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1. Biographies with girl power

Doesn’t it seem as though many of the biographies written are about men and their accomplishments? Don’t get me wrong — there are plenty of admirable men who have changed the world through their daring, innovation, and wisdom. But how about the other half of the world’s population? Women just haven’t gotten the press they deserve. Luckily, biographies today are becoming vastly diverse with the individuals they feature and the fields in which those individuals excel. And that includes some great new biographies about women. Take a look at these three to share with your students (both male and female). The first is for younger students (grades K-3) and the other two are good for upper elementary (grades 4-6):

dear malala standDear Malala, We Stand With You by Rosemary McCarney with Plan International
There have been several books written by, and about, Malala Yousafzai, but this picture book version is unique. It begins with a short biography of Malala and her 2012 shooting by the Taliban for being outspoken about education for girls, and her life in England now. The bulk of the book is a series of exquisite photographs of girls around the world and brief text describing their desire for an education, despite the many social, political, and economic restraints placed on them. The title ends with ways for the reader to help further Malala’s cause.

Girl Tar PaperThe Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement by Teri Kanefield
Barbara Johns, an African American high school student in Virginia in 1951, was appalled at the conditions of the make shift classrooms in their segregated school. Acting well beyond her years, she organized a peaceful walk out, demonstration, and boycott among her senior class to demand new facilities. They were ridiculed by the local school board, government, and police force. The NAACP agreed to take on the case, only if the students changed their demands to full integration. They agreed, and their case contributed to the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education. The story begins with Barbara’s senior year, and flashes back to her early years, and then beyond. Remarkably, she grew up to become a school librarian! The book is filled with captioned photos, sidebars, quotations, and primary sources. The large font and strong voice makes for a swift read. The concluding author’s note is enlightening, and the timeline, endnotes, and extensive bibliography complete the book.

rad american womenRad American Women A-Z by Kate Shatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl
This is a collective biography of 26 women, described as “rebels, trailblazers, and visionaries who shaped our history…and our future” (cover copy). They represent diverse fields, ethnicities, ages, and geographic locations. Beginning with Angela Davis, and ending with Zora Neale Hurston, each biographee’s personality, challenges, and accomplishments are described in engaging text and accompanied by a simple black and white block cut illustration. The book concludes with an end note, a list of “26 Things that you can do to be rad!” (unp.)., and a list of resources.


Editor’s note: for many more recommended biographies of women, follow these tags: Biographies; Women’s History

The post Biographies with girl power appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. Week-end Book Review ~ Juba This, Juba That, by Helaine Becker and Ron Lightburn

Cover: Juba This, Juba ThatHelaine Becker, illustrated by Ron Lightburn,
Juba This, Juba That
Tundra Books, 2012.

Adapting a traditional “juba” rhyme, and certainly maintaining the toe-tapping snappiness for which juba is renowned, poet Helaine Becker and illustrator Ron Lightburn have created a dynamic, joyous picture book that will have young readers up on their feet dancing along in time to the words. While the poem creates a narrative of Juba having a fun time at a fairground, the illustrations contextualise the sequence within the suggestion of a dream; so despite its lively energy, the book would also work well as a bed time story…

Read the full review

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3. In Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, here are two photo galleries worth exploring:

  • The “Black Animation Collection” is a survey of animation art from the Seventies, the first decade in which American cartoons regularly portrayed black people in a positive light.
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    4. A Tribute to African-American Animation Artists

    Black Animators

    I can’t let Black History Month pass without making mention of the fantastic Facebook gallery called African-American Animators—Past & Present. It’s disheartening to think that for the first fifty years of American animation history, there were no black animation artists. Frank Braxton broke the color barrier in the mid-1950s, and animation (and America as a whole) has changed much since then. Now, we have this wonderful tribute to the diversity and talent of the black animators who work in our industry, many of whom I’m proud to call friends, others who I’ve featured in my ‘zine Animation Blast (Ed Bell, Phil Stapleton, Milton Knight), and even one of my animation teachers (Lenord Robinson).

    Cartoon Brew: Leading the Animation Conversation | Permalink | No comment | Post tags: ,

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    5. Week-end Book Review: Destiny’s Gift by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by Adjoa J. Burrowes

    Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by Adjoa J. Burrowes,
    Destiny’s Gift
    Lee & Low Books, 2011.

    Age: 5-11

    Destiny’s Gift is a story about one particular bookstore – Wade’s Books – and of the fate generally of many small independent bookstores in North America. Mrs. Wade is the silver-haired, dreadlocked owner of Wade’s Books. Across the street from her store lives Destiny, a girl who visits the bookstore twice weekly. Destiny and Mrs. Wade have a special relationship; they both love words and books. However, one day Destiny discovers that Mrs. Wade can no longer afford to keep the store open. What can Destiny do to help Mrs. Wade? Will the bookstore stay open?

