Monday, September 25, 2017

Expository Non-Fiction Picture Books

What is expository non-fiction? The simple answer is in the words of Joe Friday, "Just the facts". Some kids really want to learn about a subject; they are not interested in a story about their favored topic, but facts. Years ago, I had a second grade student who knew more about black holes that 99% of adults who were not astronomers. All he wanted was more pieces of data to build his understanding of what a black hole is and how it is formed. He was willing to learn to read anything that would further his understanding. In a guest post from author Melissa Stewart, in a School Library Journal blog, there is a much clearer explanation and some interesting research about how many students are interested in expository non-fiction.

Let's take a look at some recent books in this category, the first by Melissa Stewart Can an Aardvark Bark?, illustrated by Steve Jenkins. The simple answer to the title question is no, but it does grunt. What other animals grunt? River otters, Hamadryas Baboons, white tailed deer and oyster toadfish, each species grunts mean something different. Can a seal squeal? No but it can bark and so can capybara, barking tree frog, common barking geckos and woodchucks. To the caybara, it is a warning, to the tree frog it is a mating call, the gecko uses a bark to let other geckos know where he is and woodchucks bark when they are fighting with one another. Other sounds explored that animals use to communicate include squeal, whine, growl, bellow and laugh.

The Sonoma County Library has three copies.

Jess Keating is another author who known for her expository fiction. Pink Is For Blobfish is an exploration of pink animals. Each two page spread introduces a pink toned animal with a picture, facts such as species name, size, diet, habitat, predators and threats. Plus an interesting fact in cartoon form about each animal. Seventeen perfectly pink animals are featured. A map showing where you can find them, a glossary and where to find out more is included at the end of the book. The illustrator is David DeGrand.

The Sonoma County Library has one copy. 

Jess Keating and David DeGrand have paired up for another book What Makes A Monster? The unifying idea this time is exploring animals who look like monsters or act like monsters. The Aye-Aye's witch like claws are only dangerous to bugs. A legend in Madagascar says a sighting of one of these lemurs is a prediction of death. Laid out like the blobfish book, this book features fifteen animals and one fungus. The last animal can be found in every house. The end of the book pairs famous monsters with animals in the book like Dracula and the vampire bat and a glossary of useful words.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Two New Beginning Chapter Books

I may not have spent the summer writing much but I did read a couple dozen children's books, two of which, I will review today. The first is the 17th book in the Fly Guy series Fly Guy's Big Family written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold

Buzz finds Fly Guy drawing pictures of his family because he misses them. He decides to throw a surprise party for his friend. He makes up little signs inviting Fly Guy's family to the party. He puts them in all the places you'd expect to find flies: garbage cans, rotting fish and spoiled food. The first guest to arrive is Cuzz. Once Buzz assures him there are no Swatterzz in the house, he calls out "Okayzz!" and thousands of flies fly into the house yelling "Surprizze!!!" After Fly Guy hugs his many cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and finally his mother and father, it is time for dinner. Buzz has thought of everything: a garbage truck pulls up and dumps a load on the front lawn and the flies party in the garbage. 

Kids love this early chapter book series. It is funny, easy to read with a large font and only a sentence or two per page. The Sonoma County Library has sixteen copies.

Hilde Lysiak is a ten year old journalist who publishes The Orange Street News in Selinsgrove, PA. Now she is also the author of a new Branches series for Scholastic, Hilde Cracks the Case: Hero Dog! Hero Dogis the first book in the series, Bear on the Loose comes out on Halloween and Fire! Fire! comes out the day after Christmas.

Hero Dog takes place on Orange Street. It is the day of the yearly bake off sponsored by the Kind Kat Cafe. Three of the past winners have their baked goods or ingredients stolen the morning of the bake off. Hilde is on the trail of the culprit. A good journalist tries to answer six questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? After each interview, Hilde writes the clues under those questions. Her sister, Izzy, is a photographer and together they sift through the clues and confront the perpetrator with the help of the hero dog, Zeus.

I am a big fan of Sue Grafton's Alphabet Mysteries, Hilde reminds me a bit of Kinsey Milhone, the private eye protagonist of the series. You get to see the step by step of solving the mysteries in each book much like a real PI would work. You get to see Hilde's method in this book, too.

Hilde's co-author is her father, former journalist Matthew Lysiak. The black and white illustrations are by JoAnne Lew-Vriethoff. There are pictures through out, a map of the Orange street neighborhood, the type is large and easy to read. There are one or two paragraphs on each page with 15 chapters versus three for the Fly Guy books. The Sonoma County Library has one copy. The book will also be available at Strawberry's Scholastic Book Fair this fall and at Yulupa's in the spring.