Sunday, March 29, 2020


MONUMENT MAKER : Daniel Chester French and the Lincoln Memorial is a nonfiction picture book about  connections. As the first spread says, “history shapes our lives. And what we do with our lives can shape history.”

Daniel was a boy during the Civil War, but his brother Will joined the war effort.
When Abraham Lincoln was shot Dan and his classmates wore black bands on their sleeves in his honor.

Although Dan came from a family of lawyers, sculpting was his contribution to history.

The author, Linda Booth Sweeney's connection to Dan was showing an artist who persevered to become a master of his craft and honoring his celebration of Abraham Lincoln. Her planning this book using illustrations was central to her process.

“Where possible, I  imagined each spread as a scene.  Page turns were the signal to the reader one scene was ending and another was about to begin,” she said.

Teachers might consider using the illustrations for writing assignments. Put yourself  in Dan’s shoes. What would you have done if you had been Dan?  

And if you're a student whose family planned to visit the Lincoln Memorial this summer but might not, read Linda's book instead!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Alabama Spitfire

Alabama Spitfire : The Story of Harper Lee and to Kill a Mockingbird - by Bethany Hegedus (School And

ALABAMA SPITFIRE: the Story of Harper Lee and to Kill a Mockingbird by Bethany Hegedus is a picture book biography that would be useful for middle school students doing a book report on TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

Take this writing sample: "Nelle Harper Lee entered this world on April 28, 1926. From the get-go she was a spitfire." She didn't feel the need to be ladylike, as Southern girls were expected to be. 
Indeed, Harper Lee’s independence streak is instructional for us all. How many people can afford to do one big book and apparently have enough money to live on for life?

In Harper's case, she made money from the paperback editions of her book, because it was on school reading lists.

However, her will stipulated that no more paperbacks were to be published. Perhaps there was no one left to inherit.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

An Effective Use of Quotes

I admire Doreen Rappaport's use of quotes in her picture book biography, Jack's Path of Courage: the Life of John F. Kennedy.  

 Here's a line of text: "Jack's mother read to her children every night;" Underneath that was a direct quote from Jack's mother: "He always read more than any of the others."

The book includes quotes from Jack's father and Jack himself.

Rather than a slice of life approach this book starts with his childhood and ends with his death. In this case, it is appropriate. Students might be asked the date of his death and the information is right at hand.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Books About Unsung Heroes

It is rare to have a book about a child involved in the Civil Rights struggle. Here is one:
THE YOUNGEST MARCHER : the Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson.

Here is a sample: "Whenever Mike flew into town Audrey and her momma coo-cooked! [sic] Barbecued ribs, stewed greens, sweet potato souffle, and Audrey's favorite--hot rolls baptized in butter."

Who was Mike? That was the nickname for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This would be a good title for Black History Month. Teachers could have their students write and perform a skit. Students could write their own story about Audrey.

Cynthia provides resources for teachers.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Getting Kids Interested in Art

My cousin was once an art teacher. She lived in Montreal and would bring a group of students to New  York City once a year to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She told me about friends of hers who were trying to get their kids interested in art. They would bring their kids to the museum once a week and look at one  piece of art and then leave.

Consider this picture book, THE IRIDESCENCE OF BIRDS: a Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan like a visit to a museum.  It is written in second person, like in this sample:

"If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France...And you wanted color and light And sun,..."

Henri Matisse is a well-known artist. If a parent or teacher wanted to show children a work of art by Matisse, they could go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, like my cousin did.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Importance of Little Known Stories

Many people have contributed to the story of America. This picture book biography, MUDDY : the Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters by Michael Mahin tells the story of one McKinley Morganfield.

"...McKinley did have Grandma Della. She scooped him up and tried to keep him clean and finally just started calling him Muddy."

Grandma Della tried to discourage his interest in blues music. But Muddy did what he wanted to do.

Readers learn how he left the South for Chicago and got his music career started.

I used to hear Muddy Water's music on a radio program called WOODY'S CHILDREN.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Here is an inspiration to young girls everywhere, I DISSENT: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy.

 Girls can relate to this snippet: "In elementary school, Ruth was excellent in some classes--and less excellent in others. Her favorites were English, history, and gym."

The book details the many ways she protested on her way to becoming Supreme Court Justice.

This is a good title for Women's History Month.