One positive outcome of these various movements has been the publishing industry's awareness of and response to a demand for quality nonfiction in classrooms.
As a result, recent years have witnessed a steady increase in the numbers of picture book releases in STEM subjects (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math). I've shared some of my favorites in past posts, including these: STEM/MOON, ANIMALS, INSECTS, GIRL POWER HERE, and HERE, and HERE.
BIOGRAPHY is a particularly successful area of current publishing, including both famous and unknown individuals, past and present. I've read quite a few as I work on writing a creative biography. Three titles I especially enjoyed and learned from are featured here:
|Balzer & Bray, 2019|
The resources and references are listed on the copyright page, but I would have loved to see a kid-friendly listing of titles by Margaret Wise Brown as back matter additions, including cover images of each. I love it when readers see a beloved book and say, "I didn't know she wrote THAT!"
|Cameron & Company, 2019|
Sparky set out to be a cartoonist at an early age, and his drawings were sought out by peers, but he wasn't popular with peers.
The true story of how he overcame frustration, developed his talent, and found encouragement from a surprising (famous) source will reassure and inspire young readers who may feel thwarted in their goals and unliked by peers.
This book has outstanding back matter, including another inspiring artifact, archival photos of Sparky and Spike, and many added details that make the book even stronger as an authoritative biography. You'll never look at misfit Charlie Brown or Snoopy in a Peanuts strip again without thinking of Sparky and Spike after reading this book.
|Creston Books, 2019|
Emancipation let her follow her dreams north to Chicago, where she married a kind and skilled man, had a child. There she worked, saved, and achieved her lifelong dream- her own furniture store.
This alone is inspiring, and the narrative and art are equally inspiring. But it is only the beginning of Sarah's contributions and successes. She invented a new kind of furniture that met a serious need in her community. Her trial-and-error persistence, pursuit of a patent, and documentation to support her claim along the way allowed her to win ultimate victory, despite frustrating setbacks. The lyrical text and luminous scenes are irresistible, bringing to life a vibrant and impressive woman, her community, and her times.
The back matter is equally compelling, including an informative author's note, information about patents, a timeline of Sarah's life, and a timeline of Black Women Patent Holders.
Selected sources for research are included on the final end paper.
Harking back to my opening lines, SWEET DREAMS, SARAH is a prime example of my irritation about some school practices. In some cases, books that "fit into" theme months, like BLACK HISTORY MONTH, are hauled out on February First and packed away on the 28th. A good book is a good book, and a book about Sarah E. Goode must be available and celebrated all year long. It "fits" in biography studies, in STEM and MAKER themes, in social studies, math, and science, and across many ages and grades.
One last note in my litany of irritations about educational practices:
Please, teachers, honor the true purpose of this and any quality picture book. First and foremost, share them for what is their truest purpose-- as quality literature. Read them aloud and honor them as such, in their entirety. AFTER that has happened, Display them, circulate them, return to them often and for multiple purposes, as above and more. Never forget the immeasurable work behind the creation of the text and the art, the editing and book design, the story and research that underlie it all. These are examples of literature to love, and with which to learn.