Showing posts with label nonfiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nonfiction. Show all posts

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Shout, by Laurie Halse Anderson: true story of a survivor who refused to be silenced (ages 13 - 18)

As we celebrate Women's History Month, I want to make sure we pay attention to all women's stories. Listening to young women is essential; I especially find women's memoirs powerful when they share about their teenage years. In her powerful new memoir Shout, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson shares her experience as a survivor of rape and advocate for women's rights, but she goes far beyond this, plumbing the impact of her father's PTSD, her mother's silence, and the rape culture that surrounds us. I highly recommend this powerful, personal reflection.
Shout
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Viking / Penguin Random House, 2019
Amazon / your public library
ages 13 - 18
*best new book*
Twenty years ago, Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak helped give survivors of sexual violence a voice, showing how Melinda coped with the trauma of her rape the summer before her freshman year. Anderson begins Shout saying:
"Finding my courage to speak up twenty-five years after I was raped, writing Speak, and talking with countless survivors of sexual violence made me who I am today. This book shows how that happened." 
Writing in free verse, Anderson explores the impact of her father's PTSD from WWII and her mother's silence in a household filled with alcohol-fueled tension. She explains the rape she survived at age 13, and how that led to a downward spiral as high school began. And she shows her recovery as she discovered her voice and her love of language as an exchange student in Denmark.
"In Denmark, in Scandinavia, across Europe
memories of World War II ache like a scar
does when the weather changes or a storm draws near
old countries are riddled with battle wounds
that split open, bleed, and cause new pain if not cared for,
just like us

scars may look stronger than unwounded skin,
but they're not
once broken, we're easily hurt again, or worse
the temptation is to hide behind shields,
play defense, drown ourselves in sorrow
or drug our way to haunted oblivion
until death erases hope"
For me, much of the story's power comes in those ah-ha moments, recognizing hard truths I've learned, moments that speak to my core. This is a story that will mean something different to each reader. Above all else, it will create a conversation--perhaps just two sides of your brain talking to each other, or perhaps among friends.

I want to hold onto her advice for us, especially for young people. She does not sugar-coat her life, or her advice to young people. Take one step at a time.
"Trying to figure out what you want to do,
who you want to be, is messy as hell; the best
anyone can hope for is to figure out
the next step."
Anderson speaks raw truth about the impact of sexual violence and the importance of supporting survivors. Shout is also a powerful call to action, encouraging survivors to find their voice and reminding all of us that we have a responsibility to continue the conversation. Her poetry uses metaphors and similes with graceful, evocative power. The poem "shame turned inside out" is one of my favorites:
shame turned inside out
"Sisters of the torn shirts.

Sisters of the chase
around the desk,
casting couch, hotel
room, file cabinet....

Sisters fishing
one by one
in the lake of shame ...

Sisters, drop
everything. Walk
away from the lake, leaning
on each other's shoulders
when you need
the support. Feel the contractions
of another truth ready
to be born: shame
turned
inside out
is rage."
Laurie Halse Anderson is in the middle of her tour for Shout. See if she's coming to a town near you. She is a powerful speaker.
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, February 25, 2019

Biddy Mason Speaks Up, by Arisa White and Laura Atkins: a powerful biography of an early California woman fighting for justice (ages 10-14)

As we celebrate Black History, it is crucial we include many people's stories, not just the ones we know well. When our students study California history, we must bring to light the stories of African Americans who helped shape our state. Biddy Mason Speaks Up is a terrific addition to help children learn about an influential African American woman in Los Angeles's early history.
Biddy Mason Speaks Up
by Arisa White and Laura Atkins
illustrated by Laura Freeman
Fighting for Justice series
Heyday, 2019
Amazon / Your local library
ages 10-14
*best new book
Biddy Mason was an African-American healer, midwife, real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist who lived in Los Angeles from 1851 until 1891. Born enslaved in 1818, Biddy was brought to California by the Smith family as one of their slaves, when they moved west as part of the Mormon settlement.
"Even though Granny
isn't allowed to read
or write, she knows
how to read plants."
Arisa White and Laura Atkins weave together Biddy's story with well-researched historical information, giving young readers the historical context for her life. Free verse poems, which enable  readers to feel that they are getting to know Biddy in a personal way, are interspersed with historical information on slavery and midwifery, plantation life and economy, migration, the struggle for freedom, and life as a free black person.
"Biddy probably grew up on a cotton plantation. Cotton, a major cash crop, was grown throughout the Cotton Belt states."
"The record we call 'history' does not tell everyone's story." The voices of ordinary people, especially those who were enslaved or subjugated, were rarely recorded or preserved. When the authors Arisa White and Laura Atkins started writing the biography of Biddy Mason, they faced a challenge: how to accurately portray her story when historical records were scant. They write in the introduction:
"Writing this book was a creative act of repairing the historical record, of imagining Biddy Mason's life based on all the information and stories we could gather. We believe that we are all better when we hear everyone's stories, especially those that have been silenced."
Very little is recorded about Biddy's early years, and so the authors "had to imagine this time in Biddy's life using historical research, 'slave narratives' (written accounts by enslaved people after escaping slavery), and audio interviews with people who lived during the same period and in similar regions." I appreciate how they explain their process and how they used this information to paint a fuller picture.

