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William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad
Author & Illustrator: Don Tate
Publication Date: November 1, 2020 by Peachtree Publishing Company

Summary: You might be familiar with Harriet Tubman and other key leaders of the Underground Railroad, but do you know about the Father of the Underground Railroad?

William Still’s parents escaped slavery but had to leave two of their children behind, a tragedy that haunted the family. As a young man, William went to work for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, where he raised money, planned rescues, and helped freedom seekers who had traveled north. And then one day, a strangely familiar man came into William’s office, searching for information about his long-lost family. Could it be?

Motivated by his own family’s experience, William began collecting the stories of thousands of other freedom seekers. As a result, he was able to reunite other families and build a remarkable source of information, including encounters with Harriet Tubman, Henry Box Brown, and William and Ellen Craft.

Don Tate brings to life the incredible, stranger-than-fiction true story of William Still’s life and work as a record keeper of enslaved people who had fled to freedom. Tate’s powerful words and artwork are sure to inspire readers in this first-ever picture book biography of the Father of the Underground Railroad.

About the Author: DON TATE is the award-winning illustrator of numerous books for children, including Carter Reads the Newspaper, and is the author and illustrator of Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton for  which he won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. He is also the co-contributor to the Brown Bookshelf, a blog designed to raise awareness of African Americans writing for young readers. He lives in Austin, Texas. Visit his website at www.dontate.com.

Review: I think history education is one of the ways I was let down as a kid, so I adore when I learn about a piece of history or a historical figure that we should all know about but has been left out of “chosen” history.

William Still was a huge part of abolitionism, the Underground Railroad, and the history of freed enslaved Americans. Based on Don Tate’s story, I learned that his transcription of the oral history of freedom seekers is how we know about many of the stories that are shared including Harriet Tubman’s and Henry Brown’s.

Don Tate’s book beautifully illustrates through his artwork and words the power of William Still and his impact on our history. We are lucky to have this book out in the world!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: 

Peachtree Publishing has provided a downloadable poster which I love!

https://peachtree-online.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/William-Still-and-His-Freedom-Stories_poster.pdf

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Read an excerpt of the book here: https://peachtree-online.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/WilliamStillandHisFreedomStoriesExcerpt.pdf 

Read This If You Love: History, specifically the Civil War, Emancipation, Underground Railroad; Don Tate’s books

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

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Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the Vote
Author: Barb Rosensock
Illustrator: Sarah Green
Published: February 25th, 2020 by Calkins Creek

Summary: The fight for women’s suffrage between women’s rights leader Alice Paul and President Woodrow Wilson is presented as a four-round boxing match in this nonfiction picture book.

When Woodrow Wilson was elected President, he didn’t know that he would be participating in one of the greatest fights of the century: the battle for women’s right to vote. The formidable Alice Paul led the women’s suffrage movement, and saw President Wilson’s election as an opportunity to win the vote to women. She battered her opponent with endless strategic arguments and carefully coordinated protests, calling for a new amendment granting women the right to vote. With a spirit and determination that never quit–even when peaceful protests were met with violence and even when many women were thrown in jail–Paul eventually convinced President Wilson to support her cause, changing the country forever.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Fight of the Century:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Fight of the Century here.

Barb Rosenstock also created two other resources for educators:
A Pinterest Board
A Text Set

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Marjory Saves the Everglades: The Story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Author: Sandra Neil Wallace
Illustrator: Rebecca Gibbon
Published September 22, 2020 by Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

Summary: From acclaimed children’s book biographer Sandra Neil Wallace comes the inspiring and little-known story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the remarkable journalist who saved the Florida Everglades from development and ruin.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas didn’t intend to write about the Everglades but when she returned to Florida from World War I, she hardly recognized the place that was her home. The Florida that Marjory knew was rapidly disappearing—the rare orchids, magnificent birds, and massive trees disappearing with it.

Marjory couldn’t sit back and watch her home be destroyed—she had to do something. Thanks to Marjory, a part of the Everglades became a national park and the first park not created for sightseeing, but for the benefit of animals and plants. Without Marjory, the part of her home that she loved so much would have been destroyed instead of the protected wildlife reserve it has become today.

About the Author: Sandra Neil Wallace hopes that her stories inspire readers as much as they inspire her. Her book The Teachers March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History was written with her husband, Rich Wallace, and has received three starred reviews to date. Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went From the Football Field to the Art Gallery received the Orbis Pictus Book Award, was an ALA Notable Book and a Booklist Top 10 Biography for Youth. Formerly, Sandra was an ESPN reporter and was the first woman to host an NHL broadcast. She continues to break barriers as co-founder of DailyGoodNH.org and lives with her family in New Hampshire. To learn more, and to download free activity kits and other resources, visit  SandraNeilWallace.com.

