Highlights from our Middle School List….

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been featuring some of the titles on Inly’s summer reading list, beginning with picture books for young readers. This week – our middle school students. Books for “tweens” have changed a lot over the past ten years. The books still focus primarily on identity and self-discovery because that’s what kids between the ages of 12 and 14 are figuring out. The difference is that contemporary novels grapple with issues on the front burner far more directly than they did when I was in middle school (or junior high as we called it in Ohio). Today’s young adult books tackle, among other issues: gender identity, social media, climate change, refugees, race, social justice issues, and sexual orientation. Young people have a lot to navigate, but there are lots of good books to pave the way.

Here are five of my favorites on Inly’s middle school list:

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

“…Alicia D. Williams’s stunning debut novel…explores racism within the black community, creating a fully realized family with a history of complex relationships to one another, and to their own skin colors. The suburban school where Genesis finds herself navigating a diverse cast of friends and foes is no less vivid…But the standout voice in this tender and empowering novel—reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, but appropriate for a much younger audience—belongs to Genesis herself, as she discovers a truth that we adults would do well to remember: Growing up isn’t just about taking responsibility for the happiness and well-being of others. It’s also about learning what you can and should fix, and what you cannot. As Genesis discovers, there is no true reinvention without self-acceptance.” (New York Times Book Review)

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

“Gansworth, himself an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation, explores the boys’ organic relationship with generosity and tenderness and unflinching clarity, sidestepping stereotypes to offer two genuine characters navigating the unlikely intersection of two fully realized worlds…. And although Gansworth manages the weighty themes of racism and poverty with nuance and finesse, at its heart, this is a rare and freehearted portrait of true friendship.” (Booklist, starred review)

Beast Rider by Tony Johnston

Beast Rider is a short book, coming in at 176 quick pages, a good choice for readers toward the younger end of the Y.A. spectrum…Given that the plight of Latinos fleeing to the North is such a big and important subject, it’s impressive how much information Johnston and Fontanot de Rhoads are able to share, so economically: the violence migrants face during their journey to the States, the help from strangers they receive along the way, the danger that can be found at the border, and the challenges that new immigrants face when they’re in the United States. This novel is as sharp as it is brief.” (New York Times Book Review)

Operatic by Kyo Maclear

“Taking on friendships, crushes, cliques, and music culture, Maclear offers an honest, deeply respectful look at what is at the core of belonging and isolation for teenagers. Charlie Noguchi narrates her middle-school existence through the lens of her music teacher’s assignment to “choose a song for this moment in your life and write about it.” She pines for Emile, a quiet aspiring entomologist, and wonders about the mysterious prolonged absence of Luka, a femme boy who sings like an angel and once disturbed kids and adults at school with his unapologetic fabulousness…When Charlie, Emile, Luka, and friends find the courage to express themselves together, their music creates a rainbow. With poetic words and pictures, Maclear and Eggenschwiler create a synesthetic experience that captures all the high and low notes of youth.” (Publishers Weekly)

White Rose by Kip Wilson

“Sophie Scholl was a young German student who wanted to see the end of Hitler and the Nazi regime. She gave her life for that cause. As children, Sophie and her brother Hans were enthusiastic members of Hitler Youth organizations. But as the Nazis’ chokehold increased and the roundups and arrests of dissenters and Jews escalated, they became determined to resist. After conscription into the National Labor Service, Hans, Sophie, and trusted university friends formed the secret White Rose resistance group. Hans began to compose treasonable leaflets, promoting an uprising against Hitler. Sophie helped get the leaflets out to influential people as well as to other university students. Their work attracted the attention of Nazi sympathizers, who informed the Gestapo of suspicious activities—and they were ultimately caught by a university custodian. Intensive interrogation and imprisonment, followed by a sham trial led by a fanatical judge, led to the sentence of death by guillotine. Organized in repeated sections that move forward and backward in time, readers hear Sophie’s thoughts in brief, pointed, free-verse poems in direct, compelling language…..Real events made deeply personal in an intense, bone-chilling reading experience.” (starred review, Kirkus)

School is out for the summer so I’m going to step away from the blog for a few weeks. I have lots of reading to do! And so, apparently, does this baby —

Happy Reading!

