Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall’s Life and Art by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary Grandpre

Published by Knopf

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Summary:  From the author-illustrator team that brought you The Noisy Paint Box and Vincent Can’t Sleep comes this introduction to the life of artist Marc Chagall.  Born Moishe Shagal in Vitebsk, Russia, he changed his name as a young man living and working in Paris.  Many of his paintings showed what he saw through various windows, which is referenced in the title.  Due to the two world wars, Chagall was forced to return to Russia for awhile before getting back to Paris and eventually moving to the United States. He continued to explore new art forms as he grew older, including sculpture, set design, and stained glass.  Includes an author’s note, which includes photos of some of Chagall’s work, and a list of sources. 40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  A beautiful introduction to Marc Chagall’s life, both visually and through the text, which the author’s note explains is written the style of Chagall’s poetic autobiography, My Life.

Cons:  The story might be a little confusing without some guidance from a knowledgeable adult.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

A Day with Judy Freeman

I spent today in Bristol, Connecticut at Judy Freeman’s What’s New in Children’s Literature workshop.  Judy was kind enough to invite me as her guest, and I enjoyed hearing what books she recommended and getting some programming ideas to promote them.  Sponsored by the Bureau of Education and Research (BER), it’s always a worthwhile workshop if you get the opportunity to go.

Judy and I have read a lot of the same books this year, but I did hear of a few that I missed and wished I had included on this blog.  Here’s a quick run-down if you want to try to get your hands on them.

The United States v. Jackie Robinson by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Published by Balzer + Bray

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Jackie Robinson’s baseball career is a familiar story, but this looks at his early life, growing up with a mother who refused to back down when their white neighbors tried to force the family to move.  The story also covers Jackie’s college and military career, showing how his early years shaped his later life playing baseball and working for civil rights.  32 pages; grades 3-6.

 

Mae’s First Day of School by Kate Berube

Published by Abrams

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Mae would rather sit up in a tree all day than face the uncertainties of the first day of school.  Soon she’s joined by another girl named Rosie, who shares Mae’s concerns about the unknown.  Finally, a third person joins them: Ms. Pearl, the new teacher who has her own insecurities.  The three finally decide to face their fears, climb down from the tree, and walk into school together.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

 

Stegothesaurus by Bridget Heos, illustrated by T. L. McBeth

Published by Henry Holt

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Two of the brothers are stegosauruses, but the third is a stegothesaurus.  Stegosauruses say hi; but it’s “Hello! Greetings! Salutations!” from the stegothesaurus.  A big mountain is “gargantuan, gigantic, Goliath”, and a hot day is “blazing, blistering, broiling”.  When the stegothesaurus meets an allothesaurus, the words really start to fly.  A fun introduction to word choice and thesauruses.  32 pages; grades K-3.

 

Worlds Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Published by Abrams

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Seventeen children’s poets, plus Hopkins, created works inspired by paintings at The Metropolitan Museum in New York City.  A beautiful and accessible introduction to poetry and art.  48 pages; grades 3-7.

 

Dear Substitute by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Chris Raschka

Published by Disney-Hyperion

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A girl is surprised to find a substitute in her class, and writes disgruntled letters about the changes in the routine.  As the day goes on, though, she begins to appreciate the fun-loving sub, and by dismissal time, she realizes the day has turned out just fine.  32 pages; grades K-3.

 

 

Regina Persisted: An Untold Story by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Margeaux Lucas

Published by Apples and Honey Press

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Summary:  The story opens as Regina Jonas is on her way to take an exam that will allow her to be a Jewish rabbi.  As she’s walking to the school, she thinks back on what has brought her to this day–a love of the Torah, a father who believed girls should learn Hebrew, years of going to synagogue every week and staying after the service to study with the rabbi.  When she arrives at school, though, she’s stopped from taking the exam by a teacher who tells her that girls can’t be rabbis and that she must give up her dream. For five years, Regina continues to teach and inspire Jews during what is becoming an increasingly dark time in Germany.  Finally, on December 26, 1935, she is allowed to take the exam and become the first woman rabbi in the world. An afterword tells of Regina’s brief career until her death in Auschwitz in 1944; there was not another woman rabbi until 1972, but now there are close to 1,000, including the author.  32 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  It’s an amazing story of a woman who refused to take no for an answer in pursuing her dream.  The text and illustrations do a nice job of incorporating the stories of a couple of other strong Jewish women (Miriam and Esther).

