Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge

Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts a Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge and has a roundup every Wednesday. I love the encouragement to explore more non-fiction. I am thankful that she has this challenge because I know I have read more nonfiction texts as a result.

This week I'm focusing on several books published by Readers to Eaters. They sent me final copies for review and I am so glad to explore more of their books. We have a school gardening program and they have a few titles that will help support our students as they care for the gardens and share in the harvest. 

Illustrated by Eric Shabazz Larkin

I was excited to discover this book last year. I bought it soon after first grade had planted their lettuce seeds. We had them under lights inside the building and we were watching the plants grow day by day. My students were impressed when they learned that Will Allen had been a basketball player. They also enjoyed learning about gardens inside cities. The book focuses on how Will Allen looked around and saw possibilities. He worked until he found solutions even when it seemed like there were too many obstacles for his ideas. 

The artwork is fun and engaging and the story had my first grade students excited about getting their plants out into the ground. 

Aside from the encouragement for children to get involved with gardening, the book also brings up the issue of food deserts. Some children may not realize that affordable, fresh food isn't always easily accessible for everyone. This book worked well with first and second grade students, but would also work with older students especially as a starting point for discussions about food availability. 

Illustrated by Hayelin Choi

Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious captured my attention from the first page. Picture book biographies are a favorite for me. It's inspiring to learn about a person who has a passion for something and is following it. Alice's passion is delicious food and sharing it with others. "In her travels, Alice learned wonderful food was like a symphony that woke people up, made them happier. Sharing good food could start a party, make memories."

Alice opened a restaurant, but what really makes this book a keeper for me is that she also started a garden at a school nearby. She saw another opportunity to share what she knew about growing and preparing food. Readers find out about the first Edible Garden that she helped to create, but also about the many more that are continuing to be created.

The text flows well and would be great with elementary age children. The illustrations are bright, cheerful and full of fun details. For a sample of the illustrations, visit Hayelin Choi's page here.

This would be an excellent book to have in a school library especially if the school has a garden or is considering one. It would also work well with social studies or language arts units about people who are making a difference in the world.

Written by Cynthia Lair
with Scott Murdock, Ph.D., RD

Feeding the Young Athlete is exactly the kind of book that I could have used a few years ago when my children were a bit younger. Lair and Murdock provide some excellent advice to coaches, parents, and the athletes themselves. They point out ten essential eating guidelines that include sipping throughout the day and getting your whole team involved with healthy eating habits. Along the way, readers learn not only what to do, but how it benefits them and their performance. In addition to the guidelines, they also share a few habits to avoid such as skipping meals. The first portion of the book is narrative with some graphics to help it along. The illustrations have a retro feel to them and they break up the text without distracting. 

The focus is on planning ahead for eating and drinking. They emphasize preparing things ahead of time so there is less reliance on unhealthy convenience foods. In the event that convenience food cannot be avoided, readers are pointed to quick snack and meal choices that work well.

The second portion of the book goes into specific recipes and menu suggestions. I used quite a few of the recipes over the past week. We tried two of the three homemade sports drinks. They were easy to make and quite tasty. I also made two of the breakfast recipes. My favorite was the Overnight Oat Waffles. Since you mix part of it the night before, they are actually pretty quick to make. The Best Spice-Kissed Oatmeal Cookies are getting me in trouble though. Like their name implies, they are the best oatmeal cookies I can remember eating. I've been eating my way through them at a rapid clip. We only tried one of the main courses. The Mediterranean Lentil, Sweet Potato and Spinach Stew was delicious. Some of the recipes, like the stew, have what some would consider lengthy ingredient lists, but the flavors are worth it. I look forward to trying out more of the recipes. This isn't a cookbook though, but a starting place. There are other resources provided in the back of the book for those who want to continue on this path.

I definitely recommend this book to coaches and parents. I have often heard people say, "Eat like an athlete." This is one resource that will help in that attempt.


  1. Alice Water's Edible Schoolyard is the book about her school garden project. Chronicle Books.

  2. These titles look wonderful Crystal. I am familiar with Farmer Will Allen. I am thinking my son would benefit from hearing this book about the young athlete. A great way to share the importance of nutrition! Thanks for sharing here!

  3. This sounds like a great resource, and I love the practical applications in the last book. Great find!

  4. I just read the Alice Waters one and really enjoyed it. Now need to find the Will Allen one.

  5. What an interesting theme this week!! You made all of them sound interesting - thanks!

  6. These sound very good, Crystal. One of the teachers at school is doing 'food' as a class unit this year. I'll send this on to her. Thanks!

  7. I'm going to have to try and find Feeding Your Athlete! thanks for sharing :)