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Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: James E. Ransome
Published January 2nd, 2018 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Summary: You can be a King. Stamp out hatred. Put your foot down and walk tall.
You can be a King. Beat the drum for justice. March to your own conscience.

Featuring a dual narrative of the key moments of Dr. King’s life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him, Carole Weatherford’s poetic text encapsulates the moments that readers today can reenact in their own lives. See a class of young students as they begin a school project inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and learn to follow his example, as he dealt with adversity and never lost hope that a future of equality and justice would soon be a reality. As times change, Dr. King’s example remains, encouraging a new generation of children to take charge and change the world . . . to be a King. 

Praise: 

“While the book is accessible as an inspiring primer on social justice and taking action, it also challenges more sophisticated readers to make connections between the art, the text, Dr. King’s life, the civil rights movement at large, and the continuing struggle to affect change . . .This book is sure to spark discussion and empower readers of all ages.” –  Starred review, School Library Journal

“Thoughtful paintings of moving scenes are paired with brief, motivational reflections that evoke all the sentiment and fervor of the American civil rights movement.” –  Foreword Review

“The book manages to make essential lessons in civic responsibility accessible to the very young reader.” –  Booklist

“The historical scenes, painted in Ransome’s signature thick, saturated style, are infused with a powerful sense of narrative.” –  Publishers Weekly

“The use of rich, realistic paintings with pencil detailing for King’s life contrasts with the brighter, simpler drawings for the contemporary children, giving a physical reminder that his work is ongoing.” –  School Library Connection

ReviewI am so happy that a book like this exists! It makes a beautiful connection between King’s history and how the same concepts can (and should!) drive us today. The book is very young kid friendly and is a great scaffold to talk about Dr. King or about kindness; however, it could also be used with older kids to infer and go deeper into the lyrical language Weatherford uses. I also loved how Ransome’s illustrations changed between King’s biography and the more contemporary school narrative.

P.S. As a teacher and a person who believes in kindness and equity and acceptance and friendship, I am so happy to see conversations like this happening so freely now! My students and I speak about injustice and prejudice and equity so often now when it would have been a stigma just a few years ago to even mention race or other social justice issues. It is important to talk about race in a non-prejudicial way with children to allow them to learn and grown and reflect. Sadly, it has been through horrific injustices that has gotten us to this point, but hopefully with our future generations having these types of conversations starting at such a young age, these injustices will stop.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Have students look at each school spread (or split up the spreads between groups of students) and ask them to connect the ideals happening in the spread with something that King spoke about. This idea can also be used with the King spreads because it does not explicitly state what historical event each spread is representing, so students could look through King’s story and try to match each illustration and words with an event in his life.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was Dr. King’s dream?
  • What are some ways you can fulfill this dream?
  • Although he was speaking of a much larger issue than a classroom, how can King’s ideals be transferred to how we treat each other in the classroom?
  • What events of King’s life were portrayed in the illustrations?
  • What other ways could you BE A KING?
  • Why do you believe the author wrote this story?
  • What is the author trying to teach the reader?
  • How did the author structure the story to reach her purpose and theme?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Stories of MLK, Jr.’s life, Books (historical fiction or nonfiction) about the Civil Rights MovementEach Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson,

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I Am Gandhi
Author: Brad Meltzer
Illustrator: 25 Acclaimed Artists
Published May 8th, 2018 by Dial Books

Summary: Twenty-five exceptional comic book creators join forces to share the heroic story of Gandhi in this inspiring graphic novel biography.

As a young man in India, Gandhi saw firsthand how people were treated unfairly. Refusing to accept injustice, he came up with a brilliant way to fight back through quiet, peaceful protest. He used his methods in South Africa and India, where he led a nonviolent revolution that freed his country from British rule. Through his calm, steady heroism, Gandhi changed the lives of millions and inspired civil rights movements all over the world, proving that the smallest of us can be the most powerful.

