Marti’s Song for Freedom | Martí y sus versos por la libertad by Emma Otheguy



Nonfiction Wednesday

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

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

ReviewThis 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

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?

Flagged Passages: 

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

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Emma Otheguy for providing a copy for review!**

Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath


like water on stone

Like Water on Stone
Author: Dana Walrath
Published: November 11th, 2014 by Delacorte Press

Summary: Blending magical realism and lyrical free verse, this is an intense survival story of three siblings caught up in the horrific events of the Armenian genocide of 1915.

It is 1914, and the Ottoman Empire is crumbling into violence.

Beyond Anatolia, in the Armenian Highlands, Shahen Donabedian dreams of going to New York. Sosi, his twin sister, never wants to leave her home, especially now that she is in love. At first, only Papa, who counts Turks and Kurds among his closest friends, stands in Shahen’s way. But when the Ottoman pashas set their plans to eliminate all Armenians in motion, neither twin has a choice.

After a horrifying attack leaves them orphaned, Shahen and Sosi flee into the mountains, carrying their little sister, Mariam. Shahen keeps their parents’ fate a secret from his sisters. But the children are not alone. An eagle named Ardziv watches over them as they run at night and hide each day, making their way across mountain ridges and rivers red with blood.

Review: This is a beautiful book in verse that is set in the Ottoman Empire during the 1910s. It blends genres of magical realism and historical fiction. The point of view alternates with each poem, so I came to understand the differing perspectives of the family depicted in the text. The horrific genocide against Armenians is not common in literature, and this text sheds light on a time period that should be depicted more often. The strength of the children in this book will be inspirational to readers.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I would recommend using this book as a literature circle text. Each group could be assigned a text that depicts a different genocide. This would provide rich opportunities to discuss parallels and differences across texts. Then, teachers might consider having students examine both historical and modern genocide. This might involve critical conversations about how we might work to promote social justice. They might even critique conceptions of social justice, such as slacktivism.

Discussion Questions: What does this story teach us about humanity?; How might a feminist read this text? What issues of gender emerge? Is this acceptable due to the historical setting of the text?

We Flagged:

“Hate makes jagged spikes of light,

and blame can crack the sky.

As pierced with wounds

from sharp white teeth,

the Ottoman air had ruptured.

Massacres would come again

as the drum-capped rulers

spread their hate” (p. 17-18).

Read This If You Loved: Tree Girl by Ben Mikaelsen; Audacity by Melanie Crowder; Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto by Paul B. Janeczko; Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys; Night by Elie Wiesel; A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

Recommended For:

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Blog Tour with Review, Giveaway, and Author Interview!: The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist by Margarita Engle



Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

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!

sky painter

The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist
Author: Margarita Engle
Illustrator: Aliona Bereghici
Published April 28th, 2015 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: Louis loves to watch birds. He takes care of injured birds and studies how they look and how they move. His father wants him to become an engineer, but Louis dreams of being a bird artist. To achieve this dream, he must practice, practice, practice. He learns from the art of John James Audubon. But as Louis grows up, he begins to draw and paint living, flying birds in their natural habitats.

Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874–1927) is now known as the father of modern bird art. He traveled with many scientific expeditions all over the world. His best-known works—paintings for habitat exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History in New York—are still beloved by visitors today. His art helped to encourage wildlife conservation, inspiring people to celebrate and protect the world of wings.

Poems by Newbery Honor–winning author Margarita Engle and illustrations by Aliona Bereghici capture the life of Louis Fuertes and the deep sense of wonder that he felt when he painted the sky.

About the Author: Margarita Engle is a Cuban American poet and novelist whose work has been published in many countries. Her books include The Poet Slave of Cuba, winner of the Pura Belpré Award for narrative and the Américas Award; The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor book; Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, a Kirkus Best Book for Children; and The Lightning Dreamer, Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, winner of the 2014 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Young Adult/Children’s Literature. Margarita lives in California, where she enjoys bird-watching and helping her husband with his volunteer work for wilderness search-and-rescue dog training programs. To learn more, and to download a free activity kit for The Sky Painter, visit:

Margarita Engle_credit Marshall W. Johnson

Kellee’s Review: Louis Fuertes is an inspirational man, and Engle’s biography of him is perfect. I think what I enjoyed most was how Fuertes was not only an artist, but an animal activist, family man, and educator. He is a role model for any kid that wants to grow up to be happy. Like Ricki shares below, this book shares an important lesson about how there are so many different special things out there to be observed. Nature is phenomenal.

