Thanks to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek, we have the pleasure of seeing favorites from many others!
Non-fiction picture books help us all learn about the world in order to navigate it. From people and places, from prose and poetry, these books can include the history of the peoples of the world who educate and inspire. Among so many that I first listed, here are the ten I chose. They are both very recent and much older, yet to me they all have a message for us about our world.
Fourteen poems by poets you love fill this book as the earlier Amazing Faces did, including love for our country from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to San Francisco’s Chinatown, Boston’s Fenway Park to the Watkins Museum of History (Langston Hughes childhood home-Lawrence, Kansas). Considering the increasing division in beliefs recently, I especially liked the poem by Alma Flor Ida, native Cuban, who wrote of her family’s visit to Chinatown. Many people are included in this book, as well as nature’s wonders, trees in the Grand Canyon and the mighty Mississippi. This would be a lovely mentor text when studying different cultures and geography, and writing poetry in a reflection of favorite topics. The illustrations by Chris Soentpiet and Christy Hale are full color portraits, vibrant with life in the ‘amazing places’.
Liberty’s Voice, the Emma Lazarus Story - Erica Silverman and Stacey Schuett
Stacey Schuett colors the story of Emma Lazarus by Erica Silverman beautifully, with poetic whirls around the cartoon-like drawings. The story is filled with so much interesting information leading up to the success that is firmly a part of our history, the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Young writers will love the way she wrote and revised, and used what she observed in her life as subjects. Ralph Waldo Emerson was her mentor! It is good to see how Silverman knits all the details of Emma's life together in order to show how the writing of this most famous poem came to be.
The World In A Second - Isabel Minhós Martins and Bernardo Carvalho
Pages are filled with the details of a second experienced all over the world. There is a horn honking in Mexico City and a volcano erupting on the other side of the world, a ball flies through a window and a breeze finally flutter on the high seas. Illustrations fill the pages with action and the few words seem given in a second as I turn the pages. What a delightful book to imagine all these events. The authors share a world map at the back of the time and place for each event. I can imagine doing this in one's school, classroom, or community. What a delightful art and writing project it would be.
Freedom Summer - Deborah Wiles and Jerome Lagarrigue
This book was published in 2001, long before Deborah Wiles published her next wonderful, and extensive books about the times before and during Freedom Summer. It was re-released last year. This brief story tells about a white boy and his African-American friend, whose mother works for the white boy's family. They do everything together, play, do chores, swim in the creek. But they can't do exactly everything together because colored people can't go to the movies, get ice cream at the ice cream place, or swim in the town pool. The illustrations show friendship and sadness; the story is based, Wiles says, on truth. So it is not non-fiction, yet would be a good entry into conversations about Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights Act, and being an ally when it is so hard to be one.
Last Stop on Market Street - Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson
What a beautiful story about a grandmother and her grandson CJ, on an adventure after school in the rain. As they ride the bus, CJ wonders why they can’t just go home, why they have to ride the bus, why they don’t have a car, why a lot of things. He’s tired perhaps after a full day at school, but his grandmother has other plans. CJ begins to understand the good things his grandmother notices as he and she ride the bus to that final stop. The ending is a sweet surprise. (I realized late that this really is not non-fiction, but it seems very real to me, and shows truth, don't you agree?)
Their Great Gift : Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land - John Coy
The story of John Goy and Wing Young Huie's collaboration started years ago on the basketball court. They played on a team for a long time. When an editor said he'd like to do a book with Wing's photos, Goy leapt at the chance to work with his friend in another way, and they began to create. Using a path with Wing's photos taken for a long time, Goy began to weave words around them. Both tell the stories of their own families in the back matter. This story is told with few, but telling words, like "My family came here from far away. . .because they dreamed of more." and "They gave advice: 'Work hard.' 'Do well in school.' 'Never give up.' And even more inspiration comes from the pictures, many many pictures showing hardship, persistence, talent, and joy. The book brings a connection to what we all want to have in our lives: safety for ourselves and for family, a chance to make a living, a chance to "be" something.
