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Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World 
Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Published August 17th, 2021 

Summary: Mahatma Gandhi and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. both shook, and changed, the world, in their quest for peace among all people, but what threads connected these great activists together in their shared goal of social revolution?

A lawyer and activist, tiny of stature with giant ideas, in British-ruled India at the beginning of the 20th century.

A minister from Georgia with a thunderous voice and hopes for peace at the height of the civil rights movement in America.

Born more than a half-century apart, with seemingly little in common except one shared wish, both would go on to be icons of peaceful resistance and human decency. Both preached love for all human beings, regardless of race or religion. Both believed that freedom and justice were won by not one, but many. Both met their ends in the most unpeaceful of ways—assassination.

But what led them down the path of peace? How did their experiences parallel…and diverge? Threads of Peace keenly examines and celebrates these extraordinary activists’ lives, the threads that connect them, and the threads of peace they laid throughout the world, for us to pick up, and weave together.

Praise: “The book’s attractive design, lucid text, and carefully chosen details combine to create an inviting and original treatment of its subjects. History has been carefully intertwined with the present in this engaging and reflective book.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

About the Author: Uma Krishnaswami is the author of several books for children including Book Uncle and Me (International Literacy Association Social Justice Literature Award, USBBY Outstanding International Book) and Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh (Asian Pacific American Librarians Award, FOCAL Award). She was born in New Delhi, India, and now lives in British Columbia, Canada. To learn more, visit her website: umakrishnaswami.org.

Review: First, happy book birthday!!!!!! 🎉 

In the Author’s Note, Krishnaswami notes, “Then, in 2008, I read The End of Empires: African Americans and India by historian and African American studies professor Gerald Horne. It was an eye-opener. I was born in India and I’d lived in the United States for nearly thirty years, but in neither country had I ever learned this history.” As I’ve noted over and over again when I review nonfiction or historical fiction, it is only through brilliant books that I have learned true history as my history classes were so US-centered that we hardly learn anything other than basic history about the world and it is so white-washed that even when slavery or Civil Rights is covered, it very much focuses on the successes. It is because of this that I am so thankful that books like this exist and allow me to share the erased history with students. Because even with Martin Luther King Jr., who all are familiar with, there is so much of him and his journey and point of view that are erased in history books. 

Everything I learned about India’s history was from some books before I read this: The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani, I am Gandhi (both picture book & graphic novel) by Brad Meltzer, and A Taste of Freedom: Gandhi and the Great Salt March by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel. That was all of my prior knowledge, so I was taken aback by the breadth of India’s history that I was ignorant about. Krishnaswami did a brilliant job telling about Gandhi’s personal life while also teaching about Indian history. In the second half of the book, we switch to Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and the racial injustices happening in the United States. Again, the book focuses not only on King’s personal life but the history of the US at the time as well. I learned so much in this book. It made me think, reflect, get angry, cry, and have purpose for continuing with a focus on anti-racism. 

Uma Krishnaswami does a beautiful job using the imagery of threads figuratively throughout this book to tie Gandhi and King through their views on peace and nonviolence as well as Gandhi and King to the histories they helped shape. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation & Discussion Questions: There is so much to discuss in this book! I could see parts of it being used to supplement curriculum, I could see it being used AS the curriculum, I could see it being used as a resource for research, I could see it being an independent reading book for an interested student…. It has endless potential. 

  • Why would the author choose thread to be the figurative imagery in the book? 
  • Although Gandhi and King both were focused on equality and nonviolence, they differed in many ways also–how so? 
  • In both cases, Gandhi and King continued their work despite potentially putting their family in danger. Why would they do this? 
  • How was India’s reach for freedom similar to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States? 
  • Both Gandhi and King had assassination attempts multiple times in their life. They both did not want their attackers charged–why not? What does this tell you about them? 
  • In the end they were both assassinated, how did hatred, fear, and ignorance lead to both of their deaths? 
  • Both had such strong women as wives. How did both women help support their husband’s mission? 
  • Do you believe that Martin Luther King Jr. would have the same beliefs without Gandhi pathing the way? 

Flagged Passages: “Chapter 25: Spinning New Threads of Peace”

To spin thread on a spilling wheel like the one Gandhi designed when he was in jail, you bein with a roll of fluffy, carded cotton. In the Hindi language, this is called pooni. You attach the pooni to a length of thread looped around a small metal spindle. You hold the fluffy cotton loosely in one hand and draw it slowly, outward and upward, to arm’s length. With your other hand, you turn a flat wheel. A few turns clockwise, then a quarter turn counterclockwise, over and over, until the rhythm takes hold of you and you no longer have to link about it. 