I loved learning not only of Fuertes and his journey to live his passion, I loved the beautiful poetry and watercolor that were used to craft his story.  Both the poetry and the artwork do Fuertes’s story justice like no other format would have.  The format also gives the reader a chance to look at each poem as a stand alone and also part of the whole biography which gives each poem two different purposes and two different ways they can be analyzed.

Ricki’s Review: Louis Fuertes is a remarkable man, and this book not only pays homage to his extraordinary life, but it teaches young people important lessons. He nurtures and cares for birds in ways that children can emulate in many aspects of their lives. The book shows he devoted his life to birds and wanted others to see their beauty. I’ve seen Fuertes’ artwork in a variety of places, but I never considered him as an artist. This book reminded me that sometimes I go about life, not considering something very important and special. I am so glad I learned about Fuertes’ story and will think about him whenever I read or learn about birds. This book would be an excellent gift to give to a child. The poetry is gorgeous, and the illustrations are breath-taking.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As a teacher, we can think of a plethora of ways to use this text in the classroom. We love to offer our students options, so we might provide them opportunities to  read different biographies of different people who are following their passion. Students the could get in lit circles to discuss the biography then come back together to share what they learned. They could also choose any artist or person in history and write poems reflecting this individual’s biography. It would be fun to illustrate and bind these books to share them with others. We can imagine a class sitting in a circle, reading their poetry and learning about lesser-known individuals in history.

Discussion Questions: How did Fuertes change animal painting/drawing forever?; How do you feel that some artists kill animals to draw or paint them?; How did following his passions help make Fueres’s life happier?

Book Trailer: 

Interview with Margarita Engle

Unleashing Readers: What inspired you to write about Fuertes?

Margarita Engle: I became fascinated by Fuertes while I was researching rain forest ecology and visiting wildlife preserves, during the process of writing a historical verse novel called Silver People: Voices From the Panama Canal. In many references, Fuertes was mentioned as the bird artist for all the great geographic expeditions of the early twentieth century. When I learned that he was a conservationist who pioneered the painting of living birds in flight—instead of killing and posing them like Audubon—I was astonished. Why wasn’t he a household name, like Audubon? Instantly, Fuertes became the most important link in my ongoing quest for biographical picture books about great Latino naturalists who have been forgotten by history. I hope The Sky Painter helps teachers, librarians, and parents introduce children from all backgrounds to this amazing Puerto Rican/American scientist. Fuertes is a fantastic role model because he was a creative thinker who decided to learn how to paint faster, to save the lives of birds.

UR: What did your research process look like?  Do you have any recommendations for students who are doing research?

ME: I try to read every book I can find, in addition to online sources. Many historical studies simply have not yet been digitized, so interlibrary loan is really helpful. I rely on bibliographies to help me move farther and farther back in time, until I discover first person narratives. Diaries, letters, field notes, etc. are incredibly helpful. Fortunately, Fuertes and the scientists he worked with on expeditions recorded fascinating details!

UR: Was there any information that you found interesting that you decided not to include in the book?

ME: Yes, because this book is for young children, I decided not to include the tragic way he died. Soon after he returned from his expedition to Africa, he was driving to show new paintings to another ornithologist. His car was hit by a train. The paintings survived, but he did not.

UR: Because we are a blog devoted to teachers, do you have any ideas about how you envision your book in classrooms?

ME: The Sky Painter can fit into science, art, poetry, or multicultural programs. One of the really clever cartoon exercises Fuertes taught children who visited his studio was simply sketching three circles, then deciding how to connect them. Two circles could become arms or wings, depending on how they’re connected. One circle is always the head. Children decide whether to create a person, a bird, or some sort of funny hybrid.

For older children, I think The Sky Painter can also be used to teach history, if a teacher discusses the way important accomplishments are sometimes omitted from textbooks. Because there’s a tendency for each generation of textbooks to include material from past editions, incredibly important topics may be gradually forgotten.

Fuertes was not only a great artist and scientist, he was also a groundbreaking conservationist. It would make me very happy to see The Sky Painter featured during Hispanic Heritage Month in September–October, as well as on Earth Day, which happens to fall during National Poetry Month in April. It would be especially thrilling to see The Sky Painter used by a teacher preparing students for a field trip, whether it’s a video or a virtual trip on a nature website, an outdoor nature walk on the school-grounds, a walk in a nearby park, or a visit to the Natural History Museum in New York to see the murals Fuertes painted as backgrounds for habitat displays. The possibilities are incredible!

Perhaps most important, The Sky Painter can be used to teach about creative thinking. Are there old attitudes we might try changing—just as Fuertes did—to promote conservation of wildlife and natural habitats?

