Biography, Black History Month

Thurgood By Jonah Winter

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Back of Book:

Thurgood Marshall was a born lawyer–the loudest talker, funniest joke teller, and best arguer from the time he was a kid growing up in Baltimore in the early 1900s. He would go on to become the star of his high school and college debate teams, a stellar law student at Howard University, and, as a lawyer, a one-man weapon against the discriminatory laws against black Americans. After only two years at the NAACP, he was their top lawyer and had earned himself the nickname Mr. Civil Rights. He argued–and won–cases before the Supreme Court, including one of the most important cases in American history: Brown v Board of Education. And he became the first black U.S. Supreme Court Justice in history.

My Review:

I received a copy of this picture book from Schwartz & Wade Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

This is one of my favorite picture book biographies that has been published this year. Thurgood Marshal was a man who did not let anything get in his way. He was determined to be the best in every aspect of his life. His goal as a lawyer was to right as many injustices as he could. His dedication to getting justice for others led him to become the first African American man to serve on the Supreme Court. Jonah Winter has written a well-researched biography about this amazing example of leadership. The text follows Thurgood throughout his life and shows readers several examples of how he made an impact on the world. The illustrations by Bryan Collier are nothing short of stunning. They are rich in texture and color. The back of the book has well-written authors note, as well as real photos of Thurgood. This is the kind of book that needs to be in every classroom. Every child should know who Thurgood Marshal is and he accomplished for the Civil Rights Movement.

Ages 6 and up

40 Pages

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Biography, Books and Library

Little Libraries, Big Heroes By Miranda Paul

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Back of Book: 

Todd and his friends love heroes. But in school, Todd doesn’t feel heroic. Reading is hard for him, and he gets scolded for asking too many questions. How will he ever become the kind of hero he admires?

 Featuring stunning illustrations that celebrate the diversity of the Little Free Library movement, here is the story of how its founder, Todd Bol, became a literacy superhero. Thanks to Todd and thousands of volunteers—many of whom are kids—millions of books have been enjoyed around the world.

My Review: I received a copy of this picture book from Clarion Publishing in exchange for an honest review. 

This is an outstanding nonfiction biography that looks at the life and work of Todd Bol. The story begins with Todd’s childhood and allows readers a glimpse into how his love of books and reading began. The text goes on to share with readers how he and Rick Brooks created a way for all people to have access to books. There are now 75,000 free little libraries around the world. I love how author Miranda Paul focuses on how ordinary people can do extraordinary things. She teaches children that a person doesn’t have to be famous to impact the world. 

The illustrations by John Parra are nothing short of spectacular! The colors are vibrant and draw readers into the story. I love that the text changes different colors as well. It allows visual learners to focus on the story. The back of the book has more information about free little libraries as well as more information about the people and events in the book. This is a must-read that celebrates literacy as well as the beauty of giving to others. As a teacher, I cannot wait to share this book with my classroom and maybe create a Free Little Library of our own. 

Ages 5 and up

40 Pages 

Biography, Civil Rights, Martin Luther King

A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation By Barry Wittenstein

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Back of Book:
Martin Luther King, Jr. was once asked if the hardest part of preaching was knowing where to begin. No, he said. The hardest part is knowing where to end. “It’s terrible to be circling up there without a place to land.”
Finding this place to land was what Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled with, alongside advisors and fellow speechwriters, in the Willard Hotel the night before the March on Washington, where he gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. But those famous words were never intended to be heard on that day, not even written down for that day, not even once.
My Review:
I received a copy of this picture book from  Neal Porter Books in exchange for an honest review.
I am always excited to read nonfiction books about strong figures that helped shape the course of history. A Place to Land is a stunning look a how Martin King wrote and constructed his “I Have a Dream” speech. It offers readers a new perspective on the story. I have read this famous speech many times and have never thought about the process behind it.
Barry Wittenstein allows readers to feel the confusion and complexity that King must have felt as he wrote his speech. I love that the story is broken up by hour markers. It allows readers to follow the timeline of events. Jerry Pinkney created detailed watercolors that capture the moments that one mans dream became a piece of our history. The back of the book has detailed notes from the author and illustrator about the process of creating this story. There is also information about the Willard Hotel advisors and the other voices who spoke that day with King.
This is the kind of book that needs to be shared in the classroom. It is a look at strength, character, courage, and perseverance.  Martin King was not concerned about what others thought of him. Instead, he bravely spoke from his heart and caused a nation to take notice.
Ages 7 and up
48 Pages

Biography

Girls with Guts!: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records by Debbie Gonzales

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Back of Book:
A celebration of the strength, endurance, and athleticism of women and girls throughout the ages, Girls With Guts! keeps score with examples of women athletes from the late 1800s up through the 1970s, sharing how women refused to take no for an answer, and how finally, they pushed for a law to protect their right to play, compete, and be athletes.

