Biography, Books and Library, Read Your World

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise

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Back of Book:
An inspiring picture book biography of storyteller, puppeteer, and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian, who championed bilingual literature.
When she came to America in 1921, Pura Belpré carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura’s legacy.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Anika Aldamuy Denise in exchange for an honest review.
This exquisite and well-researched picture book biography tells the story of Pura Belpré New Yorks first Puerto Rican librarian. Pura realized that the stories of her youth were not in the libraries. So she began to share her tales with the children of her library. The narrative is engaging and informative. Readers become swept up into Pura’s life and the powerful gift that she gave to others. The illustrations are radiant and filled with detail and colors. I felt as if I was sitting with Pura in her library soaking up her amazing tales. The back of the book has a beautiful author note as well as a collection of information including a Selected Bibliography as well as stories of Pura mentioned in this book. Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar have created a masterpiece biography about one woman who lived to share her passion with others and left a legacy for everyone else.
Ages 6 and up
40 Pages

Biography, Black History Month, Civil Rights, Uncategorized

Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins By Michelle Meadows

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Back of Book:
Janet Collins wanted to be a ballerina in the 1930s and 40s, a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States. Janet pursued dance with a passion, despite being rejected from discriminatory dance schools. When she was accepted into the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a teenager on the condition that she paint her skin white for performances, Janet refused. She continued to go after her dreams, never compromising her values along the way. From her early childhood lessons to the height of her success as the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera, this is the story of a remarkable pioneer.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Michelle Meadows in exchange for an honest review.
I love this beautiful biography that tells readers of the perseverance that Janet Collins had. Readers are drawn into the life of Janet from her childhood to her success on stage. The story follows Janet as she struggles through prejudice, and expectations to rise up and become the first African American ballerina. The lyrical text is whimsical and draws readers into the magic of the ballet. The illustrations by Ebony Glenn are nothing short of stunning. Each page captures the different movements of the dancers in perfect light and detail. Brave Ballerina will inspire everyone who readers it to fight for what they believe in. A must-have for all classroom libraries.
Ages 5 and up
32 Pages

Biography, Music

Elvis Is King! By Jonah Winter

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Back of Book:
Here’s the perfect book for anyone who wants to introduce rock ‘n’ roll and its king to the child in their lives. In single- page “chapters” with titles like “The First Cheeseburger Ever Eaten by Elvis” and “Shazam! A Blond Boy Turns into a Black-Haired Teenager,” readers can follow key moments in Presley’s life, from his birth on the wrong side of the railroad tracks in the Deep South, to playing his first guitar in grade school, to being so nervous during a performance as a teenager that he starts shaking . . . and changes the world!
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Jonah Winter in exchange for an honest review.
I was so excited to see that a new picture book was coming out about the King of Rock and Roll. Jonah Winter has beautifully captured the life of Elvis and his rise to fame. There were several tidbits of information that I had never heard before. I love that the book is broken up into headings. It allows readers to clearly see Elvis life progress from childhood to following his dreams and making it to stardom. The illustrations are unique in that they are claymation. The details jump off the page at readers! The back of the book has information about Elvis that allows readers to learn even more about the talented singer and performer. A must have for any music history unit or any study about influential people who changed aspects in history.
Ages 6 and up
40 Pages

Biography, Black History Month

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad By Ellen Levine

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Back of Book:
Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom.
My Review:
I was amazed at this unique story about a man who literally mailed himself to freedom. It is a fascinating look at the risk Henry took to gain the freedom he so badly desired. The text follows Henry’s life from childhood to adulthood and paints readers a picture of how Henry continues to find joy throughout his circumstances. The illustrations are a mix of breathtaking and haunting! The back of the book gives more information about Henry Box Brown. I love sharing this book in my class during Black History Month. It is a fascinating tale of preservice and strength.
40 Pages
Ages 5 and up

Biography, Black History Month, History

Fearless Mary: The True Adventures of Mary Fields, American Stagecoach Driver By Tami Charles

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Back of Book:
A little-known but fascinating and larger-than-life character, Mary Fields is one of the unsung, trailblazing African American women who helped settle the American West. A former slave, Fields became the first African American woman stagecoach driver in 1895, when, in her 60s, she beat out all the cowboys applying for the job by being the fastest to hitch a team of six horses. She won the dangerous and challenging job, and for many years traveled the badlands with her pet eagle, protecting the mail from outlaws and wild animals, never losing a single horse or package. Fields helped pave the way for other women and people of color to become stagecoach drivers and postal workers.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Tami Charles for in exchange for an honest review.
One of my favorite parts of January is celebrating black history month with my students. I love sharing gems like Fearless Mary with my class. This is such a beautiful and inspirational book about one woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Tami has weaved together a fantastic tale of strength and determination. Claire Almon created detailed illustrations that show readers a true picture of the past. Reading this book made me want to research more about female stagecoach drivers. I can’t wait to share this book with my class when we get back from break.
Ages 5 and up

32 Pages

Biography, Black History Month

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks (People Who Shaped Our World) Alice Faye Duncan

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With a voice both wise and witty, Gwendolyn Brooks crafted poems that captured the urban Black experience and the role of women in society. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago, reading and writing constantly from a young age, her talent lovingly nurtured by her parents. Brooks ultimately published 20 books of poetry, two autobiographies, and one novel. Alice Faye Duncan has created her own song to celebrate Gwendolyn’s life and work, illuminating the tireless struggle of revision and the sweet reward of success.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Alice Faye Duncan in exchange for an honest review. I was so excited to see that this touching lyrical biography publishes on January 1st. It is a perfect addition to any Black History unit. Having never read anything written by Gwendolyn Brooks I was quickly drawn into the life of this strong woman. In reading this story I learned so much about Brooks and the time period that she lived in. Xia Gordon created illustrations that are rich in color and texture. Overall, this is a stunning book that combines history and poetry to create a moving narrative that readers will love.
48 Pages
Ages 6 and up

