We read a lot of picture books in our house, and one of my new favorites is A Tale of Two Beasts, by Fiona Roberton. This book is a clever way of not only telling a great story, but showing children that there are two sides to every story depending on the narrator’s point of view.
In this book, a little girl is walking through the woods when she finds a lemur and decides to “rescue” him and take him home as a pet. She wraps him up in her scarf and carries him home where she proceeds to “care” for him with a bath, clothing and food.Alas, later that evening, “Fang” runs away out an open window and the little girl can’t understand why. She is even more frustrated when instead of being able to go look for him, her mother proceeds to tell her that it is time for her to eat, take a bath, and go to bed.
So we are already seeing a different perspective because the little girl’s mother is making her do the same things that she was doing to Fang, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The little girl’s recounting of her day was only part one of the story….turn the page and you get the tale from Fang’s perspective.
See, poor Fang was hanging around one day having a marvelous time when this girl came up and grabbed him, growled at him, tied him up and took him home to her “secret lair.” There she tortured him in various ways, including giving him squirrel food!Through subtle changes in the illustrations as well, the reader truly feels like they are getting the story from Fang’s perspective.
This is such a fun story and a great way to let children see that there are two sides to every story. It is easy to know how you perceive a situation, but you never really know what is going on in the minds of those around you. This is one book that I know we will read again and again!
A Tale of Two Beasts is an outstanding Kane Miller publication sold by Usborne Books. I did recently become an independent Usborne Books & More consultant, but the review is all mine. If you are interesting in purchasing this book, check out this link.
Teaching children about nutritious food and where it comes from can be incredibly challenging. The goal is to make it fun. Thankfully, there are now a wide variety of resources to help share the story of how our food gets to us and how to make healthy choices.
In Chris Butterworth’s “How Did That Get in my Lunchbox?” children are taken on a fun journey of how the foods in a well-balanced lunchbox get there. While mom and dad probably bought most of the ingredients at the market, food doesn’t grow in stores, so its a good idea to know where it really came from. From the process of making bread and cheese to growing fruits and vegetables, this books makes the process fun. The book ends with an explanation of the different food groups and a statement that most of your plate should come from fruits and vegetables. A big hit with kids!
Another fun book that shows how foods make it from the farm to our tables is “Chef Foody’s Field Trip,” by Agostino Traini, originally published in Italian but now available in English. In this beautifully illustrated book, children are shown how a wide variety of fields are grown, harvested, and turned into the foods that we know and love. In addition to showing the full farming method, this ingenious book also explains how foods are processed into things like flour, pasta, jams, yogurt and many other items. There are also sections on how we get meat and seafood and how they are processed into individual cuts. A colorful way to learn about where our food actually comes from.
In Robie Harris’s “What’s so Yummy?” the focus in all about eating well and how that helps keep you healthy. This book is more of a story following two young children and their family as they visit the local co-op farm and markets. It focuses on the wealth of foods that we should be eating and acknowledges vegetarian diets as well as food allergies. Kids not only learn about good foods and the value of drinking water, but also are shown how people sometimes get tired or cranky when they are hungry. The book ends by encouraging families to eat well and to get outside and move in order to stay healthy and happy.
A final book that does an awesome job of pushing home what a diet of too much junk food can do to you is “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food.” When Mama Bear notices all of the junk that her family keeps snacking on, she decides that it is time to get rid the bad choices in their house. A fortuitous run-in with the family physician while at the market buying wholesome foods also brings the whole family to doctor’s office for a lesson on how our bodies work and the pitfalls of junk food. Mama does a great job of moving her family away from the sugar balls and coco-chums and towards healthier, nutrient filled snacks that keep them going as they also get out and exercise more. For younger kids that respond better to fiction, this is a perfect way to start teaching them about nutrition.
No matter how you do it, helping kids learn about where our food comes from and what helps make their bodies work the best is something to start earlier rather than later. Then after reading, get out and move!
Last summer, while wandering the library I discovered the book The Book Scavenger. I was quickly enthralled by the book which takes kids on an adventure through the streets of San Francisco searching for books that have been hidden and also for clues that have been left by a writer who was about to launch a new game before he was attacked and left in a coma. I loved this book and could completely see kids from 3rd grade up liking it. It had everything for me – a great premise, books, San Francisco and engaging characters.
