2010 Finalists: Nonfiction Picture Books

by Steve Jenkins
Nominated by: Mary Ann Scheuer

Young explorers might come across skeleton remains, but in Bones, readers are reminded that skeletons are alive. Jenkins’ book delivers all sorts of bones, from snakes to humans to bats and everything else in between. His clever page titles such as “Arm Yourself,” “Big Foot,” or “Support Group” are engaging. The bone illustrations are created at a variety of scales. Intricate paper cuts for each page, along with the straightforward explanations, won the hearts of the panelists. More skeleton facts, stories, history, and science are at the book’s end.

Dinosaur Mountain: Digging into the Jurassic Age
by Deborah Kogan Ray
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Raymond Tumarkin

“Find me something big,” ordered Andrew Carne, when he sent paleontologist Earl Douglas to an area of the Colorado/Wyoming border now known as Dinosaur National Monument. Deborah Kogan Ray chronicles Douglas’ efforts, including his struggles with weather, discouragement and bone poachers. Ray uses journal excerpts, diagrams and pencil sketches of other useful information, such as layers of the Jurassic Strata and paleontologist’s tools, to provide additional support for the reader. Prolific appendices include information about ten dinosaurs found in Dinosaur National Monument.

Henry Aaron’s Dream
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Margo Tanenbaum

Henry Aaron had a dream that some day he’d play baseball in the big leagues, but life in the 1940s made it impossible for blacks and whites to do anything together. Using Jackie Robinson as his inspiration, Aaron persevered and played his way into the big leagues while overcoming prejudice and obstacles. The straightforward narrative pulls the reader along in this emotion-filled story of Aaron’s dreams as a child and subsequent path leading him to play baseball professionally. Tavares’s large, muted illustrations depict the times, the disappointments, and triumphs of this player from his childhood to his successful record-breaking career. But best of all, it tells the story of how a skinny kid from Mobile, Alabama, made his dreams come true.

Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum
by Meghan McCarthy
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Jess Pugh

Chewing gum has been around for thousands of years, but bubble gum was invented by an accountant in Philadelphia. Here, with bright, cartoonish illustrations, Meghan McCarthy tells the story of the invention of one of America’s favorite candies. From the subject matter to the vivid colors used throughout, Pop! oozes kid appeal, while back matter includes additional fun facts about bubble gum, biographical information, and source notes. Together, this makes for a book that’ll give kids thoughts to chew on.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down
by Andrea Pinkney
Little, Brown
Nominated by: Allison Moore

In 1960, when four Negro college students decided to sit down and try to order at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, they were part of a movement bigger than they even realized. They were peaceful and respectful, even when those around them chose to be cruel and unkind. They held on to their conviction that they had a right to order food if they were hungry, no matter where they were, or what the color of their skin. Most of the story is written as a metaphor for eating, especially the parts about equality, peace and integration. Pinkney ties the story together so well with those metaphors. Brian Pinkney’s illustrations are amazing and match the text beautifully. His backgrounds are particularly thoughtful, as that is where the hatred of others can be found in a hazy way. Sit-In serves as a springboard to look at all the ways we can stand up for each other and for what’s right, no matter what the color of our skin.

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald
by Roxane Orgill
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Derek Jones

Ella Fitzgerald is known for her unique voice and giving the world scat, improvisational singing. Fitzgerald didn’t have an easy childhood. Roxane Orgill handles the ups and downs with a skilled hand. We get so much of Ella, from singing with her mother to the time when she had no home. Even through the sadness, Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat never loses its sense of hopeful possibility. Sean Qualls’ illustrations are beautiful, from Ella’s expressive eyes to the detailed clothes of the era. Orgill and Qualls have collaborated on a lyrical and visually stunning biography on a jazz icon.

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According To Susy)
by Barbara Kerley
Nominated by: Jennifer Donovan

Children have no doubt heard of Mark Twain, but here they’ll get to know him in a new and more familiar way through the words of his daughter. As a child, Susy Clemens carefully crafted a secret biography of her beloved Papa, and Kerley brings to life both Papa and Susy, as well as Susy’s journal, for young readers. Kerley weaves quotes from various sources into a narrative that reads like fiction, and Fotheringham’s lively, colorful illustrations portray a larger-than-life Twain and his ever-present biographer. Excerpts from Susy’s journals are cleverly presented in small leaflets throughout the book. Back matter includes further information about Mark Twain and Susy, a selected timeline of Twain’s life, and detailed sources and citations for quoted material in the text. For readers who are inspired to keep their own secret journals, suggestions for following in Susy’s (and Kerley’s) pen strokes to write an “extraordinary biography” are provided.