History News: Greek News by Anton Powell and Philip Steele


NF PB 2013

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!


History News: The Greek News
Author: Anton Powell and Philip Steele
Illustrator: Various
Published March 10th, 2009 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: At home or at school, these innovative titles make history come alive

Read all About it Now, with The Greek News and The Roman News, life in ancient Greece and Rome is presented in the form of a daily newspaper written at the time. As accessible as your morning paper, The Greek News and The Roman News will give young readers the unforgettable sense of actually being a citizen of an ancient nation.

Stop the presses! What if ancient civilizations had daily newspapers? And they were amusing and compellingly informative? They might just look like this innovative series of historical nonfiction, presented in a unique, kid-friendly format.

Presents a “special edition” of a Greek newspaper which spans the years 1500 to 146 B.C. and contains articles about history, politics, feasts, fashions, theater, gods, and wars.

My Review: Set up like a Greek newspaper, The Greek News takes important events from the history of Greece and transcribes them as articles. The articles range in topics including Sparta, Alexander the Great, politics, army/navy life, trades, sports, woman, mythology, arts, education, philosophy, and traditions.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: The book is so well done with each page including a main article as well as other features including sidebars, maps, advertisements, diagrams, illustrations and political cartoons. I think students will like reading/learning about Greece more from this text than other because the unique format shares the information as if it was happening in the present and puts the reader in the middle of Greece. It also throws in some humor which students will love. This text can lead to such great discussions about not only Greece, but war, philosophy, mythology, propaganda, and so many other things.

Discussion Questions: [Writing prompt] Use The Greek News as a guide to create your own newspaper-esque piece sharing the history of a historical fiction book which you have read.

We Flagged: “In 415 B.C., Athens tried to add to its territory by conquering the island of Sicily. The results were disastrous – thousands of Athenian soldiers and hundreds of warships were lost. The Spartans leaped on Athens’s weakness and cut off the city’s supply of wealth from its silver mines…” (“Sparta Attacks!” p. 6)

“You know what it’s like. One minute your life is going smoothly, then, just when you least expect it, the gods turn their back on you and disaster strikes! Don’t panic – The Greek News will tell you everything you need to know about keeping the gods on your side.” (Lead paragraph for “Pleasing the Gods” p. 20-21)

“Socrates is to die! The jury of 501 men has made its decision – Socrates is guilty of not believing in the state-approved gods and of leading young people astray with his teaching.” (“Death by Poison, pg. 27)

Read This If You Loved: Any non-fiction or fiction text about Greece

Recommended For: 

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Website: Stories for My Little Sister


A couple of months ago, I was introduced to a wonderful website and today I wanted to share this site with you as I think it is a great resource and would be a lot of fun to use at home and in the classroom. 


At Stories for My Little Sister, two sisters, Samantha and Diana, share stories that Samantha writes that are illustrated by Diana. These stories are all so much fun! Each story includes a fun animal such as Pink Ethel the elephant and Moochie the turtle. David Goes Green, a story about a goldfish, is written in rhyme, My Friend Stinky, about a skunk, is about friendship. Each story has something that makes it special.

My favorite part of the site, though, is probably Harrison’s Blog. Harrison is a hamster and his blog is filled with his stories and opinions. As Harrison says, “The opinions I express on my blog are my own. I don’t want you to think that I represent hamsters in general. Well, I couldn’t, because I am totally and utterly unique and I could not possibly know what another hamster might be thinking. More importantly, I don’t represent gerbils at all. I could not, in any way, shape or form, even attempt to represent gerbils. That is because I am not a gerbil. I am a hamster!”  I love the idea of taking a character and having a blog for him/her is such a great activity for a classroom and Harrison’s Blog would be a wonderful mentor text for showing an example.

After being introduced to “Stories for My Sister,” I was so interested in learning more. Because of that, after being in touch with Samantha and Diana, came up with a Q&A to learn more about this site:

Unleashing Readers: I love that when you both were younger Samantha used to tell Diana her stories. What is Diana’s favorite story that Samantha used to tell her? What was Samantha’s favorite story to tell?

When we were little     Now we are grown up

Samantha: I’m not sure exactly how it came about, but a long time ago, I started telling Diana that she was an alien from a faraway planet.

Diana: And I loved it!

S: She really did.

