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

Live in Phillis Wheatley’s Shoes

A VOICE OF HER OWN: the story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet by Kathryn Lasky is a picture book biography of

Phyllis Wheatley that would be good for grades 3-5.

It has more information than the shorter picture book biographies which is important for school projects.

Take this sample which brings the reader into the mindset of a slave.

“At first there was just blackness….. Then the blackness dissolved into darkness, and the world in the creaking hold of the slave ship slid with shadows.”

Teachers, here are possible school assignments for Black History Month.

Have your students write a play about how a slave would feel on one of these ships .What smells would they encounter? What sounds? What would it feel like to be chained up?

Have your students write poems with Phillis Wheatley as a subject. Examples: What was life like for a slave at that time? What was travel like?

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Ballerina Dreams: The Story of Michaela DePrince

This week at Wrapped in Foil blog we are featuring children’s books about African-American ballerinas.

Today’s pick is Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer (Step Into Reading, Step 4) by Michaela DePrince, Elaine Deprince, and illustrated by Frank Morrison.

ballerina-dreams

Left an orphan in war-torn Sierra Leone, Michaela suffered bullying because she had a skin condition. While still at the orphanage, however, Michaela found a photograph of a ballerina in a magazine and it made such an impression on her that she carried it with her wherever she went. After Michaela and her friend Mia were adopted by Elaine DePrince and moved to America, her new mother recognized Michaela’s interest in ballet and arranged for her to start dance lessons. Now Michaela dances with the Dutch National Ballet.

The book is illustrated with a mix of period photographs and Frank Morrison’s warm, creative paintings.

Ballerina Dreams is a marvelous introduction to biographies for young readers. It is a must read for aspiring dancers, as well.

Be sure to visit Wrapped in Foil for an additional review of Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina, Michaela’s memoir for older readers.

Plus, check out Deborah’s previous review and activity suggestion here at Nonfiction Monday.

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Why Black Girls Should Become Ballerinas

Ballet is a form of dance that attracts few African Americans. Two African American ballerinas would like to change that and both of them wrote books.

FIREBIRD by Misty Copeland is really an essay in picture book form. The subtitle is Ballerina Misty Copeland shows a young girl how to dance like the firebird, character in a famous ballet.

Misty tells a potential ballerina of color what ballet means to her.

Sample: “you will soar become a swan, a beauty, a firebird for sure.”

One illustration in this book demonstrates the five positions of ballet.

Today Misty is a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre.

Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer (Step Into Reading, Step 4)

BALLERINA DREAMS by Michaela and Elaine DePrince is a biography reader in the STEP INTO READING series.

Michaela DePrince is an orphan from Sierra Leone who was adopted by an American couple.

She told her new mother that she wanted to study ballet. Her mother bought her a video of the ballet The Nutcracker.

Michaela began her dance lessons. When she was eight years old she was able to audition for The Nutcracker. She won two roles in the ballet. Eventually she danced the role of The Sugar Plum Fairy, an important roll. She is now a professional ballerina.

Sample: “The music begins, and my heart beats fast with excitement. I fly on to the stage.”

This book gives definitions of ballet terms such as combinations: putting ballet steps together.

Activity

Write definitions for these ballet terms:

Firebird

The Nutcracker

Sugar Plum Fairy

Ballet barre

Port de bras

Tendu

Five positions

Plie

Combination

Grand jete

Pas de cat

En pointe

 

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Ode to Imagination

Featured image

MY PEN by Christopher Myers shows how his pen takes him on journeys. Christopher illustrates books and uses his imagination.

Sample: “My pen rides dinosaurs and hides an elephant in a teacup.”

Christopher wants you to use your pen and see what worlds will come out.

Activity:  Using crayons picture an imaginary world. It could be anywhere. On another planet. A country you just made up. Draw what people or animals might look like. Does it have lakes or oceans?

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Trombone Shorty

9781419714658 (1)

TROMBONE SHORTY by Troy Andrews is a picture book biography of his growing up in New Orleans and the importance of music in his life. One day he found a broken trombone.
Sample: “The next time the parade went by my house, I grabbed that trombone and headed out into the street. My brother James noticed me playing along and smiled proudly. ’Trombone Shorty!’ he called out, because the instrument was twice my size.”
Activity:
Make your own musical instrument like Trombone Shorty did.
He made a drum from a 12 pack soda box and used pencils for drumsticks. He used empty soda bottles as wind instruments.

 

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History Through the Stories of Unknown People

 

Sometimes you can learn about  American history through stories of people you may have never heard  of.  One example is: Searching for Sarah Rector : the Richest Black Girl in America by Tonya Bolden.

Because Sarah and her family had a relationship with the Creek Nation, they qualified to receive land.  Sarah’s land had oil wells.

Sample: “If that first oil well kept kicking…. eleven-year old Sarah Rector would be able to afford piles of playthings, clothes, and doodads, not to mention a bigger house for her family.”

Activity

Do you know someone who  participated in a historical event?
Ask this person for an interview.
Find out what he or she thought while the event was going on.
What details does the interviewee remember?

 

 

 

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