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Pathfinders: the Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls, by Tonya Bolden (ages 10-14)

In her outstanding new book Pathfinders, Tonya Bolden shares the remarkable stories of sixteen African Americans who pursued their dreams, excelling in careers ranging from entrepreneur to race car driver, bank founder to spy.

Pathfinders: the Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls
by Tonya Bolden
Abrams, 2017
preview on Google Books
Amazon / your local library
ages 10-14
*best new book*

This collection of short biographical sketches will inspire today’s young people to go after their dreams. Bolden profiles a wide range of leaders from math and science, business, the arts and legal fields. With each profile, she helps readers understand both the achievements and the challenges:

“Over the centuries countless blacks in America have done amazing things against the odds. Had big, bold dreams, pursued passions. Caught up with their callings. Charted courses to success. Pathfinders.”–preface to Pathfinders

Bolden’s short biographical sketches are engaging and quick to read; timelines and background information help round out the overall picture. This would be terrific to read aloud at home or in class, highlighting different career paths these remarkable individuals pursued.

Read more at my post on Great Kid Books. ©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution, by Gretchen Woelfle (ages 9-13)

As students learn about the American Colonies and the road to the American Revolution, many wonder why the founding fathers could not address the fundamental contradictions between slavery and the freedom that the patriots sought.

Gretchen Woelfle’s new book, Answering the Cry for Freedom, is an excellent resource examining the way thirteen African Americans took up their own fight for freedom during the Revolutionary War and the establishment of our country–by joining the British and American armies; preaching, speaking out, and writing about the evils of slavery; and establishing settlements in Nova Scotia and Africa. I highly recommend this both as classroom resource and for students’ independent reading.

Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution
by Gretchen Woelfle
illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Calkins Creek / Boyds Mill Press, 2016
Google Books preview
Your local library / Amazon
ages 9-13

In the late 1700s, as the American colonists began to protest the tyranny of British rule, slavery existed in every one of the thirteen colonies. African Americans–both free and enslaved–listened as talk of freedom and the natural rights of men grew. How did they react? What did they say and do? As Woelfle writes, this collection of short biographies tells a “hidden chapter of the American Revolution.”

In short, well-organized chapters, she helps readers understand the complexities of their choices and they way these courageous men and women resisted the tyrannical customs and laws that kept slavery part of our nation for much too long. Striking silhouette illustrations by R. Gregory Christie draw readers in and provide a visual hook.

Read more about this excellent nonfiction book at Great Kid Books.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Science + Poetry => Observation & Exploration #sciencefriday (ages 4-10)

Like science, poetry asks students to slow down, observe and record. Many students are drawn to the way poetry distills these observations into brief lines. I am thrilled that the NPR show Science Friday celebrated the union of poetry and science, creating two educational activities and recommending one of my favorite anthologies.

The Poetry of Science: The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science
edited by Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong
illustrated by Frank Ramspott and Bug Wang
Pomelo Books, 2015
teacher’s edition
Amazon
ages 4-10

Whether you want to take a moment to observe the way a hawk glides or predict what happens when you soak celery in food dye, these poems offer a short, focused crystallization of scientific observation and inquiry. Here’s a great poem to start us off: “How to Be a Scientist” by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.

How to Be a Scientist
by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

 

Come visit Great Kid Books to read the full post all about this terrific collection. I’ve been having a great time celebrating poetry with students all month long during National Poetry Month. I’ve been especially happy with two new series on my blog:

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Honoring Cesar Chavez on Labor Day (ages 8-11)

I want to take a moment on Labor Day to honor Cesar Chavez and share a new biography that conveys his life and work clearly for young readers. This is a must-have for school libraries, and also a good choice to have at home.

Cesar Chavez
True Books biographies series
by Josh Gregory
Children’s Press / Scholastic, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-11

Cesar Chavez changed conditions for farm laborers across the United States, especially in California. He helped farm workers come together to demand better working conditions and fair wages, and still inspires people today to stand up for their rights.
“Cesar Chavez changed farm labor in the United States.”
Bright photographs will draw students in to this biography, but it’s the overall design that makes me recommend it so highly. This biography is written in clear, short sentences — but more than that, it is organized clearly in a way that helps students form a clear picture of his life.
Head over to Great Kid Books to read more about this book and TrueFlix, the online service we subscribe to for our students.

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees, by Franck Prévot (ages 7-12)

Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work helping women throughout Africa planting trees to improve the environment and their quality of life. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I am excited to share this new picture book about her struggles and accomplishments with my students.

Wangari Maathai
The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees
by Franck Prévot
illustrated by Aurélia Fronty
Charlesbridge, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 7-12
*best new book*

Maathai’s political activism shines through in this biography, in her determination to reverse environmental damage caused by large, colonial plantations and empower local villagers–especially women–to improve their local conditions.

This biography allows students to develop a deeper understanding of the political, economic and social structures Maathai stood up against. I love being able to share with students the value of reading more than one book on a subject, seeing how different authors draw out different details. I would start by reading Seeds of Change, by Jen Cullerton Johnson, and watching a short video on Maathai. If you build background knowledge, students can then dig into statements such as this:

“The government officials who built their fortunes by razing forests try to stop Wangari. Who is this woman who confronts them with a confident voice in a country where women are supposed to listen and lower their eyes in men’s presence?”

Definitely add this new picture book biography to your collection as you celebrate Women’s History month.

Read my full review at Great Kid Books.

Celebrating Earth Day: A focus on Molly Bang’s science picture books (ages 4-10)

Among my very favorite books are those by Bay Area author-illustrator Molly Bang. She captures a sense of wonder, respect for a child’s perspective and a passion for helping kids understanding the science that underpins the way our world works. I love highlighting these books as we celebrate Earth Day with our students.

Ocean Sunlight
How Tiny Plans Feed the Seas
by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Blue Sky/Scholastic, 2012
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-9

The ocean shimmers with the sun’s light, but did you know that the sun fuels a billion billion billion tiny plants called phytoplankton? “Half the oxygen you breathe every day … is bubbling out of all the tiny phytoplankton floating in your seas.” Bang and Chisholm capture this majestic beauty and fascinating science.

For more of Molly Bang’s “Sunlight Series” books, head over to Great Kid Books. Join me on Wednesday for an interview with Molly Bang.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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.