And, Thanks to Alyson Beecher's Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge at Kidlit Frenzy. Each Wednesday a group of us share non-fiction picture books we believe everyone should know about. The books inspire and teach, and help students if you're a teacher of writing see how others share non-fiction research.
Until the year before last, I taught gifted middle school students in an independent school, a mixed group of 6th, 7th and 8th graders. Without telling so much about our learning approach, a huge part of what we valued was to get the kids out of the building, day trip, morning or afternoon trips, and overnights. From the youngest to those I taught, everyone traveled near and far. For my age students, I traveled all over the U.S. and outside the borders for a few trips. But one memorable one I will remember a long time because I'd never been there before was my visit to the Grand Canyon. We camped and drove all the way from Denver to the canyon. We spent a week there exploring the geology and the cultures that had lived there. In every trip out into nature that I took, the animals are my most inspiring finds. This time, it was breath-taking to see the amazing California Condor every day, swooping up along the canyon's walls, gliding higher and higher until one couldn't tell how very large it was.
And one more special memory was seeing the evidence of story written along the paths we walked. We spent each day journaling and sketching, telling our own stories of the day. Here's one picture:
And the reason for this beginning about my own past is to introduce you to a new book out by Jason Chin, Grand Canyon. If I'd had this book along with us on our own trip, I would have been very grateful. There is a thread running through the book that shows a man and his daughter walking through the canyon, deep into it, then from the top. Jason Chin fills the largest part of the pages showing a canyon level and explaining its story geologically, what you will see about how it was formed, evidence of that, and the flora and fauna within it. Edges of the pages are filled with tiny sketches of flora and fauna found today. It is astounding in the information given, along with the useful power of illustration. The ending open pages forming a four-page panorama is the next best thing to being there! The inside front has a map; the end papers show a cross-section of the canyon, labeled with additional information. There is also information in the back matter about rocks, human history, ecology, and a glossary with sources.
One additional part that is hard to describe, but is a clever idea. On one page, the story shows the young girl and sometimes her father walking in a certain area, and it tells about that area, what animals are there, what plants, and what fossils/kinds of rocks can be found. On some of the pages, there is a small "cut-out" piece, showing a "find", but when turning the page we go back millions of years to view what that area was then, perhaps an ocean, perhaps dry, windswept dunes. You need to find and read this book. It's terrific.