Sunday, December 4, 2016

Charles Darwin’s Around the World Adventure

In reading the information about the author, it was no surprise to see that Jennifer Thermes is also a map illustrator.  She does an excellent job of seamlessly including maps of Darwin’s journey around the world on The Beagle.  

Sidenote: Such an interesting ship name.  I’m interested to read more about the origins of the ship name The Beagle.  Did the captain have a beagle?

I most often associate Darwin and his discoveries with the Galapagos Islands but, as it turns out, they were a short stop on a much longer journey.  Jennifer Thermes does a beautiful job of illustrating Darwin’s journeys and many of his discoveries along the way.  The color palette is bright and hopeful as I imagine Darwin was as well on this youthful adventure exploring and learning more about the natural world.  Many of his observations and insights seem logical now but were groundbreaking in their time.  The food chain for example.  “Charles saw how their lives were all connected.”

Thermes includes a note with further information, sources, books for further reading and even fun facts.  The inclusion of maps throughout makes this an ideal book to include in any curriculum hoping to meet Social Studies standards.

Title: Charles Darwin’s Around the World Adventure
Author and Illustrator: Jennifer Thermes
Published 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-1-4197-2120-5

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial

We have all heard of Brown vs. The Board of Education but this story of a girl and her family working to desegregate schools took place more than 100 years earlier.  In the mid 1800’s!  Sarah Roberts parents intentionally enrolled her in a school for white students only since it was closest to their home and they knew it would cause a stir.  They were ready to cause a stir.  In Susan E. Goodman’s words “Every big change has to start somewhere.”  This story tells of the first city to integrate its schools and the steps some cities and states made to follow suit.  But not all.  Goodman refers to one step forward three back throughout the story.  The timeline and author’s note include thought provoking questions for the reader as to their opinion of steps forward and backward, and the decisions she made to include details in her telling of the Roberts case.  The story is very well written and beautifully illustrated by E.B. Lewis.  I love that Goodman included her sources but also included what she added to the story that wasn’t evident from a primary source and her justification for its inclusion.

Title: The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial
Author: Susan E. Goodman
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Published 2016 by Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-0-8027-3739-7

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois

The book itself is beautiful.  Some of Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations remind me of the work of Melissa Sweet.  There is greater variation in the illustration style and the textures throughout, coupled so nicely with the theme of the story, appear that you can feel the patterns with your fingertips.  I was not previously familiar with Louise Bourgeois’ life and I’m interested to learn more and check out her work at the MOMA.  Parts of the story felt very dark so, as an adult, I’m interested to read more about Louise and see if that is a reflection of true events in her life.  The passage referencing her throwing herself in the river with sadness that her father had left for business; the uncertainty of life and math; and especially the time frame following her mother’s death.  Like so many artists, it seems that these events are what catapult and inform her art and what may appear dark to us (spiders) really represents repair and wholeness.  A beautiful book, though somewhat abstract at times for some of the younger readers.  This book has citations and sources to accompany direct quotes used throughout the book.

After having written the above review, I was in Washington DC in mid-October for the SLJ Leadership Summit.  During a break in the day, I went out to walk and see some monuments with some of the other librarians.  Our walk took us through the sculpture garden outside of the National Gallery of Art and what did I see but a HUGE metal spider.  I instantly knew it must be the work of Louise Bourgeois and, it was.  I decided I needed a spider selfie.  Because of the setting sun, it’s difficult to tell but lurking over my shoulder is a spectacular weaver.