    It’s hard not to read Destiny’s Gift without thinking about the metaphorical implications of the girl Destiny’s name on the situation of independent bookstores generally. What Destiny does for her local bookstore might be something others could do for bookstores in similar situations all over North America, but even then, such efforts, however heartfelt, may not be enough to save them. Destiny’s Gift thus ends on an ambiguous but realistic note. What is clear and heart-warming about the book is the special relationship the bookstore owner has with a young reader and writer. Adjoa Burrowes’ paper-cut style illustrations foreground this relationship nicely. And although the book speaks to a larger social topic on one hand, on the other, it speaks to the intimacy certain people have with books and reading. And ultimately, whatever the fate of bookstores might be, it is the pleasure of reading that unites the characters in Destiny’s Gift to act decisively.

    Destiny’s Gift is a wonderful picture book that works its magic at several levels at once for both the parent and the child who reads it.

    Sally Ito
    November 2011

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    6. Week-end Book Review: Up the Learning Tree

    Marcia Vaughan, illustrated by Derek Blanks,
    Up The Learning Tree
    Lee & Low Books, 2003.

    Ages 6-10

    In this moving story of simple heroism, a young slave and a brave teacher both take enormous risks in order to participate in something most readers take for granted: education.

    It is hard for my children, who, like most of their peers, grumble about doing homework, to imagine a life so filled with injustice that a child risks losing his fingers if he is caught with a book. This is what makes the clever and determined young slave Henry Bell so admirable. “Before Pap got sold away,” Henry remembers, “he told me book learning would help us escape slavery…There must be something powerful in books, and I want to know what it is.”

    The opportunistic Henry gets his chance when he is assigned to walk “Little Master Simon” to school. A leafy sycamore outside the classroom window affords Henry cover as he spies on the forbidden lessons and carves new words into the branches of his “learning tree.” When illness spreads through the area the following spring, Mistress keeps Simon home to avoid infection but sends Henry to collect and return her child’s completed lessons each day. This is when Henry gets to know Miss Hattie, a northern school teacher who “doesn’t believe in slavery or in keeping people ignorant.” Henry thrives, and Miss Hattie tells him “I’ve never had a student as determined to learn as you.” But the illicit act of a teacher educating a child on her own time is eventually discovered, and the pair must part.

    Marcia Vaughan (Snap!, The Secret to Freedom) became inspired to write Up the Learning Tree while reading oral histories of former slaves, several of which are quoted at the back of the book. Successful photographer and first-time illustrator Derek Blanks’ rich oil paintings demonstrate a lush retreat from the stark, sun-baked cotton plantation in the green and leafy school grounds where Henry begins his education. Recognizing that Henry’s story could very well have happened and that real people took extraordinary risks in order to become literate will help children understand the true vileness of slavery and the freedom inherent in learning.

    Abigail Sawyer
    April 2011

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    7. Week-end Review: Catching the Moon: The Story of A Young Girl’s Baseball Dream by Crystal Hubbard, illustrated by Randy DuBurke

    Crystal Hubbard, illustrated by Randy DuBurke,
    Catching the Moon: The Story of A Young Girl’s Baseball Dream
    Lee & Low Books, 2005.

    Ages 6 to 10

    Could there be anything better than the sting of the ball in your palm, the taste of dust sliding into home base, the thrill of tagging someone out? Not for Marcenia Lyle. She loves baseball more than anything in the world. She dreams at night of playing professional ball, and lives for afternoon games on the playground, despite initial objections from the boy players and constant disapproval from her parents.  They want her to focus on school, and on traditional jobs for girls: teacher, nurse, or maid.

    Then one day, Gabby Street comes to visit. Mr. Street is the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. He wants kids for his baseball camp! Marcenia has never run so fast, thrown so hard, or hit so far as she does that day. But despite proving herself the best player out there, Mr. Street says no. Girls don’t play baseball.  If she’s ever going to achieve her dream, she has to find a way to convince both Mr. Street and her father that girls should be able to play baseball, too.

    Set in the 1930s, Catching the Moon tells the true story of Marcenia Lyle, the African-American girl who grew up to become the first woman on an all-male professional baseball team. Named one of Bank Street College’s Children’s Books of the Year, Catching the Moon is an inspiring tale of grit, heart, hope, and most of all, determination to dream.  Randy DuBurke’s luminous ink and acrylic images vibrate with Marcenia’s energy on the field, while the soft blues and browns of his color palette channel her sadness when it appears she has no options left. An afterward explains how Marcenia Lyle, under the name Toni Stone, became the first female member of an all-male baseball team, and even went on to fill in Hank Aaron’s place in the Major Leagues. Crystal Hubbard captures both the irrepressible obsession of the baseball fan and the challenges of being young and dreaming big, even if it means defying adult expectations.  Children will cheer for Marcenia as she succeeds despite the odds, in turn encouraged to follow their own dreams of greatness.

