Don’t Ask a Dinosaur
Author: Deborah Bruss & Matt Forrest Esenwine
Illustrator: Louie Chin
Published April 17th by POW!
Summary: Don’t Ask a Dinosaur is about a party that goes wildly awry when a pack of dinosaurs with very unique physical attributes attempt to help set up.
“Don’t ask Deinocheirus to set the forks and spoons,” because his hands were enormous, “Therizinosaurus cannot blow up balloons,” because he had very long claws. In the end they find the one thing everyone can help do is to blow out the candles on the cake…but will it create yet another mess?
Review: Don’t ask a dinosaur what he thinks about this book! Unless he says it is awesome, funny, and informative. Then ask him, and trust his answer.
I was introduced to Esenwine’s work when I read Flashlight Night, and I was immediately impressed with his work–he just had a way with words! While this picture book is quite different, it is not going to let Esenwine fans down. It for sure didn’t let Trent down; he already has had us read this multiple times with different questions each time we read. He also thinks it is hilarious, finding something silly each time he reads.
I also loved the book for a couple other specific reasons. First, I loved that the story included some pretty unknown dinosaurs to help the readers get introduced to them in a fun way. Esenwine and Bruss also did a fantastic job with their rhyming using syllable count to make it even more rhythmic than it would be without. And the addition of phonetic spellings of the dinosaur names was a nice touch to help with the pronunciation for the adult reader and for the child as they learn about the dinosaurs.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: On the surface, this text will be a way to introduce a bunch of different types of dinosaurs in a fun, rhyming text; however, this can just be a jumping off point for either a creative writing activity or a science activity (or both!). Because of Esenwine & Bruss’s specific syllables and rhyming, it would be quite challenging and fun to ask students to pick dinosaurs and try to think of other things that they may not be good at and ask them to write their own mini-dino poems. Or students can take the dinosaurs that are introduced in the book and research them to find out what they really wouldn’t be able to do in real life.
- Why did the certain dino get chosen for each activity?
- What dinosaur was new to you?
- If you could have one dinosaur at your birthday party, what dinosaur would you pick? What would you make sure not to have it do?
- How does the phonetic spelling of the dinosaur names help with the rhythm of the text?
- What is going on in the background, in the illustrations, as the narrator helps you see what dinosaurs shouldn’t do?
Read This If You Love: Dinosaurs!, Jane Yolen & Mark Teague “How Does a Dinosaur” series, PBS’s Dinosaur Train
Make sure to stop by other stops on the Dinosaur Tour!
April 6: Michelle H. Barnes (Interview w/month-long writing prompt)
April 8: Kate Narita (Trailer & activity sheet spotlight)
April 11: Deborah Kalb (Interview w/Matt Forrest Esenwine & Deborah Bruss)
April 13: Radio, Rhythm, & Rhyme (Interview w/Louie Chin)
April 16: KidLit Exchange (Blog post re: process of illustration)
April 17: Momma’s Bacon
April 18: Bonnie Ferrante
April 19: Brenda Harsham
April 25: Bonnie Ferrante (Interview)
May 2: Unleashing Readers
**Thank you to POW! and Matt Forrest Esenwine for making this blog tour happen!**
On Gull Beach
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Bob Marstall
Published March 27th, 2018 by Cornell Lab Publishing Group
Summary: Together again! On Gull Beach reunites bestselling children’s author Jane Yolen and award-winning illustrator Bob Marstall for the third installment of the acclaimed On Bird Hill and […]
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Bob Marstall
Published March 27th, 2018 by Cornell Lab Publishing Group
Summary: Together again! On Gull Beach reunites bestselling children’s author Jane Yolen and award-winning illustrator Bob Marstall for the third installment of the acclaimed On Bird Hill and Beyondseries of children’s books written for the renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
In On Bird Hill, Yolen and Marstall took readers on a surreal journey with a boy and his dog as they see the natural world, ultimately witnessing the miracle of a chick emerging from an egg.
On Duck Pond continued their journey, this time at a serene pond filled with birds, frogs, and turtles who are suddenly disrupted by their intrusion, but soon settle back into a quiet equilibrium.
On Gull Beach brings us to an idyllic shoreline in Cape Cod, where gulls hover, dive, and chase with pitched acrobatics in pursuit of a seastar. This enchanting sequel in a brand new habitat will delight readers young and old.
