Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson

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The book The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton tells the story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, the youngest known Civil Rights Activist to have participated in The Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama.

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Audrey Faye Hicks is a 9 year old girl who is frustrated by the obvious injustices in her community. She is inspired by the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and talks in her church and wants to take action, but doesn’t know how. She wants to be able to do all the same things that everyone else does, and not be discriminated against by the color of her skin.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. encourages the community to protest unjust laws and fill the jails so that the police can no longer arrest people, but many people are afraid of getting fired, evicted or beaten by the police.

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Eventually they come up the idea to fill the jails with children. Audrey decides she wants to go to jail and convinces her mother to let her protest and get arrested. Many other children participate in the Children’s March, but none her age, and none from her school. She is arrested and sent to a juvenile jail for a week, and as protests continue, the jail becomes filled and all the children are released. Two months after the Children’s March segregation laws were removed from Birmingham, Alabama.

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This book is impactful mainly because of how it is told through illustrations, and the fact that it is based on a true story. Audrey is a brave young girl, who is aware of her surroundings and how they affect her future. Although it is a children’s book, this story does not tread lightly through difficult topics. The author and illustrator show protesters being attacked by law enforcement with firehoses, and how harsh the jail was for Audrey. The book clearly describes the inequality that Black Americans faced in this time, and how the Children’s March played a crucial role in desegregating Birmingham.

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I think this book is a great classroom addition for students learning about the Civil Rights Movement and touches on very important topics and helps bring reality to history. I also greatly enjoyed the end excerpts where the author provides historical context and the recipe for the buttered rolls mentioned throughout the story. Although basic rights for all Americans seems obvious now, this book sheds light on the injustices many Black Americans faced and the sacrifices families and communities had to take to obtain these basic rights.

 

A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech

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A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech is a brand new nonfiction picture book written by Shana Corey and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. You’ve likely heard these names before. Corey is the author of numerous children’s books including multiple biography readers in the “Step Into Reading” series, Here Come the Girl Scouts!, and The Secret Subway. Christie is a decorated illustrator from Georgia; he is a four-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor Award for illustration, a two-time recipient of the New York Times Best Illustrated Book’s of the Year Award, and recipient of the NAACP’s Image Award and the ALA’s Theodor Seuss Geisel Award in Illustration.

If rattling off those achievements got you excited, good. You should be. A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech deserves your excitement. This fabulous new book explores the life of John F. Kennedy while also taking a closer look at America throughout the mid-twentieth century. Through the narrative of Kennedy’s life, Corey inspires readers to continuously work to create positive change in the world. As the inside of the dust jacket says, this book affirms that “each one of us, no matter who we are, have the power to make a difference.”

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“John F. Kennedy loved to read about history. But history isn’t just in books – it’s happening all around us.

And the people who make history aren’t just famous leaders or characters in stories. They’re real people, just like you.

Sometimes, they ARE you” (8).

         As a future educator, I am very pleased with Corey’s writing. She is able to communicate details about Kennedy’s life and about America in the 1940s-1960s in a way that is accessible to children. She presents the narrative in an engaging way, encouraging the reader to “take a closer look” (9). Then, she sets up the inspiring tale about a boy that “didn’t always do well in school” (9). She introduces Kennedy as the underdog and someone that reader’s want to rally behind, noting that he “wasn’t the favorite” (9). Corey keeps readers hooked with her dramatic narrative style; she jumps from significant event to significant event, providing just enough details to make the biographical narrative substantive and interesting without becoming too convoluted.

I am impressed by Corey’s ability to present complex aspects of history in such an easily accessible way. For example, to fully comprehend Kennedy’s story, it is important to understand the religious intolerance that existed in America throughout the mid-twentieth century. Many children are likely unaware that Catholics faced discrimination in America’s not-so-distant history; many young adults may even be unaware of it! (Yes – Catholics were largely distrusted. Many were fearful that the Pope would run the country if a Catholic individual was elected President.) The difference between American society in the 1960s and American society today is understandably difficult for children to comprehend. However, Corey explains the societal differences very simply, writing,

“Jack was Catholic. Many believed the country wouldn’t elect a Catholic. ‘I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end,’ said Jack” (17).

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The illustrations in A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech are incredible; in my opinion, they are truly fine art. Christie’s style is not the most precise or realistic. Still, it accurately captures individuals’ characteristics and other necessary detail. I believe that the illustrations contribute a lot to the story, communicating emotion and personality. The colors seem to match the emotions being conveyed. For example, when discussing Kennedy’s service in WWII and his leadership when his ship sank, Christie uses a dark palate of blacks, blues, greys, and purples. However, when discussing Kennedy’s marriage to Jackie and his popularity among Americans, the Christie uses warm colors including shades of pink, yellow, and orange.

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This is a wonderful example of a nonfiction picture book provides an accurate and adequately comprehensive account while still being accessible to children! I appreciate that this book follow’s Kennedy’s legacy beyond his death. Corey includes the achievement of Kennedy’s space challenge in 1969 and the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Connecting back to the first page, Corey ends with a call to action: “And so now it’s your turn, to choose your course, to speak up, to act, to move the world forward – to make history” (47).

