The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, Poet

Written and Illustrated by Don Tate

Who would have thought a man who taught himself to read could come up with such beautiful poetry? While selling his master’s fruit at a university, George’s use of language caught the attention of college students. The students commissioned him to write love poetry for them, helped him learn to write, and to learn about literature and history. George paid his master to let him write full time and eventually published a volume of poetry, The Hope of Freedom. His master refused to let him buy his freedom outright, though. Eventually, the Emancipation Proclamation brought an end to his servitude and George moved west with the army.

Horton’s is an important story that should be covered in literature and in history. The Civil War was fought by human beings about human beings. Horton took great risks seeking his freedom. After he published his first volume of poetry, North Carolina outlawed speaking out against slavery and also outlawed teaching slaves to read and write. After that, Horton restricted himself to non-political poetry. He also published an autobiography, used by the author of this book. Tate’s illustrations help to bring the poet’s story to life. This could be read aloud in a classroom to stimulate discussion.

Buy on Amazon

  • George Moses HortonTitle: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, Poet
  • Author/Illustrator: Don Tate
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 36 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Biography, Poetry, History
  • ISBN: 978-156145-825-7
  • Extras: Extensive bibliography, Author’s Note

Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey

Written by Bill Harley
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson

There’s something for everyone in this lively tale of Charlie Bumpers and a Thanksgiving Day. Charlie is the quintessential middle child, picked on by both his older brother and younger sister. When his teacher assigns the class to define family, all he can think of how badly things have gone at home. The teacher is less than thrilled with Charlie’s definition, so he has to observe the family over the holiday and come up with a new definition. In addition to putting up with a whole house full of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors, Charlie has to share his room with the most annoying cousin on the planet, Chip. Add in a trick bathroom door knob, a casserole of Brussels sprouts, and a homemade bottle rocket, and you have a hilarious yet touching book. Of course, Chip ends up shooting himself in the foot with all his antics. Charlie’s final definition for family is, “People who love you and accept you, even when you’re a bozon.” (A bozon is a bozo-moron.)

Third graders will practice their literacy skills while learning about interpersonal relations and what families can mean. There are plenty of wonderful illustrations to add to the fun.

Buy on Amazon

  • Charlie BumpersTitle: Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey
  • Author: Bill Harley
  • Illustrator: Adam Gustavson
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 160 pages
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Genre: Family, Holidays, Friendship
  • ISBN: 978-156145-835-6

The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can

 

“Achieveable,” Really? Girls going to school? Not born in Zimbabwe during the war. Then girls rarely got to attend school. Only after she grew up and had children of her own was Trent encouraged by the women of her village to learn to read. They needed her to read letters from their faraway husbands.

This beautifully illustrated story is based on the true life experiences of Dr. Tererai Trent, who now hold many degrees and is an advocate for learning and education world-wide.

Traditional values, beliefs and thatched roofed homes are described and illustrated in this full color book. Teachers, librarians, and reading specialists will fulfill core curriculum standards in geography, history, and literacy by using this book with grade three readers.

It also highlights the good possible accomplished by just one person in advocating and supporting education. While Trent dreamed of education in Zimbabwe, it became a reality in America, as she explains in the body of the text as well as in her author’s notes.

Buy on Amazon

  • Girl who buried her dreamsTitle: The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can
  • Author: Dr. Tererai Trent
  • Illustrator: Jan Spivey Gilchrist
  • Publisher: Viking, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-670-01654
  • Genre: Non-fiction, biography
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Extras: Author’s Note, Afterward

Goodnight Selfie

Written by Scott Menchin
Illustrated by Pierre Collet-Derby

As mobile phone users get younger and younger, the devices are used for more and more fun ideas. With the advent of celebrity selfies and many apps, kids know about all the ideas even before they have their own phones. This is the story of a young girl who gets a hand-me-down from her brother and feels compelled to take selfies while doing everything she does. When her mother suggests taking photos of other things, she decides dubs them elsies. And she takes many elsie-selfies. Of course, she doesn’t want to go to bed, and takes one more selfie – a goodnight selfie.

The illustrations add a lot to the story, especially given that the story is about illustrations. The cute quality captures the whimsical nature of selfies.

