Earlier this week, writing buddy Stephanie Bearce asked me for a list of the Top Nonfiction Picture Books in the last 5 years. Where to start? There are so many book lists out there — bestsellers, various ALA awards and more. I decided to start with the top nonfiction as selected by School Library Journal. Here’s the list I compiled based on their recommendations. Note: These are not all of the picture books on their lists. For example, I eliminated poetry because I’m a nonfiction author, not a poet. I also eliminated some of the ones I haven’t read or didn’t like. Yes. I’m a fickle pickle.:
Don Brown’s Henry and the Cannons: An Extraordinary True Story of the American Revoluion. (Roaring Brook 2013) Study this one if you want to write about a well-covered topic.
Jen Bryant’s The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus (Eerdman’s 2014). The text, illustration and book design worked together really well on this one.
Jason Chin’s Island: A Story of the Galapagos (Roaring Brook 2012).
Lois Ehlert’s The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life (Beach Lane 2014). An author/illustrator I adore but somehow missed this book. I’ll have to pop by the library site.
David Elliot’s On the Wing (Candlewick 2014). Fantastic collection of “bird” poetry.
Bryan Floca’s Locomotive (Richard Jackson Book, 2013).
Gary Golio’s Bird and Diz (Candlewick 2015). I love Golio’s books. How did I miss this one? Popping over to the library to send in a request.
Steve Jenkin’s Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World (Houghton Harcout, 2014). Love Jenkins books both for the illustrations and the fun animals I get to meet.
Angela Johnson’s All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom (S&S 2014). This is illustrated by E.B. White. After hearing him speak at a conference, I’m eager to see this book and how his illustrations demonstrate the points he made.
Sandra Markel’s The Long, Long Journey (Millbrook 2013). This is about the godwit. The what? Yep, study this one for how to write about a bird that isn’t a household name.
Andrea Davis Pinkney’s Rhthym Ride: A Road Trip through Motown Sound (Roaring Brook 2015). Another request. I’m something like job security for the librarians.
Mara Rockliff’s Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France (Candlewick, 2015). Loved this book! Loved it. History and intrigue made a great combination.
Katherine Roy’s Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands (Roaring Brook 2014).
Duncan Tonatiuh’s Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras (Abrams 2015). Another great one. Love the theme and the coverage is really thorough.
Duncan Tonatiuh’s Seperate is Never Equal: Syvlia Mendez and her Family’s Fight for Desegregation (Abrams 2014). Powerful story but I especially loved his Maya-inspired illustrations.
I did notice that most of the books that made the list were from big name publishers. That said there were a few that weren’t so that’s hopeful. Remember that these are chosen by SLJ. These are books that are top notch for a the school market. That means that there are doubtlessly a lot of books that are excellent but don’t meet that criteria. Still, that’s the criteria I went with since I want to teach. Yes, I want to do so in a fun way but I want my books in the schools.
Anyway, this is the list. Ta-da! Hope it is helpful and Happy Reading!