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Class #4 | Information books, Oct. 18, 2017

I’m posting a little late this time, after a busy week preparing for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Friday night and Horn Book at Simmons colloquium Saturday, focused on the theme of Resistance. Both events were well attended and the speakers were amazing. I love it when the judges award older book creators (like Ashley Bryan) and newcomers to the field (like Angie Thomas). Honoring books as exemplary as Freedom Over Me and The Hate U Give could make us feel smug about how far we’ve come. Not so. Perhaps what I love best about my field is the recent willingness to look our issues in the face and try to do something about them. Bravo to Angie for the bravery to write her book AND tell a roomful of editors and librarians that we all need to do better for children of color. As I get older, I love that the people I look up to are getting younger and younger. I need that kind of hope these days.

At our next class on October 18 we will be talking about five information books and also hosting a panel of children’s book creators. Our books are:

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

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

The other new development is that many of these books provide information on several levels, often using different typefaces and type sizes for each strand. Every year, some of my 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 again and again, reading and noticing more each time.

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.

  • Charles M. on Steve Jenkins
  • Medina R. on Dave the Potter
  • Sophie M. on Carole Boston Weatherford
  • Marion C. on Ekua Holmes
  • Sanya S. on Melissa Stewart
  • Lin Z. on Sarah S. Brannen
  • Cynthia W. on Cynthia Levinson
  • Katie T. on the Sibert Awards


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. Marion Cunningham says:

    *Ekua Holmes (1955 – Present)*

    Related links:

    • Ms. Holmes is an artist whose preferred art form is collage.
    • She is a native of Boston’s Roxbury community
    • Holmes is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art (MassArt)
    • She was founder and director of The Great Black Art Collection
    • Currently Ekua is an instructor at MassArt
    • She is also Assistant Director of MassArt’s Center for Art and Community Partnerships, and manages sparc! the ArtMobile, “the institution’s vehicle for community outreach pursuing a mission of ‘igniting art and design in the neighborhood!’ ”
    • There was an exhibit of her art associated with children’s books in July 2017: “The Art of Ekua Holmes” at Simmons College’s Center for the Study of Children’s Literature as part of its Summer Institute’s “(im)possible dreams” series.
    • She is an award winner. The book she recently illustrated on Fannie Lou Hamer (and written by Carole Boston Weatherford), titled Voice of Freedom, won the following awards:
    o The Caldecott Honor Book for “…awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children ..”
    o The Robert F. Sibert Honor Book “ … to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book ..” and
    o The John Steptoe New Talent Coretta Scott King Award
    o Ms. Holmes has also won
    ♣ 2013 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award and a
    ♣ Brother Thomas Fellowship
    • She illustrated the children’s book “Out of Wonder, Poems Celebrating Poets.”
    • She has a 5-year appointment to the Boston Art Commission which expires in 2018. 
    • Holmes was commissioned to create a Google Doodle commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday (the image is displayed below)
    • Selected venues and exhibitions of Holmes’s work
    o “Epiphany: Excerpts from the Lives of Black Women Artists,” a group exhibition exclusively of women of color, who overcame obstacles, to become or remain artists. Consecutively titled Epiphany I, II, III, IV and V, the exhibitions ran annually between 2000-2004.
    o “Renewal and Regeneration,” Museum of Our National Heritage, Lexington, MA, 2000
    o “Second Childhood,” Hess Gallery of Pine Manor College, Chestnut Hill, MA, 2004
    o “Goree,” Museum of the National Center of Afro American Artists, collage, 2004

  2. This book is great for children as young as pre-school-age as well as older children. What’s cool about this information book is that the animals are drawn to scale and it informs readers about a wide variety of animals from insects, to birds and mammals. The big, bright, and detailed illustrations attract readers and create a wow factor  before children read the interesting facts in the text.