As with all Cornell Lab Publishing Group books, 35% of net proceeds from the sale of this title goes directly to the Cornell Lab to support projects such as children’s educational and community programs.
Our review of On Duck Pond from May 4, 2017.
Kellee’s Review: What I love about this series of books by Yolen and Marstall are the way they have combined the beauty of Yolen’s lyrical words with information about the birds and other animals and their habitats that the books focus on. In this one we follow a young boy as he takes a walk on the beach and tried to say a starfish from the birds on the beach. Yolen’s rhythmic writing takes you on the journey while Marstall’s illustrations make them come to life.
Ricki’s Review: I am still waiting for the day that I read a Jane Yolen book that I don’t love. Today isn’t that day. As Kellee said, Yolen’s words are lyrical. She rhymes, but it isn’t a cheesy sort of rhyme. Instead, it’s quite beautiful and urges readers to keep turning the pages. Marstall’s illustrations are realistic, and they pull the reader into the story. The back matter provides clarifying information about gulls (see the page spread that we feature below). As a New Englander, I smiled at the variety of gulls that the authors feature. The book features photographs along with informational text to teach readers all about the “So many gulls!” This made me long for the summer, and I am looking forward to identifying these gulls on our next beach trip!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Each of the books Yolen and Marstall have done focus on a different bird in a different habitat. What a great way to combine reading, writing, and science! In an elementary classroom, have students jigsaw to each of the books and come together in a home group so share what they learned about each habitat and the animals that live there. Then students can research a bird of their choice and its habitat to write their own poem about a visit to see the bird.
- The habitat Yolen and Marstall were focusing on is a New England Beach. If you have been to a beach in another area, how is the New England beach in the book different and similar to the beach you have gone to?
- What other birds other than gulls live on beaches all over the world?
- What parts of the beach habitat did Yolen and Marstall highlight in their book?
- How does the structure of poetry change this nonfiction book to make it different than other books about birds and habitats?
- What are the differences and similarities between the three habitats and three birds that Yolen and Marstall have focused on?
Read This If You Love: Yolen & Marstall’s other ornithology books, Books about birds like Hello, Hippo! Goodbye, Bird! by Kristyn Crow, The Sky Painter by Margarita Engle, Elwood Bigfood: Wanted Birdie Friends by Jill Esbaum, Birds by Kevin Henkes, Look Up! by Annette LeBlanc Cate, Seabird in the Forest by Joan Dunning
Sylvia Rose and the Cherry Tree
Author: Sandy Shapiro Hurt
Illustrator: Xindi Yan
Published Tilbury House Publishers
Summary: This very strange tale began in May.
in a friendly forest on a sunny day
Skipping along a path in the wood
danced Sylvia Rose, and man, she was GOOD!
Laughing and leaping came Sylvia Rose,
Whirling and twirling on twinkly toes.
Bold, adventurous Sylvia Rose loves visiting the animals and trees of the forest. The girl and her favorite cherry tree share almost everything, including dancing and stories, but they can’t travel the world together because the tree is rooted deep in the earth. Determined to overcome this obstacle, Sylvia Rose enlists her animal friends to uproot the glorious tree, and Sylvia and the tree set off globetrotting together, taking in the wonders of the world from the Eiffel Tower to the Sydney Opera House, each sight more amazing than the last.
Back home in the forest, however, the animals begin to suffer without the food and shelter of their life-sustaining cherry tree. Can the tree give up her newfound freedom and return to her role in the forest ecosystem?
Review: This was such a fun book to read aloud! The rhyming and rhythm make it so sing-songy which always makes a book a pleasure to read aloud. Hurt was very smart with her rhymes and none of them seemed forced. She also kept a very specific rhythm throughout the book which made everything seem clean. I also was immediately taken by the artwork. Yan’s vibrant colors and exuberant characters really pull everything together, and as the reader I could not help but smile as Sylvia and the Cherry Tree go on their adventures. While reading, I was immediately excited for this book to make its way to classrooms, and I cannot wait to share it with my friend that teaches 2nd grade.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Sylvia Rose and the Cherry Tree is a perfect mentor text for the introduction of rhyming and rhyme scheme because of the clear rhyming and easy pattern. Students could write their own story of one of the animals in the story using the rhyme scheme and rhythm of the book.
Sylvia Rose and the Cherry Tree also is a good story to use when talking about big ideas including priorities, fun vs. responsibilities, and homesickness. This discussion could also grow into one about theme.