    Sara Hudson
    April 2011

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    8. Poetry Friday: Of Poetry and Pottery

    The story of Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown and Company, 2010) combines two great loves of mine — poetry and pottery — so I was absolutely delighted to have been introduced to this recently published book by Myra at Gathering Books.   The historical ‘Dave’ was an unusual combination of talent in an age where such talents would not have only been under-appreciated but potentially dangerous.  Dave was a skilled and literate slave of the mid 1800′s in South Carolina.  His legacy is a collection of large pots and urns, some of which have lines written into them.  The lines are short and cryptic, reminiscent of Dickinson.  For example, on one of his earliest known pots — a large one for which Dave had a reputation for creating — are inscribed these lines:

    put every bit all between
    surely this Jar will hold 14

    This particular pot could hold fourteen gallons, and these short lines conveyed the volume capacity in rhyme.  Other couplets also appear, giving more of a sense of Dave’s personality and of his vocation.  Particularly moving was this couplet:

    I, made this Jar, all of cross
    If, you don’t repent, you will be, lost

    Dave the Potter is a picture book, sumptuously illustrated by Bryan Collier, who has captured well the nature of the man and his art. There’s a lovely fold-out panel of illustrations showing the process of pot-making which is visually affecting. My daughter and I really enjoyed Dave the Potter; it is a wonderful book telling a little known story of — as the book’s  subtitle indicates — an ‘artist, poet and slave’ of the American south.

    This week’s Poetry Friday host is Doraine at Dori Reads.

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    9. Celebrating Black History Month and African American History Month

    February has arrived and with it Black History Month in Canada and African American History Month in the USA. To see some of the celebrations planned in the USA click here and in Canada click here. In honor of the month, many websites and bloggers are highlighting the richness of children’s literature that focuses on Africa, African Americans, African Canadians and the African diaspora. Here’s a small sample of what’s being offered:

    The Brown Bookshelf has launched 28 Days Later, a month-long showcase of the best in picture books, middle grade and young adult novels written and illustrated by African Americans.

    Margo Tenenbaum’s blog The Fourth Musketeer specializes in historical fiction for children and teens, and throughout the month of February will focus on reviewing African American titles.

    Reading Rockets.Org has just updated it’s Black History Month section where you’ll discover great online resources for the classroom and for family discussions. I’ve just spent the morning watching the video interviews with award-winning writers and illustrators.

    The Canadian Children’s Book Centre has compiled a list of Canadian books that are recommended reads for Black History Month.

    Check out School Library Journal‘s Places in the Heart: Celebrating Black History Month article in which top children’s authors were asked to choose their favorite children’s book about the black experience. Rick Margolis says “The title could be for kids of any age—fro

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    10. Earwig

    For two days I have had these lines stuck in my head:

    Don't worry about me
    I'm about to die of pleurisy
    The lines were written by Jack Kerouac in a song (which you can hear him sing here) that Tom Waits later adapted. There are two very different recordings of the Waits song that I know of: a sad, weary version included on Orphans (listen here) and a lively collaboration with Primus (from the album Jack Kerouac Reads on the Road; mp3 here).

    Before I ever looked at a transcription of the lyrics, I heard the line "Well the worms eat away but don't worry watch the wind" as "Oh the worms eat away, but the worry warts will win". I still like my version.

    In any case, I don't think I'm about to die of pleurisy. I like the word, though, especially since it reminds me of Laura in The Glass Menagerie, who was nicknamed Blue Roses because someone misheard her when she said she had pleurosis.

    1 Comments on Earwig, last added: 12/3/2007
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    11. Have I mentioned that censorship makes me cranky?

    What a way to start the month. First, John Green's LOOKING FOR ALASKA is under fire for being "pornographic".

    And now, some parents are going after SPEAK. The teacher involved has asked me not to name the school because she wants the process and policies of the district to unfold away from the glare of any spotlights. I respect that. I am allowed to say that it's a middle school in suburban Detroit. For the record, this has also happened in New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Washington, New York, Maine, and California. (As a result of the challenges, the book was embraced, not banned. Which does make an author feel good and a teacher feel even better.)

    I sent her a note with teen sexual assault statistics and shared the feedback I've had from readers and their parents, who are grateful for a story that allows them to broach a difficult subject.

    This teacher could use some professional support. If you teach SPEAK, can you please leave a note in the comments section for her? Tell her why you use the book. Tell her about your classroom experiences and your professional opinion about the place of the book in the curriculum. Or just give her a pat on the back. If you are a teen, tell her what the book meant to you.

    Thank you very much and spread the word.

