Reading Set #2 – Informational Books

info books Chapter 8   – Informational Books – Reflection info books

Informational books were once viewed as overwhelming full of facts, with black and white photos that added little interest to the text.  Over the years, the styles of informational books have changed dramatically.  The voice of the authors range from conversational and humorous to informative and serious.  What they all have in common are a dedication to presenting verifiable facts to children.  Today, with their larger than life photographs, and interesting, albeit sometimes gross topics, informational books are a favorite among elementary school children.

Vardell, S.M. (2008).  Children’s literature in action:  a librarian’s guide. Westport, Conn.:  Libraries Unlimited.

hitler youth

Author:  Susan Campbell Bartoletti

hitler youth author

Bartoletti, S. C. (2005). Hitler youth. New York, NY: Scholastic.

This book tells the story of Hitlerjugend, which was created in order to program German children with the Nazi ideals.  The Hitler Youth became an important part of the Nazi war effort.  Boys and girls were required to participate in these programs as part of their schooling.  The children were excited to serve their country and participate in recreational activities, but they soon faced the harsh reality of what taking part in the Hitler Youth and League of German Girls really meant:  discipline and drudgery.  Most German children bought right into the Nazi doctrine and became fanatical followers.  However, a few children were never convinced, such as Hans and Sophie Scholl and Helmuth Hubener, who tried to spread the word of what was truly happening in Nazi Germany.  They were beheaded for their efforts.

This is not a light topic for children to dive into, but by focusing an actual child that participated in the Hitler Youth readers become engrossed in the narratives.  Readers come to understand a bit more how it was possible to become such an ardent follower of such a horrible regime.  The power of censorship can be discussed as a theme with this book, and the advantages we have as Americans today can be compared.  Powerful black and white photography will give students a clear picture of what was happening, and they will be able to see that many of the Hitler Youth were the same age as they are now.

Bartoletti won a Newberry Honor, Sibert Honor, Orbis Pictus Honor, and the Parent’s Choice Award – Gold Winner all in 2006.

The following link provides educators with book readings, author studies, and interviews.

Other useful websites that can contribute to the thematic unit of the Holocaust/Nazi Germany can be found here:


spiders Author: Nic Bishop

spiders author

Bishop, N. (2007). Spiders. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Nic Bishop’s photographs are absolutely amazing, and take the reader into the world of spiders up close!  This informational book is especially engaging because of his conversational tone in the text.  While he introduces scientific terms, it’s never without textual clues, or a photograph to illustrate the ideas, which is perfect for elementary school children.  They will learn so much about spiders in this book, without ever getting frustrated.

After reading Spiders, I looked through other Nic Bishop informational book, and discovered his same style of writing and exceptional photography in all of them.  These books can be used as very first research projects for elementary school children.  They can also be used to study and label text features, such a subheadings, photographs and captions.  Another idea is to pair up Bishop’s informational books, with a fiction book, such as Charlotte’s Web, or Sophie’s Masterpiece and turn it into a thematic unit.

Enjoy the book trailer below!

Book Talk for Nic Bishop’s Spiders:

Reagan Tunstall offers a really cute thematic unit on spiders that will get the younger crowd looking for facts in this non-fiction book.  Offered as a download on Teachers Pay Teachers for $5.75.

spider week


how they croaked Author: Georgia Bragg

croaked author

Bragg, G. (2011). How they croaked: The awful ends of the awfully famous. New York, NY: Walker

This book takes a humorous approach to a morbid topic – death.  However, readers will be so fascinated with the interesting facts of these 19 famous figures’ lives, their death will just seem like another interesting morsel of information.  Bragg’s play on words and conversational tone throughout the story is fresh, young, and hip, so kids will be totally engaged throughout the book.  Additional information segments following each famous personality’s mini biography includes even more information and cool facts.

Bragg provides and many facts, and provides a list of works cited, to back up the claims in her book.  She clarified misconceptions I held to be true, and was actually taught in school.  The illustrations in her book take on a caricature style that adds another element of humor, even when they are depicting some of the grosser details in her biographies.  I thought the cover was a little creepy, but once I opened the book I couldn’t put it down.  Bragg proves that funny doesn’t have to mean fiction.

Because there are 19 people in the book, teachers can have students work alone or in pairs, and present a report based on Bragg’s biographies, and present them to the class.  A perfect activity for the month of October!

Smart Chick on Teachers Pay Teachers has a great resource filled with research activities and comprehension activities for $6.99.  Click on the link to learn more!


