Art, Biography

Out of This World: The Surreal Art of Leonora Carrington By Michelle Markel

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Back of Book:
Ever since she was a little girl, Leonora Carrington loved to draw on walls, in books, on paper—and she loved the fantastic tales her grandmother told that took her to worlds that shimmered beyond this one, where legends became real.
Leonora’s parents wanted her to become a proper English lady, but there was only one thing she wanted, even if it was unsuitable: to be an artist. In London, she discovered a group of artists called surrealists, who were stunning the world with their mysterious creations. This was the kind of art she had to make. This was the kind of person she had to be.
From life in Paris creating art alongside Max Ernst, to Mexico where she met Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Leonora’s life became intertwined with powerful events and people that shaped the twentieth century.

I received a copy of this picture book from author Michelle Markel in exchange for an honest review.

Michelle has created a stunning and eye-opening picture book biography about Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington. The story follows her life from childhood to an adult. When she discovers the art of Surrealism, Leonora also discovers her passion and her calling. I love that the text refers to other prominent female artists like Remedios Varo. It allows readers to learn about the Surrealist time period. The illustrations by Amanda Hall beautifully capture the art and colors of the Surrealist Movement. The back of the book has author and illustrator notes sharing with readers more about the process of capturing Leonora’s life. This is an excellent book to share with anyone with a true appreciation of art.
Ages 6 and up
40 Pages

Biography, Black History Month, Civil Rights

Carter Reads the Newspaper By Deborah Hopkinson

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Carter G. Woodson didn’t just read history. He changed it.” As the father of Black History Month, he spent his life introducing others to the history of his people.
Carter G. Woodson was born to two formerly enslaved people ten years after the end of the Civil War. Though his father could not read, he believed in being an informed citizen. So Carter read the newspaper to him every day. When he was still a teenager, Carter went to work in the coal mines. There he met a man named Oliver Jones, and Oliver did something important: he asked Carter not only to read to him and the other miners, but also research and find more information on the subjects that interested them. “My interest in penetrating the past of my people was deepened,” Carter wrote. His journey would take him many more years, traveling around the world and transforming the way people thought about history.
My Review:
I was so excited to read a story about the man who created Black History Month. I am sad to say that before reading this story I had never heard of Carter Woodson. This biography tells the story from Cater’s childhood to adulthood. I love that Deborah weaved so many other prominent figures within the pages. The illustrations by Don Tate are vivid and exquisitely portray the life of Carter Woodson. The back of the book has notes from the author and illustrator, as well as a timeline of Woodson’s life. A perfect story to share with children to introduce Black History Month.
Ages 5 and up
36 Pages

Biography, Black History Month, Civil Rights

Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Dee Romito

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Back of Book:
Georgia Gilmore was a cook at the National Lunch Company in Montgomery, Alabama. When the bus boycotts broke out in Montgomery after Rosa Parks was arrested, Georgia knew just what to do. She organized a group of women who cooked and baked to fund-raise for gas and cars to help sustain the boycott. Called the Club from Nowhere, Georgia was the only person who knew who baked and bought the food, and she said the money came from “nowhere” to anyone who asked. When Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for his role in the boycott, Georgia testified on his behalf, and her home became a meeting place for civil rights leaders.
My Review:
I was amazed that I had never heard about Georgia Gilmore. Like many people, I am very familiar with Rosa Parks but never heard about the movement behind this bus boycott. Pies from Nowhere tells readers about the determination and strength of the people that were behind the scenes in history. Georgia Gilmore used what she was good at to raise money for the boycott. The text is engaging and puts readers in the story. The illustrations are detailed and rich in color. The back of the book has authors note that shares more about Georgia and her secret work. The book also has a recipe for her delicious pound cake. This is a must read for any Civil Rights unit or National Women’s Month unit. A stunning look at one of America’s unsung heroes.
Ages 6 and up
40 Pages

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