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Required Books, Toddler Books, and My Books

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It’s summer reading list season! As always, I began by selecting the required books for each level. This is Inly’s “one book” program – a book to create a starting point when the kids return to school September. This year’s titles are:

Children’s House

The Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan (This gentle story of a watchman who finds a kitten on a construction site is a 2018 picture book standout. As the man continues his rounds, he keeps his eyes open for his new little friend, and of course, they are reunited. What struck me the first time I read Sullivan’s book is how rarely a picture book puts a man in the role of protector and caregiver – not to mention that man must be the only security guard who is at the center of a picture book. This book celebrates work, family, and caring.)

Lower Elementary

Our grade 1-3 teachers are trying something new. I shared some ideas with them, and faced with so many good books, they selected three – and are asking their students to select one (or all three!) to read over the summer. The books are:

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (a 2019 Newbery Honor book)

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson (the 2016 winner of the Newbery Medal and a Caldecott Honor book)

Night Job by Karen Hesse and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (the recipient of three starred reviews, this book is the story of a bond between a father and his son. The New York Times review read, in part: “Karas’s dusky paneled art gives a feel of enchantment and adventure as the boy sweeps floors, shoots hoops, reads and falls asleep while Dad finishes working. He’s added an extraordinary dignity and tenderness to this picture of working-parent reality and a loving, physically close father-son bond.”)

Upper Elementary

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (A classic – and Newbery winner – that we’ve selected as summer reading before, but the kids and the teachers love it. Applegate’s novel about the friendship between Ivan, a captive gorilla, and Ruby, a baby elephant, is a powerful story about friendship and courage.)

Middle School

New Kid by Jerry Craft (A new graphic novel about a black boy navigating life in two different worlds: an upscale private school where he is one of the few kids of color and his Washington Heights neighborhood)

And the Toddlers…

Our toddler program does not have one book, but rather they receive a list of new books for very young children. I wanted to look beyond the toddler classics like We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, as wonderful as they are, and suggest books that were published in the past couple of years.

B is for Baby by Atinuke

And Toddlers!  This story is more than a book about the Letter B.  Look at the illustrations closely to see what happens after the Baby falls into a Basket of Bananas.

And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner

A celebration of summer’s unique joys: lemonade, fireworks, parades!

Eric Carle’s Book of Many Things by Eric Carle

It’s all in here – food, feelings, things in the ocean and on the farm – with Carle’s signature tissue paper and watercolor art work.

Rhymoceros by Janik Coat

A funny book about a blue rhinoceros and rhyming words.

Snakes on a Train by Kathryn Dennis

This train’s passengers – and crew – are snakes.  Bright colors and wonderful word play.

Oink by David Elliot

A pig thinks he is going to have a quiet bath time, but a horse, a sheep, and a donkey have other ideas.

These Colors are Bananas by Jason Fulford

An innovative and interactive approach to colors that will expand your child’s view of the world around them.

Puppy Truck by Brian Pinkney

A little boy wants a puppy, but gets a truck.  That’s okay with Carter – he puts a leash on his truck and they head to the park!

One Is a Pinata by Roseanne Greenfield Thong

Count in English and Spanish while looking at colorful seasonal festivals.

How to Give Your Cat a Bath: In Five Easy Steps by Nicola Winstanley

An “off-screen” narrator gives a little girl five steps to bathe her cat, Mr. Flea.  To put it mildly, Mr. Flea has other ideas!

My Reading…

I finished three books this week:

The Omnivores Dilemma: Young Readers Edition by Michael Pollan (the book we are currently reading in middle school)

It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime (Adapted for Young Readers) by Trevor Noah (We are considering adding the young readers edition of Noah’s best selling memoir to the middle school curriculum so it moved to the top of my stack. I had been interested in reading Noah’s book for awhile so it was a happy assignment that did not disappoint. Noah’s story of growing up in South Africa with a black mother and white father is incredible.)

