There are stories of artists and scientists, historical events and the people they impacted, microbes and zombie makers…each book inspired by the author's own curiosity. Marc Aronson wrote about a conversation he had about American nonfiction in a recent NY Times book review. He extolled its virtues including the fact that our nonfiction is unique in that it is written out of our own passions and is often a "labor of love". How true!
At our recent SCBWI Falling Leaves Retreat focusing on nonfiction I was overjoyed to chat during meals about the stories within us -- our passions, curiosities, and research. What fun it is to gather with a group of nonfiction authors! Their enthusiasm for their subjects is unparalleled. My NF writer buddies are all research junkies who love the chase as much as the writing. And they continue to challenge us with their ideas. They know how to appeal to the kid inside us all --the kid who peeked under rocks or searched for treasure or made concoctions in their bathrooms before their parents were up each morning.
This holiday season is a great time to pick up one of these books for the kid on your list or yourself and feed your own curiosity.
NY Public Library's 2012 List of Nonfiction Titles
A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano. Illustrated by Michael Carroll. CharlesbridgeDive in to this lively and engaging exploration of one of our universe's most mysterious and misunderstood marvels.
Chuck Close: Face Book by Chuck Close. Abrams Books for Young ReadersThis innovative, large-scale portrait artist answers kids' questions about his life, his art, and other challenges he's faced.
Citizen Scientists: Be Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns. Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz. Henry Holt and CompanyKids are scientists too! A year's worth of experiments and activities, including Fall Butterflying, Winter Birding, Spring Frogging, and Summer Ladybugging.
Creep and Flutter: The Secret World of Insects and Spiders by Jim Arnosky.Sterling Children's BooksThink you know bugs? Think again! Get all the facts about everything from mayfly nymphs to praying mantises in this lyrically written and gorgeously illustrated book.
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel. Illustrated by Amanda Hall. Eerdmans Books for Young ReadersA toll collector achieves his dream of being an artist by painting a world he imagines. With illustrations that echo the self-taught master's style.
The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919 by Deborah Kops. CharlesbridgeWhat do you get when 13,000 tons of molasses meet the streets of Boston? A sticky situation.
The Human Body Factory by Dan Green. Illustrated by Edmond Davis. KingfisherMaking a body work is a team effort, so get an inside peek into the mechanics of you!
Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank. Clarion BooksA frightening look into the history of a disease that still infects people today.
It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Lee & Low Books Inc.Why did 85-year-old Billy Traylor suddenly pick up a pencil one day and start to draw? As the book says, it just happened.
Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. Atheneum Books for Young ReadersYoung Josephine Baker "grew up singing nothin' but the blues" and went onstage to become the toast of Paris and the world. A jazzy "fairy tale" with vibrant, high-steppin', high energy art.
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola.Farrar Straus GirouxFollow a modern day explorer who has spent more than 7,000 hours underwater. Includes engaging illustrations.
The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch. Houghton Mifflin Books for ChildrenTake a trip with the ultimate explorers to the red planet. A place where no human foot has ever stepped.
Monkey Colors by Darrin Lunde. Illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne. CharlesbridgeDid you know that the mandrill with the most colorful face is the leader of the pack? Learn this and other fun facts in this book for young children.
Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey by Gary Golio. Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez. Clarion BooksThe highs and lows of a legendary jazz artist explored through dynamic, vivid art.
Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean. Photographs by K. C. Bailey and Steve Kazmierski. Scholastic PressSometimes a dog and a person find each other at just the right moment. Ten troubled shelter dogs find a loving home and a new life in the circus.
Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery. Houghton Mifflin Books for ChildrenThis biography tells the story of an extraordinary scientist who used her autistic experiences to design humane animal-processing facilities.
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson. Scholastic PressYou only think you know the full story, but just wait until you read this gripping account in the words of the survivors of history's most infamous shipwreck.
Those Rebels, John & Tom by Barbara Kerley. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham.Scholastic PressHere are twin portraits of founding fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – one short, stout and blustery and the other tall, thin and quiet. How this odd couple played a pivotal role in shaping the history of the United States of America.
We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Y. Levinson.Peachtree PublishersWould you go to jail to fight for your rights? These kids did!
Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson. Millbrook PressFor anyone who thinks that zombies aren't real, here is a "no-brainer" introduction to some worms, germs, molds and other parasites that control the minds of their hosts!