Yoshi, Sea Turtle Genius

Yoshi, Sea Turtle Genius: A True Story About an Amazing Swimmer
by Lynne Cox
illustrated by Richard Jones
Penguin Random House, 2023
review copy from the public library

Lynne Cox is one of my sheroes. She herself is an amazing swimmer, breaking records for long-distance swimming in difficult water without a wetsuit — most notably, swimming to Antarctica! If SHE thinks Yoshi is an amazing swimmer, Yoshi must be an amazing swimmer.

Yoshi is a loggerhead turtle. She hatched on a beach in Australia, then survived and grew in the Indian Ocean for five years before being snagged by a fishing net off the coast of South Africa. She was rescued by a fisherman, then placed in an aquarium, where she lived for over 20 years. After conditioning and training, and with a tracker attached to her shell, Yoshi was released back into the wild as an adult loggerhead. She first swam north, up the coast of Africa, then she turned around and swam south and then east, all the way to Australia, mating along the way and laying her eggs on the very beach where she (likely) hatched herself.

Amazing, right? Plus, this book is beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated. It has just the right amount of text for a read aloud, and I can bet there will be passionate conversations about the consequences of pollution, the pros and cons of zoos and aquariums, and the absolute genius of Yoshi.

Poetry Friday: Reconsidering Read Aloud…Again…Still

Hard to believe that it’s been TWENTY years since my book, Reconsidering Read-Aloud was published! And here I am, still a teacher (kinda-sorta) and still thinking about the power of the books I choose for read aloud.

As the reading specialist for an after school program, I no longer have a classroom of the same-aged students every day all day long. No more chapter book read alouds that span weeks/months with conversations that evolve as our experience with the book deepens.

Now I have K-5 students in small groups or one-on-one for 15-20 minutes once a week. I try to make sure I see every child at least once every two weeks. My lesson plans are required to address information standards, literature standards, and functional skills/fluency standards. These constraints have changed the way I choose my core read alouds.

I’m still learning, but here are some successes I’ve had, and my thinking around my choices.

I have established a pre-reading ritual for each read aloud. First we look at the front and back covers to see if the image spans across both covers. If there is a dust jacket, we check to see if the dust jacket image and the cover image are the same. Next, we look at the endpapers and think about the reasons behind this design element.

WAIT AND SEE by Helen Frost was my main read aloud in October. This book is an informational text that I’m calling “lyrical nonfiction.” It has photographic endpapers which, in the beginning, show a preying mantis hanging upside down on a spikey leaf with a light background. At the end, there is a preying mantis upright on a rounder leaf with a dark background. The conversations about the reasons behind these choices of images were fantastic! (Day/night, light/dark, colors, shapes, position, etc.) The photo-illustrations also prompted lots of conversation both during and after reading. We didn’t read the back matter, but I pointed out to every group that it was there to satisfy any curiosity you might have for more facts.

AUTUMNBLINGS by Douglas Florian and HALLOWEEN ABC by Eve Merriam were my backup literature choices. (I’d forgotten how dark Merriam’s poems are, but luckily kids are kind of into spooky, so it was all good.)

Are you noticing the trend towards poetry? I figure poetry is one of the least represented genres in the classroom and so it will have the greatest representation in my work!

There were a couple of other books that made an appearance in October and November. I fell in love with CHESTER VAN CHIME WHO FORGOT HOW TO RHYME by Avery Monsen and tried it out with a variety of ages. Fourth and fifth graders had a ball with Chester. I was surprised that the younger students weren’t able to provide the missing rhymes. I filed that tidbit and will be doing some focused work on rhyming in the upcoming months. ON A GOLD BLOOMING DAY by Buffy Silverman was a great rhyming photographic book to pair with WAIT AND SEE. I waited until later in the fall to start working with my Kindergarteners. I wanted to meet them and read with them before I gave them their letter identification assessment, so I chose Z IS FOR MOOSE by Kelly Bingham. It has a different image on its dust jacket and its cover, and the story starts before the title page. It begins predictably, but then Moose causes chaos (which the Kinders loved!)