Finally, cross curricularly the story could be used to look at habitats. The animals that live in the forest suffer when the Cherry Tree leaves because their home is no longer there. This conversation could also include why removing forests is detrimental to the wildlife in the area.
- Why is the tree and all the animals immediately drawn to Sylvia Rose?
- Why does the tree want to go on adventures?
- What are some effects of the tree’s decision to go with Sylvia Rose?
- Using clues in the illustration, where did Sylvia Rose and the Cherry Tree go visit?
- Do you agree with the decision that the tree made in the end? Why or why not?
Read This If You Love: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon
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.
Review: Wow. 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?
- 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?
“We’ve Got a Groovy Thing Goin’
…When he takes the high
tenor melody, and Paul
the low-scale harmony,
It reminds Paul of his dad
tuning his bass guitar:
when two strings come into focus,
they suddenly resonate
…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
Read This If You Love: Music, the 60s, Rock and Roll, biographies
**Thank you to Raquel at Candlewick for providing a copy for review!!**
Author: Matt de la Peña
Illustrator: Loren Long
Published January 9th, 2018
Summary: From Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long comes a story about the strongest bond there is and the diverse and powerful ways it connects us all.
“In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed
and the sound of their voices is love.
A cab driver plays love softly on his radio
while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city
and everything smells new, and it smells like life.”
In this heartfelt celebration of love, Matt de la Peña and illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.
Kellee’s Review: I sat here for a long time trying to figure out how to put into words how I feel about this book. I just can’t, but I will try.
Let me give you some history. At ALAN in 2016, I believe, Matt was a speaker, and he shared how he’d written a poem about love to share with his daughter when the world didn’t seem so loving. Matt’s daughter is approximately Trent’s age and she’s his first just like Trent is, so I completely understood his feelings–the reality that we’ve brought children into this hard world. When Matt read his beautiful words, I cried. It was beautiful. At the end of the poem, he let us know it was going to be a book, and I had very high expectations.
Then at NCTE 2017, I heard that Penguin had a finished copy. I thought that there was no way that the book could live up to what I expected. But then I read it. And I cried again. I, probably rudely, found Matt right away, maybe interrupting a conversation he was having with someone else, to tell him what a beautiful book he and Loren had created. Matt’s poem had been about love, but the book is about LOVE. Love in the sense that every one needs to start thinking about–love between every person. Empathy. Understanding. Tolerance. Unity. Love for all humans.
And as I read it over and over (after I was lucky enough to receive a copy), I couldn’t think of a kid I didn’t want to share it with. I wanted to share it with my son to talk about how much I love him and how he should love all of human kind; I wanted to share it with my friend who is a 2nd grade teacher, so she could share it with all of her students; I wanted to share it with my students, so we can discuss about the love and acceptance found in each spread and each word; and I am so happy to be sharing it here with all of you so that it can be in every person’s life.
Also, please read this amazing article by Matt de la Peña: “Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children from Darkness” from Time and Kate DiCamillo’s follow-up “Why Children’s Books Should Be a Little Bit Sad” where she answers a question de la Peña posed in his article as well as this Twitter thread from Sayantani DasGupta where she explores the need for joy in the darkeness! It truly embodies my parenting and teaching philosophy: that although kids are kids, they are also humans and future adults; life should be about being real and about happiness.
In the end, I want to just thank these two amazing men for writing this phenomenal book that I so feel is needed so badly right now, and thank you for including nothing but truth within it including inclusion of all types of people and children and situations and cultures and races and ethnicities, etc.
Ricki’s Review: I am really looking forward to seeing Matt de la Peña next month during his tour! This book is absolutely stunning, and we will certainly be purchasing many copies to give as baby shower gifts. The entire text simply emanates love. It is honest, poetically, and it treats children as the intelligent people that they are. The illustrations are simply marvelous and the words dance across the page. I simply don’t have the words to share how absolutely beautiful this book is. When I think of this book, I think about a warm, cozy house and two little boys on my lap. And these little boys make me feel love, love, love.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’ll talk about one scene specifically, which happens to be my favorite.
As soon as I saw this scene, I wanted to show it to students and have discussions with them. How does this scene make them feel? Who is the family? What are they watching? What clues did they use to answer these questions?
Then I would add in the word that accompany the scene:
“One day you find your family
nervously huddled around the TV,
but when you asked what happened,
they answer with silence
and shift between you and the screen.”
