Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: Nonfiction Read Alouds Part I

With various teachers, librarians, and bloggers posting about #classroombookaday or beginning of the year picture book read alouds, I realized that the titles were predominately fiction. As a result, I wanted to share my favorite nonfiction read alouds. I am sharing this in two parts. This week, I am sharing 5 biographical picture books. Next week, I will share 5 of my favorite science themed read alouds. In picking books, I decided to limit titles to books released in 2016 and 2017. 

Here are my picks in no particular order....

Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks; Illustrated by Colin Bootman (Lee & Low Books, 2016) - This story of Vivien Thomas and the work he did to create surgical tools and to be able to perform heart surgery on babies was inspiring and one that children need to learn about. 

I, Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy; Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddedley (Simon & Schuster, 2016) - Learning about the life work of Supreme Court Justice RBG is another example of hard work, and perseverance and so much more. 

Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood; Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport (Simon & Schuster, 2016) -This story fascinated and inspired me. I struggle to play a regular instrument and in Paraguay there are students who have learned to play instruments created from recycled materials. Learning about how this program has changed the lives of students is powerful. 

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton; Illustrated by Don Tate (Charlesbridge, 2016) - I don't know how many children think about the inventor behind the Super-Soaking but Whoosh! provides children with a fun topic and a look again at hard work and perseverance. 

Malala: Activist for Girls' Education by Raphaële Frier; Illustrated by Aurélia Fronty (Charlesbridge, 2016) - Malala is an inspiration to me and to many others. Her story is a powerful one about standing up for what is right despite opposition. 

Look for all of these titles at your public library or independent bookstores. 

Artwork by Sarah S. Brannen ©2017

Artwork by Sarah S. Brannen ©2017

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews...

#Road2Reading Challenge: Secrets of American History Series

Recently, I noticed an increase in the number of books for second and third graders with a focus on history. Here are two series that provide information and facts with a twist. 

Secrets of American History: The Founding Fathers Were Spies!: Revolutionary War by Patricia Lakin, Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti (Simon & Schuster, July 4, 2017)

Description from GoodReadsDiscover the thrilling side of history—starting with how spies helped during the Revolutionary War—in this fact-tastic, nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read, part of a new series about the secrets of American History!

Secrets of American History is an action-packed nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read series that lets beginning readers in on a little secret: history is full of surprises! Want to know what invisible ink has to do with the American Revolution? Or why shark repellant and inflatable army tanks were used in World War II? Find out in this fact-filled series of fascinating true tales, wild adventures, and spy missions, and discover the secret side of American history!

Before he was the President of the United States, George Washington was a spy! It’s true…and he wasn’t the only one! During the American Revolution, founding fathers like Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin sent secret messages rolled up in quill pens, used invisible ink, and wrote in secret codes to keep important information from getting into British hands. In George Washington’s top-secret spy ring, a woman named Anna Strong sent secret messages to other spies by hanging laundry on a clothesline!

Without spies, Americans might still speak with British accents: find out how and why it happened in this book that includes a special extend-the-learning section with activities about the science behind invisible ink, how to make a secret code, and more!

Quick thoughts on the series: 
I tend to be a fan of the Ready-to-Read series. There are many great topics and the illustrations support the text. In this latest Ready-to-Read series, young readers are introduced to the Revolutionary War from the point of reference of the American Founding Fathers being spies. 

Though the text does not provide a significant number of text features. Readers are exposed to information divided into chapters and written more in the style of a longer text but instead comes in at 48 pages. 

At the end of the book, readers learn more about creating invisible ink, secret messages and a short quiz. This interactive section of the book can provide parents and teachers with ideas for extending the concepts in the book. 

Don't miss Secrets of American History: Secret Agents! Sharks! Ghost Armies! World War II by Laurie Calkhoven; Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti (Simon & Schuster, July 4, 2017). 

As with the other book in the series, this one also includes a section at the end that provides readers with some additional facts and activities. 

For the same age group but with a totally different twist and format, Dan Gutman has created a series of FAST FACTS in the style of his MY WEIRD SCHOOL series. 

Explorers, Presidents, and Toilets (My Weird School Fast Facts) by Dan Gutman (HarperCollins, June 2017)

Description from GoodReadsThink fast with A.J. and Andrea from My Weird School!

Did you know that the word “independence” never appears in the Declaration of Independence? Did you know that soldiers in World War I collected thousands of glowworms in jars to help them see at night?!

Learn more weird-but-true U.S. history facts with A.J. and Andrea from Dan Gutman’s bestselling My Weird School series. This all-new series of nonfiction books features hundreds of hysterical facts, plus lots of photos and illustrations.


Whether you're a kid who wants to learn more about our country's history or simply someone who wants to know how many Americans are involved in toilet-related injuries each year, this is the book for you!

Quick thoughts on the book:  This 12+ chapter book series uses humor and back and forth banter between A.J. and Andrea in his FAST FACT series. These books may be significantly longer than the SECRETS OF AMERICAN HISTORY, but provide readers with the next step up in reading levels but still maintaining humor and accessibility to the books. 

Don't miss out on other books in the My Weird School Fast Facts series. 

Look for these and other titles at your local indie bookstore or community library. 

Each week, Michele Knott and I post about new early readers and transitional chapter books. Don't forget to pop over to Michele's blog to check out her post as well.