  3. Previous post on Actual Size by Steve Jenkins*

  4. Three elements really impressed me about “Feathers”:
    (1) It uses real-world examples. Each point links feathers to an everyday object (eg a blanket, sponge or whistle), and these everyday objects are also illustrated. This could help students to understand the different functions of feathers, and increase their broader vocabulary.
    (2) It groups the different purposes of feathers and puts these into sentence format – eg “Feathers can shade out sun like an umbrella … or protect skin like sunscreen”. This might encourage students to think critically about their own research, and how they can draw connections between topics.
    (3) The information can be approached at different levels – eg a child could focus on only the large text, and read more detailed parts according to their interests/questions.
    These elements seem to be consistent with practices for improving reading comprehension, and illustrate Lolly’s points about how information books have changed.

  5. Sophie Mortner says:

    “My mission as an author is to mine the past for family stories, fading traditions and forgotten struggles.”

    Carole Boston Weatherford is an African American author from Baltimore, MD who has written over 40 books of poetry, fiction, adult fiction, non-fiction, biography, and historical fiction. Her books tend to focus on African American characters, characters that she remembers seeing very seldom in the books she read as a child. She writes about historical moments that she feels have not been given enough attention in children’s literature. She creates characters in these books to make them identifiable to children who were not there. She hopes that teachers will use her books in their classes to introduce students to historical events and perhaps spark their further research and interest in these topics (i.e. civil rights, segregation, and slavery).

    Her most notable books include:

    Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement which won the Caldecott Honor, Sibert Honor and many other awards.

    Birmingham, 1963 which won the Jefferson Cup from Virginia Library Association, Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and Jane Addams Children’s Literature Honor

    And the book she dreams her most successful, Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led her People to Freedom which won the Caldecott Medal.

    When she is not writing, Carol Boston Weatherford is an English Professor at Fayetteville State College, and often presents at conferences and public and private schools around the country

    Websites for further research:

  6. Sanya Sagar says:

    – Melissa Stewart has written more than 180 science books, and is an award-winning author –
    – Her aim is to share the beauty and wonder of nature and the world with children.
    – She has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Union College in Schenectady, NY and a master’s degree in science journalism from NYU.
    – Before becoming a full-time writer, Melissa was a children’s book editor for nine years. She switched in 2000.
    – Her books include everything from board books for preschoolers to resource guides for educators.
    – According to Stewart, the most important part of nonfiction writing is firsthand research.
    – She has traveled to Costa Rica, East Africa and the Galapagos Islands to conduct research for her books.
    – Melissa maintains the blog, Celebrate Science –
    – She also contributes to I.N.K (Interesting Non-fiction for Kids) –
    – She is also on the board of advisors for the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators.
    – She offers school visit programs in person or via Skype, and has programs for educators that focus on nonfiction writing, using children’s literature to address curriculum, and creative ways to integrate science and language arts.
    – How Melissa got interested in Science is a very interesting story – one day, she went to the woods with her father who asked her a question. He asked her, “Do you notice anything unusual about the trees in this part of the forest?” She told him that she had noticed the trees seemed small. That’s when he told her the forest had had a fire and many trees had burned and animals had been lost, but the forest had recovered. Since that day, Melissa was fascinated by nature.
    – The first book she remembers reading is Mr. Mysterious and Company by Sid Fleischman. And she even got a chance to meet Fleischman at a writers’ conference.
    – She worked on Feathers for three years before it finally took the shape she wanted it to.

  7. Sedef Seker says:

    I learned so much this week! As a kid, I didn’t enjoy information books a lot – I always preferred TV shows/cartoons that delivered information within a story with a humorous manner. However, these books changed my perspective on information books – there are so many interesting ways to deliver information! As I was this week’s reading, my main questions were on how accessible the books were and which age groups they were targeting. For example, “Feathers: Not Just For Flying” seemed pretty accessible to different age groups. It was well-organized, followed repetitive sentence structures and similes such as “Feather ___ does ___, just like _____.” The way information was always depicted in a post-it/piece of paper picture was also helpful in terms of navigating the book. Another book “Voice of Freedom,” however, puzzled me in terms of the target audience. I felt that in order to really understand the book, the kids need a lot of background information and they need to be ready to discuss dark and serious topics. I was very moved by the structure and the beautiful artwork, and I thought I could use this book for older audiences such as 6-7th graders. It reminded me of “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson – I think “Voice of Freedom” would pair with it really well for middle schoolers!

