Linda Salzman took us on a tour of her high school daughter’s favorite nonfiction books a few weeks ago. I’m visiting my niece and her family in Brooklyn, and browsed through her children’s books, helped by eight-year-old Nadav. He’s reading Harry Potter, Book Five at the moment, and that’s his favorite book series. But nonfiction has its place in his library too.
Out of a big pile, he chose six favorites and when I asked him to choose his very favorite, he said “That’s super hard.” But he finally decided that Oceanology came to the top of the list. We talked about how some books are part fiction and part nonfiction, about how the story of the Nautilus was part of an old novel, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. He likes this book best, because it is an adventure. Most of the books he likes are adventures. But he also reads all the sidebars, footnotes, and little flaps in Oceanology that tell him the true stories about navigating instruments, a history of diving, giants of the deep, and about Charles Darwin “who told us about evolution.”
Second favorite is the Magic Treehouse series, fiction with a lot of history in it. He has read dozens of those and likes them because they are adventures and he learns about lots of different times and places.
The Amazing Books about Questions and Answers by John Guest is another favorite because “it has tons of facts about everything.” He doesn’t look for answers to specific question, but opens the book to read about all kinds of things. He likes reading about plants.
In the DK Book, Planet Earth: one million things by John Woodward, Nadav’s like to read about geodes, minerals, and caves. “I like how it tells how crystals form.” He wants to be a scientist and an archaeologist when he grows up.
Polar Bear Math: Learning about Fractions from Klondike and Snow is on the pile of favorites too. He hasn’t done the math in the book yet, but likes the pictures of polar bears. Reading is his favorite subjects in school, but math is second. He is going into third grade and has already learned about fractions.
Finally, The Everything Kids’ Science Experiments Book by Tom Robinson is in the pile. Nadav’s favorite experiment has been making a volcano with baking soda, vinegar, dishing washing soap, and red food coloring.
Nadav has written lots of poems (favorite is an acrostic,) and stories. If he were to write a nonfiction book, he’d write about dinosaurs. He read a great book at school called Dinosaurs, with lots of pictures of dinosaur skeletons. His book would have more pictures of live dinosaurs, not just bones of dinosaurs.
Adventure and information, the earth and the people in it, all are favorites of Nadav.