Monthly Archives: December 2016

Creative Nonfiction for Young Readers


If You Were the Moon

By Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrated by Jaime Kim


Children are naturally curious creatures. They love discovering new things and can’t stop asking questions about the world around them. One thing that has fascinated mankind throughout history and that still fascinates children today is the moon. “Helloooooooooo up there, Moon!” A child calls, “I’m sooooooo tired.  I wish I could do exactly nothing, just like you.” The moon, however, as the child is about to find out, does plenty of important things.


If you were the moon, you would…

“Spin like a twilight ballerina.”


“Tease the Earth: peek-a-boo!”

“Challenge the ocean to a tug-of-war.”


It’s not often that you hear the moon being personified in these ways. How exactly does the moon “challenge the ocean to a tug-of-war”? What makes this book really unique is how the lyrical sentences are paired with facts about the moon that explain why and how the moon “spins like a twilight ballerina” and “challenges the ocean to a tug-of-war.” Children will certainly enjoy the playful use of figurative language, and they will also get answers to some of their questions about the mysteries of the moon.

The mix between fiction and nonfiction writing elements make this book interesting to read. The illustrations are absolutely stunning, and the fact that they aren’t real photos don’t take away from the credibility of the information. Most children are already familiar with what the moon looks like, and these visuals seem to be more helpful to children’s comprehension of invisible forces like gravity. One fact I would be careful with when reading this book is its explanation of moonlight. The story talks about the moon lighting the way for turtle hatchlings to reach the sea. Many children have the misconception that the moon produces its own light, and this book does not mention how the moon is simply reflecting light given off by the sun. Be sure to explain this while you’re reading to prevent children from inferring any misinformation! Overall, If You Were the Moon is a wonderfully written and illustrated nonfiction book perfect for young curious readers.  

Post by: Cynthia Vu

The Whale


the Whale
by Ethan and Vita Murrow is a beautifully illustrated book that tells the story of two young whale watchers going in search of the legendary Great Spotted Whale.  It has been fifty years since the last sighting and the two teenagers decided independently to prove the existence of their town’s  harbor legend.  Both set out, one armed with sound-recording equipment, the other with a camera only to collide in the open water.  With their boats damaged and storm raging around them they must join forces if they have hopes of finding the whale.

spreadFrom the start of  the book, readers are drawn in by the illustration of the newspaper coverage of the mysterious whale, fifty years prior.  From there, the story is told completely with pictures only to sum up key details at the end through narration in the newspapers again.  The Murrow’s photo-realistic graphite drawings that stretch across pages, bringing to life the sea spray, wires, lenses, wooden planks, waves, ropes, and frayed fabric making the book feel more like it is a real event.  Additionally, these extraordinary illustrations convey the drama and haunting beauty of the ocean, the young whale watcher’s determination and the joy of the hunt to capture evidence of the majesty of the awe-inspiring whale.  Every page brings new details, emotion and drives towards the end with the passion of the teens creating a rich book to enjoy.

multiple-imagesPost by: Kirsten Nieman


Follow Mountain Mouse’s Mischief!


Review by Charlotte Jeanneimg_7835

Follow the Mountain Mouse as he climbs a camel’s hump, swims in the cat’s water bowl, sleeps in an eagle’s nest, and plays near shark infested waters in I am the Mountain Mouse by Gianna Marino. While mischief is a fairly common topic in children’s literature, this book is unique and unprecedented in both the writing style and the illustrations.

Gianna Marino uses panels of illustrations that create a comic book effect. This style and structure are compatible with the humor of the book. These panels are effective at telling the story and showing plot development. It looks like you are watching each moment unfold as you read.


Marino also uses speech bubbles with different typefaces to develop an individual and unique voice for the trouble-making Mountain Mouse. When read aloud, Mountain Mouse’s cocky and rebellious personality comes through in a way that is sure to make a classroom of children laugh.


The use of color behind the panels helps show a change in scenery and mood for each of the four stories told. The very unique watercolor style lends itself very well to emotional expression. Her style adds to the humor by pairing the confident and boastful facial expressions of the Mountain Mouse with fearful and worried expressions of his friends.

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The ending of the book encourages imagination and creativity with the final words “The[re is no] End.” Children will enjoy sharing their own ideas and predictions for what will happen with Mountain Mouse next. The end also encourages children to be imaginative about what other antics Mountain Mouse may get into, because “there is no end” to his trouble.


This book would be a fun book to read aloud in a classroom, because the voice and personality of Mountain Mouse comes alive through the text. It is also a book I would recommend to a young reader, because it is easy to follow the plot without being able to read each and every word of the text. The book is relatable to children, because all children know what it is like to get into sticky situations or watch classmates cause trouble and misbehave. This book could be read aloud to preschoolers and young elementary schoolers, and should be on the shelf of classroom libraries for children to practice reading it on their own.