  8. I found Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hammer to be extremely eye opening. The illustrations are wonderful and it is amazing to see different collage pieces in making up characters faces and the background. The short narratives told emotional stories that would be very surprising to students. This is an amazing and new way to learn about history. Students are able to empathize with each story they read and better understand how slavery really was. Also, I think that teachers could pick and choose which stories to share with students depending on the lesson and depending on their age, since some of the stories may not be appropriate for lower elementary students.

  9. Casey Carlson says:

    Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier offers a new format to biographies and effective introduction to slavery for its younger audience. By focusing on one person, Dave, children are exposed to a more personalized narrative of life as a slave rather than high level explanations or distant data. While the story does not go into great detail about the horrors of life as a slave, or the fact that he lost a leg, or had several owners, its subtle yet strong narrative provokes questions and further investigation in its audiences. As Megan Lambert said, children have the “resilience and capacity for reading and thinking about such complex and difficult issues.” You don’t have to go into great detail when introducing a topic like slavery, but through story and personalization, you can build on conversations about historical facts, identity, perspective, bravery, resistance, etc. You begin to wonder…

  10. Arienne L. Calingo says:

    After reading the book Actual Size by Steve Jenkins, I thought of three points: (1) the general perception people have about nonfiction books, (2) visual elements, and (3) audience. I feel that people, regardless of age, are generally turned off by the words “nonfiction” and “informational.” Perhaps people negatively associate these words with school, work, or “boring” topics. This is even evident in our own class; if I remember correctly, not many people originally signed up for the Sibert informational book committee for the mock book awards. This book, however, successfully challenged such negative associations through its incredible creativity and variety. The fold out pages to show larger illustrations and the contrast in size (e.g., atlas moth vs. dwarf goby) present facts in engaging and creative ways. The text and illustrations work together very well. Moreover, while the intended audience of the book is children, I feel that adults who read this book would enjoy learning new facts. I did not just learn about the size of the animals; I also learned the names of animals I had never even heard of before reading the book! I appreciate that more detailed information about each animal is given in the back of the book.

  11. Sarah S. Brannen received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard University and her Master of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking from the University of Pennsylvania. After working as a painter and architectural illustrator for several years, she began writing and illustrating children’s books in 2001. She won the 2007 Ann Barrow Scholarship from the New England chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and was the runner-up for both the 2006 SCBWI Work-in-Progress grant and the 2003 SCBWI Don Freeman Grant.

    Sarah’s first picture book, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, was published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in March, 2008. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding was a Spring 2008 Booksense Children’s Pick, and, according to the American Library Association, it was the 8th most-challenged book in the United States in 2008. To see numerous reviews and articles about Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, visit her website

    Sarah has also illustrated “What I Did With My Coin Collection” by Tiger Woods for Thanks and Giving: All Year Long, edited by Marlo Thomas and Chris Cerf, and The ABC Book of American Homes by Michael Shoulders. She has had illustrations published in Cicada and AppleSeeds magazines, and she is a regular contributor to Skating Magazine. With the figure skater Drew Meekins, Sarah writes and contributes photographs to a regular column on, a joint venture of US Figure Skating and Major League Baseball.

    Since same-sex marriage was legalized throughout New England, Sarah has started doing school visits presenting Uncle Bobby’s Wedding. She was a guest on “The View from the Bay” on KGO-TV in San Francisco, and she has also done presentations at the New England SCBWI conference, the New Jersey Library Association conference, and at Harvard University’s School of Education. She was recently invited by the ALA to participate in Banned Books Week events in Chicago in September, 2009.

