Fats here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year. Our reading theme for January/February is Once Upon a Childhood: Throwback Reads on Childhood Favourites and HOT for CYBILS.

For today’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday, we will explore the world’s strangest habitats and find out how brilliant, lustrous colors played a role in the life of one of the greatest painters the world has ever known.

strangeA Strange Place to Call Home

Words by: Marilyn Singer
Pictures by: Ed Young
Published by: Chronicle Books (2012)
Book borrowed from Hudson Library and Historical Society.

In this one-of-a-kind collaboration by award-winning poet, Marilyn Singer, and award-winning author-illustrator, Ed Young, children are introduced to animals that have learned to adapt and live in strange habitats mainly to stay away from predators. Told in verses, A Strange Place to Call Home gives nonfiction books a unique look. Moreover, Marilyn Singer does an excellent job in describing such strange places through the use of different forms of poetry. Below are two examples from the book.

Dry as Dust*
spadefoot toads

They can deal solo
with dryness, but give them rain
and then: toads explode.

petroleum flies

of them are born
in carrion, water,
or soil. But not this crew. They hatch
in oil.


Ed Young’s illustrations that were rendered in collage add to the “strange” feel of the animals and habitats being described in the poems. The introduction provides a short explanation as to why animals decided to live in such places. The end notes give a more detailed description of the animals mentioned in each poem, as well as their way of life. The text is kid-friendly, and can be used for a read-aloud. Although some people may not find the unique presentation of the book appealing, I think that A Strange Place to Call Home is an excellent resource to teach children about animals and their habitats. In addition, this book can be used to help children familiarize themselves with different forms of poetry.

*haiku – a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world.
**cinquain – a classic form of poetry that employs a 5-line pattern.

iridescenceThe Iridescence of Birds

Words by: Patricia MacLachlan
Pictures by: Hadley Hooper
Published by: Roaring Book Press (2014)
Book borrowed from Twinsburg Public Library.

Nominated in the 2014 Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards (CYBILS), elementary/middle-grade nonfiction category, The Iridescence of Birds talks about world-renowned artist, Henri Matisse. In her book, Patricia MacLachlan describes the early inspirations for Henri Matisse using short yet engaging, lyrical text. Using a combination of relief printmaking and digital techniques, Hadley Hooper’s illustrations pulsate with colors the way Henri Matisse’s world did when he was a young boy.


“I got my sense of color from my mother.”
– Henri Matisse

In the author’s note, Patricia MacLachlan explains that Henri Matisse painted what he saw and what he remembered. He grew up around pigeons and their colors changed with the light as they moved. Hence, the book was named as such. The things and colors that Henri saw when he was a child made an impression on him that strong, bright colors and bold patterns became his artistic style. He was part of a group of painters known as the Fauves, a French word that meant “wild beasts.” The Iridescence of Birds is a good companion to other picture book biographies about Henri Matisse.


#nfpb2015 Challenge Update: 3 & 4 of 25

7 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Of Strange Habitats and Lustrous Colors

  1. I have both of these books, beautifully presented and a joy to read each one. I love the Singer book because of its extraordinary & creative delivery of research, and the MacLachlan one about Matisse because it adds another layer of information for students about this great artist. Two books important to have!


  2. I still need to read The Iridescence of Birds! While there are multitudes of artist biographies, I wish there were more composer picture book biographies (or creator biographies I should say).

    A Strange Place to Call Home is an unusual book and I’m so glad you featured it.


  3. I absolutely enjoyed Iridescence. Great flow of the text and lots of visual details to pay attention to.


  4. I love Ed Young, that one looks like a must have!


  5. I just love Marilyn Singer’s poetry. Thanks for showcasing two favorites of mine.


  6. I just read The Iridescence of Birds with my class last week. Adored it!


  7. Both of these books are beautifully rendered. The Iridescence of Birds was part of our Mock Caldecott.


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