Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers

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Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Publication Date: January 24, 2017 by HarperCollins

Summary: In this picture book biography, the late New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers and acclaimed artist Floyd Cooper take readers on an inspiring journey through the life of Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass was a self-educated slave in the South who grew up to become an icon. He was a leader of the abolitionist movement, a celebrated writer, an esteemed speaker, and a social reformer, proving that, as he said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

The story of one of America’s most revered figures is brought to life by the text of award-winning author Walter Dean Myers and the sweeping, lush illustrations of artist Floyd Cooper.

Review: We bought this book in 2017 when it first came out, and we read it again and again and again. My kids love to listen and learn about one of the most brilliant people to have ever lived. His story is incredibly inspiring. Even as a young boy, Douglass defied the world and never took no as an answer. The details of his story within this book show children (and adults) that they must push for what is right and commit to changing the world for the better. This book belongs in every classroom (and not just relegated to the classroom library). It should be shared collectively and purposefully with kids.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are endless uses for this book. One suggestion is that it could serve as a read-aloud and close reading at the start of a research or biography unit. Kids might look at the use of pictures and the pacing of the story to write their own nonfiction picture book.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Douglass regularly display strength and resolve throughout his life?
  • How is the book paced to reveal key moments of Douglass’ life?
  • What other famous figures related to issues of equity showed this kind of resolve? How do their stories connect to Douglass’ story?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction picture books, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Schomburg: The Man Who Built the Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe, Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney, We March by Shane W. Evans, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson, Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford

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

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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

Summary:

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.

Praise: 

“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.

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 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?

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: 

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

Author Guest Post: “Journey” by Michael Cottman, Author of Shackles from the Deep

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“Journey” by Michael Cottman

My journey to write Shackles From The Deep started when I was a boy growing up in Detroit and watching a popular television show called Sea Hunt, a 1960s adventure program about an underwater detective.

From the time I was a kid, I wanted to scuba dive and explore the ocean’s depths. And because National Geographic embraces adventure tales like no other company, this was a perfect publishing partnership.

I wrote Shackles From The Deep in a conversational way for young readers to share the story of the Henrietta Marie, a sunken 17th century slave ship. This is more than just the story of one ship – it’s the untold story about millions of African people taken as captives to the New World.

I traveled to three continents to piece together a trans-Atlantic puzzle. I reviewed shipping records and slave-ship captain’s logs in London. I retraced the route of the Henrietta Marie slave ship and scuba-dived the ship’s ports of call in Jamaica, Barbados, and West Africa.

During my research, I learned amazing things:  Today, the Henrietta Marie is believed to be the world’s largest source of tangible objects from the early years of the slave trade.

The Henrietta Marie is the only slave ship in America that has been scientifically documented and where more than 20,000 artifacts were recovered, including the largest collection of slave-ship shackles ever found on one site.

I also learned the shackles were discovered in 1973 by Moe Molinar, a black underwater treasure hunter who was searching for the Atocha, a Spanish galleon that had sunk nearly 400 years ago filled with gold, silver and $400 million worth of jewels.

Treasure hunters didn’t know what to make of these relics. Then in 1983, maritime archaeologists, intrigued by the mystery, revisited the site and came upon a ship’s bell. As they chipped away at the limestone encrustation a name and a date emerged: Henrietta Marie, 1699.

Beneath the sea, on the wreck of the Henrietta Marie, I ran my hands through the sand and held the tiny glass trade beads that were used by the Henrietta Marie’s crew to trade for African people.

The story of Shackles From The Deep also introduces young readers to the unprecedented partnership between members of The National Association of Black Scuba Divers (I’m a lifetime member) and white maritime archaeologists who explored the Henrietta Marie together for a common purpose and forged lifelong friendships along the way.

After all, the global institution of slavery is our collective history.

But because of slavery, it is nearly impossible for African Americans to pinpoint the origins of our ancestors.

We cannot always identify a country in Africa where they were born, let alone a city or village. We can only know they came from somewhere on the west coast of the enormous continent.

Are my people Ibo from Nigeria, or Fulani from Mali, or Wolof from Senegal, or Ashanti from Ghana? I may never know.

What’s important, however, is my appreciation for the African culture — my culture, too — and my need to draw strength from the African people who came before me and survived.

And we continue to honor them.

In 1993, I joined members of The National Association of Black Scuba Divers to place a one-ton concrete memorial on the site of the Henrietta Marie shipwreck.

The bronze inscription on the memorial is a powerful testament to the human spirit: “In memory and recognition of the courage, pain and suffering of enslaved African people. Speak her name and gently touch the souls of our ancestors.”

