Some non-fiction books are best read out loud to wide-awake children--the sort of books with lots of sidebars, jammed packed with information, color, and detail. Other non-fiction books work beautifully at bedtime--the sort of books where the non-fiction is presented in a coherent narrative, with the facts part of a story.
Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea (Smithsonian Oceanic Collection), by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Steven James Petruccio (Soundprints, 2008, 32pp) falls into the later category. It tells of a baby narwhal, growing up in the cold arctic ocean, in clear prose with pleasantly detailed, yet unfussy, pictures. There's is danger in these waters, not just from predators, such as polar bears and killer whales, but from the ice itself. The narwhal pod becomes trapped in a small patch of open water by thick ice, and it's not clear that they ever be able to reach the open ocean. But instinct and luck save the day, and the young narwhal makes it to adulthood.
We've read and enjoyed other animal books by Janet Halfmann (about polar bears and alligators, and, my favorite, hermit crabs). If you have an animal-loving child, about five-years old, with an appetite for non-fiction, her books are the best I know of for peaceful, shared learning at the end of the day.
On the other hand, because of the narrative style of these books, without all those fact-packed sidebars, the curious adult reader might be left with questions. How, for instance, did the narwhals know the ice extended further than they could swim?
The Non-fiction Monday Roundup is at The Miss Rumphius Effect today!