2019 Finalists: Elementary/Middle Grade Non-Fiction

Elementary Non-Fiction

Monument Maker: Daniel Chester French and the Lincoln Memorial (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Linda Booth Sweeney, illustrated by Shawn Fields
Tilbury House
Nominated by: Dr. Cheryl S. Vanatti

Even as a young boy, Daniel Chester French liked to make stuff- drawings ofthe birds in the New Hampshire farm he grew up in, a lion made of snow that frightened his neighbors, and clay creations that impressed everyone around him. This creative spirit, he would carry with him through to adulthood even if it meant straying from the path his family had carved for him.

As the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln fought to bring together a divided country only to be assassinated for his ideals. Readers will be drawn in by how these two stories intersect as they follow Dan Chester French’s career from the creation of one stunning statue after another to his ultimate masterpiece- the Lincoln Memorial-, a true monument honoring not only a great leader but the ideals that make our country great. History truly comes to life with Linda Booth Sweeney’s engaging text and Shawn Field’s incredible illustrations. Extensive back-matter material including author’s and illustrator’s notes, a timeline biography of Daniel Chester French’s life, and a list of the statues he created will provide more enjoyment to those who want to dig even deeper on the subject.

Earl Dizon, The Chronicles Of A Children’s Book Writer – Earl Dizon

Moth (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Isabel Thomas
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Nominated by: Karla Manternach

This outstanding picture book presents natural selection–an element of evolution–as a narrative in which the gorgeous pictures are just as illuminating as the rhythmic, partly-rhymed words. The peppered moth survives predation through camouflage–but the colors of hiding change depending on how pollution stains the moths’ hiding places. The author and illustrator take the reader through a century of soot-stained nature to a present where “people decided to clean up the air … Year by year by year cities grew greener. The air all around became cleaner.” It’s a profoundly hopeful ending!

Sarah Prineas, Prairie Lights Kids

Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin
Neal Porter Books
Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie

NINE MONTHS: BEFORE A BABY IS BORN follows a young child as she and her parents await the birth of a new baby. Miranda Paul’s quintrains are playful and bouncy.

Small. Ball. The point of a pin. Then it divides… Our story begins. Jason Chin’s illustrations provide children with detailed and accurate information about pregnancy. Each two-page spread is divided in half. The left hand side shows the development of the fetus, most in actual size. The right hand side shows the family- a dad, a mom, and the big sister who is probably three or four, as they engage in a variety of “waiting for baby” activities- reading about babies, examining baby clothes, attending an ultrasound appointment, gardening, and building a crib. As the baby grows, it takes up more and more of the two-page spread. End matter includes “More About Babies,” a detailed description of a baby’s development over nine months, “Whoa Baby!” (nine amazing things a baby can do before it is born), “Humans vs. Animals (gestation length for animals ranging from mice to lions to elephants) and then “What If- What if there are two, or more than two embryos? What if a baby is born early, What if Something Goes Wrong?” Perfect for a brother or sister who is waiting for a new sibling!

Carol Wilcox, Carol W’s Corner

Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Lindsay Moore
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Heidi G.

In Lindsay Moore’s stunning picture book, Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival, a solitary polar bear travels across the Arctic ice in search of food. When the ice melts, she must swim for days. On reaching land after her exhausting journey, she gives birth to cubs, and when the sea freezes again, she begins her journey anew. The poetic prose and sparse images of the book give the young reader an intimate view of the lone bear’s heroic journey while reinforcing the themes of the natural world: adaptation, patience, and perseverance. Backmatter includes information on polar bears and sea ice, and how climate change is affecting both.

Carrie Butler Becker, Other Women’s Stories

Seashells: More Than a Home (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
Nominated by: Joannie

In both visuals and text, the depth of science research in this picture book is evident, including end-papers, scientific labeling, simulated field notes, back matter sources, and prompts no further reading. The tone of this book makes it a delight for read aloud for even the youngest. The flowing main narrative provides familiar comparisons of various shell adaptations to increase survival, and Stewart’s figurative language provides a pattern for early language development. Illustrations are presented in a horizontal, watery display that soothes and refreshes.The parallel paragraphs of accessible but more detailed content and the accurate but soft-edged specimens are set in natural habitats that explain and expand the meaning of the lyrical lines that float across the top of each page.

