This year I wanted to increase the number of nonfiction books that I read. Along with The Nonfiction Detectives, I started the 2012 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. By doing the challenge, I have kept the hunt for nonfiction books, especially picture books, in the forefront of my mind. As a result, I have found some amazing books, incredible illustrations, learned tons of new facts, and had a chance to advocate for books that may not always get the same kind of attention as a fiction picture book.
It was definitely hard to narrow down the list to only 10 from the books that I have read this year. However, this is my Top Ten Nonfiction Picture Books of 2012 (as of October 2012) in no special order.
1. Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin
I feel like author/illustrator Jason Chin has grown and developed as an author since his first release, Redwoods. In his latest book, readers are taken from six million years ago to the present in the look at the history and evolution of the Galápagos Islands. Beautifully illustrated the pictures nearly pop from the page.
2. Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives by Gene Barretta
This is the third book that Barretta has done in the format of tying in the history of inventions with their present day connections. The format is readable with a touch of humor and lots of connections. I also loved the emphasis in the book about Edison’s belief that he learned from his failures as well as his successes.
You know it must be spring when you see a running theme of insects which is what I thought when I saw this book. However, if it is written by Steve Jenkins, I automatically read it. Steve Jenkins does fabulously creative books that are fascinating and well done. I learned more than I probably wanted to about beetles but it was a great read.
4. Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman
The often humorous, yet touching look at the life and habits of Lincoln, including his relationship with his wife, and how he stored notes in his hat, made this important president seem even more humble and significant. The illustrations also done by Kalman add to the feeling of the book, and I especially liked how she tied the story together at the end with the Lincoln Memorial.
Named after the circus great – P.T. Barnum, Barnum Brown was destined to have an amazing impact on life and he certainly dead. With a self-proclaimed nose for searching out bones and a bit of an eccentric personality, Brown certainly did become famous as the first person to discover a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
This book came out at the very beginning of 2012 and also in time for the Girl Scouts 100th Anniversary. It also introduced me to the writing of Shana Corey. I love books that come together perfectly both in text and illustrations. This one does a great job on both levels. Lots of great information about the founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low and also the end notes provide extra facts for readers to learn more.
7. UnBEElievables by Douglas Florian
When I first saw this book, I fell in love with it. My initial thought was how cool to mix poetry and nonfiction in the same book. Florian has a brilliant concept within the pages of this book. There are 14 poems about, and they are all very accessible for children (or for those adults who are still trying to figure out poetry). Though I really enjoyed the poetry, I was impressed with how each poem was accompanied by a corresponding “bee fact” about the same topic as the poem. There was even a few further reading suggestions at the end.
8. A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson; Illustrated by John Hendrix
Deborah Hopkinson has several books out this year and this early in the year release still came to mind which is what prompted me to add it to my list. A dramatized biography of the author, Charles Dickens as a boy. Really liked how Hopkinson helps young readers learn about the parts of Dickens’ life that likely contributed to the writings in his books. Additionally, Hendrix does a fabulous job with the illustrations.
9. There Goes Ted Williams by Matt Tavares
Not sure what baseball anniversary is being celebrated this year, but whatever it is has resulted in some wonderful picture books about all types of baseball players. This picture book biography of the great Ted Williams is exceptionally done in both text and illustrations by the very talented Matt Tavares. Still probably one of my favorite baseball picture books of the year.
This picture book biography of this woman scientist and writer was the perfect introduction for younger readers. I alerted me to things about Carson’s life that I wasn’t aware of and also inspired me to want to read more about Rachel Carson.
Alyson Beecher is an educator and literacy advocate. In 2011, she co-founded Bridge to Books (www.bridgetobooks.org), a grassroots group that seeks to build collaborations between teachers/librarians/booksellers/publishers/authors/illustrators in order to connect children and teen to books. Currently, she sits on the Scholastic Book Fair Principal Advisory Board and the Schneider Family Book Award Jury.