Tag Archives: history

Let’s Hear it for the Girls! Picture Book Biographies of Amazing Women

May is Women’s History month, so I wanted to get at least one post out with great books about great women. There really are so many to choose from that it can be hard, but the amazing thing is that people are putting out spectacular nonfiction picture books that are a great way to get young readers excited about making a difference in the world, following their dreams, and understanding that there are so many different talents out there.

women bios Continue reading →

Refugee by Alan Gratz

There are times when books and history or social studies lessons go hand in hand. Refugee is one such book. This should be on required reading lists for middle graders, and adults might learn a thing or two from it as well.

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I first heard of Refugee as it was coming out last summer and pre-ordered a copy (side note – it really helps authors when you pre-order their books for a wide variety of reasons). We became big Alan Gratz fans with The League of Seven series and have enjoyed his works. More recently, I heard an interview with Alan Gratz on the Kit Lit Drink Night Podcast. In it, Gratz talked about how he had originally planned to write a book about the Holocaust but wound up writing about refugee situations in 3 distinct time periods. I finally managed to read the book and all I can say is wow. Just wow.

If you haven’t already heard about the book, here is the basic rundown from the jacket:

Three different kids. One mission in common: ESCAPE. Continue reading →

Renato and the Lion

Renato_cover-350Renato loved his home in Florence, Italy.
He loved the people there. And the food there.
But he especially loved the art there.
It was everywhere.

This is how Barbara DiLorenzo begins her beautiful book, Renato and the Lion. Through beautiful watercolor images, DiLorenzo brings Florence, Italy to life. This gorgeous book sends us back to Florence during World War II, seen through the eyes of young Renato, who not only loves his homes, but especially loves the art work found throughout the magnificent city.

Renato’s father works at an art museum. As soldiers start to take over the city, men like Renato’s father encase famous sculptures in brick to protect them from damage. Renato’s favorite sculpture is a lion in the Piazza della Signoria who he desperately wants to protect. The lion weaves into Renato’s dreams and in the end, he does manage to help save the sculpture. Continue reading →

Dorothea Lange – Picture Book Biographies

We have lots of picture books come in and out of our house. My 5th grader still loves to see a new pile from the library and settle in to see what she can experience. Lately, I have been getting a  lot of non-fiction, I just haven’t had a chance to write about them all. But there is something special when a random selection from the library proves meaningful to something she is studying in school.

migrant mother

In one of my recent library trips, I discovered Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression, by Carole Boston Weatherford. I have long been fascinated by the faces that Lange was able to capture with her camera and the way she put such emotion into the reality of the Depression and her role in the Farm Security Administration. Photojournalism has long been a passion of mine, and she is vital in the field.

So I found it comical when my 5th grader came home with an assignment about the Depression that featured Lange’s iconic photograph, Migrant Mother, and she recognized it because she had read this picture book. Continue reading →

My Brigadista Year

Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the free review copy of his book – all opinions are my own.

I have found that I really enjoy reading middle-grade historical fiction. They are an amazing way to learn about periods in history from a completely different perspective. Of course, I realize that you have to take the information with a grain of salt, but they encourage readers to ponder aspects of history and potentially do additional research themselves.

Recently I was given the opportunity to review My Brigadista Year, by Katherine Paterson, thanks to the Kid Lit Exchange. This book tells of an “army” of volunteer teachers who were called upon to end illiteracy in Cuba shortly after Fidel Castro came to power. The book itself takes place between March and December of 1961 as we follow young Lora on a life-changing journey.

brigadista

Lora is a thirteen year old girl inspired by the posters put up at her school that called for young men and women to join an army of teachers. She has never been outside of Havana and her family doesn’t want her to participate, but she is determined. Continue reading →

Sticks ‘N’ Stone ‘N’ Dinosaur Bones

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screen-shot-2015-01-03-at-11-32-37-amSo starts the comical book “Sticks ‘N’ Stone ‘N’ Dinosaur Bones” written by Ted Enik and illustrated by G.F. Newland. This unusual book looks at the actual Bone Wars that took place in the late 1800s between O. Charles Marsh and Edward D. Cope.

