Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mama in Congress! A working mom’s tale

Mama in Congress: Rashida Tlaib’s Journey to Washington, by Rashida and Adam Tlaib & Miranda Paul/Illustrated by Olivia Aserr, (Sept. 2022, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780358683438

Ages 4-8

Growing up in southwest Detroit, Michigan, Rashida Tlaib was the oldest of 14 children and the first in her immigrant family to graduate from high school. Having experienced prejudice and inequality growing up, she decided to “start opening doors for other people who had grown up poor or been treated unfairly”: she worked for an elected official at the Michigan House of Representatives, eventually being elected to the state House of Representatives – and then the U.S. House of Representatives – herself! Narrated by her son Adam, Congresswoman Tlaib’s story is motivational: She and her family encounter racism and threats, but she perseveres in her goal to make life better for her constituents. She remembers growing up with pollution and how leaders ignored their neighborhood; she remembers the racism and poverty around her, and uses these memories to fight for better. Adam writes from the point of view of a child who sees his mom as inspiration and yet, she’s still Mom, and humanizes her, endearing her to readers. Colorful illustrations are cartoon-realistic and include details like Tlaib’s sons walking through Congress with her and standing outside her office. The story and artwork both honor Tlaib’s Muslim culture and faith. Back matter includes a glossary of terms and an explanation on the three branches of the U.S. government. An excellent introduction to government and civics for younger readers, and a great choice for collections. Download a free guide to the First Amendment for kids on author Miranda Paul’s webpage.

Visit Congresswoman Tlaib’s Congressional webpage here.

Posted in picture books

Mister Rogers is the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Mister Rogers’ Gift of Music, by Donna Cangelosi/Illustrated by Amanda Calatzis, (Aug. 2022, Page Street Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781645674702

Ages 4-8

Fred Rogers – or, as we all knew him growing up, Mister Rogers – will forever be remembered as the man who welcomed all of us to his neighborhood. He brought today’s audiences Daniel Tiger; he taught us all to take our shoes off and change into something more comfortable when we got home, and he taught us to sing about our feelings. Mister Rogers’ Gift of Music is a picture book biography on Fred Rogers’s childhood, when music was his “sunshine”, always there to cheer him up and help him work through his feelings. He shared his music with children to help them understand and see themselves in music, too: “Fred made everyone feel special. Sick kids, lonely kids, kids who didn’t fit in. Everyone.” The story helps children connect music with feeling. Mixed media illustration is warm and embracing, with the lyrics to some of Rogers’s most memorable songs dancing across spreads, embraced in color. Diverse and inclusive artwork shows a multitude of children around Rogers as he enchants them with a handpuppet that I’m pretty sure is Daniel Tiger. Endpapers show Fred Rogers’ neighborhood, with a swirl of colorful music bringing vibrant color. Ask kids to point out the bright red trolley! I recognize each of Mister Rogers’s sweaters in the book: his green sweater, his blue sweater, and that iconic red sweater; all here to delight readers of every age. This is a first-purchase biography.

Mister Rogers’ Gift of Music has a starred review from BooklistVisit the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood website to learn more about Fred Rogers, his organization, and to watch episodes.

Posted in picture books

Annette Feels Free breaks barriers and dances past challenges

Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid, by Katie Mazeika, (Sept. 2022, Beach Lane Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781665903431

Ages 4-8

Born in 1887, Australian youngster Annette Kellerman loved the freedom that she felt while dancing, but was sidelined by a childhood disease that attacked her legs. As part of her physical therapy, her father brought her to Lavender Bay, where the freedom of the ocean and the absence of her braces gave her the freedom she missed. She spent more time in the ocean, strengthening her legs, and became a water artist: she danced, she competed, and she attempted to swim the English Channel. Katie Mazeika’s picture book biography on Annette Kellerman looks at her life in the water, where she was feted as a “Diving Venus” and includes her struggle against Victorian social mores that kept her in bloomers and skirts, impeding her swimming career, until she designed – and fought to wear – a more comfortable, practical swimsuit, which influenced women’s swimwear fashion.

Mazeika covers challenges that today’s readers can easily identify and understand: overcoming physical disability, the drive to compete, and inequality. She navigates Kellerman’s life with informative, age-appropriate text; her artwork brings the wonder and excitement. Back matter includes an author’s note on Annette Kellerman’s life, photographs, and a note on overcoming physical challenges. A very good addition to picture book biography collections.

