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Heroes of Black History: Biographies of Four Great Americans
Author: The Editors of Times for Kids
Introduction by Charlayne Hunter-Gault
Published December 19th, 2017 by Times for Kids

Blog Tour Week 4’s Feature American:
Barack Obama

Summary: TIME for Kids Heroes of Black History presents the stories of four great American heroes every child should know about in one volume: Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and Barack Obama. Featuring an introduction by journalist and civil rights activist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Heroes of Black History shines a light on the long fight for social justice in the United States as it highlights the accomplishments and personal histories of these four pivotal Americans.

Young readers learn about the life of Harriet Tubman—born a slave around 1820, she escaped to the North, but returned to the South nineteen times as a conductor on the Underground Railroad to lead 300 slaves to freedom. An incredibly gifted athlete, Jackie Robinson endured taunts, slurs, and death threats when he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on an Alabama bus in 1955 and paved the way for a Supreme Court decision that declared segregation on Alabama’s public buses was unconstitutional. On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama took the oath of office as our country’s first African American president. 

Illustrated with a dynamic mix of photographs and illustrations, the biographies of these Americans delve deeper than their accomplishments to reveal details on their childhoods, early experiences, schooling, family life, and more. Sidebars about related topics—Underground Railroad routes, sports firsts, the Harlem Renaissance, and more—give context and additional insights for young readers. Heroes of Black History also gives readers a timeline overview of three centuries of African American history, beginning with the slave trade, touching upon the formation of the NAACP, the civil rights movement, the March on Washington, and other pivotal events, up through the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement. Brief profiles of more than twenty additional heroes of black history, a glossary of key terms, and a detailed index are also included in this comprehensive book.

ReviewWhen I was asked to take part in this blog tour, I knew right away that I wanted to be part of week 4 of the tour to focus on Barack Obama for a few reasons: 1) I need a reminder of modern heroism; 2) I’ve featured the other three Americans on Unleashing Readers before (Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks); 3) The Obamas, in my opinion, are the perfect couple to feature on a Valentine’s Day post.

Obama’s biography within this text reminded me that hard work, high ethics, kindness, love, and intelligence can lead to success and that being cutthroat or brutal are not the key features in heroes of mine. The biography, overall, was quite simple and focused on the main points of Obama’s life and presidency; however, it is a wonderful introduction to his life thus far and really ensures that readers understand how he got to where he is and how he changed history. It was so refreshing to read about a person that faced discrimination and resistance with such grace and resilience.

I also got to glimpse into the upbringing of Obama which I ended up knowing less about than I thought. I hadn’t realized he hardly knew his father nor that he lived in Indonesia for a while before returning to live with his grandparents in Hawaii. All of this lead to Michelle and him meeting while he was completing an internship–her stability appealed to him. And that was the beginning of a beautiful romance. And the beginning of a journey that neither of them probably saw coming.

The other sections in this text follow similar suits in that they are wonderful introductions of each historically significant American.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: This four-stories-in-one biography from Time has so many applicable uses in classrooms! The publisher created teaching guide shares discussion questions, topics for writing, a scavenger hunt, more heroes of Black history, activities for students for each biography, a cloze read book review, and fast facts for each hero.

The teaching guide can be accessed here.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Biographies, History

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for hosting the blog tour and providing a copy for review!**

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Histories Mysteries
Author: Kitson Jazynka
Illustrators: Various
Published October 17th, 2017 by National Geographic Society

Summary: Why were the Easter Island heads erected? What really happened to the Maya? Who stole the Irish Crown Jewels? The first book in this exciting new series will cover history’s heavy-hitting, head-scratching mysteries, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke, the Bermuda Triangle, the Oak Island Money Pit, Stonehenge, the Sphinx, the disappearance of entire civilizations, the dancing plague, the Voynich manuscript, and so many more. Chock-full of cool photos, fun facts, and spine-tingling mysteries.

ReviewI feel like a broken record, but I just feel like it needs to be repeated: National Geographic Kids are publishing some truly phenomenal books for kids to read independently and/or for teachers to use in the classrooms. This one is no exception! It is beautifully structured with each mystery being shared with background, more details, clues, and theories along with illustrations and photographs. It is broken up into 7 chapters with mysteries all within the chapter around a specific topic. The chapter topic’s are: vanished civilizations, unexplained deaths and disappearances, creatures of myth and legend, freaky phenomena, mystifying monuments, cryptic codes and lost languages, & treasure troves.

 Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I felt very similarly about this book as I did about What Would Happen?, another National Geographic book–I just want to bring it into a classroom and let kids just inquire about any of the mysteries that tickle their fancy! How much fun it’d be to just allow students to get obsessed with a mystery then share it with their classmates.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which mystery do you want to do more research on?
  • [For each mystery] Do you agree with the theory shared? OR Which of the theories shared do you agree with?
  • What other mysteries would you like to learn more about?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: History, Mysteries, National Geographic Kids books

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Stop by Kid Lit Frenzy to check out the link up of other Nonfiction Picture Book reviews!

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**Thank you to Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone
Author: Alice Brière-Haquet
Illustrator: Bruno Liance
Published December 5th, 2017 by Charlesbridge Publishing

Summary: “To be young, gifted, and black.”

A stunning picture-book biography of the High Priestess of Soul and one of the greatest voices of the 20th century.

With evocative black-and-white illustrations and moving prose, readers are introduced to Nina Simone, jazz-music legend and civil-rights activist. Shared as a lullaby to her daughter, a soulful song recounts Simone’s career, the trials she faced as an African American woman, and the stand she took during the Civil Rights Movement. This poignant picture book offers a melodic tale that is both a historic account of an iconic figure and an extraordinary look at how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go for social justice and equality. A timeless and timely message aptly appropriate for today’s social and political climates.

ReviewAlthough Nina is just a taste into who Nina Simone was as it only introduces her talent as a pianist and shares her beliefs in regards to civil rights. Set up as a lullaby that Nina is singing to her child, the story recounts her love of music and learning about the racism within our nation as well as a story where she stood up to inequality at one of her piano concerts. The lyrics and illustrations are dreamy and perfectly fit the purpose of the story: to introduce and intrigue the reader when it comes to Nina Simone.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I do wish that there had been back matter that went more in depth into Simone’s contribution to jazz and civil rights; however, without them existing, this nonfiction picture book allows for a perfect change for inquiry. Now that students have been introduced to Nina, have stations/centers focusing on different parts of her life, jazz, or the Civil Rights Movement.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the illustration on the bus use the idea of the piano to symbolize the relationship between White and Black citizens in the early 1900s?
  • What techniques do the author and illustrator use to make the book seem lullaby-eque?
  • How did the imagery of the single black chair symbolize the racism that occurred at Simone’s concert?
  • How does the author tie in Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement?

Flagged Passages: 

“‘The white keys are whole notes and the black keys are flats, or half notes,’ my teacher explained.

I asked why.

‘Because that’s just the way it is.’

Yes, that’s the way it was. White was whole. Black was half. It was that way everywhere and for everyone.

I could have held it against people. Or worse, I couldn’t believed I was worth less than other people.

Black people were nothing but half notes on a huge ivory keyboard.

But no. I did not agree with this.

The notes had to mingle and dance together in the air so these lies would disappear.”

Read This If You Love: Andrea Davis Pinkney picture book biographies, Jazz, Learning about the Civil Rights Movement

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands
Author: Susan Goldman Rubin
Published November 7th, 2017 by Chronicle

Summary: In the tradition of DELICIOUS, WIDENESS & WONDER, and EVERYBODY PAINTS!, this is Susan Goldman Rubin’s extensively researched and very accessible biography of civic activist Maya Lin, most famous for her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is one of the most famous pieces of civic architecture in the world. But most people are not as familiar with the reserved college student who entered and won the design competition to build it. This accessible biography tells the story of Maya Lin, from her struggle to stick with her vision of the memorial to the wide variety of works she has created since then. Illustrated extensively with photos and drawings, the carefully researched text crosses multiple interests–American history, civic activism, art history, and cultural diversity–and offers a timely celebration of the memorial’s 35th anniversary, as well as contributing to the current, important discussion of the role of women and minorities in American society.