After 4 years in California, Biddy's owner Robert Smith, planned to move to Texas in 1855. While California was a free state, slavery was legal in Texas. Local sheriffs intervened and took Biddy and her family away from Smith. I appreciate how clearly the text breaks this confusing situation down:
"Even though Biddy was legally free, she had to rely on her community to support her in resisting Robert Smith and the institution of slavery..."
The free verse poems remind me of Ashley Bryan's masterful Freedom Over Me. As Bryan did, White and Atkins used historical records to paint a full picture of ordinary people. This brings to life the stories of Black Americans who helped shape our country.

I wonder if young students will realize that the scenes in the free verse poems did not necessarily occur, or that the authors created the character of Granny Ellen. While the authors are transparent about their process, I wonder if it will be clear to young readers. I see this book as a blend of historical fiction and historical reporting. Detailed source notes show the extensive investigations that went into writing this book.

Illustrations copyright ©2019 Laura Freeman, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was purchased for our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Roots of Rap: Hip Hop & Childhood Meet, by Carole Boston Weatherford (ages 4-14)

"Bro!
This is actually kinda cool -- all about the artists who shaped hip hop.
Oh, it rhymes!
Is this supposed to be a song? a rap?
Bro, that's hecka cool!"
   -- Aya, 9th grade, reading The Roots of Rap
My high school students have loved reading The Roots of Rap. Frank Morrison's dynamic illustrations pull them in, and then Carole Boston Weatherford's text lays down the knowledge. This is a terrific new picture book to share with young readers all the way through high schoolers. I'm honored to have Carole share a little about how rap has inspired her.
The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip Hop
by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Frank Morrison
Simon & Schuster / Little Bee, 2019
Amazon / Your local library
ages 4-14
“Hip-hop and rap aren’t often featured in children’s books,” Swizz Beatz writes in his introduction. And yet, this music speaks to our children, fills their lives. With this picture book, Weatherford helps children see that their music springs from a long tradition of poetry and music. As Weatherford writes, "hip-hop is poetry at its most powerful."

I am honored to have Carole Boston Weatherford here to share a little about how hip-hop and rap have inspired her, and what planted the seeds for this picture book.

THE ROOTS OF RAP: HIP HOP & CHILDHOOD MEET
reflection by Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrator Frank Morrison’s oil paintings in the book have a vibrancy and vitality that borders on virtuosity. He honors hip hop legends and luminaries and shows the four pillars of graffiti, b-boying/breakdancing, emceeing and deejaying. I linger over the spreads showing youthful expression through hip hop, a culture young people are inventing.
Just as my son and daughter (now young adults) reintroduced me in the 1990s to children’s books, they also hipped me to the hip hop of the day on BET and urban radio. At Super Jam, my first rap concert, I tagged along as chaperone to my daughter and her friend. Was I in for a shock!? Unlike the jazz and R&B concerts that I attended, there were no bands at Super Jam--only a deejay scratching and the emcees spitting rhymes.

Then, there were the CDs that son and daughter bought. They’d mute explicit lyrics, so as not to offend their mother. Although their censorship meant that I rarely heard entire songs, I found much to like—especially cuts featuring choruses of children. Some of those pulsate with positivity. Here are a few of my favorites:
Enjoy this trailer for Roots of Rap:
Thank you, Carole, for sharing a little peek into what led to this book. Illustrations copyright ©2019 Frank Morrison, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Simon & Schuster / Little Bee. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Carter Reads the Newspaper, by Deborah Hopkinson -- important and timely picture book biography (ages 6-10)

It is essential that we teach Black History throughout the year, especially celebrating Black History Month in February. And yet, do we stop to ask who had the idea to create this special celebration? I highly recommend sharing Carter Reads the Newspaper with your children, and beginning a conversation about why it is so important to honor and learn about Black history.
Carter Reads the Newspaper
by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Don Tate
Peachtree, 2019
Amazon / Your local library
ages 6-10
*best new book*
Carter Woodson is known as the “father of Black history,” tirelessly encouraging others to study the history of Blacks in America. He was the second black American to receive a PhD in history from Harvard, after W.E.B. DuBois. In February 1926, Woodson created Negro History Week in Washington, D.C.

