Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Moon Over Manifest

Vanderpool, Clare. 2010. Moon Over Manifest. New York: Delacourt Press. ISBN 978-0-385-73883-5

Abilene Tucker arrives in Manifest, Kansas after being put on a train by her father feeling lost and alone.  Through the stories of Miss Sadie and mementos of the past, Abilene pieces together the life of her father and his place in Manifest.  Through the stories Abilene finds not only who her father was, but a home for them both.
Clare Vanderpool's first book is a wonderful web of time and place.  Strong character development enables the reader to feel as if they know the people of Manifest.  Interwoven story lines that jump from the present depression era to the past of WWI flow seamlessly and help to create a full and enriching historical experience.  Historical facts in the story are accurate and bring the setting and time periods to life.  The Newbery Award winning novel flows with language which accurately reflects the time and place of the setting and flows together to create the sense of a conversation.
Kirkus Starred Review- "readers will cherish every word "
Publishers Weekly Starred Review- " Replete with historical details "
Booklist Starred Review- "believable dialogue, vocabulary and imagery appropriate to time and place"
School Library Journal-"This thoroughly enjoyable, unique page-turner is a definite winner"
2011 Newbery Award Winner
Top 10 Best Kids Books, Historical Fiction - Instructor Magazine
2011 Kansas Notable Book Selection
Kirkus 2010 Best Books for Children

2011 Best Children's Book of the Year – Midwest Bookseller's Association

Visit the authors website:  http://clarevanderpool.com/home.html
Have students create time lines of the two story lines.

read more books about the depression:
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm
All the Kit American Girl Stories
Children of the Great Depression by Russell Freedman
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Explore PBS.org and the American Experience
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/orphan/  (Orphan Trains)
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/interview/rails-tales/ (Tales from the Rails- stories of teenage hobos)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Midwife's Apprentice

Cushman, Karen. 1995. The Midwife's Apprentice. New York: Clarion. ISBN 0-395-69229-6

The Midwife's Apprentice is the story of Brat later renamed Beetle, an orphan who is selected to be the apprentice of the village midwife Jane.  Brat is unwanted and must endure years of ridicule and teasing.  Jane is a difficult task master and does not want Beetle to be overly successful.  However, thanks to an accident Beetle is allowed to travel to get supplies and is mistaken for a girl named Alyce.  Beetle takes on the name Alyce and gain in confidence after the successful delivery of a baby. 
The Midwife's Apprentice tackles subject matters which are seldom spoken of in children's literature.  The first is childbirth and the dangers that it represented in 14th century England.  The second is unwanted and neglected children.  Cushman integrates real herbal remedies and folklore into The Midwife's Apprentice and by doing so paints a picture of the sad reality of life for women in medieval England.  Alyce's character and intelligence is slowly developed throughout the novel.  Elements of feminism run throughout the novel but does not intrude into the setting in a way that detracts from the flow of the story.  
Historical elements of the text are accurate and lend to the feel of the novel.  Small items such as clothing and the comb which Alyce is given by a peddler provide a realistic feel to the book's location and time.  Ms. Cushman does a good job of providing specific details of the craft of midwifery.  This is especially true of the herbs and natural remedies which were widely used during the time in which the novel is set. 
Newbery Medal
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
ALA Notable Book for Children
Booklist Editors' Choice
Horn Book Fanfare Selection
School Library Journal, Best Books of the Year
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Hungry Mind Review Book of Distinction
Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts
Not Just For Children Anymore! Selection (CBC)
Parenting Magazine Reading Magic Awards
Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Readers Choice Award Short List
Parents' Choice Gold Award
American Bookseller "Pick of the Lists"
New York Public Library, 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
ABC Children's Booksellers Choice Award
NYPL Books for the Teen Age List

Introduce students to more daily life activities from the 14th century.  Include items about clothing, culture and food.  Have student make butter and bread which were staples in medieval life.

Examine the life of women in medieval times. 

