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1. Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton illustrated by Don Tate Charlesbridge, 2016 Grades K-5 Chris Barton and Don Tate collaborated on last year's successful picture book biography, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. I'm pleased that the duo is back with the engaging picture book about engineer, Lonnie Johnson. Johnson was a creative and inventive child who

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2. Crossing Niagara

Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin by Matt Tavares Candlewick, 2016 Grades K-5 In stunning watercolor, gouache and pencil illustrations, Tavares conveys the incredible story of the Great Blondin, a tightrope walker who set his sights on crossing Niagara Falls in 1859. Crowds packed the area to see The Great Blondin walk across the falls. Gamblers

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3. Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still. Karlin Gray. Illustrated by Christine Davenier. 2016. HMH. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Premise/plot: A picture book biography of Nadia Comaneci.

My thoughts:  First, I just want to say that I want--no, I NEED--more picture books about gymnastics. Or early readers. Or chapter books. Or, you know, novels. And while I'm at it, I'll put in a request for books about ice skating. A picture book about the 1996 U.S. Gymnastics team would be GREAT fun I think!

Second, I just have to say that I really enjoyed this picture book biography of Nadia Comaneci! It is a very age-appropriate biography I must say. It is set in Romania in the 1960s and 1970s. (But the focus is never on politics or hardships or possible reasons why she might have defected from her country.) Readers meet a young Nadia and her coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi. She began doing gymnastics at the age of 6. Over half the book focuses on the 1976 Olympic Games. The book ends with her returning home after winning at the Olympics. She was 14 years old, I believe. I want to say that these days you have to be at least sixteen in order to compete at the Olympics. A timeline will catch adults up on her life story.

One thing I did appreciate was the source notes provided at the end of the book. So often picture book biographies fail to show their research.

This one is easy to recommend.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. How well do you know your quotes from Down Under?

"What a good thing Adam had. When he said a good thing he knew nobody had said it before." Mark Twain put his finger on one of the minor problems for a relatively new nation: making an impact in the world of famous quotations. All the good lines seem to have already been used somewhere else, by somebody else.

The post How well do you know your quotes from Down Under? appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. The Tree Lady — Perfect Picture Book Friday

I had another book scheduled for today, but as I am staying with one of my writing buddies and she introduced me to a delightful biography of a tree-loving woman here in San Diego, I couldn’t pass up the chance … Continue reading

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6. A Girl Called Vincent

A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay  by Krystyna Poray Goddu Chicago Review Press, 2016 ISBN: 978-1-61373-172-7 Grades 5 and up April is Poetry Month, so it's fitting that A Girl Called Vincent was released earlier this month. The biography provides middle grade and teen readers with an in-depth look at the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was known to her friends

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7. Who was Bill Philips?

Austerity, uncertainty, instability … all problems we associate with Europe today as it cycles from pre-GFC exuberance to today’s austerity. But to put things in perspective, these are minor problems compared what our grandparents endured after World War Two. In Britain many people did not have enough to eat, the government had secret plans for national catastrophe, the Cold War was raging, the colonies erupting, and Sterling was in crisis. In those days there were few policy economists, and macroeconomics was caught in a battle between non-interventionist classical economics and the Keynesian revolution of demand management.

The post Who was Bill Philips? appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. FROM THE BACKLIST: The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth Written by Kathryn Lasky; Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes Little, Brown and Company. 1994 ISBN: 0316515264 I am on a crusade to get some really terrific and often overlooked informational picture books into the hands of teachers and parents. These books, read aloud to middle and high school students, could be a gateway for important conversations and growth.

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9. Cover Reveal: Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman, illustrated by Daniel Minter

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the cover for Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman, illustrated by Daniel Minter (Lee & Low, 2016). From the promotional copy:

A horse that can read, write, spell, and do math? Ridiculous! 

That's what people thought in the late 1800's - until they met Beautiful Jim Key.

Born a weak and wobbly colt in 1889, Jim was cared for by William "Doc" Key, a formerly enslaved man and self-taught veterinarian who believed in treating animals with kindness, patience, and his own homemade remedies. 

Under Doc's watchful eyes, Jim grew to be a healthy young stallion with a surprising talent - a knack for learning! For seven years, Doc and Jin worked together, perfecting Jim's skills. Then it was time for them to go on the road, traveling throughout the United States and impressing audiences with Jim's amazing performances. In the process, they broke racial barriers, and raised awareness for the humane treatment of animals.

