Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge - Sitting Bull


Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts a Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge and has a roundup every Wednesday. I love the encouragement to explore more non-fiction. My plan is to read at least 100 nonfiction picture books this year.

This week the American Indian Youth Literature Award winners were announced. We have the age appropriate titles in our library, but I still hadn't read Sitting Bull.

Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People by S.D. Nelson
Goodreads summary: Sitting Bull (c. 1831–1890) was one of the greatest Lakota/Sioux warriors and chiefs who ever lived. From Sitting Bull’s childhood—killing his first buffalo at age 10—to being named war chief to leading his people against the U.S. Army, Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People brings the story of the great chief to light. Sitting Bull was instrumental in the war against the invasive wasichus (white men) and was at the forefront of the combat, including the Battles of Killdeer Mountain and the Little Bighorn. He and Crazy Horse were the last Lakota/Sioux to surrender their people to the U.S. government and resort to living on a reservation.

The book includes an extensive author’s note and timeline, historical photographs, a map, a bibliography, endnotes, and an index.

My Thoughts: S.D. Nelson does a phenomenal job of showing Sitting Bull as a human being and not simply a legend. The story is told in the voice of Sitting Bull. We see him from childhood as he learns and grows. The Lakota way of life changed drastically during his lifetime. This would be a fantastic book to use when teaching about history in upper elementary and middle school. It could add a personal dimension and fill in many of the gaps in textbooks. It would also offer a perspective that is often absent in the books and curriculum.

The book appears to be very well researched. The author provides an excellent timeline and thorough author notes. In addition, the book is illustrated with a combination of archival images and Nelson's gorgeous artwork. He has a unique art style that combines traditional Lakota imagery with his own modern twist. I really appreciated the addition of ledger art on the back endpaper. He included a brief explanation of this work. During incarceration, some Native people were given used ledger books and they created works of art in them on top of the used pages.

There is so much to admire about this book. I hope that many people, young and old, have the opportunity to experience it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?


It's Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children's and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and comment to spread the love.

If you want to know more about what I am reading, visit me at my Goodreads shelf. Images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

Last Week on the Blogs:

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge - Caldecott Honor Books



Last Week with Books:
Adult Nonfiction



I'm super excited to go see Sherman Alexie in Minneapolis later this month. This meant I finally read some more of his work. I hadn't read any of his poetry before. The Business of Fancydancing and One Stick Song are quite interesting. I wrote this at Goodreads, "I think it was intentional, but the written word begs the reader to wonder about the truthfulness of what is on the page. There was a continual question in my head about what is autobiographical and what is fiction and does that matter? Does the reader need to know where that line is drawn? Does it affect us if something is strictly true or fabricated? Do we need the story to have actually happened for us to interact with it?" Those questions were also bumping around in my head the evening that I watched his film The Business of Fancydancing. I had seen Smoke Signals years ago, but this was the first time I saw Fancydancing. It's a unique film that explores connections to culture, childhood, friends and especially how a Native person navigates life on and off the reservation.

Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now is a collection of brief essays from Maya Angelou. I felt like she was preaching straight at me in a good way. I wanted to be a better person after reading her words. Among other things, she encourages us to forgive, remember that we are all children of God, respect ourselves and others, and to cease complaining.

I finally finished listening to Fresh Off the Boat. It is certainly not something for everyone, but I found Eddie Huang funny. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that this was a foodie book though there is only one recipe.
Young Adult


I didn't realize that Alexie had another YA book out. Flight had flashes of his humor throughout the book, but it was surrounding by some fairly serious situations. The main character goes through some very dark moments. I appreciated the time travel taking us to quite a few pivotal scenes in Native American history. Becoming Maria was a memoir by Sonia Manzano. I really enjoy memoirs as a general rule. I found this one a little disjointed, but I think she let it be that way in the beginning because that is sort of how our earliest memories are. They are just snippets here and there. I wished for more about the Maria time of her life, but this was about her journey to that place so it ends there. It was certainly interesting to see into her family life and know how she came to be the person she is today. She is one strong person.

Early Chapter Book

I had a fun time reading Lola Levine is Not Mean. Lola loves soccer and it's always great to see a character with so much enthusiasm. She gets a little carried away though and that leads to someone getting hurt. I'm excited to have the first book in this early chapter book series and am looking forward to seeing more of Lola.

Picture Books


 
There are simply too many picture books here to comment on all of them. I read a few Caldecott honor books, some books for Black History Month, a few in preparation for Jazz lessons with my first grade classes, Stina because someone raved about them and Sitting Bull because it won the American Indian Youth Literature Award. I'll be reviewing that one later this week because I loved it.

The Coming Week:
I am listening to Almost Perfect for my LGBTQIA Challenge. I just started reading the ARC of Hour of Bees. Beyond that, I will continue to read Alexie's books. I had only read three before last week so I have quite a few to catch up on in the next two weeks.


Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge - 91/550
Diversity on the Shelf 2016 - 46/225 (goal = 50% of my books by and/or about POC)
LGBTQIA Challenge - 5/31
ReadPOC Challenge - 34/125
#MustReadin2016 - 6/54
Around the World with Books 2016

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Celebrating Dancing for Change



Ruth Ayres has a link-up on weekends where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every week.

Today I was able to go to a practice for One Billion Rising. It's a movement that calls for an end to violence against women and girls. One of the ways they draw attention to the cause is for people to come together in public places. In our area, we will be dancing on Valentine's Day in our local mall. Here is information from the website:

"In 2016, the theme of Revolution continues with a call to focus on marginalized women and to bring national and international focus to their issues; to bring in new artistic energy; to amplify Revolution as a call for system change to end violence against women and girls; to call on people to rise for others, and not just for ourselves"


I had a wonderful time today with some fantastic dancers at a local dance studio as we learned the dance. Dancing makes me smile and to do it with so many others for a united purpose makes it even more energizing and joyful.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge - A look at some Caldecott Honor Books


Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts a Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge and has a roundup every Wednesday. I love the encouragement to explore more non-fiction. My plan is to read at least 100 nonfiction picture books this year.

I'm working on reading the Caldecott winners and honor books. Today I read two nonfiction titles.

written by Joyce Sidman & illustrated by Beckie Prange

Goodreads Summary: From spring’s first thaw to autumn’s chill, the world of the pond is a dramatic place. Though seemingly quiet, ponds are teeming with life and full of surprises. Their denizens—from peepers to painted turtles, duckweed to diving beetles—lead secret and fascinating lives. A unique blend of whimsy, science, poetry, and hand-colored woodcuts, this Caldecott Honor-winning collection invites us to take a closer look at our hidden ponds and wetlands. Here is a celebration of their beauty and their mystery.

My thoughts:  The illustrations here are gorgeous. I loved how Prange brought us up close and personal with even some of the tiniest of the critters. I went into it just thinking this was a poetry book. I didn't realize that there was a nonfiction blurb to go with each of the poems. This in addition to the fact that many of the poems were fact filled also. The poetry was nice, but the addition of the information about the scenes really made this book more appealing to me. People looking for poetry could just read that part, but I liked them together.

by David McLimans

Goodreads Summary: Feast your eyes on these amazing creatures before they disappear. This stampede of wild animals, from Chinese Alligator to Grevy's Zebra, are so rare, they're all endangered. David McLiman's bold and playful illustrations transform each letter into a work of art, graphically rendered with animal characteristics. Scales, horns, even insect wings transform the alphabet into animated life.

Once you take this eye-opening safari, you'll never look at letters or animals with the same way again. A striking work of art and a zoological adventure, Gone Wild is sure to be loved by children and adults alike.


My Thoughts: The illustrations are once again fabulous. I loved the creativity of the author/illustrator. He sought out not just endangered animals that would fit the alphabet, but also those with shapes that fit the letters in the animal's name. That had to be quite a bit of research. 

The text on the pages of the main body were not terribly interesting, but I did enjoy the collection of information at the end. Each animal has a blurb. The main part of the text was basically a chart that listed a few of the same facts for each animal. The end had more variety to it. 


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: The Trouble with Ants

Title: The Trouble with Ants
Author: Claudia Mills
Illustrator: Katie Kath
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Pages: 164
Availability: On shelves now
Review copy: Final copy from publisher

Summary:
The trouble with ants is . . .
. . . people think they’re boring.
. . . they are not cuddly.
. . . who would ever want them for a pet?

Nora Alpers is using her new notebook to record the behavior of ants. Why? Because they are fascinating! Unfortunately, no one agrees with her. Her mom is not happy about them being in the house, and when Nora brings her ant farm to school for show and tell, her classmates are not very impressed. They are more interested in cat videos, basketball practice, or trying to set a Guinness World Record (although Nora wouldn’t mind that).

Mostly they are distracted by the assignment their teacher Coach Joe has given them—to write a persuasive speech and change people’s minds about something. Will Nora convince her friends that ants are as interesting as she thinks they are? Or will everyone still think of ants as nothing but trouble?

With real science facts, a classroom backdrop, an emphasis on friendship, and appealing black-and-white interior illustrations from artist Katie Kath, The Nora Notebooks is perfect for newly independent readers—especially budding scientists like Nora!—and adults who want to encourage awareness of STEM subjects in young readers.

Review: Nora has a questioning mind. She wants to know everything about ants. She has a notebook, an ant farm and she can spend hours at a time just watching them do their thing. She is also gets the idea to write an article about her ants for a scientific journal.