This is a fun read aloud for younger children, with whom parents and teachers can discuss the importance of not focusing only on oneself. Third graders may even have their own phones and can read independently about fun things to do with those phones.

Buy on Amazon

  • Goodnight SelfieTitle: Goodnight Selfie
  • Author: Scott Menchin
  • Illustrator: Pierre Collet-Derby
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Identity, Family
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-3182-6

An A from Miss Keller

Written and Illustrated by Patricia Polacco

Teachers from childhood have given Patricia Polacco several good stories. In this one, readers find out how Patricia came to be a writer. She was chosen to attend a special class with the best writing teacher, but her reputation as killer Keller for her difficult disposition, made going to class frightening. Miss Keller only wanted one thing from her students. Perfection. She never gave anyone an A.

Patricia found the required perfection when she wrote about her beloved neighbor, Pop. She found her way to express love on paper. Her narrative essay was so true to life, poor old killer Keller had no choice but to give it an A. Which is exactly what Polacco fans will do with this new addition to their collection. Teachers, parents, librarians and grade three readers, in particular, will adore this story and use it well in meeting all the standards of core curriculum for English, reading, art, and life.

Buy on Amazon

  • An A From Miss KellerTitle: An A from Miss Keller
  • Author/Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-16691-4
  • Genre: Picture book
  • Grade level: K to 3
  • Extras: Included is an author’s note explaining the importance of the main characters in her own past.

The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune

Written and Illustrated by P.J. Lynch

The beautiful and realistic illustrations in this engaging new book are a big part of the little-known story of one of the original settlers near Plymouth Rock. John Howland was a young servant indentured to William Bradford, leader of the Pilgrims and first governor of the Massachusetts colony. When the group set out on the two-month journey to America, John was obliged to come along. Lynch’s book gives a detailed version of the trek, from the loading on of supplies in London, to the various stops before leaving England, to the perils of the ocean crossing and setting up life on the new shore. During a storm at sea, John ventured out on the deck, only to be swept overboard. Luckily, a bolt of lightning showed him where a rope was hanging over the side of the boat, and he was rescued.

The Pilgrims were actually two groups who set out for Virginia. They merged when one of the ships set to transport them proved unseaworthy. The bad weather on the passage carried them two hundred miles north of their destination, but they decided to settle there anyway. Sickness, exposure, and starvation took out half the population in the first winter. The native Americans were wary but helpful. Squanto knew English as a result of being enslaved for a period. John Howland intended to return to England to make his fortune but decided to remain in New Plymouth.

Third graders and up will benefit greatly from this exciting tale. They will learn a truer history of the Mayflower and the first Thanksgiving. They can polish their literacy skills as well.

Buy on Amazon

  • Boy who fell offTitle: The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune
  • Author/Illustrator: P.J. Lynch
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 64 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 5
  • Genre: History, Narrative Nonfiction
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6584-5

Dolley Madison Saves George Washington

Written and Illustrated by Don Brown

Fire! Fire in the White House! Run away, run away, but Dolley Madison didn’t run away. She stopped to save the famous portrait of George Washington. It wasn’t a quick trick, either because the frame was too heavy to manage. She instructed some workmen to cut the portrait out of the frame and carry it to safety.

Don Brown’s biography begins with information about Dolley, including her charm, her ability to hostess wonderful parties, and her remodeling of the White House. He also tells readers how Dolley was actually related to George Washington by marriage.

The muted colors used in the illustrations are representative of the time. However, children will enjoy the great amount of action depicted in the story and the pictures. Teachers and librarians can use this biography to meet the core curriculum standards in literacy and American history. The author’s note also includes an interesting discussion about the many spellings of Dolley’s name. Students might use this as a springboard to studying other names with multiple meanings.

Buy on Amazon

  • DolleyTitle: Dolley Madison Saves George Washington
  • Author/Illustrator: Don Brown
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardback, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-544-58244-6
  • Genre: Nonfiction Picture Book, Biography
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • Extras: Author’s Note, Bibliography

The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones

Written by Will Mabbitt
Illustrated by Ross Collins

Blimey! Don’t pick your nose or you could get captured by pirates! No matter how many times some children are warned, they still do it, Mabel Jones is one guilty girl. One minute she is wearing her pajamas and in her own bedroom. Then silence. Captured and plopped aboard a pirate ship, she is required to help find some missing treasure before the comet flies over if she has any desire of getting back home.

