It can be tricky to find good non fiction for kids. The good offerings strike a delicate balance between factual accuracy, realistic portrayal and general appeal. I recently found two great new books that seem to strike all three, but in very different ways for two different age groups.
The first is a picture book memoir by Dan Yaccarino called All the Way to America, and it chronicles the history of the author's own family through several generations from their origins in Italy, their migration to New York City and their growth into American entrepreneurs. The narrative reads like a fiction picture book which will hold the attention of a wide group of children, but he focuses on a little shovel that is with the family throughout and symbolizes their collective journey to becoming Italian American citizens, making it very personal and relatable. The illustrations are bright and engaging, which make this a great read aloud for a preschool or kindergarten group.
The next non fiction offering is for middle grade readers by Marissa Moss. Nurse, Soldier, Spy is the story of Emma Edmonds, a girl who dresses as a boy in order to gain freedom and enlist in the Union army during the Civil War. Emma's story is compelling because she not only serves in the army, but they also use her as a spy and she is able to relay important tactical information about the confederate army's weapons holdings. She was even given a medal posthumously for her bravery during the war. The story is an exciting read and John Hendrix provides dynamic illustrations that fasten the pace. The most remarkable part might be the author's note at the end that details the life of Emma Edmonds and provides resources for further reading. It is so good to know that women were playing such a vital role during that time in history.