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Information books | Class #4, fall 2016


Our next class will be in two weeks, on November 9. We’ll be talking about five information books:

  • Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
  • Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell
  • Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
  • Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier
  • Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Things sure have changed since I was in elementary school. Instead of providing every fact known — or at least everything needed to write a report — information books nowadays aim to be as engaging as possible in order to get children interested in their subject. The idea is that it’s better to leave them wanting more and then provide a bibliography at the end of the book. I think this is a big improvement.

The other new development is that these books provide information on several levels, often using different typefaces and type sizes for each. Every year, some of my ed students are frustrated by this kind of delivery, finding it draining or overwhelming, and they fear their students will dislike it, too. Others, particularly visual learners and those who know kids with attention issues, love it. I think the key is to let children explore these books rather making them “accountable for” reading and retaining every word. If the subject engages a child, then he or she might go through the book a second, third, and even fourth time, reading and noticing more and more.

We’re also reading three articles related to Dave the Potter‘s Coretta Scott King award:

Please join us in discussing these books and articles in the comments below.

Note: Students have been asked to research specific book creators and websites and add their findings in the comments.

  • Phil K. on Steve Jenkins
  • MG P. on Laban Carrick Hill
  • Liza RO on Dave the Potter
  • Catherine K. on Patrick McDonnell
  • Young C. on Carole Boston Weatherford
  • Joyce R. on Ekua Holmes
  • Emily D. on Melissa Stewart
  • Stone D. on Sarah S. Brannen
Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. Emily Nadel says:

    I love the design of Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen. I wonder whether Stewart and Brannen came up with the design, or a publisher. The images and information look puzzled together, as if in a scrapbook. The fonts look more like handwritten text than computerized, adding to the feelings of familiarity and comfort stimulated by the scrapbook-like design. Details about each type of feather are separated from the main text, allowing readers to customize their experience and seek more information when desired. These details are written on what look like strips of paper, cut and taped into the book. Artifacts are also “taped” onto the pages, for example, a piece of a knit blanket. Other pieces of text are “pinned” to the page, as if hung on a cork board. The large images of birds are also sometimes pinned, other times these detailed pictures have their own frames. By creating illustrations that look like pieces of a collection taped, pinned, and framed together, Brannen brings a personal feeling to an information book. Moreover, this format may motivate readers to start their own collection of observations and artifacts.

  2. I cannot make my mind on whether I like “Dave the Potter” as a children’s book, but I am really grateful that we get to read this together in class and have a discussion about it. I consider the book as a very gentle touch on the issue of race and American history of slavery: even though the illustrator is intentional in bringing up the issues of slavery in his painting – the slaves picking up cotton at the background etc., it is very implicit and I doubt a little kid would notice it by him/herself, or would be able to understand the context at all. When I read it for the first time, I was struck by the absence of white characters in the book; because for me, only through juxtaposing two aspects of the subject that we are trying to discuss, can we really gain fuller/deeper understanding. For instance, because of the absence of white characters, a little kid possibly would think the book is on lives of African people, especially when they don’t understand the concept of “slavery”. The book is deliberately simplified, and stories of Dave’s hardships are mostly left out, with most attention on his artistry and literacy, which can be justified because it is a children’s book. On the other hand, this simplification is exactly why I think this book is so valuable. Without being too aggressive, it creates a pathway for possible conversation and further understanding, as shown in Lambert’s article. Her son Stevie’s experience of reading the book is definitely a pleasant and empowering one, but I wonder whether it is a common experience for kids who are reading this book.

  3. Nana Seiwaa Sekyere says:

    I loved Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen. Like Emily, I noticed the scrapbooking features that were present in the book (I just couldn’t put a name to the technique!) I liked that the functions of each bird’s feathers were related to concepts children may be familiar with. I found it very helpful that there were illustrations of what the author was relating the functions of the feathers to. For instance when the author mentions that “Feathers can dig holes like a backhoe”, there is a picture of a backhoe. I did not know what a backhoe was but gathered that it is used for digging so it was helpful to see a picture of it. While I was learning what different feathers do, I also learned a new word! The pictures do a great job of showing what is being said in the text.

