We have Hamilton fever in this house. One of the great things that has come out of that, apart from listening to the music non-stop, is that it has gotten my girls interested in learning more about our history around the time American Revolution. We had been thrilled to read Aaron and Alexander back in the summer, but when we were at the library recently, I happened upon the section covering this period in history and started grabbing (973.4 for anyone interested). Continue reading →
When children are starting to learn about the sun, moon and planets, there are not a ton of books that really engage them. So I was very excited when I was able to get a hold of an advance copy of If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Jaime Kim.
At first glance, this book looks like a simple bedtime story in fiction format. But once you get past the first spread the entire book is filled with fascinating facts about the moon! A little girl looks up at the moon one night and wishes that she could “do exactly nothing, just like you.”
The moon responds by telling her all of the various things he does. Each page has a really basic explanation of the moon’s role with supplementary blocks of text in a different font that give the reader detailed facts.
So between the text and the outstanding illustrations, a young mind will understand that the moon impacts Earth’s balance, that while it appears to glow it is really “catching” and “throwing” light from the sun, and that its gravity is what creates the tides in our oceans.
The moon also is important to a lot of different animals and cultures. Nocturnal animals use the moon as an alarm clock. Sea turtle hatchlings need the light of the moon to guide them to the ocean. In terms of people, not only has the moon inspired great works of art, but farmers across the globe have used moon phases to guide their seasons and the race to put a man on the moon challenged our space program.
There are also silly items like the fact that the moon spins like a ballerina making a full turn every 27 days or that it wouldn’t be very good at playing dodgeball because it never gets out of the way of meteorites that crash into it.
This is a really wonderful book to share with a young child to get them more interested in astronomy and science. It is also still good for an older child to comprehend some of the more confusing aspects of the moon. There really are not a wealth of great books that engage children on this subject, so this is a welcome addition.
Every Wednesday I try to post a non-fiction picture book as part of the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. There are truly so many amazing nonfiction picture books being published these days, it can be hard to contain myself sometimes. Make sure to check out Kid Lit Frenzy and the linked blogs to find some more fabulous books!
It is hard for children to comprehend the notion of slavery as it once was in this country. However, slavery, and the horrors that went along with it, is something that we need to retell so that it never happens again. It is also an important part in understanding how divided this country has always been in terms of race. When looking for books on strong female figures in our history, I came across two really wonderful books about Harriet Tubman that not only tell her story, but tell the story of slavery for future generations to understand.
In An Apple for Harriet Tubman, author Glenette Tilley Turner does a marvelous job telling the story of young Harriet Tubman and how she became a conductor for the Underground Railroad. Through beautiful illustrations by Susan Keeter and words that are meant for a child to understand Tuner tells the story of what it was like to be a slave, to endlessly work but never taste the fruits of your labor, to constantly fear being whipped, to fear that you will be sold and separated from those you love. These are things that children can understand and relate to.
Harriet Tubman had promised herself that one day she would be free. Through the kindness of strangers along the Underground Railroad, she finally got a taste of freedom. But rather than stay safely in the North, she risked her life repeatedly to save others. Additionally Harriet Tubman loved apples, but as a slave was never able to eat them. In her freedom, she planted apple trees and every fall she invited the town around her to pick their fill. Those apples “were a symbol of freedom for everyone to share.”
Through lyrical text and conversations with God, this book shows Harriet Tubman as a Moses figure for slaves. She leaves her family behind to avoid being sold and to finally gain her freedom. All she takes with her is her faith in God. She is guided North and into the helpful hands of workers on the Underground Railroad. She is led to church where she finds that it is a stopping place for the Underground Railroad and where she learns how to be a conductor herself.
This version is more complex for a young child to understand, but is still a beautiful way to look at such a remarkable woman. Older children can also get a wealth of information from a very well written and researched author’s note.
I have been encouraged by the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy to post about a nonfiction title each week. My goal is to post a nonfiction picture book, or at least nonfiction, every Wednesday. Please check out Kid Lit Frenzy for an amazing resource of nonfiction picture books.
Yesterday was Benjamin Franklin’s birthday and my daughter’s kindergarten class has been focusing on inventors and inventions because of it. When we think of inventors, we often think of older white men with crazy hair. But there were a lot of amazing inventions created by children and young adults, male and female, black and white.
Since it was Ben Franklin who got me thinking about this, I did find three very different books about him and his work. For a true biography on the great Ben Franklin, David Adler’s A Picture Book about Benjamin Franklin is a great start! This book focuses less on his inventions and more on the man himself. Some of Franklin’s inventions are cleverly interspersed as he created them with the reasons why he invented them as well.