So earlier this week I happened into our local book shop and on my way out noticed signs for the book. Author Jennifer Chambliss Bertman was coming to town. She is planning on having a discussion about her debut novel and a book trivia game. I rearranged my older daughter’s piano lessons and we will be at the event!
One big part of this book is that people all over the country participate in a massive game of “find the book” that has been organized by a book publisher. A few years ago we got into geocaching with my kids and their friends, but we floundered when there weren’t a ton of things in our area to find. The idea of basically being able to geocache with books and literary clues…awesome! I remember reading the book wishing something really existed. The thing is, it does, it’s just that last year when I read the book, no one had hid any within an hour of our home. The bookstore, however, also reminded me that people can hide books via the Book Scavenger website. Someone from the store itself has hidden a few in preparation for this event. That in mind, my thoughts began to churn – I need to hide some books!
Today I picked up 6 books at a local used book store and am going to hide them over the weekend. I would love for my daughter to get into this book, she just is currently devouring The League of Seven and wants to finish that one first. But once she finishes the book, I want her to have the ability to go searching for books. For that, I need more people to get involved. If you live near us, and you know who you are, go to the Book Scavenger website and get the materials necessary to hide a book. If you don’t live near us, do it anyway, you never know what young reader you will be helping!
As for the book itself, I honestly don’t remember a ton of details from the book. I do know that there were lots of wonderful little gems. As someone who grew up roaming the streets of San Francisco, it was like stepping back in time visiting places I hadn’t thought of in years, especially City Lights Bookstore. I loved that not only were ciphers used, but you got a little bit of history lesson on them as well. Then there were the relationships between Emily and her brother Matthew as well as between Emily and James. This book was one that struck me as just fabulous and that all book loving kids should read. If you are a fan of Mr. Lemoncello’s Library or a fan of a good mystery, you will definitely enjoy this book.
My 5 year old is a big lover of Disney Princesses and while she got an absolute blast out of taking pictures with Cinderella, Belle, Ariel and Tianna recently, she has always been more interested in the stories of Mulan and Pochahontas. She has been listening to the audio versions of these stories again recently and as we lie there listening to Pocahontas (it’s first on our CD), she keeps asking me questions about the real Pocahontas, questions I simply haven’t been able to answer.
So yesterday I was in the library looking for non-fiction children’s books for an article that I’m working on and I found Pocahontas: Princess of the New World by Kathleen Krull. I knew that I had to bring that home for her to see and of course she loved it. Kathleen Krull is a real pro at writing biographies for children and I didn’t even realize it was one of hers when I picked it up.
Of course, as soon as E saw the book she was super excited. She started asking me questions in the car and I kept saying, “We will have to read it when we get home.” I didn’t get a chance to read it with her because J read it to her while I was making dinner, but when I asked if she liked it she said she loved it.
Krull admits in the back of the book that very little is known of Pocahontas and that all of her information came from English sources but with the known facts and research from a variety of sources, she tried to put the story together as best she could. Through engaging and colorful illustrations, she captures the younger listener’s eye and her story can be told. As the story begins she is an 11 year old girl who was “clever and fearless.” She was well respected and “knew how to get her own way – as a proper princess must.”
In 1607 three ships from England landed near her village. “The men were exhausted, sick, smelly, and crabby” and they had come to this new land to try and make money for investors in England. “Within months, half of these 108 men would be dead.” The new land wasn’t an easy place for them to live and they didn’t know how to work or live off of the land.
John Smith was a brave adventurer who tried to learn the language of the Powhatan tribe, but one day he was ambushed and taken to their chief who wanted them to leave the land or commit to being his allies against other tribes. When John Smith didn’t answer, a sign was given that made him believe he was about to lose his life. Pocahontas stepped in and for a time there was peace between the two groups. Smith became an important part of the colony’s fate and helped Jamestown develop as it grew to contain 500 English, but one day for no reason he needed to return to England.