Published in 2016 by Penguin Young Readers Group.


Winner Wednesdays



The book, Rex, by Simon James tells the story of a tiny baby tryannosaurus who searches for his place in the dinosaur world. As soon as baby Rex hatches, he stumbles upon a big, scary tyrannosaurus, convinced that this is his father. This large and terrifying dinosaur has a reputation for scaring every stegosaurus, brontosaurus, triceratops, iguanodon or ankylosaurus that he sees!


Baby Rex follows his “father” around everywhere, until one day the large tyrannosaurus admits the he is indeed not his father. Readers join Rex as he goes on his mission to find his rightful place in the world. The story ends with the large tyrannosaurus saving Rex, and stating that the duo belong together. Told through a mixture of beautiful two page spreads and James’ vibrant, cartoon-like illustrations, the story comes to life. Each dinosaur has its own personality depicted on every page.


The most noticeable part of the paintings is James’ decision to exaggerate the size difference between the two dinosaurs. This element is comical and adds to the many details that were calculated while James illustrated this story. The dramatic illustrations paired with the thoughtful and interesting text makes for an intriguing story that is appropriate for children in preschool or kindergarten. This father-son story is excellent for showing a paternal relationship, and would be an excellent parent-child read.


Blog Post by Kayla Pruitt


I Dissent – Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark



I Dissent – Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

Written by Debbie Levy

Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

I Dissent uses the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman on the US Supreme Court, to tell a powerful story speaking up for what is right. The book tells Ginsburg’s story, from her humble upbringing to her numerous accomplishments as a judge, celebrating each and every disagreement that shaped her legacy. Ultimately, readers of this book learn that making a difference requires hard work and a willingness to question the status quo.

One part of the writing style that makes I Dissent both compelling and engaging is that it is told through a collection of anecdotes that help the reader to gain a sense of Ginsburg’s character. Some of the stories it tells are small – like when Ginsburg protested by writing with her left hand or was kicked out of the chorus because of her poor singing skills – while others are key events in her life – like when Ginsburg chose to go to law school, even though there were very few girls in her class. These stories help young readers to relate to the future Supreme Court justice, and see that they are never too young to take a stand.2016-12-08-19-59-493

In addition to telling Ginsburg’s story, I Dissent provides an introduction to the workings of the Supreme Court. It explains how Ginsburg became a justice, and her role in writing the opinions during cases. The book also exposes readers to an array of courtroom vocabulary – throughout her story, Ginsburg dissents, objects, resists, disapproves, and disagrees. Further, the book refers to real-life court cases that are meaningful to even the youngest readers, such as racism and discrimination. I Dissent exposes its readers to the significance of the judicial branch – a topic that may seem distant or abstract to children.2016-12-08-19-59-494

The images presented in this book are extremely powerful because of their variety. On one page, Ginsburg is shown as a kind and loving mother, and on the next, a determined justice who is unwilling to conform to societal standards. At the beginning of the book, she is illustrated as a spunky yet ordinary little girl. At the end, she takes on the posture and demeanor of a superhero, complete with word art that mirrors the style of comic books. The diversity of ways in which Ginsburg is presented is important because it shows that none of these identities are mutually exclusive. Ginsburg does not need to sacrifice her family to be successful in her career, and she does not need to be timid to be kind. Through Baddeley’s illustrations, Ginsburg is presented as a real and well-rounded individual to which any child can aspire.2016-12-08-19-59-492

I Dissent would be a perfect book for teachers to bring into their classroom, because it provides a human view of government that will engage students in a way that their textbooks may not. Teachers can also use the text to talk about relevant social issues: I Dissent illuminates issues like racism and sexism, and encourages students to think about what laws and social norms in their own lives they might disapprove of. In this way, I Dissent could accompany a powerful lesson for middle grades students that strengthens their critical and evaluative thinking skills. Finally, the book sends an important message, especially to young girls, that speaking up does not make you stubborn, bossy, or disagreeable. Rather, having the courage to disagree is necessary in making a difference.2016-12-08-19-59-491

Post by Sami Chiang

Traditional Thursday: The Christmas Boot


For today’s traditional Thursday, The Christmas Boot has been selected. This story is written by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. It was published in 2016 by Dial Books for Young Readers, although a version of this story was also previously published in 2006 by Mitten Press.


Any child would be drawn to this book after seeing it’s cover. A few furry animals are shown surrounding a lone boot in the snow, with a beautifully drawn landscape in the background including mountains, a full moon, and Santa’s sleigh flying across the night. It is a beautiful image that is effective in catching a reader’s attention. The colors used are calming and aesthetically pleasing, and children love books that include animals.


This story follows an elderly woman, Hannah, as she discovers a magical boot in the forest while gathering wood for a fire. The boot begins to grant her wishes one day after another until she gets a very special visitor at her door one evening! Wheeler’s writing is age-appropriate, approachable, and easy for young readers to follow. Some of the pages can be a bit text-heavy, but Wheeler’s story is an overall delight to read.