Here's a true story of an extraordinary horse and the remarkable man who nurtured the horse's natural abilities. Together they asked the world to step right up and embrace their message of kindness toward animals.

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10. Ira’s Shakespeare Dream – Perfect Picture Book Friday & Diversity Day

Title: Ira’s Shakespeare Dream Written by: Glenda Armand illustrated by: Floyd Cooper Published by: Lee & Low, May 2015 Themes: African Americans, biography, Ira Aldridge, Shakespeare, acting, diversity, abolition of slavery in the USA Ages: 7-11+ Genre: Picture Book Biography Opening: IRA COULD NOT KEEP STILL as he waited in the balcony of … Continue reading

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11. Author Interview: Heather Lang on Fearless Flyer & Writing Strong Women

Visit Heather Lang's official author site & @Hblang
By Helen Kampion
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Congratulations on your new picture book biography Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine (Calkins Creek, 2016) and the starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal! 

I was captivated by your account of Ruth Law’s record-breaking flight from Chicago to New York City one hundred years ago, and Raúl Colón’s illustrations are magnificent.

You are creating a wonderful collection of books about strong women from our past. How do you choose the women you write about?

I love to read and write about lesser-known women, who dream big, pick themselves up when they fall, and stay persistent.

These women might face poverty, racial or gender discrimination, disability, or other hardships. They’re not afraid of failure. They inspire me to step outside my own comfort zone and be brave.

What drew you to this story about Ruth Law?

Sometimes I’m drawn to writing about topics I fear. With fear, there’s always fascination—like when you don’t want to watch a scary movie, but you can’t help yourself.

I’m a nervous flyer, so I’ve always been intrigued by those who dared to fly the flimsy biplanes made in the early 1900s. Ruth Law opened doors for women aviators like Amelia Earhart to enter this male-dominated field.

I loved how Ruth immersed herself fully in flying, even mastering the mechanics of her plane. She could tell what was wrong with her motor by the sound of it!

Her passion and personality came through in her words—she had a lovely voice. I wove her words into the text, so Ruth helps tell her own story.

It’s clear a lot of research went into Fearless Flyer. Can you talk a little about your process? 

Every book I write is a treasure hunt. I never know where a clue might take me. My initial research involved reading a lot of newspaper articles, and in one of those articles Ruth mentioned she kept a scrapbook. I tracked it down at the National Air and Space Museum archives.

Heather researching Ruth Law's scrapbook
Her enormous scrapbook was stuffed with newspaper articles, mementos, photos, and her own handwriting. It was a goldmine.

While I was there I visited the early flight exhibit at the museum, educated myself about her biplane, and learned about the evolution of flight. A lot of questions popped up about her plane and how she operated it, so I found a retired Navy Commander who pilots and builds these old-style biplanes. He had incredible insights.

I also consulted with the folks at the Glen H. Curtiss Museum and the National Air and Space Museum.

I am always amazed how generous people are with their time and how eager they are to help.

What is one of your favorite things about writing for children?

Other than being able to wear sweat pants or pajamas all day, I’d have to say one of my favorite things about my job is the community. I can’t imagine a more supportive group of people than writers, teachers, and librarians. We all have the same primary goal—to have a positive impact on children, giving them books they can relate to and books that open them up to new people and places and dreams.

From Heather's The Original Cowgirl, illustrated by Suzanne Beaky (Whitman)

I’m in two critique groups. We share the highs of clever endings, successful revisions, and accepted submissions. We share the struggles of faulty plots, poor reviews, and rejection. I rely on them tremendously for support.

What are you working on now?

with Alice Coachman
I’m launching a blog focusing on Girls With Grit and having a blast creating the content.

It will include real-life stories, psychology and science, classroom activities, interviews with authors, and of course children’s books with strong female characters.

I’m also adding supplemental materials to my website so readers can get to know even more about Ruth Law and her flying machine.

What do you have coming out next?

I’m really excited about my next picture book biography, Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark, illustrated by Jordi Solano (Albert Whitman, 2016), about an amazing shark scientist AKA “The Shark Lady.”

Sadly, Genie (as she liked to be called) died last year at the age of 92. I had the thrill of interviewing her in person in 2014, and hearing about her remarkable adventures. Genie also reviewed the manuscript for me.