    Useful website:

  12. Xinyu (Cynthia) Wang says:

    About Cynthia Levinson

    – Lives in two places with her husband. Most of the year, they hang out in Austin, Texas. In the fall, they’re in Boston, Mass.
    – Oh, her husband is a law professor.
    – She didn’t always want to become a writer but her college friend always want her to.
    – She waited for her children got through college and paid off those bills that she could take the risk of leaving her job and dip a toe into writing.
    – She worked at a state education agency before.
    – Besides books, she has written lots of magazine articles for kids about pandemics, Moko, the mind-body problem, civil rights, and a bunch of other topics.
    – Most of her time when she works, she sits at her desk reading, thinking, researching, writing, erasing, and staring. Every couple of hours, she gets up to stir the soup or take a walk.
    – She likes to cook, garden, travel, yoga, gym, swim, read, and go to plays, movies, concerts, museums and art galleries.

  13. Arlyn Madsen-Bond says:

    Similar to others, I loved “Actual Size”. I found the goliath birdeater tarantula (12 inches) terrifying and the goliath frog (36 inches) amazing. I particularly liked the pages that juxtaposed the sizes of two animals. For example, the dwarf goby (length 1/3 inch) was shown next to the atlas moth (12 inches) on the first page. Another example is the comparison of the gorilla’s hand (takes up most of the page) and the mouse lemur (2.5 inches). I also like the way additional information is given at the end of the book for each animal.

  14. In Marcia Wernick’s profile she writes, ‘As Bryan has written, “Collage is more than just an art style. Collage is all about bringing different elements together. Once you form a sensibility about connection, how different elements relate to each other, you deepen your understanding of yourself and others.” ‘
    I think this is beautiful and had never thought about collage in this way. Thinking about Jeannie Baker’s collage in Mirror, and the collage we see in Actual Size and Dave the Potter, I’m realising more and more just how powerful and effective collage is.
    Using collage really encourages the reader / listener to look closely at the artwork and experience the dimensions, textures and details of the landscape (Dave the Potter) and animals (Actual Size). I think the creativity of the art form may also encourage readers to try collage themselves as a way of storytelling or understanding or even experimenting with ideas…

  15. Janisa Hui says:

    The readings of this week changed my perception towards information books. They can be so interesting and well-designed. Among all, I like Feathers Not Just for Flying the most. I found it interesting that at the beginning of the book, the illustration depicts different kinds of feather to show how similar they are, following up by the introduction of various use of feathers. The book is nicely-designed in a way to show the association of our every day objects and the use of the feather through both text and visuals, for example, feathers like a scrub brush. I believe not all readers like birds, but making such association makes the information relevant to the readers and will be able to arouse their interest. Another element that I like about this book is the footnote below the image of the birds, saying where they can be found.

  16. Gabrielle Abramow says:

    The books for this week really opened my eyes in how creative an information book can be. My favorite book this week was Actual Size by Steve Jenkins. The pictures within the book not only engage the reader but also hold true to the animals actual sizes. This book really exemplifies its success since an adult can also be so intrigued by the true size of certain parts of an animal. I also feel that after reading this book with minimal words and explanations that one can learn a lot. I think that a young reader would be very engaged by this text and compare oneself to different sized animals. A lot of fascinating learning activities can be paired with this book.

  17. “Dave the Potter” is the perfect information book to deal with the issue of slavery. Megan Dowd Lambert showed in her article how she experienced reading the book with her son. Her experience shows that shying away from the topic is not a good option. “Dave the Potter” can surely help a school class to engage in an interesting discussion on the book. Likewise, it can also be used as an interesting kick-off to the topic. Bryan Collier claims that “The story about Dave the Potter was never meant to be told” which makes it even more interesting. The book combines pictures of Dave with his poems in a beautiful manner and makes the reader discover different aspects of his life page after page. In addition, I really liked the fact that the white text is always printed on one single color. It creates the impression that you can actually see the poem printed on Dave’s jars and pots.

