The Girl from the Tar Paper School

The Girl from the Tar Paper School
written by Teri Kanefield
2014 (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
Source: Orange County Public Library

“When it rained, the roofs leaked. Buckets collected the dripping water. Some students sat under umbrellas so the ink on their papers wouldn’t run. The makeshift classrooms, like the regular classrooms, were heated by potbellied wood stoves instead of furnaces.”

In 1950, fifteen-year-old Barbara Johns lived on a farm located about 15 miles from Farmville, Virginia. She attended Robert R. Moton High School, a school for black students that had many temporary classrooms built to house an overflow of students. These classrooms were made of wood and covered with tar paper. Teachers would have to tend to the fire in the stoves and hope that the smoke wouldn’t interrupt their unevenly heated classrooms. Meanwhile, the school for white students had a modern heating system along with other amenities that Moton students could only dream about.

Black students and their parents were told to be patient by the white school board. A new school was going to be built to replace Moton High. Patience will only last so long, and Barbara’s had worn out. With a plan that she felt was divinely inspired, Barbara led her classmates to stage a peaceful strike to protest the unequal conditions. On April 23, 1951, an assembly of students met in the auditorium. After creating a distraction for the principal to go to town, Barbara led a students-only assembly. She gave a stirring speech that explained that they deserved to have a school that was equal in quality to the whites-only high school in Farmville. A two week long strike led to a lawsuit against the Prince Edward County school board that eventually went to the Supreme Court and joined four other cases that were consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education.

Barbara Rose Johns was an unsung heroine who had the courage to stare injustice in the face and not blink. She stood her ground and her actions, along with her fellow classmates, helped lead to the eventual desegregation of public schools. The Girl from the Tar Paper School, as stated in previous reviews, is an important work that should be read by students studying the Civil Rights movement. Readers will learn about the sacrifices made by these students and their families.


Kandinsky’s Art Inspires Barb Rosenstock’s ‘Noisy Paint Box’

ImagePicture book biographies are one of my favorite genres. Not only because they tend to feature remarkable people who change the world in one way or another, but because they distill the messiness of life into easily understandable bits. Betty wanted to fly, but people said a girl couldn’t, so Betty proved them wrong. Josephine wanted to dance, but America treated her poorly, so she found a place where she was loved and accepted.

With The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art (Knopf, releasing tomorrow), Chicago-area author Barb Rosenstock tells the story of a young boy who opened his paint box and saw colors differently. Young Vasily Kandinsky could hear colors singing and see vibrant sounds dancing, and he didn’t want to paint the way everyone else was painting at the time. So he listened to his own voice and, over time, became a brilliant force for a whole new form of painting: abstract art.

Beautifully illustrated by Mary GrandPre, best known as the artist for the Harry Potter books, The Noisy Paint Box has already garnered starred reviews from top journals, including this from Kirkus: “A rich, accomplished piece about a pioneer in the art world.” Barb’s other wonderfully detailed books have earned her praise as well: Thomas Jefferson Builds a Libraryrecently named an Orbis recommended book; The Camping Trip that Changed America, illustrated by Mordecai Gerstein; and Fearless: The Story of Racing Legend Louise Smith.

Question: Your picture books cover pioneering stock car racer Louise Smith, a ground-breaking camping trip with President Theodore Roosevelt and conservationist John Muir, and Thomas Jefferson’s library. Now, with The Noisy Paint Box, you dive into the life of abstract artist Vasily Kandinsky. Where do your ideas come from? How do you go from “a-ha” moment when something catches your eye to finished manuscript?

Barb Rosenstock: I wish I had a better answer than “my ideas are random” but “my ideas are random.” I wish they weren’t. Something I’ll read or see about a person or event will catch my imagination, and then it’s research time. I’m looking for its importance to kids or to curriculum and also for a focus to build a book around. How it goes to finished manuscript, well, like everyone else, it’s just create, revise, repeat.

Read more of this interview over at Kate Hannigan’s AuthorOf.blogspot.com, where you’ll find conversations with writers of some of the best books for children – from picture book to middle-grade, fiction and non-fiction.

Barefoot World Atlas: New packs added!