But the absolute best read aloud so far, the one that stood up to multiple readings with all ages, the one that kept surprising me all the way to the last reading, was 12 DAYS OF KINDNESS by Irene Latham. This book has everything! Cover and dust jacket are the same, but we had a chance to discuss the Big Idea that’s on the back of the book (“Kindness is a gift.”) The end papers are different illustrations and foreshadow the story that’s found in the illustrations, and the arc of that story (morning to night). The story begins in the illustrations before the title page. The text has repetition and rhyme and is cumulative. It can be sung to “The 12 Days of Christmas,” and I had one group of 3/4/5 girls who did just that! All the way through! So fun! Without being didactic, Irene Latham shows the reader that there are lots of small ways to be kind to those around us. There is much to discover about the way the illustrator (Junghwa Park) contrasts the new text on the left page of each spread and the cumulative text on the right page of each spread. The illustrations tell a story that doesn’t match the text, but rather extends the meaning of the text. There’s lots to infer about the characters in the illustration’s story, plus so many fun details! I didn’t notice the kisses in the last spread until one of the final readings! This is the book I’ll use as my gold standard in choosing all future read alouds!

Karen has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Karen Edmisten*.

Women’s History Gives Readers All Kinds of Role Models

by Alex Prud’homme
illustrations by Sarah Green
Calkins Creek, 2022
review copy provided by the publisher

“No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” Julia Child was tall and loud and eager to learn to be a good cook. She learned the importance of taking “time and care” in choosing the best ingredients (making friends with the butcher, baker, and cheese maker) and in creating her dishes. Most of all, she encouraged her students, her TV fans, and her cookbook readers to have fun! What a great role model! For more images and quotes, see this review at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

by Suzanne Slade
illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
Calkins Creek, 2022
review copy provided by the publisher

Although she didn’t start school until she was eight, Mary fell in love with science first, and chemistry later. She broke through gender barriers to get a job at North American Aviation developing rocket fuels. She was given the job of developing the fuel that would take a rocket into space. After several failures, she succeeded, and the rest is history! Mary Sherman Morgan is a role model for following your passion.

by Kate Hannigan
illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
Calkins Creek, 2022
review copy provided by the publisher

Did you watch the recent PBS version of AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS? I was fascinated by their remake of Jules Verne’s story, and even more fascinated by the real-life story of two very different woman journalists, one outgoing and bold (Nellie Bly) and one quiet and reserved (Elizabeth Bisland) who raced to make it around the globe in just seventy-five days. Both had grand adventures and broke all kinds of stereotypes about what women could and should do.

by Beth Anderson
illustrated by Susan Reagan
Calkins Creek, 2022
review copy provided by the publisher

The men of Pepperell, MA took big actions in the fight for independence, but Prudence led the women of Pepperell in small actions that formed “a pattern of rebellion:” burning British tea and making their own with local herbs, spinning their own cloth rather than depending on British cloth, using maple syrup instead of British sugar. “Prudence could live with inconvenience and additional work. But she couldn’t live with unjust laws and stolen rights.” A role model attitude for our times. Prudence even rallied the women to catch a Tory spy crossing the bridge that led into Pepperell.

by Claudia Friddell
illustrated by Christopher Cyr
Calkins Creek, 2022
review copy provided by the publisher

This innovative biography in verse blends Clara Barton’s words with the words of the author. We’ve heard her called “The Angel of the Battlefield,” but this biography brings Barton’s heroic actions to life. This book would be a good one to pair with images of all of the aid organizations currently working on the ground in Ukraine and those helping refugees in Poland and elsewhere across Europe. Clara Barton is a role model for compassion and determination.

Franki’s Weekly Text Set: Nonfiction for Our Youngest Readers

Texts for this Text Set have been posted daily on Instagram. 