D: I must’ve been about two years old…

S: Anyway, the story started from there, and it’s been growing ever since. Her real name is Hora, she’s from a cuboid planet called Horic (its edges kept perfect as all the inhabitants take turns to sand them), and you can fall off – that’s how she got here in the first place.

D: And you can get pushed!

S: I’ve told Diana a lot of stories over the years – I don’t think I could ever stop – but there is and always has been a comfort in visiting Horic every so often and remembering an old adventure or spinning a new one. We’d love to turn it into a book someday.

D: It’ll have to be a series! And I want to put some real science in there, too…

UR: Tell us more about your childhood. Did you both always know you were going to be an author and an artist?

S: No, not at all. When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a doctor! Storytelling was just something that I always did. The themes of my stories tended to be a few steps removed from my real life, yet imbued with my day-to-day thoughts and feelings. I’ve always loved animals, so I guess that’s why they feature so heavily.

D: I had lot of dreams as I was growing up. I wanted to be a cartoonist – but I also wanted to be part of the crew on the Starship Enterprise! One of my earliest memories of school is of being given a sheet of paper and told to draw a picture. We could draw anything we wanted. I had a red crayon and I drew a page full of random red dots. I remember very clearly how much I enjoyed creating that picture and how pleased I was with it. I still get that feeling when one of my drawings or paintings works out the way I plan.

UR: Tell me a bit about your background as an author (Samantha) and artist (Diana).

S: I have to say that when people call me an author, I tend to turn around to see who’s standing behind me! I studied psychology at university, but somehow ended up in a series of admin-related jobs. My stories – their invention, revision, telling and retelling – have always been my escape, and ideas are constantly bubbling away in my head. Sometimes there’ll be a theme I want to explore; sometimes a character seems to materialize in my mind, fully formed; sometimes it all starts with a snatch of text that I know fits perfectly somewhere. Perhaps the term ‘storyteller’ is a better fit for me.

D: I have always loved creating art. When I was about twelve years old, my mother noticed what she thought was a little spark of talent and bought me a beginner’s set of oil paints. I just sort of experimented and taught myself, trying out new media as I went along. I don’t have a formal art education: I studied physics at university and worked on space missions for many years, but painting and drawing have always been a big part of my life. In the last few years, with encouragement from friends and family, I began selling my fine art and am now represented by a couple of galleries online.

UR: What made you two decide to combine your forces and make Stories for My Little Sister?

S: Well, having a website was very much Diana’s idea.

D: Yes, and I started work on setting it up on my own at first, but Samantha has a habit of nosing around to see what I’m up to (by the way, Samantha, that’s annoying!) and when she found out…

S: I was happy, but with tears in my eyes!

D: But then she washed her face, rolled up her sleeves and got to work with me to get our website online. I don’t think we ever really decided to join forces as such…

S: It was more something that grew naturally out of what we had always enjoyed doing. It would have been great if we’d had the Web when we were growing up…

D: We’re older than the World Wide Web!

UR: Tell me a bit about the mission behind Stories for my Little Sister.

S&D: We didn’t really have what you’d call a mission when we set out on this journey, building the website, just a love of writing and illustrating together that started in childhood and a spark of hope that maybe there were kids out there who might enjoy our stories.

At the end of our journey, if we were to find ourselves able to say that we’d left some stories in this world that made kids happy, that would be enough; if we were able to say that we’d created a website that made our enthusiasm for storytelling contagious, that would be amazing.

UR: I know it is hard to pick favorites, like picking a favorite child, but which story is your favorite on the website Samantha? Diana?

D: Cricket and Watson – they are a two little birds that want to fly, but they’re not big enough yet. I identify with Watson (sometimes Cricket, but mostly Watson). Cricket is constantly coming up with new schemes to launch them into flight, but she has a habit of trying her ideas out on her long-suffering brother, Watson. She is well intentioned, but she does get them (especially Watson) into a few scrapes. I love the action in the book – it was really fun to illustrate – and I love the message of never giving up.

S: Everybody has a Jar (Harrison’s Blog, Post No. 25) is the one that pops into my head. Just the way the whole situation escalates so rapidly as Harrison jumps from conclusion to conclusion makes me smile. Harrison does manage to get himself into a lot of muddles, but that one was pretty spectacular, even for him! And the pictures of Harrison and Kimster in their prison stripes crack me up every time.