  18. Stephen MacLellan says:

    It is interesting to see how different authors tackle the issue of presenting all the information they have to share with their readers. There are some books that are too hard to read out loud because they are packed full of so much information, and it is too much to take in with just one reading. I think Steve Jenkins does it in a nice way, with only a little bit in the body of the text, and additional information all in the back pages. For many children, they can then focus on the joy of seeing the changing sizes and figuring out what they are seeing, and then can do additional reading to learn more about what they are interested in. Nicola Davies does it in a fun way, too, with the main information structure in one font, and one sentence on each page that has another fact in a second font (that you can ignore if you like).

  19. Katie Torrisi says:

    The Sibert Award

    The Sibert Award is a book award given to “the most distinguished” informational book for children every year. It is awarded to the author and/or illustrators named on the title page. Each of these creators must be citizens and/or residents of the United States, and the book must have been first published in the United States in English. The book must be an original work and published during the preceding year. While there is one “winner,” the committee may also name several honor books. The only informational books that are ineligible for this award are folktales or “other traditional literature.” The award was established by the Association for Library Service to Children in 2001, and was named for Robert F. Sibert, President of the award’s sponsoring organization Bound to Stay Books. This is an award based on merit: it is not a popularity contest. The ALSC administers the award and judges books based on their use of language, visual presentation and design, organization and documentation, accurate and stimulating presentation, and appropriateness for intended audience (children). Recent winners include March: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Eric Rohmann; and Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh. March: Book Three is a graphic novel about the civil rights movement and Funny Bones is about Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada and his calveras, or skeleton drawings.

    References / links for further research:

  20. Hye Jeong (Lena) Jeong says:

    I really enjoyed reading Dave the Potter this week! Although it was an information book, it was still entertaining to read perhaps because readers were able to engage with a single personal character (as mentioned above in the comments). It may have been rather challenging for young readers to be interested in the content if it had been simply reading about slavery in general. Focusing on a single character allowed the readers to actually empathize with or relate to Dave. Moreover, the narrative technique in the beginning was very effective in providing information: by alternating between “to us” and “to Dave,” readers were provided with a direct, explicit comparison of their lives.

  21. Medina Roshan says:

    All about “Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave” —
    – Dave was a slave born around 1800 who lived in South Carolina. Was possibly missing a leg.
    – He made storage pots and signed them in the lip of the pot — sometimes with his signature and date and sometimes with a rhyme
    – No one knows how he learned how to read or write.
    – Some things he inscribed on the pot were : “Dearest Miss, Spare Me a Kiss” or religious sayings
    – The last of his surviving poems was written in 1862.
    – Author Laban Carrick Hill focuses on Dave’s pottery and the process of making art while telling his story
    – Bryan Collier illustrates by using watercolor and collage


  22. Jennah M. says:

    One of the things I appreciated most about the books selected for this week’s session on informational texts was the richness of illustrative medium across all four. From Sarah Brannen’s detailed watercolors, Steve Jenkins’ cut and torn paper collages, to Ekua Holmes’ layered paint-and-paper collages and Brian Collier’s watercolor collages, each illustration enriched and supplemented the text, inviting the reader to take a closer look and experience the book almost viscerally.

    I particularly loved the layers of Ekua Holmes’ illustrations in “Voice of Freedom” – much like the personal and historical events the text was describing, there was more to see the closer you looked. The textures were complex, deliberate, and expressive, especially when newspapers, maps, and other papers were juxtaposed with layers of painted outlines or stamps (the color yellow also stood out to me as important to the artist). In this way, Holmes gave an impression of depth, both spatial and narrative.