Deborah Hopkinson helps young readers see Carter Woodson's journey, helping them relate to his passion for learning. Carter was born on a small farm, and his parents had both been born into slavery. His father made sure Carter went to school and believed in staying informed about the world. Because his father couldn't read, he asked Carter to read the newspaper to him.
"Carter was born on a small farm in Virginia in 1875,
ten years after the end of the Civil War."
When Carter took a coal mining job at age 16, he was inspired by a Civil War Veteran he met there, Oliver Jones, who invited the other workers to come to his home as a reading room. Once again, Carter read aloud to others, informing them what was in the paper. He saw that Oliver was an educated man, even though he could not read or write. And he saw the power of the men's commitment to freedom, equality and knowledge.

After three years working in the mines, Carter returned home to complete high school, go to college and become a teacher. At the age of 37, he earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. "Carter was the first and only Black American whose parents had been slaves to receive a doctorate in history."
Deborah Hopkinson helps young readers see the power of knowledge and the importance of sharing that knowledge, and she makes Carter a relatable character. I especially appreciate how she focuses on the challenges Woodson faced as a young boy, and what he learned from his family and mentors.

Don Tate's illustrations use warm earth-tones tones and the stylized characters convey the humanity of the situations without making the frightening moments overwhelming.

I highly recommend adding this book to your school or home library. It helps begin the conversation about why we celebrate Black History Month. For adults, I also found the following essay very informative: Knowing the Past Opens the Door to the Future The Continuing Importance of Black History Month, from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Illustrations copyright ©2019 Don Tate, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Peachtree. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968, by Alice Faye Duncan (ages 8-12)

As we get ready to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I want to share a powerful new book about his work. Alice Fay Duncan's powerful picture book gives context for King's work, helps explain his assassination, and provides inspiration to keep dreaming big.
Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968
by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Calkins Creek / Highlights, 2018
Amazon / your local library
ages 8-12
*best new book*
We often talk about Dr. King's legacy leading nonviolent protests and fighting for civil rights, but I'm not sure we talk enough about his commitment to fight for workers' rights for fair wages and better working conditions.
"Men, women and children contributed to the strike in 1968. Whole families sacrificed their comforts. They suffered for the cause. However, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. paid the highest cost. He gave his life to the struggle for freedom and justice."
Duncan brings young readers into this story centering it on Lorraine Jackson, whose father was a striking sanitation worker. Duncan bases her character on Dr. Almella Starks-Umoja, whose father helped organize the strike. The author deftly moves between helping readers connect to Lorraine and providing information about the bigger issues at stake.
"I remember Memphis and legions of noblemen.
I remember broken glass and the voice of a fallen King."
As the story begins, we learn about the sanitation workers' strike and the tragic deaths of two black garbagemen because of old, unsafe equipment. "Daddy told Mama, 'It ain't right to die like that.' Mama shook her head, and I saw a new storm rising up. I saw it in their eyes." This detail helps young readers feel the tension and understand the injustices. Throughout, Duncan highlights the dedicated efforts of community and the personal cost of striking.
"My daddy marched in that number. He marched for better pay. He marched for decent treatment. My daddy marched for me."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Memphis to help the striking men, inspiring them to keep fighting for better pay and working conditions. Through young Lorraine's voice, Duncan tells about King's "Poor People's Crusade" to fight for the working poor, using the Memphis strike to draw national attention to the larger problems.

I especially appreciate Duncan's poetic language throughout, both in her prose and poems:
  • "But as Daddy's soles wore think on his mountain climb, there came a spark of light. Good news filled the air."
  • "Since Martin had conquered giants in the valley of injustice, Reverend Lawson believed his powerful friend could help the striking men."
  • "I was there on that stormy night Dr. King returned. Clouds blotted out stars in the Memphis sky. Wind whipped through the bending trees."
Illustrations copyright ©2018 R. Gregory Christie, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Calkins Creek, an imprint of Highlights. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ten outstanding audiobooks (ages 4-18)

Is your family taking a long drive this winter? Consider listening to an audiobook together, letting it take you on an adventure, laugh together or learn about something new. You'll notice that I'm including three memoirs here -- I especially find listening to some tell their story on audio particularly inspiring.