Harrison Hamster I behind bars

May I also sneak in an honourable mention for Tuppence for Christmas? I think the illustrations Diana created for the book are very special. Just check out the vast frozen beauty of the South Pole and Tuppence’s wonderfully expressive face – especially that moment of wide-eyed panic when she’s flapping her wings and finds she can’t take off. Don’t we all have moments like that?

UR: Your website not only has stories, it has coloring, puzzles, and more. Are the two of you in charge of all aspects? Anything else you hope to add in the future?

S: Yes – we create everything on there. It’s exhausting, but we love it!

D: Luckily we come from different educational and work backgrounds, and so we bring complementary skills to the table.

S: We’ve already got plans for more puzzles – not least because we both enjoy designing them. The lovely details in Diana’s pictures lend themselves to ‘spot the difference’ puzzles, and we’ll definitely be creating some of those.

D: We have to make one featuring Harrison’s ugly clock! And we’re also working on a way to find a permanent home for the captioned pictures from Harrison’s ‘On my mind…’ feature.

S: Not to mention more books and blog posts – we’re all about the stories. Of course, the printables are important too, in terms of challenging and engaging kids – and, most especially, inviting them to use their own creativity. So you’ll be seeing every aspect of the website growing.

D: We should probably just ask you to ‘watch this space!’

UR: Anything else you want to add?

S&D: We both believe that reading changes everything – it wakes up your brain, opens your eyes and makes you see the possibilities, both in the world around you and in yourself. In the words of others you can find inspiration, new ideas, comfort, hope and whole new ways of thinking. Words from another place or time can resonate with you and help you navigate your life; they can make you laugh or cry; they can make you want to shout out in dissent, or nod your head in quiet agreement.

We are proud to have Stories for My Little Sister featured on a blog whose mission is to ‘unleash readers’: we believe that once a reader is unleashed and free to roam, their potential is limitless and there is no place they cannot reach. To play a small part of that process in anyone’s life is the greatest privilege we could possibly have.


Thank you so much to Samantha and Diana,
and I hope you all will check out Stories for My Little Sister.


The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt



The Day the Crayons Quit
Author: Drew Daywalt
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Published June 27th, 2013 by Philomel

Goodreads Summary: Crayons have feelings, too, in this funny back-to-school story illustrated by the creator of Stuck and This Moose Belongs to Me 

Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun.

What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

Review: Told through letters, this story of revolt reminds me a bit of Toy Story in that when I finished, I felt like I needed to get out my crayons and use each one and let them know they are loved. This is probably one of my favorite picture books this year (maybe in general) because it promotes so much that I believe in: art, imagination, and caring. This book would be a great addition to Dot Day activities (Sept. 15, 2013).

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Automatically, after reading, I saw that the best way to use this book in the classroom is to first use it to promote imagination. Too many kids aren’t told to use their imagination often any more.

Also, I would use the inanimate object point of views to have students participate in a RAFT writing activity which helps students think about different perspectives. RAFT stands for R: Role, A: Audience, F: Format, T: Topic. In the book, Drew Daywalt was writing as a crayon (R) to their owner (A) in a letter (F) about their use (T). The students could pick their own toy and write a letter to themselves about their use.  So many possibilities!

Discussion Questions: What toy do you use at home more than others? What would this toy say to you? What about a toy you don’t use?; Draw a picture of a zoo or ocean scene, but use your imagination when it comes to size, color, and placement.

We Flagged: “Dear Duncan, It has been great being your FAVORITE color this PAST year. And the year before. And the YEAR before THAT! I have really enjoyed all those oceans, lakes, rivers, raindrops, rain clouds, and clear skies. but the BAD NEWS is that I am so short and stubby, I can’t even see over the railing in the crayon box anymore! I need a break! Your very stubby friend, Blue Crayon”

Read This If You Loved: Who Stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthie Knapp, The Dot and Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds, Chalk by Bill Thomson, Art & Max by David Weisner, Not a… series by Antoinette Portis, Art by Patrick McDonnell, Perfect Square by Michael Hall, Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld

Recommended For: 

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I think we should all get out some crayons today and color; enjoy your crayons, but make sure to use imagination and don’t show favoritism! 


Who Stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthie Knapp


NF PB 2013

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!


Who Stole Mona Lisa?
Author: Ruthie Knapp
Illustrated by: Jill McElmurry
Published by September 1st, 2010 by Bloombury USA Childrens

Goodreads Summary: She has a legendary smile, and millions come to see her every day. Some say she is the most famous painting in the world. Who is she? Why, the Mona Lisa, of course! But did you know that she was once stolen from her wall at the Louvre? Who took her? Why? Where was she hidden? How was she found? Someone call the police!