I look forward to sharing this amazing woman with kids everywhere.

Cynsational Notes

Helen's muses
Helen Kampion is a graduate of the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. She writes both fiction and non-fiction for young readers, including middle-grade novels and picture book biographies.

Her picture book manuscripts have been recognized by The Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult & Children’s Writing sponsored by Hunger Mountain ("Paddy Cats," Special Mention, 2015) and by the National Association of Elementary School Principals ("Francesca’s Funky Footwear," Finalist, 2013).

When she’s not at her desk busy writing you can find her helping fellow authors with marketing events, volunteering at the New England SCBWI conference, or teaching creative writing workshops for children. Helen also serves on the on the Board of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance. Find her on Twitter @helenkampion.

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12. Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidency by Linda Crotta Brennan

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President in 1932 and served until his untimely death in 1945.   When he came into office, the country was in the throes of the worst depression the world had suffered to date; at his death the country was just coming to the end of World War II.  So much happened during Roosevelt's presidency and Linda Crotta Brennan has chronicled it all in this slim, but informative book.  

Brennan begins with some background information including a brief account of Roosevelt's childhood and education, his famous family (President Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin's future wife Eleanor were distance relatives) and his early rise into the political scene.  But in 1921, Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio and though most people thought that his career in politics was over, Roosevelt was determined to continue on his planned course in politics.

In 1929, the stock market crash sent the country into a depression, with people hungry and out of work everywhere.  President Hubert Hoover did little to help the country get on it feet again, and in 1932, Roosevelt was elected president, taking over the reigns from Hoover.

Elected to four terms in office, Brennan explains how Roosevelt led the country out of the depression with a variety of social programs for putting people back to work.  Not all of these programs were welcomed by Congress and he was forced to issue Executive Orders a total of 3,522 times.  Before the depression was completely over, however, the world was at war, and Roosevelt once again had to come up with some clever ways to help Britain, while keeping the United States out of the conflict.

But on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the US entered the war.  Roosevelt's time in office was often met with dissension in Congress and with the people, but his presidency was really marred by Executive Order 3066, forcing Japanese American to be removed to internment camps.

The book ends with Roosevelt's sudden death and the swearing in of Harry Truman as the next president and his first few months in office.  

Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidency is chock full of information about our 32nd President, some of it already known, some of it a behind the scenes look at his life.  There are abundant archival photographs and insets that offer additional information, including on one polio, a disease many kids may not even know about anymore.  It is a very well researched work, ideal for upper level middle graders and high school kids studying American History.  The language and explanations are straightforward and easy to understand, including some complex concepts.

The back matter includes a timeline, source notes, a Glossary, and Selected Bibliography along with Further Information.

This book is recommended for readers age 11+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

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13. Not Without My Daughter

Not Without My Daughter. Betty Mahmoody. 1987. 432 pages. [Source: Library]

I first read Betty Mahmoody's Not Without My Daughter in high school back in the nineties. Up until that point, I'm not sure I'd read any nonfiction "for fun," in other words of my own choice and NOT for a school assignment. And to be honest, most of the nonfiction I'd read before was biographies of dead people I had little interest in to begin with. This book was a quick, compelling, action-and-adventure packed book about a mother and her daughter--and both were still alive. I remember it being a "wow" book for me.

Twenty years later--give or take a few years--I decided to reread this one. I saw My name is Mahtob at the library and it brought this one to mind again. The books are quite different. This one focuses more on Betty's marriage to Moody and Betty's determination to get them both out of Iran no matter what. It was written just a year or possibly two years after their escape. And as they were still very much in hiding at the time it was published, it doesn't give you much of a sense of what happened after they escaped through Turkey.

To catch everyone up in case you're not familiar with Not Without My Daughter or My Name is Mahtob:

In the late 1970s, Betty married an Iranian man nicknamed Moody. At first their marriage was working out well enough. He was a mostly non-practicing Muslim who was becoming more and more Americanized with each passing week. He treated her well--lavishing her with gifts, proud to show her off to anyone and everyone. After the birth of their daughter, Mahtob, things began to change. Not her fault, mind you, but because of the situation in Iran. Now that Iran was at war, now that his country was violent and in turmoil, he felt it was HIS country again. He listened to Iranian radio and read Iranian newspapers all the time. He became more and more unhappy in America, blaming America for all of the problems in Iran. That coupled with job woes meant horrible stress and strain on their marriage. Also the family "hosted" at various times several of his family visiting from Iran, and a visit could last months or even a year...