Green Almonds: Letters from Pakistan by Annaele and Delphine Hermans (Published in France in 2011, this graphic memoir/collaboration is a true story about two sisters: Annaele is in Palestine working for an aid organization while her sister, Delphine, remains at home in Belgium. Annaele’s experience traveling between Palestine and Israel helped me to understand what life is like for people living in occupied territories. It takes a complex situation and makes it real – and even more tragic.)

Currently reading:

The Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin

And that picture at the top of the post…..sisters at their first Red Sox game. One of them brought two books along. Good idea – baseball games move slowly!

Winter Reading….

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There is one bonus to being on medical leave during the winter – lots of time to read!  While I’ll be happy to return to school soon, it has been nice to look at the thermometer, remember I don’t have to go outside, and reach for my book.  Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past six weeks….

Middle England by Jonathan Coe

At over 400 pages, this novel took the longest to read. I first read about it on a few English newspaper websites, but this endorsement from the author John Boyne tipped me over into the “buy” column: “Millions of words have been and will be written on Brexit but few will get to the heart of why it is happening as incisively as Middle England.”  Maybe I was tired of reading about the dysfunction in my own country so I decided to dive into another flavor of anxiety.  What I really like about Middle England is its broad sweep. The novel begins eight years before the Brexit vote and follows a cast of characters representing multiple points of view. By the time Coe reaches the actual “stay or leave” vote, I had a deeper understanding of England – and America’s – identity crisis.

Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug

This acclaimed memoir by a German woman learning about her family’s history during WWII is an immersive experience. A blend of a graphic novel, a scrapbook, and a memoir, Krug’s book is demanding and thoughtful. It is not a traditional reading experience – rather I found myself engaging with each page visually and emotionally. I felt like I was traveling alongside the author as she uncovers her family’s story and asks hard questions. Krug understands that history exists in the grey space – she does not conclude with a list of who was right and who was wrong. History and family are more complex than that. You reach the end of her memoir shocked again at the atrocities of Nazi-era Germany and thinking about your own cultural heritage and the meaning of “home.”

Someday We Will Fly by Rachel Dewoskin

I read this young adult novel in advance of adding it to Inly’s middle school summer reading list. At the center of the story is Lillia, a fifteen-year-old Polish girl who, with her father and baby sister, escape to Shanghai during WWII. Lillia’s parents were circus performers in Poland, but during a chaotic raid, her mother disappears, leaving the rest of her family to hope for her return. As Lillia makes a new life in Shanghai, she struggles with missing her mother and trying to find ways to make money to help her family survive. The most interesting part of the book was learning about the Jewish community that lived in Shanghai during WWII. China was occupied by Japanese forces at the time, but the Japanese allowed the Jewish refugees to stay because, as Lillia’s dad explains to her, “Apparently the Japanese believe Jews are powerful…..as long as they believe we control Western governments, we should be fine. Who knew there’d be such a silver lining to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories?” A good pick for mature teenagers who enjoy historical fiction.

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Continuing the young adult historical fiction segment of the list, I read Tonya Bolden’s new novel about Essie, a young African American woman living in post-Civil War Savannah. At the opening of the novel, Essie lives with her mother in a brothel. Her mother calls the men who visit “uncles,” but Essie knows there is no future with her mother, and with the support of a friend, finds a housekeeping position in a respectable boardinghouse. One of the guests, an African American woman named Dorcas Vashon, gives Essie an opportunity – to be her companion. “I seek out young women of promise,” Dorcas tells Essie. Essie takes the opportunity, renames herself Victoria, and begins a new life among the African American elite in Baltimore. This book addresses race, status, and identity – and it’s perfect for readers ages 14 and over. I really liked this one.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

Since reading about the meteoric rise of Sally Rooney, the twenty-seven year old literary superstar, I’ve wanted to read both of her novels: Conversations With Friends and Normal People. Rooney’s press has been glowing. A New Yorker profile is captioned: “The Irish writer has been hailed as the first great millennial novelist for her stories of love and late capitalism.” Normal People was longlisted for the Booker Prize and was the 2018 Waterstones Book of the Year. So, with that as background music, I enthusiastically jumped into Conversations With Friends.  The writing is brilliant – I was so dazzled by some of the sentences that I would stop, reverse direction, and re-read a passage. But overall, I felt like I did when I would occasionally watch Girls, the Lena Dunham HBO series: that this is a generation I don’t recognize. The novel is compelling, kind of dark, and for me, a look inside a world that is far from my experience. That’s not a complaint. I’m grateful for Rooney’s honest look at the concerns of modern twenty-somethings. I’ll recommend Conversations with Friends to people in their 20s and 30s – and those who want to better understand what it feels like to be young today.