Read more books by Karen Cushman -
*Catherine, Called Birdy
*The Ballad of Lucy Whipple
*Matilda Bone
*Alchemy and Meggy Swan

Visit http://www.karencushman.com/

Explore character development.  Each of the character's in The Midwife's Apprentice is different and well developed.  Have students select a character and describe their traits.  Each student can select objects which represent the character and explain why the object is relevant.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Game of Silence

Erdrich, Louise. 2005. The Game of Silence. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-029790-5

The Game of Silence is the story of Omakayas of the Ojibwe tribe.  The story,  set in 1850 tells of the tribes struggle to survive and keep their way of life in a world that is changing.  Omakayas life is full of routines and love until the arrival of a malnourished group of people with tales of broken treaties.  Can Omakayas and her people save their way of life or is everything about to change?
Louise Erdrich paints a picture of everyday Ojibwe life that is relatable for readers.  Although the plot is slow moving at times the feelings portrayed by the writing use this as a way of letting the reader feel the unknown future of the tribe.  The main characters are well developed and likable.  The family dynamic portrayed is loving and healthy.  Historical content is well researched and accurate.  Louise Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe and uses her knowledge of her tribes history to full advantage.  Small details about how daily life was for the Ojibwe people make the book interesting and entertaining.  While the government that is breaking the treaty with Omakayas people is portrayed as dishonest, the overall feeling of the novel is not one of hostility, but rather one of hope for the future.

  • Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction
  • Kirkus Editor’s Choice
  • Horn Book Fanfare
  • ALA Notable Children’s Book
  • ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice
  • New York Times Notable
*Erdrich's captivating tale of four seasons portrays a deep appreciation of our environment, our history, and our Native American sisters and brothers - School Library Journal
*Starred Review*- Booklist

* Read the other two books in the series:
Erdrich, Louise. 2002. The Birchbark House. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0786814541
Erdrich, Louise. 2008. The Porcupine Year. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0060297879
Research the Ojibwe people:
http://www.ojibwe.org/ (a documentary about the people and their life)
Learn about the native people in the area in which you live.  And if you live in Texas you can download this activity book created by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.  http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_bk_p4000_0016.pdf
Children can create dream catchers or create beading projects in the style of the tribe.  Easy dream catcher kits are available from http://www.orientaltrading.com/

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lincoln...the jokester?

Krull, Kathleen, and Paul Brewer. 2010. Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country). Ill. by Stacy Innerst. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 09780152066390

Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country) tells the life story of America's 16th president from the perspective of his sense of humor.  This juvenile biography provides a humorous look at a man who was president during a serious and trying time in American history.

Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country) is a juvenile biography of the 16th president of the United States.  The life of Lincoln is told by the authors using humor as the driving force.  This beginner biography is full of commonly known information about Lincoln scattered with quotes and jokes which the authors note are second-hand and further removed. 

This basic biography does provide initial information about Lincoln and would make an excellent choice to read aloud to young children as an introduction to Abraham Lincoln.

Stacy Innerst's illustrations were done in acrylics on illustration board.  The book is one large illustration which complements the text and provides a much needed visual.

Children will be drawn in by the straightforward prose, and librarians will enjoy sharing the book aloud. - starred review - School Library Journal

...a positive portrait that humanizes the lionized man for whom it was “a love of laughter that kept him going.” - Booklist

"Readers will smile, too, at this lighthearted look at Lincoln and the many droll quotations attributed to him."
-Publishers Weekly, starred review 

Smithsonian's 2010 Notable Books for Children

* Have children share their favorite jokes. 

* Watch the illustrator talk about the book:

*Explore other famous presidents
*Read the book aloud with a partner who will "be" Lincoln by reading all of his quotes.

Oh, Rats!

