2020 Finalists: Elementary Nonfiction

Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist (Amazon, IndieBound
by Linda Skeers, illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns 
Sourcebooks eXplore
Nominated by: Alysa Stewart

This elementary biography featuring beautiful full-page illustrations introduces young readers to the original paleontologist, a woman called Mary Anning. Through her love of science, history, and learning, Mary discovered the first dinosaur bones — before the word for dinosaur even existed — and changed the way scientists viewed fossils, animals, and even the age of the earth. Readers will also learn in this picture book that her scientific contributions are even more impressive considering that during her lifetime, women weren’t welcome in scientific fields, science classes, or even scientific discussions and Mary became a prehistoric fossil expert largely on her own, with handmade tools no less!

Rachael Fryman, Rachael Fryman

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera (AmazonIndieBound)
by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Neal Porter Books
Nominated by: Patricia Tilton

A book about the life cycle of the seemingly ubiquitous honeybee; but “book” is a rather tame word for this. For it is actually a stunning package of Eric Rohmann’s amazingly detailed and realistic illustrations (oil paintings) combined with Candace Fleming’s captivating and informative yet lyrical text. Honeybee mesmerizes and draws readers in as easily as honey attracts bees, with all the details in the close-up and larger than life artwork, with each stage of the honeybee’s life described succinctly — yet packed with so much detail, and well, with just about everything in this amazing book including the not-to-miss backmatter (additional facts about the honeybee and resources to learn more). So take a journey into the beehive with little Miss Apis (named so in the book for her species, but not in the least anthropomorphic) through this informative, stunning, and accessible read.

It is definitely (th)bee book for you – no matter your age!!!

Vidya Tiru, Lady In Read Writes

No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History (AmazonIndieBound)
by Lindsay H. Metcalf (Editor), Keila V. Dawson (Editor), Jeanette Bradley (Editor/Illustrator)
Nominated by: Rajani LaRocca

NO VOICE TOO SMALL: Fourteen Young Americans Making History is a poetic and educational anthology. A beautifully illustrated picture book, it tells the stories of a diverse group of fourteen young activists involved in a range of causes, from combatting discrimination to protecting clean water, from raising awareness about Down syndrome to advocating for LGBT rights. Brief profiles of each young person are matched with specially commissioned poems and suggestions for activism. Back matter describes the poetry forms used and provides profiles of the participating poets. This is a versatile and inspiring collaborative work.

Christy Mihaly, GROG

The Fighting Infantryman (Amazon, IndieBound)  
by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali
little bee books
Publisher/ Author Submission

Written with compassion and intelligence, Rob Sanders picture book biography of transgender Civil War soldier Albert D.J. Cashier is a significant contribution to LGBTQ+ nonfiction children’s books. The story follows Cashier on his journey from Ireland, where he picked seashells and tended sheep as a child, onto a ship setting sail for America, into New York City, where he worked in a shoe factory, and finally to Illinois, where he labored as a farmhand and began using the name Albert D.J. Cashier. At nineteen years old, in 1862, still in Illinois, Cashier enlisted in the Union Army. After the war, Cashier appears to have lived a quiet life in Illinois, working odd jobs and receiving a small military pension. That is until he suffered an injury that required medical attention. Sanders details the indignities Cashier suffered at the hands of the medical establishment while encouragingly demonstrating how Cashier’s fellow soldiers came to his aid, ensuring he would be treated with respect. The Fighting Infantryman is a subtly told story that provides children access to LGBTQ+ history through the story of one man’s experience creating a life for himself in America.

Jennifer Miller, Raise Them Righteous

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents (AmazonIndieBound
by Kate Messner and Adam Rex
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Patricia Tilton

This book writes to each child alive today, no matter his or her background, that the office of the United States president is open to them. It builds its case by choosing one moment in the lives of each of our 45 former presidents demonstrating their varied backgrounds, occupations, and societal ranks. The title page’s illustration shows five young children looking at a vacant statue platform in a gallery of presidential images with the number 55 on it. The question is: Who will be president in 65 years?

The first and last spread of Illustrations frame this book by showing a portrait gallery of US presidents (and perhaps presidential hopefuls since Hilary Clinton is included) being viewed by people who represent the true make-up of the United States. Between these pages, the author has deftly grouped the presidents in approximately four half-century groupings: 1789, 1841, 1897, and 1961. These four dates were the inaugurations of presidents: George Washington, William Henry Harrison, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy. At these dates, there were 9, 14, 9, and 10 future presidents alive. We see the younger future presidents doing what would have been their activities at that inauguration date: #8 Van Buren was 8 years old and helping with chores o his parent’s farm. #23 Abraham Lincoln was working on a Mississippi Riverboat. #31 Herbert Hoover was managing a gold mining operation in Australia.

The majority of the first-round judges were smitten by this book. The portrayals of the soon-to-be presidents as kids and young adults in casual everyday activities did broaden and deepen our thinking about what it takes to be a president. In the Slack conversations on this book, however, there was a criticism that the thrust of the book was flawed, if only because a line-up of 44 white men presidents does not give much ground for hope for future non-white, non-male candidates.

Julie Neitz Wielga, Partners in Literacy

The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls (AmazonIndieBound)
by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Duane Smith
Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Nominated by: treble

The biography of this boat pilot tells a story of determination, courage, and cleverness. The Civil War gives the enslaved but skilled boatman the opportunity to use the prejudices of the Southern army officers against them, tricking his way to freedom along with his family, his crew, and his ship. The daring escape is the highlight, but the narrative includes his early life and also his work to have his expertise appreciated by the Northern Army, showing through clear text and illustrations both the individual story and the context of the history.

Beth Mitcham, Library Chicken

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery (Amazon, IndieBound
by Meeg Pincus, illustrated by Yas Imamura
Sleeping Bear Press
Nominated by: LindsayHM

A beautifully illustrated picture book, Winged Wonders not only tells the story of how the annual migration of monarch butterflies was mapped but also prompts us to think about hard questions. Who was the person to solve this age-old mystery? Unlike other nonfiction picture books about great discoveries and achievements, Winged Wonders gives credit to thousands of people for their collaboration. Even people whose names were not recorded are represented in these pages and helped make the big discovery. The tight prose uses repetition and imagery to bring the story to life vividly. The colorful mixed-media illustrations represent diverse people of all ages and abilities and convey movement and wonder. Winged Wonders acknowledges people of the past and empowers people of the present to “join together to make a real difference.”

Alysa Stewart, Everead