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Let Liberty Rise!: How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty
Author: Chana Stiefel
Illustrator: Chuck Groenink
Anticipated Publication: March 2, 2021 by Scholastic

Goodreads Summary: How did 121,000 Americans save their most beloved icon? Here is an inspiring story about the power we have when we all work together!

“This charming history title is a true inspiration for the present. An informative must-have for all libraries.” — School Library Journal, starred review

“All rise to this evocative, empowering offering.” — Kirkus Reviews

“[A] true tale of cooperation among all ages.” — Publishers Weekly

On America’s 100th birthday, the people of France built a giant gift! It was one of the largest statues the world had ever seen — and she weighed as much as 40 elephants! And when she arrived on our shores in 250 pieces, she needed a pedestal to hold her up. Few of America’s millionaires were willing to foot the bill.

Then, Joseph Pulitzer (a poor Hungarian immigrant-cum-newspaper mogul) appealed to his fellow citizens. He invited them to contribute whatever they could, no matter how small an amount, to raise funds to mount this statue. The next day, pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters poured in. Soon, Pulitzer’s campaign raised enough money to construct the pedestal. And with the help of everyday Americans (including many thousands of schoolchildren!) the Statue of Liberty rose skyward, torch ablaze, to welcome new immigrants for a life of freedom and opportunity!

Chana Stiefel’s charming and immediate writing style is perfectly paired with Chuck Groenink’s beautiful, slyly humorous illustrations. Back matter with photographs included.

About the Creators:

Chana Stiefel is the author of more than 25 books for kids. She hails from sunny South Florida and now lives in New Jersey, just a ferry ride away from the Statue of Liberty. Chana loves visiting schools and libraries as well as sharing her passion for reading and writing with children. She earned a master’s degree in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting from New York University. To learn more, visit Chana at chanastiefel.com. Facebook: Chana Stiefel; Twitter: @chanastiefel; Instagram: @chanastiefel

Chuck hails from an overgrown village among the peat bogs in the north of the Netherlands, where he spent his formative years climbing trees, drawing, reading, and cycling. He attended the Artez Institute of Visual Arts in Kampen, graduating from the Department of Illustration in 2004. He now resides in Valatie, New York, with his wife, dog, and two cats. Visit Chuck at chuckgroenink.com; Instagram: @c.groenink

Ricki’s Review: Wow! I did not know about this story, and it is really quite inspirational. As a person who values community and coming together for shared causes, I fell in love with this book. As one of the children in the text who donated 60 cents said, “Drops make an ocean.” After looking at the cover, my kids wanted to know why the statue of liberty wasn’t green, which started our first conversation. Then, we had many other wonderful conversations together. We even did some math to determine how much 40 elephants weigh! The illustrations feel majestic–they offer up-close looks at the different parts of the Statue of Liberty. I can’t get enough of this book. Also, be sure to check out the timeline and photographs. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Reading this story will make kids want to work toward a cause themselves. Culturally sustaining practices ask educators and schools to be accountable to their communities. I’d love to use this book to kick off a class discussion of how the students could work toward a cause in their own communities. 

Download a free curriculum guide and check out the book trailer on the book page for Let Liberty Rise!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn from the book?
  • Who is the hero of this book? Are there many heroes?
  • How can you give back in your own community?

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Read This if You Love: Nonfiction picture books, history books, stories of heroism and community

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**Thank you go Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars
Author: Laurie Wallmark
Illustrator: Brooke Smart
Anticipated Publication: March 2, 2021 by Harry N. Abrams

Goodreads Summary: Decode the story of Elizebeth Friedman, the cryptologist who took down gangsters and Nazi spies.

In this picture book biography, young readers will learn all about Elizebeth Friedman (1892-1980), a brilliant American code breaker who smashed Nazi spy rings, took down gangsters, and created the CIA’s first cryptology unit. Her story came to light when her secret papers were finally declassified in 2015. From thwarting notorious rumrunners with only paper and pencil to counter-spying into the minds and activities of&; Nazis, Elizebeth held a pivotal role in the early days of US cryptology. No code was too challenging for her to crack, and Elizebeth’s work undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. Extensive back matter includes explanations of codes and ciphers, further information on cryptology, a bibliography, a timeline of Elizebeth&;s life, plus secret messages for young readers to decode.

