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Ever Grateful for Inspiring Non-fiction Picture Books

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday is to do with thankfulness; and being in this total non-fiction reading binge for the Cybils Awards, I am discovering that I am ever grateful for inspiring non-fiction picture books. While some of the reads are more serious and deep, no matter what the content, picture books provide a respite from, well, just from….

Top Ten Tuesday: Ever Grateful for Inspiring Non-fiction Picture Books

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Ever Grateful for Inspiring Non-fiction Picture Books

All of today’s featured books are part of my Cybils Awards nonfiction reading as a round 1 judge.

Nature Did it First: Engineering Through Biomimicry

Title: Nature Did it First: Engineering Through Biomimicry
Author: Karen Ansberry
Illustrator: Jennifer DiRubbio 
Length: 32 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biology, Nature (5 – 11 years, and up)
Publisher: Dawn Publications (May 1, 2020)
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

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We all draw inspiration from nature everyday; and this book shows us how scientists and inventors drew inspiration from nature to come up with technology to make life easier and better for all of us. You will be surprised by some of the examples and their inspiration, while others seem more obvious leaving you thinking yes, of course, totally makes sense!!

The format of the book is like this: a two-page spread with a short rhyming poem and a beautifully detailed illustration featuring a specific animal, followed by a two-page text-rich spread (includes photos and illustrations needed) with details behind the science and how it is used.

All the featured examples, the accompanying illustrations and photographs, the additional useful backmatter – all of these together end up making this book a must-have for everyone (not just young STEAMers!)

Packs: Strength in Numbers

Title: Packs: Strength in Numbers
Author/Illustrator: Hannah Salyer
Length: 48 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Zoology (4 – 7 years, and up)
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers;(January 28, 2020)
Source: Library

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This book is a stack of pages bound together into a wondrous gift! I loved it, and learned so much. The illustrations literally pop right at you, full of color, action, and well, animals; they are realistic yet whimsical. And the text has a natural flow to it, from single words on the beginning pages, to short lyrical paragraphs. I loved the deliberate use of alliteration and was also delighted to figure out how pack names are often alliterative and seem always apt – like a mob of mongoose or a colony of coral or a flamboyance of flamingo, or a pride of lions.

The repeating message of ‘together’ at the end of each page , and then at the end of the book is inspiring indeed. Backmatter includes an author’s note, additional reading resources, an index of sorts about the featured animals (listing a small illustration with the name), and is bound to have its readers of all ages searching out for more answers about the featured animals – individually or in packs!!

A New Green Day

Title: A New Green Day
Author/Illustrator: Antoinette Portis
Length: 40 pages
Genre: Childen’s Nonfiction/Nature (3 – 7 years)
Publisher: Neal Porter Books (April 14, 2020)
Source: Edelweiss eARC

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It took me a while to figure out these were riddles with answers. This book will work best for younger readers, with some help from adults or older siblings. Read the lyrical riddles, and turn the page to discover the answer! The book can be used to encourage little ones to think about nature and to think in riddles! Illustrations are bright and bold to fit with the theme of the book. Simple and playful..

Who Will It Be: How Evolution Connects Us All

Title: Who Will It Be: How Evolution Connects Us All
Author: Paola Vitale
Illustrator: Rossana Bossù 
Length: 48 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biology (5 – 8 years)
Publisher: Blue Dot Kids Press (April 7, 2020)
Source: Edelweiss eARC

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Vibrant gorgeous illustrations along with simple, straightforward text bring across the powerful message of evolution to the young readers of this book. It is truly amazing that the author and illustrator duo managed to convey that all living beings are connected at the very basic cellular level by taking readers on a journey of the initial development of an embryo.

At each stage – page – a stylized representation of a cell appears with the question in the title of this book. As long as the young readers are made to understand that this is not the actual look of the cells, it is a very cool and really beautiful book to teach these concepts. Backmatter includes more additional useful information about evolution and DNA.

Earth-Shattering Events: Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Cyclones, Tsunamis and Other Natural Disasters

Title: Earth-Shattering Events: Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Cyclones, Tsunamis and Other Natural Disasters
Author: Robin Jacobs 
Illustrator: Sophie Williams
Length: 98 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Geology, geography (6 – 12 years, and up)
Publisher: Cicada Books (April 7, 2020)
Source: Edelweiss eRC

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Superbly written and illustrated, this book is sure to be a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to learn more about various natural disasters.

Robin Jacobs divides the disasters into two major categories – geological (including earthquakes, volcanoes, and more) and meteorological (including tsunamis, wildfires, and more). Jacobs provides a definition, and goes on to give a thorough overview of the science behind each of these disasters, as well as additional interesting facts about them. Sophie Williams’ illustrations are detailed and cartoonish lending an informative yet fun element to an otherwise grim topic. The book ends with a few pages on climate change and its impact on these phenomena, and tips on what we can do during these and to hopefully prevent some of these disasters.