I’ve raved before about Barefoot World Atlas — the spinning globe that brings a traditional atlas into a new realm for young kids. Well, Touch Press has wowed me again, with five fantastic extension packs. If you haven’t tried out this app, please take a look!

Barefoot World Atlas
app developed by
TouchPress and Barefoot Books
available at iTunes App Store
ages 5-10

Young children have a difficult time envisioning the large extent of our world. It’s so hard to see how the separate parts relate to the whole. This app lets kids physically spin the globe, zooming in and out, and then learning a specific region. It’s tactile and visual — and kids love it!

Barefoot World Atlas: extension packs

Touch Press and Barefoot Books have added five extension packs that enable kids to explore their different interests on a global level. Each is available as an in-app purchase, so children and families can choose what piques their interest:

  • Great Cities
  • North America
  • International Football
  • World Art
  • Puzzles

For more about these great additions to Barefoot World Atlas, head over to Great Kid Books.

Posted by Mary Ann Scheuer

A Breath of Spring: Handle with Care

Tired of winter? Have your seen the new picture book by Loree Griffin Burns  and photographer Ellen Harasimowicz. Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey? It is a breath of springtime!


The first thing you are going to notice when you open the book are the absolutely eye-popping photographs. You see butterflies laying eggs, exotic-looking caterpillars, colorful pupae and even more pupae.


Although it is filled with beautiful photographs of butterfly life stages, this isn’t your typical butterfly life cycle book for young readers. Burns and Harasimowicz asked where the tropical butterflies you see in local butterfly exhibits come from and they traveled to all the way to Costa Rica to find out.

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey will surely inspire a trip to a butterfly exhibit. You will want to use it to accompany units on life cycles, farming, and insects, as well. Read it and watch children’s imaginations take flight!

Stop by Growing with Science for a more extensive review, suggested activities and lots of butterfly photographs.

What if You Had Animal Hair?

If you had Animal Hair

What if You Had Animal Hair?
by Sandra Markle; illus by Howard McWilliam

If you have ever had a bad hair day – one of those days when your hair is just “too wild” to deal with – then this book is for you. Because, what if you really did have hair like a porcupine? That would create a prickly situation…. And what if your hair was all scales, like the pangolin? One advantage: if you had polar bear hair you wouldn’t need to wear a hat to go skiing!

Read more – plus an interview with Sandra Markle and some activities – at Archimedes Notebook.


Pinkalicious Cupcake Cookbook

Pinkalicious Cupcake Cookbook
by Victoria Kann (Author, Illustrator)

Booktalk: Cupcakes galore!
Now you can make all your cupcakes Pinkalicious cupcakes. The Pinkalicious Cupcake Cookbook features more than twenty cupcakes straight from the pinkatastic world of Pinkalicious.

All of the cupcakes in this book need a flat top to facilitate the frosting and decorating and sometimes for balancing one cupcake on top of another. When using a cupcakes baked from a cake mix, slice off the rounded top of the cupcake with a paring knife.

See how to follow these directions in this 40 second Pinkalicious book trailer

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved. Site Meter

How Many Jelly Beans?

How many jelly beans?
How many jelly beans?

MATHEMATICS (K-2) How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti GRL J   ATOS 1.5

Help K-5 students answer this essential question (and meet the Common Core State Standards) with the Teaching STEM lesson plans for this mentor text.

Essential Question: What would a million of something look like?

Unit Summary: Students will examine the essential question, “What would a million of something look like?” They will explore numbers of increasing size through the enlarging number of jelly beans pictured in the book. They will color sets of five jelly beans and practice skip counting by five as they complete each row on the graphic organizer.

The Library Activity begins on page 182. The Collaborative Teacher Activity is on page 184.

Extension Activities (sample)

1. Give each student ten jelly beans or ten bite-sized candies. Have them write story problems and the number sentences using subtraction as they eat them.

2. Bring in a package of beans or peas. Ask the students how many beans are in the package. Then give a handful to each person until they are all distributed. Ask them to count their beans and write it down. Then have the students make piles of tens and re-count the beans. Ask which way is easier. Count the beans by 10s for everyone in the class to get the total number of beans. Then take a set amount of beans and write number sentences. You can do this with numbers up to 20 to review addition and subtraction or make larger numbers. Group the students and have them work together with more beans.