Facebook: Sandra Neil Wallace
Twitter: @SandraNWallace
On Instagram: @sandraneilwallace

Praise:Marjory Saves the Everglades will inspire children of today and tomorrow to be persistent and follow their dreams to create a better world. Sandra Neil Wallace captures Marjory’s passionate commitment to justice for our natural world and all of its inhabitants.”

Review: Marjory Stoneman Douglas is such a special person to us Floridians, even before the tragedy at the school named for her. Marjory changed the course of history here in Florida helping establish our very own ecosystem where amazing wildlife live. We’ll forever be grateful for her, and I am so happy for this beautiful biography commemorating her life and teaching even me more than I knew about her.

Wallace did a fantastic job choosing which parts of Douglas’s amazing life to share, going through much of her life without overloading the narrative, while also showing how important the Everglades are.

The illustrations are perfect because they are so detailed and engulf you when reading about the Everglades. Also, they are so colorful bringing to life all of the amazing wildlife!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This picture book biography will be perfect for older elementary and secondary classrooms! I would love to see it being used when speaking about humans/women who made a difference or wetlands, so it’ll be a perfect cross-curricular read hitting science, social studies, and reading.

There truly is so much that can be done with this picture book. While reading, I found many differen sections I could stop and do a lesson about an aspect: transportation over time, women’s right history, onomatopoeias, article writing, women in military, women during WWII, expansion of the USA, poaching, National Park history, swamp vs. Everglades, animals of the Everglades, effects of pollution, Friends of the Everglades, and more!

The back matter of the book also offers great opportunities to diving deeper including articles to learn more about Marjory and a mentor text timeline.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did Marjory’s persistence show that anyone can do anything they put their mind to?
  • How did Marjory change the world?
  • How can we keep the Everglades safe?
  • What birds and wildlife live in the Everglades that live no where else?
  • How is the Everglades unique?
  • What adjectives would you use to describe Marjory?
  • Before saving the Everglades, what else did Marjory do that she should be honored for?

Book Trailer:

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Read This If You Love: Picture book biographies, Enviornmental-focused picture books

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review and Simon & Schuster for providing a copy for giveaway!**

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“Studying the Past, Writing the Future: Some Thoughts on the Study of History” 

Before I even finished co-writing Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote (Viking, 2018), I knew I wanted to write another book like it.  By “like it” mean:

A book of history for younger readers.

  • A book that tells the story of incredible, genuinely heroic, and underappreciated people.
  • A book that, despite its younger audience, still captures the nuance, complexity, and, above all, rich profundity of some important chapter from the past.

It took me many months, many long walks, and many conversations with many people before I stumbled upon the subject of nonviolence.  As had been the case with suffrage a few years before, I knew next to nothing about this topic, but as I began reading my way into it, I could tell that it would make for a great book.

There was a more specific link connecting the two projects as well: Alice Paul, who led the American women’s suffrage movement during the final decade of its long struggle.  I had grown utterly fascinated with the intense, truly radical, and somewhat mysterious Paul while working on Roses and Radicals.  As I began reading about nonviolence I came to understand that she herself was a nonviolent activist, even though only a tiny fraction of the scholarship about Paul views her work in this context.  So the writing of my book, We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World, would begin by retelling her story, yet again, but this time in order to establish her rightful place alongside Gandhi, MLK, and Cesar Chavez.

But as I did this, I learned that We Are Power would be crucially different than Roses and Radicals.  For one thing, it would tell more stories—and would thus require considerably more research.  More important, however, these stories would be tied together not by a common set of characters, a single movement, or a shared setting, but by the strategy of nonviolent activism itself.

In this regard, We Are Power is not only a book of history, but a book of political theory, or, more precisely, a book about a half-dozen instances of this political theory being put into dramatic, inspiring practice.  The book, as narrative, would be propelled by characters and conflicts, but the spine holding it all together would be the theory itself: the way nonviolence rethinks the very nature of political power and social change.

Unfortunately, I found this theoretical material, all on its own, dense, abstract, and, when read separately from the history, extremely dry and perhaps even boring.  I knew that the parts of my book dedicated directly to this theory would have to be brief or I’d lose my readers.  And yet, these parts, I learned as I wrote my various chapters, were in a sense the very point of the book.  As they were interwoven into the various narratives I was constructing, they often found their place in and around the climaxes to each story.