In Now and Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin, Gene Barretta highlights a large number of Franklin’s inventions. What makes this book extra interesting is how Barretta juxtaposes how we use these inventions in the current day to when Franklin was creating them. A great way to show the impact that Benjamin Franklin has had on all of us.
Alan Schroeder brings us an unusual look at Benjamin Franklin and his inventions in Ben Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom From A-Z. A very interesting way to learn more about this amazing inventor and founding father.
Emphasizing the power of perseverance, The Inventor’s Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, alternates between the lives of two inventors, beginning with Thomas Edison, who was 16 years Henry Ford’s senior. Many of Edison’s major inventions are touched on, and young Ford is portrayed as curious as to the secret of Edison’s success. Ford continues to work on developing engines and designing cars and finally seizes the opportunity to meet Edison in person. The two go over Ford’s designs, and Edison urges the younger man to “keep at it!” With that, Ford discovers that “he’d known Thomas’s secret all along!”—a realization illustrated with a light bulb over Ford’s head.
Want a quick, fun rundown of a ton of inventors? That is what you get in So You Want to be an Inventor?, by Judith St. George. This colorful book reminds young minds that they “don’t have to have white hair and wrinkles to be an inventor” and then it gives them a slew of examples. The book features some of the world’s best-known inventors-Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Eli Whitney-as well as lesser-known geniuses like Georges de Mestral (inventor of Velcro), Wilhelm Roentgen (inventor of X rays), and Hedy Lamarr (inventor of a system that became the basis for satellite communication). One page highlights that not all inventors are men and focuses specifically on female inventors. Also highlighted is the fact that some inventors work alone while others work as teams and that one great invention can often lead to another. The bottom line is that your invention could change the work, you just have to take the risk.
Inventions often come out of a specific need. Such was the case for Louis Braille. When we think about famous people who are blind, the first name that usually pops into people’s heads is Helen Keller. But we also need to give credit to young Louis Braille, who invented the Braille alphabet, allowing visually impaired people to read. Six Dots, by Jen Bryant, excellently tells the story of how Braille lost his sight at 5, his constant desire to still be able to read, and his creation of the Braille alphabet. A fascinating read.
Most kids know the thrill of soaking someone with a water gun, or being soaked themselves, so reading about the guy who invented them is an enticing subject. But Whoosh! is more than just a story about how super soakers were invented. Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, by Chris Barton, tells of a young boy fascinated with how things worked and who loved to create. It tells of the successes and failures that all inventors deal with. It illustrates how unusual it was for an African-American team to win a major science fair at the University of Alabama in 1968. And then it shows how Lonnie Johnson came up with a great idea that got rejection after rejection until he finally had success. A true story of perseverance and innovation.
There are a ton of female inventors out there, but they don’t get the same kind of recognition that men do. In Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor, Emily Arnold McCully tells the story of Margaret Knight, aka Mattie, who 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.
A final fascinating story is that of young Wiliam Kamkwamba told in The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind. This is the picture book version of the autobiography written by Kamkwamba. When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba’s tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season’s crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family’s life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William’s windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land. This is a wonderful way to bring a current story to a younger audience.
While I have focused on nonfiction picture books about inventors, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding books by Andrea Beatty. Rosie Revere, Engineer, Ada Twist, Scientist, and Iggy Peck, Architect are three of our favorite books and such a wonderful way to show children that they should follow their dreams and believe in themselves. For more information on these books and a few other fiction titles, check out the post I wrote last year.
I have been encouraged by the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy to post about a nonfiction title each week. My goal is to post these books every Wednesdays. Please check out Kid Lit Frenzy for an amazing resource of nonfiction picture books.
In just over a week we will inaugurate this country’s 45th President. In time for that event, National Geographic has released Our Country’s Presidents: A Complete Encyclopedia of the U.S. Presidency by Ann Bausum. In this outstanding book, not only does Bausum cover every president from George Washington through President-Elect Trump’s victory speech, but she also covers topics about the presidency itself, the White House and its traditions, and other historic moments connected to the presidency.
As my oldest has gotten to the age where not only is she beginning to understand the role of the government, but is also going to be studying it more in school, I see this book as an invaluable tool.
Our Country’s Presidents begins with a marvelous spread about the presidency itself. It encourages readers to delve deeper into the book by giving teasers about why various presidents attracted attention or funny stories they are known for. From nicknames to milestones and the myriad of questions we have about the men who have run this country, Our Country’s Presidents plans to enlighten and enrich.
