Friday, October 30, 2015

Recommended Picture Book: Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

Title: Freedom Summer

Author: Deborah Wiles

Illustrator: Jerome Lagarrigue

Publisher: Antheneum Books for Children

Topic: African Americans, Race relations, Friendship, Prejudice and Racism

Age: 4-8

Opening: John Henry Waddell is my best friend.

Summary: In 1964, Joe is pleased that a new law will allow his best friend John Henry, who is colored, to share the town pool and other public places with him, but he is dismayed to find that prejudice still exists.


Discussion questions at Teach Peace Now website.

4th grade lesson plan with activities for the classroom: 

Lesson plan template with activities for the classroom: 

Why I Like the Book:

This is a touching and simply written story that tackles the very complex issue of racism and prejudice in the south and the 1964 civil movement that would change the south, Freedom Summer. The story is written in first person and told by Joe, a young white boy who is friends with John Henry, an African-American boy. Freedom Summer follows two best friends in a time and place where segregation and racial inequality ruled. When a law is finally passed that ensures the two boys could finally visit public places together, they realize, it takes more than just a new law to change old ways of thinking. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Recommended Picture Book: Maple & Willow Together

Title: Maple & Willow

Author: Lori Nichols

Illustrator: Lori Nichols

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books, November 4, 2014

Topic: Sisters, Friendship, Nature

Age: 3 - 5

Opening: Maple and her little sister, Willow, were always together.

Summary: Nature loving sisters, Maple and Willow smooth over a rough patch in their friendship in their own unique way.


Check out this story hour kit from the author’s website 

Why I Like the Book:

The author illustrator captures sisterhood perfectly! Having younger sisters myself, I saw so much of myself and them in Maple and Willow. I cracked up when Maple came out of hiding to correct Willow’s counting. The sweet pencil illustrations wonderfully shows the relationship between sisters and siblings in general. Siblings play together, and learn from each other. Siblings argue, siblings fight, but most importantly, siblings love each other and at the end of the day, want need each other. This story shows young children how to appreciate their sibling’s similarities and differences in all of their interactions. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Every Little Thing by Cedella Marley

Title: Every Little Thing

Author: Cedella Marley (adapted from the song, Three Little Birds by Bob Marely)

Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2012

Topic: Birds, Being Positive, Family, Friends.

Age: 4-6

Opening: Rise up this morning, smile with the rising sun.

Summary: An illustrated version of Bob Marley’s song, a young boy, with the encouragement of three little birds, enjoys life and does not let anything bring him down.

Listen to the song by Bob Marley. Learn about Bob Marley and his music. 
Learn about Jamaican culture.
Printable images here. (buy sticker or tattoo paper for creative fun)

Why I Like the Book:

A wonderful way to introduce children to Jamaican music and culture. This song has a wonderful message that children need today. There are so many obstacles today that make it hard for children to have a carefree, stress-free life. But with the love, support and encouragement of family and friends, nothing will keep them down forever. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Recommended Picture Book: Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle

Title: Flora and the Penguin

Author: Molly Idle

Illustrator: Molly Idle

Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2014

Topic: Friendship, Ice skating, Penguins

Age: 4-6

Opening: this is a wordless book. The opening page shows Flora putting on ice skates and a penguin poking its nose out of an ice hole.

Summary: Flora and her friend penguin enjoy ice skating together, but when Flora misunderstands penguin’s gift of a fish, there are hurt feelings on the ice. They have to work together to mend their friendship.

In this story, Flora and her dance companion are ice skating. Since this is a wordless book, have your child(ren) learn the names of the different ice skating techniques and moves.

Create dialogue for the illustrations.

Discussion topics:
1.       Why do you think penguin gave Flora a fish?
2.       What was Flora’s response?
3.       How did penguin respond to Flora’s rejection of the fish?
4.       Why do you think Flora rejected the fish?
5.       Have you ever not like a gift a friend gave you? What did you do?
6.       What are some polite ways of accepting an unwanted gift?

Why I Like the Book:

The illustrator Molly Idle did another fantastic job telling this story through pictures. She has created a lovable character in Flora and the penguin. The illustrations are soft and muted. I loved the various layers in the illustrations. While Flora and penguin danced above the ice, the fish below also danced with them, following the movements. On one page, I could tell Flora did a figure 8 because of the fish.  

Friday, August 21, 2015

Recommended Picture Book: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses by Don Tate

Title: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

Author: Don Tate

Illustrator: Don Tate

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers: (expected publication date: Sept 1, 2015)

Topic: Biography, African-Americans in History, Slavery,

Age: 8-10  (the publisher suggests 6-10, read my comments below)

Opening: George loved words. He wanted to learn how to read, but George was enslaved.

Summary: In the nineteenth century, North Carolina slave George Moses Horton taught himself to read and earned money to purchase his time—though not his freedom. Horton became the first African American to be published in the South, protesting slavery in the form of verse.


The publisher provides a comprehensive teacher's guide for the English Arts Standards

Why I Like the Book:

I love learning about unfamiliar people in African-American history.

George Moses Horton was a slave poet, who taught himself to read, earned his own money, and sold and published his work, all while he was still a slave.

The story is about his journey. It does not dwell too much on the pain and hardships of his life, even though we know they existed, but it shows George Horton's love for words, desire to read and the will to not give up on his life long dream, to be a free black poet.

I love the illustrations. Don Tate is one of my favorite illustrators.

What I did not like: The text was very heavy and while I loved the illustrations, they did not mesh well. The illustrations created a mood that young children k-1 would be attracted to. However, the text was definitely geared toward older children 2-3 grd and up