Activities include: 

Pre-Reading

  • Building Historical and Scientific Background Knowledge: To better understand much of Maya Lin’s extensive work, background knowledge of certain historical and scientific events are needed. Before reading Maya Lin’s biography, separate the class into five groups and assign each group one of these events:
    1. Vietnam War
    2. Civil Rights Movement
    3. Chinese-American Immigration
    4. Endangered and threatened animals
    5. Lewis and Clark’s expedition and the effect on the Indigenous People of Washington State

    Have each group create a timeline using an interactive timeline creator that showcases their event chronologically.  Within the timeline, the students should not only have important dates but they should incorporate visuals, the impact of each event on history/science, and any other supplemental information/media that will increase the knowledge of their event.

    Students then will present their timelines to their classmates to allow for all students to possess knowledge of all five historical and scientific events before beginning Maya Lin’s biography.

Post-Reading

  • Symbolism: Unlike traditional minimalists, Maya Lin uses symbolism in her work. Begin with working with students on symbolism within familiar stories they know. Show students What is Symbolism? at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Vwek28P9Gk then read the Story of William Tell (http://www.mainlesson.com/display.php?author=baldwin&book=fifty&story=tell) and discuss what the apple symbolizes. After this discussion tell students that symbolism in art is the same–symbolism is when a piece of art or an aspect of a piece of art represents something more than its literal meaning.Then, have students analyze her pieces of work for symbols within them. Students should then create a symbolism T-chart showing their found symbolism.Some examples:
    The ark shape of the Riggio-Lynch Chapel Symbolizes that the chapel is a safe place just as Noah’s Ark was.
    The water on the Civil Rights memorial Symbolizes the justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream mentioned in “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Cumulative Writing Assignment: Legacy
    Maya Lin states, “You need to see me whole as an artist. What I’m doing is art, architecture, and memorials.” Have students write an informative essay explaining how Lin has fulfilled her legacy as an artist, architect, and memorial designer. Have students use evidence from the text, as well as other provided resources if you choose, to support their claim.Other resources:
    http://www.whatismissing.net/
    http://www.mayalin.com
    http://www.biography.com/people/maya-lin-37259
    http://www.theartstory.org/artist-lin-maya.htm

Discussion Questions include: 

  • From a young age, Maya Lin did not like the color red. Why does she not like the color red? What does red represent to her? The color red was included in the Museum of Chinese in America, however. Why was the color included in this project even though Maya Lin does not like it?
  • After completing the Vietnam War Memorial, Lin felt like she was boxed in as a “monument designer,” and refused many invitations to complete more memorials. Why do you think the Civil Rights Memorial was the work that she finally agreed to complete?
  • Maya Lin’s message of sustainability (avoiding the depletion of natural resources to maintain a balance within nature) reaches us through not only her What is Missing? project but through many of her other pieces of work. She states, “A lot of my work is not very glorious. If I succeed, you may never know I was here.” How did Maya Lin’s message of sustainability come through her works?
  • Susan Goldman Rubin’s chapter titles are very specific word choices. Looking at the titles (Clay, Granite, Water, Earth, Glass, Celadon, Dunes and Driftwood, Wood, and Memories), why do you believe the author choose these words to title each chapter?

Teaching Guide Created by Me (Kellee): 

You can also access the teaching guide through Chronicle’s website here.

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Living Things and Nonliving Things: A Compare and Contrast Books
Author: Kevin Kurtz
Published September 10th, 2017 by Arbordale Publishing

Summary: Using a wide variety of stunning photographs, author Kevin Kurtz poses thought-provoking questions to help readers determine if things are living or nonliving. For example, if most (but not all) living things can move, can any nonliving things move? As part of the Compare and Contrast series, this is a unique look at determining whether something is living or nonliving.

Author Information: Award-winning author Kevin Kurtz holds degrees in English literature and elementary education and started his career by working at a marine biology lab. Since then, he has combined all of these experiences by working as an environmental educator and curriculum writer for organizations such as the South Carolina Aquarium, the Science Factory Children’s Museum, and the Center for Birds of Prey. Kevin has authored A Day in the DeepA Day on the Mountain, and A Day in the Salt Marsh for Arbordale. Kevin also wrote Uncovering Earth’s Secrets after spending eight weeks as the Educator at Sea aboard the marine geology research vessel JOIDES Resolution. Visit Kevin’s website for more information.

