Jun 29, 2020

Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People!

Covid 19 anchor in time:
I am so sad to say that the politicization of WEARING A MASK and the self-indulgence of pretending that COVID19 pandemic is over have led to a resurgence in positive testing, increasing hospitalizations, and the shameful truth that the USA "leads" the world in cases and deaths. 
Spring school semester ended in some limping version of what once was, and most schools are planning (frantically) to reopen in fall with some form of in-person and digital hybrid, with unpredictable results. 

I've continued to read and celebrate the amazing brilliance and importance of picture books during recent months. Among them are outstanding fiction and nonfiction and poetry  and... purely remarkable offerings. Time and obligations restrict my posts here to focus on selected few of those titles, making selections here a difficult choice. 
For the sake of my diminishing memory, and for anyone who might be curious about books I'm reading, I post reviews of most things I read (some brief, some longer) on my GOODREADS account. That accumulating list becomes a useful resource me. 

In this case, it served me well to crosscheck titles I've read that are now announced as NOTABLE SOCIAL STUDIES TRADE BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE for 2020! That list also reminded of other titles I haven't yet read, making my library hold list grow.

instead of featuring a single book in this post, I want to celebrate some of the books I've read and enjoyed from that list, and provide clicks/links to what I have written about them in the past. My joy at finding such wonderful picture books honored in this prestigious list was magnified when I saw that two are titles written by personal friends, Miranda Paul, Deb Hembrook, and Kathryn Heling. Way to go, ladies!

LITTLE LIBRARIES, BIG HEROES, written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by John Parra. (Biography, activism, and inspiration)

CLOTHESLINE CLUES TO THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, written by Kathryn Heling and Deb Hembrook, illustrated by Andy Robert Davis. (Third in a fantastic series!)

Some of the others include:


This is a remarkable depiction of a man dedicated to collecting and preserving the remnants of Yiddish literature that eventually arrived in this country after the Holocaust.

SMILE: HOW YOUNG CHARLIE CHAPLIN TAUGHT THE WORLD TO LAUGH (AND CRY) is written by Gary Golio and illustrated by the incomparable Ed Young.

CARTER READS THE NEWSPAPER, written by Deborah Hopkinson and Illustrated by Don Tate. Early curiosity and a drive to learn is unveiled in this biography of eventually acclaimed Carter G. Woodson, the founder of BLACK HISTORY MONTH.

Another portrait of a young person in history is DANCING HANDS: How Teresa Carreno Played the Piano for President Lincoln, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael Lopez.

THE CRAYON MAN: THE TRUE STORY OF THE INVENTION OF CRAYOLA CRAYONS, written by Natascha Biebow and illustrated by Steven Salerno. 

JUST LIKE RUBE GOLDBERG: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines is written by Sarah Aronson and illustrated by Robert Neubecker. The name conjures incredibly complex and seemingly silly sequences, but the actual life story of the man is even more impressive and delightful.

I was thrilled to see the inclusion of one of my favorite books of the year: LET 'ER BUCK: GEORGE FLETCHER, THE PEOPLE's CHAMPION . It is written with invigorating and enticing language with illustrations that will knock your socks off.

TITAN AND THE WILD BOARS: THE TRUE CAVE RESCUE OF THE THAI SOCCER TEAM is written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Pathana Sornhiran. 

A book no one should miss at any time, but especially while so many  of us are spending "Covid Home Time" in the kitchen, is FRY BREAD: A NATIVE AMERICAN FAMILY STORY, written by Kevin Noble Mailliard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. The stories and traditions are as delightful as the varied settings and family images, with a sample recipe in the back pages. 

GOING DOWN HOME WITH DADDY is written by Kelly Sterling and illustrated by Daniel Minster. One of the loveliest, liveliest, and most tender reunion stories you'll ever read. 

HOME IN THE WOODS is the creation of author/illustrator Eliza Wheeler. It, too, has poignancy and joy, with satisfying reflections on family, home, and what matters most in your lives, love. 

These are not all of the honored picture books, but that's plenty for now. I'll close and encourage you to check out these amazing books, using your trusty library hold lists or making purchases from a local indie-bookstore.

***Anchoring this post in the BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT: 
This is mix of good news and bad. Locally and nationally there has been some rapid progress in specific municipal council changes, even overhauls, of policing practices, leadership, and accountability. It is too soon to even call this a first step, but it IS movement. 
On the flip side, federal legislation appears to be blocked by party politics, emphasizing the importance of 2020 elections.
We continue to learn about recent and past events in which police actions result in the death of Black humans, most often males, with no apparent need for deadly force to have been used. Finding information about events is easy, but finding the underlying truths about how and why and ... everything... will take much longer. And so, the MOVEMENT continues, and we cannot ignore the legitimacy of and need for it.

Jun 22, 2020

Women's Soccer Returns- Meet Trailblazer: Lily Parr!