It was after a visit from one of his "nephews" in 1984 that he determined that the family would go to Iran for a two week vacation. He insisted that they had to go. Fighting against her natural instincts, she agreed that the family could go--for two weeks. At the time she agreed, she was already thinking of divorce. But she was worried about Mahtob, not, what divorce might do to her emotionally, but, what it might mean for her physically. Her father could take her out of the country to Iran--without her permission, essentially kidnap his own daughter--and stay indefinitely without breaking any laws. There was no legal protection in place.

The first few chapters of the book focus on the initial two-week vacation, but, as Betty feared, Moody's vacation was really much more permanent. He told her they were never going back to America, she'd never see her family--her parents, her two sons by a previous marriage, etc.--again. She was to learn to be a proper Iranian wife, the sooner the better. In the meantime, she was essentially held hostage. Not allowed out of the house, not allowed to use the telephone, not allowed to write letters. By this point, Moody's temperament had shifted from unhappy and mean to violent and abusive. The book is at times graphic in detailing the physical abuse of both mother and daughter. I think what hurt worse than the abuse she received at the hands of her husband was watching him abuse Mahtob. That and knowing that his family KNEW of the abuse--heard it, saw it--and did nothing. Moody was out of control and unpredictable.

The rest of the book covers essentially the almost two years they spent trapped in Iran. She had to learn the language, had to learn the city, had to learn the culture, customs, laws, and religion. Her goal was to conform enough on the outside so that her inner rebellion could go undetected as long as possible.

Her family did learn soon after the two weeks was up that the two were trapped in Iran, that Moody would not allow them to leave, that they were being held against their will. Her family did everything they could--on their side--to help their daughter. And through the American interest office of the Swiss embassy, I believe, they did manage to stay in contact some. But no one could think of a legal way for both mother and daughter to leave the country. Betty could divorce him at any time and leave. But leaving Mahtob behind meant leaving her behind forever. A mother give up on her child?! Never.

Is the book Christian? No and yes. It is not published by a Christian publisher, and, there are words in this one that no Christian publisher would ever allow. But Betty was nominally at least a Christian when she married Moody--a variety of Methodist, I believe. For better or worse, she believed that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, and that whether one called him "Allah" or "God" didn't matter much at the end of the day. Mother and daughter prayed together daily in secret--in the bathroom--pleading with God to let them escape Iran and return to America. At times, Betty expressed a great longing to have a Bible--a New Testament--to read. And several times she referred to Jesus as the Son of God. But at the same time, Betty blurred the lines a bit, in matters of doctrine. She began praying to Allah, praying the five daily prayers facing Mecca, began visiting Islamic holy sites and making wishes and vows. If God couldn't help her, maybe Allah would. She writes that Moody couldn't begin to suspect her sincerity in her prayers. So there are little things that might add up to make elements of this one questionable in terms of "is the book Christian?" That being said, I think Christians--especially adult believers--should be able to read the book with discerning, compassionate eyes. Yes, Betty was "unequally yoked;" she did not marry a Christian believer. But having Mahtob was undoubtedly a blessing, and, God did indeed work out all things for good through the circumstances. After Betty escaped, she became a champion for this cause, a spokesperson, a fighter. Never forgetting what it felt like to be trapped, to be separated from her family, her country, she would FIGHT to help reunite other families in similar situations around the world, she would fight to change laws as well, or, to put laws into place. So her experiences, as horrible as they were, have benefited others.

Is the book anti-Muslim? I wouldn't say that it was exactly the Islamic faith she was opposing as much as it was her own controlling, possessive, abusive husband who appeared to have mental health issues. It hurt her to see other women--whether foreign-born or not--in marriages where men were abusive and manipulative. What she wanted to see, perhaps, was a culture where men respected women, and women respected men--both being equal. She didn't like being told that that is just how men are: all men beat their wives. Some are more open about it in front of others, but, this was just something that made men, men. This felt wrong to her, it didn't sit right. Not all men are like that, and women should not have to live in fear of losing their lives. Some of the issues addressed in the book--physical abuse--could have happened anywhere in the world. Her being in a foreign country where she couldn't easily speak the language and where everyone else was a different religion didn't HELP her escape his abuse once it started. But, his being Iranian, his being Muslim, wasn't the root cause of his being abusive either.