Galvanized by Gandhi’s example of gentle, peaceful activism, New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer asked his friends in the comic book world to help him make a difference by creating this philanthropic graphic novel. Twenty-four illustrators–including many of the most acclaimed artists in comics today–enthusiastically joined the project, agreeing to donate their work so that their royalties can go to Seeds of Peace, a non-profit organization that inspires and cultivates new generations of global leaders. This extraordinary biography is a glorious team effort that truly exemplifies Gandhi’s selflessness and love for humanity.

The illustrators included are: Art Adams, John Cassaday, Jim Cheung, Amanda Connor, Carlos D’Anda, Michael Gaydos, Gene Ha, Stephanie Hans, Bryan Hitch, Phil Jimenez, Siddharth Kotian, David LaFuente, David Mack, Alex Maleev, Francis Manapul, David Marquez, Steve McNiven, Rags Morales, Saumin Patel, Nate Powell, Stephane Roux, Marco Rudy, Kamome Shirahama, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Abhishek Singh.

Kellee’s ReviewI’ll be honest–when I first read on the cover that 25 different artists illustrated this graphic biography, I was worried that the stagnation of illustration styles would hinder the narrative of Gandhi’s life, but I was so wrong. Instead, by allowing each illustrator to give us their interpretation of Gandhi, his spirit instead flowed through the pages as it was obvious that his story had touched each and every artist, and the author, taking part in this graphic biography.

While reading, it was clear to me that Meltzer wanted Gandhi’s message of equality, peace, and kindness to scream at the reader, and this was confirmed when I read the Washington Post article about Meltzer’s inspiration. I believe Meltzer did a beautiful job not only telling Gandhi’s story but also showing that peace is possible in a time of tumultuous relationships but that the only way to truly achieve it is through similar activism as Gandhi.

Ricki’s Review: I read this graphic novel twice to myself and twice with my son. Further, I’ve read portions of it to my students. I can’t stop sharing it! I was blown away by the amalgamation of the 25 graphic novelists—it made for an absolutely stunning text. I appreciate the historical perspective that extends throughout the graphic novel, and I loved that the illustrations really make Ghandi’s story come alive. This is a book that I will share often and widely. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly—even if you already know a lot about Ghandi’s life.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Have students connect Gandhi’s philosophies to those who influenced him and those he influenced. For example, in one of my literature classes, one person picked an author who was influenced by another (for example, Woody Guthrie was influenced by Walt Whitman) then the next student built on that (for example, Bob Dylan was influenced by Woody Guthrie OR Ralph Waldo Emerson influenced Walt Whitman) until a complete chain of influences were made. Then each student wrote an analysis paper showing how they were influenced then presented their findings (in order of influences) to the class. This same idea could be done here: Henry David Thoreau influenced Gandhi who influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. who influenced Barack Obama who influenced Cory Booker, etc. This idea could also be used just to look at the idea of peaceful protests that have changed the course of history: Gandhi, MLK, Black Lives Matter, Never Again, etc.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is the theme of Meltzer’s story of Gandhi?
  • How did Gandhi change the course of history for Indians in South Africa and India?
  • How did the 25 different artists illustrating the graphic novel affect the reading of the biography?
  • How did Thoreau influence Gandhi? Can you infer how Gandhi influence Martin Luther King, Jr.?
  • What was the importance of Gandhi’s march to the sea to hold salt?
  • Why do you believe Meltzer chose the specific quotes he included in the back matter of the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Ordinary People Change the World series (ex. I am Lucille Ball, I am Jackie Robinson), Nonfiction graphic novels such as Drowned City by Don Brown

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Sports Illustrated Kids: The Baseball Fanbook
Everything You Need to Become a Hardball Know-It-All: Lingo, Trivia, Stats, Skills
Author: Gary Gramling
Published April 3rd, 2018 by Sport Illustrated

Summary: Everything You Need to Become a Hardball Know-It-All!