Anchoring this post in Covid-19 time:
Among the horrific consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are the ever-rising death toll, the rapid increases in regional "hot spots" (with related lack of ICU beds), the insistence by far too many that masks are useless, and the emotional pain of missing loved ones and their important life-events. Among countless other effects are economic distress, evictions, indebtedness from medical costs and unemployment. Even so, these life-changing and continuing destructions seem to be of less concern (to some) than our lack of public recreation, including broadcast of professional sports.
I get it, to some extent. Sports can be a unifying force, and viewing can offer diversion from pain, suffering, and simple boredom. Efforts are underway to provide those benefits while assuring safety for all involved. The National Women's Soccer League is among sports organizations taking steps to find a safe way through the present pandemic labyrinth. If they are successful, a tournament will begin broadcasting matches (with public non-attendance) near the end of June. (Learn more here.) Meanwhile, here's some good reading! 

Maverick Publishing, 2020
Fans of sports, biography, women's history, and resilience are going to love a new picture book releasing in August. Trailblazer: Lily Parr- The Unstoppable Star of Women's Football is written by Elizabeth Dale and illustrated by Carolina Coroa. If you've read about or seen (A League of Our Own) about American Women's softball leagues during the Second World War,  you might feel a sense of deja vu when reading about  Lily's life story. 
Her calling began a generation earlier while she played in the streets and discovered her talent, strength, and love of "football" (the name for soccer in Britain). She received mixed messages as a child: that girls didn't play football, and that she could outkick, outrun, and outplay everyone else, including the boys. 
Both messages followed her throughout her life. 
But that mistaken gender assumption and cultural restriction never held her back. At only fourteen years old she began what would be a lifetime career in sports, despite intense and organized efforts to limit women players. During the First World War, she and other females replaced men-gone-to-war in their factory jobs, then practiced and played football for hours and hours on their own time. Lily's teammates agreed to play for absurdly low payment in order to donate ticket income to charity. 
That much of Lily's story should hook you, but there is much more. When men decided that football wasn't "suitable" for women, public stadiums were no longer available for their games. Lily's team and others vowed to play on, using local plowed fields. But the crowds they had drawn to overflowing in those stadiums wouldn't fit on a village field. Lily's journey to gain the right to play, and to find the right place to do it, led her to the USA. There she continued to rack up wins, break records and thrill fans .

The obstacles to women's soccer that Britain had set in place lasted half a century, into the 1970s. Lily's career did the same. In Lily's long football career she set unimaginable records: for goals and assists, for power and speed, for success at many positions and spectacular plays, and for defying the expectations and limits of her time. Her amazing life unfolds through those years with lively stages and equally appealing page turns, featuring accessible text and spot inserts citing jaw-dropping statistics and accomplishments. By the conclusion, I was ready to wave a banner to give Lily the credit she deserved. You will find out if my help was needed or not on the last pages.
Interior spread, TRAILBLAZER (Maverick Publications)

The final turn provides a simple timeline of Lily Parr's life in sports, and the end papers collect and display those informative fact-circles from the interior. It is a wonderful way to celebrate and congratulate Lily's remarkable success, not only in sport, but in blazing the trail for women in all sports, all around the world.
Throughout my teaching years (elementary) many of my fellow educators (specialists, teaching paraprofessionals, volunteers, and student teachers) would comment on how much they were learning from picture books we shared. I couldn't agree more. I'm a Jeopardy fan and I often know correct answers I've gleaned from  prior picture book reading. The all-time money winner, James Holzhauer, "Jeopardy James", told Alec Tribeck that he prepared by spending time with picture books. (Read further comments from James HERE.)
TRAILBLAZER is yet another book that taught me important hidden history in the most appealing, engaging, and entertaining of ways. 

Poster via Colours of Us

#BlackLivesMatter anchor in time:
Last weekend Juneteenth was celebrated. By now you should have heard enough of the basics to know what that celebration is about. My unscientific survey among highly educated friends and family revealed that NONE of us had ever learned about, at any grade level, from any formal educational source. Whether this celebration is new to you or if you've been aware from public events or other sources in the past, let these outstanding PICTURE BOOKS surprise you with the richness and detail that is our American history and heritage. And don't let that age label throw you off- you never outgrow your need for picture books- or learning new things.

During weekend interviews and conversations I've heard several people refer to the current state of global awareness as a MOVEMENT, not a MOMENT. It's my deepest hope and intention to help make that happen. One way we all can support having a more informed, just, and equitable future is to learn the many sides of OUR HISTORY that has been too long told through a single, inadequate point of view. 