The settlement struggled for a while and then things got openly hostile with the Indians. In 1613 they kidnapped Pocahontas, remembering her high status. Her father called their bluff and would not negotiate to get her back. During her kidnapped state, she started to learn more about the English, was coaxed into their clothing and taught their religion. In fact, “the princess became the first American convert to Christianity.” She fell in love with an Englishman, wed him, and had a child. Her father sent gifts and a promise for peace. She wound up traveling back to England and seeing what life was like there, but died soon after.
So the two Disney movies got parts of it right, except for the overwhelming love story angle of the first movie. And now we have a much better idea of what the story of Pocahontas entails so I can answer more of my little one’s inquisitive questions.
I was thrilled to find this book and to add it to the list of non-fiction picture books as a part of the roundup organized by Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy. I love the encouragement to explore more non-fiction by reading through all of the other blogs and the challenge it gives me to actually get my posts up.
Every week I volunteer in my daughter’s elementary school library and every week I see a few of the same books being checked out – Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, Pokemon books, Goosebumps and a selection of scary stories. None of these have ever been on J’s radar in terms of books, but of course, I have been curious. At one point a few years ago, I did purchase Diary of a Wimpy Kid for a friend’s son because it looked cute and I knew it was popular, but again, not on our radar. Then at some point, I saw a copy of it available as a free download via Kindle Unlimited, and there it sat on my device, unread and forgotten until a recent conversation with people about lexile levels (post on that to come later).
So while waiting for our flight to Florida for spring break, J realized that she could read it and decided to give it a try. The book was finished before our plane landed and she wanted to read the next one. Hmmm….very interesting. I managed to get her books 2 and 3 from the online library and she sped through those as well within the next few days, then went back to reading things that were more in line with her normal reading habits.
By the time we were ready to fly back to North Carolina, I was ready to give the Diary a chance. Wow. This was not a book meant for an adult to read. J enjoyed it and liked the fact that it was written from a child’s perspective and that it was funny, but I think it was like brain candy for her and after speeding through 3 books she is done. As an adult, the humor was lost on me. This book is targeted at 2nd and 3rd graders even though the characters are all in middle school, and is meant to engage reluctant readers with its jokes and illustrations (very Saturday morning comics style). My big complaint is that aside from not thinking it was funny, the characters in general have no redeeming qualities. The main character is actually a video gaming addict who treats his one real friend in cruel and mean ways and never seems to learn anything from his actions.
In the way that I am not personally a fan of Junie B. Jones, I’m not personally a fan of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. That said, in the same vein, any book that gets a kid excited about reading and has them begging for more is a wonderful thing.
As the mom of two girls, finding things to encourage them to persevere regardless of the challenges they face is incredibly important. When children are in school they learn all about the famous inventors Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin and so on. Very few students today can name female inventors, but they do exist. Last month was International Women’s Day and much was said about the fact that while we are encouraging our kids to be inventors and scientists, they still don’t get to see a lot of women in history who stepped outside of the box.
Of course, we have found a slew of books on this subject, but I know that I’m not exactly normal when it comes to finding kids books, so for anyone looking for ways to encourage the dreamer in your daughter, take a look at these and check out the post I wrote a year ago encouraged by the same event.
Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty could quite possibly be one of my favorite books. This is the story of Rosie Revere who dreamed of becoming a great engineer. “Where some people see rubbish, Rosie sees inspiration.” Rosie loves to invent things, but after an uncle laughed at one of her inventions, she became afraid to show anyone anything. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions a life-long dream of flying, Rosie sets out to create a flying machine for her. It hovers for a moment and then crashes and Rosie again feels like a failure. Her aunt Rose, on the other hand, sees her invention as a marvelous success because you can only fail if you quit. This is a great book to encourage experimentation and to remember to believe in yourself.
I’m super excited that Andrea Beaty’s newest story Ada Twist, Scientist, is available for pre-sale (she also wrote Iggy Peck, Architect). According to the description on Amazon, Ada has a boundless imagination and has always been hopelessly curious. Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs growing inside your nose? When her house fills with a horrific, toe-curling smell, Ada knows it’s up to her to find the source. Not afraid of failure, she embarks on fact-finding mission and conducts scientific experiments, all in the name of discovery. But, this time, her experiments lead to even more stink and get her into trouble!