My Review:
Debbie Gonzales created a wonderful look at many of the prominent figures in sports who paved the way for changes in sports. The story showcases women in several different countries who fought in all aspects of sports. The text also discusses the barriers and discrimination that occurred within the sports world. I was surprised that it took until the 1970s for laws to be passed to ban discrimination for female athletes. The text is rich with detail but written in a way that readers can understand, and enjoy. The illustrations by Rebecca Gibbon are detailed and bright. The back of the book has an amazing timeline that shows women’s sports as well as an author note from Debbie about “playing like a girl” this is such a terrific nonfiction biography. I learned so many new things and cannot wait to share this in my classroom this year.
Ages 6 and up
32 Pages

Biography

Samuel Morse, That’s Who!: The Story of the Telegraph and Morse Code Tracy Nelson Maurer

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Back of Book:
Back in the 1800s, information traveled slowly. Who would dream of instant messages? Samuel Morse, that’s who! Who traveled to France, where the famous telegraph towers relayed 10,000 possible codes for messages depending on the signal arm positions―only if the weather was clear? Who imagined a system that would use electric pulses to instantly carry coded messages between two machines, rain or shine? Long before the first telephone, who changed communication forever? Samuel Morse, that’s who!
My Review:
I received a copy of this picture book from Henry Holt Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
There are so many amazing things that have been invented in this world. I love finding books about early technology inventors to share in my classroom.
I was thrilled to see that Tracy wrote a story about Samuel Morse. I consider him one of the unsung heroes of the technology pioneers. The story focuses on how Samuel considered different ways to communicate. He drew a system that used electric pulses to instantly carry coded messages through wires. It took a great deal of determination and extermination before he found the correct sequences. The illustrations by El Primo Ramón are detailed and showcase the many steps that Samuel took to create his code.
The back of the book has a timeline of Morse’s life as well as more facts about telegraph history. This is a fantastic nonfiction picture book that teaches readers about one of our unsung technology heroes.
Ages 5 and up
40 Pages

Biography, History

Hector: A Boy, A Protest, and the Photograph that Changed Apartheid By Adrienne Wright

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back of Book:
On June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson, an ordinary boy, lost his life after getting caught up in what was supposed to be a peaceful protest. Black South African students were marching against a new law requiring that they be taught half of their subjects in Afrikaans, the language of the White government. The story’s events unfold from the perspectives of Hector, his sister, and the photographer who captured their photo in the chaos.
My Review:
I received a copy of this picture book from Page Street Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Once in a while, I find a picture book that completely opens my eyes to a certain part of history. Hector is a tragic and beautiful tribute to the lives that were lost during the student march in Soweto. The story follows three separate individuals Hector, Antoinette, and Sam. Hector, a young boy who loves school, soccer, and his family. Antoinette, who is passionate about standing up for what she believed in, and Sam, the photographer who captured it all. I love the difference in each perspective. It brings a different layer of depth to the story. The narrative is broken up in chunks similar to a comic strip. It allows readers to focus on the details in the text.
The illustrations are soft and all done in earthy tones. This allows readers to completely focus on the story. The photo in the back of the book is haunting and allows readers to see the innocent blood that is spilled over war. This story beautifully teaches readers about the importance of standing up for what you believe in. I believe this is the type of book that inspires readers to go and fight for what they believe in.
Ages 8 and up
48 Pges

Biography, Science, Space

The Astronaut Who Painted the Moon: The True Story of Alan Bean By Dean Robbins

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Back of Book:
As a boy, Alan wanted to fly planes. As a young Navy pilot, Alan wished he could paint the view from the cockpit. So he took an art class to learn patterns and forms. But no class could prepare him for the beauty of the lunar surface some 240,000 miles from Earth. In 1969, Alan became the fourth man and first artist on the moon. He took dozens of pictures, but none compared to what he saw through his artistic eyes. When he returned to Earth, he began to paint what he saw. Alan’s paintings allowed humanity to experience what it truly felt like to walk on the moon.
My Review:
I was sent this picture book from Orchard Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
This picture book is out just in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Appolo moon mission. It focuses on the life of Alan Bean who was the fourth man to walk on the moon.
The story follows Alan from his job as a Navy pilot to his journey into space. Along the way, Alan began to dabble with paint and color. His dream was to capture the moon landing in all its glory. He wanted others to see the beauty the way he saw it. He tried to capture the colors so that others could experience it the way he had. The more he painted, the brighter the colors became. A museum displayed his paintings for everyone to see. I love the way author Dean Robbins captures the passion and determination of Alan Bean. The narrative is informational and engaging. It opens readers eyes to the history of the moon landing while incorporating stunning art. The illustrations by Sean Rubin are detailed and bright. I love the combination of real photos and illustrations. It allows readers to see both perspectives of the moon. The back of the book has a detailed note from the author about the life of Alan Beat. It also has a timeline and photos from the moon landing. This is a perfect nonfiction addition for any space or STEM unit.

