Friday, January 13, 2017

My Favorite Social Studies Book of 2016

Oh how I wish I had read Lincoln and Kennedy: A Pair to Compare by Gene Barretta before I published my Mock Sibert list in early December. But for some reason, I didn’t discover this book until my Christmas reading binge.

Still, it’s easily my favorite social studies book of the year. Why? Let’s digress a bit.

Have you ever noticed that when it comes to trade children’s books about history and social studies, picture book biographies are pretty much the only game in town? Why is that?

I don’t have an answer, but I think it’s an important question for us to think about because while picture book biographies appeal strongly to some readers, other readers aren’t so keen on them.

Picture book biographies have a narrative writing style and generally try to establish an emotional connection between the reader and the subject of the book. But some young readers prefer books that focus on data, facts, ideas, information. These concrete, analytical thinkers—budding scientists, engineers, mathematicians, computer programmers, accountants, electricians, and plumbers—enjoy reading engaging expository nonfiction with clear main ideas and supporting details. They get excited about patterns, analogies, concepts, comparisons, and calculations. As they read, their goal is to use the information they gather to learn about the world and its possibilities and their place in it.

Lincoln and Kennedy: A Pair to Compare by Gene Barretta is my favorite social studies title of 2016 because it’s perfectly constructed to appeal to analytical thinkers. It has dynamic, appealing art and an engaging expository writing style. It also features a strong, clear compare and contrast text structure, repeated references to fun, surprising patterns, and an ending that connects to readers by introducing the term “legacy” and asking readers to think about how they plan to exist in the world.

Well done, Mr. Barretta.

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