Inspired by real-life makers such as Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, Ada Twist, Scientist champions girl power and women scientists, and brings welcome diversity to picture books about girls in science. Touching on themes of never giving up and problem solving, Ada comes to learn that her questions might not always lead to answers, but rather to more questions. She may never find the source of the stink, but with a supportive family and the space to figure it out, she’ll be able to feed her curiosity in the ways a young scientist should.
In the same vein of creating new things, we also love The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. This is the story of a little girl and her dog who love to do things together. One day, she gets a marvelous idea to make the most magnificent thing. She knows just how it will work and starts drawing up plans and then she gets to work in front of her house and starts to build. She figures that building it will be easy-peasy, but it’s not. She tries over and over again and just can’t get it right. She gets frustrated and then even gets mad. Her dog convinces her to go for a walk and it manages to clear her head and by the time she gets back, she has figured out exactly how to build her project. This book is awesome in its display of perseverance and creativity.
For real-life stories about actual inventors, there are few marvelous sources. First, to show the full spectrum of inventors is the amazing book The Story of Inventions. Now I will admit, that I am an Usborne Books consultant, but we purchased this book way before I got involved and my older daughter just ate it up! Toasters, toilets and televisions, computers, cars and chocolate bars, flying machines and even your jeans. All these everyday things and many more are only here because someone bothered to invent them. This book reveals the real-life stories and bright sparks behind dozens of brilliant inventions. What is extraordinary about this book is that it is immensely readable. It also does a wonderful job of including female inventors right alongside all of those important male inventors. You can check it out here.
Similarly, there is a great book called Girls Think of Everything, by Catherine Thimmish. As this book starts, “In kitchens and living rooms, in garages and labs and basements, even in converted chicken coops, women and girls have invented.” Here, young minds can see some of the amazing things that women have invented over the years. Many inventions evolve out of general curiosity, but some out of need and some happy accidents. From the Apgar score of measuring crucial aspects of a newborn baby’s health to chocolate chip cookies, windshield wipers to liquid paper, women have invented some pretty amazing things.
This book also encourages young minds to create things themselves by highlighting some inventions by younger people. In the 1970s a 10 year old girl invented a “glo-sheet” so she could write in the dark. In 1994, it was the inquisitive mind of an 11 year old that created the no-spill feeding bowl that so many parents now use. This book was written in an incredibly engaging way, encouraging all would be inventors to dream big.
Girls Who Rocked the World, by Michelle Roehm McCann and Amelie Welden, was a favorite of J’s a few years back. This book is intended for upper elementary and middle school aged kids and introduces them to a number of influential women who each rocked the world in their own way, from Joan of Arc to Coco Chanel. One thing that is extra special about this book is that the women included each first started to impact the world while they were in their teenage years or younger! Personal aspirations from today’s young women are interspersed throughout the book, which also includes profiles of teenagers who are rocking the world right now. This book can show young minds that it’s never too soon to start making a difference.
Marvelous Mattie, by Emily Arnold McCully truly is marvelous. Margaret Knight, aka Mattie, was a brilliant woman who lived from 1838-1914, during the height of the industrial revolution. Her father’s toolbox and her sketchbooks of ideas were her salvation during a very rough childhood of poverty. When she was a child, no one felt that a woman could have an inventive mind, but she always saw ways to improve things. She probably saved many lives by creating a safety device for looms and was the brains behind the flat-bottomed paper bag. When a man tried to steal her invention before she could get it patented, her methodical notebooks and determination proved to a judge that a woman could and did invent the new bags. This book is a wonderful story that children can relate to and it helps them comprehend the struggles that Mattie and every woman went through so many years ago.
In Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, by Laurie Walmark, girls can see the story of the woman credited with creating the first computer language, way before the actual invention of computers. While she didn’t code in the way that we thing of the terms now, she realized that a machine to solve complex equations created by a fellow inventor could not actually run without a detail set of instructions. By using his notebooks and her knowledge of mathematics, she left her mark on the history of computer science. The book is also important, as discussed in this recent post, because it again talks about the struggles that she went through simply because she was an intelligent woman.
