February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Stellar Nonfiction for Young Readers│ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.

Pair gorgeous artwork with beautiful, informative writing and you have the makings of a book worthy of a starred review. From amazing facts about eyes to an artist who could see colors, the following selections by the editors at Junior Library Guild fill a need for top-notch nonfiction that captures the imagination while feeding the demand for increased rigor. Use the following booktalks and resources for bringing poetry, personalities, and science to life.

Scraps by Lois EhlertEHLERT, Lois. The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life. S & S/Beach Lane. 2014. ISBN 9781442435711. JLG Level: NEK : Nonfiction Early Elementary (Grades K–2).

Why are you an artist? Where do you get your ideas? How do you make your books? Haven’t you always wanted to ask collage artist Lois Ehlert those very questions? The Scraps Book takes you behind-the-scenes to reveal the answers and the secrets of her picture book- making process.

Though the author/illustrator doesn’t have her own website, you can read her biography and interviews on multiple sites. Check out the publisher’s website or watch a video interview on Reading Rockets. For inspiration on Ehlertlike projects visit Be Creative: Illustrate or a Pinterest board. The 100 Scope Notes blog features the new title on its recent nonfiction post. Though you don’t need to wait until her November 9 birthday, Happy Birthday Author provides ideas and resources for an author study.

Firefly JulyJANECZKO, Paul B. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. illus. by Melissa Sweet. Candlewick. 2014. ISBN 9780763648428. JLG Level: E : Easy Reading (Grades 1–3).

For every season there is a poem―words blended to make the whole better than its parts. From verses on spring flowers to stanzas about the wild winter wind, poet Janeczko’s selections perfectly pair with Sweet’s captivating illustrations. You won’t want to wait for the passing of time to pour over each verse.

In addition to reading the multiple-starred reviews on the author’s website, you’ll find information about his other titles, as well as school visits. Don’t miss his Socks that Rock section. How do you say his name? TeachingBooks.net has free audio clips of the author and illustrator pronouncing their names. As beautiful as her books, Melissa Sweet’s website includes biographical information and activity kits. Check the JLG BTG LiveBinder for more poetry resources by searching the word “poetry.”

Eye to EyeJENKINS, Steve. Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World. Houghton Harcourt. 2014. ISBN 9780547959078. JLG Level: SCE : Science Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

A scallop with 111 eyeballs? The colossal squid eyeballs are as large as basketballs. A motion-less frog will starve to death―only sees when things move in front of it. The frog’s eyes also help it swallow its prey; they push the food down. A jumping spider has two pairs of eyes with separate jobs, allowing it to be the best-seeing spider. The tarsier’s eyes are each larger than its brain. How far away can a Eurasian buzzard see its prey? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

From videos to bookmaking and links to science websites, author/illustrator Steve Jenkins’s website showcases his signature style and look. Are you a middle school educator? Think picture books are just for elementary readers? Think again. Jenkins’s books are perfect for older students as well. I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids blog) has a great post about using these books with upper grades. The Classroom Bookshelf recently featured the author/illustrator. With websites and lesson plan ideas, this blog is just the ticket for teaching the starred title.

Noisy Paint boxROSENSTOCK, Barb. The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art. illus. by Mary Grandpré. Knopf. 2014. ISBN 9780307978493. JLG Level:  E+ : Easy Reading (Grades 1–3).

Vasya Kandinsky’s proper life would never be the same after his aunt gave him his first paint supplies. The colors seemed to whisper to him―what a noisy paint box! He worked until the colors went quiet. But no one understood what his paintings said, so he began to paint like everyone else. It would take a trip to the opera for the artist to unleash the power of his work. And he would never paint “properly” again.

Resources abound for this beautifully written and illustrated work. A Pinterest board features Kandinsky lessons. The Classroom Bookshelf published a post of the new title with resources for teaching. Watch a book trailer on Rosenstock’s website. You can invite the author to your school, visit via Skype, or follow her on Twitter or Pinterest. Harry Potter fans will recognize Mary Grandpré’s artwork and may want to visit her website. Perhaps you can’t take a field trip to the New York City art museum, but your students can view the Kandinsky Guggenheim exhibit online.

Additional Resources

In an effort to organize these links, I have created a LiveBinder. All websites will be posted within the LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources will be added. Simply go to JLG Booktalks to Go where you will see LiveBinder main tabs. Each tab is a book title. Under each color-coded tab are gray subtabs with links to media, websites, and other related documents. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Please visit JLG’s new LiveBinder, JLG Booktalks to Go.

For library resources, tips, and ideas, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) 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 www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com. (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)


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.

Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA

Do you want to ensure that your library’s collections are diverse, equitable, inclusive, and well-read?

Do you want to become a more culturally literate librarian and a more effective advocate for your community?

We've developed a foundational online course—with live sessions on February 28 & March 14—that will explore key concepts essential to cultivating and promoting inclusive and equitable collections.


  1. I’ll sign up for this blog. As middle school librarian and children’s author, this is just what I’m studying!