The material on this page compares expository writing from online sources and textbooks with literature written by the best nonfiction authors. Note that all books published for kids have been vetted for accuracy. What do you think that the impact would be on your kids? Which would you rather have them read? Did you know that there is scientific proof that good
writing is memorable?

From Wikipedia:

Bumblebee (also spelled as bumble bee) is any member of the bee genus Bombus, in the family Apidae. There are over 250 known species, existing primarily in the Northern Hemisphere although they are common in New Zealand and Tasmania.

Bumblebees are social insects that are characterised by black and yellow body hairs, often in bands. However, some species have orange or red on their bodies, or may be entirely black.[1] Another obvious (but not unique) characteristic is the soft nature of the hair (long, branched setae), called pile, that covers their entire body, making them appear and feel fuzzy. They are best distinguished from similarly large, fuzzy bees by the form of the female hind leg, which is modified to form a corbicula: a shiny concave surface that is bare, but surrounded by a fringe of hairs used to transport pollen (in similar bees, the hind leg is completely hairy, and pollen grains are wedged into the hairs for transport).

Like their relatives the honey bees, bumblebees feed on nectar and gather pollen to feed their young.

From The Bumblebee Queen, an illustrated picture book by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by scientific illustrator Patricia Wynne, Charlesbridge, 2005:

The bumblebee queen
begins the spring
below ground
and all alone
She digs out.
She flies.
Hungry, she seeks flowers.
She drinks nectar
with her long, hairy tongue.

Sidebar: Bumblebees are native to North America, South America, and Europe, and Asia. There are 250 bumblebee species..

What is different? The writing is more age-appropriate, the content more digestible, and the narrative brings you into imagining the natural history of the creature. All this makes it more memorable, more approachable, and more likely to lead to student inquiry and learning.

From Wikipedia

Jeannette Pickering Rankin (June 11, 1880 – May 18, 1973) was the first woman in the U.S. Congress. A Republican, she was elected statewide in 1916 and again in 1940. A lifelong pacifist, she voted against the entry of the United States into both World War I and World War II, the only member of Congress to vote against the latter. To date, she is the only woman to be elected to Congress from Montana.[1]

From Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer by Gretchen Woelfle

On January 15, 1968 five thousand women gathered at the train station in Washington, D.C. They called themselves the Jeannette Rankin Brigade: not a military unit, but an army of women dedicated to peace. Jeannette Rankin, eight-seven years old, marched in the front row through the streets to the Capitol Building, where Congress met. Though she looked rather small and frail, she remained the feisty girl who wasn’t afraid of an injured horse on her father’s ranch in Montana. She was still the bold young woman who dared to stand on a soapbox on a street corner, and explain why women should have the right to vote. She was the same Jeannette who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and vote against war in Congress. When someone asked her what made her so bold, she answered, “I don’t know. Just stubborn, I guess.”_

From The World Book, Vol.17, p. 528, 2007

“Certain snakes have special heat-sensitive pit organs. Pit vipers have two pit organs, one on each side of the head between the eye and nostril…Pit organs enable a snake to detect the exact location of a warm-blooded animal by the body heat it gives off. Thus, the snake can accurately direct its strike at a warm-blooded pretty even in the dark.”

From Susan E. Goodman’s Unseen Rainbows, Silent Songs: The World Beyond Human Senses:

When night is at its darkest, you would barely see your hand against the sky. In this gloom, some of the best animal hunters might miss their prey. But the rattlesnake will slither toward his mouse dinner as surely as he would in the light of day. Rattlesnakes, like all other members of the snake family called pit vipers, have an extra set of “eyes” that see only heat.

The snake’s picture of his prey is painted by the mouse’s body temperature. The mouse hides beneath fallen leaves, standing as still as her fear will let her. But it is hopeless. Her heart beats, beats, beats, pushing her temperature warmer than the summer night around her. Her frightened body glow, a target’s bull’s-eye, for when the snake decides to strike.

From SOUND: An Elementary Textbook for Schools and Colleges by

John Walton Capstick:


Nature of Sound

1. Meanings of the word Sound. The word Sound has two meanings in everyday life. When we say we hear a sound, we refer to the sensation. When we say that sound travels faster with the wind than against it, we refer to some physical phenomenon external to ourselves. The two meanings of the word rarely lead to ambiguity, and no attempt will be made to distinguish the two ideas by different expressions.

