Posts tagged non-fiction

Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin: A non-fiction delight.

Island

Island: A Story of the Galapagos

Non-Fiction Picture Book

Ages 4-10

By Jason Chin

36 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2012

 

 

Jason Chin (another Books of Wonder alum) is an unsurpassed master of presenting non-fiction to picture book fans. His first book in the genre, Redwoods (2009), followed a young boy who discovers a book about the Redwood forest and soon finds himself walking amongst the woody giants. Coral Reefs, published in 2011, is about a young girl in the New York City Public Library who soon finds the library, and the city, transformed into a marine adventure.

Chin carefully researches his subject matter and adeptly translates the information for his intended audience. Coupling his straightforward, informative text with his exquisite and detailed art, he creates compelling and beautiful books—no small feat when dealing with non-fiction, just take a look at some of the other options in your local library.

Island1

Island: A Story of the Galapagos reads like a biography of the islands, beginning six million years ago, and is told in five short parts. It began with a volcano that had been growing in the ocean for millions of years. Finally erupting, it created the landmass that would eventually become home to a unique variety of plants and animals; first it would lay barren for many, many years.

Island2

The island’s first bit of life arrived on the waves—a mangrove tree seed, from a nearby island, took root and began to grow. From that modest beginning, an ecosystem gradually began to flourish. Sea birds and marine iguanas followed the arrival of vegetation. More and more life forms followed, and over the course of millions of years the animals adapted to their new, and ever-changing environment. Finches on the island evolved to have larger beaks so that they could open larger seeds; seagulls began to hunt at night and evolved to have larger eyes.

Island3

All the while the island had been slowly sinking, and after nearly six million years it eventually disappeared under the ocean.

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But the other islands of the Galapagos (there’s fifteen now) inherited the descendents of the plants and animals from the sunken land mass. The plants and animals—many of them endemic species, meaning: unique to this specific location—have once again adapted to their new environment. And like the other island, these will eventually sink into the sea as well.

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The book’s epilogue shows Charles Darwin’s ship, the HMS Beagle, arriving on the shores of the Galapagos. The last four pages of the book give further information on Charles Darwin, natural selection, endemic species and the amazing islands of the book’s title. Chin’s full color pages highlight the beauty of the island and the sea surrounding it; he utilizes small pieces of panel art throughout which succinctly illustrate the processes of change on the island.

Island: A Story of the Galapagos will be a delight to any child interested in biology, geology or the history of the natural world.

 

View the book!

IndieBound / Powell’s / Amazon

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TurtleAndRobot’s Top 20 (plus one) Books about Snow

The Mole Sisters and the Way HomeWayHome

Picture Book

Ages 2-5

By Roslyn Schwartz

32 pages

Annick Press

2003

 

The Mole Sisters are two of my favorite characters in children’s books. They’re sweet, funny, playful and irresistibly adorable. See my review of the whole series here.

The sisters are headed home when it starts to snow. And snow. And snow. Making their way through the drifts, they are diverted into a wonderful, magical cave, where they add themselves to some prehistoric cave paintings.

Not to fret, the sisters make it home safely and warm themselves by a cozy fire.

 

The Snowy Day SnowyDay-001

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Ezra Jack Keats

32 pages

Viking

1962

1963 Caldecott Medal Winner

 

This timeless classic is a simple story about a young boy as he plays and experiments with the snow that has covered his world overnight. Follow the boy in his trademark red suit as he experiences the wonder and possibility of freshly fallen snow.

An interesting and important note: The Snowy Day was the very first full-color picture book to feature a black child protagonist.

 

Tracks in the Snow Tracks-001

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Wong Herbert Yee

32 pages

Square Fish

Reprint 2007

 

A young girl heads out into the snow when she notices some mysterious tracks. As she follows the prints over a bridge, across a pond, through some woods and right back to her home she realizes that the footprints are hers from the day before. She settles in at home for some cookies and tea.

Tracks in the Snow celebrates one of the best parts about playing in the snow, coming back to a warm house for some delicious treats.

 

Over and Under the Snow OverUnderSnw

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Kate Messner

Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

44 pages

Chronicle

2011

 

While out cross-country skiing, a young girl and her father discuss the world of activity under the snow. There’s voles running through tunnels, frogs sleeping in the mud and black bears hibernating.

Simple cut paper illustrations perfectly highlight the contrast between the frozen white world above and the living earthen world below.

For those that are curious, the back of the book offers facts about all the animals and their winter activities. Interestingly, the area between the packed snow and the ground is called the subnivean zone.

 

Red Sled RedSled

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Lita Judge

40 pages

Atheneum

2011

 

Pure joy fills this mostly wordless picture book. The only text is reserved for the sound effects made by the happy animals and their new-found toy.

A small red sled has been left outside and various woodland creatures take turns going for rides, until the owner of the sled finally returns.

