Sunday, August 12, 2012

Belated Picture Books 10 For 10

I'm a few days late on this fabulous event, but I'm not going to let that stop me!  Cathy and Mandy host a book event on August 10th in which you choose 10 picture books you can't live without.  Some people choose books to go with a theme or focus, and others just pick picture books they love.  They encourage everyone to put together their list and share them on their blogs and Twitter.  I decided to pick nonfiction picture books that I read and rated 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads in 2012 - they may have been published this year, or I just discovered them this year. I'm going to focus on nonfiction since we all need to increase our nonfiction collections for the Common Core Standards. They are in no particular order.

The Beetle Book1. The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins

Did you know that the leaf beetle produces a substance that is extremely sticky and if an ant tries to eat it, the ant will discover that its jaws are glued together? Did you know the Australian tiger beetle is the fastest runner in the insect world and if a human could run as fast - for her size- she'd be moving as fast as a jet airplane? Did you know the titan beetle's jaws are powerful enough to snap a pencil in half? Did you know if you lined up every kind of plant and animal on Earth, one of every four would be a beetle? AWESOME book with fantastic artwork.

Over and Under the Snow2. Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

This quiet book reminded me of Owl Moon. A girl and her dad go cross country skiing through the woods, and the girl notices all the above-the-snow animals and a flash of a below-the-snow animal. Her dad teaches her about all the things they see. I wanted to be the girl as I read it, especially when they end up at a bonfire with hot cocoa, hot dogs, and marshmallows. I love that her mom joins them there. I'd use this book for mood/tone, figurative language, setting, nonfiction facts about animals in winter, and for writing - purposeful sentence fragments, various fonts, and the use of dashes and ellipses. Lots here in this beautiful book! It also inspired me to read Time to Sleep from the bibliography at the end.

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature      3. Swirl by Swirl by Joyce Sidman

This is a beautiful, intriguing book about swirls found in animals and plants and how they're snuggling, growing, strong, clinging, bold, and clever. Good information at the end.  This book has many math and science connections.

The Elephant Scientist (Scientists in the Field series)     4. The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O'Connell and Donna M. Jackson

This book contains a wealth of information about elephants. I like the fact that it was written because of a problem Caitlin O'Connell was hired to solve. It's a great text to have in the gifted classroom because O'Connell is a terrific role model for girls with curious, scientific minds. Amazing photographs! I would love to gather up elephant books for a unit because they are just fascinating and appealing animals.  I just finished the fictional middle grade novel Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, and she began each chapter with an elephant fact that tied into the main idea of that chapter.  One chapter began with a quote from The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, which made me think there are wonderful fictional books about elephants out there. You could ladder The Elephant Scientist with the new and already beloved book, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  Other titles include Chained by Lynne Kelly, A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata, and An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo.  If you are a high school teacher, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen would have to be on your list.

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade   5. Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

I loved this one! This is the story of Tony Sarg, the inventor of the Macy's parade puppets/balloons. The illustrations are whimsical and fascinating, and I love the problem-solving process Sarg went through to figure out how to make the puppets/balloons in the parade. Great stuff! I think kids would love this book and be inspired to figure out how things work and make their passions a job! I can't wait to share this book with my 4th graders this year!

Can We Save the Tiger?   6.  Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins

Gorgeous book with lots of good information about animals that are extinct, are in danger of extinction, or have been brought back from near extinction. I want to read Kakapo Rescue by Sy Montgomery next, a book I bought awhile ago, but haven't read yet. The Kakapo parrot is mentioned in Can We Save the Tiger? so now it's time to read it!

The Children of Alcatraz: Growing Up on the Rock   7.  Children of Alcatraz byClaire Rudolf Murphy

I think Alcatraz is fascinating, and kids will love looking at all the photographs, maps, mug shots, newspaper articles, and other primary sources in this book. Anecdotes about growing up on Alcatraz and the different uses of the island, such as Native American protests, add to the appeal. Great accompaniment to Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.

Just a Second   8.  Just a Second by Steve Jenkins

I loved this book on time and what happens in each a second, an hour, a day, etc.  Some of the facts and figures are mind-boggling.  This book could inspire a thematic unit on time.

Curious Critters   9.  Curious Critters by David Fitzsimmons

I love the photographs in this book about interesting animals. Each animal has a few facts written beside it from its point of view. Some fun writing techniques could be shared with kids like playing with homophones, onomatopoeia, punctuation, text shape and size, etc. At the end, there are more facts about each critter, a life-size silhouette guessing game, extra challenges, and a website.

Time to Sleep   10.  Time to Sleep by Steve Jenkins

I read this book after Over and Under the Snow. There are amazing facts about how animals sleep in this little book. Kids would love it, and there is a lot more information in the back on each animal featured.

I can think of a hundred ways to list 10 picture books I love, but this list will have to do for now.


  1. Thank you for joining us for this year's event. I love the book Over and Under the Snow. I love the title Curious Critters and must check this out.

  2. I like that you included several Steve Jenkins books. I'm a big fan of his work. Great list. And - I'll be looking for a couple of your recommendations -- The Children of Alcatraz and Curious critters. Kakapo Rescue is a fascinating book I blogged about last summer, I think. You won't be disappointed.
    Apples with Many Seeds