Informative Picture Books

Josie Leavitt - August 28, 2012

I was reorganizing the picture book spinner yesterday and two books caused me to stop and read. I started reading because the books were compelling, but I kept reading because I was learning so much.
The first book that caught my eye was by Bruce Goldstone. Awesome Autumn: All Kinds of Fall Facts and Fun is chock full of great information. Living in Vermont, I’m always on the lookout for new books that explain the science behind the beauty of fall. The book uses gorgeous photography to show little ones all that happens during autumn.
It’s not just about leaves turning color and falling to the ground. The book looks at all the changes the season brings. Why do leaves fall off?  Why do evergreen trees keep their needles? (The needles are covered with a heavy wax that keeps them from freezing and dying. I didn’t know this.) I really like simple explanations of how some animals migrate south, how some come down from the top of mountains, and others still hibernate. The book touches on all the aspects of fall without being overwhelming for a young child, but full of enough information that an older child, or even an adult, can learn something new. There’s even a great activity page in the back complete with simple instructions.
A Rock Is Lively is the fourth nature-themed book from the dynamic duo of Dianna Hutts Aston and artist Sylvia Long. This book looks at all manner of rocks. I love the title, because it’s so easy to think of rocks as anything but lively, but in this book, they come alive. Informative paragraphs are accompanied by Sylvia Long’s stunning art. From the title page with the Azurite Geode broken in half to show its depth of color to the last page with thumbnail drawings of every rock in the book,  this book thrills with its simplicity and grace.
I have to admit, I’ve never been a rock collector, but this book makes me want to walk with my head down to see what I can notice. The mix of fonts in this book work really well. Some descriptions are in cursive and others in an easy to read font. Rocks from space are explained in a way that most kids can understand. It was a good refresher for me to see the difference between meteoroids and asteroids (apparently, I’ve been confusing them for years.)
The book works on several levels. The nonfiction readers can read and learn. The children who just think the rocks are beautiful can pore over the detailed drawings. And parents can remind themselves how rocks are used in everyday things. The life cycle of the rock is also stunningly rendered.
This is one of the things about shelving that I love: the spontaneous learning that can happen by just stopping and reading.
PS  Here’s what I learned about space rocks: Meteoroids are rocks that range in size from a grain of sand to basketball. They are like a class of rock. When they vaporize as shooting stars they are called meteors, when they hit the earth they’re called meteorites.
Asteroids are giant parts of rock and metal. The book doesn’t say what happens to them when they hit the earth. Probably because they don’t want to terrify the kids about a global killer.

8 thoughts on “Informative Picture Books

  1. Jenny Weed

    I *adore* the Hutts Atson/Long book collaborations. They’re both informative and gorgeous in their own right.


    if you have never read Carol Otis Hurst’s ROCKS IN HIS HEAD, you must.
    This wonderful story is for all ages. Lovely illustrations by James Stevenson.
    the fly leaf says it all: Anyone who has ever felt a little out of step with the world will identify with this true story of a man who followed his heart and his passion.
    This is one of my all time favorites.

  3. Ellen Mager

    These 2 were great suggestions, but my absolute favorite “science guy” is Steve Jenkins! I sell his titles in Hardback because people are so excited by them and the hardbacks and now more paperbacks sell with the back list books as well as the new title. I sell out of the paperbacks (not cheap either) at the bookfairs and some of the hardbackd there. and I never bring enough copies for a Chidlren’s Lit talk,especially to teachers. His information is terrific (expecially his glassery, even in the younger books) and his layers of cut paper are AMAZING!!

  4. Christina Wilsdon

    Yay, more fun books to seek out 🙂
    One of my all-time favorite rock books is “If You Find a Rock” by Peggy Christian. She writes about the rocks by giving them names as children might name them, by their use–wishing rocks, skipping rocks–and it’s illustrated with beautiful black and white photos.

  5. Melissa Hutts

    I cannot wait to read Dianna Aston’s latest book. She is by far my favorite children’s book author. She is an amazingly talented writer!

  6. candy shelts

    Another amazing book wirtten by Dianna Hutts Aston! The research Dianna does is unbelivable. To me she is one of the most exciting children’s Authors! As an adult I even find her books interesting, more than informative, and appealing to all of our ages. Anytime she has a new book out, I buy it!! My grandchilden absolutely love them too. She is one of the most desireable Authors I have come across. On a scale from one to ten ~~ Dianna, is a twenty. I have given her books as gifts more times than I can remember.
    One day I was watching the Martha Stewart Show and they had one of her books on it! “An Egg is Quiet.” Martha showed great praise for the book. Martha likes eggs, she said.
    As I watched Fox News, I saw our President read “The Moon Over Star” to children, which happens to be an excellent book about our Astronauts trip to the moon in 1969.
    With Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, Jr., & Michael Collins. It is a total history lesson for our young and old.
    We have enjoyed each book she has written. Her nature books are out standing! Her books on people, and happens seem to stay in my heart forever. Dream Something Big was so inspiring that it is a must.
    I could never say enough about Dianna ~~ all her nature books, and other books that seemed so filfilling. She is a extaordinary writer. All the schools have her books too. Dianna, my hat is off to your talent. Thanks for educating so many people with your love of writing.
    Carol Shelts


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