Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge – Finding a Nonfiction Author We Love – Melissa Stewart

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We simply can’t say enough about Melissa Stewart’s nonfiction texts. The engaging topics, varying levels of text difficulty, and interesting structures make her books staples in so many K-5 classrooms. She is also a local author for all of us in Massachusetts – what an incredible combination!

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No Monkeys, No Chocolate is Melissa Stewart’s newest nonfiction book. In order to write a text that explains the intricate system of growing cocoa trees in tropical rain forests, Melissa collaborated with Allen Young, the curator emeritus of zoology at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

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We can’t wait to use this book as a mentor text in grades 3-5 during an informational writing unit of study. The way Melissa Stewart structured this text will help young writers answer two important questions as they craft their own informational books:

  • What are the main ideas I want my readers to understand? – “So What”
  • What do I want readers to do after reading my writing? – “Now What”

The “So What” or main ideas in a text convey why the facts are important. It helps readers connect with the information and understand why they should care about the topic. Once we read No Monkeys, No Chocolate aloud, many students will easily know why they should care about this topic.   Then, as nonfiction writers, they can study this text and notice how Melissa Stewart organizes the information so that the main ideas are clear to the reader.  Look at the way the headings are written. The headings are sentences that stretch across the pages:

 Cocoa flowers can’t bloom without cocoa leaves…

 

and maggots.

 

Cocoa Leaves can’t survive without cocoa stems…

 

and lizards.

The layout of these headings shows the interdependence of the fragile ecosystem in the tropical rain forest and help readers understand the main ideas of the text.   As students read, they will also notice how the information builds from one page to the next. Each piece of information adds to the reader’s understanding of how one living organism depends on another. Young writers can study this structure to learn new ways to organize their writing to emphasize their main ideas.

The “Now What” is how a nonfiction writer tells readers how the facts impact us today and what they can do to make a difference.  Students will immediately notice how this book urges readers to help save the rain forests. At the end of the text, there is an entire page listing what people can do to help. Writers can see how creating a text and adding ways people can impact the problem brings a deeper purpose for writing an informational book.

Don’t miss Melissa Stewart’s author’s note at the end of this book.   She actually explains how she also uses books as “mentor texts.”   Melissa Stewart describes how she wanted to structure the text after the “House that Jack Built.” It is a powerful message for our writers to see that “real authors” get ideas from other authors too. We also love that she shares how the idea for incorporating two bookworms into the book came when she was talking to her nieces about the Muppets.

If you are looking for other powerful nonfiction mentor texts, check out our Pinterest Board: Mentor Texts for Nonfiction Text Structures

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Katie @ The Logonauts March 25, 2015

    Great book and great author! Love that she shares about her own writing and mentor text process, what a gift to share with readers!

    Reply
  2. Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) March 26, 2015

    How can you not love Melissa Stewart?! And I’ve only read a few of her titles–I must read more! Feathers was one of my favorite NF PB from last year. A phenomenal title.

    Reply
  3. Michele Knott March 26, 2015

    What amazes me is the variety in her books. She spans so many topics, but also the text format changes in her books! Such talent 🙂

    Reply

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