Narrin, Albert. 2006. Oh, Rats! The Story of Rats and People. Ill. by C.B. Mordan. New York: Penguin. ISBN 0525477624

Oh, Rats! The Story of Rats and People is the history of rats and their relationship with people.  From the rats giant beginnings roaming the earth with dinosaurs to it's current incarnation as a domesticated pet and laboratory test subject, Narrin tells the fascinating story of the rat and the people they live with. 
Oh, Rats! The Story of Rats and People provides a great deal of information in 9 short chapters.  Narrin provides information that is both scientific as well as cultural in nature.  The rat is examined for physical characteristics, intelligence, cunning, emotions, and taste.  Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the rat and it's involvement with people.  Blocked side notes provide additional information of interest and are highlighted by a bold red background.

The author includes a bibliography from which he drew his information.  Also included are a list of related rat texts that may be of interest to young readers.

Complementing the information provided by Narrin are illustrations by C.B. Mordan.  Each illustration is done with the use of only black, white, and red.  The lines in each drawing are deliberate and stark and are reminiscent of old newsprint. 

Emphasizing the animal's capabilities for survival, Marrin offers both anecdotal accounts of human/rat encounters and impressive statistics. - Starred review, School Library Journal

This book makes a pleasantly icky additional purchase. - Starred review, Booklist

Author suggestions:
Conniff, Richard. 2002. Rats! The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. New York: Crown.
Legg, Gerald, et al. 2003. Rats (Scary Creatures). New York: Franklin Watts.

Read the poem Rat for Lunch by Jack Prelutsky
Explore a work of fiction that features rats such as Mrs. Frisby and the Rats on NIMH by O'Brien or A Rat's Tale by Seidler.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Heart and Soul

Nelson, Kadir. 2011. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. Ill. Kadir Nelson.
     New York: Balzer & Bray. ISBN 9780061730740

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans is an eloquent rendition of the history of America as it pertains to the history of African Americans from the colonial period through the civil rights movement and up to the election of President Obama.  Kadir Nelson's text and illustrations work together to provide a historical and emotional journey for the reader.

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans is written in the voice of an unnamed female narrator giving the nonfiction text the element of friendly conversation.  This narrative style enables the reader to connect with the information on a personal level.  Each chapter of the book details a major historical time period or event that directly effected both America and the lives of African Americans, enabling the reader to create an understanding that the history of one is directly connected to the history of the other. 

Each two page spread contains one magnificent oil painting and one full page of text.  Each oil painting depicts either an important event or African American.  Intermittent two page illustrations are placed throughout the work lending power to the work without the interruption of words.  Kadir Nelson's text is magnified by the strength of the illustrations. 

Following the author's note is a timeline which begins in 1565 with the arrival of African American as slaves on Spanish ships and continues through January 20, 2009 with the inauguration of President Obama.  The text also contains a one page bibliography and a thorough index of subjects.

Coretta Scott King Book Award
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award
Jane Addams Honors Book
Provocative and powerful - Starred review- School Library Journal
Nelson…adds to his notable titles with this powerful view of African American history - Starred review- Booklist
The dramatic oil paintings heighten the dignity of this story - Starred review- Kirkus
Creates a voice that is at once singular and representative - Starred review - Horn Book



Listen to a recording of the author explaining why he wrote the book via http://www.teachingbooks.net/book_reading.cgi?id=7259&a=1

This is a wonderful book to use throughout an American History class.  Use individual chapters that correlate to state standards to enhance textbook reading.

On page 36 of the book is a painting of a freedom quilt.  Have students research freedom quilts.  Then have them create their own out of cloth or construction paper.

Other books about African American history:
Grady, C. 2012. I lay my stitches down: Poems of American Slavery. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books.
Hill, L.C. 2010. Dave the potter: Artist, poet, slave. New York: Little Brown & Co


Hopkinson, D. 1993. Sweet Clara and the freedom quilt. New York: Random House.

Levine, E. 2007. Henry’s freedom box: A true story from the Underground Railroad. New York: Scholastic.
Other books written by Kadir Nelson:
Nelson, Kadir. 2005. He's Got the Whole World in his Hands. New York: Dial
.....2008. We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. New York: Hyperion.