2012 Finalists: Nonfiction Picture Books

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade
by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Nominated by: Aaron Zenz

With her trademark colorful collage style, Melissa Sweet brings to life the story of Tony Sarg, the man behind the world-famous balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Starting with his early career as a puppeteer, Sweet beautifully illustrates the evolution of the parade from a reasonably small employee-only event with live animals to a huge production with the enormous floating balloons that Sarg invented. The combination of biography, the history of the parade, and Sarg’s creative process comes together smoothly. Sweet’s text is just as good as the illustrations, bringing the parade to life, with all its color, excitement, and movement. At the end of the book, there is a terrific section about Sarg and his legacy, including the puppet show from The Sound of Music movie and Jim Henson’s Muppets.

— Janssen Bradshaw, Everyday Reading

Dolphin Baby!
by Nicola Davies
Candlewick Press

Nominated by: Mary Ann Scheuer

Davies welcomes a newborn dolphin calf into the world in this book, which takes readers through Dolphin’s first six months. Along the way, she weaves facts about dolphins and their growth into a loving mother-child relationship. In addition, there are more facts strewn throughout the pages to add to readers’ knowledge. The main narrative is written in a friendly tone that is easy for the youngest listeners to follow, but the friendly tone doesn’t ignore the nonfiction part of this picture book. Granström creates an ocean full of light and striated color along with sleek, energetic dolphins. An index is included, along with some information about endangered species of dolphins.

— Susan Murray, From Tots to Teens

Eggs 1, 2, 3: Who Will the Babies Be?

by Janet Halfmann
Blue Apple Books

Nominated by: JC

Eggs 1, 2, 3 – Is it a counting book, is it a poetry book, is it an informational picture book (the category for which it is nominated), is it a pattern book, does it allow for predicting and inferring, or is it a book full of wonderful language? Delightfully for the reader, it is all of the above! Janet Halfmann has done a lovely job teaching the reader about different animals and the eggs from which they come. Each new egg page is organized with a riddle that shares information about the animal, the reader uses both the picture and textual clues to predict and infer what babies belong in the egg, and then the page is turned to discover a view of the babies after they’ve left the safety of their egg. Even the endpages are adorned with the different eggs mentioned in the book. This is a book children will want to read time and time again.

— Karen Terlecky, Literate Lives

Island: A Story of the Galapagos

by Jason Chin
Roaring Brook

Nominated by: Monica Edinger

Jason Chin tackles a huge topic—the formation of the Galapagos Islands and evolution of species on those islands—and does so extremely successfully. Chin tells an engaging story about an island forming, the island becoming populated by plants and animals, plant and animal populations changing over time, and, finally, the island sinking into the sea. Chin explains the process of evolution, a topic that baffles many adults, so clearly that eight-year-olds will be able to understand it. Chin describes geological and evolutionary events in a mere sentence or two and fills in missing details with intricate series of pictures of, for example, a seabird colonizing a new island or a finch species’ beak changing shape.

— Amy Broadmoore, Delightful Children’s Books

Looking at Lincoln

by Maira Kalman
Nancy Paulsen Books

Nominated by: MotherReader

A chance glimpse of a man in a stovepipe hat and Maira Kalman is off and running, headed to the library to find out more about our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln.  Kalman takes a worthy subject, a big subject, Lincoln, and talks around and around Lincoln and draws around and around Lincoln. She looks at Lincoln, really looks at him, sharing little things about Lincoln (He only went to school for one year! His wife, Mary, was very short! He stuffed notes inside his tall hat!), little things that she loves so much that you can’t help but love them too. Go Looking at Lincoln and we promise you will be captivated.

— Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda

by Alicia Potter
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Nominated by: Cathy Potter

Pandas have piqued our national interest for a long time and the World Wildlife Foundation credits Ruth Harkness with “evoking universal sympathy for the plight of the species.” The story of her expedition to complete her husband’s mission to bring the first live panda to the US is brought to the children’s picture book format by Alicia Potter and Melissa Sweet. Potter’s text encapsulates an information-rich story in a format digestible for our youngest readers and still pertinent for the oldest readers among us. Sweet’s eclectic illustration style fits the story perfectly, with her use of illustration and authentic collage materials from China matching the journey of Ruth Harkness around the world. The color palette is bright and inviting and the design layout is varied. The story of Mrs. Harkness’ determination in her expedition for the first panda is inspirational. Included are a chronology of events, author’s note, and selected bibliography.

— Ellen Zschunke, On The Shelf 4 Kids

Nic Bishop Snakes

by Nic Bishop

Nominated by: T.S. Davis

Nic Bishop has developed his own unique formula for a successful nonfiction picture book, and this title definitely does not disappoint. The intriguing subject matter (snakes, of course) paired with Bishop’s stunning up-close photography–plus the clean design featuring text pull-outs on every page–all add up to make this book an irresistible read for a wide age range. Kids will no doubt be drawn in by the bold pictures, but the text is fascinating as well, and the lengthy author’s note detailing how Bishop got the amazing photos (and even got bitten while doing so!) is an added bonus.

Laurie Ann Thompson