Good Nonfiction Read-Alouds
November 15, 2007
I borrowed the list below from Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook. He says, "Nonfiction will often read like a boring textbook unless there's a strong narrative to it." Having read umpteen non-narrative nonfiction books aloud, I don't agree with that; the match of subject and listener is what matters. Still, who doesn't like a good story line?
As a caveat, I should say that, though filed in the library's nonfiction section, some of these books contain fictionalized elements. An adult reader can talk about that fact with the child she's reading to. Kids are up to such a conversation. (Actually I'd love to see Nonfiction Matters' Marc Aronson take up the subject of fictionalizing in children's nonfiction books.) Here is Trelease's list; I've added links to Powell's.
Saving the Liberty Bell, by Megan McDonald
The Flag Maker: A Story of the Star-Spangled Banner, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon, by Jeannine Atkins
The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, by Barbara Kerley
The Boy Who Drew Birds: The Story of John James Audubon, by Jacqueline Davies
The Bobbin Girl, by Emily Arnold McCully (I'll add McCully's Marvelous Mattie, too.)
Thank You, Sarah, by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka'iulani of Hawai'i, by Fay Stanley
Alice Ramsey's Grand Adventure, by Don Brown
When Esther Morris Headed West: Women, Wyoming, and the Right to Vote, by Connie Nordheilm
Liberty Rising: The Story of the Statue of Liberty, by Pegi Deitz Shea
You're on Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt, by Judith St. George
Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein, by Don Brown
Eleanor, by Barbara Cooney
Baseball Saved Us, by Ken Mochizuki
My Brother Martin, by Christine King Farris
The Story of Ruby Bridges, by Robert Coles
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, by Kathleen Krull
To these, I'll also contribute The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History, by Jennifer Armstrong.
Also, Oyate, a Native American advocacy organization, says that Thank You, Sarah is a "book to avoid," and lists a few recommended Thanksgiving titles. I'll let the reader decide for herself if a book is to be avoided or not. That's what I do.
Added: Kathy, the school librarian who blogs at Library Stew, suggests a couple of more: Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline B. Martin, and Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey, by Maira Kalman. MJN of The Alternative Side Parking Reader suggests Roald Dahl's autobiographies (written for older children): Boy and Going Solo.
I just finished reading Thank You Sarah to my students and they LOVED it - it really doesn't talk much about the native americans, so not sure what their beef is, but it is a funny book to read!
Also, I read the book Fireboat by Maira Kalman every September, it is the story of a retired fireboat that goes into service after 9/11.
Oh and another ommission on the list - Snowflake Bentley!
Posted by: Kathy | November 16, 2007 at 07:29 AM
Kathy, I'll add these in. Thanks for recommendations. I really like Snowflake Bentley, too.
Posted by: Susan T. | November 16, 2007 at 08:38 AM
I might be way out of line here, but memoir is nonfiction, and two books by Roald Dahl, Boy and Going Solo, are serious autobiography written for children, which I suspect was how Dahl simplified his life enough to make it possible to write about it.
Posted by: MJN/NYC | November 16, 2007 at 10:40 AM
Good ones, MJN. Thank you!
Posted by: Susan T. | November 16, 2007 at 10:57 AM
I love Thank You, Sarah, for this line:
Never underestimate dainty little ladies.
Posted by: Kelly Fineman | November 16, 2007 at 01:35 PM
Great line! I looked for Thank You, Sarah at the library today, but it was checked out. Drats.
Posted by: Susan T. | November 19, 2007 at 07:47 PM