As I receive and read picture books, I put aside books that I hope to get to write a post about; however, my pile has gotten so big because of all of the amazing books coming out, that I cannot give them each their own post. So every once in a while I do a picture book round up, and today I am happy to share some of my recent favorite nonfiction reads (Friday I will share fiction titles). Please know that putting these in a round-up does not lower their value! They are all ones that I recommend and loved!
Cute as an Axolotl: Discovering the World’s Most Adorable Animals
Author: Jess Keating
Illustrator: David DeGrand
Published August 28th, 2018 by Alfred A. Knopf for Young Readers
Summary: “Cats of Instagram” meets National Geographic in this hilarious picture book about nature’s cutest weirdos from the author of Pink Is for Blobfish!
The Internet pretty much runs on cute animal photos, but “cute” is so much more than clickbait kittens and insta-pups. Cute is for feathery-gilled axolotls (pronounced: ax-uh-LOT-ulz), shy pygmy hippos, poisonous blue dragons, and armored pangolins. All of these animals are cute, but they’ve also adapted remarkable ways to survive in their unique environments.
With her signature blend of humor and zoological know-how, Pink Is for Blobfish author Jess Keating shows how cute animals can be more than just a pretty face in this latest installment of the World of Weird Animals.
My Thoughts: I love how Jess Keating finds a topic like bright colors or cuteness then shares some of the weirdest and most wonderful creatures, but she doesn’t stop at just that, she includes tons of information about the animals accompanied by a beautiful photograph and fun facts and illustrations. Keating is quickly becoming one of my favorite animal nonfiction picture book authors.
Dinosaurs: A Shine-A-Light Book
Author: Sara Hurst
Illustrator: Lucy Cripps
Published 2018 by Kane Miller Books
Summary: Explore a world that existed millions of years before people lived on the Earth, when extraordinary animals roamed the land. From the fierce Tyrannosaurus rex to the birdlike Compsognathus, the hidden wonders of the dinosaur world are revealed.
My Thoughts: Shine-a-Light books take a topic that is already interesting and adds an interactive aspect to the book. Every book from this series has been a book that Trent loves, and this one is no exception. Each page shares information about different dinosaurs and some of the animals that lives with dinosaurs. I really liked that the authors didn’t dumb down the book, including scientific names and information. All with things hidden behind the page that can only seen when you shine a light.
A Bunch of Punctuation
Poems Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrator: Serge Bloch
Published August 7th, 2018 by Wordsong
Summary: Selected by noted anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins, this collection of all-new poems is written from the points of view of personality-filled punctuation marks, and is a memorable introduction to grammar for children ages 7-12.
In this land of punctuation, the exclamation mark is a superhero who tells a story chock-full of bops and bams, the comma lets you pause to enjoy the weather, and the period is where you must come to a full stop–or else the Grammar Police will get you. With humor and imagination, A Bunch of Punctuation makes it easy to remember the jobs of the various punctuation marks. Award-winning poet and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins has compiled a unique collection of poems featuring brand-new works by well-known poets, accompanied by inventive artwork by illustrator Serge Bloch.
My Thoughts: Lee Bennett Hopkins poetry anthologies always exceed my expectations which is impressive since the bar is higher and higher each time I read one. And this one is about punctuation, and it is still so well done! I, personally, am so excited to use these poems when I do my grammar & punctuation unit with my journalism class–it’ll add a little bit of humor and poetry to the unit.
P is for Pterodactyl*
*The Word Alphabet Book Ever**
**All the letters that misbehave and make words nearly impossible to pronounce
Authors: Raj Haldar & Chris Carpenter
Illustrator: Maria Beddia
Publication Date: November 6th, 2018 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Summary: From wacky words to peculiar pronunciations, get kids excited about language with this unconventional alphabet book from Raj Haldar (aka Lushlife).
Turning the traditional idea of an alphabet book on its head, P is for Pterodactyl is perfect for anyone who has ever been stumped by silent letters or confused by absurd homophones. This whimsical, unique book takes silent letter entries like “K is for Knight” a step further with “The noble knight’s knife nicked the knave’s knee.” Lively illustrations provide context clues, and alliterative words help readers navigate text like “a bright white gnat is gnawing on my gnocchi” with ease. Everyone from early learners to grown-up grammarians will love this wacky book where “A is for Aisle” but “Y is definitely not for Why.”
My Thoughts: This book probably cracked me up more than it should have! I immediately started reading it out loud to my family because it is just so good! I always talk about what a complicated language English is, and I remind my students learning English of the same thing, and this book literally illustrates this. With words like knot, ewe, you, and mnemonic, this is an alphabet book that is different than others out there.
Turning Pages: My Life Story
Author: Sonia Sotomayor
Illustrator: Lulu Delacre
Publication Date: September 4th, 2018 by Philomel
Summary: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor tells her own story for young readers for the very first time!
As the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor has inspired young people around the world to reach for their dreams. But what inspired her? For young Sonia, the answer was books! They were her mirrors, her maps, her friends, and her teachers. They helped her to connect with her family in New York and in Puerto Rico, to deal with her diabetes diagnosis, to cope with her father’s death, to uncover the secrets of the world, and to dream of a future for herself in which anything was possible.
In Turning Pages, Justice Sotomayor shares that love of books with a new generation of readers, and inspires them to read and puzzle and dream for themselves. Accompanied by Lulu Delacre’s vibrant art, this story of the Justice’s life shows readers that the world is full of promise and possibility–all they need to do is turn the page.
My Thoughts: Reading about Sonia Sotomayor is always so inspiring, but reading her story told to me with her voice just brought tears to my eyes. Reading about how books and education lead to her position as a Supreme Court Justice shows the power in words. And she writes beautifully! The language she uses is beautiful as well: “The library was my harbor, and books were little boats that helped me escape sadness at home.” & “Books were teachers, helping me sort out right from wrong.” LOVE!
