NF10for10 2018: Sidebars are Not for Skipping

As a kid, I’m pretty sure I only read sidebars if they looked interesting. But there are a whole bunch of nonfiction picture books with excellent sidebars.

As a writer and a librarian I’ve been keenly interested in nonfiction books that have two levels of text—a main text and text that supports. The supporting or secondary level text often appears as a sidebar or text box.

I love that the same book can appeal to varying ages of readers or interest levels.

Here are some of my favorites that offer more than one level of text:






Snowflake Bentley

Written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Illustrated by Mary Azarian

This book is a classic and one of the first books I remember reading to students that had two levels of text in a picture book. I still lean on this one every year.






Octopuses One to Ten

Written by Ellen Jackson

Illustrated by Robin Page

This is a counting book with numbers 1-10 and main text that relates the numbers to an octopus. But the book has a rich secondary text with octopus facts.






Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

Written by Katheryn Gibbs Davis

Illustrated by Gilbert Ford

Following the story of how the Ferris Wheel made it to the World’s Fair, the sidebar information gives extra details that expand upon the main text.







A Beetle is Shy

Written by Dianna Aston

Illustrated by Sylvia Long

I love all of the books in this series (A Nest is Noisy, A Butterfly is Patient, A Seed is Sleepy, A Rock is Lively, An Egg is Quiet). They each have a lovely lyrical poem, with a phrase or a line on each page. Then each page has generous subtext with lots more information about the topic.






From Here to There and Me to You: A Book of Bridges

Written by Cheryl Keely

Illustrated by Celia Krampien

The main text is very simple about specific bridges and the concept of bridges. The sidebars give extra information about some of specific bridges mentioned and about certain types of bridges. A nice blend of a concept of bridges and the facts about bridges.






Tree of Wonder: The Many Marvelous Lives of a Rainforest Tree

Written by Kate Messner

Illustrated by Simona Mulazzani

This book lets the reader into the rainforest animals that depend on the Almendro Tree. There is a main text, numbers that double on every page, and more detailed information about the animal mentioned on the page.






Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist

Written by Barbara Herkert

Illustrated Vanessa Brantley-Newton

This picture book biography tells the story of Harriet Powers, a quilt artist. The sidebars give the reader context of the time period.







Feathers: Not Just for Flying

Written by Melissa Stewart

Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

This books talks about all the different ways that birds use feathers. Each page has a small amount of main text and includes a text box with extra information about a specific bird that uses the feather in the way mentioned.






28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World

Written by Charles R. Smith, Jr.

Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

This is a collection of poems about 28 important days in black history. Each day has longer text, mostly page-length poems. On each page, there is a little bit more information about a key person from that day. This could be used with upper elementary-high school.






Prairie Dog Song

Written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore

Collages by Susan L. Roth

This book’s main text is a rewritten folk song. Then at the bottom of each verse, there is another text that is written in prose with extended information about things that are mentioned in the verse and more.


What are some of your favorite nonfiction picture books with interesting sidebars?

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NF10for10 2016: Nonfiction Books as Mentor Texts for Writing


This is the first time I’m doing a 10 for 10 post as a librarian instead of a classroom teacher. There are a few differences in this: 1) I’m in a position now where people are asking for book recommendations on a daily basis, and 2) I am in a position where I’m reading the same book multiple times. If I choose to read a book to third grade, it has to be a book I love enough to read aloud and hook them and absorb ME for seven readings.


The books that I chose for this year’s list are books are all nonfiction that completely absorbed me. They are delightful as read alouds and they are stellar examples of nonfiction writing.

For each book, I’ve highlighted writing craft that I particularly like.

Most of these books are strong in specific word choice, which I refer to as “specificity.” For me, this means that the author uses domain-specific language. One of the treasures of these books is that none of these books use the words like vocabulary words, but they use words that true to the world they are writing about.

