Annie Smith Photography

Annie Smith Photography

I write nonfiction for children, but I’m also writing for adults. When it comes to picture books, adults are the gatekeepers. Generally, they select the books to buy or check out and they’re the ones who read them to children. I’m curious about how adults make those decisions and about how they share nonfiction picture books with kids. So I decided to ask some of those adults!

Today my sister-in-law, who always has awesome book recommendations for me, answers my questions.

1. Describe your family.

My husband Nathan and I have two daughters, Rowan and Emerson.  Rowan is seven and in the second grade.  It has been a joy to watch her become a confident reader this last year.  She is currently obsessed with the American Girl Series, but is also being introduced to other delightful chapter books.  Emerson is five and has just started full day kindergarten.  We have recently discovered the Ivy and Bean series and she was an avid listener as we quickly made our way through that fun series.  Nathan is an anesthesiologist, but when he is not busy putting people to sleep, he is a voracious reader and is always planning our next family adventure.  I am a former middle school teacher of American History and Pre-Algebra.  My love of personal narratives has driven my study of history over the years, consequently I adore nonfiction picture books that feature individuals and their contributions to their communities.  I am currently serving on the Board of Directors of our local children’s museum and cherish the opportunity to be involved with the education of local children in this way.

2. What’s a nonfiction picture book you have loved sharing with your children? Tell me about how they responded to it.
 After visiting Balboa Park in San Diego a few years ago and hearing about the contributions of Kate Sessions I wanted to learn more about her.  I was so pleased to find the picture book, The Tree Lady, which tells her story so well.  I especially appreciated the focus it placed on her study of botany, even as a young girl.  In preparation for a return visit to San Diego, I purchased the book.  We read the book with Rowan and Emerson the day before going to Balboa Park and then had a wonderful time looking at the gardens and trying to find plants similar to the ones planted by Kate Sessions.
Another nonfiction picture book that has had an impact on my children is Martin’s Big Words:The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  This powerful book was introduced to Rowan by  
her first grade teacher as a part of their discussions surrounding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.  Rowan is very interested in issues of social justice and equality, so this book really moved her.  She was allowed to bring it home and she read it to us as a family as part of our MLK holiday recognition.  We also borrowed a tradition from friends of ours of decorating and enjoying a birthday cake in Dr. King’s honor.
3. How do you choose which nonfiction picture books to purchase or check out of the library ?
Fortunately, I have a wonderful sister-in-law [aww…thanks, Alicia!] who keeps me apprised of wonderful nonfiction picture books.  Also, I use the internet to find books that fit a certain topic we may be interested in exploring.  Our local bookstore features new nonfiction pictures books in the children’s section which makes for fun perusing.
4.What kinds of nonfiction picture books do you wish you had more of?
I feel that I would have to exhaust the genre of nonfiction picture books to answer this question because I know there are many amazing books and subjects left for us to explore. I will say, though, that I sincerely appreciate the growing number of nonfiction picture books that feature women and their experiences. This is so important to my young daughters who want to see females like themselves in stories and I value the opportunity to share with them stories about remarkable women that they can emulate.