It takes patience. It takes time. Each had has to learn to do its work without getting distracted. 

At first, the cotton drifts apart. The yarn is not twisted enough. This it’s twisted too tightly. It breaks. The spindle falls off its course. The cord that drives the spinning wheel slips from its grove. But slowly, slowly, if you keep at it, the thousands of fibers contained within a single handful of cotton begin to twist around one another, becoming one, united and strong enough to endure. The cotton springs to life, and a thread begins to form! Only inches of it, but it is real cotton thread. 

The threads of peace movements are like that. They continue to spin outward over and over, long after they have been created. 

In April 1968, after Dr. King’s assassination, the Chicago Sun-Times published this cartoon: 

Look at Gandhi, seated on the floor, his hand outstretched, making his point to an attentive Dr. King. You’d think they were old friends. There they are in this alternate reality, perhaps even in the artist’s imagined heaven, reminding us that the voices of peacemakers can resonate long after they are gone. 

Although they never met, Gandhi and King were kindred spirits. Gandhi was aware of racial injustice in the United States and hoped that Black American would create their own nonviolent movement. 

Martin Luther King Jr. read books by and about Gandhi. He knew people who had met Gandhi. Gandhi’s teaching supported King’s own beliefs that grew out of the love of family, of community, of Jesus. King integrated Gandhian methods and principles into the work of his life, much as he did with the Christian gospel.”

Read This If You Love: I am Gandhi (both picture book & graphic novel) by Brad Meltzer; A Taste of Freedom: Gandhi and the Great Salt March by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel; Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson; Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport; Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford; Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan; March trilogy by John Lewis with Andrew Aydin; A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Ramée; The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

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

 

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Juan Hormiga
Author & Illustrator: Gustavo Roldán
Translator: Robert Croll
Published Originally in 2013, Translated and Published May 4th, 2021 by Elsewhere Editions

Summary: Juan Hormiga, the greatest storyteller of his entire anthill, loves to recount his fearless grandfather’s adventures. When Juan and his fellow ants gather around for story time, he hypnotizes all with tales of his grandfather’s many exploits – including his escape from an eagle’s talons and the time he leapt from a tree with just a leaf for a parachute. When he’s through telling these tales, Juan loves to cozy up for a nice long nap. He’s such a serious napper that he takes up to ten siestas every day! Though well loved by his ant friends, Juan decides telling tales and sleeping aren’t quite enough for him – it’s time to set off on his own adventure. With whimsical, irresistible illustrations, Juan Hormiga affirms the joys of sharing stories, and of creating your own out in the world.

About the Author: Gustavo Roldán was born in Argentina in 1965. His illustrations are widely published, and he has been exhibiting his work since 1985. His books have been published in numerous countries including Mexico, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil, South Korea, and Switzerland and have earned him recognition from A.L.I.J.A., the Prix Octogone, and inclusion in the White Ravens catalogue created by the Jugendbibliothek. His other books include El señor G and Historias de conejo y elefante, both published internationally. He currently lives in Barcelona, where he is a contributor to several publishing houses.

About the Translator: Robert Croll is a writer, translator, musician, and visual artist from Asheville, North Carolina. He first came to translation during his undergraduate studies at Amherst College, where he focused on Julio Cortázar’s short fiction. His translations include The Diaries of Emilio Renzi by Ricardo Piglia, published by Restless Books.

Review: From the first couple of pages when Juan Hormiga napped his way around the spread and showed his curiosity, I fell in love with this little ant. He may not fit what we normally think of when we think of ants, but he is an example of the importance of different types of people in a community: every time Juan Hormiga speaks to tell a story, all of the other ants stop and listen because that is the power of a good story. This message is also one that made my heart happy as I read it.

I also loved that there was no shunning or pushes to be different involved in the story. The ants loved Juan Hormiga for who he was and utilized him for his strengths.

Author Rivka Galchen called Juan Hormiga “magnificent and silly and tender all at once–a perfect book,” and I can attest that all is there: magnificent in the message and stories, silliness in the illustrations and conversation, and tender in the love for each other.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Students will love hearing this book read out loud, and it will lend itself nicely to a creative writing activity where students can create their own adventures for Juan Hormiga’s grandfather–what other adventures did he go on?

