Nonfiction Monday: A Couple of My CYBILS NFPB Favorites

Think about reading 112 nonfiction picture books for the CYBILS. (And believe me, that is hardly anything compared to other categories). But then to narrow down into the spectacular seven nominees.  It’s a challenging task for each committee member.  This year our committee did a fabulous job discussing book titles in our own top twenty list.  Some were easy because the titles were on each of our lists.  Others required re-reading, thinking about the criteria, and discussing some more. 

These were top in my top twenty list that I’d like to share today.  I love both topics, dance and archaeology.

The first is Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg, Sandra Jordan.  Greenberg and Jordan have created their own dance in this book about  Appalachian Spring.  The ballet debuted in 1944 with music by Aaron Copeland choreographed by Martha Graham.

In Ballet for Martha, readers get to find out about the back story of how this ballet came into being.  It details Copeland’s composing of the music and the Graham’s choreography.  We learn of the great collaboration between Graham, Copeland and Isamu Noguchi who designed the sets.  The story is told in poetic prose with lots of documentation of the curtain call notes and resource pages.  Brian Floca’s art is flowing in the watercolors.  Readers are treated to wide-angle views as well as up close views. It would be an excellent book for dancers of any age and a book that demonstrates what can happen when people collaborate.

Another book on my top twenty and one that also is about collaboration is Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age by Cheryl Bardoe. What I loved most about this book was the opening chapter hook: two boys, out hunting in Siberia, find a totally preserved animal in the snow bank. I read it to a third grade class last week and the students were riveted and had lots of questions.

The preserved animal was in fact a baby mammoth. Scientists named her Lubya.  It was a significant find for scientists as they were able to use it for extensive study.  Due to time constraints (a thirty minute class) I book walked the rest of the book.  Beyond the first chapter, readers get to read and see through pictures the scientific process at work.  Teeth and jaws are compared in photos.  Bardoe utilizes a style that incorporates a game host situation by setting up scenarios for the readers to get them thinking.  For the younger readers, it’s a perfect way to keep them interested in the text.

I loved the originality of both these topics.  Again, there were some many good choices and I am sorry that some didn’t make the shortlist. Ballet for Martha did win as a Sibert Honor Book and Mammoths and Mastodons were an Orbis Pictus Honor Book.

Nonfiction Monday is at NC Teacher Stuff today.  Thanks, Jeff.

Happy Reading.