Try downloading e-audiobooks through your public library for free; check if your library uses OverDrive, Axis 360 or Hoopla Digital.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah: Comedian Trevor Noah narrates his memoir, sharing his harsh experiences growing up in South Africa in the final years of apartheid and the chaotic aftermath as the son of a white Dutch father and a black Xhosa mother. Listeners get to hear Noah tell these stories in his South African accented English and several other South African languages. He is engaging, funny and relatable, while also delivering thoughtful and perceptive social criticism about race, gender and class. (ages 13 and up)

Dominic, by William Steig, narrated by Peter Thomas: As Dominic leaves home in search of adventure, young listeners will be captivated by this delightful hero’s journey. Dominic bumbles his way through his journey with curiosity, goodwill and a solid sense of right and wrong as he makes friends, helps others in need and battles the Doomsday Gang. (ages 6-9)


Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon, narrated by Suzy Jackson: Dory (called Rascal by her family) wants to play with her big brother and sister, but they complain that she's a pest. Narrator Suzy Jackson captures Dory's 6-year-old voice, with a full range of enthusiasm and emotions. Families will recognize themselves in Dory's attention-getting strategies, her mom's exasperation or her siblings' bickering. A joyful, funny celebration of imagination and resilience. (ages 4-9)

Track series: Ghost, Patina, Sunny & Lu, by Jason Reynolds, narrated by Guy Lockhart, Heather Alicia Simms: Ghost is an all-time favorite, and I've loved the audiobooks for the rest of this series. Guy Lockhart captures the emotions and voice of each different character, with energy and enthusiasm. I especially appreciate how he balances the humor with the darker moments in each book. I've just started listening to Lu, and his swagger and confidence is perfect. Heather Simms captures Patina's many different moods, moving from sassy to tender with ease. All together, these are outstanding audiobooks--"for real for real", as Lu says. (ages 9-14)


I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope, by Chessy Prout: As a freshman at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, Chessy Prout was sexually assaulted by an upperclassman. In her raw and honest memoir, Prout shares her experience of assault and the subsequent journey with the tumultuous trial, media attention and search for healing and change. As I read this, I was particularly angered by the way the school resisted Chessy's search for justice and struck by how the legal system does not help our young people find the resolution they need. A powerful memoir. (ages 13-18)

Like Vanessa, by Tami Charles, narrated by Channie Waites: Eighth grader Vanessa Martin dreams of winning her school’s beauty contest, despite feeling too fat, too dark and too shy. Her spirits soar with Vanessa Williams’ historic win as the first black Miss America. But the journey is hard -- will her talented singing shine? Or will her doubts weigh her down? Channie Waites’ narration brings Vanessa’s worries, laughter and grace to life, and her voice sparkles with magnetic charm. (ages 10-14)

The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo: Elizabeth Acevedo shines narrating her debut novel, using her talents as an award-winning slam poet to bring passion and life to Xiomara’s story. A first-generation Dominican-American, Xiomara struggles balancing her mother’s strict Catholicism with her own desire to find her place in the world. Writing poetry helps Xio come into her own, channelling her feelings, worries and questions. Acevedo’s poetry is beautifully crafted and the audiobook brings the passion and pacing of the rhythmic free-verse poems to life. (ages 14-18)

Proud: Living My American Dream, by Ibtihaj Muhammad: U.S. Olympic fencing medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad shares her inspiring memoir, showing how faith, hard work and determination helped her reach her goals. She frankly talks about the many obstacles she faced, yet she comes across as both humble and realistic. She conveys the excitement of winning, and the frustrations and self-doubt she faced. Even though I know nothing about fencing, I couldn't put this down. Ibtihaj is a true American hero. (ages 10-16)

Refugee, by Alan Gratz: Gratz alternates the stories of three children from different periods of time, each of whom are fleeing their homes in search of refuge. Josef is escaping persecution from Nazis in Germany during World War II. Isabel and her family are fleeing Cuba in 1994, escaping the riots and unrest under Castro's rule. And Mahmoud's family flees Syria in 2015 after their home was bombed. These parallel stories are engrossing and compelling. The structure keeps the suspense high, and helps readers see how each character must cope with extreme stress, separation and loss. Gratz uses historical fiction at its best to help readers understand global issues in a way that inspires hope and empathy. (ages 10-16)

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, narrated by Jayne Entwistle: My students have particularly loved this audiobook and its sequel, The War I Finally Won, finding the story of Ada inspiring as she realizes how she's able to overcome many odds stacked against her. As the story opens, ten-year-old Ada has a clubfoot and is kept locked in her family's one bedroom apartment in London, during World War II. Ada practices making herself walk, so she and her younger brother, can escape and join a train of children being evacuated to the countryside. Jayne Entwistle's narration brings Ada's complexities to life, with her layers of distrust and strength, courage and doubt. (ages 9-12)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Ten top books for speaking your truth (ages 7-18)

As I continue to celebrate 10 years of blogging, I want to turn to books that encourage us to speak our truths. While books can't change the world, they can help give us the courage to stay true to our beliefs, to do the right thing in difficult situations. These stories focus on young people courageously speaking up for themselves in the face of difficulties.

