Archive for History

Here Come the Girl Scouts!

Written by Shana Corey
Illustrated by Hadley Hooper

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Girls of all ages will enjoy this true story about Juliette Low and her founding of the Girl Scouts. It is a fun read with great illustrations and quotes from Juliette, who was always known as Daisy.

Third grade readers will enjoy reading this story independently and especially will like the short grouping of text around the illustrated pages. It will be a great book to use for developing picture clues as that is where much of the humor is found.

Readers will be encouraged to be brave, courageous and hard working in all that they do in order to succeed. But none of these things are described in a negative or dull way. Oh no, excitement and adventure is what the Girl Scouts expect out of life whether it is when camping out under the heavens or earning badges on how to cure hams.

The art work supports how multicultural the Girl Scouts are in welcoming members from all over the world. It would also provide an art teacher with many examples of what can be done with images in a book as the actual quotes are in a kid-printing type font while the narrative is in a regular typed font. Many literacy skills can be practiced and enhanced through this fun nonfiction story.

This book could be the beginning of a great writing activity for individual girls to use as a model for writing about their own lives and what they enjoy doing.  It is an introduction to girls to develop spunk, gumption and initiative.

While some might consider this a biography of Juliette Low, it only briefly refers to her childhood in terms of her near complete loss of hearing and how she overcame it. Then her development of the Girl Scouts is explained. No other information about her later life is included so it is really the history of the organization.

The last two pages of the book show cartoon caricatures of famous women who were Girl Scouts. Women like Lucille Ball, Gloria Steinem and Hilary Clinton are included as well as an empty frame labeled only as “you,” meant for readers.

This is the kind of book that will draw even reluctant readers to the nonfiction section of the library.

Extras: Added information is included in the end matter, but the reading level is comparable and can be handled by the same readers enjoying the body of the book. It will take a longer time and more intensely interested reader.

  • Girl ScoutsTitle: Here Come the Girl Scouts!
  • Author:  Shana Corey
  • Illustrator: Hadley Hooper
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2012
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover/40p
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-34278-0
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Lexile: 720

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail

Written by Richard Peck

Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

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With his signature gentle humor, Richard Peck hits another one out of the park. Or maybe out of the barn, to be more accurate. A mouse, small for his age and not quite grown, lives in the mews adjacent to Buckingham Palace. The time is September 1896, two days before the diamond jubilee for Queen Victoria’s sixty years on the throne. The mouse doesn’t know who he is or even what his name is. But he does know he was raised by his auntie Marigold after his mother died in childbirth. Mouse Minor, as he’s called by his classmates, has a distinctively shaped tail and a penchant for getting in scuffles with much larger mouse children. He learns that there is a mouse doing every job a human does, only the mouse does it better. Also, clothed mice must never be seen by humans. So, as a result of his latest scuffle with the larger boy mice, he sets off on adventure around the palace. He befriends and talks to a cat and a horse, rides in the horse’s ear, gets flicked out into a flower bed, and becomes a yeomouse of the guard. Eventually, he learns of his true identity and destiny.

Kelly’s illustrations are perfect additions to the tale, giving a real dimension to Mouse minor and his cohorts.

Third graders will get a big kick out of the many adventures of Mouse Minor. They will also love the plays on words and the little running gags. Mouse Minor’s stories about riding in the horse’s ear and swimming in a punch bowl are never quite believed. Everyone wants to know if he’s not quite grown or just small. And why is he pink with black flecks after a swim in the strawberry punch and ride in a pocket? Meanwhile, teachers can sneak in some reading activities related to the Victorian Era and the British monarchy.


  • Mouse with the Question Mark TailTITLE: The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail
  • AUTHOR: Richard Peck
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Kelly Murphy
  • PUBLISHER: Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Young Readers Group, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • FORMAT: Hardcover, 223 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-3838-6
  • GENRE: Fantasy, Humor, History

Just Behave, Pablo Picasso

Written by Jonah Winter

Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

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This biography of the first modern artist is designed for third grade readers and fourth grade readers and is a beautifully full-colored picture book illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. It tells the story of his life in a chronological manner. When he was in school, he worked faster and better than any of his classmates. He was very good at painting landscapes but became quickly bored and wanted to try something new.

He had a blue period and a rose colored period, but he always felt the need to move on and experiment with new subjects and techniques in the world of fine art.

This is the story of a true creative spirit. As soon as Picasso had mastered one technique, he moved on to something newer and more exciting. Some of his ideas came from visiting other museums, like the time he saw masks in an African display and went home to create a painting of various faces that looked like masks taken apart and rearranged in wild new ways.