There is a detailed author’s note at the end of this book. In the author’s note, Corey discusses the research she conducted when writing A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech. She also goes into more detail about some of the notable figures included in the narrative: Eleanor Roosevelt, Ruby Bridges, the Greensboro Four, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Jackie Robinson, Marian Anderson, and Lyndon B. Johnson.

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Post by Cason Close

I am Jane Goodall

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I am Jane Goodall by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (2016) is the biography of primatologist Jane Goodall. Written in first person, Meltzer takes on the persona of Goodall and tells the story of how the events of her childhood (i.e. reading Dr. Dolittle) lead her to accomplish all she has and become the person she is today in a language children will understand. The smaller size of the book makes it easy for the small hands of young readers to hold. The book is in the shape of a square, rather than the typical rectangle as most books are, so this book can grab potential reader’s attention among other books. Inside the books, the pages are made of a sturdy material, able to withstand possible rough treatment by children.

Meltzer strategically writes in the form of a narrative because children prefer realistic fiction, rather than nonfiction, so this book provides a balance of both. There was still a lot of information children will learn from reading this book though (i.e. what a “paleontologist” is, the societal conventions of the latter half of the twentieth century, the behavior of chimpanzees etc.).

The book revolves around Goodall’s love of animals. Children are drawn to animal books, so will likely enjoy reading this book. Additionally, humorous aspects are incorporated into the informational text, which are also appealing to children.

Eliopoulos includes full, two-page illustrations, and does not leave any white space. He also uses bold colors, so overall, the illustrations are entrancing to look at. Some pages include panels of illustrations, which is a unique feature. The panels, as well as the use of speech bubbles to expand the conversation of the text on the page, give the book a comic book-like feel. Children typically enjoy comic books, so Eliopoulos’s paneled illustrations will likely especially engage young readers.The illustrations are important because the deepen the meaning of the text. For example, the title of the book is simply I am Jane Goodall. It is likely that young children will not know who Jane Goodall is. However, the cover illustration, as well as the first page, display Goodall with a chimpanzee, giving readers insight that she must do some sort of work with animals. Therefore, children will be further inclined to choose to read this book and learn about Goodall because it has something to do with animals, not only a lady they are unfamiliar with. Moreover, the inside covers have illustrations of chimpanzees, foreshadowing that the text must focus on chimpanzees.

A special feature included at the end of the book is a timeline and real photos of and quotations by Goodall. Therefore, students interested in learning more details about Goodall (i.e. the exact dates she went to Africa, met the chimpanzee, etc.) are able to from this book, and the readers who do not want such specific information on Goodall do not have to read it.

After reading this book, children will be inspired to follow their gut, as opposed to behaving in ways they think other’s expect them to, especially girls like Goodall who want to pursue science. Additionally, there is a push for respecting all living things and the environment because we all have a lot in common, which is important for children to learn especially now with the drastically negative effects of climate change.

Post by: Halie Petrich

The First Step

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The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation On Trial is a great picture book that is able to balance being informative about segregation issues while also being engaging with beautiful watercolor illustrations and relatable characters. The story gives us a glimpse into the untold struggles and strength of Sarah Roberts, who brought to court the first lawsuit about the injustice of segregation in schools in the United States. Sarah paved the way for the introduction of integration of schools and she influenced the later vital judgement of Brown vs. Board of Education. The picture book details the importance of pre Civil Rights fights for justice and equality and how steps backs can later lead to bigger steps forward in that fight. This picture book is an appropriate introduction to nonfiction for young readers because although all the events told are true, there is still a story-like element that appeals to young readers and the illustrations help to visualize what is going on.

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 5.48.08 PMThe writing in this book does a great job of being detailed about the important events in court and in America while also fleshing out Sarah and her family as a relatable and courageous characters that the reader can root for. The text is integrated into the illustrations so that the reader is immersed in the setting of the story and is able to imagine what is being described, which is especially helpful for young readers as they keep track of the direction of the story. This picture book does an excellent job of using relevant vocabulary words in context, words such as “desegregation”, “justice”, and “trial”; with this book, children younger and older are able to have their questions asked about Civil Rights struggles but also frame their own questions based on these events and then go out and discover more based on their curiosity. The story is able to emphasize the historical importance of integration and specifically how Sarah Roberts changed things by being the “first”.

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The illustrations in this picture book are beautiful watercolors that spread through both pages (with no gutters) and really convey the meaning of the text, which helps young readers with this nonfiction. The illustrations bring the characters to life by giving them expressions and duties. The illustrations also bring the different settings to life, so that children see what a courtroom may have looked like and they can better visualize what is going on as they read the text. The realism of the illustrations lend to the nonfiction nature of the book and how integration of the schools was a real battle for Sarah, her family, and many other African American families in the 1800s–the reader is better able to see the characters as real people because of the realism of the illustrations.