Anger Is a Gift, by Mark Oshiro: Black teen Moss struggles with panic attacks and anxiety, a result of his father's death from police brutality six years earlier in Oakland, CA. When school administrators bring armed police in for random locker searches and install metal detectors, Moss and his friends organize a protest. I especially appreciated how Oshiro balances Moss's personal journey and the way his community comes together to protest the authoritarian administration. A powerful book, with an authentic local setting, for fans of The Hate U Give. (ages 14-18)

Front Desk, by Kelly Yang: Mia's family has recently immigrated from China, and finding a steady job has been really tough for her parents. When an opportunity to manage a motel comes their way, they leap at it. Mia's excited that she can help out, managing the front desk while her parents clean the rooms. Kelly Yang bases this story on her own experience, immigrating from China to Los Angeles. She weaves humor and compassion into her story, speaking from her personal experience to frankly address poverty, bullying and the importance of family. (ages 8-12)

Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes: After being killed by a white police officer, a 12 year old black boy returns as a ghost to process what has happened and how it is affecting his family. The ghost of Emmett Till, a black boy murdered in 1955, and other "ghost boys" who have been murdered, help Jerome understand the larger historical context. The chapters jump back and forth in time, weaving together the social and political framework to help young readers grapple with the impact of police violence on communities of color. (ages 10-15)

I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope, by Chessy Prout: As a freshman at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, Chessy Prout was sexually assaulted by an upperclassman. In her raw and honest memoir, Prout shares her experience of assault and the subsequent journey with the tumultuous trial, media attention and search for healing and change. As I read this, I was particularly angered by the way the school resisted Chessy's search for justice and struck by how the legal system does not help our young people find the resolution they need. A powerful memoir. (ages 13-18)

#Notyourprincess: Voices of Native American Women, by Lisa Charleyboy: This anthology shares the voices, art, poetry, and insight of modern Native women about their life experiences--the good and the bad, the joyous and the painful--creating a powerful message of the importance of speaking the truth and being visible in a culture that it so often dismissive or manipulative. I especially appreciate the wide diversity of Native women that is represented here. Brilliant and moving collection. (ages 12-18)

The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang: Prince Sebastian feels comfortable identifying both male and female, often wearing dresses and going out as his alter ego, Lady Crystallia. When he hires Frances, a young seamstress, to make him a wardrobe of boldly beautiful, dazzling dresses, Frances hesitates at first, but they soon discover a shared passion for fashion. Incorporating the feel of classic fairytales, Wang creates a story that revolves around friendship, following your dreams and speaking your truth. (ages 10-15)

The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo: A first-generation Dominican-American, fifteen-year-old Xiomara struggles balancing her mother’s strict Catholicism with her own desire to find her place in the world. Writing poetry helps Xio come into her own, channelling her feelings, worries and questions in her journal, as she explores her blossoming romance with Aman, her science partner. As Xio starts figuring out how she can stand up for what she believes, she discovers the power of her voice through the poetry club at school. This powerful coming-of-age story poignantly speaks to teens finding their voice. (ages 13-18)

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say, by Angela Dominguez: Stella is shy, self-conscious about her accent and the way she jumbles Spanish and English when she can't find the right word. As third grade starts, she's also worried about being in a different class from her best friend Jenny. I  especially appreciate how Stella's Mexican-American family supports her and cheers her on as she discovers her courage and voice. (ages 7-10)

Swing, by Kwame Alexander: Noah, Walt and Sam (Samantha) have been best friends since elementary school, but ever since they got to high school, Noah hasn't been able to figure out how to tell Sam that he really likes her. No matter how much Walt (aka Swing) encourages him to take a chance, Noah struggles to express his feelings for Sam. Inspired by love letters he finds in a thrift store, Noah finally starts to put his feelings onto paper using both art and poetry. While I related to Noah, I was utterly charmed by Swing's humor and optimism. Readers will want to talk when they reach the end--be there for them, as they find their voice about the larger issues impacting our society. (ages 13-18)

The Witch Boy, by Molly Ostertag: This graphic novel will appeal to readers with its magical setting and strong protagonist. In Aster's village, there are very clear expectations: girls will learn witchcraft and spells, while boys will learn to become shapeshifters. Yet Aster yearns to learn the spells that his sister is perfecting, and is not interested in the other boy's aggressive play. When several boys go missing, Aster tries to use his developing magical abilities to solve the mystery. I especially appreciated the way Aster questions society's gender expectations and stays true to himself. A delightful graphic novel -- I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, The Hidden Witch, which has just come out. (ages 8-12)

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Ten winning sports books for kids (ages 5-14)

Whether you play sports with your kids or love watching games together, you’ll have fun sharing these books. You'll find a balance of nonfiction and fiction and a wide range of sports. One thing I'm noticing is that I haven't read as many novels with girls playing sports -- clearly, that's a goal for 2019!

