Shining a Spotlight on Lee & Low’s Tiny Stitches, Biography of Vivien Thomas

Although I’ve been on a sabbatical of sorts at Wrapped In Foil, I wanted stop by to call attention to the awesome picture book biography Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks and illustrated by Colin Bootman. It’s an incredible story about an inspiring man.


Vivien Thomas wanted to go to college and study medicine, but the money he had saved to go to school was wiped out when the stock market crashed at the beginning of the Great Depression. Instead, he found a job working for Dr. Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Blalock saw Vivien’s potential and taught him how to do medical research. Regardless of the roadblocks thrown at him because of his race and lack of degrees, Vivien Thomas developed medical techniques still saving babies’ lives today.

On her website, Gwendolyn Hooks explains it took her six years to research and write this book. The depth of knowledge and attention to detail shows. She also explains Vivien’s unusual name. She says his parents had picked out the girl’s name Vivian, but when they had a boy, they quickly changed the “a” to an “e.” A unique name for a unique man.

Tiny Stitches is an outstanding picture book biography. Share a copy with a child soon. Who knows where it might lead?

For the rest of the review, visit Wrapped In Foil blog.

See the previous Nonfiction Monday review by proseandkahn, as well.

An Ambush of Tigers

Ambush of TigersCindy: I know a stack of librarians who will love An Ambush of Tigers: A Wild Gathering of Collective Nouns (2015), by Betsy R. Rosenthal. We’ve read a few collective noun books before and Lynn and I are fans of them all. There’s something about the tidy organizing that must appeal to the librarians in us. If you follow the link above you will see Carolyn Phelan’s great review of this title, but don’t miss the list of several other collective noun books that appears off to the right. (Using the “Booklist Editors Recommend” feature on Booklist Online is a great way to help readers find books similar to the ones they just read and loved. Try it!)

If a group of teachers is a quiz of teachers, would
a group of English teachers be a correction?

Rosenthal presents a pair of collective nouns in rhyme, many interacting creatively with each other. For instance:

Does a tower of giraffes
way up high
spy a raft of otters
floating by?

For that rhyme, Jago’s gorgeous digital art displays giraffes stacked on top of each other, the one on top wearing binoculars, while the otters wearing bandanas, eye patches, and sabers float by on a raft of branches. This will make a great classroom read aloud and will lead to discussion and creative play with words.

Teachers and librarians should team up with a palette of art teachers and create their own collective noun rhymes and illustrations. It’s a perfect activity for April’s Poetry Month. Leave it to Wiktionary to have a Glossary of Collective Nouns by Subject. A flight of aircraft? A belt of asteroids? An aroma of bakers? The possibilities are endless. And if the list doesn’t have what you want? Make up your own! I looked up books, and one of the suggestions is “a pile of books.” Have they been peeking in my living room?

Lynn: Cindy is right—we LOVE collective nouns and I’m equally in love with this fabulous book. There is so much to enjoy here: the silly rhymes that frolic with the collective noun, the illustrations that carry the joke forward, and the wonderful small details in each of the illustrations that extend the fun. Be sure to take your time with this lovely book so you don’t miss a thing.

Just ONE question—if a group of teachers is a quiz of teachers, would a group of English teachers be a correction?  And then there are  book bloggers….

Cindy: A blather of book bloggers? A babble? But when we get a highly-prized ARC…a squeal of book bloggers! HA.

For more youth book blog posts with two voices, visit Bookends Blog at the Booklist Reader.
Or follow us on Twitter @bookendsblog.


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
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.

A Home for Mr. Emerson


Scholastic Press

Published 2.25.2014 *  48 pages

A True Tale with A Cherry On Top

Author:  Barbara Kerley
and Illustrator: Edwin Fotheringham


Overview from the jacket flap:

“Before Ralph Waldo Emerson was a great writer, he was a city boy who longed for the broad, open fields and deep, still woods of the country, and then a young man who treasured books, ideas, and people.
When he grew up and set out in the world, he wondered, could he build a life around these thing he loved?
This tender and joyful portrait of the man whose vision helped shape the American spirit illustrates the rewards of a life well lived, one built around personal passions: creativity and community, nature and friendship.
‘May it inspire you to experiment and build the life you dream of living.'”

For a Tantalizing Taste and Something More, visit the blog of kidlit author, Jeanne Walker Harvey *** True Tales & A Cherry On Top  ***  to learn more about this book.


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

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Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
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3 Books to Celebrate Women’s History Month

It’s March and time to jump into Women’s History Month. Have you stopped by the Kidlit Celebrates Women’s History Month blog yet? It has had quite a lovely makeover.

Today I have books about three women who have something in common. Can you guess what it is?

The three women are:


1. Helen Keller in the picture book biography Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller by Doreen Rappaport and Matt Tavares

Rappaport uses quotations from Helen Keller’s writings to help fill out her story. The big watercolor and gouache illustrations capture the reader.


2. Rosa Parks in Time For Kids: Rosa Parks: Civil Rights Pioneer (Time for Kids Biographies) by Editors of TIME For Kids with Karen Kellaher

Rosa Parks is best known for her refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, a pivotal event in the Civil Rights Movement. This biography covers her life, including how she and her husband eventually moved to Detroit after losing their jobs in Montgomery. Archival photographs, a timeline and interviews included.


3. Claudette Colvin in Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

Before Rosa Parks, there was a teenager named Claudette Colvin who also refused to go to the back of the bus. With her role in history largely forgotten, Philip Hoose brings her back to her proper place. This title was a Sibert Honor book in 2010.

So, have you guessed what they have in common? Visit Wrapped In Foil for more information and the answer.


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


Picture Book Biography: Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Today at Wrapped in Foil we have Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by John O’Brien, which is a whirlwind tour of Thomas Jefferson’s life through the lens of his obsession with books.


Thomas Jefferson started reading at an early age. People say he had read his father’s entire very grownup library of 49 books before he went to school, probably around six years old. He spent the rest of his life reading and collecting books on a wide variety of topics and from a wide variety of sources. His ultimate accomplishment was starting the Library of Congress, supplied from a vast number of books from his own collection.

In addition to being ideal for a history lesson about Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library also celebrates reading and literacy. You will definitely want a copy in your own library.

Additional information at Wrapped in Foil

Further reviews by Nonfiction Monday participants:

Have you also reviewed this title? Please feel free to leave a link in the comments.


Picture Book Biography: A Splash of Red

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet has been landing on a lot of “Best of 2013” lists (New York Library, for example) and for good reason.


First of all, Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet are an experienced team. They worked together on the Caldecott winner, A River of Words:  The Story of William Carlos Williams. Secondly, Horace Pippin’s life is inspirational. He overcame great adversity, including losing the use of his right arm, to go on to produce museum-quality folk art. When you add it all up, this is a picture book biography that should be on your radar.

Want to learn more? Our full review is at Wrapped in Foil.

Other insightful reviews of A Splash of Red by Nonfiction Monday participants can be found at:

Have you also reviewed this title? Please feel free to leave a link in the comments.