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

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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Athletes to know

Wilma Rudolph by Isabel Martin is an ideal biography for grades two and three. It has chapter titles: Meet Wilma, Growing Up, Adult Years and Later in Life. The back page gives suggestions for critical thinking using the Common Core.

Sample: “Wilma Rudolph was a famous Olympic track runner from Tennessee.She was very fast.”

Teachers will like the glossary, suggested titles for further reading and internet sites.

 

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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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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