  4. I loved the concept and execution of “Me…Jane” by Patrick McDonnell. I think it does a wonderful job on many levels and has many uses in the classroom. First and foremost, I loved the fact that this is clearly a book about a female scientist and provides a great role model for young girls who want to be scientists. Yet the book is unself-concious about Jane’s gender and does not belabor or even draw much attention to the fact that Jane is a female scientist. I think this is great because it provides the great female role model for both girls and boys without making girls self-concious about gender. Second, I love the fact that the book provides many examples of ways Jane explored her world as a child using the scientific technique of observation. Any child can climb a tree or watch a bird lay an egg and giving children actionable activities today that connect to a future career in science is wonderful. Third and lastly, I love the fact that we don’t realize Jane the child is the famous Jane Goodall until the end. I think this helps children imagine themselves exploring science and makes the idea of becoming a scientist approachable. I also think it encourages growth mindset and curiosity because we see Jane exploring her world in as a child and then exploring again as an adult scientist. Overall, “Me…Jane” was a wonderful book because of its light touch and ability to make an eminent scientist seem human and relatable.

  5. I adored “Features: Not Just for Flying,” for many of the same reasons my peers have noted. I thought it was really fun in how it was put together like a scrapbook. The painted tape and memorabilia was beautiful, and I’m sure a child reading it would have loved it. I was tempted to run my fingers over the flat pages several times. I liked that a beginning reader could have just read the simple bold lines of text, or a more advanced reader or a grown-up could have read the more complicated caption text.
    Another thing I noticed about this book that I loved was the casual “diversity” in the book. There were many children of different ethnicities and well as seemingly different countries portrayed in side pictures, which I appreciated. Science can be a very “white” or “American” thing, and small details like this can make a difference!

  6. “To us
    it is just dirt,
    the ground we walk on…

    But to Dave
    it was clay,
    the plain and basic stuff
    upon which he formed a life
    as a slave nearly 200 years ago.”

    This excerpt from Dave the Potter epitomizes the style and content of Laban Carrick Hill’s books. In this poem, as well as his other award-winning prose works, such as Harlem Stomp! A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance, and America Dreaming: How Youth Changed America in the 1960s, Hill creates stories that are historical, yet current, unique, yet relevant, in order to advocate for a more inclusive America. Harlem Stomp in particular struck me; I could feel the energy of the Renaissance resonating from the book’s pages, and I appreciated its blend of history with storytelling. Additionally, when I was learning about Hill, I read that he spent ten years researching this story, which is not only impressive, but also a testament to how highly he regards the material and the importance of its emphasis. It certainly comes through in his work, which was wonderful to observe when reading.

    Laban Carrick Hill has written over 35 books, including two adult novels. He has taught creative writing at numerous universities, including Columbia University, St. Michael’s College, and the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka. He has also written for the New York Times and the Smithsonian. He was born in New York, but spent his childhood in Memphis. A fun fact about Hill is that he did an apprenticeship under Allen Ginsburg when he was 20 years old in Denver, Colorado.

    Read more about him here:

  7. Ekua Holmes is an interesting painter and collage artist who grew up in Roxbury, MA. She is currently a part-time teacher at MassArt and the director of sparc! The ArtMobile which brings art to people in Boston. She graduated from Massachusetts College of Art. Her connection to Fannie Lou Hamer is extensive as she conducted a lot of research about her. When asked about her perception of Hamer, Holmes comments that Hamer’s relationship with her mother stood out to Holmes. Perhaps that resonated well with Holmes because of her deep sense of belonging to family and a community. Her interviews reflect that radiating warmth. Perhaps that’s why she continued to live close to where she grew up. Her exhibitions also commemorate family members like her grandfather. Her art is quite distinct and includes multiple layers of depictions whether in Voice of Freedom or other work.

    Fun fact: Holmes designed the Google Doodle of Martin Luther King Day:

    TEDx Talk about sparc!:

  8. Carole Boston Weatherford was born to be a poet. She describes herself as an author and poet of children’s literature who, “mines the past for family stories, fading traditions and forgotten struggles.” She has written more than 40 books based on inspiring African-American historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Jesse Owens, Billie Holiday, Michelle and Barack Obama, and Fannie Lou Hamer. Some of her other books deal with historical events such as the Greensboro Sit-ins and the Bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. For each book, Carole Boston Weatherford often includes a description of the research process and how her poetry or prose was inspired. Her books have received wide recognition for its lyrical poetic voice and have won many awards, including the Caldecott Honor.