    Now for something positive! Join the brilliant people at The Brown Bookshelf for 28 Days Later - an awesome, wonderful, joyful concept: a black history month celebration of children's literature. They are highlighting an African-American author or illustrator every day this month. Today's honoree is Rita Williams-Garcia, whom I met at NCTE back in November. If you're looking for some great authors, start with this list.

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic This is my editor Sharyn November with the lovely and talented Rita Williams-Garcia.

    Our Team In Training effort is going strong. Between the two of us, BH and I have already raised $1755 of our goal of $5000. Yeah, that means we're still standing here, in the snow, shivering, with our hands out. Please donate to the goose or donate to the gander. We're raising $5000 and running a half marathon for the National Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Come on. Give a little!

    (I ran 5 miles on Saturday and 4 miles yesterday. BH ran 5 miles both days. We didn't have any trouble sleeping this weekend.)

    Thank you to the Giants and Patriots for a great game last night!!! All hail the Giants defense - even though I wanted the other guy to win, you gotta respect the job they did.

    And now the countdown to March Madness...

    Along with the countdown to my deadline. scribblescribblescribble

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    12. And then the main character turned left instead of right...

    I threw out the last third of my book yesterday. Yeah, the one that is due very, very soon.

    (I didn't actually throw it out. I put it in the file marked "Extremely Good Writing In Search of the Right Story." It has many friends there.)

    The main character announced the need to take a different path than the one I chose. While it is utterly terrifying to have no clue how the book is going to end, I must admit, it's also kind of fun, like skiing down an icy slope on a Black Diamond trail. I might end in an emergency room, but then again, I might end up in front of the fire in the lodge regaling the crowd with a tale of adventure, sipping a mug of hot cheer. Either way, it promises a wild ride.

    No skiing yesterday, but I did run 10 miles. BH ran 8. We can barely walk today.

    Today's featured author at 28 Days Later is Janice N. Harrington, who wins the best title of the day award because she wrote The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County. She also wrote the much lauded and awarded Going North.

    Judy Blume Alert!!!! My favorite quote of the interview: "After each book I get panicky. I don't love the reviews. I don't like going through all that, and you would think that, after almost 40 years of writing, I'd have got the hang of it. You can never grow complacent about it because it's always new, it's always exciting and it's always like the first time."

    I didn't know she has a blog! ::rushes to hit Bookmark button::

    Off to work now. Keep scribbling.

    Join the most exclusive club in all of children's literature! Low membership fee, everlasting gratitude!

    Lake Placid Half-Marathon countdown: 131 days

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    13. the proper name for this draft

    This is the dopeslap draft. I have a headache from hitting myself upside the head every time I figure something out that has probably been obvious for months, only I just realized it for the first time. "Duh! Of course that's where her father works! Duuuuh, of course she's going to do that!"

    I need to reserve my words for my story today, so here are some links to keep you happy:

    Continuing with this week's "grande dame of children's literature" theme, I present a new interview with the creator of Ramona, Beverly Cleary.

    Today's featured author at 28 Days Later is Eleanora E. Tate, who wrote Celeste's Harlem Renaissance. Be sure to read the powerful bio on her website.

    Join the most exclusive club in all of children's literature! Low membership fee, everlasting gratitude! Earn bragging rights!

    Lake Placid Half-Marathon countdown: 130 days. Seems like it's a million years away.

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    14. Shhh!

    Go away, please. I'm writing.

    No, wait! Come back!

    Because TWISTED was nominated for a 2008-2009 Georgia Peach Book Award!!!! So were a lot of other great books, including a few written by friends. So I am baking a cyber-peach pie to share with Cecil, Jordan, Sherman and Gail. Somebody else better bring ice cream, 'cause we don't have any.

    Don't forget to visit 28 Days Later, where today's featured author is Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, who wrote The Shadow Speaker, which just made the finalists list for the Andre Norton Award (YA category) given by The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Be sure to stop by her site.

    OK, now you can go. On your way through the kitchen, please turn on the burner under the tea kettle, OK?

    See you tomorrow.

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    15. Officially crawling into cave

    Yesterday was amazing: our Number One Son qualified for the New York State boy's swimming meet by taking third place in the 100-meter breast in the preliminary heat at yesterday's Section III championships.

    That is a mouthful for an early-morning post. Boiled down to its essence, it translates into: My kid is going to States!!!! Yeah, we are just a wee bit excited about this here.

    Good thing we did all of the hooting and hollering yesterday. Today marks the beginning of the period known as Laurie Is Crawling Into Her Cave To Work on Her Book. I won't be posted much, if any, over the next two weeks. I will be writing, writing, throwing out the pages that don't work, then writing some more.