While I’ve been out of school, Mary has sent me lots of pictures from the Library. Here are two that I love and make me excited to go back to school:

A few more days at home – time to fit in one more book from my “to read” pile….

My Year in Reading

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As regular readers know, I’ve kept a list of every book I read since 1992. No comments. No thumbs up or down. Just the title and author. I looked at Volume One (1992-1998), and the first book I recorded was Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. I loved that book!  In December 1998 I read The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle. That was a good one too.  Here are four of my five notebooks. One seems to be missing – and I will turn the house upside down to find it!

My average is about 60 books per year, give or take. During the school year there are lots of Inly-related books (for classes or summer reading) and books I’m reviewing for School Library Journal. The summer break is obvious because the titles become things from my own “to read” list. This year, Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, is #58 so I’ll be able to reach #60 by the time Ryan Seacrest is in Times Square counting down to 2019.

My ten favorites among the books I read this year are:

99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

Up at the Villa by Somerset Maugham (I didn’t plan to read this and absolutely loved it. It’s a novella set in 1930s Florence about a woman caught up in a scandal. So good and a quick read)

Love to Everyone by Hilary McKay

There There by Tommy Orange

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg

Calypso by David Sedaris

The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake Smith

Educated by Tara Westover

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Technically I have not finished reading one of the books on my list. There are about 50 pages left, but from the opening chapter, I knew Love to Everyone was special. Reminiscent of novels like Anne of Greene Gables and The War That Saved My Life, the setting of McKay’s novel is WWI-era England where Clarry Penrose lives with her widowed father and brother. Clarry is born at the beginning of the 20th century, and the novel spans the course of her life which is rich in both happiness and heartbreak. Much of the heartbreak comes during WWI which initially feels “vague and distant” to Clarry. Of course, it lands on her doorstep.

McKay’s beautiful writing is part of the pleasure of reading Love to Everyone. I love this passage about the seasons:

“The long cold winter was passing. The light grew brighter, even in the Miss Pinkses’ fume-filled classrooms. The air was wet and salt-tanged from the sea. There were birds above the chimney pots and daffodils to be spotten on Miss Vane’s chilly walks, and it was spring with summer on the horizon. Summer was shining bliss. Summer was opals and topaz and lapis and diamonds flung down from the sky. Summer was Cornwall.”

A few days ago I was in Boston waiting for a friend who texted to say she would be late. No worries. My book was in my bag and I was standing in front of a Starbucks. I started reading and soon enough, the lights beaming from all of the laptops and phones faded away, and I was back in Cornwall with Clarry.

And now the books to read in 2019 begin to stack up. Last night we were at the Coop in Harvard Square and, although my “to read” list is completely unrealistic, I could not leave the store empty handed.  I remember seeing something about David Litt’s memoir of working as a speechwriter for President Obama, but a combination of two things made me buy it:

1 – I finished Becoming a few days ago and was forced to re-enter the real world. The contrast proved too great, and I wanted to jump back down the rabbit hole and return to less chaotic days.

2 – The recommendation that a staff member at the Coop wrote about the book. Those staff notes are really persuasive!

Of course, now I want to listen to David Litt on The Moth.

But first….I need to return to Clarry’s story.  Happy Reading….

 

 

 

Tommy Orange Visits Inly

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Tommy Orange, the author of the novel There There spoke at Inly last Thursday evening.