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is Juan Hormiga different from his fellow ants?
  • Why is Juan Hormiga so important to his colony even though he doesn’t do the same labor the other ants do?
  • The author shared that this book was inspired by nights when his family camped in the mountains and his mother told them stories. How do you see this inspiration in the story?
  • What do you think the author is trying to portray about the power of storytelling?
  • How do you think the ants feel when they find Juan in the willow tree?

Flagged Passages: 


Read This If You Love: Little Fox by Edward van de Vendel, Lucy by Randy Cecil, Normal Norman by Tara Lazar

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**Thank you to Elsewhere Editions for providing a copy for review!**

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Zonia’s Rain Forest
Author and Illustrator: Juana Martinez-Neal
Published March 30th, 2021 by Candlewick Press

Summary: A heartfelt, visually stunning picture book from the Caldecott Honor and Sibert Medal Winner illuminates a young girl’s day of play and adventure in the lush rain forest of Peru.

Zonia’s home is the Amazon rain forest, where it is always green and full of life. Every morning, the rain forest calls to Zonia, and every morning she answers. She visits the sloth family, greets the giant anteater, and runs with the speedy jaguar. But one morning, the rain forest calls to her in a troubled voice. How will Zonia answer?

Acclaimed author-illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal explores the wonders of the rain forest with Zonia, an Asháninka girl, in her joyful outdoor adventures. The engaging text emphasizes Zonia’s empowering bond with her home, while the illustrations—created on paper made from banana bark—burst with luxuriant greens and delicate details. Illuminating back matter includes a translation of the story in Asháninka, information on the Asháninka community, as well as resources on the Amazon rain forest and its wildlife.

Praise: 

⭐“At its simplest level, this is a beautiful story about a child who loves her home and the animals she with whom she shares it. Martinez-Neal’s rounded, soft-textured illustrations are wonderfully inviting and involve linocut and woodcut leaves and fronds printed on natural banana-bark paper… The text is kept to two short sentences per double-page spread, reflecting Zonia’s uncomplicated and innocent view of the world, which is shaken when she stumbles upon a large section of clear-cut forest.” – Booklist (starred review)

⭐“This beautiful look at a young girl’s life and her determination to save her home is a perfect read for young environmentalists.” – School Library Journal (starred review)

“In Juana Martinez-Neal’s Zonia’s Rain Forest, super-cute critters are out in full force…A girl who lives in the rain forest begins each day by greeting her animal friends in this exuberant picture book crowned with an environmental message.” – Shelf Awareness

About the Author: Juana Martinez-Neal is the Peruvian-born daughter and granddaughter of painters. Her debut as an author-illustrator, Alma and How She Got Her Name, was awarded a Caldecott Honor and was published in Spanish as Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre. She also illustrated La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, for which she won a Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, Babymoon by Hayley Barrett, and Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, which won a Robert F. Sibert Medal. Juana Martinez-Neal lives in Arizona with her family. Visit her online at www.juanamartinezneal.com.

Review : Zonia’s story starts as a story of family. We meet her mother and baby brother and the love between them is evident in the words and illustrations.

The book then moves to Zonia’s adventures visiting her friends throughout the rain forest. We get to meet all of her animal friends. With backmatter introducing the type of animals, Trent and I went on a research exploration of the different rain forest animals that Martinez-Neal introduced to us.

The book ends with a call to action. Zonia is Asháninka, Indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon, so the rain forest is her home. Her family’s home. The book ends with Zonia running across deforestation near her home and realizing that the forest needs her, and all of our, help.

And finally, the backmatter of the book is incredible. Juana Martinez-Neal, who is Peruvian, is not Asháninka, so I am not sure of the accuracy of the portrayal, but the backmatter shows the work she did to do justice to them and their home. The back matter includes a translation of the entire book to Asháninka, information about the Asháninka People, a few facts about the Amazon, threats to the Amazon, and Zonia’s friends we met in the book. Finally, especially useful for in the classroom, she includes selected sources and resources, all which can be viewed at https://juanamartinezneal.com/books/zonia/.

With Martinez-Neal’s ability to craft the simplistic text in a beautiful way mixed with her signature illustrations, full of movement, color, and personality along with the rain forest elements, Zonia’s Rainforest is a perfect book for story time, science cross-curricular reading, a jumping off point for inquiry, or a mentor text.

Read “The story behind Zonia’s Rain Forest” by Juana Martinez-Neal here.