    Carole Boston Weatherford was born in Baltimore. She wrote her first poem in first grade and enjoyed reading Dr. Seuss and Langston Hughes, who was the first Black poet, as a child. She has a BA from American University, an MA from the University of Baltimore, and an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She currently resides in North Carolina and teaches composition and children’s literature at Fayetteville State University. She describes her works as being deeply personal but believes her book, Becoming Billie Holiday, is closest to her heart.

    Read more about Carole Boston Weatherford on:

  9. I really enjoyed Actual Size because it was captivating in its illustration and idea. The illustrations were incredibly detailed, even how light reflects off the eyes was taken into account! The beautifully detailed eye of the ostrich was my particular favourite. I also looked up facts about the atlas moth, which I had never seen before. Their cocoons are so large that they are used as coin purses in Taiwan. I thought using paper to recreate the texture of the animal’s skins, feathers and cuticles presented a realistic portrayal. Furthermore, the idea of presenting creatures in their actual size was creative. I felt like I was exploring the natural world first hand. I couldn’t resist putting my hand against that of a gorilla or the colossal eye of a giant squid. I can see how easily a child would be captivated with the book as I was. The text was concise, and it piqued my interest to do more research. I can see how I would use this in my ELL classroom to teach comparatives and superlatives.

  10. Steve Jenkins moved a lot when he was little as his father was first in the military, then involved in higher education, eventually becoming a physics professor. As such, Jenkins could not keep many friends and instead immersed himself in science, collecting animal and mineral specimens wherever he went. He later studied graphic design but would marry his interest in art and science when he began to create children’s books. He was an avid reader growing up and has fond memories of reading to his children up until 6th grade. His family has contributed to his work; his wife has co-authored 16 books with him, and his children’s questions about nature have informed the subjects of many of his books.

    Some other books:
    As author: Never Smile at a Monkey / Bones: Skeletons and How They Work
    As illustrator: Animal Dads / Elephants Swim
    With his wife: How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly? / Sisters and Brothers

  11. Stone Dawson says:

    Sarah S. Brannen has illustrated over a dozen children’s books, including three that she wrote herself. Brannen has had a lifelong connection to the arts, from her father giving her drawing lessons before she could even write to a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard and an MFA in printmaking from Penn. All of this work has paid off with two of the books illustrated by Brannen, “Feathers: Not Just For Flying” and “At Home in Her Tomb,” having earned prestigious awards.

    In addition to her talents as an illustrator, Brannen is also an active journalist and photographer, most prominently in the field of figure skating. Her work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers despite no formal training in photography. Brannen has stated that her photography ability stems from her work in other mediums which have given her a good eye for light and composition.

    This link is to an interview in which Sarah discusses how she became an illustrator as well as her process for illustrating her books:

  12. Melissa Stewart is an author best known for her nonfiction science books– she’s written over 150 of them! Her passion for science, and particularly nature, began early on in her childhood, as she fondly remembers walks in New England forests with her dad and brother that led her to discover her fascination with nature. She ultimately pursued a biology major at Union College, and it was in fact a biology professor that suggested she start writing professionally, inspiring her to earn a master’s in science journalism from NYU. Melissa went on to work as a children’s book editor for nearly a decade, until she officially became a full-time author. She notes that her books are inspired and informed by personal research, and she has had the opportunity to travel throughout the world, including “tropical rain forests in Costa Rica,” “safari in East Africa,” and the Galapagos Islands. On her website’s FAQ page, Melissa Stewart notes that if she had to be a punctuation mark, she would choose to be a question mark, “because I’m so naturally curious and because most of my books begin when I ask myself a question.”

    Check out Melissa Stewart’s blog that provides resources for science educators as well as nonfiction writers: Her most recent post is reflecting upon how to guide students through the writing revision process; interestingly, she notes that Feathers: Not Just for Flying, one of the books our class is reading this week, took 8 years to go from its first conception to its ultimate publication!

    Learn more about Melissa Stewart on her official website:

  13. Patrick McDonnell knew he wanted to be a cartoonist from an early age, and is best known for the comic strip MUTTS, which he created in 1994 and which now appears in over 700 newspapers worldwide. In addition to winning numerous awards, MUTTS was one of the favorite comic strips of Ray Bradbury, the great science fiction writer, and Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, called it “one of the best comic strips of all time.” The strip—told from the point of view of animals—often addresses the treatment of animals, something McDonnell cares about deeply. He is a vegetarian, and serves on the board of the Humane Society of the United States.