 

The Happy Day HappyDay-001

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Ruth Krauss

Illustrated by Marc Simont

36 pages

HarperCollins

1949

1950 Caldecott Honor Book

 

Though technically a book about spring, the book begins under the cover of snow with all the animals sleeping. Soon they are waking up and sniffing. What is it they smell?

They emerge from their burrows and start running and sniffing. They stop, and laugh, and dance! There, in the midst of all the snow and white and cold, a burst of color appears in the form of a beautiful yellow flower.

The delicious, buttery yellow of the flower is the only bit of color in an otherwise black and white picture book.

 

Bear Has a Story to TellBear Has Story to Tell - Cover

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

By Philip C. Stead

Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2012

 

This is not only one of my favorite books from 2012 but it’s also turning out to be one of my favorite picture books of all time. See my full review here.

 

Stella, Queen of the Snow stella-queen-of-the-snow

Picture Book

Ages 2-8

by Marie Louise-Gay

32 pages

Groundwood Books

2000

Gay’s watercolor illustrations are active, unrestrained and bursting with color.

 

It’s Sam’s first snowstorm! He and his big sister Stella head outside to play and explore. Sam, ever full of questions, wants to know what snowmen eat and how many snowflakes are in a snowball. Stella, the helpful big sister, always responds with clever and ever so slightly true answers.

 

Snow SnowC

Picture Book

Ages 2-8

By Uri Shulevitz

36 pages

FSG

1998

1999 Caldecott Honor Book

 

One of my favorite picture books ever! See my full review here.

 

Snow PDsnow

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By P.D. Eastman and Roy McKie

61 pages

Random House

1962

“Snow is good for making tracks…And making pictures with your backs.”

 

A simple story, told in rhyme, joyfully relating some of the many pleasures of snow. P.D. Eastman is also the author of Go, Dog. Go!, Are You My Mother? and many other Cat in the Hat Beginner Books.

 

Is That You, Winter?IsThatYouWinter

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Stephen Gammel

32 pages

Silver Whistle/Harcourt Brace

1997

 

Gammel’s incredible illustrations make this a stand-out picture book. Colorful washes in every shade of blue are soon obscured by blowing white snow that seems to drip from the page.

Old Man Winter has woken up in a bad mood; he hates going to work. He jumps in his truck, flies through the sky, and spreads the ice and snow all morning long.

As he heads home for lunch, he falls into the deep snow and is rescued by a little girl.

“You make it snow for me,” the young girl tells him. Reminded that his work does have a positive influence in the world, Old Man Winter’s mood shifts and he’s happy again.

She picks him up to make sure he’s ok and readers learn that Old Man Winter is a small, wooden doll.

 

It’s Snowing ItsSnowing

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Olivier Dunrea

32 pages

Square Fish

2002

 

Just before publishing the magic that is Gossie (see my review here), Dunrea created It’s Snowing.

Baby is fast asleep when mama sees snowflakes falling outside. She wakes baby and bundles him up. The two go outside to see, touch, taste and smell the snow, and share some of the magic and natural beauty life has to offer.

 

The Snowman thesnowman

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

by Raymond Briggs

32 pages

Dragonfly Books

1986

 

In this wordless picture book, a young boy wakes up to a snowy day and heads outside to build a snowman. Later that night, when the boy cannot sleep, he heads outside to find the snowman has come to life. The two have a night filled with adventure.

Beautifully soft watercolor panels fill this book with the frosty feeling of snow and cold.

 

The Mitten The Mitten-001

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

by Jan Brett

32 pages

Putnam

1989

 

When a young boy asks his grandmother to knit him white mittens, she warns him that they will be hard to find if he drops them in the snow. As he goes out to play in the snow he immediately drops one of his new white mittens. Before long it becomes a cozy home to some woodland creatures seeking shelter.

 

Brave Irene brave-irene-1

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

By William Steig

32 pages

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

1986

 

Young Irene braves the wind, cold and blowing snow in this story of perseverance.

The dressmaker has finished the duchess’s gown for tonight’s ball but is not feeling well enough to deliver it. Though a big snowstorm is brewing, the dressmaker’s daughter Irene offers to bring the dress to the palace. Her mother is concerned but cannot make the trip herself and, reluctantly, allows her daughter to leave.

It’s tough going, but Irene is tougher and she completes her task despite the difficulties she faces on the way.

By the beloved author and illustrator of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, the 1970 Caldecott Medal Winner.

 

Poppleton in Winter PoppletonInWinter-001

Early Reader

Ages 4-8

by Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Mark Teague

48 pages

Blue Sky Press

2001

 

In the first chapter of this early reader, Poppleton and his new friend Patrick (a bird) make a fence out of icicles.

Next, Poppleton makes a clay bust of his good friend Cherry Sue.