    This is the part of revision that I love the most. It's like going crazy studying for finals - very long, intense days (and sometimes nights) spent wrapped in all the story threads. In college, my fuel of choice was late-night doughnuts and very bad coffee. I've exchanged the doughnuts for salads and the bad coffee for wonderful coffee, but the game is the same: work to exhaustion, sleep, eat, work some more, exercise, eat, work to exhaustion, start again the next morning. I hit this phase with all of my books. Remember the scary scene in TWISTED with the gun? That came to me during this phase. These intense days and nights bring the characters to life - they truly incarnate for me. This is a Good Thing.

    Before I grab my pens and scuttle deep into the cave, let me give a last shout out to the 28 Days Later project. Today's featured author is one of my favorite guys in the whole world, Walter Dean Myers. I think Walter should get his own month. He was born in August. Let's rename it as "The Month of Walter."

    Thanks to my friend Jerry from high school, and my fellow author buddy Ellen, I am 88% of the way to my fundraising goal for the Lymphoma & Leukemia Society's Team in Training Half marathon. I am still offering a free audio version of TWISTED to the nice person who puts me over the top. You can donate here. If you want to cheer on my husband (who has to put up with my craziness for the next two weeks) donate to him - he's logging just as many training miles as I am, and he keeps the coffee hot for me.

    ETA I didn't watch any news yesterday, so I am just catching the news about the horrible campus shooting at Northern Illinois University. This is the fourth school shooting in America this week. Dear God in heaven, how do we keep all of our kids whole in body and mind?

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    16. 28 Days Later

    It’s almost that time again for The Brown Bookshelf’s annual campaign, 28 Days Later.


    During the month of February, The Brown Bookshelf showcases the best in picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels written and/or illustrated by African Americans.

    Be sure to check out the daily spotlights starting on February 1st. It should be an interesting month and a great opportunity to discover some books for kids and teens.

    You can also go to the Brown Bookshelf blog and download the 28 Days Later poster.

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    17. Smithsonian Black History Month Family Day Celebration ~ rescheduled for February 27th

    National Museum of American History
    Washington, D.C., USA

    Bring the whole family to the Smithsonian’s Black History Month Family Day Celebration. The day includes performances of an award-winning interactive theatrical presentation Join the Student Sit-Ins; a musical program, Sing for Freedom, which explores the central role of freedom songs in the civil rights movement; a puppet show by Schroeder Cherry, Can You Spell Harlem?; arts and crafts activities; and an “interactive bulletin board” that allows visitors to share their thoughts on the civil rights challenges still faced in the US.

    This event is free and open to the public. No reservations required. For more information click here.

    This is the first feature event of the 2010 Smithsonian Heritage Month family-day series, titled “Tapestry of Cultural Rhythms.” The series explores the dynamism of cultural expression. The Black History Month feature event is also part of the fiftieth-anniversary commemorations of the Greensboro sit-in at the National Museum of American History.

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    18. A Long Time Coming

    When I read this news, it made me cry.

    "About 15,000 African slaves and their descendants were once unceremoniously buried under what is today Manhattan— and forgotten.

    On Saturday, a new visitor center opened near the rediscovered cemetery from the 17th and 18th centuries to celebrate the ethnic Africans who had toiled, many unpaid, to help make New York the nation's commercial capital.

    "It's shocking — the number of people today who are still unaware that this history exists in New York," said Tara Morrison, superintendent of the African Burial Ground National Memorial.

    It's located a short walk from Wall Street, where African slaves once were traded."

    It was a good cry, what my kids used to call "happy tears." We are finally beginning to look at our shared history of slavery. We have to look at it in order to understand it. We have to understand it in order to learn how American culture became so poisoned with racism and prejudice. We have to learn, acknowledge, and own our history, so that we might become the nation we have always had the potential to be: a country where all people truly are treated and respected equally. That's my dream, too.

    Make your day better and read the entire article. The author got one thing wrong: New York did abolish slavery in 1827, but the statue had loopholes that left people in New York in bondage well after that year.

    It has taken centuries, but now we finally have recognition and respect for the people who deserve it the most: the African Burial Ground National Monument. I visited the site in its early days and was deeply moved. Any trip you take to Lower Manhattan needs to include this. (The monument's superintendent, Tara Morrison, was a wonderful resource when I was writing CHAINS.) Be sure to check out this photo essay to see more.

    If you've read CHAINS, you already know where this Burial Ground was.

    This is Manhattan around the time of the Revolution.

    Remember the Commons, where the traitor who planned on assassinating George Washington was executed, and where the British barracks and the jail were?

    The Commons is that triangle above. See the Water up there, too? That was the Collect Pond. The African Burial Ground was very close to the original Pond. In CHAINS, Isabel mentions it on page 112

    I'll keep my eye on the NPS website for the new monument and will be sure to add links to any classroom resources they put up in the new-and-improved version of my website.

