NF10for10 2016: Nonfiction Books as Mentor Texts for Writing

NF10for10poster

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.

NF10for102016

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

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

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

The 10for10 posts are happening all over the web today. Click here to join the Google+ Community where post links are being shared. 

Previous 10for10 Posts

Poetic Nonfiction Picture Books

Fiction Picture Books for Word Choice

Nonfiction Picture Books about Virginia History

Poetry Mentor Texts: Some Bugs by Andrea DiTerlizzi

some bugs

Some Bugs

By Andrea DiTerlizzi

Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

Beach Lane, 2014

Some Bugs is one of those books that completely absorbs the reader in it’s fun but spare language. It’s a brilliant 94 words! Like Raindrops Roll, it’s one I typed up because I wanted to study the text. Not only does this text introduce different types of bugs to the youngest reader, it also invites older readers into the illustrations and rich language.

Mentor Text Writing Skills:

* Word Choice

* Vivid Verbs

* Rhythm

* Rhyme

* Spare language

* Specificity

I also featured Some Bugs in a nonfiction poetic picture book post recently.

Poetry as Mentor Texts: Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre

April is poetry month. Every Friday in April, I will feature a poetic picture book that can be used as a mentor text for writing. For past Poetry Month resources, check out these resources.

raindrops roll

Raindrops Roll

By April Pulley Sayre

Beach Lane, 2015

I can’t say enough good things about this book! I have recommended it to everyone. I have read it multiple times. I’ve typed out the words because I wanted to savor and study the language. At only 103 words, it’s a masterful work! And photographs are absolutely stunning.

I’m a big fan of April Pulley Sayre and this book might be my favorite of hers yet. This book can be used to teach the water cycle to primary students. But it can be used at ANY age to help students study poetic language.

Mentor Text Writing Skills:

* Word Choice

* Specificity

* Spare language

* Rhyme

For another post where I featured poetic mentor texts, see this Nonfiction Poetic Text post. 

Baseball Books as Mentor Texts: Miracle Mud

This month, I will be featuring baseball books as mentor texts. Using sports-related books is a great way to get reluctant readers and writers interested in the story and the story structure. There are so many wonderful picture book baseball books that I couldn’t fit them all in. But I will be featuring four this month.

miracle mud

Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball

By David A. Kelly

Illustrated by Olivier Dominguez

Millbrook, 2013

Baseball regulations state that the shine has to be taken off the balls before they can be used in the major leagues. Lena Blackburne wanted to play baseball, but he wasn’t very good at it. He’d seen how players had tried every technique to make the balls not shiny, but nothing seemed to work. He tried mud from a fishing hole near his house. The mud worked on the balls without ruining them. Now, Lena Blackburne’s famous mud is the only mud used for taking the shine off of baseballs.

Writing Skills

* Sensory Words

* Specificity

Writing Wednesday: Using HERE COME THE HUMPBACKS as a Writing Mentor Text

here come the humpbacks

HERE COME THE HUMPBACKS

By April Pulley Sayre

Illustrated by Jamie Hogan

Charlesbridge, 2013

 

This nonfiction book about humpback whales combines lyrical first lines on each page, with narrative facts and separate factoids on each page. Beautifully written and chock-full of information that will delight animal lovers, it can also be used as a non-fiction writing mentor text.

 

Writing Skills:

* Vivid Verbs

* Alliteration

* Figurative Language

* Specificity

* Organization of the text

* Onomatopoeia

* Poetic language in a nonfiction text

Nonfiction Picture Books about Virginia History as Writing Mentor Texts

We all know that students need to become more comfortable reading and writing non-fiction. Last fall, I did a post on 10 of my favorite fiction picture book writing mentor texts. For this post, I’m focusing on some non-fiction mentor texts–with a bent toward history, specifically American history, as it relates to Virginia history.

Why? I teach 4th grade in Virginia. And while I’m not the person on my team who teaches Virginia history, I think it’s really important for me to know as much of it as I can. My daughter is also studying Virginia history this year, so she and I have been taking trips and reading a lot about Virginia history.

If you don’t live in Virginia, must our U.S. History has roots in Virginia, so much of this will apply to U.S. History as well. And remember, my focus here is using these non-fiction texts to teach WRITING. It’s a bonus that it will also piggyback on the history standards. It’s what I call “double-dipping.” Teaching the content you need to teach while also exposing students to stellar texts that can be used as models for good writing.