Follow @TextSets there to get daily updates!

Often, nonfiction is written with older elementary students in mind. This week, we take a look at a set of nonfiction that is perfect for younger readers. These books are actually perfect for all ages and they would be great writing mentors for middle grade writers. When we think about having enough quality nonfiction for our youngest readers, we want books that not only appeal to them, but books that meet their developmental and reading needs. These books do just that!

Love this new nonfiction guide for young readers-How to Say Hello to a Worm. There is so much content packed into this book but the question/answer format that is embedded in a narrative works well to share the information. The illustrations are bright and I love that the questions and answers are in different color font. This is a great feature that young readers will notice and just enough to begin thinking about the visual set up of some nonfiction texts.

I doubt that The Thing About Bees is officially nonfiction but it has enough nonfiction elements that I include it here. The subtitle “A Love Letter” lets readers know that this is a type of tribute to Bees. And the poetic language makes it a perfect read aloud. The way the information is embedded along with bigger themes is brilliant and there are so many access points for all readers.

Animals are often a top of interest for young readers and these two books are perfect. Animals!: Here We Grow! is filled with incredible photographs showing how animals change and grow. The combination of text and visuals make this one perfect for young readers. And in Steve Jenkins’ and Robin Page’s Who Am I? readers can guess the animal described based on the informational clues. (Another great mentor for older writers too!).

Lift, Mix, Fling! Machines Can Do Anything an engaging introduction to simple machines for young learners. There is so much on every page and key vocabulary is embedded into rhyming text. This makes for a great read aloud and there is also lots to explore in the illustrations on each page.

I discovered This Pup Steps Up and This Cat Loves That on Bookelicious and they are great fun. They are both filled with rhyming text and incredible pictures. The dog book focuses on all that dogs can do and the cat book focuses more on the things cats like and don’t like. Readers will learn a lot while they enjoy so many adorable pictures of dogs and cats. What could be better!

This week’s books were linked at Bookelicious. If you don’t know Bookelicious, check it out today. It is an online independent children’s bookstore with an incredible selection of children’s books and many supports for young readers. Lots of great free events for teachers coming up that you can check out and register here

Follow @TextSets on Instagram for daily books/weekly text sets!


This morning, Mary Ann Cappiello, Professor of Language and Literacy at Lesley University, and Xenia Hadjioannou, Associate Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the Harrisburg campus of Penn State University, sent the letter below to The New York Times requesting that the paper add three children’s nonfiction bestseller lists to parallel the existing picture book, middle grade, and young adult lists, which focus on fiction.

This change will align the children’s lists with the adult bestseller lists, which separate nonfiction and fiction. It will also acknowledge the incredible vibrancy of children’s nonfiction available today and support the substantial body of research showing that many children prefer nonfiction and still others enjoy fiction and nonfiction equally.

We support this request and have added our names to the list. We agree that spotlighting bestsellers in children’s and young adult nonfiction will help to showcase some of the best books in children’s literature and acknowledge that not all child readers are fiction readers.

If you support this request, please follow the signature collection form link to add your name and affiliation to the more than 200 educators and librarians who have already endorsed the effort. Your information will be added to the letter but your email address will remain private.


Nonfiction books for young people are in a golden age of creativity, information-sharing, and reader-appeal. But the genre suffers from an image problem and an awareness problem. The New York Times can play a role in changing that by adding a set of Nonfiction Best Seller lists for young people: one for picture books, one for middle grade literature, and one for young adult literature.  

Today’s nonfiction authors and illustrators are depicting marginalized and minority communities throughout history and in our current moment. They are sharing scientific phenomena and cutting-edge discoveries. They are bearing witness to how art forms shift and transform, and illuminating historical documents and artifacts long ignored. Some of these book creators are themselves scientists or historians, journalists or jurists, athletes or artists, models of active learning and agency for young people passionate about specific topics and subject areas. Today’s nonfiction continues to push boundaries in form and function. These innovative titles engage, inform, and inspire readers from birth to high school.  