Many of Picasso’s actual works are shown in this pictures of this book so students will be able to recognize them at other times and places.

Pablo studied and worked in both Spain and Paris. Sometimes the critics didn’t like his work or his new ideas. It hurt his feelings, but he went on painting true to his heart.

This book would be a great read aloud for any elementary or middle grade students. It should be included in any study of art comprehension. Literacy skills like sequencing, part to whole, picture clues and reading for details can be strengthened by using this book in a small or large group setting.

Children who need to have confidence in themselves and their ideas bolstered will find that kind of support in this story. Hopefully, it will help them keep their curiosity and creativity bursting through with unbounded energy.

Extras: This book contains pictures of Picasso’s work and in the back lists the names of the paintings, as well as in what Art Museums around the world they can be found.

  • Pablo PicassoTitle: Just Behave, Pablo Picasso!
  • Author: Jonah Winter
  • Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-13291-6
  • Genre:  biography, nonfiction
  • Lexile: NA

Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days

Edited By Michael Oren Fitzgerald

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A book of photos and quotes, the superb layout allows you to sneak into the camp with the Native American’s shown. We see mothers and babies, women working on beading, children playing with dolls and small bow and arrows. Children will be rightly fascinated by children of another era and another culture — children who had to learn to hunt and fish, and yet played with familiar toys of dolls and balls.

With each double-page spread divided into natural categories of mothers, fathers, children at play, etc., the writing comes from interviews with members of many different tribes. Some of these quotes are broad and philosophic “When you see a new trail you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing.” Others are specific recollections, paired with a photo of the toy in question, in this case a buffalo-rib snow sled: “In the summer we played lacrosse. In the winter we coasted upon the ribs of animals and buffalo robes.”

These are snippets from many individuals in many tribes about many different topics and  Fitzgerald points out that the individual talking represents only him or herself. Students might need to be reminded to be careful about generalization from one quote, but this is a minor quibble for a powerful and charming book.

Since most of the power comes from the pictures, the book is appropriate for pre-kindergarten, kindergarteners, and first graders. Second and third graders can probably read it for themselves. It is also a lovely book for fourth grade and above to page through and read, especially when students study their home state and learn about local Native Americans.

  • Children of the TipiTitle: Children of the Tipi: Life in Buffalo Days
  • Edited By Michael Oren Fitzgerald
  • Publisher: Wisdom Tales
  • Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
  • Paperback/hardcover/ebook: 42 pages
  • ISBN:978-1-937786-09-0
  • Genre:  nonfiction (history, science, nature, environmental, math, etc.), fiction (historical, fantasy, mystery, etc.)
  • Lexile Score: 680


Mister and Lady Day, Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her

Written by Amy Novesky

Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

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Getting third grade children interested in history is not always easy.  Mister and Lady Day has done an excellent job of grabbing the attention of young animal lovers and teaching them a little bit about the history of jazz.

Billie Holiday, or Lady Day, had many dogs, big ones and little ones, pure bred and “mutt”.  She loved her dogs.  But she did have a favorite.  Mister, her favorite, was with her almost all of the time.  She cooked for him and even made sweaters for him.  He loved her and protected her.  Lady Day “had to leave home for a year and a day”.  She did not sing for that entire time because she was so sad to be away from Mister.  She worried that he would not remember her.  But he did!  She began to sing again and on the night of her biggest show Mister was right where he always was when she was on stage, waiting in the wings.

What a wonderful way to integrate music and history into literacy.  This sweet story of the bond between Lady and Mister is an easy read.  The lovely illustrations help with comprehension for words such as “Chihuahuas”.  A picture walk for younger children would be a walk in the park with this book.

Learning about history and music is great.  However, there are social/family aspects that are much more subtle.  The text of the book does not tell why Lady Day “had to leave home for a year and a day”.  An author’s note at the end of the book tell that this time away was due to a prison stay for drug possession.  When teaching about the problems associated with drugs, children can more easily relate to being separated from a beloved pet than to the seemingly abstract notion that they might go to prison.  Then there is the reality that some children have parents (or siblings) who are away for a variety of reasons; military service, divorce, prison.  This book can help them understand that even though their loved one is gone, they are still much loved and not forgotten.

Amy Novesky ( and Vanessa Brantley Newton ( have done a masterful job of blending their talents to create this precious story of the loving bond between Lady Day and Mister.  Be sure to visit their websites to learn more about these talented women and their other works.