About the Creators: 

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. You can find her at lauriewallmark.com. On Twitter: @lauriewallmark, Facebook: @lauriewallmarkauthor, Instagram: @lauriewallmark

Brooke Smart loves telling stories through her illustrations, especially stories about brave women from history. She has always loved to read, and growing up she could be found nightly falling asleep with a book on her chest. Illustrating books as a professional artist is a lifelong dream come true. She is living the busy, tired, happy, wonderful dream in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, their three kids, and their naughty cat named Sunshine. Learn more about her at brooke-smart.com. Instagram: @bookesmartillustration

Ricki’s Review: This book is packed with information! I wasn’t familiar with this Women in STEM series, and now I feel like I need to get all of the books! The book has a great complexity—from the way in which the story is told in an engaging way that draw readers in to the way the illustrations and text are laid on the page. Typically, I give books away after I read and review them, but I am going to have a hard time parting with this one. Elizebeth Friedman’s bravery is simply awe-inspiring. She is a true heroine who needs to be named more frequently in history. Get this book. You truly won’t be disappointed.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book begs to be read in literature circles with other books about heroes/heroines, women in STEM, or powerful people in history. It would ignite powerful conversations about the characteristics of historical and contemporary heroes and heroines.

Check out the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter book page, where you’ll find a trailer, cool activity sheets, and more!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is one intentional choice the author made in telling this story?
  • What are the qualities of a hero? Who are some historical and contemporary heroes who inspire you?
  • What are some of the pivotal moments in Friedman’s life story? How did she change the world for the better?

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Other Books by Laurie Wallmark: Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code; Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine; Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor; Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics

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**Thank you go Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest
Author: Heather Lang
Illustrator: Jana Christy
Published February 9th, 2021 by Calkins Creek

Summary: Meg Lowman was determined to investigate the marvelous, undiscovered world of the rainforest treetops. Meg’s perseverance and creativity allowed her to achieve this goal, but when this fantastic ecosystem started to disappear, Meg needed to act quickly.

Meg Lowman was always fascinated by the natural world above her head. The colors, the branches, and, most of all, the leaves and mysterious organisms living there. As a scientist, Meg set out to climb up and investigate the rain forest tree canopies– and to be the first scientist to do so. But she encountered challenge after challenge. Male teachers would not let her into their classrooms, the high canopy was difficult to get to, and worst of all, people were logging and clearing the forests. Meg never gave up or gave in. She studied, invented, and persevered, not only creating a future for herself as a scientist, but making sure that the rainforests had a future as well. Working closely with Meg Lowman, author Heather Lang and artist Jana Christy beautifully capture Meg’s world in the treetops.

About the Creators: 

Heather Lang loves to write about real women who overcame extraordinary obstacles and never gave up on their dreams. Her award-winning picture book biographies include Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine.

Jana Christy currently lives in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. She is the illustrator of various titles, including I’m the Big One Now!: Poems about Growing Up. Visit janachristy.wixsite.com/illustrations.

Review: Heather Lang does an amazing job of the layering in this book ensuring to include many different aspects of Margaret (Meg) Lowman’s life including her passion for the environment, challenges of being a woman in the sciences in 1970s and the barriers that came with the institutional sexism, and someone wanting to be innovative yet being shut down left and right.

The narrative of the story is written in beautiful verses mixed with direct quotes from Lowman and extra side bar notes that includes facts and information that help drive the biography. And finally the illustrations, filled with vibrant blues and greens, bring the story and setting to life for the reader.

The back matter includes an author note sharing about Lang’s interest in Lowman and about meeting and interviewing her, and it includes photos of Lowman and Lang! This shows the reader Lang’s research methods and how the quote throughout the book are primary sources.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: 

Publisher-provided Educator Guide:

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View two spreads from the book by visiting the publisher’s page:

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Marjory Saves the Everglades by Sandra Neil Wallace, The Blue Giant by Katie Cottle, Over and Under series by Kate Messner, Swimming with Sharks by Heather Lang, Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino, The Tree Lady by Joseph H. Hopkins

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**Thank you to Boyds Mills & Kane for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award Winning Children’s Book Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing
Editor: Melissa Stewart
Published November 2020 by National Council of Teachers of English

Summary: In Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-Winning Children’s Book Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing, some of today’s most celebrated writers for children share essays that describe a critical part of the informational writing process that is often left out of classroom instruction.

To craft engaging nonfiction, professional writers choose topics that fascinate them and explore concepts and themes that reflect their passions, personalities, beliefs, and experiences in the world. By scrutinizing the information they collect to make their own personal meaning, they create distinctive books that delight as well as inform.

In addition to essays from mentor authors, Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep includes a wide range of tips, tools, teaching strategies, and activity ideas from editor Melissa Stewart to help students (1) choose a topic, (2) focus that topic by identifying a core idea, theme, or concept, and (3) analyze their research to find a personal connection. By adding a piece of themselves to their drafts, students will learn to craft rich, unique prose.