There There, longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the Carnegie Medal is the debut novel by Orange, a member of the Cheyenne tribe. The novel took him six years to write, but it has made the author a new literary star. “Yes, Tommy Orange’s New Novel Is Really That Good” reads the title of the New York Times review of There There. Another New York Times article about Orange’s describes There There as a “new kind of American epic.”  Maureen Corrigan, reviewing the novel for Fresh Air, said:

There There is distinguished not only by Orange’s crackling style, but by its unusual subject. This is a novel about urban Indians, about native peoples who know, as he says, “the sound of the freeway better than [they] do rivers … the smell of gas and freshly wet concrete and burned rubber better than [they] do the smell of cedar or sage…”

The Inly program was a conversation between Tommy and Nina McLaughlin, a columnist for the Boston Globe whose first book, Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter was published in 2015. Nina wrote the Globe’s review of There There which is linked here:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2018/06/14/what-indian/2GsJ8G2XHSo6YRYUZq72IL/story.html

The conversation was rich and meaningful, mostly because Tommy and Nina were natural and genuine. It truly felt like a conversation.

Nina began by asking Tommy about the explosive end to his novel. “I knew the end before I knew the beginning,” he told her. “I knew the characters’ lives would converge at a powwow.”

Talking about his polyphonic novel, Tommy described his writing process as “auditioning voices to see who felt convincing.” Over the six years it took him to write There There, Tommy estimates that he “tried 40 or 50 characters.”

Especially lovely was the way Tommy talked about novels, which he said “can do anything.” He was moved by A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and the work of Sylvia Plath. He described their work as having “sadness with levity.” Their writing, he said, “transcended their own sadness.”  Discussing his love of polyphonic novels, he mentioned, among others, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

Nina also asked Tommy to talk about the many mirrors and reflections in There There. “Growing up,” he responded, “Native people don’t see themselves very often. We aren’t in sports or movies or television.  The mirror lets you see how you’re native.”

I’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed many happy days at Inly, but this was one of the best. Tommy Orange radiates kindness and thoughtfulness from the second you meet him.  If you haven’t read There There yet, add it to your “to read” pile.

Happy Reading….

 

 

Summer Reading Photo Edition

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Summer Reading season has officially begun, and my “to be read” pile is ready.

I’ve already finished my first novel of the summer reading sprint – There There by Tommy Orange.

Orange’s highly praised novel follows the lives of twelve “Urban Indians” living in Oakland, California. All of the characters are on their way to a powwow, and their lives intersect and ultimately collide at the event. It is a powerful and memorable novel. I’ve read many glowing reviews of Orange’s novel, but these lines from the Kirkus starred review capture it best:

“What Orange is saying is that, like all people, Native Americans don’t share a single identity; theirs is a multifaceted landscape, made more so by the sins, the weight, of history. That some of these sins belong to the characters alone should go without saying, a point Orange makes explicit in the novel’s stunning, brutal denouement. “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them,” James Baldwin wrote in a line Orange borrows as an epigraph to one of the book’s sections; this is the inescapable fate of every individual here. In this vivid and moving book, Orange articulates the challenges and complexities not only of Native Americans, but also of America itself.”

Next up – perhaps because it has the most beautiful cover (by Julie Morstad) of every book on my list!

Today I am sharing photos – of an Instagram post, a letter, and a student…

Although I’ve never been on Facebook, I’ve become a fan of Instagram. What has been most surprising is how much I’ve come to rely on it in my professional life. Because publishers and authors use Instagram to promote new books, author events, and cover reveals, Instagram has become a way to follow what’s happening. Among the bookstores and other book-centered accounts, I also follow illustrators and artists. One of my favorites is a London-based illustrator, Steve Scott.  With his permission, I’m sharing my favorite of his posts:

At the end of the school year, I receive many sweet notes from students, all of which I treasure. This is one I received this year:

It’s awesome that she thinks the books are mine, and I’m letting her look at them, but I may need to clarify that the books are actually hers, and I am the lucky caretaker. It’s also nice that we are dressed alike in her picture!

Finally, a picture that sums up the joy of summer time reading.  I’m taking a couple of weeks off, but I’ll be on a book adventure so I’ll have lots to share with you in early July!  Until then, happy reading…

The Nonfiction Writer’s Toolbox: A Conference at the John F. Kennedy Library

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This past Wednesday, I participated in the John F. Kennedy Library’s annual conference for educators, one of my favorite professional events of the year. This year’s theme was the Nonfiction Writer’s Toolbox, and we had an opportunity to hear from four of today’s most respected writers of nonfiction for middle grade and young adult readers: Tonya Bolden, Steve Sheinkin, Tanya Lee Stone, and Melissa Sweet. One of the day’s highlights was a panel discussion with the four authors and a facilitator, Mary Ann Cappiello, during which the authors discussed their subjects and their writing process.

