Archive for History

The Sound of All Things

Written by Myron Uhlberg
Illustrated by Ted Papoulas

Based on the author’s true story, this beautiful picture book follows a deaf man and woman and their hearing son as they venture out for a day at Coney Island. The man has a vague memory of sounds, and wants his son to describe all sounds vividly. The rollercoaster, the crash of ocean waves, a thunderstorm, the roar of the fireworks. But the young boy lacks the vocabulary for adequate descriptions. The library! What a great idea.

Papoulas does an amazing job of capturing the fun, excitement, and flavor of Coney Island in the 1930s. His vibrant and detailed illustrations make the reader part of the scene. The Brooklyn Bridge at both day and night and depictions of Coney Island are great.

This is a wonderful tool for learning about just how disabilities affect everyday life. The use of the library at the end is a sneaky, yet effective way to work on literacy skills and introduce a reading activity.

I tried to imagine what it was like to be deaf. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine being blind. But there was no way I could ever know what it was like being deaf.

This book and the one the boy finds help.

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  • Sound of All ThingsTitle: The Sound of All Things
  • Author: Myron Uhlberg
  • Illustrator: Ted Papoulas
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 36 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, Disabilities, Words, History
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-833-2

The Turnip

Written and Illustrated by Jan Brett

One tasty turnip turned out to be a problem in badger girl’s garden. It was a giant turnip. Such a giant turnip that not badger girl, badger brother, nor badger parents could get it out of the ground.

Jan Brett once again beautifully illustrated a well-loved Russian folk tale and told it with a surprising new twist readers will love. Nothing is more fun than knowing something about a story the main characters don’t even know.

This cumulative story told in the center of the pages is foreshadowed in the margins, as is Brett’s pattern. Young readers and listeners enjoy watching the story progress and develop from margin cameo to double page spread. In many instances, while children know who the new character is going to be, they can only guess at the upcoming action.

Teachers and librarians can fulfill core curriculum standards in literacy, art, and geography as they introduce folk tales from around the world. Parents will enjoy including this beautiful new Brett book to the read aloud collection for quiet time.

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  • TurnipTitle: The Turnip
  • Author/Illustrator: Jan Brett
  • Illustrator: Jan Brett
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-17070-6
  • Genre: picture book
  • Grade level: PreK to 3

Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed

Written by Lesléa Newman
Illustrated by Amy June Bates

Ketzel was just a kitten when the man, Moshe, found her cold and lonely on the street. They became great friends as Moshe worked on his musical compositions. Moshe was stumped after he received notice of the Paris New Music Review contest to highlight short compositions – less than a minute. As Moshe pondered the music in his head, Ketzel walked across the piano keyboard and picked out a beautiful tune. Moshe wrote down what he heard. It took twenty-one seconds to play. He sent it to the contest organizers. Ketzel didn’t win, but her tune got a certificate of special mention and was played at a concert, which Ketzel attended with Moshe. Her presence was revealed when she responded to her name at the introduction of the piece. Ketzel also got a royalty check for the composition, enough to buy several cans of cat food.

The illustrator has captured the whimsy of this great story.

Based on a true story, this lovely book is easily read independently by second graders looking to strengthen literacy skills. It’s a great reminder that talent can come in small packages. That talent only needs to be recognized.

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  • KetzelTitle: Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed
  • Author: Lesléa Newman
  • Illustrator: Amy June Bates
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: History, Music
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6555-5
  • Extras: Author’s Note

Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box

Written by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein
Illustrated by James E. Ransome

With recent challenges to voting rights by some states, it’s important to keep in mind the history of civil rights struggles. The Founding Fathers only guaranteed voting rights for white male landowners over 21. Slowly, the barriers have come down, but not without challenges. In the 1950s, many states were forced to allow blacks to vote, but many found a way around that by making requirements such as the so-called literacy test. Poll judges were allowed to randomly (meaning for blacks only) present potential voters with complicated texts and require them to interpret the text.

In this beautifully and vividly illustrated picture book, the authors tell of a black farmer trying to vote for the first time. When he is turned away, his grandson understands the fervent hope of his granddaddy and vows to vote in his granddaddy’s place one day. With references to the hard work granddaddy does and the loving guidance Granddaddy provides, the reader can identify with the characters and sense the importance of the vote. The tears Granddaddy sheds at being denied his rights is a great touch.

Second grade readers will learn a lot about civil rights history and citizenship. Although this is fiction, it could be anyone’s story.

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  • Granddaddys TurnTitle: Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box
  • Author: Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein
  • Illustrator: James E. Ransome
  • Published: Candlewick, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 4
  • Genre: Fiction, History, Diversity
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6593-7
  • Extras: Author’s Note

The Bingity- Bangity School Bus

Written by Fleur Conkling
Illustrated by  Ruth Wood

Fans of, The Poky Little Puppy, and, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, might also remember this Bingity-Bang School bus that sounds like a thousand tin cans. When Busby hears talk about how banged up and rickety he is becoming, he fears he is an embarrassment to the school children. He runs away, literally. After he goes flying down a hill he ends up rolling over and over crashing into a field. The children send out a search party and end up forcing the town to fix their pal, the school bus.

Today’s young readers will enjoy reading books that their grandparents read. But they will also be surprised at how many more words are in this picture book than in those they have become used to reading.

Literacy skills will be strengthened and this book can start interesting discussions about how the publishing industry has changed over the years. Parents, librarians and teachers can use this book to meet core curriculum standards in history and culture by talking about the community represented in this book. Do all children still ride busses? Do all children in a town go to the same school? Is it up to the town to pay for fixing the school bus?