    In 2005, McDonnell wrote his very first children’s book, which became a New York Times bestseller. Like his comics, his books reflect his desire to care for animals and the earth. In 2007, for example, he published another New York Times bestseller about a cat who travels the world giving hugs to endangered animals, Hug Time. In 2011, he published Me…Jane, which became a Caldecott Honor Book.

    While McDonnell acknowledges a difference between creating comic strips and children’s books (primarily a difference in the amount of space available, comic strips being far more confined) he also acknowledges a fundamental similarity: “I really just love telling stories with words and pictures, and I think with both a comic strip and a kid’s book you really need to get to the essence of the matter; you really need to tell the story very simply and directly.”

    Here is a link to Patrick McDonnell’s official website if you wish to learn more about him and his work:

  14. Liza Raino-Ogden says:

    Dave the Potter was a real to life potter, born in 1801 in Pottersville, South Carolina. He was a slave, a poet, an artist, and a potter. It is estimated that he threw about 100,000 pots in his life, on many of which he inscribed quotes, bible verses, or short poems. His first owner, Harry Drake, taught him to read and write presumable because Drake was a very religious man and wanted his slave to be able read the bible. Back in those days, it was illegal to teach slaves to read or write, so though there are many pots with inscriptions, there was a period of time when the inscriptions stopped–perhaps due to the threat of the slave uprising, a time when Dave would not have wanted to draw attention to himself. Later, when he was finally free after abolition, he took on the last name Drake, from his first owner, presumably because he taught him to read and write, giving him his voice.

    It has been suggested that he lost a leg early in life due to a train accident, and therefore could not spend time working in the fields. His pots truly did allow him to express himself in a way that few other slaves of the time were able to do–not many people were publishing slave poetry.

    An interesting question brought up in a video with Laban Hill (the author of the book), is who is Dave writing for? It is true that at the time he was writing on these pots, he was considered property just like the pots he was creating. As Laban said, “here he is, revealing humanity in the face of the inhumanity all around him. And that is just extraordinary.”

    Feel free to check out the interview with Laban Carrick Hill at

  15. I felt comfort as I saw the word wonder pop up in several of the above comments, as my overwhelming feeling reading this week’s books was one of wonder, which I supposed means the authors and illustrators accomplished their goals. In Feathers: Not Just For Flying, I wondered why those particular birds were chosen and which of the birds children would be able to recognize. In Actual Size, I wondered how big the rest of the bear’s body must be and how many of my hands, or the pygmy mouse’s hands, would fit in the gorilla’s hand. I wondered if a shark’s teeth are really that big up close and why male peacocks are the “pretty” ones, while stereotypically, as humans, females are viewed as the “pretty” ones. Reading Me….Jane, I wondered why Jane named her monkey Jubilee and why she liked puzzles so much as a child. I wondered how she chose primates to study over all other animals and how she decided to up and move to Africa of all places. As I read Voice of Freedom, I wondered what Fannie’s voice sounded like given her distinct wording and what it was like to have 19 siblings.

    As Lolly alluded to above, these authors seems to have deliberately chosen to give breadcrumbs of information to entice readers to want to know more and explore further. This approach definitely worked for me, and left me wondering where I could find out more about everything from bears to animal scientists to pottery to civil rights, which is a powerful way to introduce children to learning, exploration, and research.