“I’m drawn to people who have been presented to us in a simplistic way,” Bolden said, “like Frederick Douglass.” Bolden’s most recent book, Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man, is a nuanced biography of the abolitionist, speaker, and writer. Bolden explained her process by saying that, in order to write a biography, the author needs to “become” another person and immerse themselves in the daily life of the era.

Sheinkin, the author of Bomb and Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, among other award winning history books for young adult readers, echoed Bolden’s remarks. “I look for narrative and moral complexity,” he said. He talked enthusiastically about the role of libraries and actual books in his research process. “A good book with credible sources is better than Google, particularly at the beginning of the research.”  Sheinkin uses an admittedly low-tech strategy to organize his work. He takes notes on color coded index cards and puts them up on a wall, his way of “seeing the story.”  Melissa Sweet, the author of Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White, agreed with Scheinkin: “The computer is the last 5% of my work,” she said. “I find out everything I can about and subject and then reduce it,” Sweet said.

Like the others, Tanya Lee Stone is the author of numerous nonfiction books, among them: Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? and Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream. She began her remarks by asking the participants to think about truth. “There is no absolute truth,” she said, before adding that her books are “as true as I can make it within my human ability.”

All of the authors agreed that the process of writing nonfiction is as creative as writing fiction. “The process of putting the puzzle together is creative,” said Sheinkin.

At the end of the panel discussion, each author gave us a preview of their new books:

Melissa Sweet is illustrating a poem by Kwame Alexander called How to Read a Book. She is also working on a project with Paul Fleischman, the author of Weslandia and Seedfolks.

Tanya Lee Stone’s new picture book about the history of Monopoly, Pass Go and Collect $200, will be published this July.

Steve Sheinkin is researching a book about the Women’s Air Derby, the first women-only air race which took place over nine days in 1929.

Tonya Bolden’s new picture book, No Small Potatoes, will be published in October. It is the story of a man born into slavery who ultimately became a potato farmer in Kansas.  She is also writing a sequel to her young adult novel, Crossing Ebenezer Creek.

I compiled this year’s conference bibliography, a resource for educators that highlights not only the participating authors’ books, but books to explore on similar topics and themes.

Selected Nonfiction for Young Readers An Annotated Bibliography

Compiled and Written by

Shelley Sommer
Inly School, Scituate, Massachusetts 

Prepared for

THE NONFICTION WRITER’S TOOLBOX For Exploring History and Other Subjects

A Conference for Teachers of Grades 3-8 and School Librarians John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
May 9, 2018

High quality nonfiction for young readers is more important than ever. With the increased attention on polarizing and alternative news, teaching students to be discerning about sources of information is vital to their civic education. The books below cover a range of subjects, from biographies of civil rights activists to the person who created the puppets for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. All of the authors used their own “toolbox” to shine a light on the struggles and accomplishments of people whose contributions and victories impact our lives today.

Below you will find a list of five books by each of the authors participating in today’s conference. Beyond that, we have highlighted themes drawn from two of each author’s books and provided recommendations of titles on similar topics by other authors to expand your lessons and suggest new avenues for your students to explore.

In the interest of space, I’m including only the list for Tonya Bolden in this post.