Ages 6 and up
40 Pages

Biography, Siblings

Serena: The Littlest Sister by Karlin Gray

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Back of Book:
Serena Williams is one of the biggest names in sports, but she grew up the littlest of five girls in her family. While sharing a room and playing tennis with her older sisters, Serena had to figure out how to be her own person―on and off the court. This empowering biography showcases the rise of the youngest Williams sister and how her family played a part in her path to becoming the strong woman and star athlete she is today.
My Review:
I received a copy of this picture book from Page Street Publishers in exchange for an honest review.
Serena The Littlest Sister is a fantastic picture book that shows readers the dedication and determination that Serena had to become the greatest tennis player in the United States. The story follows Serena from a young child playing tennis with her sisters to a great champion who won the US Opening. I love that the story focuses on the relationship between the sisters. Venus and Serena never allowed their competitions to come between their bond.
The illustrations by Monica Ahanonu are bold and bright. They capture the intensity and strength of the way Venus and Serena played the game they loved. The back of the book has more information about Serena and her family. This is a great nonfiction picture book and one that should be shared in elementary libraries and classrooms.
Ages 8 and up
40 Pages

Biography, Dinosaurs, National Womens Month

When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex By Toni Buzzeo

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Back of Book:
From a very young age, Sue Hendrickson was meant to find things: lost coins, perfume bottles, even hidden treasure. Her endless curiosity eventually led to her career in diving and paleontology, where she would continue to find things big and small. In 1990, at a dig in South Dakota, Sue made her biggest discovery to date: Sue the T. rex, the largest and most complete T. rex skeleton ever unearthed. Named in Sue’s honor, Sue the T. rex would be placed on permanent exhibition at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
My Review:
I received a copy of this picture book from Abrams book publishers in exchange for an honest review.
This is a terrific nonfiction picture book biography about the life and research of Sue Hendrickson. The text follows Sue from her childhood as a curious finder to her job as an archeologist. She went to search the hills of South Dakota for dinosaur fossils where she felt lead to a particular cliff. In that cliff, she discovered the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. I love that the text has quotes from Sue about finding the T-Rex. It adds a layer of depth to the story and shows readers Sues perspective about finding such a miraculous set of bones. The illustrations by Diana Sudyka are filled with soft and airy colors. She captured the mountains of South Dakota beautifully. The back of the book has more informing about Sue Hendrickson as well as a photo of the T-Rex that she discovered. I love this story because I feel like it is very relevant to today’s audiences. It is a great reminder to readers to never give up on being curious human beings. Also a perfect addition to any dinosaur unit.
Ages 5 and up
32 Pages

Biography, Science, Space

The Girl Who Named Pluto: The Story of Venetia Burney By Alice B. McGinty

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Back of Book:
When Venetia Burney’s grandfather reads aloud from the newspaper about a new discovery–a “ninth major planet” that has yet to be named–her eleven-year-old mind starts whirring. She is studying the planets in school and loves Roman mythology. “It might be called Pluto,” she says, thinking of the dark underworld. Grandfather loves the idea and contacts his friend at London’s Royal Astronomical Society, who writes to scientists at the Lowell Observatory in Massachusetts, where Pluto was discovered. After a vote, the scientists agree unanimously: Pluto is the perfect name for the dark, cold planet.
My Review:
I received a copy of this picture book from Schwartz & Wade Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
I have always been intrigued by the planet, Pluto and was so excited that a book had been written about the young girl who named the far away planet. The story begins with Venetia going on a star walk with her class. Even as a young girl, Venetia was fascinated by the concepts of space and planets. When she heard from her grandfather that a newly discovered planet needed a name she looked into history for inspiration. Venetia would go on to become a math teacher and inspire young girls to dream big. Near the end of her life, Venetia would be able to view the planet through a telescope that she had named. The illustrations by Elizabeth Haidle are skillfully created. The expressions on Venetia’s face as she is waiting to hear if they like her name choice are my favorite!
The back of the book has more information about Venetia and the planet Pluto. This is a brilliant nonfiction biography that focuses on the importance of women in the world of math and science. A great book for any STEM unit.
Ages 5 and up
40 Pages