Read This If You Loved: Feathers: Not Just For Flying by Melissa Stewart, A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, Manfish by Jennifer Berne, Look Up!: Bird-Watching In Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate

Recommended For: 

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Follow along on THE SKY PAINTER blog tour!
Mon, Apr 20
Library Fanatic
Tues, Apr 21
Kid Lit Frenzy
Wed, Apr 22
Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Apr 23
5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Apr 24
Teach Mentor Texts
Sat, Apr 25
Booking Mama
Mon, Apr 27
Tues, Apr 28
The Children’s Book Review
Wed, Apr 29
Cracking the Cover
Thurs, Apr 30
A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
Fri, May 1
Archimedes Notebook


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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media and Margarita Engle for the interview and providing a copy for review!**

Reviews and Educators’ Guide: Matt Tavares’s Baseball Biographies


henry aaronted williams

 babe ruthpedro

Henry Aaron’s Dream
Author: Matt Tavares
Published January 12th, 2010 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: Matt Tavares hits one out of the park with this powerful tale of a kid from the segregated south who would become baseball’s home-run king.

Before he was Hammerin’ Hank, Henry Aaron was a young boy grow ing up in Mobile, Alabama, with what seemed like a foolhardy dream: to be a big-league baseball player. He didn’t have a bat. He didn’t have a ball. And there wasn’t a single black ball player in the major leagues. B ut none of this could stop Henry Aaron. In a captivating biography of Henr y Aaron’s young life – from his sandlot days through his time in the Negro Leagues to the day he played his first spring training game for the Braves – Matt Tavares offers an inspiring homage to one of baseball’s all-time greats.

There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived
Author: Matt Tavares
Published February 14th, 2012 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: A lively picture book biography of Ted Williams from a master of the genre — just in time for Fenway Park’s centennial.

Ted Williams lived a life of dedication and passion. He was an ordinary kid who wanted one thing: to hit a baseball better than anyone else. So he practiced his swing every chance he got. He did fingertip push-ups. He ate a lot of food. He practiced his swing again. And then practiced it some more. From his days playing ball in North Park as a kid to his unmatched .406 season in 1941 to his heroic tours of duty as a fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, the story of Teddy Ballgame is the story of an American hero. In this engrossing biography, a companion to Henry Aaron’s Dream, Matt Tavares makes Ted Williams’s life story accessible to a whole new generation of fans who are sure to admire the hard work, sacrifice, and triumph of the greatest hitter who ever lived.


Becoming Babe Ruth
Author: Matt Tavares
Published February 12th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: Matt Tavares’s striking homage to one of baseball’s legends offers a rare view into Babe Ruth’s formative years in “the House that built Ruth.”

Before he is known as the Babe, George Herman Ruth is just a boy who lives in Baltimore and gets into a lot of trouble. But when he turns seven, his father brings him to the gates of Saint Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, and his life is changed forever. At Saint Mary’s, he’s expected to study hard and follow a lot of rules. But there is one good thing about Saint Mary’s: almost every day, George gets to play baseball. Here, under the watchful eye of Brother Matthias, George evolves as a player and as a man, and when he sets off into the wild world of big-league baseball, the school, the boys, and Brother Matthias are never far from his heart. With vivid illustrations and clear affection for his subject, Matt Tavares sheds light on an icon who learned early that life is what you make of it — and sends home a message about honoring the place from which you came.

Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made it From the Dominican Republic All Way to the Major Leagues
Author: Matt Tavares
Published February 10th, 2015

Goodreads Summary: The love between brothers is key to Matt Tavares’s tale of Dominican pitcher Pedro Martinez, from his days of throwing rocks at mangoes to his years as a major-league star.

Before Pedro Martinez pitched the Red Sox to a World Series championship, before he was named to the All-Star team eight times, before he won the Cy Young three times, he was a kid from a place called Manoguayabo in the Dominican Republic. Pedro loved baseball more than anything, and his older brother Ramon was the best pitcher he’d ever seen. He’d dream of the day he and his brother could play together in the major leagues—and here, Matt Tavares tells the story of how that dream came true. In a fitting homage to a modern day baseball star, the acclaimed author-illustrator examines both Pedro Martinez’s improbable rise to the top of his game and the power that comes from the deep bond between brothers.

