5 Non-fiction Picture Books Worth Reading

I have five more reviews of non-fiction picture books for you, today!

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohman

Honeybee has the most detailed illustrations I haven ever seen of bees. If you haven't seen a bee tongue yet, check it out! These illustrations may be even more detailed than a camera could possibly be at this point in our lives. Honeybee also has a great story to pull you along. It's a picture book through and through (no sidebars, no sub headings, no bolded vocabulary words) and the big question is "when will this bee get to fly?" The book teaches about all the jobs a worker bee has before she ever makes her first flight away from the hive, and the rest of her life, too. Honeybee was a big hit with my second grade daughter. It was a little bit text-heavy for my preschooler, but he listened in, too. We liked and learned from the labeled diagram of a bee in the book's backmatter as well. I'm happy to give this book a bit more "buzz." (Oh ho! See what I did there?)

A New Green Day by Antoinette Portis

I loved this little book! It is small in size at just 8x8 or so, but it has a big concept. Is it a book of riddles? A book of poetry? A book of nature art? It is all three.

Each page has a short nature poem on it, not quite a haiku, but close in length and imagery. This small poem is set in square of color, a clue! Turn the page, and reveal what aspect of nature spoke this poem on the previous page, and what it looks like through human eyes. 

The illustrations, "made using brush and sumi ink, leaf prints, vine charcoal and hand-stamped lettering" are simple and lovely. The book is short enough that you could read it to a group of preschoolers, but its their older siblings and parents who would love guessing the riddles.

This one is a treat, and I want to remember it.   

Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built by Angela Burke Kunkel illustrated by Paola Escobar

Digging for Words is the kind of book that librarians and bookworms will love. It tells the story of two Josés who live in Bogota. One is a boy, waiting for Saturday, the other a garbage man, out for his nightly work. With a slow pace and lots of poetic prose, the book tells the story of how and why Señor José has built an amazing library for children to visit on Saturdays. The book is also a love-letter to books, and illustrations make books that have been important to José come to life. I particularly liked the little bit more we get to learn about José after the story is over. He seems to be a normal guy, choosing to make the world a better place. 

This book highlights 14 young activists. Each two-page spread has several components: a poem, an illustration, and explanation of that person's activism, and an application that readers can try for themselves. It's an incredible versatile book. Teachers could use just one or two pages, and the book can also be enjoyed whole. There's a page in the back about all the poetry forms used in the book, from ballad to cinquain and more. The featured children come from a variety of backgrounds, and have helped make change in areas like bullying, transgender equality, finding a cure for diabetes, gun violence, and living with Downs syndrome. Some poems and pages I enjoyed more than others, but it's a nice collection. This one made the 2020 Cybils Non-fiction Shortlist for Elementary readers. 

A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan illustrated by Floyd Cooper

This one stood out to me from other civil rights picture books I read this year because it is told in the first person. Reading this book feels like sitting in on a conversation with Sharon Langley and her family. This is a book I plan to read with my family on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year. The story is relatable, and shows not only problems but progress and hope when it comes to Civil Rights. I particularly liked how the authors brought in the broader context of the movement, and also told about where the stories artifacts are now. I think this book would make an excellent starting point for talking to kids about race. And I loved the backmatter, complete with photos and a timeline. 

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