Top Ten New Informational Picture Books by Lorraine Brontë Magee
Last summer, I took a course at Lesley University called Exploring Nonfiction for the Elementary and Middle School Classroom. Through the course, I discovered that the world of nonfiction is one in which students become global citizens, amateaur historians, citizen scientists, and critical thinkers. As the literacy gatekeeper of my classroom, I made it my goal this year to connect my students with quality informational texts. As a brilliant blog series by Melissa Stewart tells us, informational books are just what our students are craving. Below, I’ve shared ten informational picture books that have captured my third graders’ interest this school year.
This is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe has helped my third graders think about their place in the world. Each page shows how kids from seven different countries get to school, eat dinner, or experience other day-to-day tasks. The author brilliantly includes pictures of the real families as back matter, which makes the entire book feel even more authentic. By the end of the book, readers will be amazed at the rich differences that exist in our world, while also celebrating what makes us a global family.
Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart uses rhyme and repetition to ask questions about animal sounds. After posing a question, Stewart provides an answer, along with additional information about other animals who make the same sound. This grouping of animals by sound results in surprising juxtapositions and interesting comparisons. The brilliant illustrations by Steve Jenkins add even more to this text. My third graders ask to pick this one up again and again!
What Makes a Monster? by Jess Keating gives information about dangerous creatures, large and small. The author asks an important question in the title, but encourages readers to answer it themselves through exploration of the pages. My third graders love flipping through the other published book in the World of Weird Animals series (Pink is for Blobfish), and are looking forward to the release of Cute as an Axolotl.
How to Be An Elephant by Katherine Roy is perfect for readers who are animal lovers. The amazing language and illustrations build empathy and connection between readers and elephants. This would also make a fabulous mentor text for informational writing about other animals.
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating checks all the boxes of a great picture book biography: a fascinating plot, gorgeous illustrations, historical context, character traits, and more. My third graders fell in love with Eugenie Clark’s story, and many of them are now interested in learning more about marine science.
Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton captivates readers who are interested in military history. During World War I, German torpedoes targeted large ships. In brainstorming a solution, the military had to ask one question: is it possible to camouflage a giant ship? Chris Barton’s writing alongside Victo Ngai’s stunning illustrations make this a great pick for readers interested in history, or in learning something new.
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin manages to bring one of our nation’s natural wonders to life. As someone who has never been to the Grand Canyon, I was absolutely stunned by how transported I felt when flipping through the pages of this book. My third graders felt exactly the same way, and were soon begging to read other Jason Chin titles.
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey tells the story of the woman behind the powerful Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. Millions of visitors make their way to the memorial each year, but few consider the story behind its creation.
One Proud Penny by Randy Siegel is told from the fictional perspective of the penny itself, but it’s so chock-full of information that I just had to include it on this list. A fascinating take on an everyday object, this serves as a great introduction to conversations on currency. Such fun illustrations from Serge Bloch paired with Randy Siegel’s humorous writing, makes this a must read for little ones.
Over and Under the Pond is the latest Kate Messner / Christopher Silas Neal collaboration that combines a narrative story with informational text. My third graders love the brilliant artwork alongside the facts and touching story. The book feels peaceful and calming, while at the same time bustling with the action of different creatures. Over and Under the Snow and Up in the Garden, Down and the Dirt are also great additions to your bookshelves!
It is such an exciting time to be a reader of informational texts. With so much out there, we have an obligation to put these stunning books in the hands of children. In doing so, we empower a generation of lifelong learners.
Lorraine Brontë Magee is a third grade teacher in her hometown of Natick, MA. She teaches in the same classroom where she was a third grade student! Her goal is for all children to leave her classroom seeing themselves as readers. She is also passionate about building bridges for her students to become global citizens. She blogs about her literary and teaching life at missmageesreads.com, and can be found on Twitter @MeetMissMagee.