—————————–

Author: Tonya Bolden

 

Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty

New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2013. 128 pages
A combination of narrative and visual storytelling, Emancipation Proclamation is an account of the landmark document told through quotations from central participants, archival photos, engravings, letters, posters, maps, and newspaper articles. Grades 6-9

Capital Days: Michael Shiner’s Journal and the Growth of Our Nation’s Capital

New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2015. 96 pages
Michael Shiner was born into slavery in Maryland and spent most of his life in Washington D.C., where he was a laborer at the Washington Navy Yard for over 50 years, learned to read and write, and gained his freedom two decades before the Emancipation Proclamation. Shiner’s journal offers a fascinating look at the everyday experience of an African-American working man who was an eyewitness to historic events from the War of 1812 through the Civil War and into the 1870s. Grades 4-6

How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
New York: Penguin Young Readers Group, 2016. 64 pages
The plans to build a museum honoring African Americans’ contribution to our country can be traced back to 1915, but the Smithsonian’s 19th museum opened over one hundred years later in 2016. Bolden’s book details the story of its creation, including the nation-wide effort to gather artifacts, pictures and documents for the NMAAHC’s collections. Grades 5-8

Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls

New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2017. 128 pages
This book presents brief biographies of a diverse group of African Americans, from the 1700s to the present day, and their impact on American history. They include magicians, a race car driver, and a female Civil War spy. One of Bolden’s profiles is of Katherine Johnson, a mathematician whose calculations were integral to the success of many NASA space missions. Generously illustrated with period photographs, prints, posters and cartoons. Grades 5-8

Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man

New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2018. 208 pages
A middle school biography of the escaped slave who became a well-known abolitionist. But here Bolden tells a richer story about a man whose image is more familiar than his accomplishments. (He was in fact the most photographed American of the 19th century.) Opening with the story of Douglass starting his own newspaper, The North Star, Bolden follows his trajectory as a supporter of women’s suffrage, a diplomat, bank president, public servant, and world traveler. Grades 6-8

For Further Exploration

African-American Biographies

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney
New York: Hyperion Books, 2012. 243 pages
The ten historical figures in this collective biography lived in different eras and each had an impact on American society. Although many of the subjects’ names may be familiar to students, Pinkney extends her portraits to include details on each man’s childhood before highlighting his achievements.

For Younger Readers:
Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2009. 40 pages
Bass Reeves was born into slavery in Arkansas, but escaped into Indian Territory where he lived until slavery was abolished in 1865. Reeves ultimately became the first African-American deputy U.S. Marshal. He made over 3,000 arrests and was respected for his excellent marksmanship.

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jamey Christoph
Park Ridge, Illinois: Albert Whitman & Company, 2015. 32 pages
Born in Kansas in 1912, Gordon Parks was the youngest of 15 children. Inspired by a magazine he saw while working as a waiter on a railroad dining car, he bought a camera for $7.50 and became a prominent chronicler of the everyday lives of African Americans. In 1948, he become the first African-American photographer to be hired by LIFE magazine.

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznick
New York: Scholastic, 2002. 40 pages
After being denied the use of Constitution Hall because of her race, singer Marian Anderson performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before 75,000 people on Easter Sunday, 1939. It was one of the defining cultural events of the 20th century and a milestone in civil rights history. She later became the first African-American soloist at the Metropolitan Opera.

Frederick Douglass/Freedom and Social Justice

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship by Russell Freedman
New York: Clarion Books, 2012. 128 pages
Both Lincoln and Douglass rose to prominence against enormous odds and they were equally committed to education as a path toward success. Freedman’s dual biography traces how the ideals of both men impacted the nation.

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Floyd Cooper
New York: Harper Collins, 2017. 40 pages
A solid and moving introduction to the well-known abolitionist and writer. Born into slavery in 1818, Douglass learned to read and used his education to build a new life for himself. “Once you learn to read,” he said, “you will be forever free.”

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson
Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, 2012. 176 pages
An account of the nearly 4,000 young people who marched in Birmingham to protest segregation. The youngest marcher was Audrey Hendricks, the subject of a picture book for younger students.

For Younger Readers:
Frederick’s Journey: The Life of Frederick Douglass by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by London Ladd
New York: Disney Publishing: Jump at the Sun, 2015. 48 pages
The life—and voice—of Frederick Douglass in Rappaport’s signature “Big Words” style.

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
New York: Atheneum Books, 2017. 40 pages
After participating in a 1963 march in Birmingham, nine-year-old Audrey Hendricks spent seven days in jail with other student activists. This book provides an accessible way for even the youngest reader or listener to understand the importance of young people in the Civil Rights Movement.

If you would like a copy of the entire list, please leave a comment and I would be happy to email it to you.  Happy Reading!