And I would ask them how these words change the inferences they made about the spread.
Lastly, I would ask them why this stanza would be in a poem about love, how it fits with the theme, and what it represents.
Another idea that I brainstormed with my friend Jennie Smith are:
- Recreate my experience by sharing the poem first with the circumstances I shared above. Then reread the poem to them but with the illustrations.
- After the first read, you can also have them make their own illustrations analyzing the words then compare/contrast the choices that Loren Long made with what they did.
- Why did the author and illustrator include tough scenes in their picture book about love?
- Which scene represents love the most for you?
- Which scene are you glad they included?
- How does the poem differ with and without the illustrations?
- What different purposes could this poem of love be perfect for?
Flagged Passages: *psst!* Matt may have told me this is (one of) his favorite spreads:
Read This If You Love: Love. (But seriously, read this. Period.)
Author: Wendy Orr
Published October 27th, 2017 by Pajama Press
Summary: The whispers say it’s not true that the Lady’s firstborn died at birth. They say it’s worse—the baby was born with an extra thumb dangling from each wrist. If she’s not perfect, she can never follow in her mother’s footsteps.
Nobody but the old wise-woman knows what truly happened to Aissa, the firstborn daughter of the priestess. If they saw the half-moon scars on the servant girl’s wrists they would find it out, but who would look twice at lowly, mute No-Name? Then the soldiers of Crete come to the island, demanding children as tribute for their god-king’s bull dances as they do every year. Aissa is determined to seize this chance to fight for her own worth and change her destiny once and for all.
Lyrically written and refreshingly unpredictable, Dragonfly Song is a compelling Bronze Age fantasy that suggests a fascinating origin for the legend of the Minotaur and his dark tribute.
“As mesmerizing as a mermaid’s kiss, the story dances with emotion, fire, and promise.” -Kirkus Reviews, starred review
More information about Dragonfly Song: http://pajamapress.ca/book/dragonfly_song/
About the Author: Wendy Orr was born in Edmonton, Canada, but grew up in various places across Canada, France, and the USA. She studied occupational therapy in the UK, married an Australian farmer, and moved to Australia. She’s the author of many award-winning books, including Nim’s Island, Nim at Sea, Rescue on Nim’s Island, Raven’s Mountain, and Peeling the Onion.
More information about Wendy Orr: http://www.wendyorr.com/
Author-Created Activity Guide:
- Art: In Chapter 2, Aissa and the potter’s daughter make ‘circles of flowers
in a ring of stones.’ Later, Aissa makes patterns of flowers and shells for the fishers’ goddess (the first in Chapter 9) and patterns of rocks and her small treasures for the goddess in her sanctuary cave. Patterns are used in some religions and meditative practices; Indian or Tibetan mandalas and Navajo sandpaintings are probably the best known now.
To draw a mandala: http://www.art-is-fun.com/how-to-draw-a-mandala/
Ideas for mandala-type patterns using fresh flowers: http://twistedsifter.com/2014/07/flower-mandalas-by-kathy-klein/
Make your own patterns with sea shells, flowers, pebbles, leaves, seeds, or other natural materials. Glue them into place on card, or photograph them.
- Writing: In Chapter 24, Aissa learns to write on the clay tablets used for taxation records. The writing she used was called Linear B, and was a combination of a ‘syllabary’ – each symbol representing a syllable of a word – and ‘logograms,’ which are symbols of whole words. These tablets were supposed to be temporary, but were baked into pottery when the palaces burned down. Have students make their own clay tablets using real clay or as in these instructions: http://www.ehow.com/how_12110304_make-egyptian-hieroglyphics-tablet.html
For some of the Linear B logograms: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/linearb.htm
- Time Capsule: Without written historical records, interpreting archaeological finds can be very difficult. Put together ‘time capsules’ of small items – e.g. a birthday card, Barbie doll, shopping list, old iPod, CD… Break the class into small groups and have them use the items to ‘interpret’ questions such as this society’s religion, dress code, and social structure.