That being said, I don't think it would pass the current political correctness test. It was published in 1987. For example, she focuses in on how un-American living conditions were: how unclean the houses were, how bathrooms were a hole in the ground, how "most people" just bathed once or twice a year, how babies didn't wear diapers, how bugs and worms and other vermin were in the food and not even picked out before cooking, how women blew their noses on their chadors. Little things that add up to create the idea that she found living conditions in Iran to be absolutely beneath her and primitive, for lack of a better word. She doesn't go out of her way to be kind and generous about the culture exactly. For what it is, one person's perspective on Iran during the years 1984-1986, I don't think it is hugely unfair or overly offensive. In the movie, I thought it was exaggerated even more. The character openly saying again and again, HOW CAN YOU EXPECT ME TO LIVE WITH SUCH PRIMITIVE PEOPLE?! In the book, it is never that outspoken.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Let the people speak: history with voices

For 135 years the Dictionary of National Biography has been the national record of noteworthy men and women who’ve shaped the British past. Today’s Dictionary retains many attributes of its Victorian predecessor, not least a focus on concise and balanced accounts of individuals from all walks of national history. But there have also been changes in how these life stories are encapsulated and conveyed.

The post Let the people speak: history with voices appeared first on OUPblog.

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15. FROM THE BACKLIST - Aaron and Alexander: the Most Famous Duel in American History by Don Brown

Aaron and Alexander: the Most Famous Duel in American History Written and illustrated by Don Brown Roaring Brook Press. 2015 ISBN: 9781596439986 Grades 5 - 12 I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library. Aaron and Alexander could have been friends. They were alike in many ways. But the ways in which they were different made them the worst of enemies. Brown’s

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16. Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton – PPBF, Diversity Day, 2016

  Celebrating Black History Month! Title: Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses HortonPoet: Author and illustrator: Don Tate Publisher: Peachtree Books, 2015 Themes: slavery, illiteracy, poetry, African American, perseverance, Genre: biography Ages: 6-9 Opening: GEORGE LOVED WORDS. He wanted to learn how to read, but George was enslaved. He and his family lived … Continue reading

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17. Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who? by The Anne Frank House

In 2005, the United Nations issued a declaration stating that January 27th would be designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It only seems fitting to remember the victims of the Holocaust with a new book
about the secret annex where Anne Frank, her family and four other people hid from the Nazis in the annex of her father's business at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam for more than two years.

Anne is a young girl whose short life has resonated in the lives of so many young people since her diary was first published.  The Diary of a Young Girl.  It is a moving account of Anne's life in the Annex, in which readers discover Anne's humorous side, her mischievous side, her budding sexuality, her hopes and dreams.

But Anne wasn't alone and although she mentions names and incidents in her diary, what do we really know about the other people in the Annex?  Or the helpers on the outside?  What did the people in the annex do all day?  What did they eat? Where did their food and other needed items come from?

The decision to hide from the Nazis, to live in such close quarters for more than 2 years, from July 1942 to August 1944, couldn't have been an easy one to make and definitely requited a plan, detailed organization, and the help of trusted people who could provide them with food and other necessities.  

Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who is a comprehensive book that brings it all together so that we may understand the risks and dangers everyone connected to Prinsengracht 263 faced on a daily basis.

The book begins with a very brief history of post WWI Germany, Adolf Hitler's rise to becoming the German chancellor in 1933, blaming the Jews for all of the country's problems.  Otto Frank immediately decided to leave Germany and settle in the Netherlands.  There he set up his business at Prinsengracht 263.  But in 1940, after Germany invaded the Netherlands, they immediately put anti-Jewish regulations in place, making life harder and harder for all Jews living there, until, in 1942, Otto Frank moved his family once again - directly into hiding.

The book continues with description of the daily routine of the hiders, food and it distribution, and other daily discomforts, how holidays and birthdays were celebrated.  Even a detailed description of the building they were hiding in.

This is followed with detailed biographies of all the people in hiding, those that helped them, other people who worked in or around Prinsengracht 263, even the cats are included.  Any one of those peripheral people could have (and may have) turned in the people in the annex to the Nazis if they became aware of their presence.

Anne Frank and her diary have held the attention of readers, young and old, since it was first published, but the publication of Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who? gives readers a more detailed, more rounded out picture of who each individual was, making them more human and less the shadowy people we know from the diary.  

