World War I for Kids

It is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I in 2014, and Chicago Review Press is releasing World War I for Kids:  A History with 21 Activities by R. Kent Rasmussen April 1 to commemorate the event.



This title is particularly well written. It covers all the significant events (for example, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the sinking of the Lusitania), but rather than emphasizing dates and lists of battles, it is more of an overview of how WWI changed warfare and the world.

Have you tried books in the For Kids series from Chicago Review Press yet? They are unique because they emphasize hands-on activities to reinforce learning. Nothing makes concepts stick like having to apply them in the real world. Examples of activities included in this book are making a periscope, teaching a dog to carry messages, making a parachute, and cooking a ration commonly fed to the troops called Maconochie Stew.

World War I for Kids is a must-have for serious young history buffs, particularly those interested in war history. It definitely could be a resource for high school students studying world history, as it covers WWI with a clarity and depth not found in most textbooks. It is also appropriate for Women’s History Month and Black History Month, as it emphasizes the contributions of women and African Americans.

Want to find out more? Check Wrapped in Foil for the full review and activity suggestions.


The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr

Greenberg, Jan and Sandra Jordan. 2013. The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius. New York: Roaring Brook.

This book, recognized as a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book,  one of 2013’s most distinguished informational books, is a photo-filled biography of George E. Ohr, a master of art pottery. A colorful character and far cry from the reticent or taciturn artist stereotype, Ohr was a self-proclaimed,

“rankey krankey solid individualist,” the “Greatest Art Potter on Earth,” and “born free and patriotic, blowing my own bugle.”

George E. Ohr pottery workshopSadly, his bravado did not serve him well in his lifetime, as one fan wrote,

“Mr. Ohr is by no means a crank, but is a naturally bright, even brilliant man, who has been led into the belief that the way for him to attain publicity is through the channel of preposterous advertising, and the signs which he placed round Biloxi do him more harm than good.”

Still, he was confident in his own mastery of his craft, and future generations came to recognize that he was indeed brilliant.  The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art was built in his honor, and houses a permanent exhibition of his work.

The Mad Potter is a narrative chronology and includes a history of the museum, instructions on how to create a clay pot, extensive Notes, Bibliography and Picture Credits, and my favorite – “How to Look at a Pot,” a useful interpretation of the language and method used in describing and evaluating pottery.

A fascinating glimpse into an artist’s life, the art of pottery, and the nature and mindset of the art-collecting world.

Today is the final day of this year’s KidLit Celebrates Women’s History Month celebration.  Please be sure to catch up on all of the wonderful posts!
You can find a link to photos of George Ohr’s pottery and all of my reviews at Shelf-employed
Copyright © 2014 L Taylor All Rights Reserved..

Tracey Fern Sails for Adventure With ‘Dare the Wind’

Who doesn’t love a daring adventure story when she sees it? And when it’s a non-fiction picture book? All the better. When it features a brave lass at the helm? Unbeatable. And there we have Dare the Wind: The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, published only last month by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Dare the Wind tells the story of young Ellen Prentiss, who was born “with saltwater in her veins.” Her father nurtured her interest in the sea, and Ellen learned navigate and sail on her own. When Ellen grew up, her love for adventure never waned, and her husband was given command of a clipper ship built for speed. With the Gold Rush on, Ellen raced from New York, around the tip of Cape Horn, and into San Francisco to stake her fortune. She not only navigated the clipper safely, but she set the world record for speed along the way.

Question: You’re a Massachusetts gal, and so was Ellen Prentiss. Is that what drew you to her story? Could you talk about the “ah-ha” moment when you decided to write a book about this daring seafarer?

Tracey Fern: I’m always on the lookout for great real-life stories that feature a unique person mixed with a dash of adventure or discovery.  My “ah-ha” moment came when I picked up David Shaw’s book, Flying Cloud, on a whim.  I knew instantly that I had to write about Ellen. Ellen’s story – a young woman performing a traditionally male role, clipper ships, a race, storms – had it all! It was an added bonus that she was from Marblehead, Massachusetts, which is one of my favorite towns.  I love walking the narrow, cobbled streets, imagining Ellen learning to navigate ships in the harbor.

Read more of this interview over at, where Kate Hannigan interviews authors of some of today’s best fiction and non-fiction, picture books to middle-grade.

