How about reading non-fiction books that will surely inform and educate you for the new year?  These picture books are exhilarating, informative and enlightening.  They are good for all ages, unless otherwise indicated.

Nya’s Long Walk:  A Step at a Time, by Linda Sue Park, and perfectly painted with Brian Pinkey’s award winning style, is an encouraging story of persistence, determination and compassion.  But there’s another element displayed here:  appreciation of America and our modern conveniences.  Young Nya needs to get fresh water for her Sudanese family, and she takes her little sister, Akeer, with her.  The two-mile walk is something her entire village must do in order to obtain good water.  But when her sister becomes ill, Nya sees that this is serious.  Akeer is very hot and her cheeks are flushed.  Nya can’t leave her to seek help as the area is too desolate.  She decides to carry both Akeer and the water jug.  Both are very heavy.  But she determines to take these steps very slowly and sets an easy target to reach.  This story is uplifting and will surely help youngsters appreciate the conveniences we take for granted.  Also, be sure to check out the end of the book discussing the need for freshwater in Sudan.

Ruby’s Hope:  A Story of How the Famous “Migrant Mother” Photograph Became the Face of the Great Depression, by Monica Kulling, and gorgeously illustrated with graphite and colored digitally by Sarah Dvorjack, is ultimately the story of a family’s struggle to survive.  Seven-year-old Ruby and her family leave the barren Oklahoma farm to try and find work in California.  The year is 1929 and life has become unbearable for Ruby’s family.  The earth-tone pictures display the difficulty to grow anything during this time in the Midwest.  There is much to glean from this story – especially the grave difficulty for these migrant families to find work anywhere during one of the most difficult times in American history.  The famous photograph of a migrant farm worker, and three of her children, along with information pertaining to the picture, is found at the back of the book.

Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician, by Les Cline-Ransome, and brightly painted with watercolors, Prismacolor and lithograph pencils on Arches paper by Raul Colon, must be one of the best biographies of this brilliant woman.  Instead of dwelling on segregation or lack of women’s rights (which prevailed during this period of Katherine’s time working at NASA) this book dwells on this brilliant woman’s drive, persistence and intelligence.  Her great competence in solving mathematics problems that included calculus, algebra and trigonometry, brought the attention of her math professor.  She went on to become one of the first women to help figure out the complexities of orbiting earth.  This book is an inspiration to all!  Be sure to check out more information found at the back of the book.

Lena’s Slippers, by Ioana Hobai, is a story about taking a problematic situation and solving it with creativity. The author based this story on her own life of growing up in Romania where the climate was rigid and harsh in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Life is difficult and there isn’t much opportunity with a recessed economy. Young Lena has a much anticipated dance recital coming up.  But she is commanded to wear white slippers which she has outgrown.  Standing in long lines is something all Romanians are used to doing when they need food or other items.  But as Lena gets to the front of the line to obtain the much-needed white slippers, they are sold out.  However, her inventiveness and ingenuity prevail.  The wonderful illustrations that depict this part of the world at the time of the story were done in ink, watercolor and acrylic.

Machines in Motion:  The Amazing History of Transportation, by Tom Jackson, and wonderfully drawn in black and white by Chris Mould, is actually a timeline to easily see and learn about each major transportation mode.  This over-sized book begins with an open-page overlook at trains.  You’ll find the timeline at the bottom with a brief description of trains beginning in the 1500’s.  The large illustrations are packed with much to learn about and pour over again and again.  The following two pages are an in-depth look at trains.  The entire book flows like this.  Other open-page types of transportation to learn about include ships, cars and bikes.  The book is very kid-friendly making it an enjoyable and edifying read.

Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Beasts!,by Mike Lowery, is the perfect book for budding paleontologists.  The author is well known for his comic-style drawings and he has filled this book with a topic that kids relish.  But don’t be put-off by this because he packs many facts on every page. The inventive way he has written the text makes learning enjoyable.  And the colorful drawings of these beasts are found on every page.  The author makes learning from this book much like reading an encyclopedia – but much more enjoyable.

What You Eat:  Pictures and Answers for the Curious Mind, by Valorie Fisher, is an exploration of the many kinds of food we enjoy and where it comes from.  There are many types of food illustrated here (all with bright and simple photography) and all are placed simply on each page making it easy and desirable for kids to want to pour over each page.  For example, on the page with a vanilla ice cream come, the ice cream and cone fill 2/3’s of the page. Below, there are depictions of what exactly goes into this ice cream and cone.  Other components include maple syrup, chocolate and dill pickles.