It's hard to imagine what it must have been like to be cut off from everyone and everything for more than two years, never going outside, never even breathing fresh air from an open window, and living in silence day by day.  This is an ideal book to be used in conjunction with Anne's diary as a way of introducing the Holocaust to young readers.

The book also contains an abundance of photographs, some never before published of everyone and everything related to the secret annex, including photos of all the helpers.  There are also maps, including one of the concentration camps that the hiders were sent to after being discovered, a Concise Timeline along with the Lifeline of helpers and hiders, and a useful Glossary, a list of Sources, and suggestions for further reading.

Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who? is available only as an ebook.

And on this 2016 International Holocaust Remembrance Day,  please take a moment today to think about all those who were victims of this tragedy, those who didn't survive as well as those who did.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Open Road Media

Curious about Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who?  Here's an excerpt you can read:

Excerpt
“Daily Life in the Secret Annex”

                  “At a quarter to seven, the alarm clock went off in the Secret Annex. The eight occupants would get up and wash before the warehouse workers arrived at half past eight. After that, they had to keep noise to a minimum. They walked in slippers, avoided the creaking stairs, and didn’t use any running water. Coughing, sneezing, laughing, talking, or quarreling was absolutely forbidden. To kill time, the eight would spend the morning reading and studying. Some did needlework, while others prepared the next meal. Miep, working in the office on the first floor, along with Johannes, Victor, and Bep, would go upstairs to the Secret Annex to pick up the shopping list.

“It’s twelve thirty. The whole gang breathes a sigh of relief,” Anne wrote. At noon, the warehouse workers went home for lunch and the annex occupants could relax a little. The helpers from the office usually dropped in, and Jan Gies sometimes joined them. At one o’clock, they all listened to the BBC on the illegal “little baby radio” before having lunch. After the lunch break, the helpers went back downstairs and most of the occupants took naps. Anne often “used this time to write in her diary. Silence prevailed for the rest of the afternoon: Potatoes were peeled, quiet chores done for the office, and reading and studying continued, while below, the helpers worked in the office. Miep and Bep would slip out during the afternoon or after office hours to work their way through the shopping list, which usually included food, clothing, soap, and even birthday presents.

When the warehouse workers left at around half past five, Bep gave the occupants a sign. As the helpers returned to their own spouses or families, the Secret Annex came to life: Someone would grab the warehouse key and fetch the bread, typewriters were carried upstairs, potatoes were set to boil, and the cat door in the coal storage bin was opened for Peter’s cat, Mouschi. Everyone had his or her own task. After dinner, they sometimes played a game. At around nine o’clock, the occupants prepared for bed, with much shuffling of chairs and “the folding open of beds. They took turns going to the bathroom. Anne, being the youngest, went first. Fritz stayed up late studying Spanish in the office downstairs. By about midnight, all of the people in the Secret Annex would be fast asleep.

On Saturday mornings, the warehouse workers would put in half a day’s work, but in the afternoons and on Sundays, the Secret Annex occupants took time for a full sponge baths in a tub, each in his or her own favorite spot in the building. The laundry was done then, too, and the Secret Annex was scrubbed and tidied. There were businesses located in the two adjacent buildings, so during the weekends, the occupants didn’t have to be quite so cautious. But the curtains always remained closed.”


More Curious about Who Was Who?
Five anecdotes behind the faces of the Secret Annex

• While everyone was assigned chores, Peter was instructed to haul the heavy bags from the greengrocer up to the attic. On one occasion, “one of them suddenly split open and a torrent of brown beans went cascading down the stairs. It was weeks before the last beans were found, they had been wedged into every nook and cranny of the stairwell.”

• The Annex’s Romeo and Juliet: Anne Frank’s roommate and the eldest occupant of the Secret Annex, Fritz Pfeffer - the only one without family or loved one at his side - was gripped with loneliness. His evenings were filled with writing letters to his “Lotte,” his great love Charlotte Kaletta, a Catholic woman whom he was forbidden to marry due to the Nuremberg Race Laws. He relied on Miep to serve as messenger to deliver the letters where he professed that Charlotte’s love will strengthen him.

• Miep was deemed the pack mule and carrier pigeon for the eight inhabitants of the Secret Annex. “Every Saturday, she also brought along five library books, which the Secret Annex occupants eagerly looked forward to. ‘Ordinary people don’t know how much books can mean to someone who’s cooped up,’ Anne wrote.”