It is great to have basic facts and figures on each president in one place. While this is an encyclopedia, it is also a fascinating history book on our country. Our Country’s Presidents also pays respect to the women behind each of these presidents, women who have made important impacts on our history even though standard history books often overlook them.
Timelines and descriptions of of crucial events that occurred while each president was in office lay the foundation, while thematic spreads run the gamut of issues surrounding the presidency —including the history of voting rights, what presidents have accomplished AFTER their time in office was over, campaign strategies, party politics, first ladies, presidential perks, White House traditions like the annual Easter Egg Hunt, and how letter writing may be a bit “old school” in our every day life it has always had a place in the oval office — even today.
Given how quickly this was published, Bausum also did an amazing job of covering the 2016 election. There are interesting pages that kids today will find especially interesting about the role of the Electoral College and a way to see how the Presidents compare in a variety of areas.
For any family looking to better understand the role of the president and the White House itself, this is a great new addition.
*** Note – I did receive a copy of this for review, but all opinions are purely my own.
I have been encouraged by the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy to post about a nonfiction title each week. While I wouldn’t classify this book as a nonfiction picture book, most of the books that I post on Wednesdays will be. Please check out Kid Lit Frenzy for an amazing resource of nonfiction picture books.
All children enjoy fairy tales. They help inspire us, teach us, and entertain us. Many traditional fairy tales have had a main female character who needs help from a magical being and/or gets saved by a prince. As we as a society change, so too have our fairy tales. The newest addition to the fairy tale scene is a series of books to be published by Queen Girls. The books that they are bringing forth are “stories of real women turned into fairy tales to inspire girls to follow their dreams.”
The authors of these books approached me as a way to help spread their message and I jumped at the chance because I am highly impressed with what I see. The main mission of collaborators Andrea and Jimena is to “give girls a positive view of life and help them envision their dreams as possible. This is the reason why our stories are based on real women.
Often times, classic stories highlight the strength, courage and skills of men. Female characters are often stereotyped or one-dimensional: the mother figure, the homemaker, the exotic beauty, the love seeker…We believe that we should be telling different stories to our children. Let’s encourage girls to find their happiness, passions, drive and self-confidence from within. At the same time, let’s help boys to move to a place of equality.”
The first book that they are publishing is called Bessie, Queen of the Sky. This story features Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman in the world to receive her pilot’s license. I was able to read a rough draft of the book and it is wonderful! The story shows how Bessie Smith always wanted to fly, but that between living in a time when flight schools wouldn’t take women and when women were expected to “learn how to cook, clean, and become moms – not pilots,” she was definitely facing an uphill battle. But Bessie followed her dreams, went to flight school in France, and became the first black woman to fly airplanes in the whole world. She believed in herself, she believed in her dreams, and she made her dreams a reality.
Publishing these books is the dream of Andrea and Jimena. I for one would like to see their dream come true, so I have backed their kickstarter campaign. You can do that too by clicking here. I look forward to reading more of their work as it continues to come out. They already have one planned based on Isadora Duncan and one about Savitribhai Phule. There is much that we can learn from these marvelous books. For more information about their books, check out their website.
As J gets older, she loves to find out more and more about real people and the things that they have done. I think it is due, in part, to the fact that as kids get older, they truly become more aware about the world around them and learning about people who have made a difference can help shape who they become. So when I was offered the chance to take a look at two new books from National Geographic Kids about Heroes and Heroines, I jumped at the chance. Not surprisingly, National Geographic Kids didn’t fail.
Each book has an introduction that have seven stupendous qualities that a hero or heroine possesses. Things like courage, compassion, selflessness, and never quitting. Besides all of their heroic qualities, they also all “started out just like you.” The intro also has a side-bar mentioning that a) heroes shouldn’t be swept under the rug in the heroine book and vice versa, so they do get mentioned from time to time and b) heroism isn’t always planned so watch for a special symbol highlighting moments of bravery.
In The Book of Heroines it’s all about Girl Power! Looking for a leading lady? How about more than 100 of them? From Michelle Obama, Jane Goodall and Wonder Woman to Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem and Katie Ledecky, The Book of Heroines not only highlights how girls are just as tough as boys, but also challenges the reader to be a heroine herself and provides tips on how to unleash her inner heroine. The book is sectioned into chapters on world leaders, sports heroines, women in the workforce, legendary women from Greek mythology to modern television, women who have braved dangerous missions, peace heroines, ladies in lab coats, and even a chapter on brave animals.