The children today are our hope for the future. We educate them with books and with love and support. These are great books to add to any library.
I often find out about great non-fiction texts from bloggers who participate in Kid Lit Frenzy’s non-fiction picture book challenge. Check out her website for a ton of great resources!
To all of the future inventors, I leave you with this marvelous song from Zootopia about the importance of making mistakes in order to make it just right.
What if you had a machine that could do all of your homework for you? Would you share that information? What would you do with all of the extra time? How would you feel about using the machine? These are all questions that come up in Dan Gutman’s The Homework Machine.
The Homework Machine tells the story of four fifth graders who found a way out of doing their homework. The foursome is made up of a geek, a class clown, a teacher’s pet and a slacker. When the geek, Brenton, accidentally tells Sam about his machine, it sets the ball in motion for an adventure in ethics and self-discovery.
We picked up this book because it is on the 2016-17 NC elementary school Battle of the Books. J really enjoyed this book and simply couldn’t put it down. For her, she felt that this was one of those books where you really felt like you were a part of the story. She felt that she was right there in the story, seeing it through the characters’ eyes. One reason for that sense of perspective comes from the fact that you read all of the actions from various perspectives. Whereas The Candymakers focused on a long period of time from one character and then repeated that whole segment from another character’s perspective, The Homework Machine, switches from paragraph to paragraph in the four main characters’ perspectives as well as the teacher, two mothers and a few classmates.
J also felt very connected to one of the characters because the two had a great deal in common. With four very distinct personalities, it is probable that a reader will feel a certain bond or kinship with an individual character.
From an adult perspective, it was very interesting to see how the kids not only dealt with the notion of right and wrong when it came to using the machine, but also how they developed as individuals. Judy, the intelligent class-pet who worked hard but excelled, struggled with the most guilt throughout the story. Sam, the class clown, and Kelsey, the slacker, wanted to utilize the homework machine the most because they truly struggled when it came to doing the work and wanted an easy out, so they dealt with less guilt. Brenton invented it as a way to free up his time to study other things that he wasn’t doing in school and because he knew all of the answers anyway.
In addition to the ethical question of using a homework machine, part of the story dealt with each child’s desire, or lack there-of, of fitting in, especially through the eyes of Aam. Sam struggles with both a great deal of self-doubt and yet a strong need to be seen as cool. By being a part of the foursome and seeing Brenton seriously not care what others thought of him, helped Sam have more faith in himself.
This is a great book to get kids thinking about ethics. Additionally, it also highlights the fact that you can’t judge a book, or person, by it’s cover and that we don’t know what others are going through. As we have started to read a few other Battle of the Books entries, that seems to be a theme for a selection of them this year and it is a great way to help teach empathy. All in all, this was a very enjoyable book.
We read a lot of princess stories. I’ve been surrounded by princesses and fairies for years. But we have always done a pretty good job of bringing non-traditional princesses into our mix. I always enjoy reading other people’s lists of books, so I try to create them myself (when time allows). I’ve been putting this grouping together for a few weeks.
The Princess and the Pizza – This fractured fairy tale takes the traditional Princess and the Pea and turns it on it’s head. Here Princess Pauline’s father decides to give up his thrown in order to follow his own dreams, but Pauline misses her princess days. When a local Queen announces that she is searching for a true princess to marry her son, Princess Pauline finds her tiara and heads out.
Pauline passes the “old princess-and-the-pea trick” and is able to wear the glass slipper, but each time a challenge is placed on the group she has some sort of smart response that begins with “for Pete’s sake…” The final test is to cook a feast fit for a king, but before she can even get ingredients, Rapunzel trips her and the seven dwarfs grab nearly everything available. All she is left with is “some flour, yeast, water, three overripe tomatoes, and a hunk of stale cheese.” Then she finds that she has to cook in her room without pots and pans. Of course, in true story form, in a last desperate attempt she manages to make pizza and wins. What makes this even better is that she decides that she doesn’t want to marry the prince after all and would rather make a fortune on pizza.