Title: Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois
Author: Amy Novesky
Illustrator: Isabelle Arsenault
Published 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1881-6

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The William Hoy Story

The William Hoy Story

What’s not to love about a story where someone overcomes odds to be great?  Thanks to William Hoy (and others to be fair) we have the signals that prevail today during baseball games to signify balls, strikes, safe and out.  The illustrations throughout are somewhat simple in their lines and yet, the facial expressions are impressive.  A bibliography is not included but the author, Nancy Churnin, is one of the people on the Hoy for the Hall committee working to get William Hoy into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Title: The William Hoy Story
Author: Nancy Churnin
Illustrator: Jez Tuya
Published 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company
ISBN: 978-0-8075-9192-5

This copy was received from the publisher to review.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Roosevelt's Rough Riders: Fearless Cavalry of the Spanish-American War

Roosevelt's Rough Riders: Fearless Cavalry of the Spanish-American War
You can count this topic among things I did not know much about prior to reading this book.  Both the Spanish-American War and the Rough Riders.  I had heard of both and I'm sure read of both in a Social Studies textbook once upon a time but those details had not made permanent residence in my brain.  Given hindsight on many wars in our country's history, the following should come as little surprise.  America got involved to protect its interests, namely sugar.  Congress, that is the US Congress had enacted a tariff (tax) that would apply to products imported into the United States.  Since Cuba was part of the Spanish empire, that tax (that we enacted) applied to sugar imported from Cuba.  Cuba wanted its freedom from Spain.  We wanted free sugar.  We helped Cuba with the end game plan of buying Cuba so we wouldn't have to pay tax on sugar.  Much like our entry into WWII following the attack at Pearl Harbor, it still was not until an explosion on a US Navy Ship protecting American "interests" in the Havana Harbor that the American people were interested in getting involved in the war.  In 1976, it was determined that the explosion was probably really a result of a kitchen fire on board and not the underwater mine planted by the Spanish that it was overtly blamed on at the time in 1898.  That's all on the first three pages.  

And then enters Theodore Roosevelt.  Roosevelt's resume was quite diverse.  He grew up in NY, went to Harvard, ranched in the Dakota Badlands, worked as a frontier sherriff, served as the US Civil Service Commissioner, NYC Police Commissioner, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy before becoming a volunteer soldier at the age of 40.

From there, the actual battles of the Spanish-American War involving the Rough Riders and Buffalo Soldiers play out across the pages.  A point of note that stuck out to me was of the Spanish troops' use of smokeless gunpowder to be able to disguise their position when attacking.

Likewise, the recovery period to quarantine soldiers to screen out illness like Yellow Fever and Malaria at Camp Wikoff on Long Island seemed smart.  Though Roosevelt had neither, he stayed with his regiment.  The success of the Spanish-American War won Cuba its independence, and as part of the treaty, the United States also acquired Guam and Puerto Rico along with the option to purchase the Phillipines.  Bring on the sugar!

Capstone Kids
Fact Hound Sites
Theodore Roosevelt: Life Before the Presidency
The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War
The Maine Explodes

Roosevelt's Rough Riders: Fearless Cavalry of the Spanish-American War
Author: Brynn Baker
ISBN: 978-1-4914-4840-3
Published: 2016 by Capstone Press

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

CYBILS Nominations Paired Books

Day 1.

Without having read these books.  Yet.  I am already seeing some partner texts emerging.  Let me explain.  last year, and the year prior, I had planned to do posts with certain books paired or grouped together, like this:

2015 Titles


See what I did there?

Some emerging pairs or groups for 2016 titles (already!)


I'm getting excited!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Pax is the book that was selected for The Global Read Aloud for grades 4 and 5.  I just finished it Friday (just in time, #GRA16 starts on Monday!).  I love that this story highlights the connections and relationships between people (Peter, his father, his grandfather, Vola, even the baseball player and bus driver) and animals (Pax, Gray, Bristle, and Runt) and their interactions with each other.  The story felt like it could take place in any number of settings and a country was never defined and either at a time in the past or even in the future.  Though references to trench warfare made me think past, but who knows what our future will bring.  The impact of war on the environment and its inhabitants other than humans and our collective conscience in the actions taken during war and how we forgive ourselves for what has been done (both by Peter; his father; and Vola) is very deep.  Pax offers opportunities for group discussion and self reflection alike and I can't wait to hear how it is received by our 4th and 5th grade students and their teachers.