Category Archives: Narrative non-fiction

#365PictureBooks Day 40 I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings

Read this article from the NZ Herald and watch the Mum’s video before reading this post. We need to think about how we can support all kids in our schools.

The story of a transgender child based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings, who has become a spokesperson for transkids everywhere

This is an essential tool for parents and teachers to share with children whether those kids identify as trans or not. I wish I had had a book like this when I was a kid struggling with gender identity questions. I found it deeply moving in its simplicity and honesty.”—Laverne Cox (who plays Sophia in “Orange Is the New Black”)

From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boys’ clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way. Jazz’s story is based on her real-life experience and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers, their parents, and teachers“. Publisher.

“We understand now. Be who you are. We love you no matter what.”

How I wish every transgender child had parents as accepting and loving as the parents of Jazz Jennings. This is a book I think every school librarian should at least be aware of, or have available for the parent curious about whether their child is transgender and for the child who needs positive affirmation that everything is OK and they are not alone. I’d like to think it could be used to help other children become more empathetic.

Bibliographic details:

I am Jazz / Written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, pictures by Shelagh McNicholas.

Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014.

32 pages.


I borrowed this copy from Auckland Libraries.

#365PictureBooks Day 25 Grandfather Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson tells the story of how his grandfather taught him to turn darkness into light in this uniquely personal and vibrantly illustrated tale that carries a message of peace.

How could he—a Gandhi—be so easy to anger?

One thick, hot day, Arun Gandhi travels with his family to Grandfather Gandhi’s village.

Silence fills the air—but peace feels far away for young Arun. When an older boy pushes him on the soccer field, his anger fills him in a way that surely a true Gandhi could never imagine. Can Arun ever live up to the Mahatma? Will he ever make his grandfather proud?

In this remarkable personal story, Arun Gandhi, with Bethany Hegedus, weaves a stunning portrait of the extraordinary man who taught him to live his life as light. Evan Turk brings the text to breathtaking life with his unique three-dimensional collage paintings. Publisher: Simon & Schuster

This is a true story told from the point of view of Gandhi’s 12 year old grandson Arun. Arun goes to the village of  ‘Sevagram’ to live with his grandfather, and is initially frustrated that his close family standing does not seem to bring him special favours or time with his grandfather. Arun is used to living in South Africa where Indians are still treated as second-class citizens and he is subsequently full of anger. His struggle to fit in with peaceful village life, learn the language and share his grandfather with Gandhi’s followers adds to his anger and resentment. He questions how he can be a Gandhi when he is not peaceful. When he asks for advice, Gandhi assures Arun that anger is normal and that even he Gandhi, (who is known for his peaceful co-existence and non-violent protest) sometimes feels anger too.

“Have I not told you how anger is like electricity?”

I shook my head.

“It is. Anger can strike like lightning and split a living tree in two, ” he said.

I saw myself on the soccer field, rock in hand ready to strike, I saw the movie cowboys and their guns.

“Or it can be channeled, transformed. A switch can be flipped, and it can shed light like a lamp.”

“Then anger can illuminate. It can turn the darkness into light,” Grandfather said.

The mixed media collage illustrations by Evan Turk are stunning and use the white cotton thread symbolic of the spinning that Gandhi and the village are known for. When Arun is angry swirling dark lines drawn or painted angrily, are mixed with black thread around his head and all over the page. The emotions erupt off the page.

It is wonderful!


Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014
The New York Public Library 100 Books for Reading and Sharing
The 2014 Non Fiction Picture Book Nerdy Award Winner
Chicago Public Library’s Best Informational Books for Younger Readers of 2014
Huffington Post’s “Best Picture Books of 2014″ Honorable Mention

Bibliographic details:

Grandfather Gandhi / Written by  Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk

Published by Athenaeum Books for Young Readers, 2014.

48 pages


Available to purchase from all good bookshops and to borrow from Auckland Libraries.

#365PictureBooks Day 6 – Star stuff : Carl Sagan and the mysteries of the cosmos

For every child who has ever looked up at the stars and asked, “What are they?” comes the story of a curious boy who never stopped wondering: Carl Sagan.

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” – Carl Sagan

“When Carl Sagan was a young boy he went to the 1939 World’s Fair and his life was changed forever. From that day on he never stopped marveling at the universe and seeking to understand it better. Star Stuff follows Carl from his days star gazing from the bedroom window of his Brooklyn apartment, through his love of speculative science fiction novels, to his work as an internationally renowned scientist who worked on the Voyager missions exploring the farthest reaches of space. This book introduces the beloved man who brought the mystery of the cosmos into homes across America to a new generation of dreamers and star gazers. “[Publisher website].

 I recently borrowed this from Auckland Libraries,  but it’s firmly on my list for purchase as soon as I return to school.  I’m going to use it in any unit of inquiry where we are looking at innovation and curiosity. This will be especially valuable for our Year 3  PYP Where we are in place and time unit of inquiry, with the central idea “Exploration and discovery leads to new understandings and opportunities” where the focus of the inquiry is on space exploration.

I’m going to shelve this with the biographies related to astronomy and space at 520.92 SAG. This is the same spot where students can find books about Galileo and right with all the really popular material on space and astronomy. The 520s are an area I’m currently trying to simplify within Dewey.

When students need to look at biographies as a genre it is easy for them to find books about the person they are interested in by searching for them by name in our catalogue. All picture book biographies in our collection are tagged BIOGRAPHY and we consistently use a subject heading like Sagan, Carl – Biography. I have found that not having all the biographies at 920, but within their subject area, is far better for browsing kids and a result, the books get checked out more often (not just when students are looking at biographies – which may only be once a year).

Awards, accolades and starred reviews:

“Carl Sagan is best known for being a renowned expert on the cosmos, but he started out as just a curious kid fascinated with the night sky, and that’s where Sisson starts this picture-book biography.” – Booklist
“Sisson’s economical narrative and lighthearted illustrations convey Sagan’s regard for the power of imagination and his generous approach to knowledge. . . Both friendly and inspiring.” – KIRKUS, STARRED REVIEW
“Told in narrative format, this beautifully designed and illustrated picture book gives readers a glimpse into the childhood wonderings Sagan experienced as he looked at the night sky and imagined possibilities. . . A gorgeous, informative offering for biography and science collections.” – School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW and one of the SLJ Best Books for 2014
“A broader message about the role wonder plays in innovation resonates throughout this story.” – Publishers Weekly
Biographical details:

Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos / by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2014

40 pages.


NZ RRP: $35.50

Available for purchase from Wheelers or to borrow from Auckland Libraries.

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