The Princess and the Pony – This story focuses on a little girl in a warrior kingdom. All she wants is a strong warrior horse, instead of the cozy sweaters her parents keep giving her. When her birthday rolls around, she begs her parents for a warrior horse and instead they give her a squishy pony. To lift her spirits, she enters a battle for warriors. Her pony is not exactly up to the battle, but on the day of the event she tells him to just do his best.
When the battle begins, it is like a crazed skirmish and the reader can’t imagine this little princess going up against all of the big warriors. Princess Pinecone gears up to throw her first spit ball and the fierce warrior that is running towards her comes to a stop to admire her pony. Then all of the other gruff warriors do the same. “This is not how a battle usually goes,” she said. “You’re right,” said Otto, “but we warriors don’t often get to show our cuddly sides.”
Princess Pinecone, and a slew of her cozy sweaters, helps the warriors do just that. This flips the big tough warrior concept on its head when Princess Pinecone wins “most valuable warrior of the day.”
Princesses are Not Quitters – In this unusual tale, three princesses suddenly decided that their days were too dull and that servants seemed to have all of the fun – “out in the fresh air, doing interesting things.” So they decided to swap places for the day.
Soon their backs, hands, and feet were sore, but they didn’t want anyone to say that princesses were quitters, so they kept on working. They missed lunch and dinner because they couldn’t get their chores done fast enough, but they stuck with it and finished everything on their lists.
The next day the princesses slept until noon and limped down to breakfast where they realized that they had had a hand in the food that they were eating. They also had learned just how hard their staff worked. So that day the princesses made a royal proclamation to make the lives of their servants easier. Now if you visit their kingdom, chances are that the princesses are still helping out.
This is an important story about realizing the work that goes on behind the scenes, the importance of helping out, the importance of rest and most of all, perseverance.
Princess Pigsty – Isabella is the youngest of three princesses. The girls have everything they could ever wish for and servants to do their bidding. But Isabella was sick of being a princess. “It’s boring, boring, boring!” She doesn’t want to sit around and look pretty. She wants to have fun – wear pants, climb trees, even pick her nose if she so chooses.
Her father banishes her to the kitchens as punishment. He figures that doing dishes and peeling onions will make her come to her senses. After three days her father sends for her, but she was having a blast. When she still wouldn’t fetch her crown from the fishpond she had thrown it in, he sent her to the pigsty. There she helped feed and clean them, but also played with them. She still refused to get her crown. Her father finally realized that his little girl was finally happy and that she should be allowed to do what she wanted to do.
This is a wonderful story of being true to yourself and also that not all little girls want to be traditionally “girly.” Isabella had an inquisitive mind and learned things by getting her hands dirty and actually working. She had a better knowledge of where her food came from and how the world worked then even her father, the king, did. A great way to encourage young girls to be what they want to be.
The Princess and the Giant – I’m not sure where I first heard about this story, but I am so glad that I did. From the very first page, it challenges traditional gender roles by saying “Her father made the porridge, and her mother chopped the wood, while Princess Sophie rode her bike, as every princess should.”
Sophie and her family were plagued by a giant who stomped around every night and made it impossible for anyone in the kingdom to get any sleep. No one seemed to be able to do anything about it, so Sophie took matters into her own hands. She climbed up to the giant and tried giving him a midnight snack. When that failed she tried loaning him some stuffed animals. She kept trying, but nothing seemed to work. The queen finally sent in the army, but she ran up ahead of them to give it one last valiant try and it worked.
I loved reading about Sophie’s pluck and determination. There was no fear of the giant, who wasn’t mean, just cranky. From a parent’s perspective, there is also the issue of trying to put your kids to bed and finally finding the one thing that works. A great story with a smart little princess.
Interstellar Cinderella – Given my penchant for finding all of the various versions of a specific fairy tale and the fact that we have read a TON of Cinderella stories, I couldn’t help myself when I heard that this book was coming out.