  23. Medina Roshan says:

    Sorry about my earlier post guys, I was supposed to tell you about Dave (David Drake), the actual MAN and not the book. In any case, here are some links for you all to peruse to learn more about the man behind the book:

    – Quick bio on Dave:
    – A project working on curating Dave’s work:
    – More about Dave and his work, especially a new churn he made found a few years ago:;c=mqr;c=mqrarchive;idno=act2080.0053.103;g=mqrg;rgn=main;view=text;xc=1
    – About a storage jar of Dave’s that is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:

  24. What a cool cat. Steve Jenkins once said “I’m focusing my hopes on the children, because I think the adults are too fixed in their worldviews.” (from the hornbook interview “Talks with Roger” link below)

    Brief Info:
    Steve Jenkins studied graphic design in college, before working in advertising and design in NYC and then later moving to Boulder, CO with his family. He possesses a unique illustration style and has become, a renowned children’s book author and illustrator heavily awarded. Furthermore, Jenkins has amassed a myriad of critical praise for his innovative book design and his artistic style. Recent books he’s published include , Never Smile At a Monkey, Bones, Life on Earth. Most of his books feature animals, creatures, a scientific/nature element in their illustrations.

    His wife, Robin, is also an author/illustrator and they’ve made sixteen children’s books together.
    In 1994, he moved with his wife and two kids from New York City to Boulder, Colorado, where they work in a studio attached to our house.

    When asked what inspires him in creating children’s books he says, “The questions my children asked over the years have been the inspiration for many of our books.”

    A little background: (according to his website):
    He was born in 1952 in Hickory, North Carolina. His father, who would become a physics professor and astronomer (and recently my co-author on a book about the Solar System), was in the military and, later, worked on science degrees at several universities. They moved often, living in North Carolina, Panama, Virginia, Kansas, and Colorado. Wherever they lived, he kept a menagerie of lizards, turtles, spiders, and other animals, collected rocks and fossils, and blew things up in my small chemistry lab.
    He didn’t have a large group of friends, and therefor spent a lot of time with books. His parents read to him until he could read myself, and he naturally became an obsessive reader. An interest in science led him to believe that he would be a scientist. At the last minute, he instead chose to go to art school in North Carolina to study graphic design. After graduation, he moved to New York City, working in advertising and design.

    His wife, Robin, is also an author/illustrator and they’ve made sixteen children’s books together.
    In 1994, he moved with his wife and two kids from New York City to Boulder, Colorado, where they work in a studio attached to our house

    For more info checkout the following links

  25. Gaelle Pierre-Louis says:

    I was impressed with this week’s readings because they were certainly different than other texts I have encountered in my life. I particularly enjoyed the books Feathers Not Just for Flying and Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer. By drawing the animals to scale, the illustrations in the book showed students factual information in a creative way. Growing up, informational text tended to be boring but these days, they are getting more interesting and engaging because of the creativity of ideas that are present within them. In terms of the Fannie Lou Hamer book, I enjoyed how it embraced the female perspective to understand civil rights. Women tended to be overshadowed by male figures of the time, but did all of the hard work behind the scenes. Although both text are interesting, I wonder how can we measure whether or not students are understanding what they have read. I am thinking now about how to translate the information presented in the text into the a classroom exercise that can increase engagement and provide feedback to me as a teacher about which parts of the books did they retain the most.

  26. Books for this week are truly fascinating as they all present knowledge in a quite engaging way. Steve Jenkins’ Actual Size will be a good starting point for children to know better about mysterious creatures in the world. By illustrating the creatures in the actual size, children can feel the uniqueness of these animals more straightforward and they can sometimes be surprised by turning to a new page and see only the big eyes of a squid. Feathers, by using analogies-comparing feathers that can soak up water to sponges, makes the functions of feathers more comprehensible to young kids who are reading this book.

    Among the four books, I like Dave the Potter and Voice of Freedom. They both deliver the topic of slavery, but in completely different ways. Compared with Voice of Freedom, Dave the Potter is written in a more gentle way by describing Dave from the perspective of the third person. Readers can know Dave from a bystander’s aspect, appreciating his delicate pottery and feeling his input of emotions into the pottery making. The detailed and vivid descriptions of the pottery making process make Dave more humane and more affectionate. In the contrast, Voice of Freedom uses the first-person perspective and presents the history of slavery more straightforward. Readers can feel what the protagonist is feeling and look closer into the context of slavery by focusing on the protagonist’s own experience. However, I am also wondering whether the story illustrated in Voice of Freedom would be a bit heavy and hard for children to make sense. The brutality of slavery is so bitter and some plots such as the protagonist was cut off womb are conveyed so implicitly that children might find it difficult to absorb, but generally speaking, telling history in the form of personal stories is a helpful way to introduce children to the vivid history.