  • Mister and Lady DayTitle:  Mister and Lady Day, Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her
  • Author:  Amy Novesky
  • Illustrator:  Vanessa Brantley Newton
  • Publisher:  Harcourt Children’s Books
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • Hardcover:  unpaged
  • ISBN: 978-0-15-205806-7
  • Genre:  History (biography)
  • Lexile score:  580

Mr. Flux

Written by Kyo Maclear

Illustrated by  Matte Stephens

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First meet Martin, a boy so averse to change that he rides his old red bicycle because his new red bicycle is too new and scary to ride.  Next meet Mr. Flux, an artist who embraces change and loves to mix things up.  And now watch what happens when Mr. Flux gives Charlie a box full of change…

At first Charlie tries to return it, “because change is upsetting and we like things just the way they are.”  But Mr. Flux insists “…everything changes.  Look around you.  A dewdrop, a bubble, a cloud.  What stays the same?”

Soon Charlie is making some teensy-weensy changes.  And before you know it, as he spends more and more time with Mr. Flux, Charlie is not only making change but encouraging his family and neighbors to change too.

But the biggest change comes when Mr. Flux moves away, forcing Charlie to wonder “what if…nothing ever changed again?”

The lesson in this story is heavy handed at times, with a full spread of quotes in support of change.  But the whimsical illustrations and absurd behavior of the book’s characters coat the lesson with the type of sugar that third grade readers will love.

The message also comes in layers, addressing everything from art appreciation to friendship between people who confuse and puzzle each other.  And a surprising twist at the end increases reading comprehension with a fun play on words.

In a note from the author at the end of the book, readers are introduced to “Fluxus” an art movement that started in the 1960s and “brought together artists, filmmakers and musicians from all over the world who shared a love of humor and playfulness and change.”  In this sense, the author and illustrators have done a great job of showing Fluxus in action and encouraging readers to look at the world around them in a new way.

  • Mr. FluxTitle: Mr. Flux
  • Author: Kyo Maclear
  • Illustrator:  Matte Stephens
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press
  • Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
  • Book Length:  36 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-137-2 (hardback)
  • Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Art
  • Lexile Score: 840



Written and Illustrated by Demi 

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With a balanced and realistic approach, the author introduces third graders to the explorer, navigator, and entrepreneur. Columbus was not the altruistic explorer, as he has sometimes been painted. Nor was he the villain he was been named because of the treatment of Native Americans and the dismissal of the Viking landings. Despite the previous conventional wisdom, most people in the late 1400s realized that the world was round. What was unknown was the existence of the Americas and the distance across the ocean. Columbus was convinced the distance to Asia was much shorter than the actual distance to America. In fact, he never understood that he’d reached an entirely new world. He went for the riches and proved that many times by abandoning his crew so he could look for gold. He treated the Native Americans badly and basically managed to singlehandedly wipe out the Tainos. None of his four voyages to America went particularly well. And he definitely never found the palaces of Kublai Khan. But he did manage to draw a great deal of attention to the area and thus open up the Americas to European influence.

The real stars of the book are the elaborate illustrations. The intricate details show the world in which Columbus lived, including many of the creatures he encountered on his travels. The pictures practically tell the story and should enhance the reading skills of students.

As with any subject that is well-known to the general public, this is a good place to start. The publisher has innumerable books on the subject with which readers can continue.

  • ColumbusTitle: Columbus
  • Written and Illustrated By: Demi
  • Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Hard cover, 64 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0761461678
  • Genre: Picture book, Biography.


Meet Caroline: An American Girl

Written by Kathleen Ernst

Illustrated by Robert and Lisa Papp

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Meet ten-year-old Caroline Abbott, a girl growing up in Sackets Harbor, New York, across the lake from the British Colony of Upper Canada. In the summer of 1812, as she’s sailing with her father and cousins, Oliver and Lydia, she imagines someday being the captain of her own ship despite the fact that people think girls should grow up to become mothers who sew, cook, clean, and take care of babies. In the meantime, though, she has to learn everything she can so that she earns her father’s trust. That could be difficult, especially when she grabs for her toy after Oliver shouts, “Prepare to jibe! Trim the sheet!” Caroline knows better; yet, she lets go of the rail at a crucial time and goes skittering across the deck along with her top. She sees the disappointment in her father’s eyes when he admonishes her, but understands it. She could have been killed. This mishap soon becomes secondary, though, as three longboats bearing the British flag approach rapidly. Those on board find out the hard way that war has just been declared. The British soldiers claim the boat as their own, take the men as prisoners, and deliver the girls to their rightful homes. But Caroline, worried sick about her father, finds a way to help the war effort.

