Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Three Cheers: Memorable Nonfiction
I've been trying to think of at least one nonfiction picture book from my childhood, but I haven't been able to come up with one. That doesn't mean they didn't exist, of course, but I can't name a single title. Perhaps the books from my youth were just forgettable, but that is not the case now. With books like Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell, The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton and Tony Persiani, Nic Bishop's animal books, and others, we are seeing nonfiction picture books published that are engaging, visually captivating, and certainly, memorable. Where once they may have been used primarily by teachers as classroom assignments, nonfiction picture books today are read and re-read by children who are fascinated by the stories they tell and the worlds they explore. Here's a look at three recently-published, terrific picture books.
Perfect for preschoolers is Lucky Ducklings: A True Rescue Story by Eva Moore. (While it may be classified as fiction, this book is based on an actual event, so I have taken the liberty of including it in a nonfiction post.) When Mama Duck takes her five ducklings for a walk, the ducklings fall into a storm drain in their path. People in the town come to the rescue and work together to get Mama Duck and her ducklings safely home.
Beautiful illustrations by Nancy Carpenter convey the ducks' personalities in a realistic fashion and are reminiscent of Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings. I read this book to my kindergartner and then immediately, read it again.
Next up is a book for slightly older kids about an invention that most of them have probably never thought of as being invented--basketball. Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball by John Coy is a spirited story that demonstrates creative problem solving at its best.
Illustrations by Joe Morse--done in a palette of maroon, blue, gray, and brown--have a distinctly 19th-century feeling. Angular, contorted figures convey the energy of the boys and the physicality of the games in full-page pictures. As an added bonus, the original typewritten rules are reproduced on the end papers.
Last up is Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel, the story of one woman courageously standing up, speaking out, and influencing thousands.
Melissa Sweet's illustrations incorporate stitching and fabric swatches, reflecting the garment workers' jobs. She does a remarkable job representing the power of the companies and the insignificance of the girls with a dramatic overhead view showing rows of tiny girls at their machines and another picture of the large Triangle Waist Company building, which gives even more weight to Clara's efforts. The opening picture of people looking toward the Statue of Liberty from the ship arriving in New York harbor is echoed in the final picture of Clara looking from the shore toward the same statue, bringing the story of a hopeful girl who finds out America can be unfair, full circle as she regains faith in her new country.
History brought to life with an engaging text and captivating illustrations--this is memorable.