The 12 Canadian titles listed below represent the wide range of topics and styles that both inform and entertain. Most of these titles appear in picture book format and can be shared with as read alouds in the classroom, or offered to students as independent titles to engage with.
ALIS THE AVIATOR: An ABC Aviation Adventure by Danielle Metcalf-Chenail; illus Kalpna Patel (PB)
Alia Kennedy was one of the first Indigenous female commercial pilots in Canada. Alis guides readers into the world of aviation through 26 words that illuminate the world of flight. The alphabetical rhyming couplet format efficiently provides noteworthy vocabulary and explanations (C is for Chimpmunk, a small and nimble plane; D is for Dakota, a northern weather vane). The colourful, three-dimensional cut-paper illustrations add information through simple depiction of aircraft. The glossary of terms and biography of Dr. Alis Kennedy are a bonus feature. That this book is celebrated through female characters is an extra-special bonus. A perfect nonfiction picture book.
CELLS: An Owners Handbook by Carolyn Fisher (PB)
An efficient, appealing way to present facts about cells. This picture book answers questions: What are cells? Where are they? What do they do? A artistic way to present information with loud colourful spreads and varied fonts.
IT BEGAN WITH A PAGE: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way by Kyo Maclear; illus Julie Morstad (PB)
Gyo Fukikawa, a famous children’s book illustrator, got claim to fame with the book Babies published in 1963. this was the first time children of all colours adorned the pages of a picture book thus paving the way to a consciousness of representing a more inclusive world. Maclear tells the story of Fujikawa’s young life as a Japanese American and celebrates her creative process and her fight for racial diversity in children’s literature.
KILLER STYLE: How fashion injure maimed and murdered throughout history by Serah-Marie McMahon & Allison Mattehews David
What a unique, sometimes macabre, sometimes startling contribution to nonfiction genre. This book is an exploration of ways that clothing and cosmetics have tormented those who wear and make them. Such headings as Murderous Mercury Hats, Constricting Corsets, Strangling Scarves and Fatal Footwear Fiascos is sure to intrigue. The photographic images and the illustrations certain enhance the ‘killer” topic. Beautifully laid-out design.
SERGEANT BILLY: The True Story of The Goat Who Went to War by Mireille Messier; illus. Kass Reich (PB)
Words and pictures tell the true story of a goat named Billy who was adopted by a platoon of soldiers during World War I. Billy saved the lives of his comrades and was smuggled, imprisoned, promoted for bravery. Narratives can help young people make sense of historical events and this picture book is a fine example of a picture book that engages and informs through story and images.
FOREST by Kate Moss Gamblin; illus. Karen Patkau (PB)
This title is part of a see-to-learn series. The text invites readers to consider what they see in a forest through the seasons (e.g., animalltracks, creatures in the soil, wild flowers). The question format encourages readers to take a close-up look at the vibrant visual images through lyrical text (‘Do you see the delicious sunlight, giving way to the soft darkness of the night?’
BEASTLY PUZZLES: A brain-boggling Animal Guessing Game by Rachel Poliquin; illus by Bryron Eggenschwiler (PB)
Information is presented in a novel way in this open the flap format. Each spread provides objects that connect to the characteristics and behaviours of animals. The author and artist provide a puzzling list that are clues to the bits and pieces of animals (e.g., What animal could you make with… a transparent raincoat, steak knives, two paddles, a fishing gaff hook (answer: A polar bear). Intriguing way to present information about the uniqueness of creatures.
IF I GO MISSING by Brianna Jonnie with Nahanni Shingoose; illus. Nshannacappo (YA) (PB)
This book is based on the true story of Brianna Jonnie who, at the age of 14, wrote an open letter to the Winnipeg Police Service, imploring them to ‘do better’ when investigating cases of missing Indigenous peoples. (‘Asking for the public’s help days or weeks after an Indigenous girl goes missing is equivalent to announcing publicly that her life does not matter, or at least, not as much as others. The mostly black white and grey images add a sombre quality to this book.
GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST: A giant-screen adventure in the Land of the Spirit Bear by Ian McAllister and Alex Van Tol
An informative book that provides detailed facts and strong nature photographic image about the Great Bear Rainforest that stretches between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and Alaska. This book is a rich document of the making of the Great Bear Rainforest film.
PICKING UP THE PIECES: Residential School Memories and the Making of the Witness Blanket by Carey Newman and Kirstie Hudson
The Witness Blanket is a monumental travelling art installation that is an intricate quilting of assembled material objects, each telling a piece of Canada’s school story. Artifacts were gathered from coast to coast and were woven into a blanket that is a three dimensional multi-panelled exhibit. The book preserves that experience in a beautifully arranged catalogue of photographs and artifacts (e.g. moccasins, mush-hole bowls, letters, paintings). This book in itself is a staggering artifact with information and stories of the residential school experience.
FAIRY SCIENCE by Ashley Spires (PB)
I’m fond of nonfiction picture books where information is inherent within narrative text. Fairies use magic wandss and potions, but Esther likes facts and evidence. A tree in the forest is wilting and the fairies want to make magic talismans and do a mystical moonlight danced. Esther knows that only research, making a hypothesis and trying experiments will save the day. Hooray for stories of magics. Bravo to a picture book that celebrates and promotes the power of science!
WHAT THE EAGLE SEES: Indigenous Stories of Rebellion and Renewal by Eldon Yellowhorn & Kathy Lowinger
This book is a follow-up to Turtle Island by Eldon Yellowhorn adn Kathy Lowinger. In this book the authors tell stories of what Indigenous Peoples did when invaders arrived on their homelands. The collection provides key moments in Indigenous History by telling, through about losses and survival challenges, forced assimilation and abuse that were experienced when new nations, new ideas were formed to keep the Indigenous cultures alive. Photographs, titles and text boxes help make the information accessible to readers.