American history

Book Review: Heart And Soul By Kadir Nelson

Happy Juneteenth! On this important day commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States, one book came to mind immediately. I am still learning, unlearning, and grappling with the ugly history of America and my role in its future. In this process, I continue to turn to powerful books, adult and adolescent, to teach me. Today, allow me to share a glimpse of this difficult, beautiful, and necessary book: Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson, 2011.

Read the full post…

Book Review: Memphis, Martin, And The Mountaintop By Duncan & Christie

Among the many reasons that I love picture books, a major point for me as an adult is that I continually learn about important things through them. As a child with a vivid imagination and creativity, I was never much for history, biographies or period stories growing up. Even now, non-fiction books consistently take me longer to get through, while I devour fiction and stories at an almost alarming rate. But give me bite-size chunks of history, depict it with powerful illustrations, and you’ve got my attention. That’s what today’s book did.

I’m ashamed to say I knew nothing about the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968. I honestly did not even know it had occurred. My childhood education in the civil rights movement is basically non-existent. I don’t remember reading about much of anything except a few paragraphs here and there about Martin Luther King, Jr. My adult education is heavily underway, greatly aided by the powerful school my children attend. And I continue to seek out resources and especially picture books to fill in so many gaps in my knowledge as I learn alongside my children.

The newest one to our stack is Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, 2018. It is a lengthier picture book, a combination of poetry and prose, based on a teacher who participated in the strike and marches in Memphis as a child. Come learn along with me.

Read the full post…

Book Review: 1621, A New Look At Thanksgiving

1621 1

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers! Last year, I shared one of my new favorite Thanksgiving themed books by Melissa Sweet, Balloons Over Broadway, that celebrates the famous parade and its history. It was again a big hit at this year’s storytime. This year, my mind has been struggling with some different feelings about what used to be a favorite holiday. With my broadening education about the continual stereotyping of Native people in picture books, I’ve become quite disheartened towards typical Thanksgiving picture books with their constant questionable portrayals of “Indians” and misrepresentation of “the first Thanksgiving.” Not wanting to disdain the holiday completely, I am striving to take Debbie Reese’s comment to heart and even beyond books: “Sometimes I think that Thanksgiving books for young children should just focus on things people are grateful for.”

So I am focusing as much as possible on being thankful. But at the same time, I’m also intrigued to find books that discuss the issues about the common misrepresentation of a happy feast with a disproportionate grouping of “Pilgrims” and “Indians.” This is the first that I have pored over and learned so much from. I am incredibly excited to share such a great resource. Join me as I glean information from 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac with Plimoth Plantation, 2001. Read the full post…

Book Review: Noah Webster’s Words By Ferris & Kirsch

Webster 1

There are a lot of things in life that I never stop and wonder where they came from. Occasionally though, I will get curious about a product or a person or even a word. Those moments of curiosity are when it is lovely to discover that someone else already did some research for me and has prepared a presentation of that piece of history in a delightful package called a picture book. For example, on the Fourth of July, I posted a Cooney illustrated edition of “the blue-backed speller” which was created in the late 1700s by Noah Webster. I am very familiar with Webster’s Dictionary, especially when it comes to quick searches for words online. But I’ve really never stopped to ponder who that “Webster” was until that post. Thankfully, someone handed me a great new book that covered a lot of the questions I should have had about a certain Mr. Noah Webster. Allow me to share some newfound knowledge with you today found in this book. Here is Noah Webster’s Words by Jeri Chase Ferris, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch, 2012. Read the full post…

Book Review: The American Speller By Webster & Cooney


With the passing of July 4 and all the celebrations around the United States for Independence Day, I found myself thinking about this book that combines Noah Webster’s delightfully pithy sayings from the old Blue-Backed Speller with Barbara Cooney’s charming illustrations. In her introduction to the book, Ms. Cooney talks of her admiration for Mr. Webster’s lovely sentences which illustrate his spelling rules so uniquely as well as his excellent teaching, philosophizing and deep patriotism. As Ms. Cooney was such a marvelous writer, I struggle to summarize her reasons for creating this edition of the famous little speller and so I quote one of my favorite portions from her intro:

“Some children may learn something of phonics from this new edition. Others may simply look at the pictures. But many, I hope, will find the words of Noah Webster sticking to their ribs like good roast beef.”

And with that I give you a peek at this dear old book, The American Speller: An Adaptation of Noah Webster’s Blue-Backed Speller, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, 1960. Read the full post…

Book Review: Knit Your Bit By Deborah Hopkinson & Steven Guarnaccia

KnitBit 1

If books like this keep being published, I may just have to permanently change my mind about disliking historical fiction. Previews of this book continually caught my eye and after finally getting my hands on it this weekend, I have to say it has me hooked. And how could it not with a winning combination of elements – WWI, boys, soldiers, competition, and… knitting? Add to that surprising theme twist some excellent cartoon illustrations and you have a stellar, and very touching book. Here is Knit Your Bit by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia, 2013. Read the full post…

Book Review: So You Want To Be President? By St. George And Small

President 6

In honor of President’s Day, I bring a fun factual book to the table. I’ve mentioned before that I really didn’t like history much when I was growing up, so when I find fantastic books like this as an adult, I always wonder if this one would have made me love history. Would the child-me have laughed and memorized this one along with the nonsensical ones I knew so well? I sure hope it turns a few kids’ heads in that direction. Here is  So You Want to be President? by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small, 2000 (although I have the updated copy with Barack Obama added in). Read the full post…

Book Review: The Gettysburg Address By Sam Fink

Lincoln cover

Today is dear old Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. I always feel kind of sorry for his day as it gets quite overshadowed by all the red and hearts of the coming holiday. So, in honor of our 16th President, I’m here to share one of my favorite historical picture books. This is The Gettysburg Address, inscribed and illustrated by Sam Fink, 2007. Read the full post…