Biography, Uncategorized

Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker By Mara Rockliff

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Back of Book:
Meet Alice Guy-Blaché. She made movies—some of the very first movies, and some of the most exciting! Blow up a pirate ship? Why not? Crawl into a tiger’s cage? Of course! Leap off a bridge onto a real speeding train? It will be easy! Driven by her passion for storytelling, Alice saw a potential for film that others had not seen before, allowing her to develop new narratives, new camera angles, new techniques, and to surprise her audiences again and again. With daring and vision, Alice Guy-Blaché introduced the world to a thrilling frontier of imagination and adventure and became one of filmmaking’s first and greatest innovators. Mara Rockliff tells the story of a girl who grew up loving stories and became an acclaimed storyteller and an inspiration in her own right.
My Review:
This is a truly beautiful nonfiction narrative about the first woman filmmaker. The story follows Alice from her childhood to her life in America as a prominent woman in the movie industry. I had never heard about Alice Guy Blanche and was excited to find that Maria had written such a well-researched story. I love that the book was broken down into sections. It allows readers to follow along with the different parts of Alice’s journey. I was fascinated with all the amazing ways that Alice changed the film industry. The illustrations are whimsical and detailed. The back of the book has an authors note that shares more information about the incredible life that Alice lived. This is a great book that is perfect for Women’s history month or anytime. It should be in every elementary classroom.
60 Pages
Ages 5 and up

 

Biography, History

No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas By Tonya Bolden

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Back of Book:
Junius G. Groves came from humble beginnings in the Bluegrass State. Born in Kentucky into slavery, freedom came when he was still a young man and he intended to make a name for himself. Along with thousands of other African Americans who migrated from the South, Junius walked west and stopped in Kansas. Working for a pittance on a small potato farm was no reason to feel sorry for himself, especially when he’s made foreman. But Junius did dream of owning his own farm, so he did the next best thing. He rented the land and worked hard! As he built his empire, he also built a family, and he built them both on tons and tons and tons of potatoes. He never quit working hard, even as the naysayers doubted him, and soon he was declared Potato King of the World and had five hundred acres and a castle to call his own.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Tonya Bolden in exchange for an honest review.
Before reading this story, I had never heard about Junius G. Groves. I was amazed at the strength and determination that Junius throughout his life! Even though he was born a slave, Junius never stopped striving for better things. The story follows his lifespan and shows readers how Junius broke barriers and showed people what he was made of. The illustrations by Don Tate are detailed and stunning. The back of the book has a glossary and a timeline. This is a perfect book for book reports or history projects.
Ages 5 and up
40 Pages

Biography, History

Have You Heard About Lady Bird?: Poems About Our First Ladies By Marilyn Singer

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Back of Book:
The role of First Lady has been defined differently by each woman who’s held it, but all of them left an impact on our nation as a partner of the commander in chief.

Incisive poetry by Marilyn Singer and energetic art by Nancy Carpenter provide a fascinating glimpse into the lives of women from Martha Washington to Eleanor Roosevelt to Lady Bird Johnson-who variously embraced the position and shied away from it, craved the spotlight and fiercely guarded their privacy, took controversial stands and championed for the status quo. Detailed back matter includes short biographies, quotations, and more.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Marilyn Singer in exchange for an honest review.
I was so thrilled when I saw an updated picture book that covers all the First Ladies from Wahington to present day. Each First Lady is showcased with a short poem about their life in the White House. I loved learning so many tidbits of information about the women who helped shape our nation. Each poem is written in a slightly different form. I loved seeing the different ways that Marilyn told each woman’s tale. The illustrations from Nancy Carpenter are beautiful! each picture transports readers to the different time periods and shows them a part of history. The colors are soft and enhance the story. The back of the book has a great timeline with more background information.

I believe that this book should be in every elementary library and classroom. It is a great nonfiction read for any history unit or Presidential unit.
Ages 7 and up
48 Pages

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Biography, Science, Space

Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil deGrasse Tyson by Kathleen Krull & Paul Brewer

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Young Neil deGrasse Tyson was starstruck when he first visited the sky theater at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. He couldn’t believe the crowded, glittering night sky at the planetarium was real–until a visit to the country years later revealed the impossible.

That discovery was like rocket fuel for Neil’s passion for space. His quest for knowledge took him from the roof of his apartment building to a scientific expedition in northwest Africa, to a summer astronomy camp beneath a desert sky, and finally back home to become the director of the Hayden Planetarium, where it all began. Before long, Neil became America’s favorite guide to the cosmos.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Kathleen Krull in exchange for an honest review.
Before reading this story I had never heard of Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I was thrilled to read such a well-researched biography about a man who has spent his life learning about the stars and planets. The story begins with Neils childhood and continues throughout his entire career. I loved learning about his passion and excitement for all things science related! No matter what obstacles Neil encountered he met them head-on. He grew up to be a world-renowned speaker and researcher. I loved finding out that he was the scientist who realized that Pluto was not a planet. The illustrations in this book are beautiful. I enjoyed reading the authors note at the back of the book. A perfect addition to any science or space unit. Neil truly is a man who made the world think differently about stars.
Ages 5 and up
48 Pages