The illustrations throughout the book are simplistic but use a variety of colors to capture the reader’s attention. They are well-integrated and allow the reader to follow the story easily. The full-page spreads give readers lots to look at and compliment the text very nicely.


Overall, this is a heartwarming story about wishes that come true and Christmas magic. Any child would enjoy reading about Hannah’s adventures, accompanied by simple and appealing illustrations. It is a perfect book for any child to read during the holiday season.

Post by: McKenzie Scott

The Biggest Smallest Christmas Present


The Biggest Smallest Christmas Present by Harriet Muncaster is a cute story about a very tiny girl named Clementine and her Christmas adventure.


Clementine enjoys being tiny for the most part, but on Christmas Santa always brings her gifts that are too big for her!


Clementine decides that it’s time to tell Santa how tiny she is so he can bring her gifts that she can play with, but somehow the message doesn’t go through.


For the next couple of years, Clementine and her family come up with new ways to tell Santa until one year the message finally goes through. And on that Christmas day, Clementine receives the biggest smallest Christmas present… A doll house!


This book is a great read aloud for the Christmas season. Muncaster’s illustrations are vibrant and the plot is fun and light.

By: Noelle Yoo

Maple & Willow’s Christmas Tree


Maple & Willow’s Christmas Tree by Lori Nichols is an adorable story of two sisters who seek out to find the perfect Christmas tree. All is good and well until Maple realizes she is allergic to the Christmas tree! This leads to a creative ending of a makeshift Christmas tree that both Maple and Willow get to have a part in decorating. This fun story is a must-read for young children during the winter season.

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The ink, watercolor, and pastel pencil aspects of the illustrations make this such an endearing story. The use of white space goes along with the snowy, winter feeling of the book. The illustrations show the sisters’ expressions so nicely and help the simple text come to life. new-doc-7_1

Nichols captures the wonderful bond of sisterhood even if they make each other upset sometimes. The simplicity and use of white space make for a minimalist tone, which is different than the holiday chaos some families experience. The illustrations pop off the page compared to the stark white backgrounds and the mixed media of the pictures can mesmerize the reader.


Post by Olivia Pelletiere

Not Just Another Christmas Story



new-doc-13_1 With the holiday season coming up what better way to get in the spirit than some children’s’ literature? Today we are taking a look at “Refuge” a short picture book written by Anne Booth and illustrated Sam Usher. Although based on a classic biblical story, this unique retelling of the Nativity scene has an interesting unforeseen spin. I won’t give it away, but you most certainly have never read a book with this perspective before.

This is a great option to read with young kids to not only celebrate the one of the many different holidays coming up at the end of December, but also the simplistic drawings and muted colors make it a nice book just to visually enjoy, even outside the holiday season. It’s brevity and simplicity make it a refreshing addition to any children’s’ holiday collection. It would even make a great stocking stuffer! Since $1 is donated to refugees with every book sold, it’s a gift that keeps on giving.


Although the story does contain some pretty notable characters such as the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it is not an “only for Christians” book. It would be just as easy to see the book as a story of seeking a home, loving your family, valuing every moment, and of course, seeking refuge. So feel free to snuggle yourself in your most comfortable blanket
and, with hot cocoa in hand, prepare to be awed by this quaint story.


Free Fridays: The Great Spruce


The Great Spruce by John Duvall, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon, is a beautiful holiday story with a message that goes beyond just spreading cheer.


The story follows a little boy named Alec, who loves climbing trees in the countryside. His favorite tree to climb is the great spruce, which his grandpa transplanted there a long time ago. One day, someone from the town asks if they can put the spruce in the square for Christmastime. This is a great honor, but they want to chop down the tree to do so. Alec has to come up with a plan to save his tree.

The reader is immediately drawn in to the story with its atmosphere; still set during Christmastime, thought there’s not any snow yet. The entire book exuded early December, with brown expanses of grass and leftover fall colors. This subdued wintery background allowed brightly dressed townspeople and the strong green of the spruce tree to really pop. Gibbon’s artwork is careful and delicate, with shadows in all the right places and magnificent color choices.

The author John Duvall is actually a  tree-care consultant, which made the eventual solution of transporting trees interesting since it was based on actual fact. Though the idea of saving trees is an important message, the yay2communication of this moral doesn’t overpower the beauty and simplicity of Alec’s story. Each line is carefully crafted to be elegant and full of impact. The language is sensoryfifie and metaphorical, but simple enough that it won’t soar over kids’ heads (“shone like a Christmas tree lighthouse”). Even the smell of smoke is present in a scene in the city.

The Great Spruce leaves readers emotionally struck by its atmosphere, little Alec’s bravery, and its incredible hope. A must read for anyone looking for an original story this holiday season!

Post by Sophia Denney