Download a free curriculum guide for Annette Feels Free at author Katie Mazeika’s webpage. Learn more about Annette Kellerman at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia and the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Katherine Mazeika is an author and illustrator with a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design. When she isn’t in the studio, she likes to spend time at the theater, in her garden, or getting lost in a good book. She lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids (Lillian and Jack), and two dogs. To learn more, and download a free curriculum guide, visit her website at katiemazeika.com.

Twitter: @kdmaz

Instagram: @kdmazart

Facebook: Katie Mazeika Illustration

 

A Junior Library Guild Selection

“Annette’s legacy in competitive, artistic, and recreational swimming is undeniable, and Mazeika’s text deftly balances her subject’s varied career. . . . Swim-pressive!”—Kirkus Reviews

“An enthralling introduction to a remarkable woman.”—Booklist

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Art is Everywhere!

Art is Everywhere: A Book About Andy Warhol, by Jeff Mack, (Nov. 2021, Henry Holt & Co.), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250777157

Ages 4-8

Pop artist Andy Warhol gives readers his unique view on art in this fun book that is part picture book biography, part introduction to pop art. Narrated by a cartoon Warhol, Art is Everywhere starts with Warhol’s beginnings, drawing shoes for a shoe company, through his Campbell Soup Cans, Brillo boxes, and Marilyn Monroe prints, and touces on his Factory days, surrounded by artists and the expansion of his art into movies, television, and magazines. Mack touches on Warhol’s interest in celebrities and explains his take on the “famous for 15 minutes” credo: “One day, we will all be stars of our own shows, and we will all like each other over and over again. Gee… won’t that be great?” Mack also looks at the big question – What makes art? – by touching on Warhol’s detractors. Brief sentences, interspersed with questions, invite readers to think about their ideas on art and media. Back matter includes a note on Warhol and Pop Art.

TeachersPayTeachers has some fun, free Pop Art/Warhol resources, like this Art with Mrs Smith Crayon Pop Art lesson; Artsy Blevs’s Pop Art handout; and Ms BooksmART’s Andy Warhol poster. If you’re updating your art storytimes like I want to, this is a fun choice.

Art is Everywhere! has a starred review from Publishers Weekly and was a Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Book of Distinction.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Hope is an Arrow introduces children to Khalil Gibran

Hope Is an Arrow : The Story of Lebanese-American Poet Khalil Gibran, by Cory McCarthy/Illustrated by Ekua Holmes, (July 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536200324

Ages 6-9

Many adult readers discovered Khalil Gibran through his work, The Prophet (1923). Hope is an Arrow seeks to expand Gibran’s reach and introduce young readers to the poet through this evocative picture book biography, with his poetry sprinkled throughout his story. Gibran began life in Lebanon, a country experiencing religious conflict; his family left Lebanon and settled in Boston, where they experienced prejudice, leading the young poet to begin expressing himself through art. As he travels between Boston and Lebanon, his desire to unite people, born out of the conflict he experienced in both his home country and his adopted one, led him to find his voice in poetry. Hope is an Arrow reads like poetry, with phrases like “…they sailed the deeper, darker Atlantic Ocean, which murmured like a giant in its sleep” describing the Gibran family’s journey to the United States, and “…his words still fly across the world, in more than forty different languages and through many crashing winds, to bring all who read them straight to the heart of hope”. Ekua Holmes’s collage and acrylic artwork create dynamic spreads. Comprehensive back matter includes source notes, additional information on Khalil Gibran’s life, and a bibliography. A gorgeous biography for collections and an excellent starting point to discuss social and religious conflict.

Hope is an Arrow has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and The Horn Book.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Spotlight on Women’s History: Alma Thomas, Artist

Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas, by Jeanne Walker Harvey/Illustrated by Loveis Wise. (Feb. 2022, HarperCollins), $18.99, ISBN: 9780063021891

