Most Tuesday mornings will find us at the library for storytime.
In the realm of storytimes, I think the ones at our library are pretty standard: we listen to a few books, we sing and dance to a few songs, we color a picture at the end. On lucky days, the parachute comes out.
My boys (especially Bradley) love it. And I love it too because I almost always come away with a new book or two I want to take a closer look at.
This last Tuesday was all about frogs and the color green. Annie (the librarian), asked, "What color are frogs?" Many of the kids (including Bradley) called out, "Green!" Then she asked, "Can frogs only be green?" The kids were quiet as they thought about the answer.
Annie pulled out the book Frogs and said, "I want to show you a few pictures in this book." And then, almost as an aside for just the parents, she said, "I love the books by Nic Bishop. They're always full of these great closeup shots of animals." She proceeded to page through and show a few of the frogs in the book (which were, I'll admit, impressive). She then closed the book and launched into a rousing rendition of The Wide-Mouthed Frog.
But I was still stuck back on Nic Bishop's books. I am always on the lookout for interesting nonfiction for my kids, and this was an author I'd never heard of.
After storytime, I looked up the call numbers and found a couple of his books on the shelves. (That alone shows how desperately I wanted them because usually I just reserve what I want so I can pick it all up in one place and not have to go in search of a book when I'm trying to keep an eye on my crazy kids. But I knew these were just the kind of books my kids would love, and I didn't want to forget about them after I got home.)
We checked out both Frogs and Lizards. Even though we'd seen a few of the photographs from Frogs during storytime, we hadn't heard any of the text, and it was fascinating . . . detailed and interesting without being overly wordy or laborious. Did you know that a spadefoot toad can dig itself several feet underground? Or that "the skin of some dart frogs contains enough poison to kill ten people"? I didn't . . . until I read this book.
At the back of the book, Nic Bishop shares a little bit more about how he captured some of the photos. For example, there's this one incredible shot in the book of a frog leaping out of the water to snag a caterpillar. Nic tells about how he literally had to train the frog to basically jump on command in order to get that photograph. I really love a little behind-the-scenes info.
But really, the photographs are the crowning point of these books. Tiny poison dart frogs, vibrant red-eyed tree frogs, and big, billowy bull frogs. Each one as clear and breathtaking as if you were kneeling right beside it. My very favorite picture is of the glass tree frog. In real life, it is the size of a pea, and its skin is translucent, which means you can see each of its tiny organs. It's amazing to take the photo in the book and shrink it down in your mind to its real-life size, which is something so fragile and tiny and intricate it makes you gasp in awe.
Alas, there are only six books in this series (and I'm a bit fearful to check out the one on spiders--the larger-than-life photos might be a little too vivid for my liking). I wish there were dozens more. But a few of them have been converted into easy readers, which I'm anxious to check out for Maxwell. And besides his own books, Nic Bishop's photographs have also graced the pages of several other nonfiction works, including the Scientist in the Field series. (Aaron actually checked out one of them, The Snake Scientist, several months ago, and it was quite a bit more text-heavy than I like to read aloud in one sitting.)
Discovering Nic Bishop's books totally made my week. To think that they've been sitting on the library shelves all this time just waiting for us to come along and take them home! With all the time we spend at the library, it always kind of surprises me how many books we still haven't seen or heard of. There really is a never-ending supply of good books. And it gives me a little thrill every time I find a new one. What other amazing books are hidden in the stacks?
Do you have a favorite nonfiction picture book author? Please share!