November 26, 2015

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Flashback: Historical Photos Transport Us to the Past | Nonfiction Booktalker


Studying a photograph of a long-ago event can be both transporting and educational, as the books in “Captured History,” a series about photography from Compass Point, show.

This article was published in School Library Journal's December 2013 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

What Lies Beneath: Weird and Unusual Marine Life | Nonfiction BookTalker

alien deep

Animals with transparent guts! Fish that make their own light! An underwater bird? Booktalk audiences hungry for adventure and monsters can find both in remarkable books on marine mysteries. While the following titles are aimed at fourth grade and above, even younger readers will find the pictures irresistible.

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2013 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Tough Cookies Who Changed the Course of History | Nonfiction Booktalker


Stories of strong, determined women who changed the course of history make amazing subjects for booktalks. Elizabeth Blackwell, Louisa May Alcott, and Clara Lemlich are just a few of the tough cookies with indomitable spirit who persevered in the face of adversity, achieved their goals, and became role models for others. They are featured in three recently released books that are perfect for booktalking.

Flight for Freedom: True stories of courageous individuals who escaped from slavery | Nonfiction Booktalker


This year marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation—and these recently published books highlight the remarkable true stories of courageous Americans during this period of history.

The Bear Facts: Books About Cuddly Creatures | Nonfiction Booktalker


Books about bears and pandas are super-popular with K–4 kids and a great way to encourage them to read.

Books That Explore Our (Very Distant) Past: Ancient skulls and skeletons can tell us about ourselves | Nonfiction Booktalker

Skull Rock National Geographic

The authors of the following books for fifth to eighth graders have gone way back in time—writing about intriguing research that has uncovered ancient bones, skulls, and complete skeletons.

Getting High: These incredible stories will catapult kids to surprising new heights | Nonfiction Booktalker

I’m not interested in extinct birds. Or Mars rovers. I’m marginally intrigued by Mohawk ironworkers. But give me a really good book on those topics, and I’m hooked.

Phillip Hoose can get me engrossed in anything, even Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 (Farrar, 2012). B95, a four-ounce red knot shorebird, was captured and tagged in 1995, and that tag became his name. Athletes would be awed by his stamina; every year B95 flies from […]

The Secret Lives of Presidents: A behind-the-scenes look at the residents of the White House

Picture book cover: Presidents' mothers

Every U.S. president had a mother. Most of them had children and pets. Combine these obvious, but often-unconsidered facts with a touch of humor and they spell can’t-miss booktalks.

American Heroes: Four Books Highlight the Fight Against Racism | Nonfiction Booktalker

It doesn’t matter to students whether superheroes are real or fictional. It’s all the same battle as long as they fight injustice. These four books bring the struggle against prejudice and inequality blazingly alive.

Rick Bowers’s Superman versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate (National Geographic, 2012) offers a fresh angle in the fight for freedom. After World War II, the Last Son of Krypton quickly took […]

To the Rescue!: These incredible new tales can inspire your students to fight injustice

Michael Tunnell’s latest book did something amazing to my brain. Now I can’t hear the word “candy” without thinking of the word “hero.” This is a delectable combination that I’m certain my booktalk audiences make daily, but I’m also certain they haven’t heard the amazing story found in Tunnell’s Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Aircraft’s Chocolate Pilot (Charlesbridge, 2011).

In 1948, after World War II, Berlin, except for narrow air corridors, was cut off from the […]

Death and Destruction’s Lure: Catastrophes Equal Riveting Booktalks

Young learners know from watching television and listening to grown-ups that disasters can strike anywhere. Show your booktalk listeners a map of North America and point to Canada’s eastern coast, where disaster struck not once, but twice!

Nova Scotia’s largest city, Halifax, has a superb harbor and a history of horror. The cold waves have sent dead bodies to shore several times in the town’s lifetime. Hundreds washed up in its port when the Titanic sank in 1912. […]

The Way We Wore: Clothing and hairstyles throughout history make for excellent booktalks | Nonfiction Booktalker

It’s all Louis XIII’s fault. When the 23-year-old French king started going bald in 1624, he hid it under a long, curly wig. Wealthy men in England and France sought to imitate royalty and began wearing huge hairpieces—even if they had hair—which is why so-called rich and influential folk are still called big wigs, according to Kathleen Krull’s Big Wig: a Little History of Hair (Scholastic, 2011).