My Review: These four superbly crafted biographies take a look at the life of each man, but as more than a baseball player. We learn about their childhoods, where they came from, and their dreams and hopes. Each book includes aspects of the history surrounding them including the Depression, wars, and racism. Additionally, these books are crafted beautiful with lyrically written prose. These books are must reads for lovers of baseball, history, and biographies in general.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I was lucky enough to be asked to write a teachers’ guide for each of these books. For each book, I created discussion questions and activities (including cross-curricular activities). I plan on using this guide in my own classroom with the books in a lit circle type of setting. Each group will be given one of the biographies, will complete the discussion questions and activities, and then become experts on their player before presenting. These biographies are asking to be in classrooms, and I hope the guide helps show how they can fit into a language arts/reading class.

Please check out the complete guide at 

Examples from the guide: 

Becoming Babe Ruth
News spread differently in the early twentieth century. Discuss with your students the way news about Babe Ruth was spread during his lifetime and have students find examples in the text. Then have them discuss the way news is spread digitally nowadays. Invite the class to debate the pros and cons of digital news.; How did Babe Ruth’s life change when he left Saint Mary’s to play for the Orioles?

There Goes Ted Williams
Have students write down Ted Williams’s batting average and home run stats as well as those of two other Hall of Famers. After comparing the players’ stats, have students write a paragraph discussing whether or not they believe that Ted Williams is the best hitter ever.; How did Ted Williams’s childhood perseverance help him become a professional baseball player?

Henry Aaron’s Dream
Baseball began integrating before all cities in the United States had ended segregation. As a class, discuss how this reality affected black players on major-league baseball teams and how black players’ trips to segregated cities differed from those of their white teammates. Then, with your students, complete a graphic organizer comparing and contrasting the life of white and black baseball players during Hank Aaron’s lifetime. Invite students to write an essay about how life has changed for players of color over time.; How did Jackie Robinson influence Henry Aaron? What did Jackie Robinson’s accomplishments mean for other black baseball players? 

Growing Up Pedro
Pull up a map of North America. Have students mark all the different places that Pedro played: the Dominican Republic, Montana, Montreal, and so on. Ask students to determine the miles between each location. Which place was the farthest from Pedro’s home? Which place was the closest?; Have students write a journal entry as Pedro Martínez. Invite them to write, from Pedro’s point of view, what it feels like to move so far away from home when he is so young. Does he miss his family? Is he sad, happy, or excited to be in Montana.

Discussion Questions: Examples of discussion questions and activities for each of the biographies can be found in my teachers’ guide; however, after reading all four of the books, two discussion questions could be: Most of the baseball players had a mentor or idol that he looked up to and learned from. How did these mentors or idols help guide the players into becoming the greats they are?; Each of the baseball players helped a charity that was close to his heart. Who did each player help? Why did players choose the charity they did?

We Flagged: 

Becoming Babe Ruth, byMatt Tavares from Becoming Babe Ruth

Check out Matt Tavares’s You Tube channel to see sneak peeks into Growing Up Pedro and  There Goes Ted Williams.

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The Crossover by Kwame Alexander


the crossover

The Crossover
Author: Kwame Alexander
Published March 18th, 2014 by Harcourt Brace and Company

Goodreads Summary: “With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood.

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

My Review: Wow. What a powerful piece of narrative and poetry. Any poem from Josh’s story could easily be taken out of context and used as a piece of exemplar poetry writing. In addition to the amazing writing, Josh is a kid that is so easy to connect with. He is so real. You love him (even if he is a little cocky). By the end of the book, you feel like you are part of Josh’s family, and you don’t want to leave.

And to top it all off: one of my reluctant readers grabbed this book and zoomed right through it. It quickly became one of his favorite books! I love when the Newbery Medal winner is accessible to students. Now to just get more students to read it and experience the awesomeness.

(Also, Kwame was one of my favorite presenters at ALAN, and he was such a pleasure to meet!)


Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I cannot wait to have my students make vocabulary poems like Josh does. Such a fun way to play with words. Additionally, like I stated above, any poem in this novel could be used in a poetry unit. I’d also love to have students come up with rules like Josh’s dad did for basketball and have them write them in verse.

Discussion Questions: Why is Josh so impacted by Jordan getting a girlfriend?; Who do you think influences Josh more: his dad or his mom? Explain.; Within his poems, Josh uses formatting, bolding, and different fonts to put emphasis on certain words. Why does he do this?; Josh uses figurative language throughout his poems. Find an example and share why you think Josh used it.; How are Josh and Jordan similar? Different?

