One of my goals this year was to find more nonfiction authors and series that I knew and loved. I realized that there were so many fiction series and authors I knew and loved, but that was not true of nonfiction. I tend to talk to my students about nonfiction differently than I talk about fiction. I tend to talk topic and rarely know the author. I also hadn't realized how important nonfiction series books could be for upper elementary readers. So I knew I needed to find more of those.
This week, I realized just how much I love Melissa Stewart. I knew that I liked her and her name was one I knew as a nonfiction writer, but until this week I had no idea just how many amazing nonfiction books she has written for upper elementary students.
Here is how it happened. I have a student who loves sharks, dolphins and ocean creatures. I am always looking for new books for him and I happened upon Shark or Dolphin?: How Do You Know? (Which Animal Is Which?) I am trying to add books that are meant to be read cover to cover and this one looked perfect. I noticed that it was by Melissa Stewart so I figured it must be good. I ordered the book and noticed there were lots of other books in the series. I decided I'd check it out before I ordered the others. Well, the book arrived and it is amazing. Each page compares a feature of sharks and dolphins and tells how they are different. The text is accessible and the book is packed with information. Even for readers who know lots about sharks and dolphins, my bet is that there is something new in this book! This is definitely a series that belongs in elementary classrooms so I ordered a few more.
A few days later, the book Feathers: Not Just for Flying arrived from Amazon. I forgot that I had preordered it when I read a review for it online. (I don't often preorder books but this one sounded too good to miss and I was afraid I would forget about it.) WOW! What an amazing read. Again, Melissa Stewart organizes the information in a way that is accessible, yet packed with information. The book goes through the many uses for feathers--who knew? She gives specific examples for each way feathers are used and the illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen are a perfect match. I hadn't paid attention to the author when I preordered the book, so when I saw that it was Melissa Stewart, I noticed a little pattern.
The next day, my Scholastic Book Club order arrived. My students didn't order this month but there were a few things I wanted for the classroom. One item I purchased was a set National Geographic Readers set with books like National Geographic Readers: Dolphins. They seemed like a good addition in terms of topic and accessibility and I've been so impressed with everything National Geographic lately that I added them to my order. What a surprise that every book in the pack was by Melissa Stewart? (and that I noticed!)
Finally, my kids have been reading lots of books in our "Birds" basket. We have a bird watching area at our school that we are starting to help out with so they've been very interested in anything birds. I have a decent collection of books in this category as it goes well with our science too. As I was straightening up the basket, I noticed A Place for Birds, a newer book in the basket and noticed that it was again by Melissa Stewart! Browsing online this week, I realized that this too is part of a series--the A Place For series. I will definitely have to check more of these books out.
And today, as I was writing, I popped online to see if there were possibly any more great titles I was missing by Melissa Stewart and it seems there is a Good Question Series (How Does a Seed Sprout?: And Other Questions About Plants (Good Question!) that looks like another perfect series for this age.
Finally, I visited Melissa Stewart's website today so that I could link it for this post and again I was floored. Not only does she have a great website with great information. But she has videos that share her revision timeline, video minilesson and more. Her website is a treat in itself. I am trying so hard to do a better job of nonfiction craft minilessons in writing and I am so happy to have discovered these videos!
Really, Melissa Stewart's work is amazing and even though I knew it before, I didn't realize how many things she had that are incredible. Because she has different illustrators and because some of her books use photos while others use illustrations, it isn't obvious to a reader like me that she is the author. I am so glad that these Melissa Stewart events happened so I could finally see her entire body of work and make the connections. This experience made me realize again how little attention I've paid to nonfiction authors' names as I read and share nonfiction with my students. So glad to see that is changing. Melissa Stewart is definitely one of my favorite authors for nonfiction in elementary classrooms!