Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

Black History Month: The Youngest Marcher, by Cynthia Levinson February 14, 2017

youngest-marcherThe Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, by Cynthia Levinson/illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, (Jan. 2017, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481400701

Recommended for ages 5-10

In May 1963, children in Birmingham, Alabama, trained in peaceful, civil disobedience, marched to protest segregation. Nine year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks was the youngest marcher, fully invested in civil rights and aware that she would likely go to jail. She spent a week in juvenile hall with flimsy blankets and no toothbrush, but she persevered and made history. Nonfiction author Cynthia Levinson tells the story of the youngest marcher, with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton, here for younger audiences, assuring children that no one is too small, too young, to make a difference in the world.

I’ve been handing this book to kids coming in, looking for African-American biographies for their Black History Month reports for just this reason. I want children to see that they are important. They count. At a time when many feel marginalized, books like The Youngest Marcher, with its powerful words and images, offer representation and affirmation. Children have a voice, and with support and encouragement, they can use them and be heard.

Cynthia Levinson’s author website offers links to further resources, including curriculum guides and videos. Illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton was spotlighted by the WeNeedDiverseBooks initiative, for which she also created original artwork. For more information about the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, visit Biography.com or the Zinn Education Project, offering information about the award-winning documentary, Mighty Times.

 

 

Black History Month: Shackles from the Deep, by Michael Cottman February 10, 2017

shackles-from-the-deepShackles from the Deep: Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship, a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy, by Michael Cottman, (Jan. 2017, National Geographic Society), $17.99, ISBN: 9781426326639

Recommended for ages 10-13

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Cottman investigates the wreck of a 17-century slave ship, the Henrietta Marie, and goes on a journey that will take him from the Caribbean islands, where the Henrietta Marie docked to unload hundreds of kidnapped Africans to be sold into slavery, to Africa, to see Goree Island – location of the Maison des Esclaves; House of the Slaves, and the Door of No Return; the last glimpse enslaved Africans would have of their homeland – with his own eyes.

Cottman’s journey is as personal as it is professional. He struggles with anger at the slavers themselves, and with the manufacturers of the shackles, discovered by African-American diver Captain Demostenes “Moe” Molinar, in 1972. Cottman discovers that many of the men behind the Henrietta Marie were members of their parishes, even philanthropists in their own communities, and yet turned a blind eye to the suffering of countless men, women, and children caught up in the slave trade. He wonders if the spouses and children of these men knew that their comfortable lifestyle came at the expense of human misery, and he agonizes as he tries to understand, and forgive.

Adapted for younger readers from Michael Cottman’s 1999 book, The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie, Shackles from the Deep introduces readers to the aftereffects of slavery, centuries later. Entire families have been lost to history; people feel unrooted, to some degree, to this day. Imagine wondering your ancestors endured the brutal conditions of slavery, and never being able to find out the answer? By personalizing his story, Michael Cottman makes this already important book vital reading for middle school students and above.

We are still dealing with the fallout from centuries of slavery. It is personal, and by adding his story to the story of the Henrietta Marie, Michael Cottman invites readers to look at events that may seem so long past through different eyes. What we also get, unexpectedly, is a call to action for young divers of color to continue exploring the waters of our planet to learn more about our collective past, and our future.

An important book for libraries and nonfiction collections, Shackles from the Deep has received a starred review from Booklist. There are four pages of full-color photos; an index, and further resources on deep-water exploration, shipwrecks, and slave ships.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History has a comprehensive booklet on the Henrietta Marie, from their 2000 expedition at the West Virginia State Museum. It would be an excellent companion to any social studies unit on slavery and an accompaniment to Shackles From the Deep.

 

Time For Kids Presidents is a good desk reference for middle graders January 30, 2017

tfkpresidentsTime for Kids: Presidents of the United States, by Editors at Time for Kids, (Jan. 2017, Time for Kids), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1683300007

Recommended for ages 8-12

Time for Kids’ Presidents of the United States is a slim, backpack and desk-friendly reference guide for middle graders. Loaded with color photos and illustrations, there are facts about the Presidency, branches of government, political parties and why we have them, a spotlight on the First Ladies, and more. Each President receives a brief biography, fast facts, including birth and death dates, political party, Vice President, wife, children, key dates during his administration, and a Did You Know? fact. A 2016 election spotlight and President portrait gallery completes the volume, along with links to the White House website, Presidential homesteads and museums. The volume includes an index.

This is a helpful resource for middle graders – it will help with social studies and current events homework, and provides a quick, easy reading experience by chunking information into readable bites. A good buy for classroom libraries and social studies collections.

 

 

The life of a legend, through the eyes of those who knew her: California Dreamin’ January 20, 2017

california_1California Dreamin’, by Pénélope Bagieu, (March 2017, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781626725461

Recommended for ages 12+

Mama Cass is a music legend. A member of The Mamas and the Papas folk group in the late 1960s, I grew up hearing the group bemoan Monday mornings and dream about California when the winters got too cold. There’s been a lot of ink spilled, writing about the dysfunctional group and its members, but Pénélope Bagieu pays homage to Cass by looking at her earliest years, before and leading up to the formation of the group, in her graphic novel, California Dream: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas and the Papas.