We Flagged: 


Read This If You Loved: Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott (YA), The Sports Pages edited by Jon Sciezska, The Moves Make the Man by Bruce Brooks, Summer Ball by Mike Lupica

Recommended For: 

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Audacity by Melanie Crowder



Author: Melanie Crowder
Published: January 8, 2015 by Philomel

Goodreads Summary: The inspiring story of Clara Lemlich, whose fight for equal rights led to the largest strike by women in American history

A gorgeously told novel in verse written with intimacy and power, Audacity is inspired by the real-life story of Clara Lemlich, a spirited young woman who emigrated from Russia to New York at the turn of the twentieth century and fought tenaciously for equal rights. Bucking the norms of both her traditional Jewish family and societal conventions, Clara refuses to accept substandard working conditions in the factories on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. For years, Clara devotes herself to the labor fight, speaking up for those who suffer in silence. In time, Clara convinces the women in the factories to strike, organize, and unionize, culminating in the famous Uprising of the 20,000.
Powerful, breathtaking, and inspiring, Audacity is the story of a remarkable young woman, whose passion and selfless devotion to her cause changed the world.

Ricki’s Review: This is an inspirational book in verse based on the true story of Clara Lemlich. She was a Russian Jewish immigrant who was forced to work in horrible factory conditions in the early 1900s. Clara stood up for her rights and fought with the union. What I liked most about this book is the author gives so much information about Orthodox Judaism, unions, and feminism, but she doesn’t hit readers over the head with the information. I don’t enjoy reading books about religion, and I don’t particularly seek out books about feminism (or unions, for that matter), yet I found Clara’s story to be both fascinating and compelling. All types of readers will love this story, and it is very teachable.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I would love to teach this book. It offers great opportunities for building background knowledge about history. I wish this book existed when I used to teach The Jungle because the connections are innumerable. If I taught this book, I would use a jigsaw, research, and/or webquest activity where students spent time researching the 1900s, Russian immigration in the 1900s, unions, feminism, schooling in the 1900s, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and Orthodox Judaism. This knowledge would provide a rich reading of this text.

Discussion Questions: How do Clara’s parents and siblings view her actions?; Make a list of your top five values. Then, make a list of Clara’s top five values. Are they the same? Different? Do you think your values differ from hers because of your personalities or because of the different time periods you live in?

We Flagged: “How can I tell Mama / who toils / sunup / to sundown / to be a good mother / a good wife / that this life / (her life) / is not enough for me, / that I dream instead / of words / ideas / a life that stretches far beyond / the bounds of this shtetl?” (p. 12).

*Please note that this quotation is from an advanced reader copy, and the quote may be different in the published version of the book.*

Read This If You Loved: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath, A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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**A special thank you to Penguin for sending this book for review!**

Festival of the Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras: The Book for the Day of the Dead by Luis San Vicente



Festival of the Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras: The Book for the Day of the Dead
Author: Luis San Vincente
Translator: John William Byrd, Bobby Byrd
Published September 1st, 2002 by Cinco Puntos Press

Goodreads Summary: On Mexico’s Day of the Dead, the skeletons jump for sheer joy. And no wonder: they’ve been cooped up the whole year and now they’re ready to party. Watch the calaveras shake, rattle, and roll as they celebrate the biggest event of the graveyard’s social calendar!

About the Author: The works of Mexico City artist Luis San Vicente have been exhibited in Mexico, Venezuela, Europe, and the United States. He has won UNESCO’s prestigious NOMA Encouragement Concours Prize for Illustration, and UNESCO honored his work (1997, 1998, and 1999) in their prestigious Youth and Children’s Catalog of Illustrations.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I first learned about the Day of the Dead when I lived in Texas. My father was the director Laguna Gloria, the art museum in Austin, and I saw some artwork from local Mexican-American artists that depicted the traditional skeleton seen in Day of the Dead art. My father then told me about the holiday and since then I have been quite intrigued with it. San Vicente’s story is a great introduction to the (kind of creepy) holiday, its history, and traditions. The text is in verse with a catchy rhythm and the illustrations are so lively AND it is bilingual. I loved seeing the text in Spanish and English. Then, the afterword further informs the readers about the holiday filling in any gaps left by the story.

Discussion Questions: What did you learn about Mexico’s Day of the Dead? How is it celebrated? What is its history? What food is eaten at the celebrations?

We Flagged: 

“Giddyup! Giddyup!
Oh, they want to catch me.
To that ugly skeleton…
They want to marry me.

¡Arre! ¡Arre!
Oh, me quieren atrapar.
Para esa fea esqueleto …
Ellos quieren que se case conmigo.”

Recommended For: 


Happy Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Eve, All Hallows’ Day and Day of the Dead!


**Thank you to Cinco Puntos Press for providing a copy for review**