Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bios To Celebrate

    Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover terrific nonfiction picture books!
    Three stories that are good to know! from picturebookmonth.com - “Picture books place a human face to historical, political, environmental, and cultural events.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

         I've waited a long time for this from my library. Lots of holds means it is much loved. Now I finally get to read and love it, too! "McKinley Morganfield was never good at doing what he was told" begins this fabulous story. In poetic soundbites, Michael Mahin tells the story of the famous Muddy Waters, born in rural Mississippi, his mother left too soon, grandmother raised. His early music was at church, but he also loved the blues, and though his Grandma Della did not ("You can't eat the blues for breakfast."), Muddy found a half-smashed kerosene can, a wheezy accordion and a tired piece of wire. He just had to make music to feel good! Finally, working in the fields in the day and playing at night wasn't enough. He took off for Chicago! A most poignant goodbye is a double-page spread showing this goodbye.
         Muddy kept on, tried to please those who wanted him to play that "regular" blues, but kept returning to the sound of the Mississippi Delta, "the sound Muddy heard in his heart." Muddy has influenced musicians like Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughn, the Rolling Stones and countless others according to the Author's Note at the back. "He called up the sticky heat of a summer night, the power of love, and the need for connection in a world that was so good at pulling people apart." It was poetry, like these words by Michael Mahin. Evan Turk's illustrations swirl through the pages like Muddy's music, colorful, graceful, and heartfelt. Mahin has added a brief bibliography and "further listening" at the end.
          There are numerous books written about this well-known and courageous, underground-railroad conductor, Harriet Tubman. This book begins with an aged and wrinkled Harriet going back and back to when she lived other lives, all the way back to Araminta. Each part of her life is beautifully illustrated in portraits, showing others, but focusing on Harriet herself. The layers of questions that arise page by page will inspire readers to know more about each part of her life, often as a caregiver, but in very different roles. It is a beautiful book.
         I've read and learned quite a lot about the Harlem Renaissance, but do not remember the name and story of James VanDerZee. In muted brown tones, as Andrea J. Loney tells his story, Keith Mallett shows James as a youth, then growing up and becoming an accomplished photographer in Harlem. He came from a creative family of musicians and artists, but when James tried to draw people, he thought he could not capture them the way he "saw" and "knew" them. One day a photographer came to town with the only camera there and took the VanDerZee's photo. James was hooked. He had little money, sold sachets to try to win the first prize, a camera! He did win, but it appeared to be a sham. The parts didn't fit. James tried again and finally got his camera. He began, developed photos in his closet and people were so pleased. The rest of his career began in New York City. Like other African-Americans, he moved north in the Great Migration, hoping to have a better chance at a good life. 
        First starting as a pianist to make money, James finally landed a job as an assistant photographer. There were ups and downs in his career, shown in realistic portraits rather like photographs by Keith Mallett. Andrea J. Loney's story gives a strong idea of VanDerZee's creativity and focuses on his extraordinary ability to take and create beautiful photographs. There is a wonderful afterword at the back with photos, a list from the illustrator attributing photos used in his art, a bibliography and a list of books for further reading.
Happy Reading Everyone!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Monday - Some Favorites

              Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love!  Thanks to Jen, Kellee, and Ricki who share their own reading lives and support this meme, too.

       Today, I'm sharing one wonderful n-f book  thanks to Candlewick Press and a few other great picture books!

                Thanks to Candlewick Press for my copy of this book. My first thought after finishing this book refers to the author's note. In it, Sally Walker writes: "History and research are all about making connections. Each time a person discovers the Sultana's story--even though it may be many years after the disaster--a connection is established between that person and the people who were on the boat." To learn about the victims and those who helped in the rescue (sometimes the same people) means here in the 21st Century we readers are offering a thought and sympathy to those who experienced this tragedy. We will remember!
                Sally Walker clearly did extensive research into this disaster of 1865, nearly the end of the Civil War. I learned a lot about the prisons of that time, the terrible conditions (though in the past I have read Andersonville) and at this time the release, what was termed "paroling", of soldiers. She explained the way that steamboats were constructed to be faster and due to new ideas of boilers, but less understanding of how they worked, this steamboat Sultana was doomed. There also were those greedy men in charge who wanted to board as many soldiers as possible, overloading the boat, because they were paid by the government for the numbers carried. Although this did not cause the explosions, it did mean that many, many more were killed because of cramped conditions. 
                Numerous people were followed in the story, from prison to survival or death, in the journey--finally--home from the long years of war an imprisonment. And when Sally found more of the stories of these men, wives and children, she also shared that information. Yes, there were also passengers on board in cabins, families and couples heading north. 
                The book is extensive in the story, written in chapters with pictures and/or maps of the topic or the times. I suspect it would be best for 8th grade and up. It's written in chapters with extensive back matter: author's note, source notes, bibliography, and image credits. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and it made me wonder who will do the research and write the stories of this year's hurricanes or fires, this year's tragedies? 

         Many of you know this story by Mac Barnett, and now I do, too, thanks to Candlewick Press. How can I describe it except to say that the mouse is swallowed by the wolf where it meets someone. That someone generously welcomes the mouse, and the rest of the story is one you'll have to read yourself. Like Sam and Dave Dig A Hole, there are mysteries to solve and when read aloud, those listening often say "Wha..?" In this book too, it happens, but I think it's a more satisfying ending; at least I hope that's what those words mean! Jon Klassen's sketches are always great to show the story. I loved the book!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Good Day Everyday

     Celebrating with Ruth Ayres and others today. Thanks for giving yourself to this community, Ruth. It's a good thing to celebrate the pieces of our lives.