World War I for kids: A history with 21 activities by R. Kent Rasmussen

Every year the dreaded World War I project strikes. Random middle school students suddenly appear demanding 20 facts about a single topic. The smart ones have weeks, the procrastinators need them, like, now and are usually rather surly when I tell them that their fellow students have already checked out my entire World War I section and anyways I don’t have an entire book on the Zimmerman telegram, trench warfare, or carrier pigeons. However, in view of the demand, I’ve been slowly building this section. Slowly because, however heavy the demand, it’s still only once a year and therefore I want items that are attractive enough to check out all year round.

Which is a lengthy way of saying that Chicago Review Press has met my requirements with this book on an obscure topic, packed with information and activities (yes, you may not consider WWI obscure, but trust me, the kids do).

Click here to visit my blog, Jean Little Library, for a complete review

Writing nonfiction that honors women in history: an interview with Tracey Fern

As I explore Women’s History Month with students, I want to help them think about how they can honor women in history. We talk about honoring women in their lives, because for young students the immediate it so important. But I’m also fascinated by the way authors investigate women whose stories we might not have heard yet.

Today, I’m thrilled to share an interview with Tracey Fern about her journey to learn about the life of Eleanor Prentiss and then writing Dare the Wind. My questions are in red; Tracey’s answers follow in black. To read the whole interview, head over to Great Kid Books today!

Mary Ann Scheuer: How did you first learn about Eleanor? What drew you to her story?

Tracey Fern: I first learned about Eleanor when I was browsing through my local bookstore and happened upon David Shaw’s book, Flying Cloud. I’m always on the lookout for strong female characters, and so I knew instantly that I wanted to write about Eleanor. Eleanor’s story also combined adventure and science, two elements that I’m also often drawn toward. Finally, I’m a Massachusetts gal who grew up with the ocean and the beach in my backyard, and I love that Eleanor grew up here, too!

MS: Did you travel at all to do your research? What was your research process like?

TF: I traveled to Marblehead, Massachusetts while writing Dare the Wind. Marblehead was Eleanor’s home town, and parts of the town still look much the way I imagine they looked when Eleanor walked its cobbled streets. I also visited the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut and toured the USS Constitution in Boston harbor to get myself in a seafaring state of mind! My research process for this book was different from my usual research, because there are relatively few primary sources available. As a result, I relied more heavily on secondary sources than I typically do.

Dare the Wind interior

Head over to Great Kid Books today to read more about Tracey’s process researching and writing Dare the Wind.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
by Patricia Hruby Powell (Author) and Christian Robinson (Illustrator)

Booktalk: To close Women’s History Month and begin Poetry Month, a free-verse biographical poem about performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker. (Notice the use of primary source quotations in the second image below.)

Mama called her TUMPY, the round baby girl, after Humpty Dumpty.
With her first breath, she made faces.
As soon as she walked, she DANCED.

Sample the book with this 1:01 Josephine book trailer.

**Patricia is one of my former students!**

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
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Interview with Melissa Stewart, author of Feathers: Not Just for Flying

Feathers: Not Just for Flying

written by Melissa Stewart; illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

2014 (Charlesbridge)

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher


Author Melissa Stewart was kind enough to answer some questions regarding her terrific new book, Feathers: Not Just for Flying. This book demonstrates several different ways that birds use feathers and compares these to everyday objects. After Melissa’s interview are some links to other blog reviews and a You Tube video featuring Melissa talking about the similes in her book. You should also check out Melissa’s website and her Pinterest page for more resources.

1. What do you take with you when you observe animals, like birds, and what tips do you have for young observers?

I usually don’t set out with a goal of observing particular animals. It’s more that I want to check out an interesting location—a particular woodland, a trail I’ve heard about, or maybe a pond. So I don’t take any special gear. I just go to the place I have in mind and see what I see. I tend to have the best experiences when I don’t set out with a particular goals or expectations in mind.

2. When I read Feathers, I can easily see the purpose of the book, the connections you want readers to make, and several other teaching points. How does being an educator, and working with educators, influence your work as a writer?

Hmm, that’s an interesting question. As I was writing, I didn’t consciously have a specific purpose in mind or connections that I wanted to readers to make. For me, every book I write is pretty much about the same thing—my strong desire to share the beauty and wonder of nature with my readers. The structure I choose is my attempt at finding the best possible way to engage my audience in the topic. In the case of Feathers, I struggled with structure for three years, but things fell into place when a friend mentioned that what she took away from an early draft was the tool-like functions that feathers can serve. I decided to focus on that—how feathers are like tools or objects that we use. That’s where the similes came from. I thought readers would connect more strongly to the information if I included comparisons to everyday objects.

