Friday, February 26, 2010

Another Awesome Web Site to Explore

Black History Month may end Sunday, but there are many more books to talk about that educate, inspire, surprise, and delight young readers. Some are about African American heroes, some about this resiliant people's historical experiences, and some about topics as diverse as we are as a people in this wonderful country of ours.

To add to your store of black history, visit the Library of Congress. What? Too much snow? How lucky we are. A few clicks and we can walk right into this awesome repository of information without having to put on our coats and boots.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Hero All Year

Black History month is a great time to discover and celebrate black heroes. I would argue that all year long is a great time to celebrate people like Bass Reeves.

BAD NEWS FOR OUTLAWS: The remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall.
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Carolrhoda Books, 2009

To Deputy U.S. Marshall Bass Reeves, right and wrong were clear and simple. Duty was his guide. A big man physically, his character was bigger. Reeves was hired by Judge Isaac C. Parker, known as the hanging judge, to tame the lawless territory that became his home when he escaped slavery before the Civil War. Parker hired 200 deputy marshals to track down outlaws in an area bigger than Oklahoma. When Oklahoma became a state, Reeves became a policeman in Muskogee, OK. By then, he was almost 70 and walked with a cane. However, not a single crime occurred in his patrol area during the two years he was on the job.

In his career, Bass Reeves arrested more than 3000 men and women including blacks, whites, Indians, even his own son. He was never wounded and killed only 14 men in the line of duty.

To further appreciate this unsung hero, the author has provided a glossary, time line, additional historical articles, and suggestions for further reading. Bass Reeves was a true champion of the American West.

If you’re weathered in this weekend, pick a spot close to the fire and read about Bass Reeves in the Old West. Listen! Is that a wolf howling in the distance?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Website Tip

Do you know the theme for Black History month?*

You'll find it in President Barak Obama's proclamation declaring February 2010 to be Black History month. To read the proclamation and to learn more about black history, click on

This is the website of The Association for the Study of African American Life and Hitory founded by Carter G. Woodson. It's a rich source for young readers and their families.


*The answer to the question: It's "The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas."

Monday, February 22, 2010

History and Legacy--Black History Month

Black History Month challenges parents striving to include all ages and stages of their family in an appreciation of the history and legacy of African Americans. Adding photos to the classic 33 word poem by acclaimed poet Langston Hughes would be one way to approach that perfect book to celebrate a resilient people.

MY PEOPLE, a poem by Langston Hughes with photographs by Charles R. Smith, Jr.
ginee seo books, Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2009

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance. His words evoke and transform the black experience. Also a poet, photographer Smith was intrigued by this lovely, spare poem and asked the question, “How do you translate words into pictures?” His goal: “More than anything, I simply wanted to show that like any other group of people, black people come in all shapes, sizes, shades, and ages, and that each of us is unique.”

I think he succeeded. What do you think?

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Book to Read Again...and Again

Some books must be read more than once. This is one of them.

HOME OF THE BRAVE by Katherine Applegate, Feiwel and Friends, 2007

Kek arrives from Africa to live a new life in America, in Minnesota. He wonders where all the world went when he sees snow for the first time. He thinks the trees are dead, but finds out they are not. From that point on he refers to them as the not dead trees. He doesn’t care for American paperwork at the Refugee Resettlement Center because it “produces many yawnings.”

So many new things to see and figure out: Clothes washing machines. Television. School clothes. A desk and chair all one’s own in school and no one asks him to pay any cattle for it.

Sweet, kind, gentle, loyal Kek. What he wants most is for someone to find his mother and bring her to live with him in this new country.

Your heart will join Kek’s in hoping.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Confetti Time!

Congratulations to Alice Schertle. Her book, BUTTON UP! Wrinkled Rhymes, illustrated by Petra Mathers, is the winner of the 2010 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award.

Reviewed here on January 13, this hilarious poetic peek into kids' wearables has already found its way to the bookshelves of youngsters I love. As far as I'm concerned, no greater proof of a book's success is needed than the happy sound of a first grader reading poetry to her captivated 5 year old brother. Belly laughs add to the fun.

BUTTON UP! Get ready to giggle.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Escape to Another World!

If you’re snowed in, I hope this book is already in your house. Both boys and girls will enjoy the adventure. A family read in?

MIRRORSCAPE by Mike Wilks, Egmont, 2009

This is a book to get lost in, both words and pictures. The House of Thrones, The House of Mysteries, The House of Spirits. These are detailed black and white drawings of places inhabited by unusual creatures--also pictured--born in the artist/author’s imagination and let out to prowl the world the author also creates.

Mel is a bored 13 year old who is not looking forward to his life as a village weaver. He has a rare artistic talent and a boundless imagination. Both are underappreciated in a village where tasks and chores must always come before art. Then Mel is apprenticed to a master painter and his life changes forever. In the alternative world of Mirrorscape, Mel must match wits with unusual and diabolical characters to unravel secrets and escape the villains that would destroy him and his painting master.

Boys who love to turn pages quickly to stay in the midst of the action will find this book hard to put down. It’s just as much fun for girls to read. The author has created a character girls can identify with even as they cheer for Mel to overcome and paint his way into triumph.

This is a trilogy. The award winning artist and best selling author is at work on the next book, MIRRORSTORM, which will be out in the fall. I can't wait.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Who Doesn’t Love Dolphins?

Dolphins communicate by echolocation, bouncing clicks off objects to determine size, shape, distance, direction, and speed. We humans communicate by clicks, too. I'm glad you've clicked in to read about a special dolphin.