The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague
Author: Julia Finley Mosca
Illustrator: Daniel Rieley
Publication Date: September 4th, 2018 by Innovation Press
Summary: Meet Raye Montague–the hidden mastermind who made waves in the U.S. Navy!
After touring a German submarine in the early 1940s, young Raye set her sights on becoming an engineer. Little did she know sexism and racial inequality would challenge that dream every step of the way, even keeping her greatest career accomplishment a secret for decades. Through it all, the gifted mathematician persisted–finally gaining her well-deserved title in history: a pioneer who changed the course of ship design forever.
The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague is the third book in a riveting educational series about the inspiring lives of amazing scientists. In addition to the illustrated rhyming tale, you’ll find a complete biography, fun facts, a colorful timeline of events, and even a note from Montague herself!
My Thoughts: Wow! Raye Montague’s story is fascinating! In a time here in America where segregation and racism ruled, Raye wouldn’t let anyone else’s ignorance stop her from reaching the heights that she knew she was going to reach her entire life. Each barrier she faced, she found a way around it. What a wonderful story of perseverance! The narrative itself is told in a rhyming verse that takes us through her life, but the real depth of her story can be found in the back matter.
Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
Author: Christ Barton
Illustrator: Don Tate
Published May 3rd, 2016 by Charlesbridge Publishing
Summary: A cool idea with a big splash.
You know the Super Soaker. It’s one of top twenty toys of all time. And it was invented entirely by accident. Trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners, impressive inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for the iconic toy.
A love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity began early in Lonnie Johnson’s life. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, persistence and a passion for problem solving became the cornerstone for a career as an engineer and his work with NASA. But it is his invention of the Super Soaker water gun that has made his most memorable splash with kids and adults.
My Thoughts: I have wanted to read this one since it came out, so I am so glad to finally get around to it. I was already a huge fan of Barton’s and Tate’s, so I had high expectations, and Whoosh! met all of them: interesting, humorous, beautifully illustrated, and informative. Lonnie Johnson is another brilliant mind that I am so happy there is a book about, and his story shows the genius and hardships behind any type of invention.
Red Alert! Endangered Animals Around the World
Author: Catherine Barr
Illustrator: Anne Wilson
Published July 3rd, 2018 by Charlesbridge Publishing
Summary: An interactive look at endangered animals imploring readers to discover fifteen species facing extinction.
Inspired and endorsed by the “Red List” database of animals in peril maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) this brightly illustrated book introduces species from six different habitats on six continents. Blending approachable text, secondary facts and lush art, Red Alert! offers full portraits of animals such as the Chinese giant salamander, the snow leopard, the blue whale, and the giant panda, and provides young activists additional resources for how they can help save these beautiful creatures.
My Thoughts: Red Alert is different than any other book like this that I’ve read. It is a choose your own adventure-like nonfiction book about endangered animals in different habitats around the world. Each animal has a full spread with a nonfiction narrative about them, facts, and why the animal is in danger. The book then ends with ways to save the creatures. The beautiful illustrations bring the animals to life while the interesting information shows the critical situations these animals are facing.
Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art
Author and Illustrator: Hudson Talbott
Publication Date: September 4th, 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Summary: This look at artist Thomas Cole’s life takes readers from his humble beginnings to his development of a new painting style that became America’s first formal art movement: the Hudson River school of painting.
Thomas Cole was always looking for something new to draw. Born in England during the Industrial Revolution, he was fascinated by tales of the American countryside, and was ecstatic to move there in 1818. The life of an artist was difficult at first, however Thomas kept his dream alive by drawing constantly and seeking out other artists. But everything changed for him when he was given a ticket for a boat trip up the Hudson River to see the wilderness of the Catskill Mountains. The haunting beauty of the landscape sparked his imagination and would inspire him for the rest of his life. The majestic paintings that followed struck a chord with the public and drew other artists to follow in his footsteps, in the first art movement born in America. His landscape paintings also started a conversation on how to protect the country’s wild beauty.
Hudson Talbott takes readers on a unique journey as he depicts the immigrant artist falling in love with–and fighting to preserve–his new country.
My Thoughts: I am a sucker for biographies of artists. The Hudson River artists may not have painted in my favorite style, but no one can argue with their beauty and Cole’s paintings were the start of the first truly American Art style. Talbott’s story of Cole did a beautiful job focusing on how he found his passion, the hardships he faced to be successful, and his passions other than art. Cole loved the environment and saw even then that we were going to lose it if we didn’t take care of it. I also truly loved the inclusion of some of his paintings. Often, in picture book biographies, the actual paintings aren’t shown, so I found that really helpful.
Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs
Author: Melissa Stewart
Illustrator: Stephanie Laberis
Publication Date: September 1st, 2018 by Peachtree Publishers
Summary: Puny? Poky? Clumsy? Shy? A lighthearted look at the surprising traits that help some animals survive.
Written with a lively, playful voice, Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers introduces young readers to a variety of “animal underdogs” and explains how characteristics that might seem like weaknesses are critical for finding food and staying safe in an eat-or-be-eaten world.
Award-winning author Melissa Stewart offers readers a humorous and informative nonfiction picture book with a gentle message of understanding and celebrating differences. Stephanie Laberis’s bright, bold–and scientifically accurate–illustrations add to the fun.
My Thoughts: This book is just as good as you would think a book about underdog animals by Melissa Stewart would be. It is so interesting and is a great way to show how nature does some odd things but always for a reason, and the connection to anti-bullying because weaknesses aren’t always a negative if you understand them, and this is a perfect inclusion that adds such a beautiful theme. (And don’t miss the dedication!)