Nonfiction

Baseball: Then to Wow! by the editors of Sports Illustrated Kids: Whether it’s looking at changes in equipment or comparing playing styles then and now, this high-interest book provides opportunities for fans to analyze different aspects of the game. Great layout, photographs and illustrations engage kids and help them see the progression of the game over the past 150 years. (ages 7-12)

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, by Sandra Neil Wallace, illustrated by Bryan Collier: Although his athletic skills brought Ernie Barnes success as a professional football player, his true passion was art. He would quickly sketch scenes as he sat on the bench between plays. Barnes pursued his dreams, eventually becoming the official artist for the American Football League. (ages 6-10)

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon, by Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Micha Archer: In 1966, Bobbi Gibb became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, even though the authorities would not recognize her efforts. Despite the authorities’ rejection, she decides to run alongside the registered racers, determined to prove that the rules were wrong. An inspiring picture book biography of defying the odds. (ages 5-9)

Proud: Living My American Dream, by Ibtihaj Muhammad: U.S. Olympic fencing medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad shares her inspiring memoir, showing how faith, hard work and determination helped her reach her goals. She frankly talks about the many obstacles she faced, yet she comes across as both humble and realistic. She conveys the excitement of winning, and the frustrations and self-doubt she faced. Even though I know nothing about fencing, I couldn't put this down. Ibtihaj is a true American hero. (ages 10-16)

Rising Above: How 11 Athletes Overcame Challenges in Their Youth to Become Stars, by Gregory Zuckerman with Elijah Zuckerman and Gabriel Zuckerman:  Names like Lebron James, Steph Curry, Tim Howard, & Dwyane Wade will pull in young readers. Strong, accessible writing and inspiring stories will keep them reading. Look for the second in this series, focusing on inspiring women in sports. (ages 10-14)

Fiction for young players

Pedro’s Big Goal, by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Tammie Lyon (Picture Window / Capstone; ages 5-8; $4.95; 32 pp.). First grader Pedro LOVES playing soccer with his friends and dreams of playing goalie. Will he make it as his team’s goalie, or is he too small? Beginning readers will enjoy this fun, accessible series -- perfect for 1st and 2nd graders. (ages 5-8)

The San Francisco Splash, by David A. Kelley, illustrated by Mark Meyers: The Ballpark Mysteries series is great for emerging readers who need short chapter books, and this local story does not disappoint. Cousins Kate and Mike love it when Kate’s sports-reporter mom brings them to a game, and here they start in kayaks out in McCovey Cove trying to catch fly balls. (ages 6-10)

Middle grade & young adult fiction

After the Shot Drops, by Randy Ribay: When high school basketball star "Bunny" Thompson transfers to wealthy private school, where he is one of a handful of black students. Bunny struggles to keep true to himself, stay close to his neighborhood friends, and make new friends at school. Meanwhile, his best friend Nasir struggles with feeling left behind and figuring out what to do when his cousin starts getting into trouble. The conflicts escalate, on the court and off, with an explosive climax. Hand this to fans of The Hate U Give and Ghost(ages 13-18)

Ghost (Track #1), by Jason Reynolds: BOOM! Third time reading this and it still pulls me straight through each time. A 5th grader told me: "I loved how you feel like you're Ghost. You get mad at someone, then forgive them. It feels like your emotions are building up until Ghost takes the shoes. Then they break when his coach brings him back to the store." Catch others in this stand-out series: Patina & Sunny. (ages 9-14)

Rebound, by Kwame Alexander: My students clamored to read Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, and this prequel is outstanding, with Chuck Bell--Josh & Jordan’s father--taking center stage. Kwame creates a great cast of characters in Rebound, with Charlie's family and close friends. I especially love that two of his close friends are girls. CJ is brainy, sassy and sweet. Roxie can play ball better than most of the boys. Full of humor, heart and poetry slam in comics (!!), this novel in verse is really about how we can hold onto hope even though we feel storm-beaten and shattered. (ages 9-14)

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, September 20, 2018

I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope, by Chessy Prout (ages 13-18)

With the news cycle focusing on Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, I've been thinking about consent and rape culture, especially with high schoolers. This summer I listened to Chessy Prout's powerful memoir I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope, which she narrates herself. I highly recommend this for teens, as an important personal perspective as they consider these issues.
I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope
by Chessy Prout, with Jenn Abelson
read by Chessy Prout
Simon & Schuster Audio / Margaret K. McElderry, 2018
Amazon / Your local library / OverDrive audiobook preview
ages 13-18
As a freshman at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, Chessy Prout was sexually assaulted by an upperclassman. In her raw and honest memoir, Prout shares her experience of assault and the subsequent journey with the tumultuous trial, media attention and search for healing and change.

