Best of 2015: Nonfiction Picture Books

In All, Books by Matthew Winner3 Comments

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The nonfiction picture books published this year were some of the best we’ve seen and, with such a strong year for children’s publishing, there’s no doubt there are more great nonfiction books from 2015 we haven’t read. Check out our favorites and let us know what we missed by leaving us a comment below.


Tricky Vic
by Greg Pizzoli

Stylish and smart and the most unusual book we’ve laid eyes on in a long time. A fascinating look at a con-man, an unusual picture book subject, but very welcome.


Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad

It’s a dance itself, this book, punctuated by the quiet rhythms of a ballerina herself. Truly a masterpiece of text and art.


Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear
by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Blackall’s always-amazing illustrations elevate this amazing true story of Winnie the Pooh, and will make you wish for a real bear of your very own. A book that begs to be reread.


In Mary’s Garden
by Tina Kugler and Carson Kugler

The Kuglers hit it out of the park on their first collaboration. This picture book biography of Mary Nohl encourages us to see art in the world around us.


Gingerbread for Liberty
by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

The true story of a German baker who may have helped win the American Revolution. The story is made richer by Kirsch’s gingerbread-reminiscent illustrations.


Night Animals
by Gianna Marino

A standout for 2015 in narrative nonfiction, this story has some nocturnal animals running scared…from themselves.


Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt
by By Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Life is teaming in and around the garden, from the time we prepare the soil to the autumn harvest and into the first frost. And this team behind Over and Under the Snow left no leaf unturned when it came to creating a beautiful work of nonfiction.


Growing Up Pedro
by Matt Tavares

This is a story about brothers and baseball and a love flowing between them. Before Pedro Martinez was the accomplished hall-of-famer we know his as today, he was a brother who shared a dream while pitching rocks at mangoes throughout his childhood growing up in the Dominican Republic.


Fab Four Friends
by Susanna Reich, illustrated by Adam Gustavson

A different look at the four men who would become the Beatles is offered up by taking a look at their childhood, who they were as school-age boys, and how figuring out chords and melodies on their instruments in their bedrooms made their humble starts not so different from kids today.


Luna & Me
by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Jenna Butterfly Hill lived in a redwood named Luna for two years in order to save its life and the life of the forest around her, vowing not to come down until Luna’s life was secure. And she didn’t… for two years.


Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed
by Leslaea Newman, illustrated by Amy June Bates

Moshe Cotel was a composer living in Baltimore who found a kitten while out on his walk and decided to take it home with him. What Ketzel offered Moshe’s music and the way Ketzel is remembered is quite an unusual and altogether heartwarming story.


Poet
by Don Tate

George Moses Horton was born a slave and taught himself how to read as a child from an old spelling book and a Wesley hymnal gifted to him by his mother. A love of poetry brought opportunity and wealth into Horton’s life, but his master refused to let him buy his freedom. Tate brings to life an story of determination and will in the life of an incredible man.


Best of 2015 Selections By:

Julie Falatko is the author of Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book), illustrated by Tim Miller (Viking Children’s Books, February 2016), The Society for Underrepresented Animals, illustrated by Charles Santoso (Viking Children’s Books, 2017), and Help Wanted: One Rooster (Viking Children’s Books, 2018). She lives with her family in Maine, where she finds stories hiding under rocks and perching in trees. You can find her at juliefalatko.com and on Twitter @JulieFalatko.


Carter Higgins is a librarian at an independent school in Los Angeles. She is the author of A Rambler Steals Home (HMH, 2016) and two forthcoming picture books from Chronicle Books. She is an Emmy-winning visual effects and motion graphics artist whose career has covered all the nooks and crannies of visual storytelling. She writes about picture books and graphic design at her blog, Design of the Picture Book, and you can find her on Twitter @carterhiggins.


Matthew Winner is an elementary library media specialist in Elkridge, Maryland. He is is the co-founder and content director of All The Wonders, a children’s literature website and more, and host of the Let’s Get Busy podcast, a weekly podcast where Matthew talks to authors, illustrators, award winners, up-and-comers, and everyone in between. In 2013 Matthew was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker and was invited to the White House as part of the Champions of Change program. For more information, connect with Matthew on Twitter at @MatthewWinner or online at AllTheWonders.com.

About the Author

Matthew Winner

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Matthew Winner is an elementary library media specialist in Elkridge, Maryland. He is is the co-founder and content director of All The Wonders, a children’s literature website and more, and host of the Let’s Get Busy podcast, a weekly podcast where Matthew talks to authors, illustrators, award winners, up-and-comers, and everyone in between. In 2013 Matthew was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker and was invited to the White House as part of the Champions of Change program. For more information, connect with Matthew on Twitter at @MatthewWinner .

Comments

  1. Really great list! I’d add Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras. Excellently picture book that combines Posada’s famous calavera art with Duncan Tonatiuh’s signature style. Also Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner. Great story about an important local hero and dynamic art by John Parra. And finally Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle and gorgeously illustrated by Rafael Lopez. Excellent biography. I review them all on my blog readitrealgood.com Happy Holidays!

  2. A great list you’ve assembled! I loved Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France, also by Mara Rockliff; and Funny Bones: Posada and his Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh, too.

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