Putting themselves in her shoes, girls at the second to third grade levels will love to read about Caroline’s bravery and her plans to succeed in a men’s world. Being as exciting as it gets, the content will encourage reading comprehension for those readers possessing second to third grade reading skills. And, of course, teachers will love the Learning Guide. Meet Caroline, award-winning historical fiction at its very best, should be at the top of the second and third grade reading list.

Additional Resources:

Author’s Website:

Learning Guide:

Meet historical characters by American Girl:

  • Meet CarolineTitle: Meet Caroline: An American Girl
  • Author: Kathleen Ernst
  • Illustrators: Robert and Lisa Papp
  • Publisher: American Girl Publishing
  • Reviewer: Bonita Herold
  • Paperback: 91 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59369-882-9
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball

Written by David A. Kelly

Illustrator by Oliver Dominguez

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Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball written by David A. Kelly is the story and history of how Lena Blackburne’s mud went from a riverbank to the major leagues and all the way to the Hall of Fame! It is a story anyone interested in baseball facts and trivia would enjoy and is for readers as young as first grade to those in their senior years. I see this as a perfect book to be read to young readers by an avid baseball fan in that young reader’s life such as a mom, dad, uncle, aunt, or grandparent.

Lena Blackburne never became a famous ball player, but he did contribute to baseball in a major league way by unveiling a secret recipe to break in new baseballs. His recipe was so successful that baseball teams have been buying his tubbed mud for close to seventy-five years. In fact, Lena’s mud is the only thing that’s allowed on major league balls.

Readers are sure to appreciate Oliver Dominguez’s life-like illustrations that make you feel like you are on the baseball field ready to play ball with the touch and feel of Lena’s mud on your hands. Baseball history buffs will especially enjoy Kelly’s author note at the end.

Sports fans will also enjoy other books by David A. Kelly such as early reader title, Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse or Ballpark Mysteries, a series aimed at those at the first to fourth grade reading level and is about two cousins who travel to Major League ballparks across the country with Kate’s sports-reporter mother watching games and solving mysteries.

  • Miracle MudTitle: Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball
  • Author: David A. Kelly
  • Illustrator: Oliver Dominguez
  • Publisher: Millbrook Press
  • Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Hard cover:  32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-80920-4
  • Genre: picture book, biography, sports

Don’t Let the Barber Pull Your Teeth

Written by Carmen Bredeson

Illustrated by Gerald Kelley

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Part of the “Ye Yucky Middle Ages” series, this book walks kids (and parents) through the parts of public health that we all pay attention to: washing in dirty water, piles of poop, diseases, tooth decay, leeches and more. Life, in general, was gross, and, as the book points out, bathing was optional. Why use dirty water to wash in? Were the people of old just stupid?

No, Berdeson explains, these people weren’t stupid.  They just did not understand what germs were or how these germs caused diseases. Their medical treatments were based on what they could see, and what they imagined. Doctors bled patients to restore the balance of blood to all parts of the body and they drilled holes in the head to relieve headaches. Both ideas seem obviously dangerous today, but the logic is there.

Each chapter in this third grade level book addresses a different section of medieval life, ranging from the extremely personal life (where did the medieval people go to the bathroom), to the more public life (how the plague changed the socio-economic landscape for all time). Each chapter is also self-contained, which encourages the reading skills of reluctant readers, who may want a short piece of information instead of a longer story.

Bredeson’s narration is light, but not comic. In a few words, she puts the medical decisions made by these people into the context of their time. Explaining, for example, that surgery was a risky business: “People who survived surgery often ended up with massive infections. None of the surgical instruments were cleaned between operations.  However, medieval people did pour alcohol on wounds. They did not understand that alcohol kills germs, but knew it helped with healing.”

Readers will love the yuck factor of this book, and the others in the series. And they might brush their teeth more willingly when they read about the gross alternatives.

Other resources:

While not dating back to the Middle ages, these museums offer other history on health and medicine.

National Museum of Health and Medicine 

National Museum of Dentistry

  • Dont Let the BarberTitle: Don’t Let the Barber Pull Your Teeth:  Could You Survive Medieval Medicine?
  • Author: Carmen Bredeson
  • Illustrator: Gerald Kelley
  • Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-373-7
  • Genre: nonfiction, history and science



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