Friday, December 16, 2016

PPBF: Non-Fiction Compendiums

There's no official Perfect Picture Book Friday today, but I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce a few of the worthwhile picture books I've read this fall.

Today's theme is FUN FACTS!

In Focus , Close-ups, Cross Sections, Cutaways
In Focus: Close-Ups, Cross Sections, Cutaways
Created by Libby Walden
Illustrated by Tracey Tucker, Thomas Pullin, Barbara Bakos, Chris Chatterton, Chester Bentley, Clair Rossiter, Lindsey Spinks, Jessie Ford, L'Atelier Cartographik, Jen Taylor,

360 Degrees, an imprint of Tiger Tales, 2016
Ages 8-11, 28 pp

Nonfiction, General Knowledge

"Enjoy a fresh perspective by looking at the wonders of the world from the outside, in. This super-size book slices its way through 101 objects, animals, and buildings to reveal some extraordinary interiors. Lift the giant flaps on every spread to see what surprises are hiding inside."

In Focus actually offers 60 pages of inside/outside peeks at animals on land and underwater, historical and modern buildings from Egypt to the artic, detailing inside the smallest seed to beyond the farthest star. Turn the page to view a new topic by a new illustrator, let's say"Transportation" illustrated by Jen Taylor. The "Outside" pages introduce readers to a sampling of items in that category, in this case, a submarine or a hovercraft. Then readers can lift the page flap showing the "Insides," cutaways and part diagrams revealing a smattering of facts.

This is the ultimate trivia book. I enjoyed the variety of illustrators and the overall graphic style. I found the concept fascinating. However at first read, I thought the text too cursory and some of the cross sections vague.
So I handed it to a kid in the target age. First I let him take a look at it alone. Being a reluctant reader, he didn't give it more than a few seconds. He lifted a few flaps half-heartedly and asked if he could go. Being the scheming ogre I am, I asked him to read inside or outside once on every spread (that's only 10 sections / 10 facts.) He came back 45 minutes later and regaled me for the next week with random facts.
"Did you know a starfish can grow up to forty arms?"
"Did you know the strawberry isn't really a berry?"
"Did you know the frame that holds up the yurt at school is called a khana?"
So if you can get this book into the hands of a kid, I recommend you do. While it's not earth-shatteringly informative, it is fun and worthwhile. It would make a great companion on car trips or while waiting for Christmas dinner. Who knows what conversations it will spark around the table.
The Slowest Book Ever, by April Sayre and Kelly Murphy
The Slowest Book Ever

Written by April Pulley Sayre
Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

Boyds Mill Press, 2016
Ages 8-12, 176 pp, 10000 words, 940L

Nonfiction, Nature, General Knowledge

“Warning: This is a S-L-O-W book. Do not read it while surfing, water skiing, or running to escape giant weasels. Avoid skimming it while swimming the backstroke or speed skating. Please consult a qualified librarian before reading your next book; after this, a fast-paced book might discombobulate your brain.”

Another book of random trivia, this one compact and quirky. The Slowest Book Ever by its very layout, invites readers to take their time reading through the pages. The author uses thought-provoking language like "thought potatoes" meaning ruminate about this idea. She encourages readers to "Read them. Think about them SLOWLY. Slow thoughts are often big thoughts.  So don't fret if it takes awhile to understand them. Don't worry if you need to read them twice. Traveling in a circle is, after all, still traveling."

The sections are random, but they lead from one concept to the next quite well. The information is not limited to outlandish facts about slow things like sloths and snail mail, but infuses slowing down into every page. One section is called "Chewy Nature Thoughts" inviting young minds to chew and digest before moving on to the next page. Page 148 is a blank spread on which to rest your face as you ponder the slowness of the universe. No kidding. Copious end notes and personal touches make this an outstanding book to inform and delight.

Animal Planet Animal Atlas
Animal Planet Animal Atlas
ed. James Buckley, jr.

Animal Planet, 2016
Ages 7-10, 96 pp, 1000L

Nonfiction, Animals

"Most of the Earth's land is divided into the seven continents, and each of the seven continents includes a range of biomes. The animals pictures on this map represent just a few of the millions of species that live in them. You can look for your favorites and jump forward to the continent that they live on, or read page-by-page to discover new places and animals."

This book is just what it says, an over-sized atlas highlighting short tidbits about animals around the globe. The main difference with this book, is it is sorted by biome. Though the table of contents lists sections by continent, within each section, the map will be divided by the biomes on that continent. This was a fun and interesting way to look at the world and a good way to introduce facts which might be omitted from other similar books.

May I also recommend
The Human Body,
A compendium of physical facts.
Welcome to New Zealand,
A journal of flora and fauna.

Glow, A school of glowing sea creatures.

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!


  1. Oh, what a year it has been for outstanding non-fiction for young readers. It's thrilling to be able to say I have read every one of these amazing books and recommend them warmly. Anyone who knows a "non-reader" or "reluctant reader" should be exploring these wide-ranging nonfiction titles and let them choose for themselves. They are reading magnets for those very kids. TY for the wonderful spotlights here!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. I love non-fiction though my favorites are usually narrative. That's why I am so pleased to spread the word about these books of a different type. I appreciate your encouragement.


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