Babies delight in board books that offer them photographs of other babies’ faces. Toddlers and preschoolers fascinated by the world around them pore over books about insects, animals, and the seasons. Children, tweens, and teens are hungry for titles about real people that look like them and share their religion, cultural background, or geographical location, and they devour books about people living different lives at different times and in different places. Info-loving kids are captivated by fact books and field guides that fuel their passions. Young tinkerers, inventors, and creators seek out how-to books that guide them in making meals, building models, knitting garments, and more. Numerous studies have described such readers and their passionate interest in nonfiction (Jobe & Dayton-Sakari, 2002; Moss and Hendershot, 2002; Mohr, 2006). Young people are naturally curious about their world. When they are allowed to follow their passions and explore what interests them, it bolsters their overall wellbeing. And the more young people read, the more they grow as readers, writers, and critical thinkers (Allington & McGill-Franzen, 2021; Van Bergen et al., 2021).

Research provides clear evidence that many children prefer nonfiction for their independent reading, and many more select it to pursue information about their particular interests (Doiron, 2003; Repaskey et al., 2017; Robertson & Reese, 2017; Kotaman & Tekin, 2017). Creative and engaging nonfiction titles can also enhance and support science, social studies, and language arts curricula. And yet, all too often, children, parents, and teachers do not know about recently published nonfiction books. Bookstores generally have only a few shelves devoted to the genre. And classroom and school library book collections remain dominated by fiction. If families, caregivers, and educators were aware of the high-quality nonfiction that is published for children every year, the reading lives of children and their educational experiences could be significantly enriched.

How can The New York Times help resolve the gap between readers’ yearning for engaging nonfiction, on the one hand, and their lack of knowledge of its existence, on the other? By maintaining separate fiction and nonfiction best seller lists for young readers just as the Book Review does for adults.

The New York Times Best Sellers lists constitute a vital cultural touchstone, capturing the interests of readers and trends in the publishing world. Since their debut in October of 1931, these lists have evolved to reflect changing trends in publishing and to better inform the public about readers’ habits. We value the addition of the multi-format Children’s Best Seller list in July 2000 and subsequent lists organized by format in October 2004. Though the primary purpose of these lists is to inform, they undeniably play an important role in shaping what publishers publish and what children read.

Adding children’s nonfiction best-seller lists would:

  • Help family members, caregivers, and educators identify worthy nonfiction titles.
  • Provide a resource for bibliophiles—including book-loving children—of materials that satisfy their curiosity.
  • Influence publishers’ decision-making.
  • Inform the public about innovative ways to convey information and ideas through words and images.
  • Inspire schools and public libraries to showcase nonfiction, broadening its appeal and deepening respect for truth.

We, the undersigned, strongly believe that by adding a set of nonfiction best-seller lists for young people, The New York Times can help ensure that more children, tweens, and teens have access to books they love. Thank you for considering our request.

Dr. Mary Ann Cappiello 

Professor, Language and Literacy

Graduate School of Education, Lesley University

Cambridge, Massachusetts 

Former Chair, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Committee 

Dr. Xenia Hadjioannou

Associate Professor, Language and Literacy Education

Penn State University, Harrisburg Campus

Harrisburg, PA

Vice President of the Children’s Literature Assembly (CLA) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). 


Allington, R. L., & McGill-Franzen, A. M. (2021). Reading volume and reading achievement: A review of recent research. Reading Research Quarterly56(S1), S231–S238. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.404

Correia, M. (2011). Fiction vs. informational texts: Which will your kindergarteners choose? Young Children, 66(6), 100-104.

Doiron, R. (2003). Boy Books, Girl Books: Should We Re-organize our School Library Collections? Teacher Librarian, 14-16.

