Armchair Cybils Roundup: Non-Fiction

We’ve really enjoyed participating in the Armchair Cybils challenge at Hope is the Word. Today Amy is hosting a roundup where participants are linking to their reviews of Cybil nominees. Be sure to check it out!

Time to Eat

Today, I have a trio of non-fiction books to share, related only in that they are all excellent. Time to Eat is by the fantastic husband and wife duo of Steve Jenkins and Robin Page.  Jenkins is one of our favorite non-fiction picture book authors and he and Page do not disappoint with this newest offering. Published as part of a trio (Time to Sleep and Time for a Bath being the others in the series), it looks at the unusual, odd and sometimes gross eating habits of animals. I love that they include animals that are not your standard preschooler book fare (butcherbird, crucifix toad, aye-aye) and that Jenkins’ trademark collage style illustrations are offset by just the right amount of text to intrigue but not overwhelm a preschooler.

Queen of the Falls

Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg tells the true story of Annie Edison Taylor who became the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel in 1901. The feat is amazing in itself but the fact that she was a 60+ year old woman when she did it is even more amazing. The story is quite interesting but it’s tinged with sadness both at the dire circumstances that lead to Mrs. Taylor getting the idea to attempt the feat and in how she is treated afterwards. I don’t think my boys were disturbed by it but I also think that they probably didn’t appreciate some of the nuances in the book. This is one is better for upper elementary kids.

I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History's Strangest Cures

I looked for  I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History’s Strangest Cures in our library multiple times after seeing it on the Cybils list but they do not have it yet. After reading Amy’s review, I decided I had to just go ahead and buy it. I did and I’m so glad. Carlyn Beccia explore bizarre cures throughout history through the format of a multiple choice quiz (Which of these worked for Stomachaches? Urine, Dirt or Millipedes?) The accompanying pictures are colorful and funny. We all loved it but perhaps the best thing I can say for it is that David (who usually declares that he “only likes books that aren’t true”) BEGGED me to read it to him for a second time tonight. For a non-fiction writer that can take a bizzare topic like this one, make is interesting and accessible to kids and make it funny enough for my non-fiction hating son to want more…well that’s a success in my book.

In addition to the books above in the non-fiction picture book category I have also reviewed Mystery Math by David Adler and posted here about Me… Jane! by Patrick McDonell, The Watcher by Jeannette Winter and Bring on the Birds by Susan Stockdale.

One thing this experience has taught me is that it would be really really hard to be a real judge. I can honestly say that all of the non-fiction books we have read were excellent. They are also so different. I’m not sure how to compare a book that introduces algebra to kids in a fun and non-threatening way to a beautiful book on birds for preschoolers. I also know I have only read a very small percentage of the nominees in this category.

But if I had to pick a winner right now it would be I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat just for the sheer enjoyment that it gave me and both boys. I’m not sure it’s the best book but it is our favorite so far.

I’m going to cheat a little on the Roundup and do a separate post tomorrow about the fiction nominees we’ve read, so come back tomorrow for more Cybils and more great new children’s literature.

8 thoughts on “Armchair Cybils Roundup: Non-Fiction

  1. Time to Eat appeals to me as something worth reading–but I can’t get myself interested in I Feel Better with a Frog in my Throat. I don’t know if it’s just my mood or what, but those cures just sound gruesome to me right now (which is unusual since I’m a medical person and tend to enjoy learning about what other people consider gross or even macabre). Of course, since you and Amy both recommended it, I’ll get it out of the library and give it a go anyway!

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