The historical events were, I realized, the occasion to present the timeless truths at the center of nonviolent activism.  This would explain why the title to my book of history—We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World—contains not one but two present tense verbs.  It also explains why the book is able to pivot, in its conclusion, from past movements to a present struggle—the fight against climate change—that is very much ongoing.

Ultimately, We Are Power isn’t a book of history, or only a book of history.  It’s a book about power and the way those who don’t appear to have power can claim it, in order to change the world in which they live.  The truth about power at the center of this book is timeless.

I don’t have a lesson, per se, to offer teachers here, but instead a rather large bit of advice I encourage teachers to keep in mind when working on history with their students: studying the past is worthwhile not because there’s value in knowing, all by itself, what happened in earlier times, but because understanding history helps us see our present more clearly.  This great, meta-historical truth needn’t receive a lot of attention in lessons, but it should be there, I believe, as an often-silent motivation for the entire enterprise.

Our responsibility to study the past is inseparable from our responsibility to apply what we learn to our actions in the present.  When we teach young people history, we’re giving them a crucial tool in becoming informed citizens capable of transforming our present into a better future, and I can think of no lesson more important than that.

Published April 7th, 2020 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

About the Book: Author Todd Hasak-Lowy’s We Are Power is a stirring introduction to nonviolent activism, from American women’s suffrage to civil rights to the global climate change movement.

What is nonviolent resistance? How does it work? In an age when armies are stronger than ever before, when guns seem to be everywhere, how can people confront their adversaries without resorting to violence themselves? Featuring leaders Gandhi, Alice Paul, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Václav Havel, and Greta Thunberg, We Are Power brings to life the incredible movements that use nonviolent activism to change the world.

By answering the question “Why nonviolence?” and challenging the notion of who makes history and how, author Todd Hasak-Lowy shows the ways key movements have succeeded again and again in all sorts of places, using a variety of methods and against overwhelming odds. Breaking down nonviolent resistance into digestible lessons for next generation of activists, this book is an inspiring call to action, a reminder that true power ultimately rests in our hands.

We Are Power also includes an overview of other movements from the last one hundred years, a bibliography, and an index.

★ “Hasak-Lowy’s writing gives life to both the people and issues involved, taking time to explain historical backgrounds and the ways the lessons from one movement affected future ones.” — Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

★ “Highly recommended for its outstanding treatment of the history of social justice. A good resource for student activists.” — School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

★ “There has never been a time when a book is more relevant than this one.” — School Library Connection, STARRED REVIEW

“A striking and very timely conclusion highlights teenage Greta Thunberg’s bold challenge to fight global climate change.” — Publishers Weekly

“This excellent, timely overview will open eyes and deserves a wide readership.”— Kirkus

About the Author: Todd Hasak-Lowy is the author of several books for young readers, including the novels 33 Minutes and Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You. He is a professor in the department of liberal arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has a PhD from University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Evanston, Illinois, with his wife and two daughters. Visit his website at toddhasaklowy.com.

https://www.toddhasaklowy.com/
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https://www.abramsbooks.com/product/we-are-power_9781419741111/

Thank you, Todd, for this look at how history helps write the future: good and bad!

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Honey: The Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln
Author: Shari Swanson
Illustrator: Chuck Groenink
Published January 14th, 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books

Summary: Based on a little-known tale from Abraham Lincoln’s childhood, this charming picture book written by debut author Shari Swanson and illustrated by acclaimed artist Chuck Groenink tells a classic story of a boy, his dog, and a daring rescue.

Deeply researched and charmingly told, this is the true story of one extra-special childhood rescue—a dog named Honey.

Long before Abraham Lincoln led the nation or signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he was just a barefoot kid running around Knob Creek, Kentucky, setting animals free from traps and snatching frogs out of the jaws of snakes.

One day, young Abe found a stray dog with a broken leg and named him Honey. He had no idea that the scruffy pup would find his way into Abe’s heart, become his best friend, and—one fateful day—save his life.

About the Author: Shari Swanson is a debut author who has been a middle school language arts teacher as well as an appellate lawyer. She received her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she wrote her thesis on musicality in picture books. She lives in Southern California with her husband and their dog, Honey. To learn more, and to download a free curriculum guide and activity kit, visit her website: shariswanson.com.

Twitter: @ByShariSwanson
Facebook: Shari Swanson, Author

Author Q&A: Thank you to Shari for answering some questions for us and you!

Q: Why did you specifically choose this moment in Abe’s life to focus on? What did you hope to add to the Abe Lincoln narrative?