Similarly, The Book of Heroes highlights 100 guys who had the boldness, bravery and brains to meet the challenges of their day. Men like Abraham Lincoln, Mark Zuckerberg, Stephen Hawking and Steve Irwin and well loved characters like Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker will allow boys to find more than just a few role models in the pages of this book and also perhaps inspire them that they, too, are capable of extraordinary things. As with the heroines book, this one is sectioned into chapters on world leaders, legendary men from myths, comics, and screen, sports heroes, workplace heroes, peace heroes, action heroes, inspiring minds, and animals.
As with all National Geographic books, the photos are outstanding and the information is presented in an incredibly accessible manner. J really loved that her own personal heroine, Emma Watson, was included. I feel like I could look at these books for hours and learn something new every time. The Book of Heroes and The Book of Heroines are a great addition to any bookshelf to inspire the next generation.
*Note – I did receive a free copy of these books to review, but the opinions are entirely my own.
We are a Broadway loving household. This year we taped the Tony’s and my girls watched them repeatedly. So there was no way of getting around the amazing momentum of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s outstanding, award-winning show, Hamilton. But while they understand the popularity of the show and that it is partly because of the way it turned what we expect of theater on its head, they definitely don’t understand the story. So when I heard about the book Aaron and Alexander, by Don Brown, I knew that I had to get a copy.
This outstanding non-fiction picture book shows the parallels between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton while highlighting the fact that they wound up being the worst of enemies. Their early lives were very different – a clear case of privilege versus poverty – but both boys were incredibly intelligent and when the American Revolution began, they both staked their lives on independence.
The book is set up in an intriguing way constantly showcasing where each man was at the same point in their life. From their formative years to the fact that both were orphaned, their roles in the Revolutionary War and the years following, and finally how they found themselves in opposing political camps fighting each other.
During the war, allegiances were started that would shape their political careers. Aaron led troops and was worn out by army life. Alexander, on the other hand, used his ambition to become General Washington’s aide.
Years later, they both had political aspirations. Aaron was a people person going out and working the crowds while Alexander used written words to get his message out there and cut down his political opponents. The conflict escalated when Alexander Hamilton was the driving force behind making sure that Thomas Jefferson won the presidency in 1800 rather than Aaron Burr. Four years later, the final straw was reached and Aaron challenge Alexander to a dual (a common occurrence in that time.).
This is a marvelous look at an interesting part of American history and a great way to talk about the current Hamilton craze. It is hard to find history books that really engage a child who is old enough to understand the content, but this book does an outstanding job of it. Until recently, most people would recognize Alexander Hamilton’s name and know little to nothing about Aaron Burr. Don Brown did an excellent job of bringing this moment of history into full color for the younger generation.
I haven’t been great about participating in the non-fiction picture book challenge hosted by Alyson Beecher of Kid Lit Frenzy, but I do try. If you haven’t already checked out her site and the rest of the outstanding blogs that link up, I highly recommend it. Her post today has a number of new releases that I want to get my hands on. Happy reading!
I’ve written in the past about books that help children consider and discover the great artists of our past and present. Recently I came across the endearing book “Painting Pepette,” by Linda Ravin Lodding, and its manner of introducing artists made me smile.
In this book, beautifully illustrated by Claire Fletcher, young Josette Bobette and her favorite stuffed animal, Pepette the bunny, live in Paris. Josette loves sitting in the great room that happens to be filled with a wall of family portraits. Everyone in her family had a painting, even the family dog, but Pepette’s portrait was missing. So the two set off to Montmarte, the famous artists quarter in Paris, to find someone to truly capture Pepette and the love that Josette has for her.
As soon as they enter the quarter, a man stops them and wants to paint Pepette’s portrait because of her “majestic ears.” He then fills an easel with Pepette’s image, but instead of two ears she has three, instead of one nose, she has two. The painting looked vaguely familiar to a certain famous artist, and I suddenly realized why there were portraits of a few famous artists in the beginning of the book. Each page would focus on a famous artist’s style, this one being Picasso.
Josette and Pepette continue to wander through the artists and get stopped by various artists. In this way, they are introduced to Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse. Even though these amazing men had painted Pepette’s portrait, none of them captured her the way Josette had dreamed of. So she realized that she had to do the painting herself and it was perfect.
I loved the illustrations in this book and the whimsical way of showcasing famous artists. I will admit that some felt more true to the artists than others, but it is a great way to peak a child’s interest. Children also love the notion of a scavenger hunt, so they are able to find the artist’s portrait at the beginning of the book. A truly engaged child might also ask to see more work by each individual artist. Regardless, this was a very sweet book that not only showcased great art, but the love of a child and her stuffed animal.