“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein
When Cathy, Mandy, and Julie announced this Nonfiction 10 for 10, I started thinking about what would be on my list. It quickly became apparent that I could come up with 20 for 20 or more. Hard choices would have to be made. I decided pretty quickly to focus on picture books because they have such a broad appeal. As I looked through my collection, I began to notice a trend. These books were mostly about people who came up with some pretty interesting ideas. These people, like Einstein, were curious. They were passionate about something and used that passion to create and innovate. I love sharing these stories with students, encouraging and fostering their curiosity.
The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors (2009) by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani. The Switzer brothers each had plans for their futures, but their serendipitous discovery of day-glo paint changed everything.
Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum (2010) by Meghan McCarthy. Kids love this engaging picture book about how bubble gum was invented. (And why it’s pink!)
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (2003) by Mordicai Gerstein. Phillipe Petit’s daring adventure comes alive in this beautifully illustrated Caldecott Award winner.
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade (2011) by Melissa Sweet. Tony Sarg’s creativity is expertly conveyed through Sweet’s appealing combination of words, drawings, collage and photographs of handmade toys.
Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way to Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History! (2009) by Shana Corey, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. Annette Kellerman overcame physical challenges, only to confront the challenges faced by all women at the turn of the twentieth century. Making lots of waves, she worked to overcome them.
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau (2009) by Dan Yaccarino. Talk about making waves! Jacques Cousteau fell in love with the sea as a boy, and he devoted his life to learning all he could about the mysteries of the deep.
Me, Jane (2011) by Patrick McDonnell. Jane Goodall decided at an early age that Africa was the place for her and her love of animals. This beautifully illustrated book tells her story.
Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave (2010) by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier. The craftsmanship and skill of a man known only by his first name shines in this tribute to an amazing artist.
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (2009) by Brian Floca. Most of the books on this list are about the accomplishments of an individual pursuing a dream. This inspiring story demonstrates the power of a group of smart, creative people working together toward a common goal.
Snowflake Bentley (1998) by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian. The unexplored has always fascinated human beings. And, as the stories in these books, and countless others, prove, we are persistent and innovative in our pursuit of the unknown. Wilson Bentley was the quintessential dreamer. Fascinated with the snow that surrounded him, he devoted his life to exploring the microscopic beauty of nature.
Compiling this list was a huge challenge. There are so many books I wanted to include. Hopefully others have included them on their list. Better yet, readers will be inspired to explore and discover other wonderful nonfiction books to share with their students.
(If you haven’t already, check out Google‘s doodle today. It’s Nicolaus Copernicus’ 540th birthday, a very fitting date for a list like this. Happy exploring!)