Non-fiction children’s literature is produced in several different formats. From very simple picture books, watered down reproductions of classic documents, how-to manuals and even expository text, children’s non-fiction literature encompasses a very large variety of topics. In reviewing many different books about animals, history and architecture, to very simple concepts like shapes and colors. These non-fiction children’s books bring information to children in a format that children can be drawn in and digest.
With such a large variety of texts in this genre, this paper will specifically look at the category of animals and examine and contrast the different reading levels and content provided by several popular publishers. It is apparent that some publishers are better than others as they provide an over all better product with greater aesthetic appeal. As society moves forward we see new and innovative publishers taking the place of those we at one time considered to have the corner of their market.
With children’s literature targeting a wide range of reading levels one of the main things I found in my research is that there is a wide range of books available. In discussing this with the librarian she pointed out that children start pulling these books out for book reports as early as second grade. Some children need simple facts, while older children are looking for greater details. Even beyond research some children are drawn to certain animals and earnestly research for their own recreation. With this in mind I found a wide range of books in the category.
A Scholastic book, by Ann O. Squire, “A True Book Tigers”, seemed to be more of a middle ground compared to the other books in this section. The photography was not as clear, and the books design allowed for smaller photos and larger sections of text. The design and color scheme seemed a bit dated as well and did not make book exceptionally appealing when compared to others in its section. Other books that fell in this group were Xavier Niz’s, “Elephants”, and even “Hippopotamus” by Patricia Whitehouse. Whitehouse took a slightly different approach as they pose questions at the beginning of each section and used the text to answer the question. Questions like, “What do hippos look like?”, “Where do hippos live?”, and “How are hippos special?” are covered in this book (Whitehouse, 2003).
Other books like “Amazing Animals Orangutans”, seems to have more information begin to prepare the reader for digesting more text and content about the topic. This book chooses to use nice large photos to relate to the text, but other books like Gorillas, by Gail Gibbons use a more illustrative approach. Gibbons book is full of loose watercolor and ink illustrations, yet has many facts that you would not expect to find in a more expressive piece like, “Gorillas never use a newt more than once”, and “Gorillas rarely drink water because of the plants they eat are juicy” (Gibbons, 2010).
The Pebble Plus books appear to have a superior aesthetic to the others. In reviewing the “Manatees” book by Jody Rake and “Giraffes”, by Catherine Ipcizade I was exceptionally impressed. Considering the elements of large vibrant photographs, simple yet informative text, and consistent format, the young readers are given a clean and informative experience. The wealth of information, is well-organized, very easy follow and to understand.
With children’s non-fiction literature, the options seem endless. One of the great ways to sift threw the many texts and find the exceptional pieces are identifying publisher series. I personally was most impressed with the Pebble Plus publications as they were so well done. The consistency from one book to the next was also very reassuring. Even in comparing well-known publications like Scholastic, Pebble Plus just seemed to be more direct. I believe this is partly in part to they way this genera has evolved. Pebble Plus is more of an up and coming publisher while Scholastic was more popular when I was a child. We see the progression and how the new publishers have a fresh and contemporary piece. As non-fiction literature moves forward I believe we will continue to see the content to be more concise and the photograph quality continue to improve.
Gibbons, Gail. Gorillas. New York: Holiday House, 2010. Print.
Ipcizade, Catherine. Giraffes. Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2008. Print.
Kueffner, Sue. Orangutans. Pleasantville, NY: Gareth Stevens Pub., 2009. Print.
Niz, Xavier. Elephants. Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2005. Print.
Rabe, Tish, and Jim Durk. Is a Camel a Mammal? New York: Random House, 1998. Print.
Rake, Jody Sullivan. Manatees. Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2007. Print.
Squire, Ann. Tigers. New York: Children's, 2005. Print.
Whitehouse, Patricia. Hippopotamus. Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library, 2003. Print.