100 percent of the proceeds will be divided among the National Council of Teachers for English (NCTE), We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

About the Author: Melissa Stewart has written more than 180 science books for children, including the ALA Notable Feathers: Not Just for Flying, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen; the SCBWI Golden Kite Honor title Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis; and Can an Aardvark Bark?, illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Steve Jenkins. She coauthored 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books (forthcoming) and grades K-2 and 3-5 editions of Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science. Stewart maintains the award-winning blog Celebrate Science and serves on the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators board of advisors. Her highly regarded website features a rich array of nonfiction writing resources.

Contributors: Sarah AlbeeChris BartonDonna Janell BowmanMary Kay CarsonNancy CastaldoJason ChinLesa Cline-RansomeSeth FishmanCandace FlemingKelly Milner HallsDeborah HeiligmanSusan HoodGail JarrowLita JudgeJess KeatingBarbara KerleyHeather LangCynthia LevinsonMichelle MarkelCarla Killough McClaffertyHeather L. MontgomeryPatricia NewmanElizabeth PartridgeBaptiste PaulMiranda PaulTeresa RobesonMara RockliffBarb RosenstockLaura Purdie SalasAnita SanchezApril Pulley SayreSteve SheinkinRay Anthony ShepardAnita SilveyTraci SorellTanya Lee StoneJennifer SwansonStephen R. SwinburneDon TateLaurie Ann ThompsonPamela S. TurnerPatricia ValdezSandra Neil WallaceLaurie WallmarkJennifer WardCarole Boston WeatherfordLee WindPaula YooKaren Romano Young

From Melissa Stewart: “Behind the Book”

The idea for this book traces back to the 2017 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, when I was fortunate to participate in a panel titled ‘The Secret of Crafting Engaging Nonfiction’ with two of the most talented children’s nonfiction authors of our time—Candace Fleming and Deborah Heiligman.

During our discussion, moderated by educator and children’s nonfiction enthusiast Alyson Beecher, we dove deeply into what fuels our work and why we routinely dedicate years of our lives to a single manuscript. As we compared our thoughts and experiences, we came to realize something critically important—each of our books has a piece of us at its heart. And that personal connection is what drives us to keep working despite the inevitable obstacles and setbacks.

Several other nonfiction authors attended our presentation, and afterward they praised our insights. That conversation helped us all understand our creative process in a new and exciting way. And it eventually led to the essays in this anthology, which are our way of sharing an important—and often unrecognized and underappreciated—aspect of nonfiction writing with educators and students.

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I was star struck seeing all of the authors who had contributed! I was lucky enough to be at the presentation that this book’s seed of an idea started, so when I heard about this book, I knew it would be a book I would need!

This book is all about moving nonfiction writing to an authentic experience. The book is broken into 3 sections to help guide writing instruction:

  • Choosing a Topic
  • Finding a Focus
  • Making is Personal

Within each section there are essays by mentor authors focusing on different aspects of the topic. I loved reading the essays that ranged from a look at how to take an idea and make it grow, about complexities within nonfiction, about the bumps along the way, about the writing process, and everything else you can think of.

Then the last part of the chapter is In the Classroom which helps tie the essays all together with how to take it to our students.

This book is written specifically with teachers in mind–it is such an amazing resource!

Video about the Book: https://melissa-stewart.com/books/teachers/bk_nonfiction_writers_dig_deep.html

Read This If You Love: Teaching authentic nonfiction writing

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Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy
Author: Kenneth C. Davis
Published October 6th, 2020 by Henry Holt and Co.

About the Book: From the bestselling author of the Don’t Know Much About books comes a dramatic account of the origins of democracy, the history of authoritarianism, and the reigns of five of history’s deadliest dictators.

What makes a country fall to a dictator? How do authoritarian leaders—strongmen—capable of killing millions acquire their power? How are they able to defeat the ideal of democracy? And what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

By profiling five of the most notoriously ruthless dictators in history—Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Saddam Hussein—Kenneth C. Davis seeks to answer these questions, examining the forces in these strongmen’s personal lives and historical periods that shaped the leaders they’d become. Meticulously researched and complete with photographs, Strongman provides insight into the lives of five leaders who callously transformed the world and serves as an invaluable resource in an era when democracy itself seems in peril.

Q&A

Q1. What led you to choose this topic and this audience (teens) for your new book?

A1.   I have been writing about history for some thirty years and was always fairly optimistic about the future of America. In spite of the flaws I have catalogued in my books, I always believed in the United States as the “last, best hope on earth”—Lincoln’s words—and that its democratic system still moved towards more progress.