Author-Created Discussion Questions:
- Like The Hunger Games, Dragonfly Song draws on the Greek myth of Theseus, in which seven youths and seven maidens are sent as tribute from Athens to Crete, to be eaten by the monstrous half-man, half-bull Minotaur. However, Dragonfly Song looks back to the possible origins of the myth in Bronze Age Greece, and the palace of Knossos in Crete. The bull was obviously a very important symbol, probably even a god – even though the real animals would be sacrificed to their god – and there were many scenes, on paintings, vases, and gold jewellery, showing young acrobats somersaulting over the backs of bulls. What if these acrobats were part of a payment to Crete in return for protection by – or from – their powerful navy? If so, the tribute would have come from as far as the Minoan navy reached. Discuss the power of myth – why have some stories lasted for thousands of years?
- Discuss how the physical setting of Aissa’s home is a metaphor for the grimness of her life there. (e.g. The island is rocky, poor and isolated; buildings are dark, built of rock or burrowed into the side of the mountain.) What about the springtime when she develops new strengths after being cast out of the servants’ kitchen?
- In the Bull King’s palace, the buildings are awe-inspiring, filled with light and extraordinary art. The culture appears to be obsessed with beauty – but is there a darkness underpinning it?
- Dragonfly Song is set in the Bronze Age, but the ordinary people of Aissa’s island still use stone tools as well. Why do you think that would be?
- In the prologue, The Firstborn Daughter, what are the clues to tell us that this is a matriarchal society? How does it differ from a patriarchal society? The Mosuo of China are an example of a matriarchal society in the present day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoTrARDa8BU
- Chapter 8 mentions that the chief killed the last lion for his cloak when he married the Lady. Why might he have wanted a lionskin cloak rather than a deerskin? Why do you think the islanders didn’t worry about conservation and keeping all their native species alive?
- In Chapter 9, the servants are ‘screaming with joy at their game of hate.’ Why do you think the author described bullying Aissa as a game? How does bullying Aissa make the servants feel?
- Aissa is an ‘elective mute’ because there is nothing physical or intellectual preventing her from speaking. However, that doesn’t mean that she could speak if she wanted to: Mama’s command, ‘Stay quiet, still as stone till I come back,’ is buried so deep in her subconscious, and is so mixed with the trauma of the family’s death and disappearance, that Aissa can’t simply decide to start talking, even when she’s safe. Would she have been more accepted by the other servants if she could talk? How might it have changed the story if she had regained her speech after singing the snake away from Luki? Do you think she could have regained her speech if she had been treated kindly after being rescued? Do you think that meeting Mama again was the only reason she regained her speech, or might it have been partly because she’d faced death in the bull ring, and was safe now? A real-life example of a child choosing to become mute after trauma is Maya Angelou’s story (summarized in Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls).
- Discuss the book’s structure with the students. What was their reaction to the combination of free verse and prose?
- Wendy Orr says that using free verse made it easier for her to access and portray Aissa’s emotions. Have the students choose an emotion, e.g. rage, grief, or joy – and write about it in free verse. Next, have them write a short story using the ideas and images that arose from the verse.
- Why do you think the author chose to write in free verse rather than rhyming, like the children’s rhyme in Chapter 10?
Here comes rabbit, hippity hop
See his ears flap and flop;
Here comes hedgehog, curled up small
Roll him over like a ball.
- Wendy Orr says that she normally writes in silence, on the computer, but found that the verse sections for this story had to be written by hand, playing the album Agaetis Byrjun by the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. Experiment with playing different types of music as the students write verse.
- For useful images and links, see the Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/wendyorr1/dragonfly-song-bits-of-background-and-teaching-ideas/
Don’t Miss Out On the Rest of the Tour!
October 22: Unleashing Readers, Activity Guide and Discussion Questions http://www.unleashingreaders.com/
October 23: YA and Kids Book Central, Book Playlist http://www.yabookscentral.com/blog/
October 24: Log Cabin Library, Guest Post http://logcabinlibrary.blogspot.com/
October 25: The Children’s Book Review, Character Interview https://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/
October 26: Bluestocking Thinking, Review http://bluestockingthinking.blogspot.com/
October 27: Charlotte’s Library, Interview http://charlotteslibrary.blogspot.com/
October 28: A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust, Interview http://www.foodiebibliophile.com/
October 29: Writers’ Rumpus, Guest Post https://writersrumpus.com/
Thank you to Wendy Orr for her fantastic activities and questions!
Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!
Marti’s Song for Freedom | Martí y sus versos por la libertad
Author: Emma Otheguy
Illustrator: Beatriz Vidal
Published July 17, 2017 by Lee & Low Books
Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma,
Y antes de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma.