For more information about definitions of the different writing skills I cover here, refer to the Glossary of Mentor Text Terms.

worst of friends

 

WORST OF FRIENDS:

THOMAS JEFFERSON, JOHN ADAMS, AND THE TRUE STORY OF AN AMERICAN FEUD

by Suzanne Tripp Jermain

Illustrated by Larry Day

Dutton, 2011

 

Writing Skills:

* Figurative Language

* Sentence Variety

* Specificity

* Adjectives

* Tone


Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

THOMAS JEFFERSON BUILDS A LIBRARY

By Barb Rosenstock

Illustrated by John O’Brien

Calkins Creek, 2013

 

Writing Skills:

* Organization of the text

* Specificity of language

* Rhythm

* Sentence Variety

 


John paul george ben

JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE & BEN

By Lane Smith

Hyperion, 2006

Writing Skills:

* Tone

* Voice

* Character descriptions

* Fact vs. Fiction

 


George did it

 

 

GEORGE DID IT

By Suzanne Tripp Jurmain

Illustrated by Larry Day

Dutton, 2006

Writing Skills:

* Figurative Language (Similes)

* Sensory Words

* Adjectives

* Use of a refrain


TJ life liberty pursuit of everyting

THOMAS JEFFERSON: LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF EVERYTHING

by Maira Kalman

Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, 2014

Writing Skills

* Voice

* Tone

* Organization of the text

* Specificity


revolutionary friends

 REVOLUTIONARY FRIENDS: GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE

by Selene Castrovilla

illustrated by Drazen Kozjan

Calkins Creek, 2013

Writing Skills

* Tone

* Sensory Words

* Adjectives

* Imagery

* Specificity

 

 

Other Mentor Text Resources:

Mentor Text Resource Page

Mentor Text Spreadsheet

Picture Book Month Archive (30 Posts using Picture Books as Writing Mentor Texts)

10 for 10: Favorite Pictures Books for Teaching Word Choice


 

What are your favorite picture books for teaching Virginia or US History? Leave me a note in the comments below.

Writing Wednesday: Using THE TREE LADY as a Writing Mentor Text

tree lady

 

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever

By H. Joseph Hopkins

Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Beach Lane Books, 2013

 

This picture book biography about Katherine Olivia Sessions highlights the difference one person can make. Kate lived at a time when girls didn’t really pursue science or the outdoors. Kate did both. She loved trees, studied science, and transformed the city of San Diego by planting trees.

 

Writing Skills

* Use of a refrain

* Organization of the text

* Specificity

* Vivid Verbs

Writing Wednesday: Using MOONSHOT as a Mentor Text for Writing

moonshot

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11

By Brian Floca

Atheneum, 2009

 

This narrative nonfiction text tells the story of the Apollo 11 mission from Earth to the moon and back again. It is a very poetic but very informative text of this landmark event in history. It’s not only beautifully illustrated, but the language is spectacular.

 

My two favorite lines in this book are:

 

Description of Eagle as it separated from Saturn.

“… Eagle, hidden till now,

a stranger ship, more bug than bird,

a black and gold and folded spider.”

 

Description of Eagle landing on the moon:

Eagle slows and lower goes until a spray of dust,

a bloom of moon, flowers up around her.”

 

Writing Skills:

* Description

* Sensory Words

* Onomatopoeia

* Specificity

* Vivid Verbs

* Word Choice

 

* Note: Brian Floca also wrote and illustrated LOCOMOTIVE, which just won the 2013 Caldecott Medal and received a Sibert Medal Honor.

 

Writing Wednesday: Use FROG SONG as a Mentor Text for Writing

frog song

FROG SONG

by Brenda Z. Guiberson

illustrated by Gennady Spirin

Henry Holt, 2013

 

Different types of unusual frogs from around the world are brought to life in this book with interesting facts, onomatopoeic frog sounds, and gorgeous paintings.

 

Writing Skills:

* Nonfiction writing

* Onomatopoeia

* Specificity of language

* Vivid Verbs

* Descriptive Language

More Mentor Text Resources

A few weeks ago, I introduced my teacher useletter. I will feature writing tips and mentor text tips in this free useletter for teachers. Also, if you sign up, you get a FREE 50 page MENTOR TEXT TIPS printable e-book. Sign up on the sidebar to the right.

Mentor Text Resources

Mentor Text Lesson Plans

Mentor Text Tips

Writing Wednesday: Using SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY as a Writing Mentor Text

snowflake bentley

SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY

By Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Illustrated by Mary Azarian

Houghton Mifflin, 1998

 

I use this book for many things in the classroom. It’s a favorite we return to again and again. It’s a picture book biography of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, who lived on a farm but was passionate about photographing snowflakes when it had never been done before.

Since it’s snowy season here in North America, this is a great time to break out this book to read and enjoy, but also to use it as a mentor text for writing. It’s also a fabulous way to work in nonfiction as a writing mentor text.

Writing Skills:

* Organization of the text

* Leads (beginning lines)

* Sensory words

* Figurative Language

* Vivid Verbs

* Description

* Specificity of language

 

More Mentor Text Resources

Last week, I introduced my teacher useletter. I will feature writing tips and mentor text tips in this free useletter for teachers. Also, if you sign up, you get a FREE 50 page MENTOR TEXT TIPS printable e-book. Sign up on the sidebar to the right.

Mentor Text Resources

Mentor Text Lesson Plans

Mentor Text Tips

Glossary of Mentor Text Terms

List of all Picture Book Month Posts