Aristotle had his own cure for […]

Tough Cookies: Brave women who broke the mold | Nonfiction Booktalker

Through the centuries, American women have stared at their familiar surroundings to see unfamiliar possibilities. Here’s a bevy of new books about these adventurous lives to share with your young readers.

Marissa Moss calls Ida Lewis The Bravest Woman in America (Tricycle, 2011) for a good reason. As a child, she fell in love with living in a lighthouse and eventually became a lighthouse keeper, making her first ocean rescue in 1858 at […]

Leader of the Pack: The lives of our former presidents make for a compelling and fun read | Nonfiction Booktalker

Which president was the first to travel in an airplane? (Theodore Roosevelt) Which president weighed only 100 pounds? (James Madison) And the killer question: Which president was the first one born in the United States? No, it wasn’t George Washington. The fourth and fifth graders in my booktalk audience got excited when I asked them these and other questions about our various commanders-in-chief.

Kathleen Krull has updated her Lives of the Presidents: […]

What a Way to Go | Nonfiction Booktalker

Long before flu shots and Band-Aids, a sprained ankle or toothache could lead to lingering illness—even death. Just mention this fact to your students, and they’ll inch closer as you booktalk these titles on this topic.

Whet their appetites with Georgia Bragg’s How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous (Walker, 2011) as she describes the demise of 19 historic figures. My favorite is how President James Garfield, shot at a railroad […]

All the Juicy Details | Nonfiction Booktalker

There’s a lot more to history than names and dates

Young readers might think history is all about dead people, unpronounceable names, and forgettable dates. But Steve Sheinkin knows all the good stuff he had to leave out when he wrote textbooks—and now shares those goodies with infectious exuberance.

A terrific trio: Two Miserable Presidents (2008), Which Way to the Wild West? (2009), and The Notorious Benedict Arnold (2010, all Roaring Brook) tell true tales […]

A Brave New World | Nonfiction Booktalker

The Earth still has many surprises to offer

While we might sympathize with Alexander the Great, who wept after his last battle because there were no more worlds to conquer, there’s no need for sorrow. Exploration and technology may have scrubbed the modern world clean of secrets, but three new books will inspire joy and curiosity in you and your booktalk listeners about fresh, exotic landscapes.

Sibert Award-winner Sally M. Walker’s Frozen Secrets: […]

We’re Just Wild About Harry | Nonfiction Booktalker

Master magician Harry Houdini still fascinates and mystifies kids of all ages

Wherever I go to do a booktalk, children still know his name. Not his real name, but the name he gave himself, the name that still haunts, fascinates, and mystifies: Harry Houdini.

What razzle-dazzle fixed the name Houdini in the public memory so firmly that it’s still remembered more than 80 years after his final disappearing act? Sid Fleischman tells us in Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini (Greenwillow, […]

Extreme Science | Nonfiction Booktalker

The self-sacrifice of some scientists will inspire awe, admiration, and chills

You’ve heard of people throwing themselves into their work, right? Well, these books for grades five to eight introduce us to folks who literally hurl themselves with passionate force to make incredible advances in scientific knowledge.

Donna Jackson’s fascinating Extreme Scientists: Exploring Nature’s Mysteries from Perilous Places (Houghton, 2009) describes three researchers who boldly go into dangerous places on a regular basis. First up, Paul Flaherty, the hurricane guy. His daring […]

History with a Hook | Nonfiction Booktalker

Famous mysteries that have endured for decades will delight kids

A strand of hair, a broken bone, and a girl who hid from the sunlight for two years. They all represent mysteries that have endured for decades, even centuries. Three fascinating new books detail these mind-twisters and will delight kids who love a good puzzle.

Most people regard Ludwig Beethoven as one of the world’s greatest classical composers. But did they realize that he didn’t always hear the music he […]