Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, 2007
• Booklist’s “Top of the List” Youth Picture Book for 2007
• Winner of the 2007 Cybil Award for Best Nonfiction Picture Book
• An American Library Association Notable Children’s Book
• A New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing Selection
• A Banks Street Best Books of the Year selection
• A Junior Library Guild Premier Selection
• A 2009-2010 Buckaroo Award Nominee (WY)
Fiction or nonfiction? It’s often tough for me to classify Tomie dePaola’s work. His biography of Pascual Bailon, Pascual and the Kitchen Angels (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2004), is truly creative nonfiction at its best.
Using playful illustrations and captivating prose, dePaola recreates the story of Saint Pascual, a shepherd boy who yearns to be a friar and feed the hungry. When Pascual arrives at the monastery with tasty food from his mama, the friars ask him to cook a dinner. Pascual has no idea how to cook. What can he do? Why, pray, of course.
While Pascual is praying, the kitchen angels appear turning his ingredients into tasty dishes. This happens night after night. The curious friars want to know how Pascual produces his delicious dishes. When they see Pascual’s piety and how God has blessed him, they fulfill his wish of helping to feed the hungry.
Cooper, my five-year-old, loves the magic of the kitchen angels zipping around the kitchen to boil beans, chop vegetables and slice cheese. DePaola’s drawing are hilarious and half the fun. Pascual and the Kitchen Angels is what all nonfiction should be — a great story first and a lesson second. For those who are interested, dePaola includes a note in the back matter with the legend of Saint Pascual.
I’m contemplating a biographical picture book for my February 12 x 12 in 2012 manuscript. I think I’ll use dePaola as my inspiration.
As you may recall, last week was Amelia Earhart Day, and I wanted to find an age-appropriate book to support our discussions about this famous aviator. Unfortunately, my efforts met with little success, as most of the library books available were way over a preschooler’s head. However, I did find a beautiful picture book targeted for children ages eight and up: Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2008).
While Cooper couldn’t read the whole thing, I did! (Note: I did not want to get into a protracted discussion with a preschooler about death, so I pretty much skipped over the part about Amelia disappearing. We just read about her key aviation accomplishments.)
At 45 pages, the book is lengthy, however it covers Earhart’s life from her childhood through her disappearance and its aftermath. It opens with Earhart’s first view of an airplane at the 1908 Iowa State Fair and recounts in detail her idyllic early childhood with her sister Muriel. From an early age, Amelia was an adventurer who enjoyed trying new things. Her parents instilled in her and her sister that girls could do anything from playing football to climbing trees.
The book also covers Amelia’s first experiences with flying, her record-breaking achievements and her final flight. Sidebars detail other related subjects and provide context: air travel, female fliers, Amelia’s fan mail, navigation techniques and other circumnavigation attempts. The book includes a mix of historical Earhart photos, including childhood pics, and beautiful illustrations by David Craig.
For older children, this provides a complete portrait of Amelia’s courage and dedication to flying. It’s an inspiring tale worthy of upper elementary children who are ready for chapter books.
I still haven’t made it to the library to pick up books about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Amelia Earhart for the kids. I was hoping to review a picture book about one of those famous Americans for today’s installment of Nonfiction Friday. Instead of beating myself, up, I decided to scour the house for a book that might be appropriate.
For Christmas 2010, my sister-in-law bought the boys Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2010). Today, we opened it to read Obama’s entry on Martin Luther King, Jr. Here’s how it reads:
“Have I told you that you don’t give up?
When violence erupted in our nation,/ a man named Martin Luther King Jr./ taught us unyielding compassion. He gave us a dream/ that all races and creeds would walk hand in hand./He marched and he prayed and, one at a time,/ opened hearts and saw the birth of his dream in us.”
No matter how you feel about Obama as a president, this is a great book that captures the spirit of America and Americans. The book features personalities and talents as diverse as Georgia O’Keefe, Cesar Chavez, Billie Holiday, and Albert Einstein. It also includes more famous Americans like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. The book reveals, through each person, the character of America.
Obama’s poetry coupled with Loren Long’s vibrant images makes for a great read. The book is recommended for ages 5 (kindergarten) and up. However even small children will enjoy the poetry and images, though they might not yet grasp the concepts.
Dino Poop and Other Remarkable Remains of the Ancient Past by Jane Hammerslough (Scholastic 2006) is one of my favorite books from the kids’ dino-obsessed days. First, the title is perfect for children: what child doesn’t love any excuse to say “poop?” Second, each book comes with a piece of real dino poop (technically known as a corprolite), which totally raises the cool factor. Third, the book is chock full of information, maps, quizzes, activities and more.
Hammerslough discusses how ancient remains help us learn about the past. Dino poop — some dating back 400 million years — provides clues about what dinosaurs ate and how they ate, as well as the environment in which they lived. Some paleontologists, called paleoscatologists, have devoted their life solely to the study of dino poop. Amber, which Hammerlogh calls “tree spit,” has preserved ancient insects, reptiles, plants and moe dating back 225 million years. She also discusses the roles of permafrost; peet bogs, which have preserved whole humans; and asphalt like the La Brea Tar Pits, which has preserved many ice age mammals.
In the back, she includes activities like making your own dino poop doorstop using pasta, making edible amber out of jello, and creating fossils using plaster. There’s lots of hands-on fun for sure.