Narrated by the lady of the enigmatic smile herself—and brought to life with gorgeous paintings that take the reader from da Vinci’s renaissance right up to the present day—this is a stylishly whimsical account of the glorious, wonderful, sometimes dangerous life of the best recognized painting of all time. Discover the secrets behind her mysterious smile, and hear for yourself the amazing true story of her kidnapping.

Review: How fascinating! First, let me tell you a little bit about my background. My father has a BA in Art History and an MFA in Museumology. These studies led him to become an executive director of art museums (he is currently directing the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, TN) thus impacting my life greatly. My entire childhood has been surrounded by the arts (my mother is a photographer as well). This has made art history something that I am very interested in which then made this book so fascinating for me and I believe it will be incredibly fascinating for all readers.

Mona Lisa is probably the most famous painting of all time, but many, including me, do not know her history. She is more of a mystery that we all are enthralled with than a piece of artwork that is talked about in history class; however, Ruthie Knapp’s book shows us that Mona Lisa’s history is a lot more interesting than we probably thought. And what I think makes this book one that will draw in all sorts of readers is the way she tells the story. The story is told from Mona Lisa’s point of view which makes it more of a caper, mystery type story instead of just informational nonfiction.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: As soon as I read this book, I saw how I could use it in the classroom. Seeing things from different points of view and perspectives is something that, as a teacher, I am always trying to help my students achieve. This book, since it is told from Mona Lisa’s point of view, is a perfect example of seeing a situation from a different point of view. After reading Who Stole Mona Lisa? I would start a discussion on how others in the story might have viewed the situation. How would the director of the Louvre have told the story differently? How about Vincenzo Perugia? Parisians? All of these people would have viewed the loss of Mona Lisa differently. These thoughts then could be transferred to anything. Maybe have students choose a historical event and think about it from a different person’s point of view: Babe Ruth’s huge “called” home run from the pitchers point of view, atomic bombings of Japan from a Japanese citizen’s point of view, an event in a book from a different character’s point of view, etc. The options are infinite.

Discussion Questions: How would the director of the Louvre have told the story differently? How about Vincenzo Perugia? Parisians?; Look up other stolen pieces of art. What happened to them?

We Flagged: “Leonardo da Vinci is the artist who painted me. It took him four years! Leonardo loved me. He looked at me while he ate past. He would not travel without me. He said I was his masterpiece. I was famous because Leonardo was famous. Fans jammed his studio to watch him paint.” (p. 10-11)

“The man with the mustache loved me too. He said I reminded him of someone special. He looked at me at every meal: over apples, eggs, and trout; cake and prunes and piglet snout. He looked at me on rainy days, on snowy days, and during summer squalls. He looked at me when he bathed. He looked at me when he shaved. He looked at me for TWO years. I was tired of the man with the mustache. I missed my wall. I missed people staring. I missed children looking sideways and upside down. (p. 24-25)

Read This If You Loved: Nonfiction books about Leonardo da Vinci or Mona Lisa, any books told from inanimate objects’ points of view, Seen Art?  by Jon Sciezska, Capture the Flag by Kate Messner, Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork

Recommended For: 

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Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets by Kathleen Krull


NF PB 2013

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!\


Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets
Author: Kathleen Krull
Paintings by: Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
Published August 23rd, 2011 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: Sesame Street and The Muppet Show introduced Jim Henson’s Muppets to the world, making Kermit the Frog, Oscar the Grouch, and Big Bird household names. But even as a child in rural Mississippi, listening to the radio and putting on comedy shows for his family, Jim recognized the power of laughter to bring people together. On Sesame Street, Jim’s Muppets transformed children’s television by making learning fun for kids everywhere. A visionary, Jim always believed that puppets could reach a wider audience. In 1976, he proved it, drawing millions of family viewers to The Muppet Show. With his feature film The Dark Crystal and his Star Wars characters—including Yoda—Jim continued to push the boundaries of what was possible in puppetry until his death in 1990 at the age of 53.

Kathleen Krull, recipient of the Children’s Book Guild 2011 Non-fiction Award and many other accolades, once again does what she does so well—illuminating the life of an important figure in history, art, and culture with her informative but approachable writing style.