Watch an interview with Juana Martinez-Neal about Zonia’s Rain Forest: 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: Julia Torres created a Teacher’s Guide for Zonia for Candlewick Press, and it is the best resource for teaching Zonia. It includes 7 Discussion Questions and 8 Classroom Activities.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, The Leaf Detective by Heather LangA Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

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**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing a copy for review!**

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Dr. Fauci: How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor
Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Alexandra Bye
Published June 29th 2021 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: The definitive picture book biography of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the most crucial figures in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before he was Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci was a curious boy in Brooklyn, delivering prescriptions from his father’s pharmacy on his blue Schwinn bicycle. His father and immigrant grandfather taught Anthony to ask questions, consider all the data, and never give up—and Anthony’s ability to stay curious and to communicate with people would serve him his entire life.

This engaging narrative, which draws from interviews the author did with Dr. Fauci himself, follows Anthony from his Brooklyn beginnings through medical school and his challenging role working with seven US presidents to tackle some of the biggest public health challenges of the past fifty years, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Extensive backmatter rounds out Dr. Fauci’s story with a timeline, recommended reading, a full spread of facts about vaccines and how they work, and Dr. Fauci’s own tips for future scientists.

Review: Dr. Fauci has been a face on our TV for over 15 months now, but I know that my son only knows that he is the “COVID Doctor.” What Kate Messner does in her picture book of Dr. Fauci is bring him to life for any who read it. The book shows his humanity behind the glasses and doctor’s coat we see on TV. The book explores what makes Dr. Fauci the inquisitive, kind, brilliant man he is today.

I loved learning about his past: his kindness from a young age, his father’s advice to keep his mind thinking, and his “just watch me” moment from construction to doctor all leading to becoming the expert he is today. Kids, and adults alike, will love Kate’s narrative of Dr. Fauci’s life filled with anecdotes and accolades, and all of it is brought to life with colorful and realistic illustrations by Alexandra Bye which ties it all together.

This is a book that will find a place in homes, schools, and libraries!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would have “Dr. Fauci’s FIVE TIPS for Future Scientists” be norms during my science lessons! They are such important reminders from a contemporary scientist:

  1. Keep an open mind.
  2. Don’t be afraid to fail.
  3. Get excited about discovery.
  4. Remember that science is self-correcting.
  5. Keep learning.

Also, use the publisher-provided educator’s guide for use in the classroom!

Video of Kate Messner’s interview with Dr. Fauci:

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn about Dr. Fauci?
  • How did learning about Dr. Fauci affect how you feel about the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How do vaccines work? Are vaccines safe?
  • How did Dr. Fauci’s father’s words drive Dr. Fauci?
  • Why do guidelines about viruses change from time to time?
  • How did Dr. Fauci deal with criticism during the AIDS epidemic? What does this tell you about him?
  • How does the author turn the biography into a story?
  • Although Anthony wasn’t the tallest or best on his basketball team, he ended up being team captain. Why?
  • How does Dr. Fauci inspire you?
  • Why do you think the author chose to write a book about Dr. Fauci now?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Love: Picture book biographies, science, medicine, inspirational books

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**Thank you to Simon and Schuster for providing a copy for review!**

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Secondhand Dogs
Author: Carolyn Crimi
Illustrator: Melissa Manwill
Published July 6th, 2021 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Miss Lottie’s home was for second chances.

When she adopted Gus, Roo, Tank, and Moon Pie, Miss Lottie rescued each member of the pack—including herself, her helper, Quinn, and her reclusive cat, Ghost—and turned them into a family. But when a new dog, Decker, arrives and tries to hoard Miss Lottie’s heart and home for himself, the pack’s future is threatened.

At first, Gus, the insecure pack leader, only notices little things, like tiny Moon Pie being kicked out of the bed and Ghost acting spooked (then again…Ghost is a cat). But things soon go from bad to worse as Decker’s presence causes disharmony in the group.

When Decker convinces Moon Pie to embark on an impossible journey, it’s up to Gus to gather his courage, rally his splintered pack, and bring Moon Pie home. And with coyotes and cars on the loose, the pack must push through obstacles and dangers to reunite with Moon Pie before he can get hurt—or nearly as bad, get his heart broken.

A heartwarming—and heart-tugging—middle grade novel about love, loyalty, and what to means to be part of a family, featuring a motley pack of rescue dogs—from author Carolyn Crimi, with adorable illustrations by Melissa Manwill. Perfect for fans of A Dog’s Life and Because of Winn-Dixie.