“Seashells can wear disguises like a spy… or hide in plain sight like a soldier in camo clothing. Seashells can open like your mouth… and close quickly like your eyelids.” A wordless visual narrative allows a diverse and curious group of friends to propel the content through illustrations, spanning a day of noticing, examining, and discussing among themselves what they have found and learned at the beach. This and its related titles provide both text and illustrations that work well with older readers, too. The similes offer a rich resource as mentor-text for young writers, moving them from simply lifting content and rephrasing it to analyzing, comparing, and expressing science content effectively.Ini

Sandy Brehl, http://unpackingpicturebookpower.blogspot.com

Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Keith Mallett
Nominated by: Alex Baugh

Sonny’s bridge is a tribute to the prolific jazz musician Sonny Rollins. Sonny was born in the vibrant times of jazz music. As a kid, Sonny played the saxophone and very quickly mastered the instrument. By 29 years, Sonny had rocketed to the top of jazz world. And then, he stepped back. Barry Wittenstein’s tribute in this picture book, takes you through the story of this extraordinary jazz artist who at the height of his career, suddenly stopped and took a sabbatical to discover his true voice. But Sonny didn’t stop playing. Two years out of the limelight, Sonny took to Williamsburg bridge to practice and play his sax to find his music again. Written in verse but prose that flows like music, in combination with digital medium art with deep colors to represent the artists emotional journey, Sonny’s bridge is a beautiful tribute in a picture book.

Reshama Deshmukh, Stacking Books

Titan and the Wild Boars: The True Cave Rescue of the Thai Soccer Team (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Susan Hood and Pathana Sornhiran illustrated by Dow Phumiruk 
Nominated by: Maria Gianferrari

Titan and the Wild Boars is truly a kids’ story – a true and contemporary story about a daring cave rescue of a boys’ soccer team. The story takes place in Thailand, a country and culture unfamiliar to many young readers, but the story’s events reflect interests, emotions and concerns that all kids would relate to — sports (especially soccer), caves, high danger, rescue, working together as a team when it really counts, not giving up, and seeking help when help is needed. In this cave rescue, adult help was definitely needed if anyone was going to survive. The adults who volunteered to help understood that they too were risking their lives if they attempted to reach and rescue the boys – some could not swim. Scuba and underwater rescue skills were essential for navigating through a flooded cave, a cave that was a maze of tunnels and dead ends. One adult-rescuer didn’t make it out. As part of the rescue efforts, the soccer players as a team had to decide “who would go first – and then next” to try to exit the cave swimming underwater in complete darkness – knowing that those remaining behind might die. This is a story full of adventure, suspense and danger, but even more, it is a true story that tells the amazing tale of teamwork, cooperation, persistence, and caring for each other with unselfish courage. We need these stories.

Nancy Bo Flood, The Pirate Tree


Middle Grade Non-Fiction

Can You Hear the Trees Talking?: Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Peter Wohlleben
Greystone Kids
Nominated by: Charlotte

A Young Reader’s Edition of the bestseller The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben guides nature enthusiasts- and even those who aren’t will soon be entranced to come along- into the fascinating world of trees. With thought-provoking questions like “Can Trees Talk?”, “Are Some Trees Brave?”, and “Do Trees Sweat in Summer?”, readers will be flipping pages to discover the answers. Nature photos, fun quizzes, and interactive activities provide a format that’s both engaging and entertaining at the same time.

Earl Dizon, The Chronicles Of A Children’s Book Writer – Earl Dizon

Free Lunch (Amazon, IndieBound
by Rex Ogle
Norton Young Readers
Nominated by: Amanda Snow

In many ways, Rex Ogle is a typical twelve-year-old. He’s starting middle school and worries about making friends, where to sit in the lunchroom, and playing on the football team. In other ways, however, Rex’s life is very different than that of most of his peers. Rex’s mother abuses him both physically and verbally. There are regular incidences of domestic abuse between his mother and stepfather, Sam. Rex is a caregiver for his two-year-old brother, Ford, who he attempts to shield from his parents’ violence. Perhaps most difficult of all, the family is deep in the throes of poverty, being evicted from one awful apartment after another. Rex wears second hand clothes and eats free lunch every day.

In the author’s note at the end of book, Ogle says, “As an author, I tried not to write about my childhood for a very long time. In truth, I actively avoided it. It was simply too painful to revisit. But in recent years, I realized that little has changed in our national and global socioeconomic systems. In many ways, they have gotten worse. That revelation made me feel like I need to write this story..to offer a voice of camaraderie to those young readers who might desperately need it. …If you are having a hard time, my advice is simple. Hang in there, give it time. And stay strong. No matter how bad your circumstances may seem, things can change. And until they do, no one can take away your most powerful gift– your ability to hope for the better.” So many young teens, sitting in our classrooms today need to hear this very important message.