The next book in the Fanbook series from Sports Illustrated KidsThe Baseball Fanbook has all the nerdy-cool insider knowledge that fans ready for next-level, in-depth stats need to know to impress their friends, family, coaches, and any season ticket holders they may meet. Tailor-made for baseball fanatics ages 8 and up who know the basics of the sport they love, may play it, and are looking to become super fans, this new fanbook is filled with fun trivia, unique lingo, and illustrated behind-the-skills how-to’s. Chapters include Team Tidbits (salient baseball facts about every MLB team), Think Like a Manager (essential strategies to understand), He Reminds Me Of (compares current players to legendary greats of America’s favorite pastime), and much more!

ReviewAs the 2018 baseball season begins, I knew I had to share this book with you all because I love this resource! I saw the The Football Fanbook, and I was impressed by it, but I LOVE BASEBALL! So I am so happy that there is a baseball version now.

Now, please don’t stop here just because I say I love baseball, so you assume you have to love it also to like this book. One of the things I like about this series is that they are written for all levels of fans. Maybe you don’t get why people like baseball? Check out this book to learn why! Maybe you are a player but really want to learn more specifics about the MLB? Check out this book to find out more! Maybe you are a baseball fanatic that lives and breaths the sport? Check out this book to maybe learn some fun facts you don’t know or as just a fun and entertaining read. It really is written in ways that all types of readers will find something in it.

Although this book is aimed for kids in grade 3 and up, don’t let that make you think it doesn’t include detailed information–it does! Each chapter is focused and full of information and photographs. But at the same time, I will say that it isn’t so overwhelming that younger kids will be turned off either. I’ve used parts of it with Trent this year as the season begins, and as we get ready for him beginning t-ball.

I am also impressed by its text structure. It is set up to be a book that could be read in order or jumped around, which is what I think is the best structure for informational nonfiction books because it makes it so any type of reader can grab it and read it how they’d like. The chapter titles are: 1) Know These Numbers, 2) Obscure Facts, 3) Skills to Master, 4) Run a Team, 5) He Reminds Me Of…, 6) Team Tidbits, & 7) Talk to Talk, and they are pretty self explanatory about their content.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Like other topic focused books, the best place for it will be in libraries and classrooms for students to read if they want to. Parts of it could be used for math statistics activities or for sports history lessons or for a research resource; however, primarily it is going to be in kids’ hands being read.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Who is your favorite player? Create your own “Reminds me of…” document.
  • How are statistics such as ERA, WHIP, and batting average determined in baseball?
  • How has the sport of baseball changed over time?
  • Using the “Run a Team” chapter, create your own team. First, create it with known players then work on making a team of players you create.
  • Who is your favorite team? What did they leave out of the team tidbits that you would have included?

Flagged Passages: 

“Chapter 3: Skills to Master

Whether you’re eager to snag an autograph or ready to perfect your slide into second, you need to know how to do things the right way — even eat sunflower seeds!”

“Chapter 5: He Reminds me of…

Your grandparents have déjà vu all over again when they see these modern players on the diamond. Which stars of today play like the stars of yesteryear?”

Read This If You Love: Baseball!, Sports history, Fun with numbers

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When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon & Garfunkel
Author: G. Neri
Illustrator: David Litchfield
Expected Publication on March 20th, 2018 by Candlewick Press

Summary: From childhood friendship to brief teenage stardom, from early failures to musical greatness — the incredible story of how Simon & Garfunkel became a cherished voice of their generation.

Long before they became one of the most beloved and successful duos of all time, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were just two kids growing up in Queens, New York — best friends who met in a sixth-grade production of Alice in Wonderland and bonded over girls, baseball, and rock ’n’ roll. As teens, they practiced singing into a tape recorder, building harmonies that blended their now-famous voices until they sounded just right. They wrote songs together, pursued big-time music producers, and dreamed of becoming stars, never imagining how far their music would take them. Against a backdrop of street-corner doo-wop gangs, the electrifying beginnings of rock ’n’ roll, and the rise of the counterculture folk music scene, G. Neri and David Litchfield chronicle the path that led two young boys from Queens to teenage stardom and back to obscurity, before finding their own true voices and captivating the world with their talent. Back matter includes an afterword, a discography, a bibliography, and a fascinating list of song influences.

