One thing we find at our school is that we want our kids to do research projects, but having them write reports or give oral presentations (even using technology) seems dated and artificial. When I read this book "Abraham Lincoln His Wit and Wisdom from A-Z" by Alan Schroeder, I thought "This is something my kids could do!" It's all information about Abraham Lincoln but instead of being in chronological order, it's in alphabetical order. So G is for Gettysburg Address (a famous speech Lincoln made), The Globe Tavern (where Abraham and Mary Lincoln were married), and Good Samaritan (Lincoln did kind things for others in need). The information is extensive and the pictures are great. There are also quotes from Lincoln sort of scattered around in the not-so-empty spaces. I liked this one a lot.
I also liked this memoir called "Crow Call" by Lois Lowry. This one would also be a great mentor text for writing personal experiences. It's about a time when Lois went hunting with her dad, right after he returned from World War 2. It's full of rich details and beautiful images. The pictures are gorgeous too.
The last one I have mixed feelings about. It's written by Patricia MacLachlan and Steven Kellogg, who's work I love. Steven Kellogg live in Sandy Hook and wanted to do a memorial for the people who died in the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. It's a lovely book about the individuality of snow flakes and the change of the seasons and the last line of the book says " And we remember the children-no two the same, all beautiful", with a picture of snow angels. The pictures and text are very lovely but the mixing of the feelings comes from my sensation that this is really not a book for little kids. I don't really want to talk to my three, four, and five year olds about a school shooting so I'm pretty sure I'm not going to put this one in my library. But I think for the bigger kids, the poetry of the book and the metaphorical way that the subject is broached might be a great springboard for conversation.