Get students hooked with this short book trailer:

And who doesn’t like to snack while reading a great book?  Well, look to Delaware Library for thematic snack ideas! Mmmmmm…I think!



magic windows Author: Carmen Lomas Garza

magic windows author

Garza, C. L. (1999). Magic windows. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press.

In Garza’s book, Magic Windows, she first tells the reader what papel picado (cut-paper art) is.  She then describes her various paper cut out pieces, where they derived from, and discusses if they had been previously made in any other medium.  Each piece of artwork has some personal history attached to it, and each has additional details on the art of cut paper.

Because Garza’s hometown is near our own, and her cut paper designs depict many of the traditions we hold today, this is an especially intriguing book for the children of South Texas.  The impact of discovering that an artist and author has the same background as the children reading the book is a great one, and it can open a “magic window” of possibility for them.

By following up with Garza’s next book Making Magic Windows, teachers can make a class project.  Students can make their own magic window, with a narrative attached, depicting a scene from their own family’s traditions.  They will look beautiful displayed, and then they can be put into an anthology.  More ideas for lesson plans can be found in the link below.

Watch as the artist’s paper cutouts are turned into metal works of art.

Expand on the reading by having students write a how-to composition, and make a tissue magic window of their own.  Garza’s follow up book Making Magic Windows will help you do just that!


A lesson plan and activities, complete with potluck lunch can be found on Read Write Think by clicking on the link below.



 rosa Author: Nikki Giovanni

rosa author

Giovanni, N. (2005). Rosa. New York, NY: Holt.

Rosa Parks, a hard working seamstress, refused to get out of her seat in the “neutral area” of the bus.  She gets arrested for her refusal to move.  Her arrest spurred a bus boycott that lasted almost an entire year.  Finally, the government ruled that all segregation was wrong.

Rosa Parks’ dedication to the Civil Rights Movement can be compared/contrasted with other Civil Right Leaders of that time period, just like the link below.  The themes of equality, civil rights, courage, peace movement, and segregation can also be discussed.

Bryan Collier’s collage style artwork is beautiful, and captures the spirit and drive of those participating in the movement towards equality.  This can be especially felt in his dramatic two page foldout, depicting the people in Montgomery, Alabama, during the bus boycott.

Scholastic offers a lesson plan for Rosa that can be accessed by clicking on the link below.

Stephanie Rye has an activity pack that includes a lesson plan where students are able to compare and contrast events in Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s lives.  It’s available for $2.50 by clicking on the link below.



it's so amazing Author: Robie H. Harris

its so amazing author

Harris, R. (1999). It’s so amazing. Boston, MA: Candlewick.

This book by Robie Harris is very cleverly done and provides a tremendous amount of  facts concerning human development and reproduction.  Everything a child could questions can be found here, and particularly complex ideas are accurately illustrated by Michael Emberly.  Harris writes the book without judgments or opinions, but uses the characters of a bird and bee to present feelings a child might be struggling with as he/she reads the book.

This book is an effective tool for parents to use with their children, however my opinion is that it may require a prerequisite talk between parent and child, especially because every family has their own unique values and belief system.  Without guidance, children may just take in the illustrations, and leave out valuable parts of the text needed for context.

While we may leave this book to the discretion of parents to share with their children, they still may be at a loss as to how to hand over this type of book.  Parents may find this short video clip of the author discussing her book helpful.  In in, Ms. Harris, discusses what she feels is the best way to present this text to a child.


 sweet - balloonsoverbroadway Author: Melissa Sweet

ballons author

Sweet, M. (2011). Balloons over broadway: The true story of the puppeteer of Macy’s parade. New York, NY: Houghton.

When Tony Sarg was just a boy, he loved to make objects come to life with movement.  He was a clever and inventive child, and when he grew up he continued to pursue his passion of  making marionettes.  He eventually moved to New York City, and his puppets performed on Broadway.  Word of his artistry grew, and one holiday season Macy’s department store asked him to create a “puppet parade” for their holiday window display.  This was the beginning of  a big idea that continues today:  They Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Sweet’s beautiful colorful mixed media illustrations bring Sarg’s story to life.  The cartoonish appeal almost makes you forget you are reading an informational story, which is great for those readers who shy away from non-fiction.  Educators can use this story when doing lessons on timelines, and have students put the events in Tony’s life in order.  This book can also be used as a thematic unit in science when covering pulleys and simple machines.

Pique your students’ interest with this book trailer:

Watch the read aloud – complete with awesome background music!

And here’s a quick peek at what the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade looks like today – still spectacular!

Enchanting Homeschooling Mom has a printable unit that can be downloaded free!

A Balloons Over Broadway activity kit can be downloaded free at:




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s