From: What is Sound? Nasa SCIence Files

Sounds are all around us . . . cars honking, phones ringing, friends talking, and dogs barking are all sounds you are probably familiar with. So, what is sound?

To understand sound, you first need to understand matter. Everything is made up of matter. Matter is the general term we use to describe the "stuff" that is all around us. "What makes up matter?" you ask . . . molecules. Molecules are small particles that you cannot see with your naked eye that join together to form everything around you: the table you are leaning on, the chair you are sitting in, the computer screen you are looking at. All these objects are made up of molecules, thousands and thousands of molecules.
From Bangs and Twangs: Science Fun with Sound by Vicki Cobb

1. Bang It and Twang It
How many ways can you make sounds with your body without using your voice? Experiment and find out (Remember not all sounds are polite.)
Cluck your tongue. Smack your lips. Make a kissing sound. Whistle. Sniff. Blow to make your lips flap. Clap your hands. Snap your fingers. Slap your thigh. Stamp your feet.
[This first chapter introduces the concept of vibrations as the source of sounds. It ends as follows.]

A vibrating object is only the beginning of a sound. You hear a sound because the air carries the vibrations to your ear. If there were no air, you would not hear the sound. The vibration would be in a vacuum.

Want to “see” a sound? Talk to someone through dental floss? Make bangs and twangs that will entertain your friends and annoy your neighbors? Read on!

From Encarta Online Encyclopedia
The outer auditory canal, which measures about 3 cm in length, is a tubular passageway lined with delicate hairs and small glands that produce a wax-like secretion called cerumen. The canal leads from the pinna to a thin taut membrane called the eardrum or tympanic membrane, which is nearly round in shape and about 10 mm wide. It is the vibration of the eardrum that sends sound waves deeper into the ear.
From Now Hear This! The Secrets of Ears and Hearing by Melissa Stewart

When you look at the opening to your ear canal, it’s hard to imagine what’s inside. That dark, little tunnel is about half as long as your pinky finger. At the far end, sound waves crash into your eardrum—a thin, skin-like membrane that separates your outer ear from your middle ear.

Soft, sensitive skin lines the surface of your ear canal. Just below the surface, dozens of small sacs called cerumen glands are constantly cranking out a fresh supply of icky earwax. The gummy goo oozes through tiny tubes and seeps into your ear canal through pit-like pores.
If your ancestors came from Europe or Africa, your earwax probably forms sticky, yellow clumps. But if your ancestors were Asian or Native American, your earwax probably forms crusty, gray flakes.

From Wikipedia on Walt Whitman's involvement in the Civil War

As the American Civil War was beginning, Whitman published his poem "Beat! Beat! Drums!" as a patriotic rally call for the North.[61] Whitman's brother George had joined the Union army and began sending Whitman several vividly detailed letters of the battle front.[62]

From Walt Whitman: Words For America by Barbara Kerley

Walt was too old to fight, but he proudly watched as his brother George, in his blue Union jacket, marched off to war.

Union forces, however, were soundly beaten during the first major conflict, the Battle of Bull Run. Walt felt full of "gloom and apprehension." He wrote poems for the newspapers to rally people behind the Union cause, to reunite the country.

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!

Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force…

Still, with a growing sense of dread, Walt read the letters George wrote home, of bullets flying overhead and comrades shot and killed.

Only two textbooks list TB in its index (despite the fact that nearly 3 million people die each year from TB and over 10 million people in the US have it). The Young Reader's Companion to American History, ed. by John Garraty (Houghton Mifflin, 1994) says that TB was introduced to the Americas by Columbus, which is absolutely not correct.

From The Americans by Gerald A. Danzer, et al (McDougal Littell, 2007):


In the mid-19th century, educated women also began to work for health reforms…. In the 1850s, Lyman Beecher's daughter, Catherine, undertook a national survey of women's health. To her dismay, Beecher found three sick women for every healthy one. It was no wonder: women rarely bathed or exercised, and the fashion of the day included corsets so restrictive that breathing was difficult.

From Immortal Microbe: The Story of TB and the Eternal Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank (Clarion Books, 2012):

This is the story of a small, harmless-looking germ that has been infecting people for millions of years. It's the story of how these micro-organisms became the greatest killer of humans in the history of the world. It's the story of the terrified, desperate people invaded by this tiny creature and what their family and friends tried to do to save their lives. It's the story of how artists painted pictures and authors wrote adoring stories about these doomed suffers. It's the story of how physicians struggled for centuries to find a cure for their illness and of a miraculous medical discovery that finally stopped this killer of over a trillion humans -- only to have this germ stubbornly evolve again into something even more insidious and deadly.