I had no idea that there was such a competitive nature between paleontologists, but apparently it was quite a big deal. With a hats off to Dr. Seuss, Enik tells the story of how these men used any means necessary to have the biggest discoveries in finding dinosaur fossils and even resorted to crime and outright lies.

I would have loved to see more talked about the actual dinosaurs and discoveries they found, but this book was about the ridiculous desire to one-up the other. The two men got so caught up in their desire to be famous that they forgot about the science of what they were supposed to be doing. As a media student, it quickly reminded me of yellow journalism, and my husband pointed out that it was fake news.

This book is a must for the dinosaur lover and a great read-aloud. I could definitely see how this would get a classroom of kids talking about fact and fiction, competition, and the importance of fair play.

*** I read a digital copy of this from NetGalley in return for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Standing up for the Statue of Liberty

This week my younger daughter is at a camp where she is getting to do a wide variety of arts and crafts project with the theme – Party in the USA. They are fully involved in celebrating this great country that we live in. So far, her favorite day has been where they focused on the Statue of Liberty. In addition to painting a picture, they created her crown and torch.IMG_0008

Back in April, I wrote about a few books that we had found about the Statue of Liberty after visiting her during our spring break. Now there is a new book coming out this September that takes a very interesting look at Lady Liberty, specifically, her right foot.

right foot cover

In Dave Eggers’ new book, Her Right Foot, readers get the usual history of the great statue – how she was designed and built, why she is green, and what the symbolic significance is behind aspects of her design. But then about half-way through the book, Eggers draws the reader’s attention to a little discussed part of the statue – her feet. Continue reading →

Learning about the Canadian Indian Residential Schools

There are moments in our collective history that we would rather forget happened, but that we must never forget and never allow to happen again. Whether the extermination of Jews in Europe, the internment of Japanese Americans in the United States, the slave trade that took so many people from Africa, or the Indian Residential School program in Canada.Learning about Canadian Residential Institutions

This last item is one that many of us don’t even know existed, but it was a program that attempted to assimilate native children into Euro-Canadian culture for over a century. Indigenous children were taken from their homes, placed into special residential schools, treated poorly, and forbidden to speak their own native language of Cree. In the last twenty years, former students have pressed for recognition and restitution. There are now two books from Second Story Press that deal with this subject, albeit in very different ways. Continue reading →

Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted

she-persisted-bookYesterday Chelsea Clinton’s new book, She Persisted, arrived in my mail. I had pre-ordered it because I believe that it is an important item to show our children. Kids need to see people like them achieving their dreams. They need to know that life isn’t going to just hand them what they want, but if they believe in themselves and never give up, they can do great things. It is why I have also ordered a copy of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

I will admit, that when I first read the book, I was less than enamored with it. Clinton has put together 13 very abridged biographies about women from all over the spectrum – civil rights activists, artists, politicians, professionals, and athletes. I wanted something I could sink my teeth into a bit more. But I also tend to immerse myself in full picture book biographies about many of these subjects, so I wanted a viewpoint closer to the intended audience and asked my 10 year old to read it this morning. She actually read it out loud as we were driving to school and somehow hearing it in her voice gave it more power. Continue reading →

In Praise of Your Local Librarian

In Praise of Your Local Librarian

National Library week occurs every year towards the beginning of April. I may have missed the actual celebration this year, but in my mind, we should always be celebrating the librarian, so I’ve put together a few outstanding nonfiction picture books about librarians for this week’s nonfiction picture book challenge.

miss moore coverOne of my all time favorites is Miss Moore Thought Otherwise, by Jan Pinborough. This book tells the story of how Anne Carroll Moore created libraries for children. It is hard for children today to comprehend that we live in a world where girls are not expected to just stay home and take care of the children. It is also hard for children, and adults for that matter, to comprehend a time when children were not welcome in libraries. When librarians didn’t want kids to touch books for fear that they would hurt them (a la The Library Dragon). It was not until 1896 that the first library room designed for children was even created, and Miss Moore was given free rein to implement her ideas about how it should be run, including a pledge for kids wanting to take out books, story times, and the removal of “silence” signs. 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. This book is full of wonderful history about Miss Moore and about the public library system. Continue reading →