As a boy, José Martí was inspired by the natural world. He found freedom in the river that rushed to the sea and peace in the palmas reales that swayed in the wind. Freedom, he believed, was the inherent right of all men and women. But his home island of Cuba was colonized by Spain, and some of the people were enslaved by rich landowners. Enraged, Martí took up his pen and fought against this oppression through his writings. By age seventeen, he was declared an enemy of Spain and forced to leave his beloved island.
Martí traveled the world, speaking out for Cuba’s independence. But throughout his exile, he suffered from illness and homesickness. He found solace in New York’s Catskill Mountains, where nature inspired him once again to fight for independence.
Written in verse, with excerpts from Martí’s seminal Versos sencillos, this book is a beautiful tribute to a brilliant political writer and courageous fighter of freedom for all men and women.
“A sensitive and poignant tribute to one of Latin America’s most important historical figures.” – School Library Journal, starred review
“A moving account of [Marti’s] crusade for justice.” -Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A timely story that will inspire many to fight for equality and sing songs for freedom.” -Booklist, starred review
“Spotlights a steadfast hero and brilliant writer still worth admiring today.” -Kirkus reviews, starred review
“A direct and approachable introduction to the life and works of Cuban poet and freedom fighter José Martí.” -Shelf Awareness, starred review
About the Creators:
Emma Otheguy is a children’s book author and a historian of Spain and colonial Latin America. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, and her short story “Fairies in Town” was awarded a Magazine Merit Honor by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Otheguy lives with her husband in New York City. This is her picture book debut. You can find her online at emmaotheguy.com.
Beatriz Vidal is an award-winning painter, illustrator, and teacher. Her work has appeared in well-known publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Woman’s Day, and the New Yorker. Her artwork has also been featured on PBS programs and in numerous exhibitions around the world, including the International Exhibition of Illustrations for Children in Italy and the Society of Illustrators in New York. Vidal divides her time between New York City and Buenos Aires, Argentina. You can visit her online at beatrizvidal.com.
Review: This beautiful bilingual biography deserves all the praise it is receiving. The beautiful pieces of art that accompany the poetic verses turns this picture book biography into a piece of art! I also loved that not only is Martí’s biography in Spanish and English, but so is the author’s back matter.
I also am so glad that I learned about José Martí! I didn’t know anything about the Cuban war for independence and emancipation from slavery. Cuba has such an extensive history that is not taught here, so this story definitely fills a gap in history education. While the story teaches primarily of Martí’s life, the back matter goes deeper into Cuban independence and reading both is definitely going to pique interests to learn more. I think this book would pair nicely with books about our Civil War to compare the United States to other countries’ fights for freedom.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Emma Otheguy was kind enough to share an activity guide for the text. All of the activities come in Spanish and English and can be downloaded at http://emmaotheguy.com/my-new-book/.
Activity 1: “José Martí wrote many letters throughout his life. He wrote about things he found beautiful or interesting, and also about injustices, and how he though they might get better. Write a letter to a friend, a relative, or an elected official about something you’re passionate about. It can be anything you care about, whether it’s helping your neighbors, caring for animals, or respecting the planet–just share how you feel. Then cut out your letter an mail it.” Followed by a outlined letter for kids to feel out.
Activity 2: “Did you know that José Martí was a poet, and that is poetry book Versos Sencillos was written and published right here in the United States? If you ever hear the song Guantanamera you’ll notice words from Marti’s poetry in the song! Read the first stanza of Martí’s poem, then fill in the blanks to create your own poem.”
Activity 3: “Read the book and solve this crossword puzzle”
Activity 4: “As teenagers, José Martí and his friends wrote and published their own newspaper, La Patria Libre (the free homeland), supporting Cuban independence. Can you create a newspaper? Fill out the boxes with the latest news.” Includes a place for Read All About It, Letter to the Editor, and an illustration.
Discussion Questions: How did José Martí play a part in Cuba’s fight for independence?; Did his age when sent to America surprise you?; Why is Cuba such a mix of culture?; How did the author use José Martí’s own words within her biography of him?; If you were to write to your government about an injustice you see in your country, what would you write about?
Read This If You Love: Margarita Engle’s books, Henry’s Freedom Box by Henry Levine and other biographies about the fight for emancipation in the United States, Nonfiction picture book biographies
**Thank you to Emma Otheguy for providing a copy for review!**
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