  16. I think Dave the Potter is a simple and beautifully-written book and I loved Bryan Collier’s illustrations, but, like Shuwen, I am unsure how I feel about its treatment of slavery as it relates to its status as a book for children. This is an issue I am thinking about in relation to my bibliography topic, as well, since I am curating a list of books about the Civil War. I believe strongly that children’s books should not shy away from difficult topics of historical and national heritage, but, as we have already discussed in class, there are certainly times children, especially while particularly young, will not be able to process or accept difficult truths. Megan Lambert’s essay about reading the book with her children provides an example of the book serving as an entry point for conversation about slavery, a perspective I appreciated.
    Lambert says that the book “is not gentle, as it does not flinch from the reality of Dave’s bondage even as it depicts his expressions of resistance against it.” I’m not sure I agree with this. Certainly she didn’t flinch from the reality in later discussions with her son Stevie, but the book itself is not so rigidly truthful as to disallow less brave parents’ flinching. In fact, I think it is the pictures that would allow entrees into such conversations more than the text: the slaves working in the fields on the first page and later, the ship in the background of the spread discussing “memories,” which relates to the description of the “flat wooden paddle/large enough to row/across the Atlantic” with which Dave mixes clay and water. But the word “slave” appears only once, and otherwise the difficulties Dave must have had finding time for his art while enslaved are not mentioned. Nor is the leg he lost, although the story is “taken from Dave’s life before and after he lost his leg.” I’m not sure I can imagine a child asking why the author would have chosen to refer to the Atlantic. Basically, I think the book is lyrical and the pictures lovely. It could certainly serve as a jumping-off point for larger discussion, as it did for Megan Lambert, but I think in these cases the onus would be on the parents to ask prompting questions and guide the discussion; the book only provides thematic background.

  17. Melissa Christ says:

    My young children and I truly enjoyed the book, “Me…Jane” by Patrick McDonnell. As Catherine stated, McDonnell certainly does “reflect his desire to care for animals and the earth” in his books. “Me…Jane” is a book about an inquisitive young Jane Goodall who, as Alex shared, explores the natural world around her using the scientific method of observation. My 5 year-old daughter made several text-to-self connections during and after I read aloud the book. She shared with me that she loves to climb trees and watch the birds in our yard too. “Remember mommy, I watched the birds build a nest in the bird house this summer and get food for the babies when they hatched out of the eggs.” The book had just the right amount of information blended with storytelling for both my 2 year old and 5 year old.
    The illustrations were engaging and whimsical. In addition, I especially loved that McDonnell included some of Jane Goodall’s own illustrations from her childhood. My children and I spent several minutes just looking over those pages and discussing them. I did not find that it detracted from the whimsical feel of the book, rather that it added to the story. The end of the book with a photo of Jane Goodall reaching out to a chimpanzee, additional information about Jane, and a message from her was a beautiful way for McDonnell to end this lovely book.

  18. Katherine Hu says:

    I loved Voice of Freedom, and I am very much looking forward to Ekua Holmes’ visit on Wednesday! It was surprising for me to learn that she grew up right here in Mass, and I thought that the art was so beautiful and reflective. In a lot of the pictures, I noticed that there would be words from what looked like newspaper clippings hidden, which I found to be really powerful. Each piece is so unique and creative. Because of the art, I think the book choose a very beautiful way of introducing such a sensitive subject to many young readers. The characters in each image are just realistic enough to be relatable, but the actual artwork creates a bit of distance between the story and the reader.

  19. Siyuan Lu says:

    I really enjoy reading the book ‘Actual Size’ by Steve Jenkins. The way that it presents the animals in actual size is very impressive. Usually for information book about an animal, it is very difficult for the readers to have a feeling about how large an animal really is. For instance, there are several books introducing the African elephant which is the largest land animal. In those books reader would learn the information that African elephant can be as high as 13 feet and as heavy as 14000 pounds. However, those big numbers are very unfamiliar for people. In the book ‘Actual Size’, the author put the large foot of African elephant on a whole page based on the actual size of the foot. This could give the readers a very straightforward understanding that the African elephant is really huge. When I read this page, it is like I am hugging the foot of the elephant. I really like that this book offers a connection between information and reality.

  20. I am so impressed with the visual richness and design choices in the books this week. In Me… Jane, I love the juxtaposition of the more cartoonish, childlike depiction of the natural scenes with the more realistic engravings that communicate Jane Goodall’s attention to and love for scientific detail from a young age.
    I also particularly loved the different functions of the single page that folds out in Actual Size and Dave the Potter. In Actual Size, the page with the saltwater crocodile requires extra space, and the effect of being presented with the crocodile’s large, open mouth suddenly as the page turns is dramatic and thrilling. In contrast, in Dave the Potter, the foldout page is used to show the sequence of Dave’s molding of the pot he makes. I thought that the folding out was such an effective way to communicate the amount of time and care it took for him to craft one of his pots (much more so than if the same illustrations had been divided over several page spreads).
    In general, these design effects just add to the incredibly rich visual experiences that these books represent. They certainly prove that informational texts can create an exploratory experience for the reader rather than being clinical or dry.