Jun 12, 2020

Dictionary for a Better World: Letter by Letter

Covid update:
"Openings" from Safer-at-Home policies have varied, based on communities, states, and lawsuit results. It's been a solid two weeks since Memorial Day. Since then, openings are ubiquitous, including a wide range of cautionary recommendations and an even wider range of non-compliance with those guides. In recent days I've heard that numbers of Covid-19 are rising-- in positive test results, in hospitalizations, and in deaths. 
I have no words for the frustration and fear I feel at the prospect of SO MANY people deciding that "it's over", that they "need" to get out into crowds, ignoring simple cautions when they do.
The stock market had been ignoring economic and science cautions, leading to record highs this week. Until yesterday, a day of reckoning and drastic losses after forecasts of slow, lengthy economic recovery were announced by top officials. Just imagine the reaction when (not if) Covid-19 returns with a vengeance: with a change in seasons, with unhealthy choices, and with the backlash following false assumptions that it is gone.

BLACK LIVES MATTER protests update:
Two weeks ago George Floyd's murder under the knee of a uniformed police officer was recorded by a bystander. Since then a nationwide protest response has expanded globally, with powerful consequences still unfolding. In those two weeks I've had many important conversations. I hope to have many more. I've viewed, listened to, and learned from videos and people whose voices have not been heard in the past, at least not outside a powerless echo chamber. In recent days, I've been reading predictions about a potential "White Backlash" coming. I will continue speaking up about the need to open doors, windows, minds, and stories more widely in order to counter any efforts to slow the momentum of this movement.

Anyone reading this as it posts live will wonder why I would bother adding a note about something(s) so self-evident. I've been writing these posts for nearly a decade now. I'm including these introductory comments for myself or others who could return to posts in the future, reading with my perspective in the moment in this time in history. I find that these current global and local forces affect my choices and reflections about which picture books to feature here. My notes are also a way to preface my book thoughts that follow.

Carolrhoda Books

DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z is the second writing collaboration between poets  Irene Latham and Charles WatersIllustrations are by Mehrdokht Amini.  
These two authors first opened a poetic dialogue in CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race and Friendship (2018). There, they used alternating poems in the voices of a young white girl and a young black boy, an exploration beginning with curiosity and cluelessness, but growing into an accepting and affectionate friendship. 
DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD features  poems from alternating poets (with related quotations from others and memoir-like reflections by the author for that particular poem/theme). Each poem adds a note about its form/structure, and each full spread provides an inviting challenge to "TRY IT", suggesting simple acts or reflections that readers might try for themselves.

That may sound like a heavy burden for one book, but this "dictionary" is uplifting. The book design elevates its appeal with the gorgeous artwork and visual interpretation on each spread. A Table of Contents offers the scaffolding on which this wonder is built. Poems are listed alphabetically with several letters launching more than one theme and spread, including such timeless topics as ALLY, DREAM, GRATITUDE, SHERO, and WONDER, among a total of forty-eight explorations. Back matter includes authors' notes, references for quotations, recommended books, poetry-writing resources and forms, and acknowledgements listed as gratitudes. 

I read this two different ways. First, I dove in from cover to cover, moving through more quickly than I would recommend. I tend to devour favored foods (think pizza, fresh melon, etc.) so fast that, after the last bite, I'm feeling overstuffed. It's a pattern I work to curb, but not always successfully. In this case, I was eager to get a sense of the WHOLE, knowing I'd return to taste it another way after I reached the last page. 
I have no regrets about the approach, because I found it to be delicious, even if it was a lot to digest in one sitting. The choices of topics/themes for each letter are mindfully sequenced, each building on the body of thoughts that came before. In their earlier work the poems collectively revealed a story of friendship. A dictionary is not intended to tell a story, and yet within its pages are all the stories one could choose to tell. This dictionary offers that same wealth of emotional and social vocabulary to write and revise our own stories.
Taken individually or as a whole, this book offers timeless and universal inspiration, but is particularly suited to the current times. Here's an example, from Charles:

EMPATHY     (Acrostic Poem)
Ears open
Mouth closed
To the other person
Helping them know
Yes, they matter.

"Even though I didn't think I'd like empathy it kind of creeps up on you and makes you feel all warm and glowy inside. I don't think I want to go back to a life without empathy."
Kathryn Erskine, MOCKINGBIRD

Charles says...
(He shares details of a painful incident in high school in which he was hurt by a teacher's comments, with a reflection on the way a trusted teacher helped him through it.)

(Simple suggestion about ways to handle others who gossip, about you or someone else.)

Before you get worried that the topics are all introspective and intense, the options include:
LAUGHTER, ZEST, EXERCISE, HOPE, and YES. The range is  impressive and wide-ranging enough to serve as conveniently as any dictionary, a book to keep on hand to weave poetry, inspiration, and fun into every day life. The poetry forms and back matter tips make this mentor text of the best kind, providing excellence in example and clarity in directions.

I hope you'll take a look at this book. it is much longer than a typical picture book, but one that provides material to spark conversations, encourage exploration of poetry  reading and writing, and provide a wealth of comfort and joy. 
Sounds pretty good about now, right?

Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.