Kotaman H. & Tekin A.K. (2017). Informational and fictional books: young children’s book preferences and teachers’ perspectives. Early Child Development and Care, 187(3-4), 600-614, DOI: 10.1080/03004430.2016.1236092

Jobe, R., & Dayton-Sakari, M. (2002). Infokids: How to use nonfiction to turn reluctant readers into enthusiastic learners. Markham, Ontario, Canada: Pembroke.

Mohr, K. A. J. (2006). Children’s choices for recreational reading: A three-part investigation of selection preferences, rationales, and processes. Journal of Literacy Research, 38(1), 81–104. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15548430jlr3801_4

Moss, B. &  Hendershot, J. (2002). Exploring sixth graders’ selection of nonfiction trade books: when students are given the opportunity to select nonfiction books, motivation for reading improves. The Reading Teacher, vol. 56 (1), 6+.

Repaskey, L., Schumm, J. & Johnson, J. (2017). First and fourth grade boys’ and girls’ preferences for and perceptions about narrative and expository text. Reading Psychology, 38, 808-847.

Robertson, Sarah-Jane L. & Reese, Elaine. (Mar 2017). The very hungry caterpillar turned into a butterfly: Children’s and parents’ enjoyment of different book genres. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 17(1), 3-25.

Van Bergen, E., Vasalampi, K., & Torppa, M. (2021). How are practice and performance related? Development of reading from age 5 to 15. Reading Research Quarterly56(3), 415–434. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.309

If you support the request to add three children’s nonfiction bestseller lists to parallel the existing lists, which focus on fiction, please add your name and affiliation to the signature collection form

Franki’s Weekly Text Set–Talking Bubbles in Informational Books

Texts for this Text Set have been posted daily on Instagram. 

Follow @TextSets there to get daily updates!

Young writers love to use talking bubbles and to play around with humor and graphics in their writing. But there are a lot of craft moves that go along with doing that well. Young readers love informational books with humor and lots of text features but the format often makes it challenging to navigate without some instruction and practice. A focus on talking bubbles in informational text will help students focus in on a few ways talking bubbles can be used and how they enhance the book. By focusing in on this one small way talking bubbles are used effectively, readers and writers will approach them in new ways. This is a great mini-unit to do before winter break as it is focused and short but will also carry into other units later because of the close study of something so specific. And I am thinking most of these books are more in the category of informational than true nonfiction although the field of nonfiction is changing a bit.

There is so. much to learn about as readers and writers from this series. The format of the pages are filled with various text and features and navigating the page takes some intentionality. In The Truth About Bears, talking bubbles are used for both sharing important information AND to add side comments as humor. The author embeds both of these types of talking bubbles throughout the text. So you can’t ignore the talking bubbles and still get all of the information in the book. So much of the new information is being told to us by the animals themselves.

Arlo and Pips: King of the Birds is a great model for sharing information embedded in story. This entire story is told through a conversation between two birds. There is text other than talking bubbles but the dialogue tells most of the story with information embedded throughout. Sometimes the information is shared by one of the characters. At other times, we enjoy a story and realize we learned something about crows from the story. Lots of great craft moves in this one!

This is a favorite series for readers K-5. Such a fun way to share information. In each of these books, we get to know a bug or animal. We are introduced through text but the creature (The Cockroach in this example) interacts with us, the reader, thorough dialogue. It is a fun way to use dialogue and talking bubbles and this book makes this craft move visible for young writers so they can try it in their own writing. Since this is the 2nd book/series they will look at by author Elise Gravel, comparing what she does with dialogue would also be interesting.

There is a lot to study in Except Antarctica! The narrative is told through regular narrative and dialogue (and the talking bubbles are not actually in bubbles but talking is designated by a specific font which makes for a good discussion). The author uses these in a way to enhance the story, to give the characters personality. But not a lot of information happens in the dialogue–most happens in the main text. The humor is well done in this and children hoping to try humor can learn a lot from how this is done.