      I agree with Ruth, "hope is sensible" and I found another quote that feels good to me at this troubled time in our country. It is anonymous: "When the world says, "Give up," Hope whispers, "Try it one more time." I am thankful and celebrate the good things in my life that help me begin each day with "hope" for more ahead.

Celebrating this week that:
         I'm loving a poetry challenge started last year named #haikuforhealing. Each morning begins with quiet writing time. Holding on to that moment of contemplation is a comforting start to my day.  Here's one for all of us celebrating:
                                               attention paid,
                                               my breathing slows -
                                               then I smile
       I got a perm and I am finally getting used to it. It's great that I no longer need to blowdry my hair.

        Imogene and I visited the Museum of Nature and Science for the first time in a while, and it was just as fun as always. As we leave, Imi has to do a bit more fun with the rear-screen part. Here, she's 'holding' hands with an astronaut.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Making Life Different

           Lisa at Steps and Staircases is hosting today. She shared a unique challenge last week via Mary Lee's post which you can access here! Be sure to stop by to see Lisa's poem and everyone else who shares. Thanks for hosting and for the inspiration, Lisa!

I've had fun writing this past week for Mary Lee's challenge, #Haikuforhealing starting December 1st, mostly posting on FB and twitter. But I did decide to give Lisa's challenge a try, too. Here's what I created! I am not a great artist, yet I enjoy the sketching that I do. And I'm looking forward to seeing how others responded to this challenge. 
When life feels like a bouncing ball
with UPS and DOWNS each day,
Quick! Grab it at its high point
and shoo the DOWNS away!

Linda Baie © All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Two Who Persisted

    Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover terrific nonfiction picture books!
              I know that many are talking about this book. I feel that every teacher should share this with their middle grade and older students, or every parent should share with their even younger children, bit by bit, then researching more about those people that Schomburg learned about, those whose "works", first writing then art, he collected during his entire life. Carole Boston Weatherford uses Arthur (born Arturo) Schomburg's own words as an opening quote: "The American Negro must remake his past in order to make his future. . . .History must restore what slavery took away."
        I became angry as I read this book, so filled with bits of historical figures who were never written about in my own years-ago history textbooks. Oh, I may have heard a little about Fredrick Douglas or probably George Washington Carver, but few others, until I got to college. Yet even then, there were limits. Carole Boston Weatherford has chosen to write Schomburg's story as a timeline, telling of the first spark that made him curious and determined. A teacher told him that "Africa's sons and daughters had no history, no heroes worth noting." He did not stop searching and learning, first enthralled by an early almanac written by Benjamin Banneker, self-taught inventor, astronomer, and draftsman. The book is a sort of list, and shown beautifully with Weatherford's descriptions through the years of Schomburg's studies, are Eric Velasquez's illustrations. He shows Schomburg aging but surrounded by those very heroes and the artifacts representative of what they created, which his teacher said did not exist.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

New Holiday Books plus One Old Favorite

              Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love!  Thanks to Jen, Kellee, and Ricki who share their own reading lives and support this meme, too.

        I have been reading many books, but choose today to share some wonderful Christmas/holiday books that I have received thanks to Candlewick Press. I know that some of you have read and enjoyed the books below, but perhaps there are a few you don't know. 

      This is a small accordion-style, pop-up book that shows the first six days on the front folds, then it should be turned to view the final days. Small pop-outs of the main “gift” objects with lots of details in the background by Graham Baker-Smith’s beautiful art behind are special to see. The bonus is that it has a slipcase that makes a nice home for the book!

       How Bonny Becker knows how to create the sweetest story with her text and her most congenial characters is a mystery many might wish to know, but she does, every time. Here is Bear about to give his first Christmas party, and here is Mouse, honored guest, ready to open presents! Bear insists that’s silly, that the party is for good food, like pickles, and a long and serious poem. Oh, the expression on Mouse’s face. But he doesn’t give up! Each time Bear leaves for the kitchen for another party treat, Mouse scurries off to look for, you know, presents. Bear finds Mouse and gives his most stern look and Mouse returns it with chagrin. This is a book that’s a smile from the opening page all the way to a bigger one at the end. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Book That Teaches Us To Celebrate

     Celebrating with Ruth Ayres and others today. Thanks for giving yourself to this community, Ruth. It's a good thing to celebrate the pieces of our lives.

          I've been busy catching up today after a full week, or perhaps they're always full? Recently, writing and reading fill much of the spare time with a quick scoot out of doors for more nature time while our weather is still warm. Today I've been reading and prepping some books to share another time, but I just received one from the library after a long wait. Clearly, it's very popular. 

     The book fits so beautifully what we do each weekend, to share our celebrations, naming what we are thankful for. Gracias Thanks by Pat Mora and illustrated by John Para is a bilingual picture book showing a young boy moving through his day, from rising to bedtime, telling what he is thankful for. Each time he tells what and why! Sometimes it's amusing: "For the sun that wakes me up so I don't sleep for years and years, and grow a long white beard, thanks." And other times, he's serious: "For Mom, who found my homework in the trash, thanks." John Parra illustrates with double-page spreads with the text in Spanish on the left, English on the right!

          for my waking up early (without an alarm) so I can watch the sunrise. Thanks.

          for the sunshine nearly every day, and the shades that let it in. Gracias.

          for my family that keeps in touch. I talk nearly every day with my daughter, and often enough with my son and brother that I know how their lives are going and they want to know what I'm doing too. Merci.
          for my evenings to settle in and on cold winter nights to get into my old, worn, but still cuddly fleece bathrobe. Thanks.

          for my writing that keeps me focused and for the reading that inspires  Gracias.

          for my new bookstore co-workers, who are willing to take time to brainstorm and solve problems, who don't take the easy way, but make an effort to create a solution that will work for a long time. Merci.

Wishing everyone a good week ahead, with small times that feel just right.