Tag Archives: Non-fiction

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

Title: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World


Author(s): Vicki Myron with Bret Witter




Publisher and Year: Grand Central Publishing 2008


Number of pages: 271


Tags/Themes: Animals, Chapter book, Emotion, Family, Friendship, Non-fiction, 2-5, Joe Marras


Genre: Biography


Descriptive Annotation: This is a very easy read with no prior knowledge needed.  The story of Dewey Readmore Books is very heartwarming. A very young Dewey was dropped into the drop box of the library in Spencer, Iowa on the coldest night of the winter.  He was found the next day by librarian and author Vicki Myron. She nursed Dewey back to health and decided to keep the furry fella. Dewey was a mainstay at the library for the entirety of his 19 years only leaving on holidays and long weekends to go home with Vicki Myron.  Dewey helped Myron through tough times as she dealt with a bout with cancer and a divorce from her husband, but Dewey helped everyone. Myron says that Dewey had a profound gift of knowing who needed him the most and giving that person the love and affection they needed.


Classroom Application: I think that the best application for this book is to reinforce the importance of helping out those that need a pick me up.  Everyone goes through down times and who knows how long those times will continue without a good friend or furry companion to help them through it all.  I think Dewey can teach anyone of any age a valuable lesson that it doesn’t always take words or a conversation to give someone what they need.


Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: “There were no two ways about it, Dewey led a charmed life.  But Spencer was also lucky, because Dewey couldn’t have fallen into our lives at a better time.” (page 22)  This couldn’t have been more true for the author and “mother” of Dewey Vicki Myron. She needed Dewey as much as Dewey needed his food and water.  She had been through so much and Dewey was just the one that helped her through it and made it all worth it for her. This is a very easy read, no troubling words and very happy throughout the story.  Dewey became so well known, his story was even heard by people in Japan. A filming crew even came from Japan to get footage of Dewey in their documentary about animals, “Dewey was almost fifteen years old and he was slowing down, but he hadn’t lost his enthusiasm for strangers.” (page 218)  No matter how old or slow Dewey became he never lost his enthusiasm for people. He would still greet people with the same fire he always did. I think this shows a good lesson to show that no matter how you may be feeling on a particular day to never lose your kindness because you’ll never know who it can reach.


Title: Harlem


Author: Walter Dean Myers


Illustrator: Christopher Myers


Publisher and Year: Scholastic Press 1997


Number of pages: 32


Tags: Award Book, Culture, Emotion, Non-fiction, 6-12, Joe Marras


Descriptive Analysis:  This poem brings the reader on an adventure through the burrough of Harlem.  This is a very powerful poem that captures the mood of Harlem through words and pictures.  This is a poem that describes Harlem through its music, its people, its smells, and its sadness.  There are many things in here that are historically relevant so prior knowledge on African American history is helpful to fully understand the poem.  


Classroom Application:  This poem would be very useful in teaching about African American history.  This could also be used to teach about different ways of writing poems, that they don’t always have to rhyme or go in a specific template.  This poem does not have rhyming or any template style of writing and it still is extremely powerful. So it could help to show that there are many ways to convey powerful writing.


Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This poem represents African American culture and its history in Harlem, but also from Africa.  “Harlem was a promise of a better life, of a place where a man didn’t have to know his place simply because he was black,” Harlem was supposed to be a place of equality and bring together many African Americans from different parts of the world.  “They brought a call, a song first heard in the villages of Ghana/Mali/Senegal,” people from all across Africa were brought together in Harlem and they united with one another to make Harlem a special place. This poem brings up many different countries and famous African Americans, so it can be used to introduce people like Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and Sugar Ray.

Hidden Figures

Title: Hidden Figures


Author: Margot Lee Shetterly


Illustrator: Laura Freeman


Publisher and Year: HarperCollins Publishers 2018


Number of pages: 30


Tags: Culture, Diversity, Math, Non-fiction, Science, K-5, Joe Marras


Descriptive Annotation: This is a true story about four black women: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden.  These four women were some of the first black women to become engineers, and make strides in space and airplane technology. No background knowledge is needed for this because there is no actual math or science in this story, just a lot of mention of it because of how complicated the math they were doing is.


Classroom Application:  This story has many classroom applications including history, math, and science.  It could be used to tell the story of these four intelligent women or show real world applications of math and science.  Also could be used to show african american scientists and mathematicians to show that they are indeed out there.


Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:  This book represents african american culture and some of their struggles to gain equality in the workplace and in the world.  Since this story takes place during the 1950’s, it can help show the fight for equality in America, and also can show the discrimination they felt by being segregated from white people, “They could not eat in the same restaurants.  They could not drink from the same water fountains. They could not use the same restrooms.” This shows the segregation in America at the time, and helps to show how important it was for these women to do what they did. These women did amazing work and helped bring men to the moon and back down to earth, and advancing airplanes to prevent more crashes, among many other things, “No one knows how many lives her work may have helped save.”  Talking about Katherine Johnson and her work, and no one can truly tally just many lives she saved, and no one probably even mentions it.

Image result for hidden figures book

Shin’s Tricycle

Title: Shin’s Tricycle


Author: Tatsuharu Kodama


Illustrator: Noriyuki Ando


Publisher and Year: Doshin-Sha 1992


Number of Pages: 30


Tags/Theme: Culture, Emotion, Family, Non-fiction, 3-8, Joe Marras


Descriptive Annotation: This story is about a family in Japan during World War 2.  Shin is a three year old boy that really wanted a tricycle but because of the war a lot of the toys and other metal in Japan went towards making tanks and other war materials.  Then his uncle came in and brought him his old tricycle and Shin was ecstatic. He was outside playing with it one day and then the unthinkable happened, a nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  Shin was trapped and his parents had to free him, he was breathing but his two siblings weren’t as lucky. His parents cared for him until he died shortly after. This is a true story, Shin’s tricycle is in a museum in Japan to remind everyone that war is not the answer.


Classroom Application: This story could be used to show kids the effects of war on everyday citizens, and also on World War 2 and the effects of dropping the atomic bombs on Japan.  This is a tragic story, but it is true which makes it land very hard.


Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:  The book itself isn’t too difficult to read, but the content is very hard hitting which is why it might be more appropriate for older kids that are learning about World War 2, “Wars are always brutal.  No matter who starts one, innocent people always die-even children like Shin.” Shin was a real boy and he died just before his fourth birthday. It’s a tragic story and it’s very sad to read, “Maybe if enough people could see Shin’s tricycle, they would remember that the world should be a peaceful place where children can play and laugh.”  Hoping Shin’s tricycle being put on display at a museum will help people realize that peace is essential.

As Good as Anybody

Title: As Good as Anybody


Author: Richard Michelson


Illustrator: Raul Colon


Publisher and Year: Alfred A. Knopf 2008

Number of Pages: 34


Tags/Theme: Culture, Diversity, Emotion, Non-fiction, K-5, Joe Marras


Descriptive Annotation: This story starts out with a young Martin Luther King Jr. and him living with segregation and how it’s not fair to all people to treat people like this.  Then he grows up and becomes a Pastor like his father and starts lobbying for civil rights. Then it goes to Abraham Joshua Heschel in Poland and how he had to deal with segregation for being Jewish.  Then he grew up and came to America and along with Martin Luther King Jr. marched for freedom.


Classroom Application: This story could be used to introduce Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, and also teach about Abraham Joshua Heschel.  This story also can be used to teach that if you want something to change for the better that you should do something about it like these two men did.  

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:  This book could be used to generate discussion on the civil rights movement and its leaders like Martin Luther King Jr..  It could also be used to discuss the discrimination against jews in Europe. It sends a good message throughout, at the beginning Martin’s father tells him, “You’re looking down when you should be looking up.”  He’s telling him to keep his chin up and be proud of who you are because you are someone, and everyone is someone. Another good quote from this is, “Walk like a prince, not like a peasant.” It brings the same message of keep your head up and be proud of who you are.  Abraham’s father told him that and Abraham made sure to walk with his head up.

Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story

Title: Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story


Author: Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus


Illustrator: Evan Turk


Publisher and Year: Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2016


Number of Pages: 36


Tags/Theme: Adventure, Culture, Family, Non-fiction, K-5, Joe Marras


Descriptive Annotation: The main character is Gandhi’s grandson and he accompanies his grandfather on his trips.  His grandson follows all of his grandfather’s teachings and the story focuses mainly on their vow to be non-violent and not waste.  Then one day while walking home he through his pencil away into the field, which was wasteful, and he didn’t think there was anything wrong with it.  When his grandfather found out he made him go back and find it and then taught him how being wasteful can lead to violence. His grandson then knew that it was important to follow his grandfathers teachings and keep his vows.