  27. Mahima Bhalla says:

    I really enjoyed reading through Feathers. It seemed like an interesting example of an information book, which was informational yet gave the appeal of a picture book through its layout and structure. I loved how so many different functions of feathers were depicted (some that even I wasn’t aware of), and especially the way they were depicted. The idea of comparing feathers to real-life objects by using the word ‘like’ and showing pictures, seems to make the book engaging for young kids. It might make it easier for children to understand and for adults to explain the different functions, by relating them to other objects.
    Also really liked the concept of Actual Size, wondering how it could encourage so many discussions among young learners! Again, it was informational for me as an adult as well 🙂

  28. Before reading this week’s books, I was wondering how information books could be made attractive to children. After I read the books, I found two books especially impressive in engaging readers.
    [Actual Size] After the illustrations and facts get children interested in the subject, there are more detailed descriptions of the animals at the end of the book. In this way, it would not bore children with long paragraphs of new knowledge at first sight, while at the same time help them acquire valuable information.
    [Feathers] The illustrator makes connection between feathers and common object in children’s lives through both text and illustrations, which makes it much easier for children to understand the actual functions of feather, and better engage them in the reading process.

  29. Amy Ng Tsz Ying says:

    I think that both Actual Size and Feathers changed my perception of information books – they both successfully engage readers in its content because they make it quite easy for children to relate the content to their daily lives. It is very interesting to see how authors present so much information without explicitly explaining every piece of it, allowing space for readers to explore and discover for themselves the knowledge which appeals to them. At the end of the book they can read the supplementary information which responds to the curiosity aroused through learning the sizes of different animals in the book. It prompts me to think about how else can we provide information to children without stating facts and details in a dull manner – perhaps as technology develops we can have books which reflect the texture of materials as well!

  30. Camila Garcia Enriquez says:

    My favorite book this week was Actual Size by Steve Jenkins. Although I was not entirely liking the concept of information books I did come to really enjoy the way this was was created. I particularly liked the illustrations and the play with scale. Abstract thought is an extremely complex mental process for children, especially little ones and so for a kid to visualize what it means to say that X animal is X times as big as our hand for example is already a challenge. However, what this picture book manages to do is catalyze the ability to visualize these facts. Even for me as an adult the book was helpful and evocative. I often held the book at arms length at a certain page and imagine the rest of the animal being depicted and how big it would extend outside of the book.
    What I mean to say is that this particular information book does more than give facts and illustrate what the facts mean. It does what perfume advertisements do in magazines: show you the imagine and provide the odor sample. Actual size gives you facts that are illustrated by means of rich textures and colors, and it also gives you a real-size image of the animals.

  31. Camila Garcia Enriquez says:

    oops, I meant ‘smell sample’! not odor sample!!

  32. Kiran Bhai says:

    I was surprised by how much I liked the information books this week. All of the books were very different but all engaging. It was wonderful to see how many different ways you can create an information book. My favorite was ‘Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement’ by Carole Boston and Ekua Holmes. The illustrations were beautiful. I loved the rich colors used and the patterns that ran throughout the collage-like illustrations. The texts were also rhythmic and I enjoyed learning about such an important topic in our history through the rich texts and illustrations.