This mismatched batch of pirates are hilarious. First, they are completely disgusted to realize their new crewmate is a girl. Until they realize she can read. Now they know she is brainy and can be of help to them. Even the strange creature who captured her ends up loving her, because she is kind to him.

Everything about this adventure is entertaining and fun. Even the varying sizes of fonts make it a fun read and give the appearance of fewer words than might be expected in this long a book. Good readers will devour this story and reluctant readers will stick with it all the way to the end. Pen and ink sketches help the characters and story come alive, though, the text does that extremely well.

While there are some misspelled words, as one might expect of pirates, the spellings are phonetic so children readers will translate them happily.

Teachers and librarians can introduce this in read aloud form. Literacy skills dealing with fantasy, world building, context clues and character development will all be met within the core curriculum. English teachers can easily use these stories to propel their students’ own writing into the world of the future.

Buy on Amazon

  • Mabel JonesTitle: The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones
  • Author: Will Mabbitt
  • Illustrator: Ross Collins
  • Publisher: Viking/ Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 290 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-451-47196-3
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Grade level: 3 to 6

Boy, Were We Wrong About the Weather

Written by Kathleen V. Kudlinski
Illustrated by Sebastia Serra

Does your big toe hurt? Is the sky red at night? There have been many different myths in various cultures over the generations to explain the weather. While some might be right, many others have been proven wrong by scientists and their research.

Colorful illustrations, including weather pattern diagrams, help compare the myths of the past with the truth as it is understood today. In an optimistic and challenging ending, the book even suggests that one of today’s young readers will someday be a scientist looking back on us today and saying, “Boy, we were wrong about the weather.”

Accurate weather terminology is used throughout the book with clear definitions where necessary. It will be helpful to the youngest students as they are introduced to weather science for the first time.

As a read aloud, teachers and librarians can use this in kindergarten and first grade. Second and third graders will be able to read it independently. While they might not recognize some of the ancient peoples mentioned, it is a well done look at myths being disproven by science. It will fulfill core curriculum standards for science and literacy in the elementary grades.

Buy on Amazon

  • WeatherTitle: Boy, Were We Wrong About the Weather
  • Author: Kathleen V. Kudlinski
  • Illustrator: Sebastia Serra
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-3793-8
  • Genre: Non-fiction, science, weather
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • Extras: Timeline of Weather Science, related websites

Who Was Beatrix Potter?

Written by Sarah Fabiny
Illustrated by Mike Lacey

Not everyone born to wealth loves it. Case in point, Beatrix Potter. She was born to a wealthy family in 1866 London, but wealth tied her hands. Well, perhaps, not completely wealth. It was also the time in which she was born. A wealthy young woman was not supposed to study science, draw animals or make her own living.

But that is exactly what Beatrix wanted and finally accomplished. It is sad how long it took success to find her, but perhaps the illness and loneliness actually helped her become a better storyteller.

Young readers will be amazed to find out how her stories began. They were letters she wrote to a little boy who was sick. She didn’t know what to write to him about so she told him a story about a young rabbit named Peter who got into a garden.

It is fascinating to read what Beatrix did with all the money she earned from her stories and illustrations. She helped make the world a better place with her stories and saved the part she loved best for future generations to enjoy.

Fabiny wrote a smooth and engaging narrative that reads as comfortably as a letter.

Educators will use this to fulfill core curriculum standards in history, biography, art, and literature. Librarians will use it to introduce a famous author and her wonderful books. Art teachers will use it to show how precise her illustrations were, and to encourage their students to practice over and over again their drawing of real subjects. This is a beautiful addition to Penguin’s, “Who Was?” series.

Order on Amazon

  • Beatrix PotterTitle: Who Was Beatrix Potter?
  • Author: Sarah Fabiny
  • Illustrator: Mike Lacey
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap/ Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 112 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-448-48305-4
  • Genre: Biography
  • Grade level: 3-7
  • Extras: Timeline, Bibliography, related web sites
« Older Entries Recent Entries »