Monday, March 03, 2008

NonFiction Monday

As part of our writing workshop, we are doing a study of Literary Nonfiction. When I think about what that means, I think it is quality nonfiction writing --the nonfiction writing that has the qualities of good writing. It is different from encyclopedia or traditional report writing.

Knowing that this is a big focus for our grade level standards, I have been trying to pick up some good mentor texts--nonfiction books that students can learn from. I am amazed by how many great nonfiction books are out there these days. These are some of the newer ones I've picked up.

POOP: A Natural History of the Unmentionable
by Nicola Davies
The version of this that I purchased is a very tiny book (3" X 5") which makes it quite fun! The illustrations are amusing and the writing has a great deal of humor embedded in it. A topic that kids love to read about and they can certainly learn from the casualness of the writing.

THE BROOK BOOK: EXPLORING SMALL STREAMS by Jim Arnosky is full of great information about brooks. The illustrations are soft and the colors work. Many features of nonfiction text (labels, question headings, etc.) are embedded throughout and there is variety in the page layouts. The language is perfect when looking at quality nonfiction writing. One page says, "As a brook tumbles and runs downhill, the moving water shapes te land it flows over." Every line seems packed with information and the writing is quality nonfiction. The author's note lets readers know that the book is set up to help you get the most out of a visit to a local brook!

A DICTIONARY OF DANCE by Liz Murphy is a fun dictionary of dance vocabulary. Each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by a dance specific word such as improvisation or kick. The pronunciation and definition are included. The illustrations give readers a visual to further explain the word.

I GET WET by Vicki Cobb is an older book (2002) that I just discovered. I purchased this one because of the writing and the page layouts. Cobb often places the words in a wave coming out of a faucet or something similar. The key is that the writing in those spaces is well-written. My students often have fun with font and word placement but forget about the quality of writing when doing so. This will show them how to tie those things together.

FROGS by Nic Bishop
The photographs in this book were what drew me to it in the first place. The writing is as spectacular as the photos. The book is packed with information and organized in paragraphs about different things. One paragraph lead says, "Some people are confused about the difference between a frog and a toad, but you do not have to be." Love that! A great index and glossary are found at the end of this book.

HOW STRONG IS IT? by Ben Hillman
I heard about this book from Karen at Literate Lives. HOW BIG IS IT? by the same author is a class favorite. This is a great second book. The illustrations are fascinating--showing strong things like lasers, sharks, and wood. The photos draw you into the text and the text goes on to tell you the information you want to know. The writing is tight--one column per photo. It is organized by paragraphs and well written. Each page can be studied by nonfiction writers and they will learn lots about organization, choice of details, and more.

HOORAY FOR INVENTORS! by Marcia Williams
I would consider this book to be a graphic novel of sorts, but not really. Each page stands alone and has the feel of a comic book. Some boxes hold isolated information while other spreads connect a story about a famous inventor. Facts are found in every white space on the page so there is lots to look at and discover. The organization is an interesting component. The index helps readers find the information they are looking for.

Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Picture Book of the Day.


  1. Franki,
    You always have the best book lists -- thanks so much for sharing these titles. There were a couple I didn't know.

  2. Anonymous8:42 PM

    Thanks for this great list!!!


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