I'm trying to love spiders

I’m Trying to Love Spiders

Written and Illustrated by Bethany Barton

Viking, 2015

* Voice

* Specificity in word choice

* Tone

the spider

The Spider

Written and illustrated by Elise Gravel

Tundra Books, 2015

* Voice

* Specificity

* Tone

I also recommend reading both of these spider books and having a discussion about how two authors chose to write about the same topic.

finding winnie

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

By Lindsay Mattock

Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Little, Brown, 2015

* Word choice

* Dual Narrative

* Lyrical language

I also read this book alongside Winnie by Sally M. Walker. Students discussed how two authors took the same topic and wrote about it. They especially noted how they started the stories in different places.

how to swallow a pig

How to Swallow a Pig: Step by Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom

By Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Houghton Mifflin, 2015

* Point of view

* Organization (How-To Text)

* Alliteration

* World Play

* Specificity in word choice

tiny creatures

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes

By Nicola Davies

Illustrated by Emily Sutton

Candlewick, 2014

* Specificity in word choice

* Imagery

* Sentence variety

leaflets three let it be

Leaflets Three, Let it Be! The Story of Poison Ivy

By Anita Sanchez

Illustrated by Robin Brickman

Boyds Mills Press, 2014

* Vivid Verbs

* Specificity in word choice

* Adjectives


Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

By Laurel Snyder

Illustrated by Julie Morstad

Chronicle, 2015

* Lyrical language

* Alliteration

* Vivid Verbs

* Rhythm

water is water

Water is Water: A Book about the Water Cycle

By Miranda Paul

Illustrated by Jason Chin

Neil Porter: Roaring Brook, 2015

* Vivid verbs

* Word Play

* Specificity in word choice

* Rhythm


Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France

By Mara Rockliff

Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

Candlewick, 2015

* Specificity in word choice

* Vivid Verbs

* Voice

* Tone

trombone shorty

Trombone Shorty

By Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews

Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015

* Voice

* Specificity in word choice

* Refrain (repetition)

* Personal narrative

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Previous 10for10 Posts

Poetic Nonfiction Picture Books

Fiction Picture Books for Word Choice

Nonfiction Picture Books about Virginia History

NF 10 for 10: Nonfiction Poetic Picture Books

Nonfiction PB 10 for 10


I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction picture books lately because we are doing a nonfiction mentor text book study at my school using FINDING THE HEART OF NONFICTION by Georgia Heard.


One of the things I admire about nonfiction is an author’s ability to convey facts in a very spare text. I especially enjoy it if the text is spare and beautiful. Today, all of my books have two things in common: 1) They are nonfiction picture books. 2) They have poetic texts. Not all of them are rhyming texts, but some of them are.

NF 10 for 10 with words

They can be used to cover content in the classroom, but they can also be used to teach writing techniques like vivid verbs, imagery, word choice, point of view, and much, much more.

eat like a bear

Eat Like a Bear

By April Pulley Sayre

Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

This book is told in second person point of view and also shares information about how bears eat after a long hibernation.

raindrops roll

Raindrops Roll

By April Pulley Sayre

 With extremely spare text, this book of photographs using lovely language to describe raindrops. A must-read if you are talking about word choice or the water cycle.

iridescence of birds

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse

By Patricia MacLachlan

Illustrated by Hadley Hooper

One of my favorite books of 2014. This is a picture book biography that’s a poem told in second person point of view.


water can be

Water Can Be… (and also A Leaf Can Be…)

By Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrated by Violeta Dabija

Much like her poetic book about imagine what leaves can be, Salas’ book about water is also an excellent book to use with the water cycle and word choice.

some bugs

Some Bugs

By Angela DiTerlizzi

Illustrated by Brenden Wenzel

 Some bugs introduces all different types of bugs with fun, playful language.


swamp chomp

Swamp Chomp

By Lola Schaefer

Illustrated by Paul Meisel

Another very spare text with excellent vivid verbs. It also introduces the concept of a food chain.




by Jonah Winter

Illustrated by Sean Qualls

This picture book biography utilizes language that mirrors jazz music. An excellent biography, but it could also be used talk about pacing, rhythm, and word choice.

mama built a little nest

Mama Built a Little Nest

By Jennifer Ward

Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

This rhyming text told in first person point of view shows different birds and their nests. Small bits of expository text on each spread also provide additional information.

hello I'm johnny cash

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash

By G. Neri

Illustrated by A.G. Ford

Another picture book biography told in verse. The collection of free verse poems tell about Cash’s life. It would be good for teaching biography and word choice.


all the water

All the Water in the World

By George Ella Lyon

Illustrated by Katherine Tillotson

This is a poem spread out over a picture book format. All the water in the world can touch on water cycle standards and also be a great example for word choice.


Other 10 for 10 Posts

 10 for 10 Picture Books for Mentor Texts for Word Choice

10 for 10 Nonfiction Picture Books about Virginia History as Writing Mentor Texts


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