A: This story captivates me for several reasons. First, I love that we see Abe as a child—prone to distraction, earnest and loving, and with a deep compassion for animals. I feel it adds depth to our understanding of him as a man and makes him relatable to current children who might share these characteristics. Second, that Abe might not have grown up to be a man and our president without Honey gives me shivers. I believe Honey is an American hero, and that Abe’s kindness to Honey came back to bless him later. Kindness is something that causes ripples to go out and touch others in ways we usually never see. Finally, this is one of very few stories that features Lincoln’s mother, Nancy. Very little is written about his Kentucky years with Nancy, and she died shortly after the Lincolns moved to Indiana. That mother-son bond was important to him and is precious. I hope that this story fleshes out the narrative of Lincoln by showing his compassion from an early age as well as how his behavior was rooted in kindness. I also feel this story helps us appreciate the fragility of life and how interconnected everything is.

Q: What type of research did you do to prepare?

A: I’ve been twice to Kentucky to walk where Lincoln walked and explore the hills and hollows where he grew up. I’ve descended into several of the known caverns there to picture how he might have felt when he got stuck. I’ve been to all of the Lincoln museums and national sites in Kentucky to soak it in and ask lots of questions. I’ve read every book I could find on Lincoln’s Kentucky years, including chapters in larger biographies, pored over primary sources, like interviews, auction receipts, and land sale documents. For the timeline, I dove deep into every resource I could find, skimming for references to Lincoln with animals, loving that his affection for animals stayed with him all the way until the end. It makes me cry to think of his dog Fido and his horse, Old Bob, at his funeral. The picture of Old Bob, riderless, in the funeral procession, is powerful. Most all of this didn’t make it into the book, but I love research, and, as a former appellate lawyer, I’m a stickler for detail.

Q: Tell us your journey of your debut picture book.

A: My journey on this book began years ago when I was teaching middle school. We were reading an excerpt from Russell Freedman’s book on Lincoln and a sentence about Abe’s childhood caught my attention. I wanted to know more about his best friend then and their adventures. I threw myself into research, discovered Austin Gollaher, Abe’s best friend, and had my local library send for a copy of his narratives. Back then, the book was dusty and old in a college archive room. Now it is available online. I had the deep pleasure of telling Russell about my hopes to write a picture book about Lincoln’s childhood, and he encouraged me. When I was getting my MFA, I learned how to take the massive amount of information I had and draw out just a thread for a picture book narrative. HONEY is the culmination of those efforts.

Q: Lastly, what do you hope is the readers big take away from Honey?

A: I hope children and adults fall in love with Honey and his boy. I hope readers feel the story is both grounded in its time and timeless.

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for the copy for review and giveaway & to Shari Swanson for her participation!**

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Just Like Beverly: A Biography of Beverly Cleary (Growing to Greatness)
Author: Vicki Conrad
Illustrator: David Hohn
Published August 13th, 2019

Summary: Just Like Beverly follows the life of beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary from her early years in Oregon to her career as a successful writer who wrote stories, including the wildly popular Ramona and Henry Huggins series, for kids just like her.

As a young girl, Beverly Cleary struggled to learn to read and found most children’s books dull and uninteresting. She often wondered if there were any books about kids just like her. With hard work, and the encouragement of her parents and a special teacher, she learned to read and at a young age discovered she had a knack for writing.

Beverly Cleary’s story comes to life in this narrative nonfiction picture book as she grows to follow her dreams of writing the books she longed for as a child, becoming an award-winning writer and one of the most famous children’s authors of all time.

Beautiful illustrations capture Cleary’s sense of humor, struggles, and triumphs, and are filled with Easter eggs throughout for fans to discover.

Praise: 

“Hohn captures her lively spirit through illustrations, reminiscent of those by Alan Tiegreen for Cleary’s own books, that will keep young readers entertained. A loving and informative tribute worthy of celebrating Cleary’s 103rd year of life.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred

“Conrad writes with clarity and features significant details that bring Cleary’s experiences and personality to life for kids today. Hohn makes good use of color, light, and pattern in his imaginative illustrations, which interpret the text sensitively. The artwork looks fresh and appealing while suggesting the period, the emotional resonance, and the upbeat spirit of Cleary’s books.”–Booklist, starred

“A celebration of Cleary, literacy, and the pursuit of ambitious dreams, this charming picture book will enhance any biography collection.”–School Library Journal

“Debut author Conrad’s storytelling is straightforward, ably conveying—in tandem with Hohn’s homespun, vintage-style illustrations—the various eras of Cleary’s life and her passion for writing and for nurturing readers.”–Publishers Weekly

About the Author: VICKI CONRAD is a teacher with a passion for literacy development and inspiring students to love reading just as much as she did as a child. Growing up, she was always found with a book in her hand, and she has stayed that way ever since. When she is not writing or teaching, she is traveling the world, growing a garden, or searching for stories. She has called Seattle her home for many years. She doesn’t mind the rain, as long as she has coffee, friends, and good books for company. Just Like Beverly is her first book.

