Nonfiction animal picture books for back-to-school adventure and learning

Teachers love using picture books to teach concepts to students from kindergarten through middle school. Picture books are usually easy to understand, and the visuals help all kinds of learners access the information. They can be entertaining as well, so children learn reading is fun, not work. Here are some wonderful new picture books to share with the children in your life.

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Nonfiction picture books to inform and entertain

Picture books aren’t just for little kids. Savvy educators and parents use picture books as a way to share information with kids as old as middle schoolers. Because picture books are fun, quick, and colorful. And like the picture books listed below, they can be filled with information. Reading a picture book about something like, say, mushrooms, just might lead to a curious child’s exploration into the world of fungi. Here are some great choices that might just pique inquisitive minds.

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‘Nectar of the Gods: From Hera’s Hurricane to the Appletini of Discord, 75 Mythical Cocktails to Drink Like a Deity”

Nectar of the Gods by Liv Albert and Thea Engst

First a disclaimer: I don’t really drink much. But after reading and reviewing author Liv Albert’s “Greek Mythology: The Gods, The Goddesses, and Heroes Handbook,” I knew that I wanted to see “Nectar of the Gods: From Hera’s Hurricane to the Appletini of Discord, 75 Mythical Cocktails to Drink Like a Deity” as well. You see, I have a five-year-old grandson who is obsessed with Greek mythology (and other mythologies). He loved the handbook which we read (with a few quick edits when appropriate) to him. And he loves this book as well. While he already knew a lot of the information, he still liked to hear about Calypso, who “was a nymph best known for keeping Odysseus “captive” on her island of Ogygia for seven years.” Because he listens to the Odyssey and Iliad, he knows that “Calypso was the daughter of the Titan Atlas.” He finds the information and the illustrations fascinating.

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‘The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation’ by Rosemary Sullivan

The Betrayal of Anne Frank by Rosemary Sullivan

It was a cold case all right. A very, very cold case. Rosemary Sullivan’s fascinating and important study, “The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation,” takes us through an excruciatingly detailed account of the 2019 investigation whose goal was to find—once and for all—who was responsible for revealing to the Nazi authorities the location of the Frank family’s hiding place in August of 1944.

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Children’s books for Black History Month and every other time of year

Moving Forward by Chris Barton

If I were going to teach a unit on prejudice, I’d start with a fabulous picture book, “Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates,” by Chris Barton and Steffi Walthall. There are many, many wonderful nonfiction books aimed at middle grade readers, books which are perfect for research projects or just informational reading. A powerful picture book like this one about Alton Yates will elicit many emotions in readers. We admire Yates for his dedication and bravery, we are infuriated on his behalf because of the prejudice and mistreatment he endured after serving our country in the military, and we are inspired by his fight, at times endangering his very life, against the Jim Crow laws of the south. The story is factual and gripping. The illustrations are powerful. Alton is a heroic person, and his story is a wonderful example of how one man fought against injustice. It’s a fight that is ongoing. (Beach Lane Books)

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Fabulous nonfiction children’s books you need on your bookshelf: Part One

I know from my decades of teaching elementary students that using nonfiction picture books is an amazing way to begin discussions of events and people, and to share information with students in an entertaining way that keeps them interested in learning (and reading). Here are some nonfiction children’s books for children of all ages from picture books through some middle grade books and even a young adult choice. All of them would be great picks for gifts for your children, their teachers, or even the school library. This is a long post, but read it through. You’ll be glad you did as there are some fabulous offerings here.

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Fabulous nonfiction children’s books you need on your bookshelf: Part Two

Nonfiction books for middle grade readers are an important tool for teachers and librarians. Good nonfiction books serve multiple purposes: they provide factual information in an easier format than many websites or other informational sources; they can engage children by capturing their interest in topic that fascinate them; and they are books that don’t necessarily need to be read in one sitting. Nonfiction books can be picked up and read at one’s leisure because there’s no mystery to solve or plot to figure out. Many nonfiction books have colorful photos and graphics that further draw the eye and engage the reader. Others, like the memoirs included in this collection, read like fiction because of the first person narrative. See which books might interest the children in your life, or just pick your favorites for a teacher who might enjoy sharing them with students.

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‘The Forever Dog’ by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker is the complete handbook for how to help your dog live a longer & healthier Life

The Forever Dog
by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

The full title of this very weighty tome by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker is “The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help Your Canine Companion Live Younger, Healthier & Longer.” It’s a mouthful, and this book is not a one-night read. Rather, it’s the kind of book you will skim, and then keep in a safe place for future reference. There’s a huge amount of information in these pages, but to anyone who has read about human health, nothing written here will be shocking or novel.

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‘Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals’ by Laurie Zaleski is touching, charming, and humorous

Funny Farm by Laurie Zaleski

“Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals” by Laurie Zaleski is not what I was expecting at all. We know from the first page, the Prologue, that it’s about how Zaleski rescues animals, but what is unexpected is that more than half the book is about her childhood, her parents’ abusive relationship, and how her mother left and raised them in a tiny, dilapidated house where she also took in animals of every size, shape, and need. This book is the best kind of nonfiction—it’s nonfiction that reads like a novel, and it’s hard to put down. We want to know more about Zaleski’s family and how they will survive in the shack where they end up after leaving their very nice suburban home. We also want to know how Zaleski ends up with a farm and over 600 animals.

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Two picture books that share uplifting memorials of 9/11

While most adults were alive and watching as the horror of 9/11 flashed before us on a television screen, there is a new generation of people, some young adults, who were not alive when the US was attacked on that infamous day. I remember that I was in my first year teaching fifth grade. When we heard what had happened, I turned on the television and we watched in horror as the second plane flew into the second tower. I remember telling my students that this was an event that would change the world, and that it was an event that they would never forget.

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