One of my favorite reading challenges is Kid Lit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. Visit Alyson’s blog to join the fun and discover the incredible variety of nonfiction picture books.
Kathleen Krull’s new series, Women Who Broke the Rules, fills a much-needed book gap for the early chapter book set: entertaining nonfiction chapter books. I bought and quickly devoured the volumes on Judy Blume and Sonia Sotomayor, and I will definitely be buying the other books in the series.
The titles are a good preview of Krull’s tone: the Judy Blume biography is called Are You There, Reader? It’s Me, Judy! and the Sonia Sotomayor volume is called I’ll Be the Judge of That. Har har.
What I loved most about these two books is the firm focus on Blume’s and Sotomayor’s work lives. I think in biographies of women, even now, there is a tendency to focus on the life rather than the work. Krull gets the balance just right. Details of the life are used to illuminate the work. I especially enjoyed seeing the seeds of Blume’s and Sotomayor’s later careers and passions being sown in childhood.
As always, Krull has an eye for the telling detail and she’s not afraid to interpret and shape her narrative according to a strong thesis. She writes in a lively, conversational tone that I found very appealing and reader-friendly. These books are designed for newly independent readers to read to themselves, but they’d also make good readalouds.
For me, the test of a good nonfiction children’s book is that it sends me to the Internet or library or bookstore for more, and both of these books passed that test with flying colors. I’ve already put library holds on a couple of Blume books and Sotomayor’s autobiography.
The only caveat I have? The books do have bibliographies and indexes, but I wish more care had been taken to cite specific sources. There are many quotations in both books, and it bothered me not to be able to track where information was coming from.
To learn more about the series, be sure to read Kid Lit Frenzy’s interview with Kathleen Krull.