Category Archives: History

True stories or stories set in history.

A House that Once Was

A House that Once Was
by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Lane Smith
Roaring Book Press, 2018

The title promises a trip back in time, a mystery, and that’s exactly what’s delivered in this story poem tale with its mystical, magical illustrations.

We’re invited into an old house and on each page, we learn a few more things about the house, on a hill.  All the items of the last owner are still in their place, as told my favorite line:

Who was this someone
who left without packing
someone who’s gone
but is still everywhere?

Two children are the house explorers, but not the main characters.  The illustrations feature the main character, the house and all its contents.  Readers learn much from a yellow mustard jar, an artist’s palate, and photos on the wall. The author draws us into the story when she wonders who may have lived there, and where they may have gone.  After what must have been several hours, the children return home and the illustrations show they returned with a few treasures.

This is the kind of story poem that takes readers to a special place and will entice readers to return into the story’s feeling again and again.

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The Water Walker

The Water Walker
by Joanne Robertson
Second Story Press, 2017

Based on a true story that began in 2003, Nokomis (Ojibwe tribe in Ontario Canada) loved water and one day had a dream telling her that water will one day be more valuable than gold if we didn’t take care of it.  In her dream she was asked what she would do.  She and three friends formed the Mother Earth Water Walkers and set off to walk around the entire great lakes to get the public’s attention on water conservation. During 2015 she put nearly 4,500,000 footsteps on her sneakers.

Told simply, and using Ojibwe words throughout, I found this story inspiring, that one person in simple ways can bring attention to a public need.

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A Movie in My Pillow

A Movie in My Pillow
by Jorge Arguenta, illustrations by Elizabeth Gomez
Children’s Book Press, 2001

A boy from El Salvador escapes from his country and arrives in San Francisco with his father, leaving the rest of his family behind.  Their story is told in poems, written in both English and Spanish and illustrated with bold, bright colors of El Salvador.  Poems tell of his life in El Salvador, as well as the early days in the States.

The poems tell of his neighborhood where “you can taste/a soup of languages/in the wind.”  Other poems are about common experiences any boy might have, “Shadow/…you make me mad//because/every time/we race/you always win.”

The heart-song words and colorful illustrations make this an endearing story that will reach into a child’s heart.

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Up in the Leaves, The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses










Up in the Leaves, The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses
by Shira Boss, illustrated by Jamey Christoph
Sterling Children’s Books, 2018

Bob Redman does not like the feel of crowded New York. But he does like climbing lampposts, going up on building roofs and climbing castle walls at the park. And he loves the cool, green, calm park. He soon finds great hiding places up in the trees.  One day he builds a small platform in a tree so he can read his books.  When his treehouse disappeared, he built a bigger one, then a bigger one, inviting up friends.  He built a total of 12 treehouses until, when he became of age, park staff called for him to come down from his treehouse.  As they had followed his adventures for years, they asked if he could like to work for the park and take care of the trees.  Wonderful story inviting readers to follow their dreams, no matter how tall they become!

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W is for Welcome, A Celebration of American’s Diversity











W is for Welcome, A Celebration of American’s Diversity
by Brad Herzog
Sleeping Bear Press, 2018

Author Brad Herzog shares how people immigrate to the US and highlights accomplishments of naturalized citizens, introducing immigration refugees, and naturalization. Each letter introduces ideas including: cultures, diversity, freedom and journey. Many immigrants are highlighted, like Einstein, Carnegie, and Muir.  The book is truly packed with a broad collection of how America was formed with people from many countries. Great for the classroom, and perfect for parents to open many discussions about America’s diversity.

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Tree by Melina Sempill Watts

by Melina Sempill Watts
Change the World Books, 2017

I loved this book, it consumed my imagination.  Tree starts out as an acorn and grows to be nearly 250 years old.  We share in the tree’s experience as Indian cultures are replaced with Mexican and eventually Caucasian cultures.  The reader also experiences how Tree learns to connect and communicate with the environment around it; its in these connections that we learn the science.

Ms Watts knows her science and writes this fictional piece in layman’s terms to describe the science.  She packs so much into each section, it’s what I would call very dense writing, but when I got done I felt so connected to the story, to the character, and to the science of it.  It’s an eye and heart opening story.  (Written for adults, although teens may find it fascinating as well.)

Ms. Watt attended UCLA and worked 14 years as a Watershed Coordinator in the area where the story takes place.  Visit Ms Watt’s youtube interview ( to meet her and share in her enthusiasm about the story.  Anyone with an affinity to trees or interest in the environment will find the story fascinating and inspiring.

