Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama

Written by Hester Bass
Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Lest the struggles for civil rights be forgotten, it’s important to look at the conditions along the road to freedom. Admittedly, we still have a long way to go due to hatred and prejudice. Many people fought and died for the incremental freedoms we now have. Riots and bombings happened many times. But, in Huntsville, a city that also saw the development of rockets for the space program, the movement forward was not marked by violence. Segregation was so strong that blacks weren’t even allowed to try on shoes. They had to carry outlines of their feet to the shoe store. For many weeks, blacks staged sit ins at lunch counters and left when asked or went to jail, sometimes with babies. Groups circled the courthouse with signs such as, “I Ordered a Cheeseburger, They Served Me a Warrant!” Finally, citizens remembered that white merchants relied so much on the revenue provided by blacks. For Easter 1962, a Blue Jean Sunday was declared. No money was spent on new clothes. Money was spent elsewhere whenever possible. Helium-filled balloons were released in the local parks. They carried messages of love and freedom. Rallies were conducted on both sides of the issue. At long last, schools were integrated. Many whites tried to prevent blacks from entering “their” school, but several white students also enrolled in the formerly black schools.
The story is greatly enhanced by the wonderful, action-filled illustrations of E.B. Lewis. The second grade reader can almost feel like she’s there, in the 1960s. A particularly poignant drawing of a young girl with impressions of her feet is memorable.

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  • Seeds of FreedomTitle: Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama
  • Author: Hester Bass
  • Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
  • Publisher: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, biography, history, civil rights movement
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6919-5
  • Extras: Detailed explanation of the events in Huntsville, bibliography

Pitter and Patter

Written by Martha Sullivan
Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

This colorful, creative nonfiction picture book traces the travels of two raindrops, named Pitter and Patter, throughout the narrative. Each raindrop follows a different path to the ocean.

Pitter lands in the valley and follows a stream. Patter plunks down in a meadow and follows the watershed. Each raindrop meets up with appropriate animals for the ecosystem being traveled through. All the sketches are detailed. Each double page spread is a look into one particular habitat. The text is sparse, readable, and complete. Readers will spend ample time studying the illustrations to understand the differences in how and where different animals live as well as how the water is moving always toward the ocean.

Pitter and Patter meet each other when they both reach the ocean. They are warmed by the sun’s rays, evaporate and return to the gray cloud above the sky. The diagrams as well as the story inclusion of the watershed and the water cycle clearly introduce, or reinforce these basic tenets of science, and therefore, definitely fulfill the core curriculum standards of elementary science. Literacy skills of reading for information standards will also be fulfilled in classrooms from kindergarten to grade 4 wherever this book is used.

Students can learn how to write about nonfiction topics and make their own diagrams to illustrate scientific facts from experiencing this book.

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  • Pitter and PatterTitle: Pitter and Patter
  • Author: Martha Sullivan
  • Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications, March 1, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-58469-509-7
  • Genre: Nonfiction, water cycle
  • Grade level: K to 4
  • Extras: Explore More Endnotes include diagrams of the water cycle, the watershed, more information about animals included in the book

Cinderella’s Secret Slipper

Written by Alinka Rutkowska
Illustrated by Konrad Checinski

Written tongue-in-cheek, this lively speculation on Cinderella’s life after marriage necessarily dwells on the what-if factor. What if Cinderella and the Prince had a princelet? What if that child is quickly growing up and using his parents’ possessions for who-knows-what? What if he breaks one of the famous glass slippers shortly before a formal event to which Cinderella wants to where the glass slippers? Can the slipper be repaired? Should it be repaired? Is it replaceable? Can the shoe store help? What about a glass store? Maybe the fairy godmother is the answer. Maybe someone else has a firy godmother.

Checinski’s colorful illustrations follow the story well and show all the action and emotion.

This is a great lesson in problem-solving and provides a good starting point for discussion of the appropriateness the use of various substances, such as glass for footware. As a read-aloud, this book would provide a starting point for such discussions. As independent reading for second grade and above, it provides good practice for literacy skills.

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  • CinderellaTitle: Cinderella’s Secret Slipper
  • Author: Alinka Rutkowska
  • Illustrator: Konrad Checinski
  • Publisher: Capraro Press, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: E-book, 36 pages
  • Grade Level: Pre-school to 4
  • Genre: Fiction, humor, family, folk tale
  • ISBN: 978-0983154754

About Mammals: A Guide for Children

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

Most mammals are beautiful and amazing. This book tends to reinforce that view. Detailed and realistic illustrations of many mammals are highlighted by simple text in the main section of this wonderful book. The author shows a wide range of mammals and habitats while still letting the reader know what makes a mammal a mammal. From bats to porcupines to whales, they’re all here. And they all have hair and drink milk from their mothers. Corresponding to each illustration plate is much more advanced information in the afterword. This section offers background information for teachers, librarians and parents to use when sharing this book with children. There is also a list of books for further reading and some current websites for use in further research.