Ages 4-8

Growing up in the Jim Crow-era Southern U.S., young Alma Thomas and her siblings weren’t allowed to go to the “white school” nearby; they couldn’t visit the museums or library, but they surrounded themselves with joy, art, and culture. Alma Thomas’s mother designed dresses; her aunts painted; Alma used the red clay near a stream to create bowls and cups. Her parents created a salon in their home, inviting teachers to talk about “people and places around the world, famous stories, and ways of thinking”. And when Alma and her family joined The Great Migration and left Georgia for Washington, DC, Alma was finally able to attend school, graduating from college where she studied art. While DC was still segregated, Alma was determined to bring art to the people in her neighborhood; she taught art at her local school; taught children to make marionettes and perform their own plays at her home; set up an art gallery: the city’s first gallery in a school. When she retired, she went on to create her own art, becoming the first solo show by a Black woman on display at The Whitney Museum in New York City and, posthumously, the first Black woman to have artwork on display in the White House. Ablaze with Color is a gorgeous, vibrant picture book biography of a teacher, an artist, an activist that worked to bring art to everyone. Loveis Wise’s illustrations are stunning, alive with color and movement, inspired by Alma Thomas’s bright palette. Jeanne Walker Harvey brings Alma Thomas’s story to life, describing the natural world that influenced Thomas’s work and using straightforward storytelling to educate her readers. Back matter includes a timeline of Alma Thomas’s life, sources, notes, and references.

There are a wealth of online resources for those who want to learn more about Alma Thomas. Visit The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s page on the artist; The Phillips Collection’s page on their Alma Thomas exhibit, Everything is Beautiful; and ArtNews’s article on Alma Thomas’s importance in art. TeachersPayTeachers has several good activities on the artist, including a coloring sheet from Artful Ideas; a presentation from The Creative Crayon, and an abstract mosaic activity from LessonZest. Finally, don’t forget to visit Jeanne Walker Harvey’s website for more resources!

Ablaze with Color has starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, and The Horn Book.

 

Jeanne Walker Harvey has had many jobs, ranging from working as a roller coaster ride operator to an attorney for high-tech companies to a writer of magazine articles to a teacher of Language Arts and writing workshops at a public middle school. She has also been a longtime docent at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Just like Alma Thomas, Jeanne believes that art brings us joy. Her other picture books include Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines and My Hands Sing the BluesRomare Bearden’s Childhood Journey. Jeanne studied literature and psychology at Stanford University. She lives in Northern California. Visit her online at www.jeanneharvey.com.

Twitter: @JeanneWHarvey

Pinterest: @JeanneWalkerHarvey

 

Loveis Wise is a nonbinary illustrator and designer from Washington, DC, now based in Los Angeles. They have collaborated and imagined with clients such as the New Yorkerthe New York Times, HarperCollins, Google, Disney Hyperion, and Adobe, to name a few. Their work often speaks to themes of joy, mindfulness, and liberation. For more information visit: loveiswise.com.

Instagram: @loveiswiseillu

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Spotlight on Women’s History: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place

Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place, the Nation’s First Shelter for Women, by Christine McDonnell/Illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536211290

Ages 7-10

Inspired by her grandmother, who fed hungry men from her door during the Great Depression, Kip Tiernan went on to work with and feed the homeless as an adult. She noticed women dressing as men to get on the food lines, and began noticing more and more homeless women on the street; when she worked to bring public notice and aid, however, she was initially told that homelessness was not a “women’s problem”. Determined to make a safe place for women, she pushed until the city of Boston rented her an empty supermarket for $1 a year: Rosen’s Market because Rosie’s Place, opening in 1974; they served hot meals and provided free clothes, beds, and a safe place for women to come together. Sanctuary is Kip Tiernan’s story, told in straighforward prose and accompanied by evocative watercolor and digital illustration set against a white page, giving readers the feel of peeking into moments from Kip Tiernan’s life. The focus is on community, with multicultural women coming together to talk and support one another; there are embraces, hand-holding, and active listening, all there to emphasize the importance of connection and compassion. Display and booktalk with Dangerous Jane, the picture book biography of Jane Addams, founder of Chicago’s Hull House.

Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place, the Nation’s First Shelter for Women, has starred reviews from The Horn Book and Book PageVisit the Rosie’s Place webpage to learn more about the sanctuary. The Harvard Radcliffe Institute houses Kip Tiernan’s papers.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Breaking Through the Clouds celebrates STEM Women!

We often hear the word “meteorologist” and think of those nice weatherfolx on TV, right? How often do we think of meteorology as the actual science of studying the weather, though?