At the end of her freshman year, a senior by the name of Owen Labrie lured and assaulted Chessy as part of a “Senior Salute” ritual at the school. Prout has cowritten her account with journalist Abelson. I especially appreciated the way she shares about her life before and after the rape, providing context for her experience both at school and with the legal system.

As I read this, I was particularly angered by the way the school resisted Chessy's search for justice. The case was turned over to the police and the public defender, and Chessy did find important allies. But I was struck by how the legal system does not help our young people find the resolution they need. She was  I so wish that Chessy's school and community had used Restorative Justice practices.

I've been inspired by The Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice. This practice helps communities "address harm through dialogue among those most impacted. Restorative justice brings together those who have harmed, their victims, and affected community members into processes that repair harms and rebuild relationships."

Chessy narrates the audiobook, balancing clarity with personal feelings, giving voice to her experience. She conveys her commitment to activism and justice for those who have experienced sexual assault.

I recommend this memoir for both middle schools and high schools, as an important component raising awareness about the importance for consent. Today, I was struck by the podcast The Daily, which interviewed Caitlin Flanagan, a writer for The Atlantic, about her assault in high school. What's especially notable is that the high school boy apologized to Ms. Flanagan two years after he assaulted her, asking for forgiveness. This enabled her to move beyond this traumatic event.

Chessy's memoir has an important place in the debate today around sexual assault, consent and our justice system. Please share this with teens in your lives. I highly recommend I Have the Right To for both middle schoolers (especially 8th graders getting ready for high school) and high schoolers. I think that many 13 and 14 year olds are ready to explore the emotional complexities and realities that Chessy describes. The review copy came from my local library, through OverDrive. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, September 9, 2018

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, edited by Wade Hudson & Cheryl Willis Hudson -- inspiring, beautiful & uplifting (ages 8-13)

As the news inundates us with the harm caused by divisive politics, institutional racism and prejudice, and angry civic discourse, what do we tell our children? How do we help give them hope, help empower them during these difficult times? We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices is an inspiring new anthology that asks 50 of the foremost children's authors and illustrators to share their love, concern and experience with the next generation.
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices
edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson
Crown Books, 2018
Amazon / Local library / Google Books preview
ages 8-13
*best new book*
Dedicated to "those who advocate for and pursue a just society and basic human rights for all people," this anthology presents an inspiring collection of poetry, essays, short stories and art designed to give children hope during difficult times, especially children from traditionally marginalized communities. As Ashley Bryan writes in the forward:
"Having a safe space to imagine and dream and (re)invent yourself is the first step to being happy and successful, whatever road you choose to pursue."
This beautiful collection provides children (and the adults in their lives) this safe space. Authors ask questions, share wisdom and provide support. By doing so, they open the window to talking about these difficult times. In the opening poem, Wade Hudson asks:
"What shall we tell you when our world sometimes seems dark and uninviting?
What shall we tell you when hateful words that wound and bully are thrown like bricks against a wall, shattering into debris?"
Other authors share their fears, their worries. Kwame Alexander, in his poem "A Thousand Winters," writes about when his daughter worried that the police would take him away if he was driving too fast. Our youngest children hear the news, see the reaction of adults around them, and they have questions. We must be honest with them, and yet we must also find ways to protect our children and give them hope -- for, as Kwame writes, "if we can't survive this storm, how will our children?"
"A Thousand Winters," by Kwame Alexander, illustration by Eukua Holmes
I especially appreciate the variety in this collection. These are heavy topics, and yet readers turn the pages and find so many different approaches. Jacqueline Woodson writes a letter to her children, reminding them to be safe and be kind as they walk in the world. Joseph Bruchac gives advice about choosing a friend who "sees how beautiful you are, even on days when you're sad." Zetta Elliott reminds children that "You Too Can Fly." The illustrations move from painting with deep hues, to drawings with soft warm touch, to photographs showing children of different races and ethnicities.