WINTER’S TALE: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Craig Hatkoff. Scholastic, 2009.

Winter is a baby dolphin who got into big trouble. Tangled in rope securing a crab trap to a buoy, she might never have known a future. Instead, she was rescued by Jim Savage, the only fisherman braving the cold wintery conditions in Mosquito Lagoon off the coast of Florida on a particular day in December 2005.

In spite of the TLC she received from the experts at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, her survival was uncertain. She lost her tail. The odds against her mounted. Struggle is universal. Everyone relates. Not only did Winter pull through, but the skills and innovations employed to save her helped improve the lives of people.

Now plucky, fun-loving Winter is famous. Her story makes page turning as interesting for the adult reader as for the child listener.

Winter should be declared an MVD--Most Valuable Dolphin--if dolphins click click about awards the way we do. Who knows? Maybe they do.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Fly High!

For girls who dare to dream of touching the stars, the space program is a perfect fit. First Sally Ride soared into the heavens. Later, Eileen Collins became the first woman to command a space shuttle. Can you believe there was a time when women couldn’t vote or it was thought going to college might cause women to have mental problems? And yes, there was certainly a time when being an astronaut was an impossible dream for women.

ALMOST ASTRONAUTS: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone, Candlewick Press, 2009.

Why “almost?”

During the race into space in the 1960's, Randolph Lovelace was Chairman of NASA’s Life Sciences Committee. He was also the doctor who supervised the testing of the Mercury 7 men. He believed women were as capable as men and he wanted to prove it.

A perfect candidate for this study was aviator Jerrie Cobb. She became the first woman pilot to take all 87 of the physical tests the Mercury 7 men took–and she passed them all. She was also told she complained less than the guys. Dr. Lovelace broke the news that not only were Cobb’s test results outstanding, but certain qualities in women space pilots might make them preferable to male pilots. And then what happened?

Award winning author Stone chronicles the frustrations, progress, disappointments and triumphs of women who possessed the intelligence, skills, and abilities that met all qualifications necessary for the space program at the time. The reader will pull for each of the 13 women and be inspired by their courage and determination.

These thirteen role models stand ready to encourage anyone eager to push boundaries.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Braving the Sky

Here is a book that just won’t let me go. I read it when it first came out and had to revisit it. Piper McCloud can fly–and not airplanes as her name might suggest. She is definitely heading for the heights however, if she can just keep all the everyday, blend in, be normal, don’t stand out world from changing her

THE GIRL WHO COULD FLY by Victoria Forrester, Feiwel and Friends, 2008.

Piper has a special talent. As a baby she could float in the air and bob around the parlor ceiling. Then one day, she braved the sky. What a scary thing for her parents to look up and see their only child soaring and swooping high above their heads. Why what would the new minister say? And so Piper was forbidden to fly. But that didn’t stop her. Her parents became so afraid for this long awaited but highly unusual daughter that they were willing to put her in a special school, a maximum security school where Piper would be hidden away until she was made right for a normal world. The goal, in my view, was to squash Piper and turn her from extraordinary into plain Jane ordinary.

“Piper, there are you...And a place where you will belong.” Soothing words from the director of the school. One might add, said the spider to the fly, except we’re talking about girls who "can” being conditioned so they “can’t.” Piper’s determination to be herself presents dangerous consequences.

For any girl who has ever been asked to keep her mouth shut and hide her brains, Piper is her champion. For any girl who has ever been made to feel that there is something wrong with her because she doesn’t agree with everyone else, Piper shows how to fly high.

Turning a brain inside out and against itself is a terrible thing. Read this with your daughter. Talk about it. Help her fly.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another Amelia Story

This one didn’t happen exactly the way it is described, but it’s a good story about two women who have long been the role models for girls who want to fly, whether their flights be literal or metaphorical.

AMELIA AND ELEANOR GO FOR A RIDE by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick, Scholastic 1999.

As author Ryan says in her lively text, “when two of the most famous and adventurous women in the world got together, something exciting was bound to happen.”

And so it did. In spite of the obstacles, the protocol, the red tape, the fact that few people ever flew at night, and then, well, these were women, Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart left a White House dinner and set off to fly the Baltimore loop and see the city of Washington D.C. by starlight. Brian Selznick’s pictures take the reader along for the breathtaking sights Amelia shared with Eleanor. And then Eleanor returned the favor and took Amelia on a tour of the Capital city, on the ground, in Eleanor’s new car.


Included in the book is a recipe for “Eleanor Roosevelt’s Pink Clouds on Angel Food Cake” This can be as real as the reader or a reader’s parent, perhaps, wants it to be.

Time for dessert.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Sky’s the Limit

This week’s blog will be devoted to girls who fly. Pioneers like Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart were risk takers who flew with wind whistling in their ears. Women pilots who pushed the envelope further, Jerrie Cobb springs to mind, set their sights on space.

AMELIA EARHART: The Legend of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka, illustrated by David Craig. Abrams 2008.

Largely based on Amelia Earhart’s own words from her three books, details of her adventures will have the reader holding her breath whether she wants to follow this legend into the air or enjoy from a comfortable chair firmly anchored to earth. It doesn’t matter if a girl wants to be a pilot or not. Amelia was an advocate for the rights of women to lead their own lives and choose their own callings. She allowed no “can’ts.” Poets will envy her descriptive writing: watching the clouds was like “gulping beauty.” Richly illustrated by David Craig and augmented with photographs from private collections and archives, this is a library treasure..

Want to give your daughter wings? May my title choices for the week ahead support every girl’s ambition.

Hillview School Library