February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

From Civil War Nurses to Young Filmmakers | Nonfiction Notes, March 2013


Looking for quality nonfiction? Books that offer an interesting approach or viewpoint, lively writing, and support material in the form of illustrations, primary resources, author notes, and further reading lists? Titles that can be used as mentor texts, or to introduce historical figures, concepts, or initiate discussion?  If the answer is yes, we’ve selected a few books publishing this month that you won’t want to miss.

Cate, Annette LeBlanc. Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard.  (Candlewick, 2013; Gr 2-5) Illus. by author. Most state standards place a premium on discovery and what’s more fun than a nature expedition to sharpen kids’ observational skills? Whether bird-watching in the city or the country, these tips will get kids started identifying native species. Have your students grab their sketchpads and jackets and head for the door. As Cate comments, “spending time outside observing life and drawing in a sketchbook can help you see the world in a whole new way.”  This informative and entertaining guide is filled with ink and watercolor cartoon art and humorous asides.

Jenks, Andrew. Andrew Jenks: My Adventures As a Young Filmmaker. (Scholastic, 2013; Gr 8 Up). Jenks burst onto the film scene with a documentary about nursing home residents when still a freshman at NYU. Since then, he’s produced other films including one about the legendary Bobby Valentine, the one-time Mets manager who later worked and enjoyed celebrity status in Japan. Jenks narrates his journey from his first film to his MTV career. The author’s conversational style and Hollywood insights, and the numerous color photos will appeal to readers. With a new season of MTV’s “World of Jenks” beginning this month, teens will be eager to get their hands on this title.

Krull, Kathleen. Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women. (Walker, 2013; Gr 2-5). Illus. by Carlyn Beccia. Krull chronicles Louisa May Alcott’s nursing experience during the Civil War and its impact on her health and writing life. Folded into the narrative is mention of the family’s involvement with the Underground Railroad, The Emancipation Proclamation, and a discussion of women nurses in the 19th century. Numerous quotes by Alcott, full of “snap and bite,” are included. Full-page and spot-art paintings illustrate the book.

Prelutsky, Jack. Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems. (HarperCollins, 2013; Gr 2-6). Illus. by Carin Berger.  Stardines, panteaters, magpipes, and bardvarks are a few of the animals that populate this collection of verses by the inimitable Prelutsky. The miniature dioramas created using “a combination of cut paper, found ephemera, vintage engravings…beeswax, wire, thread, and wood” are terrific and will enchant kids. After reading these poems, your students will want to come up with a few unique species of their own, and write poems or create art to go along with the newly birthed creatures.

Thong, Roseanne Greenfield. Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes. (Chronicle, 2013; PreS-Gr 1). Illus. by John Parra. A delectable rhyming jaunt with more than a touch of Mexican flavor.  Each spread features a few lines of verse (incorporating Spanish terms) that point out a featured shape, often ending with a request for readers to locate similarly shaped items. The distinguished artwork depicts interior and outdoor scenes along with some festivities. A glossary of Spanish words is included.

Worth, Valerie. Pug and Other Animal Poems. (Farrar, 2013; Gr 2-7). Illus. by Steve Jenkins. Fans of Worth’s “Small Poems” will be delighted to discover this second posthumous collection of her work. This title includes 18 free verse selections on creatures both domestic and wild. Each offering, a nuanced reflection on the animal’s habits, activities, or appearance, is paired with a collage image by Steve Jenkins. After researching the habits of an animal that interests them, your students can try their hand at writing a poem.

And, finally, a fiction title that will work well with nonfiction units highlighting families, immigration, or memoirs.

Fleischman, Paul. The Matchbox Diary (Candlewick, 2013; K-Gr 4). Illus.by Bagram Ibatoulline. On cross-country trip a young girl visits the great-grandfather she has never met, and learns about his journey to from Italy to America as a small boy. Not yet having learned to read or write, the boy preserved his memories through small, everyday items saved in matchboxes. Ask your students to place something that holds a memory in a small box, and share or write about it. There are many other ways to use this picture book in the classroom, which touchingly evokes the immigrant experience. Full-page and spot-art sepia-toned paintings illustrate.

Curriculum Connections

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.

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