14 Cows for America - Carmen Agra Deedy and Thomas Gonzalez
(from Goodreads) In June of 2002, a ceremony begins in a village in western Kenya. Hundreds of Maasai surround an American diplomat to bestow a gift on the American people. The gift is as unsought and unexpected as it is extraordinary. A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks, and hearts are raw. Tears flow freely as these legendary warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away. Word of the gift will travel news wires around the globe. Many will be profoundly touched, but for Americans, this selfless gesture will have deeper meaning still. For a heartsick nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hope and friendship. Master storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy hits all the right notes in this story of generosity that crosses boundaries, nations, and cultures. Thomas Gonzalez’ stunning paintings are saturated with rich hues of oranges and browns and blues and greens, which capture the nobility of the Maasai people and the distinctive landscape of the African plain.
Stepping Stones - Margriet Ruurs and Falah Raheem
At the beginning of this amazing book, there is an introduction telling the story of the author Margriet Ruurs' journey of discovering, then connecting to Nizar Ali Badr, an unknown artist, whose work she saw through happenstance on Facebook. She searched further, and through negotiations with a publisher, with Nizar, and lots of passing picture back and forth, this book was born. The artistically created scenes, with rocks/pebbles, are photographed. It is a story, showing the happy family life before the bombings began, and then leaving home, the terrifying journey to and across the ocean, and finally a new home, and hopes for peace. "The lucky ones, they call us. New memories, new hopes, new dreams. Not of war, but of peace." Nizar Ali Badr still lives in Syria, brings great emotion to these pages using stones he collects as he walks along the seashore. One added great thing is that the text is also presented in Arabic with the English, something these immigrants will surely love seeing.
I Dreamed I was Coming To America - Veronica Lawlor
This is treasure I've used more than once with students who were doing their own oral histories as well as when we studied immigration. It is filled with short pieces from immigrants who tell of their experiences when they arrived in America. The artistic responses by Lawlor are gorgeous watercolor/collages, and the words from each tell small parts of their time. Here is a part from a young woman: "When I came here, I was in a different world. It was so peaceful, it was quiet. You were not afraid to go out in the middle of the night... I was free. I'm just like a bird." It's a good example of a short book appropriate for younger or older students who are researching this time, or would serve as a mentor text for writing memoir.
Two for one: inspiring lives lived from a girl and a boy
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah- Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Quails
An inspiration throughout, starting with Emmanuel’s mother, who wouldn’t give up her son just because he was born without the use of one leg. She insisted that he figure out how to do things to help, like carry water, and he did. No one would play with him, so he saved his money and bought a soccer ball, said he was to be allowed to play if anyone else wanted to use the ball. He played! Emmanuel may have been born using only one leg, yet showed more persistence and endurance than others with two. He became disgusted with the way the disabled were treated in his country, Ghana, so set out on a cross-country ride to show how much is possible. He wore a t-short with the words The Pozo, meaning “disabled person”. He now continues to fight for the rights of the disabled all over the world. This story is a must for everyone to read, not just teachers to children, but for all to learn that having a disability is just one part of what someone is, not all the parts.
Drum Dream Girl : How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music - Margarita Engle and Rafael López
This ‘drum dream girl’, an African-Chinese-Cuban girl broke the taboo that only boys could play drums. The story/poem is lovely, filled with those wonderful drumming sounds, at first in drum dream girl’s imagination, then finally in real places. We read “the clack of woodpecker beats” and the “comforting pat of her own heartbeat”, see her listening to “the rattling beat of towering dancers on stilts.” Finally she is given permission to drum, so at last all girls in Cuba would have the chance. The illustrations are filled with color and drama. My favorite page shows drum dream girl imagining playing on the “big, round, silvery moon-bright timbales.” This time it’s the moon itself.