As part of my writing process, I read dozens of books by other nonfiction authors. When I read, I make notes about the craft choices authors make in terms of voice, structure, POV, and other unique elements that add up to amazing books. I recently decided to share my notes (in a searchable format), so teachers and fellow writers can see what I find new and noteworthy. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
YOU ARE HOME: An Ode to the National Parks
Author/Illustrator: Evan Turk
Publication Info.: Atheneum, 2019
Ages/Grades: ages 4 to 8
Category: apostrophe, lyrical language, list structure, expository, nature, #STEM
“To the chipmunk in her burrow, sleeping beneath the leaves to keep warm; to the resilient bison in the steaming oases of an endless winter: you are home.”
Overview (from the publisher): “Award-winning author and illustrator Evan Turk showcases the beauty and importance of the National Parks in this gorgeous picture book that takes readers on an amazing tour across the United States.
Beneath the soaring doorways of stone,
and peaks that pierce the ceiling of clouds,
from every river, star, and stone
comes the eternal refrain:
you are home.
In simple, soaring language and breathtaking art, acclaimed author-illustrator Evan Turk has created a stirring ode to nature and nation. From the rugged coast of Maine to the fiery volcanoes of Hawaii, You Are Home reminds us that every animal, plant, and person helps make this land a brilliant, beautiful sanctuary of life.”
What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:
Why was lyrical voice the perfect choice for a list book exploring the National Parks? Here’s why. Reading YOU ARE HOME literally brings tears to my eyes through its meditation on the majesty of “America’s Best Idea” (the title of Ken Burns’s documentary about the National Parks.) And that’s the same feeling I get when I visit the National Parks in person. Turk’s lyrical text perfectly captures his awe-inspiring subject. Imagine how the impact of this story would have changed if he’d used a humorous or serious voice.
Also notable: Turk balances his spare, lyrical language with extensive backmatter, providing more facts about the animals that appear in his artwork and a map to the National Parks featured in the book.
Additional resources for authors, educators, and parents:
- Visit a National Park! Every fourth-grader and their family can get in free through Every Kid in a Park.
- While you are there, check out the National Park Service Junior Ranger Program for kids of all ages. Complete the activity book during your visit and earn your patch or pin. Can’t visit in person? No problem. There are several badges you can earn online.
- You also can check up on the wildlife through 20 webcams.
- Evan Turk suggests drawing as a wonderful way to get to know a park. He created the book’s 20 drawings with pastel and black paper while hiking and exploring in person.
- Turk’s book hints at the natural processes that formed many of these natural wonders, a great jumping off point for lessons about weathering and more.