Please contact me

Sunday, March 13, 2016

ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE by Laurie Wallmark is a perfect topic for Women’s History Month. Before the invention of the computer she was a mathematician who created an algorithm, a set of mathematical instructions.

This picture book biography was specifically created for STEM. I would have liked to see a glossary as part of the back matter. It would have been very useful.

The teacher’s guide says it is for grades 1-4, with the caveat that the teacher has to consider what would work for the specific grade. For grades 1 and 2, the teacher could lead a discussion about what a thinking machine is. The students could draw thinking machines. This book has a number of math problems, which are best for the older grades.  

The teacher’s guide would work very well for grades 5-8. This age range would not want to read a picture book but they could research and write their own papers on Ada. Or the teacher could just select sections from the book for class use.

Nonfiction picture book authors run the risk of being told a topic is too advanced. Perhaps more advanced texts will be a growing trend. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Put Yourself in Phillis Wheatley's Shoes

A VOICE OF HER OWN: the story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet by Kathryn Lasky is a picture book biography of Phyllis Wheatley that would be good for grades 3-5.

It has more information than the shorter picture book biographies which is important for school projects.

Take this sample which brings the reader into the mindset of a slave.

“At first there was just blackness….. Then the blackness dissolved into darkness, and the world in the creaking hold of the slave ship slid with shadows.”

Teachers, here’s  possible school assignments for Black History Month.

Have your students write a play about how a slave would feel on one of these ships .What smells would they encounter? What sounds? What would it feel like to be chained up?

Have your students write poems with Phillis Wheatley as the subject.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why Birds Need Feathers

Melissa Stewart is at it again in FEATHERS : NOT JUST FOR FLYING.  I can see many uses for this title in the classroom. Teachers can use it to show what the feathers of various bird species look like. Melissa thinks it can be used for grades K-5. (See her teacher's guide.) The break-down of text and illustration is very effective.

Let's examine one spread. On the left: "Feathers can warm like a blanket..." Under the illustration on that page is this text box "On cold, damp days a blue jay stays warm by fluffing up its feathers and trapping a laying of warm air next to its skin."

A full page illustration of a blue jay appears on the next page.

Each spread illustrates the various ways birds use feathers.

Melissa explains her process in her author's note.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Voyage to the Moon

A different kind of travel is depicted in MOONSHOT : the Flight of Apollo 11, a nonfiction picture book by Brian Floca.

What did the astronauts experience?

SAMPLE: "Onboard Columbia and Eagle, Armstrong, Collins, Aldrin  unclick gloves, unclick helmets, unclick the straps that hold them down, and float inside their small ships, their home for a week."

This repetition is very effective. Everybody is familiar with the unclicking of seatbelts in cars. The reader can relate to this.

For a summer activity Brian Floca has provided coloring pages from MOONSHOT.

Friday, July 31, 2015


At Home in Her Tomb book cover image
AT HOME IN HER TOMB: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui by Christine Liu-Perkins. Great adventures awaited the workers who uncovered the tomb of an ancient Chinese noblewoman named Lady Dai. In addition to finding treasures they uncovered a huge black coffin. Inside that coffin there was another one. They didn’t find the occupant until they reached the fourth coffin.

To their surprise, a stench greeted them when they cut a hole in the silk cloth that surrounded the body.

SAMPLE: “The experts were baffled. If the body had decomposed more than two thousand years ago, how could it still smell so disgusting?”

Join the scientists on their journey to uncover the contents of  Lady Dai’s tomb. What was her last meal? What artifacts accompanied her on her final journey?

Readers can visit the web site of the Hunan Provincial Museum, the home of these archaeological treasures.

Teachers can find a guide to use with their students.

This is a useful book for classroom projects on China.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Why Black Girls Should Become Ballerinas

Ballet is a form of dance that attracts few African Americans. Two African American ballerinas would like to change that and both of them wrote books.

FIREBIRD by Misty Copeland is really an essay in picture book form. The subtitle is Ballerina Misty Copeland shows a young girl how to dance like the firebird, character in a famous ballet.

Misty tells a potential ballerina of color what ballet means to her.

Sample: “you will soar become a swan, a beauty, a firebird for sure.” 

One illustration in this book demonstrates the five positions of ballet.

Today Misty is a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre.

Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer (Step Into Reading, Step 4)

BALLERINA DREAMS by Michaela and Elaine DePrince  is a biography reader in the STEP INTO READING  series.

Michaela DePrince is an orphan from Sierra Leone who was adopted by an American couple.

She told her new mother that she wanted to study ballet. Her mother bought her a video of the ballet The Nutcracker.

Michaela began her dance lessons. When she was eight years old she was able to audition for The Nutcracker. She won two roles in the ballet. Eventually she danced the role of The Sugar Plum Fairy, an important roll. She is now a professional ballerina.

Sample: “The music begins, and my heart beats fast with excitement. I fly on to the stage.”

This book gives definitions of ballet terms such as combinations: putting ballet steps together.  


Write definitions for these ballet terms:


The Nutcracker

Sugar Plum Fairy

Ballet barre

Port de bras


Five positions



Grand jete

Pas de cat

En pointe

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ode to Imagination

MY PEN by Christopher Myers  shows how his pen takes him on journeys. Christopher illustrates books and uses his imagination.

Sample: "My pen rides dinosaurs and hides an elephant in a teacup."

Christopher wants you to use your pen and see what worlds will come out.

Activity:  Using crayons picture an imaginary world. It could be anywhere. On another planet. A country you just made up. Draw what people or animals might look like. Does it have lakes or oceans?