Classroom Application: This story could be used to introduce Gandhi and also to not be wasteful because Gandhi in the story shows the impacts of being wasteful.  Gandhi shows him that it can affect others and that it is important to keep your vows as well.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:  This book shows some of the teachings of Gandhi and the importance of them. The two things that are focused on are to not be wasteful and be non-violent.  Gandhi explains to his grandson that his actions can affect other people. Before Gandhi talked to him he did not realize what his actions could do, “Soon I could see how throwing my pencil away could hurt others.”  Gandhi showed him how throwing and wasting his pencil could eventually hurt others teaching his grandson that it is important to not waste things. The tone of this book is very light and Gandhi is trying to help his grandson learn throughout the story.  At the end of the story he tells him, “Be the change you wish to see in the world, Arun.” This was one of Gandhi’s sayings and shows how he dedicated his life to teaching others.

I Miss You

Title: I Miss You

Author:  Pat Thomas

Illustrator: Pat Thomas

Publication/ Year: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 2001

Number of Pages: 29

Tags/ Themes: Emotion, Family, Non-Fiction, K-5, Rebecca Cauthorn

Genre: Non-Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:   This straightforward book walks through the young reader with how to deal with death. It begins with a brief explanation of what death is, and then moves on to how it is natural to grieve or feel angry or blame yourself. It explains that even though people might not talk to you as much, it’s not because they don’t care, it’s because they don’t know what to say. This book also does a very good job of explaining how different cultures believe different things happen after death, and different cultures do different things to the dead body. The book concludes by saying that it is okay to move on, because they will always be with you in your heart, just by thinking or remembering them. The book includes questions directed to the reader (such as, “Do you know anyone who has died?”) and a list of suggestions of how to use this book best.

Classroom Application: This book would be more appropriate to use on a student-to-student basis. Perhaps one of the students just had a grandparent pass away. This might be a good opportunity to bring this book in and give it to their parent, to have them share it with the student. Or, if your relationship with the student was close enough, you could talk through it with them. Or, you could give it to a school counselor and have this book be an aide to the grieving process. It focuses more on the Social an Emotional Learning Standards because this is about dealing with grief and other emotions. Because this book has questions directed to the reader, it could be good to help them process out loud what is going on and what they are feeling. It is also very good because it is important for kids to recognize their emotions and feelings rather than shoving them away and ignoring them.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book has terrific cultural diversity! Not only does it explain how different cultures believe in different things after death, but it also explains that different cultures grieve differently, and that is okay! Because no matter where the person really ends up going, the important part is that the people who love them are honoring their lives in their own special way. Additionally, the book illustrates many different ethnicities, which is good because it makes the book more approachable for all readers (not just white people have people die!). This also could help spur conversation about different religions and cultures and diversity in the classroom. The language of this book is simple and to the point. It is blunt, but gentle. Death is a very tricky subject to talk about, but I think this book handles it quite well, and it opens the door for a good discussion to be had about it.


So Many Dynamos!

Title: So Many Dynamos!

Author:  Jon Agee

Illustrator: Jon Agee

Publication/ Year: Sunburst Books, 1994

Number of Pages: 67

Tags/ Themes: 6-8, 8-12, Non-Fiction

Genre: Non Fiction? It’s a list of Palindromes

Descriptive Annotation:  This book is made up entirely of funny palindromes and hilarious pictures to illustrate them. On every page is a different palindrome with an image describing the palindrome. For example, one of my favorites is, “No Sir! Away! A papaya war is on!”, with a beautiful image of an epic papaya war going on. This book is certainly not for young readers, and instead contains humor that would be more fitting for older students, probably starting around 7th or 8th grade. (I am not quite sure on this though because some of the palindromes include alcohol, such as “Ron, I’m a minor!” with an image of an older guy trying to buy a little kid a drink. I think that starting around 7th grade they would understand that this is just a funny palindrome, but I don’t think it would really be appropriate for younger students. This book made me crack up and laugh out loud many times.