Review: I love Jim Henson. I remember when he passed away and I was devastated. I thought that Sesame Street was dead too, but Jim Henson’s influence is stronger than death. He has continued to live through his show, characters, and legacy. Kathleen Krull does an amazing job of sharing with the reader what made Jim Henson who he was and how he became (I believe) the most influential person when it came to children and children’s entertainment in the 20th century.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: Jim’s story is a great story to tell children, because like many successful creative persons, he was passionate and went for what he enjoyed, was good at, and was his passion. Jim also will be someone that many students will connect with as he was quiet, smart, not athletic, in school plays, a reader, a story teller, and fascinated with TV.  There are more students like Jim than unlike him and they need to hear about those like them who were successful.

This book would also be a great way to incorporate the CCSS’s diverse media and formats by showing clips of Jim Henson’s work as they are discussed in the book. For example, Jim got his very own TV show when he was in college, Sam and Friends, and clips of this show are on You Tube.

Discussion Questions: How has television changed since Jim Henson got his first TV?; How did not listening to what others thought influence Jim Henson’s decisions in life? If he listened to others, what would be different?

We Flagged: “Puppets struck some people as babyish, but Jim really wanted to go on TV. Now! He checked out books from the library and joined his high school’s puppet club as a way to learn how to make them.” (p. 16)

“He practiced for hours in front of a mirror, trying to get his puppets’ movements and expressions just right, voicing silly and witty thoughts he normally kept to himself.” (p. 18)

Read This If You Loved: Before You Leap by Kermit the Frog, Who Was Jim Henson? by Joan Holub, On A Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino, Lost Boy: The Story of the Man Who Created Peter Pan by Jane Yolen, Sandy’s Circus: A Story about Alexander Calder by Tanya Lee Stone

Recommended For: 

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Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky


NF PB 2013

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!



Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems
Author: Jack Prelutsky
Illustrator: Carin Berger
Published February 26th, 2013 by Greenwillow Books

Summary: Jack Prelutsky combines inanimate objects with animals to give us a new collection of fun poetry that is accompanied by Carin Berger’s amazing fine artwork.

My Review: I love the concept behind this book. It is set up like an informational nonfiction book with each poem being presented like a specimen. Carin Berger’s artwork is full of found objects that were photographed to add to the nonfiction feeling of each poem.   And, of course, Prelutsky adds a sense of humor to each poem as that is what he does.

The creatures that Prelutsky came up with are so clever – SOBCATS who are sad cats, JOLLYFISH who are happy jellyfish, TATTLESNAKE are snakes that won’t stop tattling, and GLOOSE are a bird that keep sticking to everything. And these are just four examples of sixteen in the book.

I cannot review this book without talking about the artwork. I originally chose this book because I saw it on a Mock Caldecott list and I can definitely see why. Carin Berger illustrates this novel with beautiful pieces of artwork. As stated on the copyright page: “The miniature dioramas in this book are assemblages created using a combination of cut paper, found ephemera, vintage engravings (which were scanned, manipulated in Photoshop, and then printed out), beeswax, wire, thread, and wood. Once each piece was made, it was then photographed digitally to prepare the full-color art.” What a fantastic process to discuss with students and it definitely added an essential aspect to the book.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Each poem is its own discussion starter. First, to separate the title creatures into the two words that were combined and looking at what the animals is and what the word is that it was combined with. For example: “Chormorants” is a combination of CORMORANT and CHORES. Then I’d look through the poem and find where the animal is represented and where the combined word plays a role. And on top of that, each poem can be looked at as a poem and look for poetic elements within it.  Each poem is a stand-alone, well done poem that is sure to start a conversation.

Discussion Questions: Which poem is your favorite? Why?; Combine an animal with a word and write a poem about this new creature.; How do you think Berger’s artwork added to the book? How would cartoon illustrations have made the book different?

We Flagged: Every poem is a gem, but this is my favorite-

“PLANDAS sit around all day,
Planning what to do.
Their plans amount to nothing,
For they never see them through.
They plan to run a marathon
Or take a railroad trip.
They plan to cross the ocean
On a wooden sailing ship.
They plan to learn to roller-skate,
To juggle, and to fence.
They plan to go to clown school
And cavort in circus tents.
They plan to play the saxophone
And form their own brass bands. . . .
But PLANDAS never do these things –
They just keep making plans.” (p. 21)

Read This If You Loved: Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky, My Teacher Likes to Say by Denise Brennan-Nelson,  Lemonade by Bob Raczka

Recommended For:

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