  21. I really like the book Me…Jane. Lolly commented that “information books nowadays aim to be as engaging as possible in order to get children interested in their subject”, I also believe that children construct their own knowledge, and the educators’ job is to sustain children’s continued interest in the subject matter. The storyline of Me…Jane is very interesting and exciting, which can easily draw children’s attention and encourage them to explore the nature more. The texts on the left side are short, so it is easier for children of early age to maintain their interests. Additionally, the illustrations on the right side are very beautiful. The color is very natural. Each page is clean and organized. I especially like the little story of Jane Goodall at the end of the book. It will inspire children to pursue their interests and encourage them to insist their choice.

  22. “Dave the Potter–Artist, Poet, Slave” by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier, is a beautiful snapshot into Dave’s accomplishments and life. I loved how the text is written as prose, which echoes the poetry that Dave wrote throughout his lifetime. I also love the patchwork feeling of the illustrations. The pictures look collaged together with a blend of real photographs and painted illustrations. In a way I feel the illustrations create a sense of blending our the historical with what we see today.
    This book would be an excellent resource in facilitating and teaching about biographical research. The back of the book contains a bibliography and websites that students can visit. It is rare to find these resources cited in a picture book, however, many students struggle with including bibliographies in their own research. Teachers could use this book to model bibliographies, or use the resources at the end to promote further research on Dave’s life.

  23. As a former preschool teacher and a current graduate student, I cannot say enough great things about “Actual Size’ by Steve Jenkins. My 3 and 4 year old students would continuously choose to read this book independently or ask to share this book with a teacher. My students’ readings of the book demonstrate one of the many amazing things about this text- students as young as 3 and 4 years old are able to enjoy and understand it’s content independently, and these understandings are enhanced as an adult reads the blurbs on each page. Furthermore, I consider myself to be an extremely visual learner. The incorporation of strong, concrete visuals in this book allow for me as an adult learner to understand the size of various animals… I can imagine that for children, these visual representations enhance their understandings as well. I distinctly remember my preschoolers interacting with the book and flipping through the pages, placing their hand over the image of the gorilla or opening the folded flaps to reveal the size of a crocodile’s mouth.
    When I was growing up, I can remember informational text that was very “formal” and included measurements of animal size; however, I had never encountered a text that allows for readers to interact with size and measurements in such a way that is done in this book. I would love to hear about how other educators have used this in their own classrooms!

  24. Andrea M. says:

    I have very much enjoyed reading this week’s information books and thinking about Lolly’s comments throughout my reading. Like Lizz mentioned, these books definitely leave you wondering and wanting to know more about the different subjects, and therefore achieving their goal as information books.
    I have been positively surprised by the design choices, as Grace mentioned. I loved how the book jacket and book cover in “Me…Jane” are different, one with the drawing of Jane with Jubilee and the other one with a real picture of Jane with Jubilee. I also enjoyed looking at Jane Goodall’s detailed sketches. I was amazed by Steve Jenkins beautiful art in “Actual Size”, and can easily imagine how it can be used in the class for different lessons about measuring, comparing sizes, or as a first step in learning animal facts. Then, in “Feathers, Not Just for Flying”, I was pleased to learn new vocabulary by having visual references, like Nana mentioned, as if I were looking at a naturalist’s journal.

  25. I would not have thought that informational books could be effective without including a lot of information, but these <Me… Jane and Actual Size have made a great case for the idea that less is more!

    As Melissa described, Me… Jane was a great balance of narrative and fact. Children are able to relate since the protagonist is Jane as a child (accompanied by her trusty stuffed animal), yet the inclusion of Jane’s drawings in the middle and the photograph at the end help children to realize that Jane Goodall was a real person. Since detailed information about Jane’s work as an adult is absent, students may be prompted to ask questions or seek out additional books, just as Lolly and others have mentioned in their posts. For this reason, I think the book would be a fantastic hook/opener for a lesson about Jane Goodall.

    I also really enjoyed Actual Size. Although there is informational text on each page, I felt as though the main focus of the book were the images. The format encourages students to interact with the images since the images show each animal’s “actual size.” If I were a student, I would want to compare the size of my hand with the illustrations and take my time on each page. To echo an idea that I stated with Me… Jane, this book only gives a snippet of information about each animal, but if a student is particularly intrigued by an illustration, then the child may search for other resources on that animal.