Praise: “Pervading themes of bullying, leadership, loyalty, and family—among humans and canines alike—raise important issues while the comic-style illustrations feature character cameos and highlight key scenes. A sensitive, satisfying, and intriguing canine tale” –Kirkus Reviews

About the Author: Carolyn Crimi received her MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College in 2000. She has published over 15 books, including Dear Tabby, Don’t Need Friends, Boris and Bella, Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, Where’s My Mummy?, and I Am the Boss of this Chair. Her book, There Might Be Lobsters, won The Golden Kite Award in 2018 for Best Picture Book Text, and her middle grade debut, Weird Little Robots, was named a BEA Book Buzz pick. Carolyn has received over thirty state awards and award nominations and was given The Prairie State Award in 2012 for her body of work. You can visit Carolyn at carolyncrimi.com.

Facebook: Carolyn Crimi
Twitter: @crims10

Review: First, I must say: kids are going to love this book. Seriously. Go pick it up for the kid(s) in your life.

I always go hesitantly into dog books because, as I am sure it is with all of you, the emotions when it comes to animal books are on high alert! And please know that your emotions are going to be going on a roller coaster of emotions in this one! 

The first emotion you are going to feel is love. As soon as you hear Gus’s voice, you know that he is a dog you can trust. Then as you meet each of the pack, they automatically go into your heart. Crimi does an amazing job telling the current narrative while also flashing back to show the dogs’ (and Miss Lottie’s, Quinn’s, and Ghost the cat’s) past. This allows you to jump into the story while also learning about how the pack gets together.

The next emotion you are going to feel is anger. Decker is a challenger to the pack. The way he manipulates and bullies, specifically Moon Pie, is devastating. It is true manipulation. You will definitely feel anger. Also, you learn more about Quinn’s life which will definitely make you feel angry.

Then comes the feelings of suspense, sadness, happiness, pride, and more! I can’t get more into the story because I don’t want to spoil! It is a good ride, I promise!

Teachers’ Tools for Instruction: First, this book is going to make an awesome read aloud!! Great topics and themes will lead to wonderful conversations.

But I think a huge asset for this book in the classroom is the different point of views that the author tackles. It is a wonderful mentor text for looking at voice. Each dog, cat, and person, although in 3rd person, had a different distinct tone and voice. It would be a great activity to have your students write a story from a certain POV then rewrite it from a different. Then they can even change 1st person to 3rd or vice versa. 

There is also a publisher-provided curriculum guide that is an awesome resource:

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did the pack lie to Moon Pie and was it okay?
  • Why was Dexter the way he was?
  • Why did Roo originally side with Dexter?
  • Each of the dogs had a special skill: What would your special skill be?
  • What are some times during the book that shows you Quinn is special?
  • How does Quinn finally stand up to his brother?
  • What does Gus’s choice about what he did with the coyote tell you about him?
  • Why is the book titled Secondhand Dogs?
  • What is the differences between Dexter and Gus as the pack leader?
  • What does Miss Lottie’s choice about what she did with Dexter tell you about her?
  • How did the ending make you rethink Dexter’s character?
  • Who do you think was the hero of the book?

Flagged Passages: Gus: The new dog walked calmly next to Miss Lottie. His ears and his tail were both up. Alert, but not alarmed.

He wasn’t nervous. Not like the other dogs had been when they first approached the pack.

He was sizing them up, Gus decided. Gus didn’t know what to think about that. Usually new dogs pulled back a bit, or wiggled a little too much, or stood their ground and barked.

Not this dog.

Gus sniffed the air again. The scent that wafted off the new dog was bright and cold, like the metal water bowl in Miss Lottie’s kitchen.

Gus had always hated that bowl.” (Chapter 2)

Read a sample: https://preview.aer.io/Secondhand_Dogs-Mzk3MzU1?social=0&retail=0&emailcap=0

Read This If You Love: The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate, Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart, Granted by John David Anderson

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!!**

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Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston
Author: Alicia D. Williams
Illustrator: Jacqueline Alcántara
Published January 12th, 2021 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Summary: A picture book that shines the light on Zora Neale Hurston, the writer and storycatcher extraordinaire who changed the face of American literature.

Zora was a girl who hankered for tales like bees for honey. Now, her mama always told her that if she wanted something, “to jump at de sun”, because even though you might not land quite that high, at least you’d get off the ground. So Zora jumped from place to place, from the porch of the general store where she listened to folktales, to Howard University, to Harlem. And everywhere she jumped, she shined sunlight on the tales most people hadn’t been bothered to listen to until Zora. The tales no one had written down until Zora. Tales on a whole culture of literature overlooked…until Zora. Until Zora jumped.