Classroom Application: I would use this book to help teach students about palindromes! What better way than to use a hilarious book to make kids remember what palindromes are? With the creative drawings and unique phrases I have never heard before, this is a book that is impossible to forget about. After teaching what palindromes were and showing the book, I would challenge the students to come up with one or two creative palindromes of their own and draw their own picture to describe it! Then we could hang them on the wall. I think this would be a super fun activity that would also help solidify the idea of palindromes for them.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:  All of the images are drawn with pencil and maybe charcoal, so you can’t really tell different races or portrayals of culture. This book is less for cultural analysis and statement and more about fun with words! Linguistically, this book is brilliant. It turns speech on itself, engaging your mind (wondering, no way is that actually a palindrome), and making you laugh.


And Tango Makes Three

Title: And Tango Makes Three

Author:  Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell

Illustrator: Henry Cole

Publication/ Year: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005

Number of Pages: 28

Tags/ Themes: Animals, Award Book, Diversity, Family, Non-Fiction, Picture book, K-5

Genre: Non-Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: At the beginning of the book I found myself rolling my eyes, thinking this was just another story about a man and a woman who fell in love. But I was quickly surprised! It follows the story of two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who fall in love and want a baby. Finally, the zookeeper gives them another penguin’s egg and they have the baby they have always wished for. At the end of the book, there is an author’s note which explains that all of these events are things that truly did happen in the Central Park Zoo. Students wouldn’t necessarily need any background knowledge, just an open mind.

Classroom Application: This book would be great to use when teaching acceptance and appreciation of everyone regardless of what their preferences are. It appeals more to the Social and Emotional Learning Standards, encouraging kids to both see and accept others for who they are and also to be proud and confident in themselves, regardless of if they are part of the “norm” or not. This book would be great to start a conversation about social justice issues, and I could tie it in to a social studies lesson talking about gay rights or other civil rights movements. Additionally, it makes me wonder about how different species are wired psychologically! I bet there are more examples out there of animals showing gay tendencies! I might encourage someone to do research on that and see if they can bring any other information forward (if it was an older class).

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: As I mentioned before, this has great cultural diversity. In my opinion, there are not nearly enough books which depict homosexual love. In our society today, the LGBTQ+ population is bigger than ever, probably because more are willing to be open and honest about who they are. Despite this, there is still a ton of prejudice and discrimination against us. By using books which open kids’ eyes from an early age, such as this one, showing that love is love no matter what, it will help society continue to grow more and more accepting of everyone, despite our differences.


She Persisted

Title: She Persisted

Author:  Chelsea Clinton

Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger

Publication/ Year: 2017, Philomel Books

Number of Pages: 27

Tags/ Themes: Culture, Diversity, Historical Fiction, Non-Fiction, Picture Book, K-5

Genre: historical fiction (maybe even non-fiction)

Descriptive Annotation: This powerful book outlines the story of thirteen different women who persisted through incredibly difficult times, and came out stronger than before. This book is not only a lesson to young readers that women are powerful and capable, but it is also an inspiring message to young girls that even though life can be incredibly difficult and people often discriminate against girls and women and assume we are weaker or inferior to men, we can persist and prove our capability and power to the world! Through real-life examples, the author connects the stories of these historic women and relates it to the modern-day girl. The illustrations are painted with watercolor and depict many different races and ethnicities. Before reading this book, students would need to know what the word “persisted” means.

Classroom Application: I could use this book to supplement a lesson about any one of the women mentioned here. It would be good to use because it would show that even though that woman probably struggled to get what she wanted (or maybe even failed), her efforts were important and there is an army of women fighting for what they believe in. Even if they are not right next to you, they are there and supportive. This book would be very good to use to help social studies lessons. Additionally, it addresses SELS because it teaches students to be confident and determined and encourages them to be themselves despite hardships which may come their way. I would use this book to prompt a text-to-self writing lesson because students could write about a time where they were challenged or doubted because of some part of their identity and how they persisted through it. The only problem with this potential writing exercise is that some of the boys would not have anything good to write about, and some of the girls might not either! This activity might be better suited for upper-level students, but it could potentially be modified for younger kids too.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: The cultural diversity representation in this book is phenomenal. It has characters of all ethnicities and races, and represents a minority and brings power to them. For girls, it is inspirational, relatable, and encouraging. For boys, it allows them to see how strong and capable women are and helps open their eyes to the oppression we have dealt with for centuries. Through the use of real quotes from these historic women, it helps make the book land with a heavier impact; bringing to life these people. With the repetition of the phrase, “she persisted”, it brings forth a theme of determination throughout the book which is very powerful.