March 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

JLG’s On the Radar: New Nonfiction for Elementary Students

From toads to bats and the Beatles to doctors, new topics in nonfiction for elementary students complement Common Core Standards. Whether a teacher uses them in a science or social studies class, or the media specialist performs them for read-alouds, books with factual research do more than just fill a hole in a lesson plan. The kids will actually want to hear them. For young readers, the following informational picture books will make gaining knowledge about their world as easy as a spoonful of sugar―no medicine required.

Frog SongGUIBERSON, Brenda Z. Frog Song. illus. by Gennady Spirin. Holt. 2013. ISBN 9780805092547. JLG Level: NEK : Nonfiction Early Elementary (Grades K–2).

“Slurp!” The Darwin’s frog in Chile scoops up the tadpoles and keeps them in his vocal sacs for seven weeks. Then the froglets jump out of his mouth. A wood frog in Canada sings a “brackbrack!” song when she calls her mate. The female Surinam toad carries 100 eggs in the skin on her back. In four months, tadpoles will swim through her skin and away from their mother. Children will learn how frogs and toads sing all over the world as they incubate and hatch their babies. Gorgeous tempera, watercolor, and pencil illustrations provide young students with eye-opening visuals.

Beatles were FabKRULL, Kathleen and Paul Brewer. The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny). illus. by Stacy Innerst. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. ISBN 9780547509914. JLG Level: E+ : Easy Reading (Grades 1–3).

Lots of kids learn to play guitar or drums, but not every musical kid makes history. The Fab Four, otherwise known as the Beatles, zoomed to stardom from Liverpool, England to San Francisco―and everywhere in between. After seventeen straight times of singing it, they recorded their first song―”Love Me Do.” Their next song, “Please Please Me,” hit number one on England’s music charts. The band that laughingly considered calling themselves the Rainbows, created Beatlemania. They played for the Queen Mother―and even joked with her while onstage. When interviewed, they answered questions, but their sense of humor got in the way of a serious response. When George was asked what he called his hairstyle, he replied, “Arthur.” Ringo answered “How did you find America?” with “We went to Greenland and made a left.” After all, don’t silly questions deserve silly answers? The husband and wife team of Krull and Brewer guide the reader from the start of the Beatles’s career until their final album, Abbey Road―though you may have to be a fan to see the importance of the album cover tribute illustration. Adults sharing the story with kids will have a soundtrack playing in the back of their minds while they read. The listeners will want to hear it too.

BatsMARKLE, Sandra. Bats: Biggest! Littlest! Boyds Mills. 2013. ISBN 9781590789520. JLG Level: NEK : Nonfiction Early Elementary (Grades K–2).

The Great Fruit-Eating Bat carries and eats figs while he flies. The Tube-Lipped Nectar Bat has a tongue so long that it’s attached to its ribcage. When not in use, the tongue curls up next to its heart. The Gray-Headed Flying Fox carries her baby with her, while Free-Tailed Bats cluster together on their own as their mother forages for food. Bats are as small as six inches and have a wingspan as big as three feet. Markle amazes readers with fascinating fats about bats―big and little, in this new addition to an animal series that includes large photographs and fonts.

Exclamation markROSENTHAL, Amy Krouse and Tom Lichtenheld. Exclamation Mark. Scholastic. 2013. ISBN  9780545436793. JLG Level: NEK : Nonfiction Early Elementary (Grades K–2).

Whoever said that reading about punctuation would be boring? Exclamation Mark is a laugh-out-loud adventure that appeals to everyone’s insecurities. “It seemed like the only time he [the exclamation mark] didn’t stand out was when he was asleep.” He was different, no matter how hard he tried to fit in. When an inquisitive question mark asks him more questions than he can handle, he finds his voice, shouting, “STOP!” It feels good to shout, so he tries something else―accepting himself.  Finding his place in the world could have endless possibilities. Simply told and illustrated, Rosenthal and Lichtenheld have created a classic that goes far beyond a language arts lesson.

Who Says Women Can't be DoctorsSTONE, Tanya Lee. Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell. Holt. 2013. ISBN 9780805090482. JLG Level: NEK : Nonfiction Early Elementary (Grades K–2).

Elizabeth Blackwell never walked away from a challenge. Whether it was sleeping on the floor to toughen herself up or carrying her brother over her head until she got her way, the little girl was determined to succeed. As a woman in the 1840s, she ran into a road block. She had decided to become a doctor even though everyone always said  that women can’t be doctors. Twenty-eight medical colleges refused to admit her, but Elizabeth wouldn’t give up. “No” was an answer she could not accept. Stone includes a two-page author’s note with more facts about the life of America’s first female doctor. Her narrative biographical account is perfect for reading aloud.

For strategies about how to use these books and links to supportive sites, check out the Junior Library Guild blog, Shelf Life.

Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at


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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.