Cons:  Because this was published by a small press specializing in Judaism, it’s probably not going to fly under the radar for many librarians and other book buyers.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

 

She Did It! 21 Women Who Changed the Way We Think by Emily Arnold McCully

Published by Disney-Hyperion

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Image result for she did it mccully amazon

Summary:  As per the subtitle, you’ll find 21 women who promoted feminism and changed the role of women, mostly in the twentieth century.  Each profile is several pages long, broken into sections with headings and sidebars, and begins with an illustration of the woman with a large head, a la the Who Was biography series.  They’re arranged in chronological order by the year each woman was born, beginning with Ida Tarbell (1857) and concluding with Temple Grandin (1947).  Many of the names may be unfamiliar to elementary and middle school students. The concluding chapter, “Second Wave Feminism” tells the story of feminism in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and includes an eye-popping list of eight things a woman couldn’t do before the second wave (get a bank loan, serve on a jury in most states, etc.).  Includes a list of sources and an index. 272 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  An educational and entertaining look at 21 fascinating women in a wide variety of fields and from diverse backgrounds, all placed in the context of the history of feminism.  The illustrations and page layouts make this easy to browse.

Cons:  While I liked the illustrations, photos of each woman would have been a useful addition as well.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs, illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

Published by Chronicle Books

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Summary:  Growing up in North Carolina, Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten loved playing music.  She learned to play her brother’s guitar, but because she was left-handed, she played it upside-down and backwards.  When her brother moved out, taking his guitar with him, Libba did chores until she had saved $3.75 to buy her own instrument. When she was 12, she wrote a song called “Freight Train”.  But an early marriage and a baby derailed her musical ambitions for many years. In the 1940’s, she took a job as a housekeeper for the musical Seeger family.  When they heard her play, they helped launch her career. She recorded her first album in 1958, then went on tour. “Freight Train” became a hit, and her songs were covered by many artists.  Libba won a Grammy award in 1985, when she was in her 90’s. Includes a lengthy author’s note with additional biographical information and a list of works cited. 48 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Kids may not appreciate the “it’s never too late to follow your dreams message”, but it’s an inspiring one for us older readers, and Libba’s unconventional way of playing the guitar will help kids to see there’s more than one path to greatness.  Look on YouTube for a video of Libba playing and singing “Freight Train” to really appreciate her guitar talents.

Cons:  Although the illustrations are lovely, the cover didn’t really grab me, and I had this out of the library a couple times before I finally read it.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot’s World War II Story by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Melissa Iwai

Published by Clarion Books

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Summary:  On September 9, 1942, Nobuo Fujita set out on a mission to drop two bombs in Oregon, with the intention of setting a forest fire that would spread to nearby towns.  The raid was successful, but only one bomb ignited, and the resulting fire was quickly contained. Residents of the town of Brookings, Oregon were somewhat alarmed to discover pieces of a Japanese bomb in a nearby forest.  The mission was repeated a few weeks later, with similar results. After the war, Nobuo settled down in Japan, never telling anyone about his raids over America. In 1962, the Brookings Jaycees, trying to boost tourism, decided to track down the Japanese bomber pilot and invite him to America.  For the first time, Nobuo told his family about his role in the war, and the whole family traveled to Oregon, not sure about what to expect. Despite some protests, most of the townspeople welcomed the Japanese visitors with open arms, and the trip ended up being the first of four that Nobuo made; he also sponsored three Brookings high school to visit him in Tokyo.  The day before he died in 1997, a town representative flew to Japan to make Nobuo an honorary citizen; a year after his death, his widow scattered some of his ashes in the Oregon town. Includes an author’s note and additional sources. 40 pages; grades 1-6.

Pros:  Kids who are interested in World War II may pick this up, but there is a lot more to the story than just military history.  It’s a tale of forgiveness and pacifism, and raises the interesting question about Nobuo: “He went from fighting to uniting.  Which took more courage?’’ An engaging story and meditation on war and peace.

Cons:  It does make you wonder what would have happened if those bombs had worked the way they were supposed to.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Lights, Camera, Alice! The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Simona Ciraolo

Published by Chronicle Books

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Summary:  Alice always loved stories, but when her father died and the family business went under, she was forced to become practical and find a job.  She was hired by a camera company and learned about a new kind of camera–one that made moving pictures.  To help sell the camera, Alice decided to capture some of her stories on film.  She created props and costumes, found actors and actresses, and experimented with different film techniques.  She even learned to add sound and color to her motion pictures.  She eventually moved to America, where she opened a studio and eventually made over 700 movies.  But when the film industry became big business, Hollywood put Alice’s little studio out of business, and she moved back to France with her children.  Much of her work was lost, but in 1955, her role in movie making was rediscovered, and she was awarded the Legion of Honor.  She also wrote her memoirs, which were finally published in America in 1986.  Includes additional information and a list of sources, including two of Alice’s films that can be seen on YouTube.  60 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  This quirky book tells the unbelievable story of Alice Guy-Blache, who contributed a huge amount to early film, yet was almost completely unrecognized for her achievements.  The story is told in the style of a silent movie, and the illustrations have a good time playing with that genre.

Cons:  All recommendations I saw were for grades K-3 or K-4, but most kindergarteners and first graders wouldn’t have enough background knowledge to understand or appreciate this.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.