2011 Finalists: Nonfiction Picture Books

All the Water in the World
by George Ella Lyon
Nominated by: Kate Coombs

Just when you thought the world had enough books about the water cycle, along comes this fresh poetic treatment to make you say “Wow.” Lyon laces the sparse, tightly written text with delicious language surprises as she succinctly explains where water comes from and where it goes. Both the writing and illustration are simple, crisp and clean, rhythmically flowing and splashing along as water does. Kids will want to move the book around to follow the font, which takes on the persona of water as it changes shape and wends and flows through the book. Tillotson’s wild splashes of colour creatively echo the text, while showing water in all its forms. Different, fun, fresh.

Bring On the Birds
by Susan Stockdale
Nominated by: Lesley

This simple book for very young readers highlights the incredible diversity of avian life while cleverly punctuating it with what all birds have in common. Text, art and design work together brilliantly to create an engaging read aloud or early independent reading experience. The rhyming text is sparkling, fun and graceful, full of strong visual language, internal rhyme and alliteration. Bright, uncomplicated illustrations not only accurately depict the bird species, but also place them in their appropriate habitats, creating a wonderful first introduction to birds for 4-6 year olds.

Can We Save the Tiger?
by Martin Jenkins
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Amy @ Hope Is the Word

Readers will be drawn in by the friendly, down-to-earth text and gorgeous life-like illustrations in this book about endangered and extinct animals. Citing particularly interesting examples, Jenkins offers thought-provoking explanations and hope as he describes attempts to save animal species from extinction, some successful, some not so much. Instead of simply being spoonfed information, readers are invited to ponder issues that aren’t always black and white. The exquisitely detailed pencil sketches and paintings in different scales give a field journal feel and perfectly capture the movement and “life” of these animals from enormous rhinos and tigers to tiny snails.

I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History’s Strangest Cures
by Carlyn Beccia
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Nominated by: Mary McKenna Siddals

In a quiz format, we’re introduced to the weird, wacky and just plain gross medical cures people have tried throughout history. Readers turn the pages to discover which cures actually worked and why or why not—and there are more than a few surprises. Beccia’s medieval caricatures are a perfect fit for the gruesomely captivating descriptions, which are fast-paced with just the right level of detail. This is a fascinating, funny and icky book, packed full of well-organized information, complete with clever caveats.

Planting the Wild Garden
by Kathryn O. Galbraith
Nominated by: Shirley Duke

While most kids are familiar with backyard gardens, seeded in rows, weeded and watered, this elegant book shares the wonder of the “wild garden”, where nature, not man, is the gardener–where seeds are carried by water, wind, fur and poop to places where they germinate into new plants to create nature’s landscape. Smooth, mellow language echoes the natural processes described, while onomatopoeia and present tense narration keep the text lively. Soft pencil and watercolor art convey a sense of observant calm, ingeniously conveying the passage of time through multiple inset panels.

The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press
Nominated by: Laurie Thompson

Frogs are disappearing. Markle engages readers in the investigation of possible causes, providing a close-up look at real-world scientists in the field and lab as they work together to uncover the truth. Kids will be intrigued as they follow the mystery, clue by clue. The language is deceptively simple–kid-friendly and accessible to young readers, but never choppy or condescending. Stunning photographs, images, and book design round out a perfect package to inspire young naturalists.

Thunder Birds: Nature’s Flying Predators
by Jim Arnosky
Sterling Publishing
Nominated by: Dawn Mooney

Birds of prey come alive on the pages of this book, including four fold-outs. Through a combination of facts, stories from his own personal experiences and illustrations that make you want to reach out and touch the feathers, Arnosky crafts extremely realistic portraits of these majestic birds. The casual reader will be mesmerized, but the substantial information included makes this volume suitable for reports as well. A striking, elegant book.