Offering students a balance of fiction and nonfiction reading experiences has always been important. Since the publication of the Common Core State Standards, which emphasize the use of both kinds of text, informational picture books have gotten more and more attention. And the attention is well deserved. Though many of us turn first to fiction for a pleasure reading, I find there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a great nonfiction picture book. The best of the best deliver gorgeous illustrations, a compelling text, and – the cherry on top – an opportunity to learn! Check out these four examples of exceptional nonfiction for children.
The spare, flowing text of this beautiful picture book is the perfect match for its subject, the friendly, slow moving whale shark. As the dark shadow of this behemoth moves across each page, Shingu explains some basic elements of its life, touching on symbiosis, diet, and the structure of its massive body. Figurative language, such as the comparison of the whale shark’s abdomen to a white balloon, gives readers additional entry points to this celebration of the world’s largest fish.
As a young boy, Antonio Giroux lived at the hotel his mother ran in the woods of Ontario. One day a forest fire forces everyone in the area to walk into the nearby lake. As the fire runs its course, wild animals emerge from the burning woods to join the humans in the water. Imagine standing side by side with a moose, bear, or wolf. Touching on history and ecology, Bond’s remarkable story shows an unforgettable moment in one boy’s life.
William Hoy was not born deaf, but he was born to play baseball. One day a coach recognized his incredible skills and offered him a spot on an amateur team. Eventually, with a lot of hard work, Hoy became the first deaf player to sign a major league contract. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate Hoy’s struggles, the discrimination he faced, and the satisfaction of his success, all told with detail and tension in this excellent picture book biography.
Pairing stunning photography with a poem bursting with anticipation, description, and action, April Pulley Sayre gives readers an intimate, visually detailed look at the physical qualities of raindrops and the experiences of forest and garden creatures during a rainstorm. Sayre uses fantastic vocabulary for her subject: raindrops plop, splatter, cling, and glob, magnify, moisten and thud. Readers wanting to know more about water will find additional information at the end of the book.