Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Elementary non fiction

It's hard to find good non fiction for little kids.  Kids are interested in EVERYTHING but it's hard to get a good balance of the specific vocabulary that you need to be able to understand complex topics and text that's easy enough for kids to read.  Here are some that seem to be working that balance!

The first one is called "Stickmen's Guide to Aircraft" by Chris Oxlade.  It looks like this might be a series (I checked Amazon and there is another one!) and I think that's a good thing.  This book about aircraft gives an excellent overview of aircraft.  It has information about the history of aircraft as well as information about how aircraft are designed and built.  It also has information about different kinds of engines.  The graphics are nice too.  There is a lot of information in the graphical parts (which my students think is awesome).  This one will appeal to elementary school teachers because it's going to be a great one for teaching text features.  The book is short and the passages of text are short, which is very appealing to a lot of kids.  I think they are going to like this one a lot.

The next one is narrative non-fiction and it's going to be for the bigger elementary kids because the reading passages are pretty long.  But they're very interesting and cover a lot of ground.  It's called "Bridge to the Wild" by Caitlin O'Connell.  Ms. O'Connell explains in the introduction that she loves animals and wants to help build bridges of understanding about animals so the kids (and I suppose people in general) will also feel compelled to connect and help animals.  Her vehicle is the Atlanta Zoo and in this book, each chapter is about a different animal exhibit at the zoo.  It talks about the different animals, their behavior, as well as conservation efforts.  The story has a nice flow to it and the full color photographs will help draw in the readers.    I can see this one getting used for guided reading and kids enjoying reading it for all the animal information.  

The last one could be used with little kids or bigger kids.  It's a picture book but it has some pretty big ideas in it.  It's called "The Pullman Porter" by Vanita Oelschlager.  It's a very brief history of the Pullman Porter and I think it's purpose is to demonstrate how hard African American men worked and how difficult some of their lives were.  The pictures by Mike Blanc are lovely and luminous.  The story had a few weaknesses though.  As it described the duties of a Pullman Porter, it told about the service part of the job, carrying suitcases, making up beds, bringing food and drink, shining shoes, even taking care of the small children.  But then the story doubles back and says that the porters did some of those things for tips.  I found it a bit confusing.  The book also talks about some of the hardships of the porters (long trips, long hours, uncomfortable accommodations) but also some of the benefits-travel to far away places and the exposure to some of the wealthiest families in America (and their newspapers).  I'm not sure I really loved this one but it did give some background information on some of the jobs that African Americans once held.  

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