Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: No apologizing for Nonfiction

Last week, I did an open letter to librarians, booksellers, and teachers about sharing our enthusiasm for nonfiction with others, particularly the librarians and booksellers who get nonfiction into the hands of teachers and children. You can read the post here.

This week, I would like to continue talking about how we advocate for nonfiction. I want to focus on why we should not apologize for nonfiction and why we should not make excuses for a nonfiction format such as comic books or graphic novels or even picture books. Yes, I am “preaching to the choir” to many of you reading this post. However, I want to draw everyone’s attention to how we frame nonfiction when we are talking about it.

Even in 2019, we still have parents and educators who believe that picture books or graphic novels are not credible formats for children especially for those in 3rd grade and up. At times, I want to scream. As adults, how many of us read nonfiction texts that have no images (photographs, charts, illustrations, etc). Even a text heavy narrative nonfiction biography or history subject matter will often include photographs or illustrations. So, why do some adults think children shouldn’t have visuals in nonfiction? I learn as much from the illustrations and other text features as I do from the text in a nonfiction picture book or comic book. The way we change the minds of educators and parents is simply by getting books into their hands. In many of the trainings I have done for teachers, I build in time for them to browse through all kinds of nonfiction books. As little as 30 minutes can be mind-changing for a teacher who might not be aware of what’s between the covers of a children’s nonfiction book. This is especially critical for the format of a comic book or graphic novel. If I book talk a book or loan a book to a teacher, there is no guarantee that they will take the time to actually read the book. We all know how busy teachers are. However, when we build in time for teachers to browse books and read parts of them during a training or at a staff meeting, we have a much greater chance of getting them to see the amazing variety of topics, styles in writing, challenging concepts and vocabulary, and high interest nonfiction books that are available for today’s readers.

Kids love nonfiction and it’s about time that we share that same enthusiasm for nonfiction that it deserves.

And to celebrate some nonfiction graphic novels released this year…


Science Comics: Cats: Nature and Nurture by Andy Hirsch, Introduction by Mikel Delgado (First Second, August 13, 2019)


Science Comics: Cars: Engines That Move You by Dan Zettwoch (First Second, May 28, 2019)


Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Journey to Justice by Debbie Levy, Illustrated by Whitney Gardner (Simon & Schuster, November 5, 2019)


Hawking by Jim Ottaviani, Illustrations by Leland Myrick (First Second, July 2, 2019)


Look for all of these at your local indie bookstore or community library.


Don’t forget to link up your nonfiction reviews….

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: Let's Talk Nonfiction for a Minute

Dear Booksellers, Librarians and Teachers - We need to have a little chat. Recently, I attended a book talk. The focus was supposed to be on nonfiction. Given my passion for children’s nonfiction, I was excited to see what amazing books would be shared with the audience. And then imagine my disappointment, when there were more apologies than books shared.

If you read my blog regularly, then I know you are familiar with the excellent nonfiction titles that are coming out monthly. However, we have a lot of work to do. There are still booksellers, librarians and teachers that are not familiar with current titles and may not recognize their own reading gap. This is where your support is needed.

So, if you use your community library to check out new titles, when you return the books, share your favorites with the library staff on duty. I know that many of my branch libraries do not have the skilled children’s librarians that you can find at the main branch. Placing books on their radar will help expand their awareness of quality titles. I often plant seeds as to how I would use the book in the classroom. Even if they don’t remember all of the suggestions, I hope they will remember that I am a resource that they can reach out to and ask for recommendations.

For those of you who pick up nonfiction titles at your local bookstore, especially at independent bookstores, there may be a solid collection of nonfiction but striking up conversations about what you are reading and what books you are excited about can also help store staff expand their awareness of the nonfiction on their shelves. Many of them are more aware of and have read the fiction titles, but could use some help in learning about nonfiction titles that you are eager to read (or have read) rather than just what their local sales reps have share with them. Since a lot of nonfiction comes from small publishing houses that may not have publishing reps visiting the store’s buyer, your requests and feedback can help to expand the nonfiction titles that are available for children and teachers.

And to celebrate nonfiction, here are a few books that jumped out of the stack this week…


Did You Burp?: How to Ask Questions...or Not! by April Pulley Sayre, Illustrated by Leeza Hernandez (Charlesbridge Publishers, August 6, 2019)


I am a fan of April Pulley Sayre and enjoy the variety in her books. This one makes for an excellent mentor text and book to discuss “questions”.


Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns the Heartland into a Home by Barb Rosenstock, Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal ( Calkins Creek, September 10, 2019)


Barb Rosenstock is one of my favorite picture book biography writers. I am always happy to get my hands on a new biography from her.


Bloom Boom! by April Pulley Sayre (Beach Lane Books, February 5, 2019)


Young readers love this and the other three books (Raindrops Roll, Best in Snow, and Full of Fall) in collection. The beautiful photographs and simple text draw in readers.


Look! I Wrote a Book! (and You Can Too!) by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Illustrated by Neal Layton (Schwartz & Wade, July 23, 2019)


I often get asked about “how-to” books that teachers can use as a mentor text. Lloyd-Jones’ new book can provide a jumping off place for a discussion about how-to write a book.


Don’t forget to link up your nonfiction reviews…

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: New & Upcoming Releases for October & November

It is time to put a spotlight on all the wonderful nonfiction that has come out in September or will be coming out in October and November. Though this is not a comprehensive list, I hope that it helps to put some new titles on your radar. From what I can tell, it is going to be a spectacular season for Nonfiction and just in time for compiling your Mock Sibert or Sibert Smackdown lists.

If you missed past release posts, here are the links: January | February| April Part I | April Part II | May | June | July | September & October Releases from Kids Can Press |

September Relases:


Summer Green to Autumn Gold: Uncovering Leaves’ Hidden Colors by Mia Posada (Millbrook, August 6, 2019)


Don’t Miss These Titles post featured new releases from September, click here.


Kicking Off the New School Year features new September Releases, click here.


Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle: How Animals Get Ready for Winter by Laura Purdie Salas, Illustrated by Claudine Gévry (Millbrook Press, September 3, 2019)


Life: The First Four Billion Years: The Story of Life from the Big Bang to the Evolution of Humans by Martin Jenkins, Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith (Candlewick Studio, September 10, 2019)


Firefighters’ Handbook by Meghan McCarthy (Simon & Schuster, September 17, 2019)

October Releases:


The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chelsea Clinton (Simon & Schuster, October 1, 2019)


The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come by Sue Macy, Illustrated by Stacy Innerst (Simon & Schuster, October 1, 2019)


Eek, You Reek!: Poems about Animals That Stink, Stank, Stunk by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by Eugenia Nobati (Millbrook Press, October 1, 2019)


Hi, I’m Norman: The Story of American Illustrator Norman Rockwell by Robert Burleigh, Illustrated by Wendell Minor (Simon & Schuster, October 1, 2019)


North America: A Fold-Out Graphic History by Sarah Albee, Illustrated by William Exley (What On Earth Books/Smithsonian, October 1, 2019)


A Race Around the World: The True Story of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland by Caroline Starr Rose, Illustrated by Alexandra Bye (Albert Whitman Company, October 1, 2019)


Save the Crash Test Dummies by Jennifer Swanson (Peachtree Publishing, October 1, 2019)


Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician by Lesa Cline-Ransome, Rolon Colon (Simon & Schuster, October 8, 2019)


Leading the Way: Women in Power by Janet Howell, Theresa Howell, Illustrated by Kylie Akia, Alexandra Bye, Forward by Hilary Rodham Clinton (Candlewick Press, October 8, 2019)


Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound by James Rhodes, Illustrated by Martin O'Neill (Candlewick, October 8, 2019)


Snow Leopard: Ghost of the Mountains by Justin Anderson, Illustrated by Patrick Benson (Candlewick Press, October 8, 2019)


Suffragette: The Battle for Equality by David Roberts (Walker Books, October 8, 2019)


Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "The Children's Ship" by Deborah Heiligman (Henry Holt & Co., October 8, 2019)


Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey From World War II to Peace by Ashley Bryan (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, October 15, 2019)


Whose Footprint Is That? by Darrin P Lunde, Kelsey Osied (Charlesbridge Publishers, October 22, 2019)

November Releases:


Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Journey to Justice by Debbie Levy, Illustrated by Whitney Gardner (Simon & Schuster, November 5, 2019)


Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet by Elizabeth Rusch, Teresa Martainez (Charlesbridge Publishing, November 5, 2019)


Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson by Jen Bryant, Cannaday Chapman (Abrams Books for Young Readers, November 12, 2019)


Don’t forget to link up your nonfiction reviews….