This is the story of Tuberculosis.


Educator. Born on April 14, 1866, in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts. A gifted teacher, Anne Sullivan is best known for her work with Helen Keller, a deaf, blind and mute child she taught to communicate. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Ireland during the Great Famine of the 1840s. The couple had five children, but two died in their infancy.

From Helen's Eyes: A Photobiography of Annie Sullivan by Marfe Ferguson Delano

Imagine a world without sight or sound. A world without communication, knowledge, or hope. A world where frustration makes you wild and there's no such thing as self-control. This was Helen Keller's world until Annie Sullivan entered it. By unlocking the world of language for Helen, Annie uncovered a gifted girl who inspired a nation with her courage and determination to live life to the fullest despite being both blind and deaf. Annie became known as the "miracle worker." She showed the world what teaching, at its best, can do. Considering the obstacles she had to overcome in her own childhood, however, one of the most miraculous things about Annie Sullivan is that she ever became a teacher at all.

From the Wikipedia entry Natural Selection

Natural selection is the process by which traits become more or less common in a population due to consistent effects upon the survival or reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution. The natural genetic variation within a population of organisms may cause some individuals to survive and reproduce more successfully than others in their current environment. For example, the peppered moth exists in both light and dark colors in the United Kingdom, but during the industrial revolution many of the trees on which the moths rested became blackened by soot, giving the dark-colored moths an advantage in hiding from predators. This gave dark-colored moths a better chance of surviving to produce dark-colored offspring, and in just a few generations the majority of the moths were dark. Factors which affect reproductive success are also important, an issue which Charles Darwin developed in his ideas on sexual selection.

From Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution
Houghton Mifflin, 2002

by Steve Jenkins

The Galapagos finches helped Darwin understand the role played by the environment in evolution. Most plants and animals produce many more offspring than can survive. Many fish, amphibians, and insects lay hundreds or thousands of eggs. If all of the offspring of even a single pair of these animals survived, they would soon overrun the earth. However, almost all of the young perish before they can grow up and lay eggs themselves. Darwin saw that those less fit for their environment — the slower, weaker, and less hardy ones — are more likely to die or be killed. Those best able to escape predators, find food, and survive hardships are the most likely to survive and become parents themselves. Darwin called this process natural selection, or survival of the fittest.

From Wikipedia:
George Catlin (July 26, 1796 – December 23, 1872) was an American painter, author and traveler who specialized in portraits of Native Americans in the Old West. Catlin was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. As a child growing up in Pennsylvania, Catlin spent many hours hunting, fishing, and looking for American Indian artifacts. His fascination with Native Americans was kindled by his mother, who told him stories of the Western Frontier and how she was captured by a tribe when she was a young girl. Years later, a group of Native Americans came through Philadelphia dressed in their colorful costumes and made quite an impression on Catlin. Following a brief career as a lawyer, he produced two major collections of paintings of American Indians and published a series of books chronicling his travels among the native peoples of North, Central and South America. Claiming his interest in America’s 'vanishing race' was sparked by a visiting American Indian delegation in Philadelphia, he set out to record the appearance and customs of America’s native people.

From Painting the Wild Frontier: The Art and Adventures of George Catlin, by Susanna Reich:
Long ago, when wolves still howled in the wilderness of Pennsylvania and New York and trappers in buckskin stalked deer in the deep woods, ten-year-old George Catlin huddled close to the crackling fire and listened to his father and the other farmers trading tales of the Revolutionary War. The Wyoming Massacre was a fresh memory along the Susquehanna River in those days, and sometimes George imagined distant battle cries still echoing in the forest where he played.
The logs in the fireplace hissed and spat as Mother rocked the new baby in the cradle. George and his many brothers and sisters listened with wide eyes as Mother repeated the story of how she had been captured by Indians at the age of seven. George wondered what it would be like to meet an Indian.
He ran his fingers over the stone arrowhead he had dug up in Father's freshly plowed field, turning it over and over in his hands, feeling its flaked surface and sharp point. An Indian had made that arrowhead. If he were to meet an Indian, George wondered, would he be an enemy or a friend?