You can read more reviews and order on Amazon.

Kirkus Reviews gave Tree a 5 Star review:

…. The saga of Tree becomes a window into the immensity of nature, simultaneously dynamic and everlasting, and the ways that humans have come to upset the ancient balance. Watts writes in an elegant, highly detailed prose that shows an incredible knack for chronicling the minutiae of the natural world. …    An ingenious and satisfying tale about a single live oak. … Read complete review at

Book Summary

Tree is a novel about a tree written from a unique point of view: the chief narrator is a tree. Tree uses magical realism as a key to access the interrelated emotional realities of the many species that share one pristine valley in Topanga, California. Grass, birds, other trees and animals come to life on the pages, while one 19th century Mexican woman and one 20th century school boy, hearts opened by grief and loneliness, come to know one California live oak whose 229 years span the evolution of four human civilizations, Chumash, Spanish/Mexican, Yankee and new money Hollywood, which each leave their mark upon the landscape and upon Tree. The author’s obsessive botanical, scientific and historical research give substance to a world that feels both as real as last weekend’s dust on hiking boots and as mind altering as a fully fledged mystical experience. Take a journey into the heart of the woods where every plant shines Tree will change how you see nature.

Little Leaders, Bold Women in Black History












Little Leaders, Bold Women in Black History
by Vashti Harrison
Little, Brown and Company, 2018

Little Leaders celebrates 40 well-known and little-known women who changed history in little or big ways.  From currently popular women, like Oprah Winfrey, to little-known women like Alma Woodsey Thomas.  Like other collections of women  who made a difference, I’m amazed at the variety and caliber of careers, especially those in history where women having careers wasn’t allowed.  From medical researchers, to physicians, to spies, to astronauts, engineers, filmmakers and more.  For many of these women, they made their mark against all odds, just quietly going about their work. An inspiring and eye-opening collection for girls and boys from all backgrounds.

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Step Right Up, How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness












Step Right Up, How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness
by Donna Janell Bowman, illustrated by Daniel Minter
Lee and Low Books Inc., 2016

This little known history story is about a former slave who had a way with animals. Because of his abilities, people soon started calling him Doc. When the Civil War ended, he started a horse hospital. He owned a horse who birthed Jim, part Arabian.  The horse was so sickly, Doc kept him in his house until he got better. Doc soon discovered just how smart Jim was and began teaching him the alphabet—which Jim learned!  Doc and Jim began touring the US.  In time Jim worked with the Human Society and helped promote kindness towards animals. The compelling story keeps the pages turning and an afterword includes photos and more details about Doc and Jim.

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Write to Me, Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind













Write to Me, Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind
by Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Amiko Hirao
Charlesbridge, 2018

A little-known true story of one person’s friendship and generosity and the impact it made to her recipients.

When Japanese citizens were sent to internment camps during World War II, Clara Breed, a librarian, said good bye to her patrons at the train station, where she handed out penny postcards and encouraged the children to write to her. She visited them at their temporary camp in California and sent boxes of books to the children when she could. In time, postcards from the children began arriving.  When the internment camps were closed, a few children returned to Clara’s library.

An Author’s Note tells of how when she moved to a retirement home, she found a box of more than 250 letters and postcards she had received. She was honored in 1991 at a reunion for Japanese Americans who had been imprisoned in Poston, Arizona.  More than seven hundred people gave her a standing ovation.

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Martin Rising, Requiem for a King 












Martin Rising: Requiem for a King 
Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Scholastic Press, 2018

A collection of brilliant “docu-poems” summarizing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s(MLK) birth, life and family, and time up to the weeks and months before his death. The time before his death includes his birthday January 15 through April 4, 1968. The story includes the sanitation worker’s strike in Memphis and its challenges, MLK’s last sermon and his last night. It also includes the half-mast flags, funeral and mourning of a community who had lost their leader. Author Andrea Davis weaves in MLK quotes on love into a valentine poem ending with,

“…folks in Memphis
are down on their knees
proposing to Equality:
Be mine!”

The book introduces readers to acronyms like GOD: Gift of Desperation, their motivation for the strike, and COME: Community on the Move for Equality. She uses Henny Penny, a chicken of “The Sky is Falling” fame, as narrator to illuminate, punctuate and foretell events in the story.

In loose, vibrant colors, Brian Pinkney’s illustrations show the emotions of the events, both emotions displayed and emotions held in by the African-American community during their struggles. A brilliant piece of work on all accounts.

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