Shackles from the Deep: Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship, a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy
Author: Michael Cottman
Published January 3rd, 2017 by The National Geographic Society

Summary: A pile of lime-encrusted shackles discovered on the seafloor in the remains of a ship called the Henrietta Marie, lands Michael Cottman, a Washington, D.C.-based journalist and avid scuba diver, in the middle of an amazing journey that stretches across three continents, from foundries and tombs in England, to slave ports on the shores of West Africa, to present-day Caribbean plantations. This is more than just the story of one ship it’s the untold story of millions of people taken as captives to the New World. Told from the author’s perspective, this book introduces young readers to the wonders of diving, detective work, and discovery, while shedding light on the history of slavery.

Critical Praise: 

“The idea of identity is at the center of this fascinating narrative nonfiction book…This truly multidisciplinary volume….engagingly explores a wide scope of topics, including the history of slavery, marine archaeology, and contemporary racial discrimination, culminating in a dive down to the wreck itself. Every bit of this concise, detailed book feels personal, and Cottman’s exploration and investigation of the wreck is rich with intrigue and poignant, thought-provoking questions.” -Booklist (STARRED REVIEW)

“Cottman weaves his personal story of discovery with history of the slave trade, helping readers understand why a sunken slave ship from the 1700s still matters. His emotional attachment to the artifacts, including child-sized shackles, deepens the storytelling in this highly readable narrative.” –Kirkus

“Accessible and very personal account….(a) chilling exploration of the slave trade.” -Publishers Weekly

“Cottman’s personal journey, fraught with reminders of the trials and injustice his own enslaved ancestors must have endured, is compelling” -BCCB

About the Author: Michael H. Cottman, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, is a former political reporter for the Washington Post. Cottman has appeared on National Public Radio’s (NPR) “Tell Me More” with Michel Martin and also the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2000 to discuss his (adult) book The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie. Cottman also serves as a special consultant to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for a national multimedia project, “Voyage to Discovery,” an education initiative that focuses on the African-American contribution to the maritime industry spanning 300 years and efforts to teach students of color about careers in marine biology and oceanography. Visit his website at http://www.michaelhcottman.com/.

Thank you to Michael for his post and to Barbara from Blue Slip Media for providing the resources!

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Review and Teaching Guide!: Harzadous Tales: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale

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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!

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The Underground Abductor
Author and Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published April 21st, 2015 by Amulet Books

Goodreads Summary: Araminta Ross was born a slave in Delaware in the early 19th century. Slavery meant that her family could be ripped apart at any time, and that she could be put to work in dangerous places and for abusive people. But north of the Mason-Dixon line, slavery was illegal. If she could run away and make it north without being caught or killed, she’d be free. Facing enormous danger, Araminta made it, and once free, she changed her name to Harriet Tubman. Tubman spent the rest of her life helping slaves run away like she did, every time taking her life in her hands. Nathan Hale tells her incredible true-life story with the humor and sensitivity he’s shown in every one of the Hazardous Tales—perfect for reluctant readers and classroom discussions.

My Review: I love this entire series! Nathan Hale has taken history and made it accessible (with a dash of humor!). If you don’t the concept of the series, it revolves around Nathan Hale the Revolutionary War spy who, in the first book, was eaten by a history book so now knows all that has happened in history and is sharing it with the hangman and British officer who are guarding him before he is executed. The first book is Hale’s own story and then each of the following are his telling of different times in history.

This installment of Hale’s graphic novel series may be my favorite so far. I found it to be the most intense of his stories even though it is up against stories of wars, but Harriet Tubman’s story is one of one person’s resilience in the face of pure doom. Although it is evident through any story you hear of Harriet how truly brave she was, Nathan Hale’s story immerses you into Harriet’s life and shows you how much she truly did and faced.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is written to start discussions (in reading/language arts OR social studies)! I was lucky enough to write the teaching guide for The Underground Abductor (as well as the rest of the series!), and I have included some of my discussion questions below.

I could also see Hale’s Hazardous Tales being used in lit circles with each group reading a different one of the tales. This could lead to wonderful discussions about each time in history. Students could then present their history to the rest of the class.

Discussion Questions: 

  • When Araminta heard the story of Moses and the pharaoh, she envisioned Moses as a slave and the pharaoh as an owner (page 15). How does Moses’s story compare to a traditional story of a slave? Harriet is later called “Moses” or “Black Moses.” How does Harriet’s story compare to Moses’s?
  • How did Nat Turner’s rebellion affect slave laws (page 21)? He meant to make a positive change, but it actually turned negative. How? Why?
  • On page 44, Nathan Hale personifies debt as the ghosts and men Minty had been dreaming about. Why is debt shown as a terrifying thing? How did Mr. Brodess’s debt affect Mindy and her family?
  • Complete a character web with adjectives describing Harriet Tubman. What type of person was she that allowed her to overcome a debilitating injury and slavery?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Hazardous Tales series by Nathan Hale, March by John Robert Lewis, Stolen Into Slavery by Judith Bloom Fradin, Elijah Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Morgan at Abrams Books for providing a copy of the book!**

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**