    Since I'm on the topic of race and cultural heritage, this is a good time to link to

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    ONE CRAZY SUMMER, by Rita Williams-Garcia (Harper Amistad 2010)(ages 9-12). In the summer of 1968, eleven-year-old Delphine lives in Brooklyn with her father and grandmother and two younger sisters, Vonetta (9) and Fern (7).

    Delphine is the responsible one: organized and polite and always getting her sisters to behave, even if she can't stop all their fights before they begin.

    And when thier father decides the girls are to spend a month out in Oakland, with their mother Cecile, who walked out on them years before, Delphine will be put to the test. Cecile's not like ordinary mothers: she never hugs and she never lets any of the girls into the kitchen. All their meals are at the Black Panther community center or Chinese take-out. Worse, Cecile seems to hate their being there or the fact that the girls exist at all.

    Can Delphine keep her even keel while everything and everyone around her seems to be going crazy?

    ONE CRAZY SUMMER is insightful and poignant and, occasionally, funny. Williams-Garcia does an outstanding job of framing the turbulent era, while at the same time keeping the focus on, and the perspective of, Delphine herself. More than a period piece, ONE CRAZY SUMMER is an affecting and illuminating story of family and responsibility.

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    20. Nonfiction Monday Book Review: Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, by Laban Carrick Hill and Bryan Collier (Little Brown, 2010)

    Recommended for ages 5-10.  

    When author Laban Carrick Hill first learned the inspiring story of Dave the Potter, an outstanding 19th century folk artist, poet, and slave, he was determined to share Dave's story with young readers.

    He decided to tell Dave's story in free-verse, explaining the process of creating a pot from beginning to end.  With powerful close-up images of Dave's hands forming the clay on the potter's wheel, we read:  "Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat,/Dave's hands, buried/in the mounded mud,/pulled out the shape of a jar."  While the clay dries, we see Dave preparing the special "glasslike brown glaze to withstand time."  Finally, Dave inscribes his jar with a special poem, signing his name and the date.

    In an era in which few slaves learned skilled trades such as pottery, and slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write, Dave's works are particularly extraordinary; at the conclusion of the book, the author provides more details of the little that is known about Dave's life, and also reproduces a number of Dave's surviving verses. 

    The stunning illustrations by award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier (you can browse through the book using the OpenBook widget below) are inseparable from the text (Caldecott committee--have you taken a look at this one?)  Done in a palette dominated by the earth tones of the clay itself, the illustrations are done in a combination of watercolor and collage and show the step-by-step process of creating a pot.  The images are infused with a monumental and even spiritual quality which highlights the dignity of Dave's work.

    The book includes a brief bibliography of resources, both print and websites, about Dave.  Adults interested in learning more about Dave the Potter might be particularly interested in the award-winning book Carolina Clay:  The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave, by Leonard Todd, a descendent of Dave's master.

    In his dedication, illustrator Bryan Collier is particularly eloquent about this story, which he dedicates to all artists, and everyone who loves picture books:  "Because this story is really about the power of the human spirit, artistry, and truth, and that cannot be silenced by bondage of any kind."  You won't want to miss this new release--not only a wonderful book to enjoy and discuss, but one which can also be used to inspire both art and poetry lessons in school classrooms.  

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    21. Tween Tuesday Book Review: Zora and Me, by Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon (Candlewick, 2010)

    Tween Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Green Bean Teen Queen that highlights great reads for tweens.

    Recommended for ages 8-12.

    Zora and Me by debut novelists Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon is one of the most anticipated children's releases this fall, and has already received a starred review in Kirkus and was selected for both the Kids Indie Next List and the Fall Okra List from the Southern Indie Booksellers.

    The novel is inspired by the childhood of noted novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, perhaps best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.   I must admit that I have never read any of Zora Neale Hurston's novels, and had no preconceived notions about her life and work before reading Zora and Me, but considering that the novel is aimed at middle grade readers, we must assume that they would have little familiarity with Zora Neale Hurston's works either, except perhaps with some of the folktales that she collected, which have been published as children's books.

    The authors use Carrie, a fictional best friend of Zora, to narrate the story, which is set in Eatonville, the all-black community in Florida where Zora Neale Hurston grew up, in the year 1900. Zora, even in fourth grade, is famous for her storytelling, or her lying, depending on how you look at it. Or maybe she's just "crazy as a hoot owl," as she is described by one town resident.  But when she starts to tell wild stories of their reclusive neighbor Mr. Pendir being half alligator, half man, her classmate Stella has had enough.
    "You are too lying," Stella snapped.  "You the lyingest girl in town!  You are so lying, even when you tell the truth, it comes out a lie!"
    But no one cares, since "we all knew that nobody could tell a story better than Zora."  In fact the authors give us many clues that Zora is no ordinary child.  Carrie tells us that Zora "had a way of giving personality to everything in Eatonville.  Flowers alongside the road weren't just flowers.  One day they were royal guards saluting us on our walks home...that's how Zora saw things.  Everything in the world had a soul, and a soul to her meant being more than anyone counted on."  And she burns with curiosity, "shooting questions...like she was a popgun." 

