Black History Month

Meet Miss Fancy by Irene Latham

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Back of Book: Frank has always been obsessed with elephants. He loves their hosepipe trunks, tree stump feet, and swish-swish tails. So when Miss Fancy, the elephant, retires from the circus and moves two blocks from his house to Avondale Park, he’s over the moon! Frank really wants to pet her. But Avondale Park is just for white people, so Frank is not allowed to see Miss Fancy. Frank is heartbroken but he doesn’t give up: instead, he makes a plan! Frank writes to the City Council so his church can host a picnic in the park, and he can finally meet Miss Fancy. All of his neighbors sign the letter, but when some protest, the picnic is canceled and Frank is heartbroken all over again. Then Miss Fancy escapes the zoo, and it’s up to Frank to find her before she gets hurt.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Irene Latham in exchange for an honest review.
This is a truly captivating story based on true events when Miss Fancy came to live in Alabama. The story is set in the era of the Jim Crow Laws and shows readers the extension of segregation. Frank loves elephants and his biggest wish is to pet one. When Miss Fancy comes to town, Frank believes that if he works hard enough he may get to have his wish.
His wish is guaranteed in a unique that makes for a fantastic ending to a satisfying read. I love that this book focuses on the history of what segregation was, but also showed the determination of people who refused to give up hope. The illustrations are beautiful and draw a reader into Franks biggest wish. The back of the book had more information about the real Miss Fancy. A beautiful story about preservice and always chasing your dreams.
Ages 5 and up
32 Pages and up

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

Animals

Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs By Melissa Stewart

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Back of Book:
Puny? Poky? Clumsy? Shy? A lighthearted look at the surprising traits that help some animals survive.
Written with a lively, playful voice, Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers introduces young readers to a variety of “animal underdogs” and explains how characteristics that might seem like weaknesses are critical for finding food and staying safe in an eat-or-be-eaten world.
My Review:
Children love books about animals and my students are no exception. They love reading anything that has to do with wild animals. Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers is a terrific look at some lesser-known animal populations. I was surprised to learn about several new animals that I had never heard of. I loved that the text describes the different ways that these animals use adaption to survive. I also love the verity of animals in this book. Melissa Stewart chose a mixture of small and large animals as well as smelly and camouflaged animals. Stephanie Laberis created detailed and colorful illustrations that open readers eyes to unknown and unique animals. The back of the book gives readers more information about the animals mentioned in the book. A perfect book for any animal unit or animal lover.
Ages 6 and up
32 Pages

Black History Month, History

Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town: Based on the History of the African American Pioneer Settlement by A. LaFaye

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Back of Book:
When Dede sees a notice offering land to black people in Kansas, her family decides to give up their life of sharecropping to become homesteading pioneers in the Midwest. Inspired by the true story of Nicodemus, Kansas, a town founded in the late 1870s by Exodusters—former slaves leaving the Jim Crow South in search of a new beginning—this fictional story follows Dede and her parents as they set out to stake and secure a claim, finally allowing them to have a home to call their own.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author A. LaFaye in exchange for an honest review. I am a huge fan of historical nonfiction picture books! I love sharing them in my classroom and giving my students a glimpse into the past. Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town is a terrific look at a time period that is not often shared in Kidlit. The story follows Dede and her family as they work to create a better life for themselves in a state called Kansas. I love that Dede and her family form relationships with the Native Americans that already lived there. It shows readers an important piece of history that is often overlooked. A. LaFaye beautifully told the story of one family’s fight to have a better life. Nicole Tadgell’s illustrations are soft and detailed. The back of the book has more information about The Exodusters who mase their way to free land. This is a must-have addition to any Post Civil War or Black History Month unit.
Ages 5 and up
32 Pages

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

Winter

When the Snow Falls By Linda Booth Sweeney

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Back of Book:
With sparkling flakes calling from outside, this sister and brother bundle up for an outdoor adventure with Grandma. In the hushed woods, they see and hear wildlife thriving under a new blanket of snow. In the bustle of town, they help their grateful Grandpa dig out. Then, it’s time to get sledding!
My Review:
I live in Southern California and snow is not something that is seen very often. I love finding picture books that describe the fun, and excitement of snow days. This is a perfect read aloud to share in the classroom or at home. It perfectly depicts a day of wintery fun. The rhyming scheme allows readers to follow along and enjoy a snow day. The illustrations are rich in color and allow a reader to feel like they are in the story. I also love the diversity within the illustrations. This is easily one of my favorite winter tales. A beautiful lyrical text that is sure to delight young and old alike.
Ages 5 and up
32 Pages

Winter

The Snowy Nap By Jan Brett

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Back of Book:
Snow is on the way, and as Hedgie trundles around the farm all his friends tell him of the winter-time fun he will miss as he hibernates–Icicles decorating the chicken coop! Lisa making snowmen! The pond turned to slippery ice! It sounds so amazing, Hedgie decides to stay awake instead of going to his burrow. But then a snowstorm starts. Luckily, Lisa finds him and brings him inside so Hedgie gets to see the wonders of winter from inside the cozy house.
My Review:
Jan Brett has written another stunning picture book about the simple beauty of winter. She used her famous hedgehog Hedgie as the main character of her newest tale. The text is poetic and written with beautiful figurative language. I love that all the animals from the barnyard are incorporated in the text. The illustrations are the same colorful and detailed images that make Jan Brett’s stories so unique. I love that readers get a sneak peek of the story through the illustrations on the side panels. This is a perfect addition to any winter unit.
Ages 5 and up
32 Pages

Friendship, Skills Children Learn

Polar Bear Island By Lindsay Bonilla

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Back of Book:
“Welcome to Polar Bear Island. NO OTHERS ALLOWED!” Parker is the mayor of this peaceful, predictable island, and he wants to keep it just the way it is. But Kirby, a penguin, thinks the place is paradise, and she wants to stay. Parker says no, but the other polar bears love Kirby —and soon they’re begging Parker to let Kirby (and her family) move in. Will Parker agree . . . and make the island fun for EVERYONE?
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from publisher Sterling Children’s Books in exchange for an honest review.
This is a terrific story for children with an important message that everyone brings something new and different to our world. Parker loves the predictability of his world. When Kirby comes to town, it throws his entire perspective off. I love the way that this story discusses inclusion and diversity in a way that children will understand and appreciate. A perfect way to open up discussions in classrooms on accepting students from other countries and cultures. The end of the story shows all the animals enjoying time together. The illustrations are colorful and fun. I love this story and look forward to sharing it in my classroom.
Ages 5 and up
32 Pages