But something has changed. And for some time now, I have been concerned that democracy, at home and abroad, was under assault. That is not only sad but dangerous. I felt I had to tell the story of these dictators and how quickly democracy can vanish. It is meant as a warning, a cautionary tale for our time.

On the question of writing for teens, let me first say that I think my books aimed at younger readers are not that different from my earlier work aimed at older adults. In fact, many older readers don’t know these are “Young Adult” books. I try and write for everyone in an accessible style that welcomes the reader, older or younger.

I started writing for younger readers several years ago because I have spoken to so many of them in classrooms over time and came away impressed by their curiosity, engagement, and interest in history. But I wanted to deliver a message to those young people that democracy can’t be taken for granted and that they have a real stake in protecting our rights and freedoms.

Q2.   What is the key takeaway you hope that young people get from reading it?

A2.   There are several key issues at work in this book and, I would say, all of my work. First is that history is not a collection of facts—dates, battles, speeches, laws – but real stories about real people doing real things. When we read about history that way, it becomes far more compelling and connected to our own lives.

Next is that we read and learn from these accounts to understand who we are and how we got here. Part of that idea is the story of how enormous sacrifices have been made in the name of rights and progress—from abolition to suffrage, civil rights, and fair labor laws. That often comes from the bottom up, not the top down, which means people without a vote still had a voice.

It is also a book that asks hard questions about what people are willing to do in following a leader. And that brings me to my earlier point: Democracy is not a spectator sport. We must protect it if we think it is worth keeping.

Q3.   What was the hardest part about writing the book?

A3.   I actually write about that in the closing words of the book. This was, in many ways, an extremely difficult project. I have written about many hard and awful events and periods in the past, including the stories of racial slavery I told in my earlier book, In the Shadow of Liberty.

But describing the levels of cruelty, inhumanity, and indecency are unavoidable in writing the history of the Strongmen –the murderous dictators whose stories I tell. We can’t sugarcoat that history. Or ignore it. That made this project a true test of my fundamental belief in the general goodness of humanity. I had to write about the vast numbers of people who were complicit in the genocidal crimes of a Strongman like Hitler or Stalin.

Q4.   If a teacher asked for recommendations for teaching your book, what would you suggest?

A4.   My writing career has mostly been about asking questions and presenting facts and evidence in real stories. I think that teachers –especially those in Social studies—can follow that general premise with their students. Ask questions and allow students to find answers through accurate, documented evidence.

This approach of getting students to do real research, assess evidence, check sources, and make considered judgments based on facts is the essence of thinking for themselves. It is what today’s education must be about, especially in this era as facts and truth are under such assault.

In a more practical way, this book should fit into a number of curriculum areas – 20th century history; the Holocaust; civics and government; ethics, religion, and basic philosophy; economics; sociology and the behavior of crowds. I have always been a proponent of crossing disciplines.

Q5.   What other resources do you feel would complement STRONGMAN in a curriculum?

A5.   I would start with reputable journalism, including newspapers and websites that accurately document their reporting. We must establish the clear connection between history and the headlines. That will also help develop those “media literacy” skills that all of us –not just students—need to negotiate the world we live in.

Certainly, there are also a great many other books that could be placed beside Strongman –biographies, war narratives, Holocaust and other memoirs from each of these eras. I’ve included many of them in the Bibliography of Strongman.

I think you can include some historical fiction –cautiously reminding students that novels are not always accurate depictions of events. There are also a wealth of documentary films and series, often starting with what is offered from PBS.

Finally, I did not set out to write three books as a “set” – but I think that my earlier books can be read alongside Strongman. I think that In the Shadow of Liberty provides more context for how the history of slavery developed alongside American democracy. More Deadly Than War provides background for the role World War I played in shaping the world that produced the dictators I profiled in Strongman. And that is how we must read history – as a long, complex, series of connected narratives, not a list of events that are unrelated.

About the Author: Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times–bestselling author of America’s Hidden History and Don’t Know Much About® History, which gave rise to the Don’t Know Much About® series of books for adults and children. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed In the Shadow of Liberty, which was an ALA Notable Book and a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, as well as More Deadly Than War, which was named a Washington Post Best Children’s Book of the Month. A frequent guest on national television and radio and a Ted-Ed Educator, Davis lives in New York City.

Ken also offers free classroom visits to teachers through his website, which might be of interest to include: https://dontknowmuch.com/for-teachers/

Thank you, Kenneth, for sharing the truth of history with our students!

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