Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Reading Longer Nonfiction Part 3 - 10.19.16

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog is to give educational professionals
new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

The nonfiction material that is being published is absolutely amazing.  Authors are covering fascinating topics and writing with such voice that even readers who formerly despise nonfiction are coming over to the "enlightened" side!  From picture books to longer chapter books.  From graphic novels to interactive books.  Such wonderful material!  

During the month of October, I'm going to spotlight some longer nonfiction.  Just like their picture book counterparts, authors of longer nonfiction books are putting an amazing amount of detail and engaging stories into their texts.  Each week I'll share a quick summary, along with tips on how to use it if you're not reading the text cover to cover.

Part 1: Some Writer! and Super Gear
Part 2:  Watch Out for Flying Kids

Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West
Presenting Buffalo Bill:
The Man Who Invented the Wild West
by Candace Fleming
published by Roaring Brook Press

This week is a very different book - a more traditional biography, but it's told by Candace Fleming and I'm pretty sure I would never use the word tradition with Candace's writing!

This book she turns her attention to William Cody, better known in history as Buffalo Bill.  When thinking about Buffalo Bill, one usually thinks of his Wild West show.  His wild stories of growing up on the plains, exploring the wild west, fighting off outlaws and Indians.  What I love about Candace's writing is she doesn't just explore the facts, she explores the myth and reminds us that just because we're reading nonfiction, does not mean we need to take it at face value.

Let's pretend you have readers that don't want to go from cover to cover with this book.   Silly, I know.  It's Candace Fleming.  How can you support those readers?  How can you show readers to take an extended biography like this and find points that they want to read and cover?  Try some of these ideas:
  • usually we can tell readers that biographies like these are written in chronological order - makes sense, right?  Readers may want to only read about certain parts of the life in the biography.  For Buffalo Bill, that may be his part in the Wild West show, or when he "rode" for the Pony Express.
  • Teach readers to use the index to search for needed information.  It could even be a way of searching for what they want to read.
  • Visual learners?  I have found more and more nonfiction writers including visual sources on the web for readers to check out.  Sometimes, getting a visual and some background information is helpful before readers tackle a longer text like this.
  • Something Kylene Beers and Bob Probst are talking about in their Nonfiction Notice and Note is questioning the text.  Too often readers take nonfiction at face value, but it's not always true.  Throughout the text, Fleming questions the authenticity of some of Bill's claims.  Great mentor text to show how an author questions sources and looks in multiple locations for sources.  If you want to closely examine this, just look for the sections titled "Panning for the Truth".
I hope students who pick up this biography and start looking at some of the sections get caught up in the story and decide to read it cover to cover.  Candace Fleming's writing may just make them do that!  If not, help students enjoy this book with some of the suggestions listed.

Goodreads summary:
Everyone knows the name of Buffalo Bill, but few these days know what he did or, in some cases, didn't do. Was he a Pony Express rider? Did he ride with Wild Bill Hickok? Did he "scalp" countless Native Americans, or did he defend their rights?

This, the first significant biography of Buffalo Bill Cody for younger readers in many years, explains it all. With copious archival illustrations and a handsome design, PRESENTING BUFFALO BILL makes the great showman—perhaps our first true global superstar—come alive for new generations.


  1. There are some things I know about Buffalo Bill; we even have a museum using his name nearby. I've been once but a long time ago. Maybe time to go again, and read this book first. I like that you're sharing ideas for approaching these longer books, Michele. It will be very helpful for teachers. Thanks!

  2. I loved your thoughts about ways to invite kids into an extended piece of nonfiction. I might add that in addition to the visual resources often included in the back, some kids may be drawn into the book by reading the pictures in the book (and their captions) instead of a first reading of the text.

  3. I love your teaching notes and suggestions, so helpful! Honestly I know very little about old Buffalo Bill, so this would be informative for me, too!