ReviewWow. G. Neri and David Litchfield have captured the story of Simon & Garfunkel and released it into the world in a way that oozes the same beauty that their music does. Neri’s lyrical narrative flows and is perfect for a biography of one of the most beloved duos ever while Litchfield’s illustrations have the tone and coloring that just fit Simon & Garfunkel’s music–a bit dreamy yet raw and colorful. Their two pieces of artwork put together make for a beautiful picture book biography.

P.S. Make sure you take off the cover and look at the book design. BEAUTIFUL!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: While I’m not sure if such a class exists, this text would be perfect for a history of rock and roll class. It really goes through how the time period was changing when it came to music and how each artist influenced each other. If this class doesn’t exist, I wish it did, and I wish I could take it!

The structure of the text also lends to a great lesson looking at both why the author chose verse instead of prose as well as why he chose the timeline that he did. What was his purpose?

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the author structure the book?
  • Why do you believe that the author chose to write the narrative in verse?
  • Paul and Artie, as children, are both different and similar. Explain.
  • How did Artie use his interest in math to help the duo?
  • How did music around Paul and Artie affect their music?
  • Why is this time period so important for the history of rock and roll?
  • What other artists does the author and illustrator highlight during the book as influences for Simon & Garfunkel?
  • What would have happened if Paul and Artie had given up after all of the rejection?
  • How did the duo go from rejection to success?
  • What clues can the musical connections give to us about the duo’s musical journey?

Flagged Passages: 

“We’ve Got a Groovy Thing Goin’

…When he takes the high
tenor melody, and Paul
the low-scale harmony,
something clicks.
It reminds Paul of his dad
tuning his bass guitar:
when two strings come into focus,
they suddenly resonate
as one…”

“Bookends

…At the dawn of a new year,
the new kinds of the charts
have no idea that their lives
will be forever changed.
For one last moment,
sitting int he car together,
Paul and Artie
are still just
two boys
from Queens
dreaming about
the future.”

Read This If You Love: Music, the 60s, Rock and Roll, biographies

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**Thank you to Raquel at Candlewick for providing a copy for review!!**

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Leaf Litter Critters
Author: Leslie Bulion
Illustrator: Robert Meganck
Published March 8th, 2018 by Peachtree Publishers

Summary: Have fun on this poetic tour through the leaf litter layer and dig into the fascinating facts about the tiny critters who live there. Nineteen poems in a variety of verse forms with accompanying science notes take readers on a decomposer safari through the “brown food web,” from bacteria through tardigrades and on to rove beetle predators with other busy recyclers in-between. 

Zooming into the thin layer of decaying leaves, plant parts, and soil beneath our feet, Leaf Litter Critters digs into fascinating information about the world of decomposers–from the common earthworm to the amazing tardigarde.

Written in various poetic forms, acclaimed science poet and award-winning author Leslie Bulion combines intriguing scientific details with fun wordplay to create a collection of nonfiction verses amusing for all readers. Vibrant and entertaining artwork by distinguished illustrator Rober Meganck adds to the humor of each poem.

Perfect for cross curricular learning, Leaf Litter Critters has extensive back matter, including both science notes about each critter and poetry notes about each poetic form, as well as a glossary, hands-on activities, and additional resources for curious readers to further their investigations. It’s also a great read-aloud for Earth Day and beyond.

