Nancy’s picks for the best non-fiction of the 1990s and ideas for using them in the classroom. Compiled by Nancy Polette © 1998.

Last updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Barrett, Lindsay. In the Snow, Who’s Been Here? Greenwillow, 96. (Gr.K-3)
A brother and sister see clues left in the snow as to the bird or animal that has previously been there.
Activity: Create a class book..In the Books, Who’s Been Here?
Students draw clues that favorite book characters might have left behind. Others try to guess the character.

Blos, Joan. Nellie Bly’s Monkey. Morrow, 96. (Gr.2-4)
Reporter, Nellie Bly, travels the world in 72 days in 1889.
Activity: Trace her route on a world map after sharing the book.

Cooney, Barbara. Eleanor. Viking, 96. (Gr.3-6)
The lonely and sad childhood of Eleanor Roosevelt.
Activity: Write an ‘Important’ paragraph about Eleanor after reading the book.
Begin: The most important thing about Eleanor Roosevelt was _____. Add six details and repeat the first sentence.

Deary, Terry. The Awesome Egyptians, The Groovy Greeks, The Rotten Romans. Scholastic, 1997. (Gr 5-8. )
A humorous but accurate look at early civilizations.

James, Elizabeth. Social Smarts: Manners for Today’s Kids. Clarion, 96. (Gr.4-6)
Advice for children on handling social situations.
Activity: Share one of the problems in the book. Let students suggest how they would handle it. Then read the author’s solution.

Jones, Charlotte. Accidents May Happen. Delacorte, 96. (Gr.4-6)
Many things we use each day were the result of accidents.
Activity: Think like an inventor. Create a bedroom burglar alarm by combing these items so that each will act on the next to achieve the desired result. A candle, a ten pound bag of potatoes, a frog, a bucket, a balloon, an old saw, a rope, a horn, a springboard. Use at least four of the items.

Kroll, Steven. Lewis and Clark. Holiday, 94. The Pony Express. Scholastic, 96. (Gr.3-6)
Nicely illustrated historical accounts. Create a geography riddle poem to describe an historical place.

Krupinski, Loretta. New England Scrapbook. HarperCollins, 94. (Gr.3-6)
Each page associates something with New England with a description, a picture and a poem related to the object.

Lindbergh, Reeve. Nobody Owns the Sky. The Story of Brave Bessie Coleman. Candlewick, 1997.
Create a dialogue between two people watching Bessie’s daring feats.

Nivola, Claire. Elizabeth. Farrar, 1997.
A little girl, a doll a dog( who liked to dance) and a war tell a true tale of the Holocaust.

Ryder, Joanne. Jaguar in the Rain Forest. Morrow, 96. (Gr.2-4)
A literary description of the life of the jaguar in the rain forest.
Activity: Write a five line description of the rain forest. Each line must begin with a preposition: Below, upon, in, under, beneath, etc. The last line can read Òstalks the graceful jaguar.

SanSouci, Robert. Kate Shelley: Bound for Legend. Dial, 95. (Gr.4-6)
A young girl crawls along a 700 foot icy trestle in the dark to get to the station to warn an oncoming train that a bridge is out. How many ways can students complete this pattern: ____________ is scary but __________ is terrifying!

Simon, Seymour. Strange Mysteries from Around the World. Morrow, 1997.
Can it really rain frogs? How can a person walk on hot coals with no pain or injury? List your theories, then read this book!

Stanley, Diane. The True Adventures of Daniel Hall. Dial, 95. (Gr.4-6)
A young boy goes to sea and is savagely beaten with a knotted rope, dragged in a small boat by a whale, eats food with maggots, is attacked by a hungry bear and surrounded by fifty wolves…all true!
Activity: Let small groups within the class rank order the dangers Daniel faced from most to least dangerous and explain their rankings.

Towle, Wendy. The Real McCoy. Scholastic, 92. (Gr.3-6)
The life of African-American inventor Elijah McCoy.
Write a bio-poem about McCoy. Begin each line with Name, Four traits, Related to, Who cares deeply about, Who feels, Who needs, Who gives, Who fears,Who would like to see, Resident of.

Wulfson, Don. Amazing True Stories. Dutton 1991. Gr 4-8.
True accounts of unbelievable happenings.
Use one or more of these short accounts as a predicative reading exercise.