3. After reading the book, have the students write a short description of the main idea of the book. Use the phrase, “I am a mathematician. I know that _________.”

Copyright © 2014 Shirley Duke All Rights Reserved. Site Meter


To Dare Mighty Things

To Dare Mighty Things
written by Doreen Rappaport; illustrated by C.F. Payne
2013 (Hyperion)
Source: Orange County Public Library

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

It seems a little underwhelming to call Theodore Roosevelt larger than life. His life was certainly larger than most of ours. Many authors have sought to capture his life in long and short form. So what recommends this picture book treatment of his life? Two reasons. One, it takes a pretty smart and talented author to combine text elements like Doreen Rappaport does in this book. She intertwines quotes from Roosevelt with details of his life. It’s fun as a reader to read the quote and follow up with the details. I wanted to pull out poster paper and make signs with some of these quotes.

You could take a two page spread and use it for a lesson on main idea and details. We get a nice summary of Roosevelt’s life with all of the highlights included. The sickly childhood, the charge up San Juan Hill, T.R.’s trust busting, his environmental accomplishments and his presidential work are all included. The second reason to find this book is easy to see above. C.F. Payne’s art work is terrific. There is something on each spread that immediately grabs your attention. It’s as if there is a main idea in the illustration and supporting details surrounding it.

February is a traditional time for teachers to focus on biographies. Find a copy of To Dare Mighty Things and share it with your class this month.


Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker – an inspiring & beautiful biography (ages 8-11)

Dazzling. Exuberant. Full of life.

These words certainly describe Josephine Baker, but they also describe the beautiful biography that Patricia Hruby Powell & Christian Robinson have just created celebrating Baker’s life and work. This is a unique picture book biography, presenting Baker’s life in poetic text that hums with rhythm, spread across over 100 pages.

Powell tells the story of Josephine Baker’s determined rise from poverty to stardom with energy and verve that suits the subject matter. Her free verse poetry creates a driving rhythm that propels the reader along. Christian Robinson captures Josephine’s movement and playfulness with his gorgeous acrylic illustrations.

Head over to Great Kid Books to watch at the trailer that Robinson created and see how the illustrations, music and story all blend together to make a dynamic picture book biography.

Mary Ann Scheuer
Great Kid Books

February highlights

Despite (or because of) the groundhog’s prediction of six more weeks of winter, I’ll be trying to keep busy. Here are some things to look forward to:

February is Black History Month, and we’re fortunate that resources abound.
Be sure to check out The Brown Bookshelf each day.From their website:

“The Brown Bookshelf is designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers. Our flagship initiative of is 28 Days Later, a month-long showcase of the best in Picture Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult novels written and illustrated by African Americans.”

Also, check out the US government’s African American History Month site.  It features a page “for teachers” with links to useful resource sites, including the Library of Congress.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, begin in a few days!  Break out your globes, your Russian folktales, and some books on skating and skiing.  The Olympics is a great storytime theme.

February has Valentine’s Day.  I’ll be posting tomorrow at Shelf-employed, about my new favorite books.  In the meantime, check out my old favorites in a previous post on Storytime Favorites for Valentine’s Day.

To My Valentine [1890]
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Washington, D.C. 20540
USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

And, looking forward … next month is Women’s History Month.  For the 4th consecutive year, fellow librarian and blogger, Margo Tanenbaum of the Fourth Musketeer, and I will be hosting and curating the blog, KidLit Celebrates Women’s History Month!  Each post in March will feature noted authors, illustrators, librarians and book bloggers including Gretchen Woelfle, Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks, Mary Ann Scheuer and more. (See the blog’s sidebar for the complete list of scheduled contributors.)  It’s going to be an awesome month!  We do have a few dates still open.  If you have a unique idea, book, or essay related to children’s literature and women’s history, and you would like to see it featured on our blog, please contact me or Margo as soon as possible before all dates are taken.

Copyright © 2014 L Taylor. All Rights Reserved.