If you don’t know Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard, it is one that reader could spend hours with. There is so much information packed into this gem of a book and each page is worth study. I like this one because talking bubbles are used for so many reasons and in so many ways. Creating a chart of the ways and reasons the writer embedded talking bubbles and how each impacts the reading would be a great study. Then writers can decide if any of these ways make sense for their own writing. The combination of humans and birds that talk in this books is also worth exploring.

This week’s books were linked at Bookelicious and/or  Cover to Cover Children’s Bookstore. If you are looking for a fabulous local children’s bookstore to support, Cover to Cover is an amazing one. We are lucky to have them in Central Ohio! If you don’t have an independent children’s bookstore in your town, check out Bookelicious. They are an online independent bookstore for children with an incredible curated collection. 

Franki’s Weekly Text Set–Nonfiction Picture Book Series for Elementary Readers

Texts for this Text Set have been posted daily on Instagram.

Follow @TextSets there to get daily updates!

Many of us can remember favorite series books from childhood–those books we read nonstop, those books that were so important on our journeys to becoming lifelong readers. We know how important series books are for young readers and that is true for both fiction and nonfiction. I remember when I read my first Scientists in the Field series as a teacher. I loved it so much that I read others that were not even on topics I thought I was interested in. During the last several years, having baskets of nonfiction series books was important for classroom library set up.

If we want our students to choose to read nonfiction, we have to invite them in in a variety of ways. Series books invited children into nonfiction reading by giving them a collection that could expand the topics they read and support them as readers as they knew what to expect from the next book in the series. They build different skills as different series require different skills as readers. Nonfiction series books are a great invitation for readers to read more nonfiction, to expand topics they love, to get to know nonfiction authors and to build strategies as nonfiction readers. This week’s text set will highlight some series books I’ve found to be popular with elementary readers in grades K-5. These books are perfect for all ages as there are several entry points depending on the reader.

Suzi Eszterhas is one of my favorite nonfiction authors. She is a wildlife photographer so the photos in every one of her books are incredible and they engage readers immediately. This series–Eye on the Wild–focuses on the first year in a baby animal’s life. Suzi Eszterhas has other books and series (Wildlife Rescue)–all about animals– so this series is a great way to introduce this incredible author.

Two other authors who have several nonfiction series books for young readers are Melissa Stewart and Kate Messner. A Place for Birds and Over and Under are two series that have so much interesting content. I love these because understanding of the bigger science concepts build across the series. So the more children read in the series, the better they understand the bigger, complex concepts of our environment.

The Truth About series is a fun series with lots of entry points. There is a lot of content packed into a fun format and readers enjoy the humor throughout. We are lucky to have so many great series books about animals as so many children are interested in animals. Reading across a series or finding a variety of books about a single animals support young readers and there are plenty of options for laddering their reading (Thanks Dr. Teri Lesesne for teaching us about Reading Ladders!).

The If Animals Disappeared Series is a powerful one in helping children (and adults) understand the interconnectedness of our world. These books are packed with information and also make for great read alouds. The author makes a very complex issue accessible for our youngest children.

Jess Keating is definitely an author that knows how to engage young readers. Her photos, her sense of humor and her expert knowledge of the topics she writes about make every one of her books a must-read. Jess Keating has two nonfiction series books that engage readers of all ages. Big as a Giant Snail and Set Your Alarm, Sloth! are both new this fall so celebrating these book birthdays would be a great way to introduce the series.

This week’s books were linked at Bookelicious and/or  Cover to Cover Children’s Bookstore. If you are looking for a fabulous local children’s bookstore to support, Cover to Cover is an amazing one. We are lucky to have them in Central Ohio! If you don’t have an independent children’s bookstore in your town, check out Bookelicious. They are an online independent bookstore for children with an incredible curated collection. (Warning: You will want to create a bookmoji while you are there. This will be the highlight of your weekend I’m sure! Below is one of mine:-)