Above all, this collection leave me with the feeling that there are caring adults who truly see children, who know how difficult these times can be, and who admire all the ways that our children walk in this world. I'd like to leave you with a bit of Sharon Flake's letter:
"How are you, my love? Well, I hope. I've been thinking about you lately. So, I wanted to check in, to make sure you're okay. I see you...draped in confidence, walking like you own the world, looking fine, skateboarding, protesting injustice, helping out friends. My heart sings at the thought of what is possible for us here on earth because you exist."
I definitely recommend this collection for every elementary and middle school library. I'll be bringing it to my new high school library to see what our students think of it. I purchased the review copy from my local independent bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway's. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers : Celebrating animal underdogs, by Melissa Stewart (ages 4-8)

Young readers delight in learning about new animals. If you have animal lovers in your house or classroom, definitely seek out Melissa Stewart's newest picture book: Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating animal underdogs. She takes a fresh look at what makes an animal noteworthy--do we really want to focus only on the fastest animals? Or do we want to find out how animals survive and thrive?
Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating animal underdogs
by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis
Peachtree, 2018
Amazon / Public library / Teachers guide
ages 4-8
Stewart's lively, playful voice draws readers right into her text. We start off looking at a pair of tiny critters, the Etruscan pygmy shrew and the Amau frog. I appreciate how Stewart and Laberis help readers envision just how small these animals are by comparing them to everyday objects.
"Let's start with this little critter--the Etruscan pygmy shrew.
It's a real pipsqueak. Look, it's name is longer than its body."
But the real question, as Stewart asks, is "How can these puny peewees survive?" Turn the page, and readers will see dramatic examples of how being tiny can actually help you hide from predators.
"Believe it or not,
size is on their side."
Stewart presents an engaging look at a range of animals, helping young children think about what characteristics might help animals survive. The backmatter includes more information, but she keeps it quite brief. Instead, she focuses on encouraging children to think about different animals. This would be a terrific discussion-starter for talking about habitats and animal characteristics.

I especially appreciate the gentle message Stewart provides throughout, that every animal has “its own special way of surviving" and we need to recognize the strengths each has just the way they are. Take special note of the dedication at the end of the book:
"For any child who is being bullied right now---
what others see as a weakness may actually be your strength.

Don’t give up."
I have long admired Melissa Stewart's nonfiction books for children and appreciated her thoughtful writing about the craft of writing nonfiction. She helpfully examines different types of nonfiction writing (see her recent article Understanding—and Teaching—the Five Kinds of Nonfiction, published in the School Library Journal). I encourage you to explore her helpful blog, Celebrate Science.

Illustrations copyright ©2018 Stephanie Laberis, shared by permission of the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Peachtree Publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Immigration & refugee stories: hearing children's stories (ages 9-14)

Throughout the United States, we are feeling the rippling effects of family separation policies by immigration officials. How do we explain these painful experiences to children? How do we hear and honor children's stories?

My father's family was torn apart by World War II, and I have always found refugee stories powerful. They let me connect to my own family's history, and help me extend my grandmother's experiences to those of children in my classroom. Here are a few books that I would recommend to children ages 9 to 14. For younger readers, seek out Front Desk and Stormy Shores. Older readers will appreciate the suspense and understand the terrifying situations in The Only Road and Refugee.

Front Desk, by Kelly Yang (Scholastic, 2018): Mia's family has recently immigrated from China, and finding a steady job has been really tough for her parents. When an opportunity to manage a motel comes their way, they leap at it. Mia's excited that she can help out, managing the front desk while her parents clean the rooms. Kelly Yang bases this story on her own experience, immigrating from China to Los Angeles. She weaves humor and compassion into her story, while frankly addressing poverty, bullying and the importance of family.

The Only Road, by Alexandra Diaz (Simon & Schuster, 2016): Twelve-year-old Jaime flees his home in Guatemala after a local drug gang kills his cousin Miguel. Jaime and Angela, Miguel's sister, travel north alone, navigating the treacherous journey by bus, train and foot. This gripping novel not only shows the violence and abuse Jaime and Angela survive, but also how painful family separation is for children.

Alexandra Diaz has been honored with the Pura Belpre Author Honor Award, the Américas Award and was a finalist for the International Latino Book Award. I'm excited that The Crossroads, the sequel to The Only Road, will be published in September.

Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees, by Mary Beth Leatherdale (Annick Press, 2017): This powerful nonfiction book combines brief memoirs, clear information and dynamic collage illustrations, making this an engaging introduction to immigration experiences of children during 20th and 21st centuries. Each chapter focuses on a child fleeing war, oppression and conflict in Nazi Germany, Vietnam, Cuba, Afghanistan, and Africa’s Ivory Coast.

Refugee, by Alan Gratz (Scholastic, 2017): Gratz alternates the stories of three children from different periods of time, each of whom are fleeing their homes in search of refuge. Josef is escaping persecution from Nazis in Germany during World War II. Isabel and her family are fleeing Cuba in 1994, escaping the riots and unrest under Castro's rule. And Mahmoud's family flees Syria in 2015 after their home was bombed. These parallel stories are engrossing and compelling. The structure keeps the suspense high, and helps readers see how each character must cope with extreme stress, separation and loss. Gratz uses historical fiction at its best to help readers understand global issues in a way that inspires hope and empathy.

If you're looking for more stories like these, check out my Goodreads shelf: Immigration. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books