May 13, 2013


One of the series I grew up reading was Mike Venezia’s GETTING TO KNOW THE WORLD’S GREATEST ARTISTS series. I only ended up owning two of them, Van Gogh and Monet, but they’ve stuck with me for almost twenty years now—that must mean something, right? So today I want to talk about nonfiction picturebooks because they are a great way to mix information and original artwork and (apparently) make a lasting impression.

I think one of my favorite non-fiction picturebooks is Hanoeh Piven’sWHAT CATS ARE MADE OF. An informative book about different breeds of cats, Piven illustrates his cat facts with collages made of various household items that reflect the cat’s personality. For instance, the page that discusses the Scottish Fold cat contains an illustration made out of Origami paper, the Siamese cat is seen as made of different computer parts, and so on. With thirty-nine breeds discussed in all, I think it’s refreshing to see information on cats (which I have a lot of) in such a new way and I applaud Piven’s ability to put a brand new spin on such an old concept.
Jeannie Baker’s MIRROR is also a phenomenal and educational picturebook. If you haven’t seen it you really ought to take a look at it: Baker follows a day in the lives of one Australian boy and one Moroccan boy, illustrating the cultural differences in their daily activities. Baker utilizes collage to tell the parallel narratives and, aside from the opening pages there is no text, only illustration. What drew me to the book initially was the setup: the book opens on both sides (the Australian side reads left to right, the Moroccan right to left) so readers can follow the boys’ days simultaneously. It’s an awesome book and I suggest you check it out if you ever get the chance, if not for the content than for the design of the book.
Other notable books are those by Steve Jenkins (WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A TAIL LIKE THIS, BONES, and ACTUAL SIZE): his books are creative and informational, presenting the subject matter in an extremely accessible way for all audiences. Elizabeth Partridge’s MARCHING FOR FREEDOM is an awesome example of an ideal balance between informational text and relevant photographs—Partridge tells a compeling story not just through her text but through her images as well. Walter Wick’s A DROP OF WATERpresents a beautifully photographic and scientific way of learning about water, BALLET FOR MARTHA, a Siebert Honor Book, features a decent balance between Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan’s text and Brian Floca’s artwork, and Peter Sís’ THE WALL: GROWING UP BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN draws attention to communism in Czechoslovakia in a way that is easily understood by readers.
Non-fictionally yours,