Interstellar Cinderella is about a little girl who dreamed of fixing fancy rockets. When the Prince holds a Royal Space Parade and invites her family she is very excited, but her step-mother tricks her and strands her at their home. Her fairy godrobot brings her a special set of tools and she manages to make the parade. When the prince’s spaceship starts to burn, Interstellar Cinderella knows just how to fix it and together they go to the Gravity-Free Ball. As with all Cinderella stories, she has to run out at midnight, but she leaves her socket wrench behind. The prince searches high and low for the girl who knew so much about fixing rockets and manages to finally find Cinderella. When he asks her to be his bride, she thinks about it, but says “I’m far too young for marriage, but I’ll be your chief mechanic!”
Dreams can come true for this bright little Cinderella. She lives a happy existence fixing ships and hanging out with her friend the prince. A great lesson to follow your own dreams and be whatever you want to be. It is also nice to see Cinderella not marry the prince in the end. A true 21st century take on a classic story.
We love finding books that are different from the norm. What non-traditional princess stories have you read?
In our search for good books about art, I happened up on this little gem about museums themselves. In David Goldin’s “Meet me at the Art Museum,” a used museum ticket stub meets up with the docent’s name tag and gets a full tour of the museum after hours. While the book has a slew of outstanding art in it, the focus of the book is on how a museum works.
Whether a child has had a chance to visit an art museum or not, this is a great look behind the scenes. Daisy, the name tag, shows Stub, a used ticket, around the museum – from the delivery zone, to galleries, offices, the library and restoration room. She also explains how galleries are organized and who gets to decide what pieces go in the museum. For little hands that like to touch, she also shows the security side and explains that touching is not allowed.
This is a marvelous look at how museums work. For older kids who want a little more details, the back of the book has a “who’s who” and “what’s what” section as well as a list of all of the art work they referred to in the book. An excellent addition to the art category!
In the past few months, I have seen my older daughter get a stronger appreciation for serious issues – politics, injustice and discrimination. She learns a great deal from the books that she reads, but also from the conversations that we have. Obviously, the political primaries happening and my not so quiet dislike for certain politicians has swayed some of her thinking, but I like that she is taking an active interest in the world around her and understanding that choices that we make affect not only our local world but our larger community.
One thing that has come up a lot has to do with the rights of women. It is very difficult for young girls to understand that while they have the opportunity to do and be almost anything, that these rights have come because so many women were oppressed in years past and fought back. When we read books about women who led the way, J definitely asks why they were not allowed to go to school, or why they were expected to get married and take care of a family. Since at the moment both of my girls long to be on stage, they have a hard time with the notion that at one point this was considered an unacceptable life choice. Our children now have many opportunities that my mother’s generation did not have, but as we saw in the case of Malala, the struggle still continues for many.
So how do I educate my girls on both the past and the present? Books of course! The following are a few of the books that we have been reading lately, and a few old favorites, that have started J thinking more about women’s history.
“What would you do if someone told you can’t be what you want to be because you are a girl? What would you do if someone told you your vote doesn’t count, your voice doesn’t matter because you are a girl?” This is how the wonderful biography, Elizabeth Leads the Way, begins.
As I said above, it is exceptionally difficult for girls today to comprehend that women were not allowed to do things simply because they were girls. But when Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a girl, her choices were very limited. Her own father thought that her life would have been easier if she had just been born a boy. Fortunately, he did allow her to continue her education and she married a man who had fought for the rights of slaves and therefore understood when Elizabeth talked about women’s rights.
Still, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton proposed the idea to fight for women’s right to vote, people were flabbergasted. There were others who agreed with her though, and they just needed her spark to start the fire. Women didn’t actually get the right to vote until 18 years after she died, but we all owe Elizabeth Cady Stanton a huge debt of gratitude.
When you think about important women in history, Eleanor Roosevelt’s name always comes up. A woman who spoke up for what she believed in and changed the role of the First Lady, a biography on her is a must read for anyone interested in women’s history.
In Doreen Rappaport’s outstanding biography, “Eleanor, Quiet No More,” children of all ages can get a sense of how amazing she was. From a childhood of privilege but lacking love, she finally was encouraged to be her best self when she was sent to England to study and found herself in the tutelage of a progressive teacher.