• After the betrayal that led to the Secret Annex’s exposure and the inhabitants’ arrest, the ladies were sent to Westerbork transit camp where they “were forced to dismantle batteries, a dirty and dangerous business. The workday began at five o’clock in the morning. Seated at long tables, the women broke open batteries in order to remove the carbon rods. Then they picked out the sticky brown mass, which contained poisonous ammonium chloride. Finally, all the components were separated for use in the arms industry.”

• When Frank Otto, Anne’s father and lone survivor, returned to the Secret Annex, he “found the rooms practically empty and abandoned. For him, that emptiness symbolized the loss of his fellow sufferers who had not returned from the camps. For this reason, Otto later decided that the Secret Annex should remain this state.” 

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18. From the Backlist: An Eye for Color

An Eye for Color: the Story of Josef Albers by Natasha Wing; Art by Julia Breckenreid Henry Holt. 2009 ISBN: 9780805080728 Grades 2-12 The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her local public library. A few weeks ago, back in December 2015, I came up with an idea for an art program for the teen summer reading program: an exercise in color from the book, Local Color by Mimi

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19. Something of myself: the early life of Rudyard Kipling

‘My first impression is of daybreak, light and colour and golden and purple fruits at the level of my shoulder.’ With this beautiful sentence, so characteristic in its fusion of poetry and physical, bodily detail, Rudyard Kipling evokes the fruit-market in Bombay, the city (now Mumbai) where he was born in 1865.

The post Something of myself: the early life of Rudyard Kipling appeared first on OUPblog.

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20. Many Ways to Use “I am” Poems!

Don't shy away from the formulaic "I am" poem! There are so many possibilities...

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21. #794 – Kid Athletes by David Stabler & Doogie Horner

Kid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood from Sports Legends Series: Kid Legends Written by David Stabler Illustrated by Doogie Horner Quirk Books      11/17/2015 978-1-59474-802-8 208 pages      Ages 8—12 “Forget the gold medals, the championships, and the undefeated seasons. When all-star athletes were growing up, they had regular-kid problems just like you. …

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22. Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras  by Duncan Tonatiuh Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015 Grades 2-5 Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras was recently featured in our list of Best Nonfiction Books of 2015. The picture book biography introduces readers to an influential Mexican artist who began his work as a printer. Jose Guadalupe Posada worked as a printer

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23. Review: This Strange Wilderness

This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon by Nancy Plain. University of Nebraska Press. 2015. Library Copy. YALSA Nonfiction Finalist.

It's About: John James Audubon (1785 - 1851) wrote and illustrated The Birds of America, which contained almost 500 different birds, all shown life size and in full color.

This is the story of who Audubon was and his work.

The Good: While I was generally aware of Audubon, mostly it was because of his appearances in other YA books I've read, notably Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt (my review) where some of those illustrations figure significantly into the plot; and The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Philip Hoose, about one bird in particular that was painted by Audubon.

Who knew that Audubon was born in Haiti and raised in France! I had no idea. I am not an animal person, so truth be told the birds itself didn't interest me, but the biography of Audubon fascinated me. He came to America as a teenager, sent by a father hoping to save his son from fighting in Napoleon's army. He fell in love with the new country, and there fully developed his passion for nature and birds and illustration.

The process of how Audubon drew his birds was also interesting; a combination of art and science. And yes, he killed the birds, so that he could then pose them to be lifelike. Which seems so weird to a modern reader, but this was before photographs. This was before any other way to truly study and draw the birds in a way to portray them fully. Audubon didn't just blunder along, shooting; he also studied the birds, learning about them, and wrote about his scientific findings. His writings also included his own journeys and adventures along the way. And, as a hunter, he was also an environmentalist because while he hunted for food, or for art, he also realized the danger of extinction.

If you'd asked me before I read this book about Audubon, I'd have guessed rich. And as the book begins it seems like there was truth to that, from his upbringing to the land in Pennsylvania that his father bought him. But he wasn't; and Audubon pursued his studies (which often meant travel) even when he didn't have much money. He drew portraits and taught drawing and did other things to support his dream of studying and drawing birds.

Audubon did this even though he had a wife and children. And at this point, the biography I want is of Lucy Audubon, who at times followed her husband to log cabins in Kentucky and to England; and at other times, stayed behind, earning the money to support her children while her husband followed his own dreams. Who was forced into independence while married, yet also strongly supported her husband.

