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Are You An Echo? Discovering the beauty of Japanese poet Misuzu Kaneko (ages 7-12)

Empathy — it’s a vital quality to develop for all of us. How do we reach outside of ourselves to imagine being in someone else’s shoes? Misuzu Kaneko’s beautiful poetry is a shining example of how poetry can help us stop for a moment and think about the world from a different point of view.

Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko
Poetry by Misuzu Kaneko
Narrative by David Jacobson
Translation and editorial contributions by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi
Illustrations by Toshikado Hajiri
Chin Music Press, 2016
Amazon / Your local library
ages 7-12

This striking collaboration shares the story of how Misuzu Kaneko’s poetry came to be discovered long after her death; moreover, it brings her poems to an English-speaking audience for the first time. In 1966, a young Japanese poet discovered a poem that struck him with its empathy and simplicity, yet he could find no other poems by this author — who was she? Did she write other poems?

BIG CATCH
— by Misuzu Kaneko

At sunrise, glorious sunrise
it’s a big catch!
A big catch of sardines!

On the beach, it’s like a festival
but in the sea, they will hold funerals
for the tens of thousands dead.

Linger for a moment on this poem, and ask young readers to think about this poet’s message. Why would the fish hold funerals? How does this shift readers’ thinking?

Although Setsuo Yazaki began searching in 1966, it wasn’t until 1982 that the curious poet uncovered more of Misuzu’s poetry. Her brother still had her diaries, which contained the only copies of her poems that still remained. Finally, Setsuo began to discover more about Misuzu’s life.

Read more about this unique blend of history, poetry and biography see the full review at Great Kid Books.

Copyright ©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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MyaGrace Wants to Get Ready, by Jo Meserve Match — promoting inclusion (ages 4-8)

Our schools in Berkeley Unified School District educate all students and promote a “full-inclusion” model. Students with all types of abilities are all integrated into our classrooms, and I believe this benefits all of us — students and teachers. But seeking out picture books that represent the experiences of different students is not easy. We must make special effort to be inclusive in our books as we are with our schools.

I am happy to share a new picture book that shows a slice of life of MyaGrace, a teen with special needs who wants to be included in activities with her friends and classmates. This story exudes joy and will make a terrific addition to home and school libraries. MyaGrace’s mother writes the book, and it is told from MyaGrace’s perspective.

MyaGrace Wants to Get Ready
A True Story Promoting Inclusion and Self-Determination

by Jo Meserve Match and Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier
illustrated by Mary Birdsell
Finding My Way Books, 2016
Amazon / Your local library
ages 4-8

MyaGrace is excited to go to her school’s big dance with her friend, Emily. She needs to choose a special dress and get ready. The introduction explains that MyaGrace has special needs and abilities, but the text just shows this event from her perspective.

Read more at the full post at Great Kid Books.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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.