Some Great Nonfiction Picture Books Perfect for Getting Kids Ready to Start the School Year

Who doesn’t love elephants? After reading “How to Be an Elephant” by Katherine Roy, kids (and adults) will love elephants even more. The book is beautifully illustrated with watercolor scenes and filled with interesting information about elephants from birth on. ElephantFinalCoverThe first page of information is “Family Matters,” and Roy explains that African elephants are “one of the species on Earth that live in permanent social groups.” She compares what a baby elephant needs to learn to what a baby human needs to learn. Readers learn about how elephants walk with their huge bodies and what makes their nose so important and powerful. It’s fascinating! Included are diagrams that clarify the text and make it visually appealing. The life-like sketches almost seem to move at times as Roy shows a baby through different stages growing up and learning to behave. Kids will really enjoy this book as a read aloud and later as a book to peruse and learn from. (Roaring Brook Press)

“Dangerous Jane” by Suzanne Slade is not just a nonfiction book about Jane Addams, the woman who started Hull House in Chicago, it’s a portrait of someone who possessed the compassion and the perseverance to change what she saw as wrongs. What most peopleDangerousJane_main don’t know is that after Jane Addams created Hull House and had it running smoothly, she didn’t stop fighting for what she believed. When World War I broke out, she lobbied for peace and traveled across Europe in her quest to change minds of world leaders. She brought women together and formed the Women’s Peace Party in America and joined the International Congress of Women in Europe. Because Jane visited children in hospitals in war-torn countries and fed starving families, she was seen by some in America as a traitor. She got nasty letters and was booed off stages. The FBI called her the “Most Dangerous Woman in America.” But years later, in 1931, Jane was finally recognized as the hero she was, and she was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The additional information at the end shares Jane’s physical problems and offers a timeline of her life. In this day and age, the story of someone determined to do the right thing is a worthwhile book to include in libraries and classrooms. There is also a teacher’s guide for use with this book referencing Common Core Learning Standards. (Peachtree Publishers)

“Around the World Right Now” by Gina Cascone and Bryony Williams Sheppard and aroundthe world right nowillustrated by Olivia Beckman is a nonfiction book that cleverly illustrates the different time zones and what might be happening around the world when it’s six o’clock in the morning in San Francisco. The repeated phrase is “And somewhere in the world… It’s — o’clock in the morning/afternoon/evening. “In Santa Fe, New Mexico, an artist sits in front of his easel to paint the early morning sunlight…” and goes on to note that “It’s five o’clock in the afternoon…in Madagascar (a large island off the east coast of Africa) along the Avenue of the Baobabs, a playful lemur decides to join a family’s picnic.” And at three o’clock in the morning “Deep in the Pacific Ocean, a baby humpback whale is born.” Kids will love reading about different places and trying to find them on a map. They also might be interested in making a sundial (instructions in the back). It’s a perfect companion text for a young science class. (Sleeping Bear Press)

“125 Pet Rescues” by National Geographic Kids is a thick magazine-type nonfiction book 125petrescuesfilled with beautiful photographs of animals and accompanying information about how they were rescued and what, if anything, made them special. There are pigs who were rescued, cats, guinea pigs, dogs ranging from Chihuahuas to Mastiffs, a rooster who is blind on one eye, a rescue dog who became an arson working dog, the lucky basset hound who got adopted by none other than George Clooney and his wife, and many more lucky animals whose background included suffering but are now loved and cherished. At the end of the book are suggestions for how kids can help. Kids can make a difference! And this book helps to teach them that making a difference for even one animal is huge.

makegarbagegreat“Make Garbage Great: The Terracycle Family Guide to a Zero-Waste Lifestyle” is not a new release, but it’s very timely — not just because of the title! Just the section about clothing might be enough to make some kids think twice about buying that extra shirt that they don’t really need. One fascinating fact is that an alternative source of rubber (to make tires, for example) may be growing in our backyards! Dandelions could be an environmentally helpful and socially responsible way to replace the rubber from other sources. This is not a read aloud, but rather a weighty book filled with information that will be read in parts. It would be a wonderful addition to any school library, science class, or classroom library. (Harper Design)

Please note: These reviews are based on the final books provided by the publishers for review purposes.

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