    The authors at first seem to paint an almost idyllic picture of life in the Jim Crow South, with scenic ponds for swimming, old ladies who have "conjure power," plenty of time to wander in the woods finding baby pigs with their friend Teddy, and free licorice sticks from Joe Clarke's general store.  But when Old Lady Bronson falls off a ledge at the Blue Sink fishing hole, Zora is convinced that Mr. Pendir--transformed into an alligator--is somehow to blame.  The mystery deepens when a decapitated body is found by the railroad tracks that the children recognize as that of a stranger, Ivory, they had met in the woods.  Zora believes that she knows who--or what--killed him--the gator-man hybrid she has conjured up in her imagination.  But the real solution to the mystery is much more ordinary, as well as more frightening, than the c

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    22. A Historical Thriller: Forge, by Laurie Halse Anderson (Atheneum Books, 2010)

    Recommended for ages 10 and up.

    I was so excited to finally get my hands on Forge, the sequel to Laurie Halse Anderson's acclaimed Chains, which was a National Book Award finalist and the winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction.  About the only thing I didn't relish about Chains was the ending, which left the reader with a nail-biting cliffhanger in what felt like the middle of the story.

    If by some chance you missed Chains, you'll want to read it before delving into this sequel--the second volume of a planned trilogy.  Chains, set at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, focuses on the story of Isabel, a 13-year old slave owned by a prominent New York City family who support the British.  Isabel meets another slave, Curzon, with ties to the Patriots, and becomes a spy for the Patriot cause--with the hopes of obtaining her freedom.

    In Forge, the story begins where Chains ends, with Isabel and Curzon escaping to freedom, but the focus of the story quickly changes from Isabel to Curzon.  The two have separated again, with Isabel running away to try to find her sister and Curzon finding himself in the middle of the Battle of Saratoga, then enlisting in the Patriot army.  The irony of a slave fighting for the freedom of others does not escape Curzon, who attempts to argue his case with his friend and fellow soldier Eben.  Curzon questions whether bad laws deserve to be broken, but Eben is frustrated by Curzon's logic.  "Two slaves running away from their rightful master," he says," is not the same as America wanting to be free of England.  Not the same at all."

    But when the army arrives at the winter encampment at Valley Forge, white and black soldiers alike are unprepared to deal with the conditions there:  about 12,000 soldiers with no barracks, bitter cold, and no meat.  The author begins each chapter with a quote from a contemporary source, many of which are increasingly desperate reports from General Washington to the Continental Congress on the need for supplies of all kinds, from food to shoes to clothing.  Most days rations consisted of nothing but firecake, a mix of flour and water that tasted like ashes and dirt, and was "hard enough to break rat's teeth."  Anderson so successfully evokes conditions at the camp that we groan along with the men at their terrible conditions.  But the men manage to find a little humor in their situation..no food means "we've got nothing to fart with."  A special treat for Christmas is a piece of chewy pigskin to chew on (I'm assuming like the pigs ears people buy now for our dogs).

    Through all the hardship Curzon manages to keep secret that he is really an escaped slave, but he can't stop thinking about Isabel and what might have become of her.  Fate is to bring them together again at Valley Forge.  While General Washington and Baron von Steuben try to forge the raggedy American volunteers into real troops, Curzon and Isabel try to forge their way to a new relationship...are they more than friends or an ever-bickering brother-sister pair?  And can they in turn forge their way to a life of freedom  0 Comments on A Historical Thriller: Forge, by Laurie Halse Anderson (Atheneum Books, 2010) as of 1/1/1900
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    23. Blog Tour stop: Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix, by Gary Golio and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (Clarion Books, 2010)

    I am delighted to participate in the blog tour for an exciting new picture book biography of rock legend Jimi Hendrix, Jimi:  Sounds like a Rainbow, by Gary Golio, illustrated by award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe.

    At first glance, Jimi Hendrix, who tragically died at age 27 from a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol, may seem like an unlikely subject for a picture book.  But Golio, an artist and musician himself as well as an author, manages to bring to life Jimi as a young boy and his unique way of looking at the world.  What we might think of as ordinary sounds took on extraordinary colors to this musically gifted young boy.  "A child was laughing, squealing like a clarinet on one of Dad's big band records," writes Golio.  Music of all kinds set off "fireworks in his mind," and he begs for a guitar of his own.  With his guitar, he could make a "rainbow of sounds," and with these visual analogies, Golio explains how Hendrix taught his guitar to make unconventional sounds, using it "as an artist uses paint."

