Here are ten nonfiction picture books I love and love to teach with:
S.D.Nelson’s Digging a Hole to Heaven is part fiction (the story of one coal miner boy) and part nonfiction (the history of coal mining in general and the children who worked in those dangerous conditions). This is a fabulous book through which to peel back history and show how it impacted ordinary people.
Zeina Airached’s wonderful memoir in graphic novel form is a beautifully done portrait of the way in which war (in this case the war in Lebanon) tears apart society and challenges families on many levels. I love sharing this book with my students because this is a part of the world that is much on the news, and yet very remote and faraway to them.
Trudy Ludwig’s touching true life story of the Holocaust, Gifts from the Enemy is the true story of Alter Wiener, who found an act of kindness in the midst of great cruelty which transformed his view of what people are capable of, in spite of circumstances. We’ve had many wonderful discussions based on this book.
I always return to this book in the vast collection of Seymour Simon’s nonfiction work, because it is such a great example of how even the most technical and difficult to understand things (the brain!) can be written about with imagination and clarity. This is a wonderful mentor text for nonfiction work.
Separate is Never Equal is Duncan Tonatiuh’s marvelous retelling of the little known story of how Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California a full 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education. It’s one that opens my students’ eyes to the long, bitter, and on-going battle for civil rights in our country.
The Girl From the Tar Paper School is the unforgettable account of how Barbara Rose Johns led a nonviolent movement to change the conditions in her segregated school in 1951 – long before Brown vs. Board of Ed., and the other, more famous, cases of the Civil Rights Movement. This is a wonderful book for offering context and depth to the study of the Civil Rights Movement.
Linda Baie introduced me to Voices From the March on Washington is technically fiction (it’s really a novel in verse-6 “voices” of participants ) but I had to include it here because it offers such an important perspective of the March, which my students to think of just from the vantage point of Dr. King’s famous speech. This is a great book to train my students to look upon history from the point of view of people who were there – it builds on the work we do in our citizen’s journal entries in Social Studies.
Kathy Kacer’s The Magician’s of Auschwitz is another true story about a young boy who discovers a kind protector in the most unkind of places. We read this as a companion to Gifts from the Enemy, which allowed us to extend our discussions about the choices we make, and our ability to choose to respond with the better aspects of our nature, however terrible the circumstances.
I love anything that Patricia Polacco writes, and this true story of the way her drama teacher helped her overcome stage fright is just lovely. We read this in class one bleak January day, and had a wonderful discussion about what it takes to step beyond our fears and take a chance.
I’ve been listening to many interviews with Congressman John Lewis, as he speaks about the sequel to the graphic novel March (there will be three), which tells the story of his humble beginnings and his inspiring road to Civil Rights icon. Lewis is a real life hero, and I love sharing this extraordinary book with my students.
So, there are my 10 for 10. I am so looking forward to what everyone else has to share!