  33. In addressing a grave topic, “Dave the Potter” and “Voice of Freedom” offers a clear and evocative approach of a complex subject, one that encompasses a variety of experiences and emotions. I particularly appreciate Megan Dowd Lambert’s impressions of reading “Dave the Potter” with her son Stevie; for it gave an insight into the type of curiosities and emotions that young readers might encounter in reading nonfiction books that touch on difficult topics, as well as the sentiments of their adult co-readers. Indeed, her reflections (such as the following) are pivotal for those of us seek to practice reading as a form of freedom:

    “… I am dedicated to the discussions we have at home about race, skin color, racism, oppression, and resistance, and I hope that they will play some role in contributing to Stevie’s positive self-concept. Meanwhile, I know that other factors are at play too, including an inner core emotional resilience that he displays. Acknowledging this strength is something I try… to avoid letting misguided, overprotective impulses get in the way of their individual forays, intellectual and otherwise, into the flawed but beautiful world they’ve inherited. Sometimes, as in my not-so-well-thought-out failure to read Dave the Potter to Stevie before it won the Caldecott Honor, I fall short in this effort when I underestimate my children’s resilience and capacity for reading and thinking about such complex and difficult issues.”

  34. Helen Liu says:

    When I was reading Dave the Potter as an adult, I couldn’t help imagine if I were reading it myself as a 6 year old girl or reading it aloud to my 6 year old daughter (possibly in the future). Will I or my girl be able to understand what slavery is? Probably not. But I don’t think that matters because slavery is not the only gist of this information book. It’s more about Dave himself as a potter, the amazing skills he has and the craft he makes as a craftsman. Sometimes when it’s hard to teach kid the dark history, the art and artist in the book may help compensate for the information lost.

  35. Andy Riemer says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the “Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement” by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ekua Holmes. I particularly love it’s size and feel. It is encouraging itself to be read to a class/group of people. The illustrations provoke emotion and feeling – that urge all of the readers to discuss them. I’d be interested to hear from the teachers to which age group they would read this? I see above people also discussing this, and believe it is important to bring up these ‘difficult’ conversations earlier rather than later. I would recommend for fifth grade, not as an introductory book and definitely providing context, but I think we should be talking about these historical/current realities. If we want to educate individuals to be anti-racist, then we must provide these “counter-stories” (those that go against the master narratives of white norms/history) in multitude early and often.

  36. Jen Curtis says:

    As many others have said, this week’s readings changed how I think about informational children’s books. As a kid, I often read Discovery books on different topics–geology, marine biology, and Egyptian history were my favorites–by as a got older, I really veered away from these texts towards fiction, particularly fantasy. I wonder what it is that shifted my interest (it may have been my perception that books on science and history were “for boys”) but I also think I craved narrative. It makes me wonder what I would have thought of a book like Dave the Potter–which focuses in on one man’s story, presenting history as narrative and people as characters. I think I would have enjoyed it. I know I did as an adult.

  37. Unlike the books introduced before, this week’s books are information books. I don’t quite like these books before because I feel they must be boring because they don’t tell stories. But this time I really enjoyed reading FEATHERS and ACTUAL SIZE. One thing is they taught me so much which I did not know before and what’s more, they are illustrated in creative and interesting ways. I love the note-like illustration of FEATHERS, this makes the book less serious. There are not so many texts, which is not easy for readers to get bored. I also love the idea of ACTUAL SIZE! It provides a space for imagination.

  38. Nimah Gobir says:

    What I loved about Actual Size was that it highlighted animals that we are familiar with like (frogs, worms, and moths) and drew attention to how these animals are way bigger than the ones that we normally see. I think that this book does a great job of fostering children’s interest in animals because it invites kids to think of animals around the world and how they may look different than the animals they see every day. Also, Actual Size encourages interaction; young readers are likely to put their hands and faces up against the page to see how big the animal is in relation to their own body.

  39. Nezile Mthembu says:

    Actual Size by Steve Jenkins brings out the child in me. We can never know enough about these beautiful creatures. The Life-size illustrations in the book highlight each animal’s unique feature, encouraging the readers to explore more of the animal’s physical features. The short text in the book also gives the right amount of information, enough to want to discover more facts about the animals, and opening avenues for different learning opportunity with the readers. Having grown up in a country with lots of different animals including the Big Five, Actual Size makes me feel like I’m rediscovering these creatures for the first time.

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