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Overall, this picture book is a great story that introduces the pre Civil Rights battle of integration to young readers. It does a good job of being factual while also keep story-like elements and beautifully realistic illustrations that engage the reader and help orient them to the different settings and vocabulary used. The story can be used to pique the interest of readers in pre Civil Rights occurrences and the lives of African Americans during the time period and readers will be able to take the story from historical contexts and perhaps apply what they learned from the book into what is happening today.

We’re All Wonders

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R.J. Palacio made her first big debut as the writer of Wonder. After many years of the novel being on every best-selling list, it gained enough momentum to become a motion picture being released next year. Readers fell in love with Auggie and his story about acceptance. Therefore, you can imagine the excitement when Palacio decided to write her first-ever picture book We’re All Wonders.

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Aside from the cover featuring the iconic Auggie used in Wonder, the story follows a similar plot line as well. We’re All Wonders is about a boy who is like any other kid but just looks a little different. Due to his facial deformity, others make fun of him and treat him with disrespect. When this happens, all Auggie wants to do is escape on an adventure with Daisy to a world where he feels like he belongs. The book’s message really teaches younger readers the importance of being kind and celebrating the things that make you unique. It also inspires children to embrace, not chastise, differences. Instead of harping on the things that make you ordinary, Palacio wants each child to find the wonders within them that make them extraordinary. Ultimately, the take away to younger audiences is that when people look with empathy, we find a more thoughtful, caring world.

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One reason this story is so incredible is that you do not need to read Wonder in order to understand We’re All Wonders. It is written from a first-person point of view that attracts all ages of audiences. Simply by reading the short, highly decodable text, any reader can understand what it is like to live in Auggie’s world with all the struggles that he faces. The text is also not the main focus of the page. The images are an integral part of the text. The full spread layouts really help readers get excited to turn the page and move through the story. The colorful painted pictures fill the page. The spirals used in the sky as part of the clouds and trees also get readers in the mood of being creative and imaginative. Since there is so much going on design wise, the images really capture readers’ attention. My favorite part of the illustrations was Palacio depicting a multicultural perspective of all different kinds of children. These small details really help represent diversity of characters and thoughts.

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As a special education major, this is a story that I would recommend every teacher buying. Its message is simple and clear: we are all special, we are all unique and we should all be friends even if we are a little different. In order to foster an accepting environment where differences are celebrated, I also think all schools should embed this story into their beginning of the school year curriculum to set an inclusive precedent. I know after reading this story, I am always going to choose kindness.

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Review By: Samantha Soloway

The Power of a Seed

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For a child, and most likely many adults, the idea of a farm is a big open field with a big red barn and rows of plants as far as you can see.  Phyllis Root, aptly named, challenges that picture that we have in our heads and introduces the Anywhere Farm.  All you need for an anywhere farm is soil, a little bit of sunshine, some water, and a simple seed.

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G. Brian Karas illustrates this work of nonfiction and highlights the variations of anywhere farms, planted in a back lot, a pan, a chair, or on a balcony at the tippy top of a building.  This dynamic duo answers the basic four questions of the farming process – “Where can you plant your anywhere farm? What can you plant on your anywhere farm? Who might come to visit your anywhere farm?  And where does it all start?”  This book encourages children to start their own anywhere farms and shows the power of small steps in a larger movement…. because when all the anywhere farms start to come together…

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They become an everywhere farm – everywhere!  Anywhere Farm is a wonderful book to encourage children to get outside, plant a seed, and start their own movement.  Beautifully illustrated, I highly recommend it.

Post by Campbell Slatton

Pete with No Pants

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Pete with No Pants is a new picture book by Rowboat Watkins. I was intrigued by this book from the get-go. First of all, the title is enough to make anyone stop and reread it. Then you see a little elephant running around, mouth agape, with his pants flying behind him. Any child is going to find this cover funny, and if we’re being honest, so will any adult.20170501_185125

The book jacket and actual cover of the book are the same, but the end pages are really neat. They look like the denim that would make up Pete’s pants. This adds some interest to the aesthetic before the book even begins.

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The premise of the story is that Pete is a little elephant, trying to figure out who he is. When he’s not wearing his pants, he decides he is a boulder. When he discovers he is not, in fact, a boulder, he decides he must be a squirrel. After his mom tells him to put his pants on, he concludes that he can’t be a boulder, or a cloud, or a pigeon. Then who is he?

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Throughout the book, Pete tells knock-knock jokes to all of the animals and objects he thinks he might be. This adds more relatability to the book for children, who frequently love knock-knock jokes.

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I absolutely loved the illustrations in this book. They are done in pencil and watercolor, but have so much life in them. The expressions on the characters faces are adorable, and the way Pete is shown asking questions and getting confused is endearing.

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All of the text is in speech bubbles between Pete and the other characters, which I thought was interesting. I think it makes the book more approachable for young children, but is also lively enough for older readers. Overall, I loved this book. I thought it was cute and sweet, while also showing the common quest for discovering who you are.

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Posted by Megan Matthews