About the Illustrator: DAVID HOHN is an illustrator based in Portland, Oregon. His days are spent in the studio imagining what it would be like to be someone else, doing something else–and then he paints it.

Review: It was so wonderful reading about Beverly Cleary’s childhood! It truly showed how supportive teachers and parents plus some access to books truly can result in brilliance! It just took some guidance, praise, and confidence to make her bloom as a writer.

From a parent and teacher point of view, I loved that Beverly saw a issue in the children lit world and used a talent to work to try to solve that issue–what a great role model!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are three ways I picture this book being an asset in the classroom.

First, it is a wonderful addition to any picture book biography text set/mentor text set.

Second, it is a beautiful book to read aloud! And truly would lead to wonderful discussions.

Third, I could see it being used in conjunction with Cleary’s novels. How does her childhood story connect to the novels that she wrote?

Discussion Questions: 

  • When looking for stories about kids like you and your friends, what type of characters are you looking for?
    • [Writing prompt] Write a fictionalized story that you can relate to.
  • What character traits did Beverly have to be as successful a writer as she was?
  • What does Beverly’s pride in winning a contest that she was the only entry say about you?
  • What do you believe is the author’s purpose for writing this title?
  • How does Beverly’s story fit the theme of “Growing to Greatness”?
  • How is children literature different now than it was during Beverly’s childhood?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Beverly Cleary!; Picture book biographies about writers such as Some Writer! by Melissa Sweet; A Boy, A Mouse, and a Spider by Barbara Herkert; A River of Words by Jennifer Bryant; Papa is a Poet by Natalie S. Bober

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Don’t miss out on other nonfiction picture books! Check out Kid Lit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 

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Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11
Author: Brian Floca
Published April 7, 2009 by Atheneum

Summary: Simply told, grandly shown, here is the flight of Apollo 11. Here for a new generation of readers and explorers are the steady astronauts, clicking themselves into gloves and helmets, strapping themselves into sideways seats. Here are their great machines in all their detail and monumentality, the ROAR of rockets, and the silence of the Moon. Here is a story of adventure and discovery—a story of leaving and returning during the summer of 1969, and a story of home, seen whole, from far away.

Praise:

“Like the astronauts’ own photographs, [Floca’s] expansive, heart-stopping images convey the unfathomable beauty of both the bright, dusty moon and the blue jewel of Earth.” –New York Times Book Review, July 1, 2019

Ricki’s Review: I thought I knew a lot about the Apollo 11. This book made me realize that I had so much to learn. My sons and I cuddled in one of their beds and read this one together. I whisper-read it because it felt too beautiful to read in a voice that was any louder. My kids followed this model and whisper-asked questions in awe. This book is a masterpiece. There are so many books out there about the Apollo 11, and although I haven’t read them all, I feel confident when I say that this is the best on out there. The illustrations are captivating, the story includes just the right amount of science, and the words dance on the pages.

Kellee’s Review: I love reading about space and have read dozens and dozens of picture books with my son about the topic. This book stands out from the rest. Brian Floca masterfully creates a story that is both engaging and scientifically accurate. This book offers so many possibilities for the classroom for teachers. The words are written in a poetic format which makes the pages easy to read and an excellent balance with the stunning illustrations. If you read just one book about the Apollo 11 this summer, let it be this one. It will knock you off of your feet.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Our minds were buzzing with possibilities after reading this text. Teachers might use this book at the center of a unit on space, or they might use it to catapult students into research studies about any topic of science. We can see this book in classrooms from pre-k through high school. It could be used as a creative writing mentor text or as a text at the start of a high school science unit. It beautifully balances scientific information with narrative, so we think it would be incredibly appealing to teachers of all content areas and grade levels.

 Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn about the Apollo 11?
  • How is the information in this book similar or different from what you already knew about the Apollo 11?
  • Why do you think the author chose the poetic format for the words?
  • How do the illustrations add to your understanding of the text?

Flagged Spread: 

Read This If You Love: Moon by Stacy McAnultyThe Sun is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk, Once Upon a Star by James Carter, Space Encyclopedia by David AguilarYou Choose In Space by Pippa GoodhartA Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin, Star Stuff by Stephanie Roth Sisson

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**Thank you to Audrey at Simon & Schuster for providing copies of the book for review!!**

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