In last week's Nonfiction Monday post, I reviewed a rather lovely book about hermit crabs by Janet Halfmann. Very impressed by her writing, I was inspired to read to my children two of her other books (whose numbers are legion).
The first was Alligator at Saw Grass Road, illustrated by Lori Anzalone (2006, Smithsonian's Backyard). And, as was the case of the hermit crab book mentioned above, this was the best picture book about alligators that I have read (I have read at least three others. Probably more. It is a testimony to their mediocrity that I can't remember what they were). My 7 year old, dismissive at first, was soon engrossed in the story of an female alligator and her children (whom we meet first in the egg). My 5 year old, less jaded, was enthusiastic from the start.
The second was Polar Bear Horizon, illustrated by Adrian Chesterman (2006, Smithsonian Oceanic Collection), telling the story of a mother polar bear and her young cubs. Since I haven't, to the best of my knowledge and belief, read any other non-fiction books about polar bears, I can't make any sweeping statements about this one. But we enjoyed it (except that it looks like the illustrator drew goofy smiles on all the bears, which got on my nerves a bit. But maybe polar bears just naturally come with goofy smiles?).
Both of these books are narrative non-fiction, with none of those informational sidebars that are so distracting for the one reading out loud. Halfmann's writing is clear and relaxed; it is a pleasure to read. Both these books are part of an institutional series, but do not at all feel pushed out quickly to meet that institutions specific requirements. And both these books are packed full of information, and interesting little plot elements, and include more explicitly informational details and glossary at the end.
I can now say with confidence that Janet Halfmann is my favorite narrative non-fiction author. Disclosure: although I got these books from the publisher, they did not slip me anything extra to ensure a good review.
For more non-fiction kid's books, head over to the Nonfiction Monday book roundup!