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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.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Good Book About Lena




In looking at THE LEGENDARY MISS LENA HORNE by Carole Boston Weatherford as a mentor text I made some observations.

It begins with family information. “The Horne family tree was laden with achievers: teachers, activists, a Harlem Renaissance poet…..”

Then it becomes a birth, childhood and career narrative but not the cradle to grave approach.

I recently attended a webinar on page turns and examined their role in nonfiction picture books.

For example: one two-page spread ends this way: “With Sissle, eighteen-year-old Lena cut her first record…”

The following two-page spread has her fronting a band.

Does that page turn encourage the reader to turn the page?

The jacket flap says it is for ages 4-8 but I think it would be a great fit for the elementary grades where they are studying Women’s History Month and Black History Month.


Teachers, keep this title in mind.  



Thursday, September 14, 2017

What Kind of Person was Noah Webster?







Third grade teachers, have you ever had a discussion with your students that historical figures were real people, with likes and dislikes like the rest of us?

Consider for a moment Noah Webster, who is known for writing the first dictionary of  English as used by Americans.

NOAH WEBSTER'S FIGHTING WORDS by Tracy Nelson Maurer gives a sense of what kind of person Noah Webster was. Here is a sample: "He argued in speeches....He argued at dinners. Noah argued A LOT."

Here is an idea for a classroom exercise. Your class is having dinner with Noah Webster. What kind of conversation would they have?