Beginning with her birth, California Dreamin’ tells Cass’ story through the eyes of the people in her life; her family, her friends, her band members. We learn something about each of them as they reveal their stories about life with Cass, and we get a glimpse into some of the singer’s defining moments: her work with Denny Doherty and the band, The Mugwumps; the group coming forming while performing in the Virgin Islands; Mama Cass joining The Mamas and the Papas despite John Phillips’ insistence that she was just providing “guest vocals”, and that the band was himself, Michelle Phillips, and Denny Doherty.

The art is expressive and touching; Bagieu makes her characters cartoony but real; touching and intense. Making Cass’ story a graphic novel will hopefully appeal to a younger audience who may not know the singer or her group, but will appreciate her ability to make things happen for herself and never take no for an answer.

Pénélope Bagieu’s first US graphic novel was 2015’s Exquisite Corpse..

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Create your own Scratch games with Scratch Coding Cards! January 18, 2017

scratchcodingcards_coverScratch Coding Cards, by Natalie Rusk, MIT Lab Scratch Team, (Dec. 2016, No Starch Press), $24.95, ISBN: 97-1-59327-774-1

Recommended for ages 8+

Better than flash cards, these Scratch coding cards teach users to design:

  • virtual pets that can eat, drink, and play;
  • games where you can catch things falling from the sky;
  • animated dance scenes with music and dance moves;
  • a bouncing ball game with sounds, points, and other effects;
  • characters that you can dress up with different clothes
  • stories, where you can choose characters, add conversations, and bring your story to life;
  • hide and seek games with characters that disappear;
  • a music program, where you choose instruments, add sounds, and press keys to play music;
  • a game where two characters race one another, and
  • a program that will animate the letters of your name.

Each activity comes with a set of cards, walking users through each action in the process. Every card is fully illustrated and includes screenshots and brief, clear text. I spent the better part of an afternoon creating Pong-type games with my 13 year old when I received my cards to review, and I’m going to start working with my 4 year-old on making up a story using Scratch. I’ve even gushed about these cards to the Collection Development group at my library system, because I love these cards so much.

Librarian or teacher? These cards are a class/program in themselves. Parent, or just interested in learning how to code? You can’t beat these cards for teaching and learning block coding.

 

Science Comics Explores Bats January 16, 2017

batsScience Comics: Bats – Learning to Fly, by Falynn Christine Koch, (Feb. 2017, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626724082

Recommended for ages 8-13

The latest volume of Science Comics introduces kids to bats. The information is pulled together with a story about a little brown bat whose wing is injured by humans on a nature hike. He’s taken to a rehabilitation center, where he meets bats of different species. Little Brown, as he’s called by the other bats, learns what the other bats eat, how they fly, live, and sadly, how their homes are invaded by humans. The information is comprehensive and there’s a call to conservation and preservation for kids, which I always appreciate.

I enjoy Science Comics because it’s easily an digestible, thorough introduction to a subject that doesn’t talk down to kids, nor does it speak over their heads. The illustrations are interesting and technically on point, and the fictional narrative that ties each volume together is interesting and fun, keeping the reader’s attention. I’ve got every issue of Science Comics (Coral Reefs, Dinosaurs, Volcanoes) so far, and Bats will join them on my shelves. I display mine with related series nonfiction, lest kids worry about a “comic book” not satisfying their research requirements, and I booktalk them every chance I get. If you’re a teacher, have these in your classroom and use them when you cover these topics – your kids will thank you.

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Blog Tour: Twisted True Tales from Science! January 2, 2017

Happy New Year! What better way to kick things off than by talking up a new, cool nonfiction science series?

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Series information:

Title: Twisted True Tales from Science

Author: Stephanie Bearce

Release Date: February 1, 2017

Publisher: Prufrock Press

Did you know that Nikola Tesla invented a death ray gun and was also afraid of women who wore jewelry? How about the Chinese scientists from two-thousand years ago who were trying to create a medicine that would make them live forever but accidentally blew up their lab and discovered gun powder?

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Find out more about the strange history of science in Twisted True Tales from Science, a new non-fiction series that introduces kids to some of the most twisted yet completely true stories from science. These books are perfect for the gross-but-true legends of the Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not! stories.

Freaky Facts from Explosive Experiments

Gunpowder was a chemical explosive discovered by the ancient Chinese. But they weren’t experimenting to invent a weapon. They were actually trying to make a medicine that would give their emperor eternal life. Boy – were they surprised when the elixir for life exploded and blew up their laboratory.

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The mission was code named Starfish Prime and it was one of the largest man-made explosions in the history of the world. In 1962 the United States tested a nuclear bomb in outer space. The explosion was so bright that it lit up the sky over Honolulu just like it was the fourth of July. But instead of fireworks, it was a nuclear bomb 100 times bigger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

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GIVEAWAY for one bundle of the entire Twisted True Tales from Science series (4 books)

Don’t miss your chance to win a bundle of your own Twisted True Tales from Science! Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway today!

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