Lessons From Nonfiction Author Visits

Vampires, fairies and wizards make wonderful subjects for stories, but what about horses that can spell, bodybuilders with awesome strength or simply quiet eggs? These last three are all from nonfiction books, and while textbook reading assignments are often received with bored eye rolls by kids, nonfiction books such as these delight as much as they inform.

Reading nonfiction books has a number of benefits for kids. lists a few, saying that reading nonfiction:

  • Develops information literacy, which helps kids solve problems and think analytically; work in groups and independently; locate, evaluate and use information
  • Builds vocabulary, especially learning and understanding content-related words
  • Increases interest in nonfiction topics by providing information in a more interesting way than textbooks
  • Often pulls in reluctant readers, especially boys.


And when reading nonfiction books in classrooms is coupled with a visit by the author, the subject matter is brought even more to life.

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness

For example, for when Donna Janell Bowman talks to students about her book STEP RIGHT UP: HOW DOC AND JIM KEY TAUGHT THE WORLD ABOUT KINDNESS, she illuminates the history of this Civil War-era story. Donna’s picture book biography tells the story of how a former slave, Doc Key, used kindness (and sugar) to teach his straggly horse Jim how to spell and do math, among other amazing tasks. Her book tells about the segregated society at that time, the Tennessee Centennial Exposition and the Confederate army. And in her school visits, Donna shows vintage photography of the real life people and animals in her book and expands on the books subject matter.

Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi StoryAnother picture book biography author, Bethany Hegedus, discusses the life and lessons of Gandhi in the school visits she does for her GRANDFATHER GANDHI and BE THE CHANGE: A GRANDFATHER GANDHI STORY. Young students learn about India in the time of Gandhi, his ideas about peace and how they relate to kids’ lives today.

A Rock Is LivelyDianna Hutts Aston teaches about nature in the school visits she presents in association with her series of books called AN EGG IS QUIET, A BEETLE IS SHY, A ROCK IS LIVELY, and others. She brings an extensive nature collection display to her presentations, which compliment STEM lessons.

The natural world is also discussed by Ammi-Joan Paquette in her “Is It Fact–Or Fiction?” author visit. Tied into her new TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE book series, the presentations cover wonders of the world as well as how to discern true facts from “fake news.”

Two Truths and a LieAmmi-Joan even blends the idea of fiction and nonfiction in a presentation for younger children. Inspired by her THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING FAIRIES, the author takes small groups of kids on an interactive nature walk where the learn about the world while spying for fairie hiding places. Events like these build children’s imaginations as they learn while being entertained.

When you’re looking to get your students hooked on the real world, look for authors whose visits are built around nonfiction books, helping children expand their learning.


Interview: Pablo Cartaya on Jobs, Manatees & Musicals

Pablo Cartaya
Pablo Cartaya

Middle-grade author Pablo Cartaya isn’t just one thing: He’s an author, speaker, educator and actor. And in our interview, we discovered he’s got plenty of other sides too.

Booking Biz: What does your average day look like?

Pablo: My average day consists of looking for manatees in Biscayne Bay while the Miami skyline gleams in the humid sun. My afternoons consist of hanging with my six-year-old Marine Biologist son and ten-year-old dancer, actor, director, writer, producer, choreographer, fashion designer, president daughter. Most days we’re at the library. Some days we’re eating ice cream. Everyday we’re being awesome. The rest of the time I’m writing. Unless I’m travelling. Then my day is totally different. But that will require a much longer answer. NOTE: None of this happens without my morning cup(s) of coffee.

Booking Biz: When you’re not writing, what do you like to do best?

Pablo: See above. Other than that, I love to travel and really dig going on adventures/vacations with my kids. I’m a sports buff so I like to play and watch basketball and soccer. I also love the theater. Like, I’m a secret musical theater nerd. So now it’s not a secret anymore. Les Miserables is prob my fav. “One day more!” (Pablo stands on chair waving the French flag from side to side for the duration of this question.)

Booking Biz: Where do you get the inspiration for your books?

The Epic Fail of Arturo ZamoraPablo: I think of character first. Then I focus on what that character is trying to tell me about his or her world. From there a story plays out and I go from being an observer of this character’s world to an active participant in discovering the events that shape that character’s worldview. In The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, I looked at a character that was deeply connected to his family, specifically his grandmother. His Abuela. From there I built a narrative that showed the deep connection he has for her and the fear he has of losing her. In Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish, Marcus isn’t defined by what he has but rather who he is. A brother. A son. A good kid (even though people don’t always see that). Ultimately, the characters that speak to me when I’m first putting pen to page inspire my stories.

Booking Biz: Did you always want to write books for children, or was there another career you wished for as a child?

Pablo: In Kindergarten I wanted to be president of the United States. In middle school I wanted to be a pediatric surgeon because I liked taking care of my brother when he was sick. I once tried to stitch his head when he got a laceration on his temple and, um, it did not go well. Throughout high school and college I found myself around the theater so I decided I would move to Los Angeles for college and become an actor. I was cast in plays and television shows and commercials. But I really didn’t love it. I had to change too much of my personality to fit what made me “sellable”. So after finishing college with a degree in English I decided to figure out what I really wanted to do in my life. After stints as a catering chef, busboy, server, bartender, general manager (not necessarily in that order), and many other jobs in and out of the food industry, I realized one constant: I was always writing stories. So I decided to go to graduate school to pursue one of the most secure jobs in the world. I decided to become a writer! 🙂

What I have learned is no matter what you set out to do–whether to be come president, a doctor, actor, or writer–do it with the full force of your determination and hard work. Go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning knowing what you want to do in this world. The journey then, no matter how hard or long, becomes totally worthwhile. There’s no point in doing something that doesn’t fulfill you in some meaningful way. Writing was the one thing I knew I could never live without. So I dove into it with every ounce of my soul.

Booking Biz: If you ruled the world, what would it look like?

Pablo: It would be a place where people could spontaneously burst into a musical number and anyone in the surrounding area would know the choreography and dance along with them. They wouldn’t mind because they’re singing and dancing together and that’s what happiness looks like. Conflicts would have deep resonant musical scores with the players walking towards each other singing angrily at one another but after the musical battle was over, they would hold hands and bow together knowing it’s just a musical theater battle and in the end they’re all just part of the same cast. There’s more I can say but I’ve got a manatee sighting and an ice cream date to attend. Thanks for the questions! Hasta luego, P 🙂

Booking Biz: All hail Jean Valjean!

Learn more about Pablo Cartaya on his speaker page.

Rainy Day Reading List

Ahh, fall. The weather will soon be turning colder. Heaters will come on. And rain and snow will keep us cuddling up inside. All we need is a mug of hot cocoa and a good book to read.

When the rain hits us at The Booking Biz, we like to curl up with the books we’ve read and loved, the stories we enjoy living in over and over again. We thought you might be looking for books like that as we move into the fall. Books with characters you want to hug and worlds you want to live in—even the harsh worlds because they help us find hope for our own.

Here are some of our favorite books from our clients. How many have you read? We recommend getting them all…because you never know when another rain storm will hit. Continue reading “Rainy Day Reading List”