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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?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Just a Minute






Since a new school year has started, I have decided to concentrate on interesting titles for the class room. My first one is called JUST A MINUTE : a Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales.

 First grade teachers, this book works on a number of levels. First, it tells a story.

Here's a sample: "Senior Calavera tipped his hat. What a skinny gentleman! With a pass of his hand he signaled to Grandma Beetle."

Numbers one to ten are embedded in the story and are repeated in Spanish. It's a chance  for students to learn to count to ten in English and Spanish.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

An Analytical Look at a Middle Grade Nonfiction Book



Sometimes  you might think you are looking at a picture book but it actually turns out to be  middle grade nonfiction.  For example, SACAJAWEA OF THE SHOSHONE by Natasha Yim has 28 numbered pages with a bibliography on the end papers. This title is part of a series : THE THINKING GIRL'S TREASURY OF REAL PRINCESSES. Sacajawea, who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their exploration of the American West, was a Princess of the Shoshone Tribe.

This biography can also be classed as narrative nonfiction because of the moments of drama.
Here's an example: "One day, a violent gust of wind tipped the pirogue carrying Sacajawea and her family. Fortunately the boat didn't capsize, but it quickly filled with water.....Sacajawea....calmly scooped [important papers, books, trading goods] up."

Sacajawea prevented needed items from floating away. Otherwise the expedition would have had to turn back.

Sidebars provide information about her clothing and the food she ate, as well as how her name was pronounced.