* “The poems are expertly crafted in a variety of forms (identified in the backmatter). The language is lively and the imagery appropriate. With alliteration, internal rhymes, and careful rhythm, these will be a delight to read aloud and learn…. Meganck’s engaging digital drawings give each creature pop-eyes and attitude…. A delightful, memorable introduction to an unsung ecosystem.” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Bulion stuffs her poems with scientific detail and puts even more into accompanying “science notes.” Meganck’s cartoons strike sillier notes…balancing all of the information Bulion provides with hefty doses of fun.” —Publishers Weekly

Review & Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I cannot wait to give this to my mentee who is a sixth grade science teacher who has a BS in biology–she is going to love this so much! And if I was an upper elementary teacher, I would love to use this text as a cross-curricular text during a poetry and biology unit. Not only did it teach me SO much about these amazing creatures that do weird and truly astonishing things, it goes through all the different types of poetry shared to ensure that the book isn’t just science nor poetry centered. I think the author did a beautiful job making sure that each spread had a wonderful poem and a deep science explanation just in case the poem doesn’t clarify anything. Additionally, the back matter includes investigative activities, a glossary, and more science information that would all be incredible assets to a classroom! I really cannot say enough how well the book is crafted for the purpose it was created for.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is each creature in the leaf litter layer important?
  • How did the illustrator use a pin to help you see the size of each critter on pages 54-55?
  • Write your own poem about one of the creatures that you learned about using whatever poetic style you choose.
  • How did the science notes on each page assist you in understanding the creature that was shared on each spread?
  • Which of the poetic forms/styles did you enjoy the most? Why?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Biology, Poetry, Science

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**Thank you to Elyse at Peachtree for providing a copy for review!!**

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Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon
Author: Annette Bay Pimentel
Illustrator: Micha Archer
Published February 6th, 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: The inspiring story of the first female to run the Boston Marathon comes to life in stunningly vivid collage illustrations.
Because Bobbi Gibb is a girl, she’s not allowed to run on her school’s track team. But after school, no one can stop her–and she’s free to run endless miles to her heart’s content. She is told no yet again when she tries to enter the Boston Marathon in 1966, because the officials claim that it’s a man’s race and that women are just not capable of running such a long distance. So what does Bobbi do? She bravely sets out to prove the naysayers wrong and show the world just what a girl can do.

* “A bright salutation of a story, with one determined woman at its center.”–Kirkus Reviews, starred review

ReviewI first learned about Bobbi Gibb when I read The Girl Who Ran by Frances Poletti & Kristina Yee and after reading it, I knew I wanted to learn more about Bobbi Gibb because she did so much for women’s progress when it came to running. Without her standing up and going against everyone, it would have taken longer for women to be accepted as marathoners.

Pimentel does a beautiful job showing Gibb’s inspiration, determination, and journey. I loved seeing more about what happened during the marathon than what I knew before and especially was verklempt by the support she found when ran by Wellesley College and the women at the college came out and cheered for her. I also loved learning that the other runners supported her!

Through the afterwords, I also found out that Gibb had to wait 30 years before she was listed as the female winner of the Boston Marathon in 1966, 1967, and 1968 races because the officials wouldn’t honor her as a runner. This shows that so often even when the masses support something, it is a systemic issue that needs to be fixed.

Last but not least, I must share how much I adore Archer’s artwork. I was a big fan of her work in Daniel Finds a Poem, and once again I found that her illustrations were the perfect addition to the story being told.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Gibb is one example of an American that changed history but may not be well known. I think it would be fascinating to introduce Gibb using Pimentel’s picture book as a way to start discussions about normal people changing the world. I would then share other stories about heroes like Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, and Jesse Owens. I’d also reference other books like Be a Changemaker and 31 Ways to Change the World. The research could also be narrowed down to just sports; however, I think it is a wonderful discussion to have about how Gibb may have “only” changed marathons, it is part of a bigger movement.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did people think that women couldn’t run marathons?
  • How did Bobbi Gibb prepare for her first official marathon?
  • Did the other runners react the way you had expected? Explain.
  • How did Archer’s artwork support Pimentel’s story of Gibb?
  • What traits does Gibb show that helped her be successful?
  • When Gibb began to get blisters, were you afraid that she wasn’t going to finish? Explain your thinking and reactions as the story continued.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Picture book biographies, Women’s rights

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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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