And then of course there is the business end, of how Audubon's illustrations were transformed into a book. Again, in a time without computers; when each page had to be hand colored; when Audubon insisted that they remain life-size. "Subscriptions" were sold for the intended publications, and Audubon had to turn into a salesman to convince people to buy something that hadn't been published yet.

I love how this is all told in less than a hundred pages. I'm on a Regency Romance reading kick, and just checked out some thick, dense non-fiction of that period and wow, I wish at least one of them was a tidy hundred pages. (Also, it doesn't escape my notice that This Strange Wilderness occupies the same slice of time as the romances I've been reading.)

One more point, and perhaps the most important: there are many, many of Audubon's illustrations, all in full color. When reading about art, it really helps to be able to see it. And, also, now I'm intrigued to see the actual originals.





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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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24. #800 – The Inventor’s Secret by Suzanne Slade & Jennifer Black Reinhardt

The Inventor’s Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford Written by Suzanne Slade Illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt Charlesbridge Publishing    9/08/2015 978-01-58089-667-2 32 pages   Ages 7—12 “Thomas was curious about electricity—invisible energy that flowed and stopped, sizzled and popped. “Henry was curious about engines—machines that chugged and purred, hiccupped and whirred. “When Thomas …

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25. Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story written and illustrated by S. D. Nelson

The last book I reviewed here, The Liberators,  was a novel about two friends who joined the Marines and serves in the Pacific theater.  Our Hero, the Ira Hayes Story is about a man who really did serve in those sames places - Vella LaVella, Bourgainville, and who ultimately became one of the heroes who raised the flag at Iwo Jima.

Ira Hayes was a Pima Indian, born on the Gila River Indian Reservation in a remote part of the northern Sonoran Desert in Arizona in 1923.  His family were poor farmer, working the land, but living without electricity or running water.  They had four sons, and Ira was the oldest.  He was quiet and shy, but always felt lonely and seemed to fit in with the other kids on the reservation or in the Phoenix Indian School when he was sent there.

But, while still in his teens, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States went to war.  Ira felt it was his patriotic duty as an American to fight for his country and he joined the Marine Corps in August 1942 at age 19.  Sent to basic training in San Diego, Ira didn't experience the kind of segregation and low level jobs reserved for the African American soldiers because many believed that Native Americans were fierce warriors and so they trained with the white soldiers.

After basic training, Ira volunteered to train as a Paramarine.  Joining the military and going through such rigorous training seems for forge strong bonds of friendship among the soldiers, and it was in the Marines that Ira finally felt like he belonged.  Ira and his fellow Marines arrived in the Pacific theater in March 1943 and fought there for two years.  After the month long battle at Iwo Jima, Ira was one of six Marines who raised the flag over Mount Surabachi, a moment captured in a photograph by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal:

Iwo Jima - Ira Hayes is the last man on the left
Ira came home a true Native American hero, but civilian life wasn't easy for him.  Most of his buddies didn't survive the war and Ira found it difficult to be celebrated knowing the terrible price his buddies had paid.  And once again, Ira felt like an outside, not fitting in anywhere.  Ira became severely depressed, and started drinking heavily.  In 1955, at the age of 32, Ira Hayes passed away.  He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

S. D. Nelson has written a very moving and insightful picture book for older readers about a real hero, showing us that even heroes aren't perfect.  He could have easily written the Ira Hayes story up to the flag raising at Iwo Jima, and left it at that, but instead he chose to continue and let his readers see that heroes are human and sometimes flawed.  Ira Hayes may have officially died of alcoholism, but I would say the loneliness, despair and depression were the real causes of his death.

Hayes' wartime experiences make up the majority of this book, but Nelson doesn't ignore his youth on the reservation and his time at the Indian School, giving us a clear picture of this very sensitive, isolated Pima Indian growing up in poverty, but surrounded by a loving family:
  

As you can see from the illustration above, Nelson's text is accompanied and complimented by his beautifully detailed acrylic illustrations using a widely varied palette of colors.  And be sure to read the Author's Note at the back of the book, where he includes a more detailed account of the life of Ira Hayes, as well as very useful Bibliography for further investigation.

You can find an extensive Quiet Hero Teacher's Guide provided by the publisher, Lee & Low.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

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