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Thanks to all who responded. I am not alone in this
thinking. Perhaps some publishers are reading this as
well and seeing some possibilities. Wouldn’t it be
wonderful to see a large number of top-notch primary
nonfiction, with photographic illustrations, on SLJ’s
Stars page in every issue!

Original Post:

This has been bothering me for some time and I would
be interested in your observations and opinions. I do
express this to a publisher whenever I get a chance,
but I don't see the change I would like to see.

My youngest male patrons (K-2) do love nonfiction as
we are all aware, but they really are not interested
in a large portion of the quality nonfiction on the
market because of the illustrations. My little boys
want photographs in their books and they rarely borrow
a book if it has "cute" illustrations. Please don't
get me wrong, I love many of those "cute"
illustrations, but my patrons don't and I must serve
them. I wish publishers were more in tune with their
intended audience. My boys love Seymour Simon's books
and others of that quality and there just aren't
enough books like that. I know we have several
wonderful authors who write nonfiction of very high
quality but my boys won't read the books no matter the
topic because it looks too "cute" to them. My teachers
use "cute illustrations" books and I will continue to
buy them, but not because my boys will read them. I've
tried all kinds of books talks, etc. to get the books
read, but with limited success. I don't feel that I am
serving my youngest boys well at all

Have you tried the Capstone books? My little guys like


I agree wholeheartedly. It's been a pet peeve of mine
for many years--especially when I was in an elementary
library. It's one reason I liked to preview nonfiction
books whenever possible--and I didn't mince words with
sales reps when I told them I couldn't choose certain
titles because they wouldn't get read because of the
illustrations. I don't know whether the reps were
unaware, or just feigning ignorance, but they all
sounded surprised.


I'm the mother of one of those 2nd grade boys who
wants "true stuff with photographs."  He's into
sharks, penguins, dinosaurs, amphibians, monster
trucks, motorcycles, etc......  I would have to agree
with you that it's not easy to find these kinds of
books, on a second grade level, but he actually has
found his elementary school library to be a wealth of
information in ways you would not expect.  Try the
Magic Tree
House books, for instance.  His librarian showed him
one and he was hooked.  He's read all of them and
eagerly awaits the release of the next one.  Let them
know there is a dinosaur or saber toothed tiger in it
and he's reading it.  Next, we did the Beverly Cleary
Mouse and the Motorcycle series.  The mouse rides a
toy motorcycle, that's all it takes.  Don't sell
yourself short, you have lots of materials for these


I've noticed the exact same thing - these beautifully
illustrated books getting passed over because they're
not photographs. I wondered if it was just me - guess


I agree. I have kids who won't touch a Gail Gibbons
book even if it's the ONLY polar bear or wolf or eagle
book left on the shelf, because it has illustrations
instead of photos.  I like the Pebble Books nonfiction
from Capstone Press for the beginning readers.  Good
illustrations and only a line or two per page.  I also
like an animal series called Pull Ahead Books, which
also has good photos.


Yes, I agree!  My K-2s don't want a car (or
motorcycle, shark etc) book with drawings, they want
photographs.  Especially since so many of the books we
have in these topics are not on their reading level
(another category I continue to search for). Sometimes
I think books are created for the adults buying them
instead of the children wanting to read them.


I find the same thing- the students really like the
computer-generated dinosaur 'pictures' as well.  Poor
Gail Gibbons, it's a good thing teachers like her
because the kids generally won't check her books out
at all!  Same with the Jim Arnosky books, most of the
kids aren't interested because of the illustrations
rather than photographs.

"Librarian. Genetically predisposed to answer questions and correct misconceptions 
- whether asked or not." 2 01 2007  blf

Barbara Fritz
Elementary Librarian
Bloomsburg Area School District
Bloomsburg PA

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