ReviewLiving Things and Nonliving Things is a great introduction to what makes something living. Kevin Kurtz uses bright photographs to illustrate his different points that will start great scientific conversations about different things in our world and what makes them living or nonliving. This text is going to be wonderful in classrooms within early STEAM lessons.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Kurtz includes backmatter with permission to photocopy for class use which includes a glossary, discussion questions, an activity, and a “Living or Nonliving Checklist” all which are great resources for classrooms.

Arbordale Publishing also includes a 30-page cross curricular teaching activity guide available for the book:

Additionally, there is an interactive ebook available that reads aloud in English or Spanish and includes word highlighting and interaction with the animals.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What characteristics do living things have?
  • What are the differences between a living and nonliving thing?
  • What are some examples of nonliving things that include characteristics that living things have?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Science, Animals

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**Thank you to Heather at Arbordale Publishing for providing a copy for consideration!**

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: David Litchfield
Published October 24th, 2017

Summary: “Hi, I’m Earth! But you can call me Planet Awesome.”

Prepare to learn all about Earth from the point-of-view of Earth herself! In this funny yet informative book, filled to the brim with kid-friendly facts, readers will discover key moments in Earth’s life, from her childhood more than four billion years ago all the way up to present day. Beloved children’s book author Stacy McAnulty helps Earth tell her story, and award-winning illustrator David Litchfield brings the words to life. The book includes back matter with even more interesting tidbits.

ReviewWow! This book went above and beyond my expectations! Think of it as Earth’s humorous autobiography. The voice that Stacy McAnulty gave Earth is perfect, and you learn things too! Although the book is silly and is told from Earth’s point of view, it is still a book that should be taken seriously because the knowledge it (and the back matter) holds is tremendous. It goes through the history of Earth is a truthful yet understandable way. Kids will leave the book knowing more than they did before but also really interested in learning more. Stacy McAnulty’s narrative with David Litchfield’s cartoonish illustrations lends itself to the perfect picture book for entertainment and information. Just check out the flagged passages to see why I say this is a must-get book!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When Earth’s history is first introduced in elementary school, Earth! would be the perfect introduction book because it goes over the entire history in a way that students will pay attention to but also without dumbing down any of the information.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the author use text features throughout the book?
  • How did the author’s use of an unconventional narrator help you understand the history of Earth better?
  • What humorous parts of the book were your favorite? Why?
  • Using the ruler visual within the book, how much of Earth’s history have human’s inhabited? What else do you learn from this visual?
  • Read the back matter of the book. What else did Stacy McAnulty teach you in the back of the book?
  • What is something new you learned about Earth or the solar system in Earth!?
  • Would you classify the book as fiction or non-fiction? Why?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Science, Space, Picture books with humorous narrators like It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh FunkNothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex

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**Thank you to Kelsey at MacMillan for setting up the blog tour for Earth!**

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

National Geographic Kids: What Would Happen? 
Author: Crispin Boyer
Published July 11th, 2017 by National Geographic Society

Summary: Ever wondered what would happen if some cool or crazy things were possible? Like what would happen if: you got sucked into a black hole; dinosaurs still existed; humans could fly; you could communicate with dolphins; or you could dig a hole through to the center of the Earth?

Get ready to explore all kinds of scenarios that would or could happen if the world was just a slightly different place. Each scenario is examined with real scientific, historical, and cultural facts in mind. This out-of-the-box book encourages readers to cultivate a better understanding of the world as it is – and as it could be!

ReviewA favorite book of mine and my husband’s that we read years ago was Why do Men have Nipples?, and we really loved getting answers to questions that you may not even know to ask yet are really intriguing. What Would Happenis the middle grade equivalent! So many interesting questions are answered! Do you want to know about global warming? Honeybees? Time machines? You will find answers in this book. Each question’s answer is set up to give the reader background knowledge, potential outcomes, extenuating circumstances, etc. to fill in any blanks and curiosities there may be. And as with all National Geographic books, the photographs are superb!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love that so many of the National Geographic books touch on such a variety of topics, but also in the books that are like What Would Happen?, the information only touches the surface. This book would be a perfect jump start to passion or inquiry projects. What do students want to learn more about? They can start by reading the spread in What Would Happen? then research more to prepare a presentation about everything they learn.

The book also definitely has a place in libraries: school, classroom, and home. It is a wonderful book filled with questions that kids will love to learn the answers to!

Discussion Questions: Every page in this book has a discussion question!

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Getting answers to burning questions

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**Thank you to Karen from Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

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