Tom T’s Hat Rack by Michele Spry

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Tom T’s Hat Rack
Author: Michele Spry
Illustrator: Peggy A. Guest
Published January 2, 2013 by Spry Publishing

Summary: After Mr. T’s bout of cancer, he has decided that he wants to help make other people’s journeys during their chemo and radiation a bit easier. To do this, he asks his young friend Shelby to help him make a special project. Shelby Summers is one of those young people who understands the golden rule- she is good to all around her because she knows that is the right thing to do. This book shares with us the story of Mr. T and Shelby building their gift for others and what it is like to pay it forward.

My Review: This book’s purpose is more than just a narrative. The author, in her letter to me that came with the book, shared how she hopes the book would inspire others to pay it forward. “This simple act of kindness towards others is so simple to do and encourage others to do.” Too many children are growing up without thinking about this important aspect of humanity. Tom T’s Hat Rack is a great platform for starting that conversation.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: In the back of the book, the author has laid out ways for students to pay it forward just like Mr. T and Shelby. First, there is a brainstorming page to consider how the reader could help his or her community. Then the author’s page shares with the reader the story behind the book (Michele’s inspiration was a friend of hers that was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was still positive and upbeat during his treatment). Finally, the hat rack plans are included so that the readers could make a hat rack for their community just like Mr. T and Shelby. I think that this is an important book because of what it teaches and the conversations that it’ll start. It’ll be perfect for a read aloud or book club in middle elementary grades. You could even combine it with the amazing picture books I’ll list below to make a kindness unit.

Discussion Questions: What can you do to help others in your community? List some ways you can help – big or small – it doesn’t matter as long as you are doing something positive to help others. (p. 91)

We Flagged: “Tonight, Mr. T talked about how he wanted to have Shelby help him with a little project. After going through these tough health issues with his cancer, he decided to do something positive to benefit others. He knew with Shelby’s caring heart, and vision to help people, he and Shelby would be able to accomplish this idea over summer break.” (p. 22)

Read this if you loved: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein

Recommended for: 

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**Thank you to Michele Spry for providing a copy for review**

Price of Freedom by Judith Bloom Fradin & Dennis Brindell Fradin

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NF PB 2013

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!

price

The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery
Authors: Judith Bloom Fradin & Dennis Brindell Fradin
Illustrator: Eric Velasquez
Published January 8, 2013 by Walkers Children

Summary: In 1856, John Price, his cousin, and a friend risked their lives to cross the Ohio River in hopes of finding freedom on the other side. As slaves, leaving Kentucky and making their way into Ohio was the only way to even hope for freedom. However, the real goal was to get to Canada since the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 stated that slaves could still be returned to their owners if caught in a free state. On his way to trying to get to Canada, John was lucky enough to come across the town of Oberlin, Ohio. A town that did not believe in slavery and even embraced runaway slaves as one of their own. But what would happen when slave hunters came to town looking for John? What is the town willing to do to save their own?

My Review: I love how this book was put together. The best way to teach nonfiction, in my opinion, is to make it into a narrative that catches readers’ attention and makes them want to learn more. The narrative in The Price of Freedom was put together very well- a perfect plot arc- yet leaves you wanting more. It starts out with just enough prior knowledge (not too teachy yet makes sure that it teaches enough that the reader will understand) and takes us through what happens to John Price as a story and finally the end is a bit of a cliffhanger that makes you want to research more. My favorite type of nonfiction. And to add to this the watercolor illustrations bring the story to life and are so very well done adding even more depth to the picture book. This book puts the reader straight into a tense situation and invites them to take part of a historical situation that does not appear in history textbooks. While I’d been taught about the Fugitive Slave Act and realized that there were oppositions to the act, but I had never read a narrative like this one.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: In the classroom, I think this nonfiction picture book is important to start conversations about the two sides of the civil war. It would also be a great jumping off point to start talking about people who stood up against laws, the Underground Railroad, and the transition into the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, etc. The authors even gave websites that are perfect to use as an extension.

Discussion Questions: Why do you think that the people of Oberlin and other Underground Railroad risked their lives to help escaped slaves?; What do you think happened to John Price? Do some research and see if your hypothesis was correct.

We Flagged: “Oberlin student William Lincoln was in his room when some classmates pounded on his door. He was the man to rescue John Price, they told him, offering him a gun. Lincoln hated slavery, but he also hated violence. Unsure what to do, he knelt on the floor with his Bible and asking himself: “if it were your own brother, what would you do?”

His answer? “Rescue him or die!” Lincoln grabbed the gun and raced to Wellington.” p. 23

Read This If You Loved: Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Roodie Joe DiMaggio by Robert Skead, Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, John Brown: His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix, Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea David Pinkney, Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson, Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for providing a copy for review**