Because of the heavier text, second and third grade readers are more likely to read this book independently than are first graders. The younger folks will love having it read to them while they study the brightly colored illustrations.

Favorite books from the Wonder Book line originally published in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s are being reprinted by G & D Vintage, which is under the umbrella of Grosset & Dunlap. This is one of the reprints in the set.

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  • Bingity-Bangity School BusTitle: The Bingity- Bangity School Bus
  • Author: Fleur Conkling
  • Illustrator:  Ruth Wood
  • Publisher: G & D Vintage, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-448-48763-2


The Impossible Voyage of Kon-Tiki

Written and Illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

Publishers are starting to reveal fall titles, and fall is looking good!

Scientists agree that the people of the world began in one region and slowly scattered across the globe. But there is very little agreement how the scattering occurred. Just a lot of theories and speculation. After spending a year living among the Polynesians on Fatu Hiva, Thor Heyerdahl speculated that Polynesians crossed the vast Pacific on rafts from Peru. The folk stories and similar names were enough to make him wonder. Of course, few people believed such a journey was even possible. Heyerdahl and his crew proved it was possible. They lashed together balsa wood with hemp rope and fashioned a single mast and a bamboo cabin. Navigation was by sextant, and much of their food was from the sea. Rogue waves and a storm were nearly enough to cause them to issue a distress call from their radio, but they stuck with it and reached Polynesia. No one will ever know for sure that ancient people made this voyage, but Heyerdahl proved it could have happened.

The story so fascinates readers that Heyerdahl’s original account of the voyage was translated into seventy languages and is still in print sixty years later. Ray’s beautiful illustrations give the reader the feeling of being there for the voyage and encourage the desire to travel to the places mentioned.

Second graders will learn about anthropology, Polynesia, and rugged travel. They will also get a chance to hone literacy skills and learn that the seemingly impossible may not be.

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  • Kon-TikiTitle: The Impossible Voyage of Kon-Tiki
  • Author/Illustrator: Deborah Kogan Ray
  • Published: Charlesbridge, October 13, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 5
  • Genre: Nonfiction, anthropology
  • ISBN: 978-1-58089-620-7


Maya & Filippo Visit San Francisco

Written by Alinka Rutkowska
Illustrated by Konrad Checinksi

Great new addition to the Maya and Filippo series.

Arriving on a cruise ship, Maya and Filippo set off to explore San Francisco with their mother. Their time is limited, so they try to plan their sightseeing in advance. Mother lists the most famous features of San Francisco for them to consider. Of course, the children have completely different ideas of what would be fun. They try to go to Alcatraz but find all the tickets sold out for that day. A cable car takes them up and down the hills. Their picnic in Yerba Buena Gardens is cut short by rain, a common occurrence in the city. So they have lunch in a café on Union Square. At Fisherman’s Warf and Pier 39, they watch the sea lions play. Feeling bad that they didn’t have time to go to the Golden Gate Bridge, they board the ship and realize the ship will pass directly under the bridge.

The illustrations are very colorful and convey the delight of exploring new territory.

Second grade readers will increase their literacy skills and comprehension through the adventures. They will learn about the geography and history of San Francisco. The author even includes a quiz to be sure the reader has learned something. Readers will also learns that compromise is a good way to be sure everyone has a great time.

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  • Maya-Filippo-San-FranciscoTitle: Maya & Filippo Visit San Francisco
  • Author: Alinka Rutkowska
  • Illustrator: Konrad Checinski
  • Published: 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 2
  • Genre: Fiction, social studies, travel, compromise
  • ISBN: 978-1506126715

Sona and the Wedding Game

Written by Kashmira Sheth
Illustrated Yoshiki Jaeggi

Weddings are events surrounded by mystery for young children. We look forward to the excitement and fun, but sometimes feel a little left out. In this story, we learn how one tradition within the Eastern Indian community deals with that feeling. This is, after all, the first wedding Sona has ever attended.

The young sister of the bride is given the task of stealing the groom’s shoes during the ceremony. This seems like an odd task until you realize he will take his shoes off for the ceremony. If she is able to steal his shoes then he must bargain with her to get them back. This seems like a lovely tradition intended to help bring the siblings of the new family together.

Sona is nervous, of course. She can’t think of any way to steal his shoes during the ceremony for a long time. But, in the end, she is successful. Readers will wonder what she will want to bargain with the groom for to get his shoes back, some will already know what she wants.

Included in this story of tradition, is the painting of hands and the application of kumkum on the forehead of the groom for good luck. Parts of the wedding ceremony itself are included such as praying to Lord Ganesh and having the priest tie together the sashes of the bride and groom.

The illustrations of traditional clothing, garlands and surroundings are stunning. The watercolors are bright and authentic.  It is a truly beautiful book.

Teachers, librarians and parents of elementary children will enjoy this look into the wedding traditions of East Indian Americans. Second grade and third grade classrooms can fulfill the core curriculum standards for literacy, art, culture, history, and traditions by using this beautiful book. There are also several vocabulary words introduced in the text that would be familiar to some children of East Indian descent, although the author’s note is quick to say that India is a large country and not all the traditions are kept the same in every region.

Still, this is a beautiful look into a world we may not all have visited yet.

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  • SonaTitle: Sona and the Wedding Game
  • Author: Kashmira Sheth
  • Illustrator: Yoshiki Jaeggi
  • Publisher:  Peachtree, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 973-1-56145-735-9
  • Genre: Fiction – East Indian Customs, Weddings, East Indian Americans
  • Grade level: PreK to 4
  • Extras: Author’s Note further describes the wedding traditions and tells a little bit about how they are changing over time.

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

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
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