Over the past few months we have really been thinking about informational text in the purest sense and how it compares to narrative nonfiction. Good informational text in non-narrative formats remains less readily available than narrative nonfiction and fiction. It is very limited in picture book presentations, so we are grateful for companies that generate quality informational texts for classroom audiences. We recently received a set of informational books for review from Creative Paperbacks (via Classroom Library Company), and we’ve fallen in love with them for their aesthetic as well as their content. There are three different series: Amazing Animals, Grow With Me, and Grammar Basics. All three series are written by Kate Riggs, with a number of photographers represented.
The Amazing Animals Series includes the following titles: Cheetahs, Crocodiles, Dolphins, Elephants, Giraffes, Koalas, Lions, Monkeys, Parrots, Penguins, Polar Bears, Sharks, Snakes, Swans, Tigers, and Wolves. We like them for a number of reasons. First, their design is beautiful. While they have substantial content, the books are large format and the layouts have unusually generous white space. Key vocabulary words are in color, with corresponding definitions at the bottom of the page. Although the books aren’t formally labeled with reading levels, the text appears to be around early, second grade, although a preponderance of one-syllable words and a large font would likely encourage earlier readers to give them a shot, while engaging photographs and informational text features make them look like books for older readers. These books are designed like picture books but have the functionality of classroom informational text, including an index and key terms in bold.
Similarly, the Grow With Me series offers informational text but includes titles about plants as well as those about animals. This series includes Bee, Butterfly, Frog, Ladybug, Sunflower, and Tomato. The format is a bit smaller, but the interior design is equally lovely, with a large font and lots of white space. This series is geared more towards 3rd-5th students, and follows each species through its life cycle. The photographs are beautiful, and each two-page spread includes a magnified view of some related aspect of the animal or plant. These books include a table of contents, an illustrated summary of the complete life cycle, an index, bolded key words, photographs with captions, and a glossary, but they pull off all this content without making the layout look congested.
Finally, Kate Riggs tackles the parts of speech in her Grammar Basics Series, which includes Adjectives, Adverbs, Nouns, and Verbs. The cool thing about the grammar series is that it uses animals once again, but this time they illustrate the parts of speech. Our favorite is when Kate presents animals as visual metaphors to help readers both comprehend and remember the various uses of a particular part of speech. For example, in Adverbs, she uses an extremely large bulldog to illustrate “Irregular Forms.” These book offer very clear, concise, accessible, lovely, and creative explanations of basic parts of speech, and end with Madlib-like games.
Tomorrow we bring you reviews of some clever narrative text series that straddle the fence between informational and historical fiction.