3. My students are excited when they discover bird eggs and feathers on the ground. What should they do if they find these items?

I know it’s tempting to pick up these items, but it’s always better to leave natural things in nature. Kids can observe natural objects them closely, maybe take a picture, and then walk away. When a person touches a bird egg, he or she leaves a human scent on the egg that may scare the mother bird and cause her to abandon the nest. There are laws against collecting many kinds of feathers because people used to kill birds, collect their feathers, and sell them to people who made hats. The hats are a thing of the past, but the laws are still on the books. As feathers degrade naturally, they can serve other purposes, such as nesting materials for other birds. That’s why the best decision is to leave natural objects in place.

4. Was there a bird (or birds) that you wanted to feature but didn’t have enough space in the book?

It’s rotten of me to do this, but if you want to know the answer to the question above and more questions, head over to NC Teacher Stuff for the rest of the interview and a video from Melissa about the similes in this book.


Maps cover

by Aleksandra Mizielinska , Daniel Mizielinski (Authors, Illustrators)

Visual Treat!

Big Picture Press released “Maps” a “celebration of the world, from its immense mountains to its tiny insects – and everything in between”. And indeed what a visual delight this book turned out to be!  With 52 HIGHLY detailed and illustrated Maps, this book is a gem. It’s an atlas for the very curious child.

Maps page3

This book is not just an educational tool, but a fun visual treat for anyone looking to learn about geography and cultures around our world. It was tempting to make a big list of places that one wants to visit and mark them off of this big book of Maps!

Find a detailed review here @ Stacking Books!



Jeff note: I’m sneaking in an extra review this week. I hope my fellow bloggers don’t mind. This is an excellent book.


written by Kate Riggs

2011 (The Creative Company)

Source: Orange County Public Library

Samurai were warriors who fought other people to protect their master and his land.

The samurais started fighting almost 900 years ago. Their job was to defend their masters, or daimyo. Before the samurai, there was a class of fighters called the yamato. Starting around age seven, boys studied martial arts and learned how to use weapons like bows and arrows and swords. At age 7, I think I was learning how to tie my shoes. Jeff BargerSamurai Shoe Tie Guy! Samurai swords were called katanas. Other weapons included spears, metal folding fans (my personal favorite) and a suit of armor. All of this was necessary as samurais often fought to the death. As opposed to asking for a time out to get a band-aid. That would be my move. Samurai were disciplined in their fighting and in their personal behavior. They were loyal and respectful. With the advent of a large Japanese army, the samurai class of warriors were no longer needed by the end of the 19th century. Their legacy lives on in the current use of martial arts.

I really like this book because the text and subject matter are perfect for reluctant readers. There’s great information but not a ton of text which is what you need for students who are not skilled in researching topics. Samurai is also a terrific mentor text for creating a nonfiction book. I like the format of text on the left and photographs on the right with a caption and/or fun fact. That works well for my second grade writers. There is a series of eight books about different warriors available from The Creative Company.

It Has Begun (a Blast From the Past)

What has begun? March Madness, Baayyybeee!!! Oh, I just love this time of year! This is one event that never, ever fails to thrill and surprise. Every year there are close, down-to-the last-few-seconds games. Every year the great players show why they’re great and unknown players achieve greatness. Every year some low-seeded team upsets a big-name giant. And, because of that, my brackets go right out the—


Yep, I had Duke going to the final game (against Virginia) and NC State going a couple of rounds. Good thing my guys from Carolina won last night. It’s pretty obvious I’m an ACC fan, right?

Anyway, in honor of March Madness, I’m going to do a Blast From the Past and repost something I’ve written before. This time it’s a review of two good nonfiction books about playing the roundball game that I wrote back in June 2013.

“These are good, basic books about how to play the game. Fundamental Basketball covers everything from the history of the game to how to shoot jump shots to the size of the backboard! Basketball Step by Step

also covers the basics of scoring, equipment, players and court and the different team positions. But, more importantly, it shows how the techniques of offensive and defensive play by giving multiple photographs that demonstrate each move step by step.Both would be useful for the novice player or the veteran looking to sharpen his (or her) skills. Really recommended.”


OK, guys, get these books, practice your free throws and cheer for your team!

Iron Guy Carl at Boys Rule Boys Read!