Second grade readers as well as independent first grade readers will be able to enjoy this book on their own.

This volume is a new addition to the “About…” series from the Sills. Each of these books could be used to fulfill core curriculum standards in the area of science and nature. They would give children enough information and interest in the subject to continue to study mammals. Also, this is a bilingual version, giving access to more children and affords opportunities to learn more about another language.

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  • About MammalsTitle: About Mammals: A Guide for Children
  • Author: Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator: John Sill
  • Publisher: Peachtree, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN:  978-1-56145-800-4
  • Genre: Nonfiction, animals
  • Lexile: 300L

I Am Amelia Earhart

Written by Brad Meltzer
Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

An excellent addition to the series “Ordinary People Change the World” is this new biography about Amelia Earhart. Written in the first person, it is like a comfortable conversation between two kids.

It is exciting to read about Amelia’s early experiments with ramps and roller coaster carts in her grandmother’s back yard. She tells about her first ride aboard an airplane at a county fair which is something many young readers will have seen or experienced.

She talks about all the different jobs she had to do while trying to raise enough money for her flight lessons. The illustrations are great fun as we see the small cartoon version of Amelia driving a huge truck, taking stenography notes and posing as a photographer.

The text is sparse and accessible for beginning readers. It will invite them in and encourage them to keep reading this book as well as many others in the set.

Her recollection about the flight lessons is valuable as she tells her readers that she never was the best or fastest. Instead she was the one who worked longest and hardest at her lessons.

This is an excellent inspirational book for all young readers, but especially for young girls who might think their options are limited.

Core curriculum standards in the area of history, biography and literacy can be practiced and strengthened with this book. Readers will love being able to see real photographs of Amelia at the end of the book. It adds realism to the biography experience and shows what the early airplanes looked like. These photographs may provide a springboard for further research and perhaps even career dreams.

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  • Amelia EarhartTitle: I Am Amelia Earhart
  • Author: Brad Meltzer
  • Illustrator: Christopher Eliopoulos
  • Publisher: Dial Book for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-4082-2
  • Genre: Biography, history, nonfiction
  • Grade level: K to 3
  • Extras: photographs

As An Oak Tree Grows

Written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Seasons and generations all pass by as the acorn planted by a supposed Native American child grows. While the text is clear and sparse, the illustrations are full of detail that will delight kindergarten readers as well as third grade readers.

The oak tree grows while people clear the land around it and begin to build houses and families. A timeline across the bottom of the pages lets readers correctly interpret the historical changes in transportation, architecture and clothing shown in the pictures.

For the youngest readers, it is enough to see the tree grow and the seasons change. Older readers will quickly notice the more subtle changes in lifestyle recorded in the illustrations.

This book will satisfy the common core standards for science, history, nature, and literature in several of the elementary grades. It is a beautiful springboard into studies of community development.

Readers will get attached to the tree and feel some sadness at its passing, but hope wins out as a new little acorn sprouts right next to where the old tree stood.

The poster that is in a pocket in the back of the book is full sized and has the stump of the tree enlarged. The rings of the tree are marked with historical markers to show how each ring of the tree represents a complete year. It will make it more understandable for young readers to see how this one tree was present for two hundred years of America’s history.

On the back of the poster are several activity sheets that go along with the book and only help to enhance the information included. This would be an excellent addition to any classroom, school or home library.

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  • As An Oak Tree GrowsTitle: As An Oak Tree Grows
  • Author/Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulson Books/Penguin, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-25233-4
  • Genre: Historical fiction, realistic
  • Grade Level: K-3
  • Extras: Poster of the tree trunk, with historical labels on various rings, worksheets that go with the book are on the back of the poster.

Maddi’s Fridge

Written by Lois Brandt
Illustrated by Vin Vogel

After an afternoon of playing in the park, Sofia opens her friend Maddi’s fridge to look for a snack only to discover that it’s practically empty. Embarrassed, Maddi explains that her family doesn’t have much money for food. She begs Sofia not to tell anyone. Sofia promises she won’t.

Back home, Sofia sees her own fridge in a different light, stocked with all kinds of delicious things like milk, eggs, tortillas, salsa, carrots, and even a can of food for their dog. She wishes she could tell her mom about Maddi, but she made a promise. That night, she sneaks some of her fish dinner to give to her friend the next day. However:

Fish may be good for kids,
But fish is not good for backpacks.

This setback doesn’t keep the girls from their afternoon routine at the park. Maddi’s still the only one who can master the climbing wall, and she encourages Sofia to keep trying. She does – that night she tries again to bring Maddi some of her dinner.

Eggs may be good for kids,
But eggs are not good for backpacks.

On the third try, Sofia succeeds in bringing her friend something to eat. She also succeeds in making it to the top of the climbing wall, thanks to Maddi’s help all the way. And because friends help each other, Sofia decides she must break her promise. She tells her mother and together they buy groceries for Maddi’s family.