    Golio's text is set off by extraordinary collage illustrations by Javaka Steptoe which evoke the psychedelic colors and shapes of the 1960's.  The illustrations with their wild colors (i.e. Hendrix painted completely in shades of purple and blue) and varied textures suggest the rainbow of sounds produced by Hendrix' guitar.

    Jimi has already received starred reviews in Kirkus and School Library Journal and would be a great purchase for libraries as well as parents who would like to share one of rock's legends with their children.

    As part of the book's blog tour, Gary kindly offered to answer some questions for The Fourth Musketeer.

    Q: How and why were you drawn to Jimi Hendrix' story, especially that of his youth, and why did you decide to present it as a picture book?

    About eight years ago—while deepening my own playing of blues guitar—I kept coming across Jimi’s name. Reading about him in the classic biography, Electric Gypsy, I was struck by the tenderness and beauty of his childhood, elements that transcended the early poverty and family troubles. When I looked at all that through the lens of children’s books (my wife, Susanna Reich, is a longtime author), I envisioned a story that was both visual and appropriate for kids. Jimi’s tale is about the power of art, imagination, hard work and determination. I wanted to present Jimi to a new generation, freshly, beyond myth and misinformation. Some people will be surprised.

    Q: You have two other picture books on famous musicians set for publication in the next year, When Bob Met Woody, about Bob Dylan, and Spirit Seeker, on John Coltrane. What is in the planning stages for you at this point? Are you going to continue with a series of picture books on 20th century musicians?

    Even in children’s book publishing, the scheduling and order of books is unpredictable. The first two books I wrote were about Jimi and

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    24. Girl Power Book Review: Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged!, by Jody Nyasha Warner and Richard Rudnicki (Groundwood Books 2010) ISBN 978-0-88899-779-1

    Recommended for ages 5-10.

    My second Girl Power release for the week is the new Canadian picture book about Civil Rights pioneer Viola Desmond.  Like her better-known counterpart Rosa Parks, Viola refused to give up her seat--but in this case in a segregated movie theatre in 1946 Nova Scotia, rather than a city bus in 1955 Montgomery.

    The story is told in a folksy, oral-history tradition, with the narrator speaking directly to the audience, drawing us into this compelling story of racism and courage.  Viola, owner of a beauty salon, is forced to stop in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia when her car breaks down.  To pass the time, she decides to stop at the local movie theatre.  She finds the perfect seat, down in front, and before she can settle in to enjoy the movie, an usher tells her she has to go to the balcony.  When she refuses,  "They took Viola to jail.  Can you believe it?"  After being fined $20 (a lot of money back then) for "refusing to pay the proper ticket price," she was released.  The judge wouldn't listen when she said she was happy to pay for a downstairs ticket.

    Viola and black community groups decided not to put up with this segregationist treatment, and appealed her case.  Although the appeal was unsuccessful, the author points out that Viola's fight galvanized the fight against segregation in Canada, which was outlawed in the late 1950's.

    Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged! is the first book of Jody Nyasha Warner, a writer, editor, and former librarian who is particularly interested in African Canadian history.  The strikingly colorful acrylic illustrations by Canadian illustrator Richard Rudnicki add significantly to the story; on the publisher's webpage, you can click inside to see a number of two-page spreads from the book.  I particularly liked the artist's use of hot colors such as orange, red, and yellow, which lend an almost expressionistic color palette, enhancing the emotion of the story.

    The book includes an afterword which provides a brief, but fascinating, glimpse of African Canadian history, placing Viola's story in some context and also providing some biographical material on this Canadian civil rights leader.  The author also provides a few suggestions for additional reading on African Canadian history.

    This book would be a terrific addition to school library collections, and would be an excellent choice to read during African-American history month, giving students some insights into similar struggles that went on among our neighbors to the North.

    2 Comments on Girl Power Book Review: Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged!, by Jody Nyasha Warner and Richard Rudnicki (Groundwood Books 2010) ISBN 978-0-88899-779-1, last added: 11/11/2010
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    TRUTH WITH A CAPITAL T, by Bethany Hegedus (Delacorte 2010)(ages 8-12). Eleven year-old Maebelle T. is excited to be spending the summer with her musician grandparents in their newly-inherited antebellum mansion. But it turns out her newly-adopted cousin Isaac from Chicago, the trumpet prodigy, is going to be spending the summer there, too.

    Worse, Maebelle has been dropped from the Gifted and Talented program at her school. Can she find her talent in time for the town's anniversary celebration and return to Atlanta at summer's end? And what's with the deal with the mansion's locked wing?

    TRUTH WITH A CAPITAL T is an enjoyable, honest, and thought-provoking story of friendship, history, and family secrets. Told with humor and full of Southern charm and wit, TRUTH WITH THE CAPITAL T will have readers wanting to march right down to Tweedle, Gerogia in time for the festivities.

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