Carol Wilcox, Carol W’s Corner

It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Adapted for Young Readers) (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Trevor Noah
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennifer Miller @RaiseThemRighteous

Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, shares his story of growing up in South Africa in It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime, adapted for young readers from his bestselling memoir Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Born of a black mother and white father at the tail end of apartheid, his very existence—the evidence of the mixing of races—means he was “born a crime.” A story of racial prejudice, poverty, violence, and faith, this remarkably honest and vividly written story takes young readers into the South African social and political landscape in the years immediately following the dismantling of apartheid.

Carrie Butler Becker, Other Women’s Stories

Killer Style: How Fashion Has Injured, Maimed, and Murdered Through History (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Alison Matthews David and Serah-Marie McMahon, illustrated by Gillian Wilson 
Owlkids Books
Nominated by: Rebecca Herzog

“No one is safe from these fatal crimes of fashion…” claims the authors of “Killer Style”, a nonfiction chapter book for middle grade readers. Inside you will see fatal fashion tales categorized under “Horrified Heads”, “Miserable Middles” and “Unlucky legs”. Learn about how mercury hats in the 1700’s proved fatal for workers who used mercury as a cheap alternative to demanding and expensive supplies of felt. Love the greens in your wardrobe? When “Paris green” pigment was invented, there was another rather deadly name to it: “poisonous green”. Finally read about fatal footwear and how heels have often landed the wearer in the grave. Marrying science, history and art, this title shows you how fashion creators as well as the wearers can be victims to innovations in style. Inside this book you will find colorful pictures, historical photographs and vintage art to create a fashion magazine like reading experience. An intriguing, interesting and scary look at the fashion world.

Reshama Deshmukh, Stacking Books

Moles (Superpower Field Guide) (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Nicholas John Frith
HMH Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Heather L. Montgomery

In the latest title of this series, the author manages to make clever comparisons from page one- inviting readers to see a typical garden mole as potato sized-and-shaped wonder-critter. Each page turn reveals more jaw-dropping details, Poliquin backs up her raves about this squinty-eyed, super-powered wonder with astonishing facts. Naming her model mole Rosalie, the author provides all the scientific content you could imagine (and more!) while layering in humor and stacking up page after page of impressive accomplishments and adaptations on the part of this little powerhouse. The writing itself is a perfect blend of lighthearted explanations and informed admiration for moles. After reading this field guide, it’s easy to describe Rosalie and her relatives as charming. Back matter includes suggested further reading (both fiction and nonfiction) and a helpful glossary, too. The illustrator brings comparable hyperbole and retro style to his illustrations with limited color tones and unlimited fun while adhering closely to the scientific facts about amazing moles.

Sandy Brehl, http://unpackingpicturebookpower.blogspot.com

Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Katherine Johnson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Reshama

Thanks to Hidden Figures we’ve heard a lot about Katherine Johnson, but this outstanding autobiography gives us her story in her own delightful voice. Interweaved with important historical events is the story of a girl who is exceptionally brilliant–and yet wonderfully pragmatic about her own talents–at a time when being black and being female presented significant barriers to education. Both she and her family sacrificed so much to gain access to the very best education possible. It’s a story of talent and persistence that leads Katherine to NASA and the Apollo 11 mission.

Sarah Prineas, Prairie Lights Kids

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Nominated by: Dr. Cheryl S. Vanatti

This book, The Promise of Change, is the most powerful book about the experience of school integration that I have ever read. The Promise of Change is a nonfiction historical account told by the author, Jo Ann Allen, about her experience when she was a fourteen year old high school freshman and was one of eleven other African American students who walked into an all-white Clinton High School. The year was 1956. This high school was one of the first schools in the southern states to comply with the decision of the US Supreme Court that “separate was not equal” and thus no school could remain segregated. Jo Allen did not set out to be a hero. She wanted to do what was right. She wanted a high school education. And she wanted what high school students all want – friends, a chance to be part of a sports team, or part of choir, maybe try out to in the school play. But none of those “wants” were possible for any of these twelve black students. As a reader we walk with Jo Ann Allen as she walks “down the hill” from her home to school – sometimes with the protection of the National Guard, sometimes with the combined courage of a white reverend who was beaten almost to death for his “crossing the line.” As a reader we also walk with Jo Ann Allen as she sits alone every lunch hour, sits alone at the back of the classroom, walks the halls between classes hoping no one will spit at her, call her an ugly name, shove her against a locker, or worse. Ask for this book at your library. Walk with Jo Ann Allen. See through her eyes, feel the fear, courage, and empathy in her heart. Listen as she tells her story.

Nancy Bo Flood, The Pirate Tree