Last year, my class put together a Symbaloo page highlighting all of our favorite authors. It was a fun project as we reflected on authors we loved. We wanted to organize the page to make it easier to navigate, so we started to put nonfiction authors on one side with fiction authors on the other side. The fiction side of the Symbaloo page filled up before we had many authors at all on the nonfiction side.
The creation of the Symbaloo page helped me realize a huge gap in my teaching of nonfiction. Not only did we as a class have very few nonfiction authors we loved, but I personally couldn’t think of any names to add to our list. Sure, I liked lots of nonfiction books, but I never paid much attention to the authors of nonfiction.
For many of us, thinking about nonfiction authors is not as natural as thinking about fiction authors. Because of the way nonfiction libraries have traditionally been organized by topic, it is hard to find all the books by a single nonfiction author. And many nonfiction authors do not illustrate their own books, so picture books by a single author look different from others they may have written.
I have been focused recently on looking at and paying attention to nonfiction authors. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many new favorite nonfiction authors I have. Because I love the process of writing, I’ve also realized the power of knowing nonfiction authors goes far beyond enjoying the books. Most nonfiction authors have interesting research processes that they share on their websites. Not only can knowing nonfiction authors support my students as readers, but knowing authors is also important for their writing and research lives.
I’ve found some new favorite authors who write engaging books for intermediate and middle grade readers on topics they enjoy. These authors craft beautiful nonfiction that not only shares good information, but does so in beautifully crafted writing.
Bruce Goldstone is an author whose work focuses on mostly math and concept books. His use of incredible photography sets is a unique way to make concepts like probability and estimation accessible to readers. The embedded vocabulary is introduced in a way that helps readers make sense of new words.
Jason Chin is an author whose nonfiction writing includes lovely prose. Chin is brilliant in sharing complex concepts in a narrative form using brilliantly crafted leads and amazing language throughout. Students are often surprised and delighted to find that these books are informational, as they read like some of the best fiction.
Steve Jenkins organizes his books around engaging topics in truly unique ways, with beautiful illustrations.
Irene Kelly is another author writing about nature in unexpected ways. Her books often follow a similar pattern and describe things in fun prose.
Nic Bishop uses stunning photographs that are part of his research. Readers are drawn to the close-up photos he takes in nature. His words are equally striking as he shares information about the creatures he photographs.
Gene Barretta is both an author and illustrator. The ways in which he organizes his inventor biography books are thoughtful and draw readers in. Barretta weaves facts together to create a full portrait of his subject. His illustrations are fun and engaging.
I recently discovered Sandra Markle, and love the way she puts sentences together. Most of Markle’s work is about animals, and she has her own series, Animal Predators, which is a popular one in my classroom.
Nicola Davies is one of those authors who has different illustrators work with her. Once I realized how much I loved her work, I was thrilled to find that I already owned more of her books than I realized. Davies writes on a variety of topics in unusual ways that connect with students.