In the final chapter Poppleton has forgotten his own birthday, but his friends have not. They all surprise Poppleton with home-baked goodies and a nighttime sleigh ride.

See my review of Poppleton here.

 

Katy and the Big Snow Katy_and_the_Big_Snow

Picture Book

Ages 4-9

By Virgina Lee Burton

40 pages

Houghton Mifflin

1973

 

By the author and illustrator of the notable classics Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (1939) and The Little House (1943 Caldecott Medal Winner).

Katy the red crawler tractor was a bulldozer in summer and a snowplow in winter. When a blizzard hits her hometown, all the people are depending on Katy to save the day, and she relishes the opportunity to show that she can do just that.

 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening StoppingByWoods-001

Picture Book

Ages 4 and up

By Robert Frost

Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

32 pages

Dutton Juvenile

Originally published in 1978

Revised edition 2001

 

Susan Jeffers beautiful illustrations of frosty New England scenes perfectly complement this famous wintry poem by Robert Frost. Capturing the silent beauty of a snowy night, her art offers answers to some of the questions raised in this well-known poem.

 

For readers interested in the science of snow, a few Non-fiction options.

 

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder StoryofSnow

Non-Fiction

Ages 4-10

By Mark Cassino

36 pages

Chronicle

2009

 

This excellent non-fiction picture book features illustrations as well as photographs of snowflakes and answers the questions about where snow comes from and how it’s formed.

 

Snowflakes in Photographssnowflakes-in-photographs-001

Non-fiction

By W.A. Bentley

Ages 5 and up

80 pages

Dover

2000

 

This book features over eight hundred and fifty photographs of snowflakes taken by American photographer W.A. Bentley (1865-1931) during a fifty year period.

Though it’s common knowledge now that no two snowflakes are alike, this was not the case when Bently began his ambitious project. In 1865 he attached a bellows camera to a compound microscope and photographed what he referred to as “tiny miracles of beauty.”

It is because of his work that we can know of and experience the wonder, magic and uniqueness contained in each miniature frozen sculpture.

(See also Snowflake Bentley, the 1999 Caldecott Winner, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Mary Azarian.)

 

The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art and Science of Snowflakes

Non-FictionSecret LifeofSnowflake

Ages 8 and up

by Kenneth Libbrecht

48 pages

Voyageur Press

2010

 

The title says it all. Full of extraordinary photographs and detailed information about the cycle of a snowflake, this book is written by a scientist who studies snowflakes.

The universal love that children have for snow can be harnessed and redirected to foster a fascination for the fate of small frozen bits of water, crystals, and other scientific wonders.

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I’m a Pill Bug: Get to know these tiny, cute crustaceans.

I’m a Pill BugCoCo5

Non-Fiction Picture Book

Ages 2 to 6

Written by Yukihisa Tokuda

Illustrated by Kiyoshi Takahashi

28 pages

Kane/Miller

2006

 

When I was a child, like many children, I enjoyed playing with bugs. Pill bugs (also known as roly-polies or potato bugs) were always easy to find: all I needed to do was lift a rock or a piece of wood. The small, gray, harmless creatures were ubiquitous and, when touched, would curl up into perfect little balls. Despite all my experience with theses tiny guys, I’m A Pill Bug taught me many fascinating things.

Realistically illustrated in cut paper collage, this non-fiction book follows the life of a pill bug, as narrated by a pill bug.

pb1

Using simple and clear language this book offers a wealth of information regarding the life and habitat of these mini crustaceans. They are not insects, as readers will learn: pill bugs are related to crabs and shrimp.

pb3

Young listeners will also learn what pill bugs eat: basically everything, including dead plants, dead leaves, newspapers and cardboard. With all that eating, these bugs also do a lot of pooping. Some youngsters (some adults too) may be amused to learn that a pill bug’s poop is square; some may also take pleasure in pointing out those telltale square specks throughout the pages of the book. 

pb2

In addition to all the decaying organic matter, pill bugs also need to eat stones and concrete to aid in their digestion. That’s why they live near people, and their concrete walls and buildings.

To defend themselves against ants, pill bugs roll themselves into a ball—hence the common nickname, roly poly. Pill bugs also shed their shells many times as they grow. First they shed the rear half; the next day they shed the front half. And at the end of fall, when it starts to get cold, they dig deep down in the ground and sleep until spring.

In addition to all this information, the last three pages offer instructions on how to hold a pill bug and even safely keep one as a guest in your home.

pb4

But remember to return him to the outdoors before fall, “He’ll want to be with his family during the cold winter!”

These little creatures, everywhere under our feet, are introduced to readers in this simple yet fully informative book.  Not only do we learn that they’re helpful, they turn out to be lovable too!

View on Powell’s Oregon’s premier independent bookstore

View on Amazon

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