I found Nora's enthusiasm for ants to be quite fun. She also likes to kick at the notion of traditional gender roles. She understands why society has such ideas, but she does not believe these beliefs should dictate her behavior or likes and dislikes.

There are plenty of laughs within the story. There are also many facts. Nora shares information about ants throughout the book. Budding scientists and fans of Kate Messner's Marty McGuire will be sure to enjoy Nora and her beloved ants.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?


It's Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children's and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and comment to spread the love.

If you want to know more about what I am reading, visit me at my Goodreads shelf. Images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

Last Week on the Blogs:



Last Week in Books:

The Skunk has an old-fashioned vibe in the illustrations that was quirky. I liked the humor, but I wasn't bowled over by it. Erandi's Braids was a story that touched my heart. Who Has These Feet? Is a very engaging nonfiction book about animal feet. Enormous Smallnes: The Life of E.E. Cummings is a lovely book. The illustrations fit the text so well and showed the personality of Cummings. Daddy, Papa and Me and Mommy, Mama and Me are two joyful board books about family. They are also the first books to have received the Stonewall Award for children's literature. They were written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Carol Thompson. Funny thing is that they came in on the library hold shelf the same day that I listened to Lesléa on the Let's Get Busy Podcast. It's a great episode focusing on LGBT kidlit. By the way, if you have never listened to any of the Let's Get Busy Podcasts, I recommend that you go do that now.


There are three books here that knocked my socks off completely. Show Way took my breath away. Woodson is such a master storyteller and the topic is heartbreaking, but also manages to be a celebration. The Only Child was amazing in a completely different way. Is it a picture book? Is it a graphic novel? A combination? And it's wordless. Gorgeous too. It is like nothing else I've seen and also tells a marvelous story. I reviewed Freeedom in Congo Square here. It's an outstanding piece of nonfiction. 

Freedom on the Menu shares about the Greensborough, NC sit-ins in a way that young readers could understand. The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial shows a bit of history that I didn't know. One aspect I appreciate is that readers see a segregation issue in the north with a girl who was free before the Civil War. There aren't nearly as many books showing prejudice and racism in the north as those in the south. It helps create a fuller picture of the past. A Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventure of Field Scientist Cynthia Moss reminded me a lot of the work of Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. It's great to have another book celebrating the scientific life of a woman.

 
The Wolf Wilder is a fabulous adventure. It was historical fiction, but felt a little magical. Totally in a good way. It was enchanting even without actual enchantment. Forgotten Bones: Uncovering a Slave Cemetery presents the discovery and study of a slave cemetery in Albany, New York. Incidentally, this is located at the farm of the Schuyler family featured in the musical Hamilton. It is interesting because of the information they were able to gather about slaves in the north. There just isn't a lot of information available about slavery in the north. I do question the use of that skull on the cover though. It's obviously an attention getter, but it bothers me since that was an actual person and their skull is being used to sell a book. The archaeologists took great care and tried to be respectful, but the cover is disturbing.

I started working on my LGBTQIA Challenge and read several for it this week. My favorite was Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel and I loved it. It would be a great one for a Valentine's Day display. Leila is experiencing her first romantic relationship and all the ups and downs that come with it. There is a nice dose of humor here too. Pink was also a relationship book, but there is more questioning and the book felt a little more raw. Honor Girl is a graphic novel memoir and has a younger protagonist. She is startled to have a crush on one of the female counselors at her summer camp.

I reviewed the historical novel in verse, American Ace, over at Rich in Color.

It was a great week for books!

The Coming Week:
I'm reading the memoir Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano. After that, I'm not sure which way my reading will take me. I have The Graham Cracker Plot and a few others checked out from the library, but I have no set plan. Happy reading!

Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge - 65/550
Diversity on the Shelf 2016 - 33/225 (goal = 50% of my books by and/or about POC)
LGBTQIA Challenge - 5/31
ReadPOC Challenge - 23/125
#MustReadin2016 - 5/54
Around the World with Books 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

Celebrating Music



Ruth Ayres has a link-up on weekends where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every week.

I celebrate music. Smile is my one little word for the year. When I am down, lonely, stressed or otherwise not feeling super, music can put a smile right back on my face. Here are some of the songs that can lift me up. 


I have the German version of Wicked. I listened to it over and over again before my first visit to Germany. It helped refresh my high school German lessons. At this point, I may know the German lyrics better than the English ones. I came to admire this Elphaba. Willemijn Verkaik is amazing in any language and between her and the song it would be impossible not to smile.



Sometimes a little Bollywood is the perfect smile inducer. If that doesn't work, 
I can always try a little K-Pop


If all else fails, I can listen to one of the amusing songs from Hamilton.




Or I can even share a fun song with my students from Putumayo



Do you have songs that make you smile? If so, let me know what they are so I can add to my playlist for those moments I need a lift. Thanks!