Railway Jack: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon

Title: Railway Jack: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon
Author:  KT Johnston 
Illustrator: César Samaniego
Length: 40 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Animals (8 – 12 years, well all ages, actually!)
Publisher: Capstone Editions (February 1, 2020)
Source: Library

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Service animals are of so many types; and this book tells us the story of one such remarkable and unique animal – a baboon named Railway Jack! The illustrations are beautiful and realistic, and take us back in time and place easily, while the storytelling is endearing and heartwarming. I am so glad I discovered the story of this wonderful friendship between man and animal.

Jim was a railway employee in South Africa in the 1800s, and when he wanted to continue working after he lost both his legs in an accident, the railway employed him as a signalman. Jim soon found Jack, and trained Jack to help him at home and on his job. Jack turned out to be truly smart, awesomely loyal, and totally helpful to Jim; and ended up being Jim’s friend and coworker!!

Backmatter includes a must-read author’s note, and photographs of both Jim and Jack, as well as various additional resources. This book can help to discuss service animals and rights of the differently-abled, as well as inspire curiosity about the history of the railways around the world.

She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch

Title: She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch
Author: June Smalls 
Illustrator: Yumi Shimokawara
Length: 32 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Animals (3 – 8 years, and up)
Publisher: Familius (May 26, 2020)
Source: Edelweiss

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This book is perfect for animal lovers; and a cool way to empower girls everywhere!! Yumi Shimokawara’s illustrations are realistic and stunning, and oh so adorable too. June Small’s narrative is powerful and heartwarming at the same time. She uses a mix of lyrical spare text in a large font and additional related details in a smaller font; together, these provide both a sweet storyline and lots of information about the daily lives of elephants. We, as readers, learn about the matriarchal society of elephants, discover empathy as we read, and can easily draw parallels to our own lives.

This book is sure to inform you and make you feel so much better. My own love for elephants ensures I am going to re-read this one!

WildLives: 50 Extraordinary Animals that Made History

Title: WildLives: 50 Extraordinary Animals that Made History
Author: Ben Lerwill
Illustrator: Sarah Walsh 
Length: 112 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Animals (8 years and up)
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (February 4, 2020)
Source: Library

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A book that tells us stories of extraordinary animals, as the title says. A very cool concept indeed and it includes some animals that I was pretty familiar with (like Koko, Hachiko, Seabiscuit, and Keiko – who inspired the movie Free Willy), others I had heard of in passing (Balto the husky, Ozy the octopus) and so many many more I learned about through this book. Each animal is remarkable in itself, and the species is as well. The stories inspire and warm the heart.

I loved how the book uses the story of these specific animals to address the bigger problems of extinction, biodiversity issues, wildlife preservation, preservation of natural resources in general, and of humans behaving humanely.

The storytelling will interest readers across ages; and the photos as well as appealing artwork will draw attention of the youngest readers while appealing to all its readers. Additionally, the inclusion of factoids and quotes about/related to that animal/species throughout the book make for interesting reading. A must have for any library. While it is a slightly longer book, it is perfect for those early readers, and great to read aloud to younger audiences.

Numenia and the Hurricane: Inspired by a True Migration Story

Title: Numenia and the Hurricane: Inspired by a True Migration Story
Author/Illustrator: Fiona Halliday 
Length: 40 pages
Genre: Chilren’s Nonfiction/Marine Life (4 – 8 years)
Publisher: Page Street Kids(January 21st 2020)
Source: Library

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Loved the dramatic and beautifully lyrical verse accompanied by the equally dramatic and visually stunning illustrations – each complements the other perfectly, adding on to the mood and action of the story. This anthropomorphic retelling based on a true story of a specific whimbrel’s migration is awe-inspiring and full of hope (just like the name of the real whimbrel). The whimbrel had been blown off course by a hurricane before successfully heading back on its way to its family/flock.

The Very Oldest Pear Tree

Title: The Very Oldest Pear Tree
Author: Nancy I. Sanders
Illustrator: Yasmin Imamura
Length: 32 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/History, Forests & Trees (4 – 8 years)
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (August 1, 2020)
Source: Review copy from publisher

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This book is history and nature in one package. Nancy Sanders relates the story of — as the title says — the very oldest pear tree(in the United States). The author notes that while this was not the first pear tree to make it to this country, it is certainly the one with the longest recorded history here – since the day it began its journey over ocean.

It is amazing to note the original Endicott pear tree’s resilience against natural and manmade disasters. This 400+ year old pear tree is still in its original location, where it was first planted, and still produces pears, that are used to make pies and jellies today. A fun look at history.

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Ever Grateful for Inspiring Non-fiction Picture Books

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, have you read any of these books? If not, which one are you picking out to read or to gift for yourself or a loved one? Hint, hint, books always make the best gifts!! Do let me know.. and as always, would love to hear any similar recommendations as well as your thoughts on this post.

Wishing all readers who celebrate a wonderful Thanksgiving with loved ones, in person or virtually, whatever the case may be!!

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