Breaking Through the Clouds: The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson, by Sandra Nickel/Illustrated by Helena Perez Garcia,
(March 2022, Abrams Books for Young Readers),
$19.99, ISBN: 9781419749568

Ages 6-9

Breaking Through the Clouds is the picture book biography of Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the United States to earn her Ph.D. in meteorology, who went on to research clouds and weather. Touching on what seems to be a difficult childhood, through her work with World War II planes and her education and work with clouds and wind, Breaking Through the Clouds is an inspirational STEM story and a brilliant International Women’s Month profile. Helena Perez Garcia’s gorgeous illustrations blend realism with surrealism to show how Joanne Simpson was discounted by the men around her; the men who told her “no woman ever got a doctorate in meteorology. And no woman ever will”, and the Air Force clout that put her on a plane going through clouds to research them.

 

Factual and straightforward storytelling, using uplifting language like, “As Joanne walked through the university, the halls were filled with jarring comments and bumpy silences. She flew her last flight and sold her boat – because Joanne was stubborn” remind readers to persevere in the face of challenges. Back matter includes a timeline of Joanne Simpson’s life and notes on her weather work. Another must-add to your biography sections and your Women’s History and STEM/STEAM collections.

Joanne Simpson has an entry on NASA’s webpage with a link to a more in-depth article about her career. For more meteorology resources, visit the National Weather Service, Easy Science for Kids, and PBS Kids.

 

Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them.  She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was awarded a Christopher Award and was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com. To learn more, visit https://sandranickel.com/.

Twitter:  @senickel

Facebook: @sandranickelbooks

Instagram: @sandranickelbooks

Check out the trailer and other cool resources here!

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

The Faith of Elijah Cummings pays tribute to a giant

The Faith of Eljah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice, by Carole Boston Weatherford/Illustrated by Laura Freeman, (Jan. 2022, Random House Studio), $17.99, ISBN: 9780593306505

Ages 6-10

Congressman and civil rights advocate Elijah Cummings left an extraordinary legacy when he passed in 2019. Carole Boston Weatherford, whose numerous awards include a Newbery Medal and two NAACP Image Awards, along with NAACP Image Award winning illustrator Laura Freeman, to create a picture book biography that makes this giant of a man accessible to all ages. Beginning with the Congressman’s impoverished childhood and moving through his civil rights journey, focus on inner-city youth, and government work, we also see how Elijah Cummings’s faith and family was his anchor. Photorealistic illustrations are bold and eye-catching, and quotes from Elijah Cummings inspire readers as Carole Boston Weatherford’s narration concentrates on his humanity, choosing moments in his life like being tutored by librarians when his teachers said he would never be able to read or write well; his mother’s preaching, which inspired him to care for others in need, and the civil rights lawyer from his youth that inspired him to defend kids who needed defending. As a “Washington power broker”, he continued living in his Baltimore inner-city neighborhood and hung a campaign sign in his window so others could find him. Back matter includes an excerpt from the statement from the Congressional Black Caucus made upon the Congressman’s passing; a timeline of Elijah Cummings’s life; a bibliography, and the quote sources. Endpapers show Elijah Cummings, in profile, set against the American flag.

An incredible book for an incredible figure, and a must-add to your picture book biographies. The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.

Carole Boston Weatherford’s author webpage is a treasure trove of information, with resources and links to media related to her books. See more of Laura Freeman’s illustration work at her website. Find a biography, bibliography, and committee assignments for Elijah Cummings at the House of Representative’s website; visit Congress’s website to learn more about the legislation sponsored or co-sponsored by him, along with his remarks in the Congressional Record.

Posted in picture books

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything – Great STEM Bio!

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer, by Mara Rockliff/Illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536212525

Ages 5-9

Beatrice Shilling, a British World War II engineer, gets her time in the spotlight in this picture book biography. As a child, she “wasn’t quite like other children”, preferring tools and tinkering to usual childhood pursuits. After working for another female engineer as an apprentice, she went to school for engineering and eventually landed a position at the Royal Aircraft Establishment… to write handbooks about plane engines, not to work on them. Eventually, she did get to work on engines, and when World War II broke out, Beatrice was put in charge of a team that traveled to airfields and demonstrated winterizing planes to fighter pilots. She went on, with her team, to figure out an engine problem that fighter planes encountered during a dive, saving countless lives. Another great story about a female figure in STEM, The Girl Who Could Fix Anything tells Beatrice Shilling’s story; Daniel Duncan adds humorous reactions to Beatrice’s being “othered” as a woman in a traditionally “man’s field” and brings thrilling air fight moments to life to add some excitement. Beatrice is drawn as a determined, thoughtful woman, while men around her don’t always quite seem to know what to make of her. Endpapers show a variety of airplane parts, blueprint style. An author’s note and additional resources make up the back matter.