“A promise is important,” Maddi said.
“You’re more important,” Sofia said.

Kudos to Brandt for turning a serious social issue into a warm tale infused with humor and loads of heart. Second grade readers will love Vogel’s cheery illustrations, created with digital pen and ink and rich with detail. This book would be a wonderful addition to any classroom library – a perfect read aloud opportunity to discuss what it means to be a friend, how to help someone in need, and how some secrets should be shared with a trusted adult. The back page lists things kids can do to get involved plus a link to www.MaddisFridge.com, which offers activity pages, a curriculum guide for teachers and parents, and links to hunger organizations.

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Maddis FridgeTitle: Maddi’s Fridge
Author: Lois Brandt
Illustrator: Vin Vogel
Publisher: Flashlight Press, 2014
Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
ISBN: 978-1-9362612-9-1
Genre: Picture Book / Fiction / Social Issues

About Parrots: A Guide for Children

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

Brightly colored feathers draw young children to watch parrots in pet stores. This book for beginning readers will draw them in much the same way with its beautiful, full color illustrations. Various types of parrots are shown in diverse habitats. Each plate clearly shows the information stated on the text pages right down to the details like putting food in their mouths with their feet. Children and adults alike will enjoy studying the pictures.

The large, bold black font makes the one sentence of text at a time, non-threatening for young readers. Also on each page in much smaller print is the number and name of the illustration plate. For more detailed information, a higher functioning reader can turn to the back of the book and find more in-depth information. This section offers background information for teachers, librarians and parents to use when sharing this book with children. There is also a list of books for further reading and some current web-sites for use in further research.

Second grade readers as well as independent first grade readers will be able to enjoy this book on their own.

This volume is a new addition to the About…Series from the Sills. Each of these books could be used to fulfill core curriculum standards in the area of science and nature. They would give children enough information and interest in the subject to continue to study animals.

Extras: Afterword contains detailed explanations of each illustration plate that are on a much higher reading level. This section would be helpful for research projects.

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  • About ParrotsTitle: About Parrots: A Guide for Children
  • Author: Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator: John Sill
  • Publisher: Peachtree, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: hardcover
  • ISBN:  978-1-56145-795-3
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Lexile: 640L  / GrdK-3

 

What’s New? The Zoo! A Zippy History of Zoos

Written by Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by Marcellus Hall

 

Children love zoos and wondering how they got started is sure to amaze young readers.

Not surprisingly, it became the sport of the very rich and powerful. Kathleen Krull has done her research. The scant text tells of zoos from 4,400 years ago, in what is now Iraq to one 3,000 years ago in China, and one in 2009 in San Diego, California. Many others in between are included. She clearly explains that while zoos used to be mainly for showing off wealth or power, they are now used to protect animals. They are no longer placed in cages, but specific habitats are built to resemble their natural environments as much as possible.

Large colorful, watercolor illustrations enhance this brief history and development of zoos in the world. Children will be able to recognize the animals, parts of the world and approximate times in history from these carefully prepared images.

Teachers and librarians will be able to fulfill educational standards in the areas of science, history, literacy, geography, cultures, and art using this one text.

After reading this book, children will be ready and anxious to visit the zoo either online or in person. The list of sources in the back of the book provides many great zoo sites to visit.

  • Title: What’s New? The Zoo? A Zippy History of Zoos
  • What's New The ZooAuthor: Kathleen Krull
  • Illustrator: Marcellus Hall
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, July 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-13571-9
  • Genre: Nonfiction picture book
  • Grade level: Preschool to 3
  • Extras: Bibliographic Sources

Fly Away

Written by Patricia MacLachlan

Patricia MacLachlan continues to provide emergent readers with wonderful stories. This latest book is based on the words from a children’s song that was adapted from an Engelbert Humperdinck song. It tells of the birdies who fly away, but come back home.

Her main character, Lucy, is a young girl whose family is traveling back to the mother’s home in a poor, old overused, but much loved Volkswagen van with a pop-up top. Like many poor families, the children are unaware of their poverty because of the way the parents handle life with jokes and songs.

During the visit home to see the stubborn aunt who doesn’t want help, the river floods. While it rises, neighbors come to help move things and memories of the past flood into conversations.

The relationships between the young siblings is perfectly described. They share secrets as well as quiet strength with one another. One secret has to be shared publicly, though, when the littlest boy comes up missing.

Not surprisingly, it is a well-written book that children just beginning to delve into chapter books will enjoy greatly. They will be able to recognize themselves and their relationships to others within its pages. They will learn that we, like the birdies, often fly away, but then come back home.

Literacy teachers, second grade and third grade readers, librarians and parents will enjoy this book as they practice all their literacy skills, but more importantly just love reading.

  • Fly AwayTitle: Fly Away
  • Author: Patricia MacLachlan
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, April 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 128 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-4424-6008-9
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Grade Level: Grade 2 and above

 

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