word Girl. Still, as we point out to my nearly 11-year-old daughter, math is part of our everyday life. We use it all the time … often without realizing it.
About six years ago, we discovered Sylvan Dell’s series of math-based picture books. The publisher had sent me some titles to review for The Reading Tub, my nonprofit. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. My daughter was in Kindergarten and the concepts offered by One Odd Day, My Even Day, and My Half Day were just what we needed. In fact, she enjoyed them so much she took them to school to share with her classmates. As my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher said “[These books] succeed in getting the kids excited about math. You can’t ask for more than that.”
What began with One Odd Day has now gone on to include picture books that help kids with concepts like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. With the exception of The Great Divide by Suzanne Slade (division) , we have not seen the other titles. Still, I’m betting they are just as wonderful as these three …
One Odd Day
by Doris Fisher and Dani Sneed; illustrated by Karen Lee
Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2006
Is it really possible? This is truly odd! From the numbers on the clock, to the sleeves on his shirt, our young student has a day filled with nothing but odd numbers. Even Princess, his dog, has five legs! This rhyming book helps children learn and distinguish odd numbers.
- The class (25 Kindergarteners) laughed their way through the numbers, pointing out lots of the smaller elements in the illustrations.
- Humorous illustrations and a rhyming story combine to help kids identify odd numbers from 1 to 99. A coloring activity at the back helps them create visual effects of number patterns for themselves.
- “I love these books and I’m going to order them for my classroom.”
- You’ll want to have it at home for several of the early math years, because it will help reinforce learning in a way that makes sense to them.
My Even Day
by Doris Fisher and Dani Sneed; illustrated by Karen Lee
Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2007
What would you do if your mom had two heads and you had two left shoes? How would you handle the class trip to the zoo? Such are the dilemmas our young student faces when he wakes up and realizes that everything in his day is an even number!
- The Kindergarten class (25 kids) had a lot of fun with the story. They liked the silliness of it and there was plenty of laughter.
- We read this with One Odd Day so when we got to the end and our student sees only half his hair, they were ready to read about fractions!
My Half Day
by Doris Fisher and Dani Sneed; illustrated by Karen Le
Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2008
In words and imagery, My Half Day walks children through the portions of life. This is a humorous fantasy that builds learning fractions into the story.
- Our daughter has been waiting anxiously for this book ever since her class read My Even Day. She laughed her way through the book, pointing out the differences, changes, and otherwise funny things (like camp counselors on skates).
- This is fun to read, and the illustrations offer lots of opportunities for exploring (with or without reading the text). It will take a couple more readings before our child gets past the humor of the story and settles in to its lessons.
- For kids who are just learning fractions or are struggling with them, this would be a handy book to have. It’s much more fun than flashcards.
Posted on September 3, 2012 by Terry Doherty in Literacy, Personal Experiences, Reading Lists.
Tags: Books, Children, family literacy, Family Time, Jim Trelease, Literacy, mixed age reading, nonfiction, nonfiction picture books, poetry, Read aloud, read aloud poetry, Reading, The Read Aloud Handbook
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This is an updated version of a post I wrote for the PBS Parents blog Booklights. The original article appeared in August 2010.
As I mentioned last week, reading with your kids – even when there are many years between them – can be enjoyable for everyone to share together. Sometimes it may be about the book, but every time it is an opportunity to connect with your kids and connect them with each other!
With homework looming most days, it can be very hard to find time to be together and remind the kids that reading is for enjoyment, too. Even a ritual like reading a [insert: poem, chapter, picture book, comic strip] at the table one morning or evening a week is great. It is your tradition, so do what works for you!
In The Read Aloud Handbook (now in its Sixth Edition!) Jim Trelease emphasizes that as readers, we have a listening level and a reading level. In Hey! Listen to This! (an article on his website), he re-emphasizes this point.
A consistent mistake made by parents and teachers is the assumption that a child’s listening level is the same as his or her reading level. Until about eighth grade, that is far from true; early primary grade students listen many grades above their reading level. This means that early primary grade students are capable of hearing and understanding stories that are far more complicated than those they can read themselves.
What does that mean? Well, you don’t have to read only picture books with simple messages or text. Young audiences can be enticed to enjoy text-heavy picture books and chapter books alike. There are a number of genres that naturally lend themselves to reading to mixed-age audiences, including …
Nonfiction. More specifically, nonfiction picture books, also called “informational picture books.” One of the best ways to hook kids of any age on reading is to give them some nonfiction books. They may be straight-up factual books, or they may be stories that have lots of facts in them (think: historical fiction for example). The great thing about informational picture books is that they have something for everyone. These are books that invite exploring, so whether you read all of the text or just talk about the illustrations, you’re in for an enjoyable, shared read.
Poetry. Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein write poetry that is meant to be read aloud.
Their poems are very “graphic,” allowing readers to “see” what they describe, and they often have a nonsensical quality that strike kids’ funny bones.
Humor. Despite the dictionary description, defining “funny” is a matter of personal taste. Still, a good laugh is something we all enjoy. As a parent, you understand the types of humor your kids enjoy … and you can decide what types of things you want to share together.
Books with lots of dialogue. “Dialog books” aren’t a specific genre, but a lot of short chapter books use conversation among the characters to tell the story. There are usually only a few characters (often school-aged kids and an adult or two) so it is an opportunity for everyone to take a role and read together.
These are by no means the only genres. On her website, storyteller Mary Hamilton offers a handy checklist that describes reading interests for various ages, from preschool through high school.
When you are selecting a book the whole family can enjoy, what types of books do you pick? If you have a family – or classroom – favorite, be sure to share!
Mom reading with kids: Family Story Minute by Sean Dreilinger on Flicker. Copyright. Some rights reserved.
Collage of nonfiction picture books: University of Maryland News photostream on Flickr. Copyright. Some rights reserved University of Maryland Press Releases.
Bookshelf with poetry books. Thingamababy Awesome Wall photostream on Flickr. Copyright. All rights reserved.
Roscoe Riley by Katherine Applegate. Book cover image by Mr. Biggs photostream on Flickr. Copyright. All rights reserved.
Young children love to learn about the world around them. In the past, nonfiction that was available for young children was less than desirable. Nowadays, there are wonderful nonfiction picture books that serve as fantastic examples for children to learn from as well as enjoy.
So, how should parents and educators go about locating a great nonfiction picture book?
- Look for high quality nonfiction picture books that are visually appealing. Young children tend to be visual learners. Visually appealing nonfiction is engaging to young learners. Look for books that have accurate illustrations and photographs. If it appeals to you, more than likely, it will appeal to your child.
- Is the information in the book accurate? Do the pictures match the facts/text? Look for information about the research process. Was an expert consulted? When reading books that combine nonfiction and fiction (i.e. The Magic School Bus series), use it as an opportunity to help your child understand what is fact and what has been fictionalized and why the author may have chosen to blend the two. Oftentimes, these types of books tend to be confusing and deceiving to children looking for factual information.
- Look for nonfiction picture books that engage the reader through the writing. Good nonfiction books are clear and coherent. Are the ideas ordered logically? Is the writing well organized? Is the language understandable? Does the author provide an engaging lead that draws the reader in? Look for books that present information in creative ways. Notice how vocabulary is introduced and defined.
What other ways might one go about locating great nonfiction picture books? I would love to hear your thoughts!
This post was inspired by: Gill, S.R. (2009). What Teachers Need to Know About the “New” Nonfiction. The Reading Teacher. (63) 4, 260-267.