Using wonderful illustrations by Gary Kelley and a number of strong quotes, the book gives you a sense of who she was and how her beliefs were formed. She stood up for the vast number of Americans who struggled to survive while the wealthy lived easy lives. She sood up for the rights of women and African Americans. She helped the soldiers during the war. Eleanor was often mocked for her looks and called a do-gooder, but she persevered and was a major force in our history. Eleanor Roosevelt was a game changer and this book does a wonderful job or portraying that.
Speaking of strong women and First Ladies, there is Hillary Clinton. Now, I will admit, she is one that many people have very strong feelings about, and not all positive. She has made a lot of mistakes, but she is also an important figure in changing the role of women in this world. Whatever your politics, people should be able to look at Hillary Clinton, what she has accomplished over the years, and realize that she is an important person.
The new biography “Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls are Born to Lead,” does struggle with being rather propagandaish, but there is still a solid message for young girls. As the book begins, “In the 1950s, it was a man’s world. Only boys could grow up to have powerful jobs. Only boys had no ceilings on their dreams. Girls weren’t even supposed to act smart, tough, or ambitious. Even though, deep inside, they may have felt that way.” Here is the story of a young girl who excelled in school, who learned about the world beyond her pristine town of those that struggled and wanted to help make a change. As she got older, she saw the plight of migrant workers and their kids, she was a part of the movement to make sure that everyone had the right to vote. As First Lady, she fought for health care and women’s rights, even while everyone continued to make fun of her appearance – something they would never think of doing to a man.
This is an important addition because it shows that the struggle for women’s rights is real and still current. For all of the advances, we are still needing to make cracks in the glass ceiling.
There are some great books about women that escape the political realm. A few of these are old favorites, but this one is newly published.
In our quest to find biographies about strong women, we discovered this little gem published in 2015 – “Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine.” Ada Lovelace was the daughter of famed poet Lord Byron. Ada had a lonely childhood and filled many hours coming up with inventions in her journal.
Through pictures of her childhood, we are shown Ada’s fascination with things that fly and her desire to create a flying machine. She experimented and made many computations, but was stalled by a bout with the measles that left her unable to walk for many years.
Fortunately for Ada, her mother recognized her passion for math and hired tutors for her, even though there were few highly educated women at the time. Through one of her tutors she met Charles Babbage, a famous mathematician and inventor, and they developed a friendship.
Babbage had designed an Analytical Engine to solve complicated problems – a true thinking machine and forerunner of the computer – but he hadn’t actually built it. Ada took home his lab books and created early coding to go with the machine, the instructions to actually make it work. While she never touched a modern machine, Ada Byron Lovelace created the profession of computer programmer long before the computer was even invented.
Miss Moore Thought Otherwise, by Jan Pinborough, might be one of my all time favorites. This book tells the story of how Anne Carroll Moore created libraries for children. What is truly amazing about the book is how it continually shows how things were done in the late 1800s when Anne Moore was growing up and in the early 1900s, but when Miss Moore was faced with people telling her that girls “didn’t” or “shouldn’t” do something, the common refrain was “Miss Moore thought otherwise.”
“In the 1870s many people thought a girl should stay inside and do quiet things such as sewing and embroidery.” But Anne Moore wanted to be like her 7 brothers out having fun and she wanted an education like them too. With her education she became a wonderful librarian and then turned the library system on its head when she actually encouraged children to come into the library and check out books. Miss Anne Moore was a major force behind publishing companies seeing the sense in publishing more books aimed at children and to make sure that they were quality books.
In a very straight-forward manner, the book gives a great sense of who Elizabeth Blackwell was and how she wound up becoming a doctor. She was a girl who was spunky, strong, smart and who never walked away from a challenge. She was a curious girl who wanted to know more about the world around her She also never imagined being a doctor until a friend who was very ill put the idea in her head. Of course she was laughed at and rejected, but one school finally admitted her. “Elizabeth proved she was as smart as any boy.”
There are tons of other great resources out there for stories on strong women that we will continue to read. Anyone can make a difference in this world, regardless of your gender.
I am highlighting great biographies as a part of my efforts with Kid Lit Frenzy’s non-fiction picture book challenge. Check out her website for a ton of great resources!