  26. Monique H. says:

    “Actual Size” by Steve Jenkins is the type of information book that I know I would’ve liked as a child. The fact that the images are illustrated (made with cut & torn paper) rather than true-to-life photographs makes it feel less like a book you’d have to read in science class and more like one you’d read for fun. (Not to mention, for me personally, seeing a photograph of that giant tarantula would be utterly terrifying.) The book is also really interactive in that it allows children to see how they measure up to certain creatures and it can encourage the use of math/comparison language. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

  27. Santi Dewa Ayu says:

    As Emily and Shaina mentioned, Feathers: Not Just for Flying written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen, thrives on its scrapbook form. It was one of the most accessible information picture books that I have read in a long time. The style of illustration included an object meant to be familiar to the reader. This familiarity worked to solidify the written analogy and helped make the concepts more relatable; for me this directly translated to making the information presented more memorable. In addition, the insertion of photographic style images, in combination with the name of the bird species and location, contributed to an entry level of greater understanding of how to document images from an informational and research perspective. The simple and systematic approach to presenting new material on each spread also emphasized the accessibility of the content and left doors open for readers, students, and educators to potentially add their own pages by utilizing the clearly documented format. I would love to see more books with a similar style as it appears to be a great approach to using effective messaging to present a variety of content. If anyone has other book suggestions, let me know- thanks!

  28. Alice Wang says:

    Feathers–Anyone who has a fascination about animals would love this nonfictional information book about birds and their feathers. I loved how different types of feathers are compared to different items – jewelry, backhoes, sponges, life jackets and snowshoes.
    Each page has two levels of text. The main text compares the feathers to the objects. Each page also has a short paragraph giving more information about the comparison. Each comparison also has a picture of the bird using its feathers in the cited manner, a picture of the feathers that are being discussed, and a picture of the object that the feathers are being compared to.
    This creative non-fiction is a superb way of getting children acquainted with the subject. But, the text is not only informative, but also cognitively inspiring in that it pulls from reader’s prior knowledge and schemas to help them relate to how the feathers function.

  29. I had the good fortune of hearing Jane Goodall lecture — and meeting her briefly — when I was a college student nearly twenty years ago. Patrick McDonnell’s “Me…Jane,” whether intentionally or not, perfectly captures Dr. Goodall’s understated ethos and quiet confidence. Without overloading children on information about her career, the book captures the essence of how this remarkable woman became a scientist and public figure renowned the world over. (Others above rightly point out the significance of this portrayal for budding female scientists the world over…) What does it look like to have a curiosity needed to pursue this work?

    The illustrations take on the muted colors of the natural world Dr. Goodall inhabits. I’m particularly intrigued by the use of illustration immediately behind text to underscore the message of that page. (For example, “Jane could feel her own heart beating…beating…” with hearts that appear to be in motion behind.

    Finally, I appreciated at the end, where there is a more formal biography of Dr. Goodall, and a message from her directly to the children who may be reading. For those who are interested in more in-depth information (older readers?), it’s available without leaving the book.

  30. “Feathers: Not Just for Flying” is a delightfully informative book with great illustrations. Part scrapbook and part science journal, it explores the functions and diversity of bird feathers and species. I think it is a very creative way of getting children acquainted with non-fiction subject. The optional details for older children is a nice touch – reminds me kids travel books by Salvatore Rubbino!

  31. I mentioned in my biography about Carole Boston Weatherford that she was inspired by Langston Hughes. In the spirit of Election Day, I’d like to share a little excerpt from Langston Hughes’s Let America Be America Again.

    Let America be America again.
    Let it be the dream it used to be.
    Let it be the pioneer on the plain
    Seeking a home where he himself is free.

    (America never was America to me.)

    Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
    Let it be that great strong land of love
    Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
    That any man be crushed by one above.

    (It never was America to me.)

    O, let my land be a land where Liberty
    Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
    But opportunity is real, and life is free,
    Equality is in the air we breathe.

  32. After reading the book about Hamer, whom I confess I’d never heard of, I had to go look her up some more. And really, I wanted to know what her “voice of freedom” sounded like. Here’s a documentary clip I found telling more about her testimony and how LBJ tried to undermine it:

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