About the Creators:

Alicia D. Williams is the author of Genesis Begins Again, which received a Newbery and Kirkus Prize honors, was a William C. Morris Award finalist, and for which she won the Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Award for New Talent. A graduate of the MFA program at Hamline University, and an oral storyteller in the African American tradition, she is also a teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Jacqueline Alcántara is the illustrator of the critically acclaimed The Field and Freedom Soup. Her favorite days are spent drawing, painting, writing, and walking her dog. In 2016, she was awarded the inaugural We Need Diverse Books Illustrator mentorship. Find out more at JacquelineAlcantara.com.

Praise: 

*”A lively, joyfully rendered portrait of a literary legend.” – Publisher Weekly, starred review

* “Williams’ narration is a readaloud dream….it will be a joyful guide for folklore enthusiasts” – BCCB, starred review

* “This introduction to an American icon feels just right.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* “A welcome addition to any picture book biography collection.” – School Library Journal, starred review

Review: Zora Neale Hurston has a special place in my heart as Eatonville is right around the corner, and I love the opportunity to be so close to Zora’s home, be inspired by her story, and learn from her. If you are ever here, stop by the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts!

Alicia D. Williams does a beautiful job capturing the spirit of Zora and showing how truly special she was as a person and story teller. And I loved learning new things about her that I hadn’t known before (like that she graduated from high school at 28 and that she may have been lost to white-washed history if not for Alice Walker). And Alicia’s words mixed with the colorful and active illustrations of Alcántara, Zora is brought to life through the pages of this book.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The publisher provided Curriculum Guide is the best resource for using this book in your classroom:

Discussion Questions: 

  • How are the end pages representative of Zora?
  • How were Zora’s stories important to American literature?
  • Why did the author call Zora a “storycatcher?”
  • How did the author integrate fictional characters and stories within her nonfiction biography of Zora Neale Hurston?
  • Why was some of Zora’s storytelling looked down upon?
  • What does the figurative phrase “reach/jump to the sun” mean?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Zora Neale Hurston, Picture book biographies

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**Thank you to Simon & Schuster for a copy of the book to review!**

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Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box, Too!
Author: Maggie P. Chang
Published: June 29, 2021 by Simon Spotlight

Summary: Meet spunky, funny, and friendly Geraldine Pu as she takes on a bully and makes a new friend in this first book in a new Level 3 Ready-to-Read Graphics series!

Geraldine Pu’s favorite part of school is lunch. She loves her lunch box, which she calls Biandang. She can’t wait to see what her grandmother, Amah, has packed inside it each day. Then one day, Geraldine gets stinky tofu…and an unexpected surprise. What will she do?

Ready-to-Read Graphics books give readers the perfect introduction to the graphic novel format with easy-to-follow panels, speech bubbles with accessible vocabulary, and sequential storytelling that is spot-on for beginning readers. There’s even a how-to guide for reading graphic novels at the beginning of each book.

Review: The highest form of praise: My 4-year-old son wanted to read this book again two nights in a row. We went camping on the third night, and he was allowed to pick one book to bring, and he picked this one. He really liked learning about all of the different foods, and he liked discussing bullying. The book is structured like a graphic novel, which is a really clever way to structure an early reader. All of the pictures really appealed to him, and he loved reading the progression of the story. The book is divided into chapters, but we read it from start to finish each night. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Reading this entire book in one sitting will be difficult for an early reader, so my son and I structured it that he read all of the left pages and I read all of the right pages. The next night, he wanted to switch. The third night, he read the entire thing by himself. Readers could also take it chapter by chapter (a chapter or two each night). This book offers great discussions about our practices that seem “different” than those of our peers and how these make us uniquely wonderful. It is also a great book to teach about bullying. I love how the lunch box is personified! It made the book even more fun to read! Those who know me know that I don’t like reading levels. In our house, we read books at all levels, and I just support as needed. That said, this book would be great in the early elementary school grades. Don’t limit it just there, though. My 4-year-old really enjoyed it!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Geraldine feel about the different foods she eats at lunch? How does this change?
  • How does Biandang feel? How does he act as a support?
  • What changes Geraldine’s mind at the end of the story?
  • How can you celebrate your own friends’ lunches, no matter how different they may seem?

Flagged Spread:

Read This If You Love: Graphic novels, books about feeling different, books about family

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**Thank you, Cassie, from Simon and Schuster, for sending a copy for review!**

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