Category Archives: History

True stories or stories set in history.

Rolling Thunder (A Memorial Day story)











Rolling Thunder

by Kate Messner, illustrated by Greg Ruth
Scholastic Press, 2017

The story is of a boy who rides with his Vietnam vet grandfather on the 30th Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom, done on Memorial Day each year.  The story captures the importance the ride is for the grandfather who rides to honor friends lost.  Riding in on a motorcycle, they arrive at a campground and meet up with others.  In the morning, a long motorcycle convoy arrives at The Wall, where names are touched and prayers are said. The story is written in perfect rhyme and emphasizes the importance of Memorial Day and honoring those who fought for our freedom.  The illustrations tell many other stories, featuring other soldiers, family members at the wall as well as a star-lit sky signifying the vastness of the lives lost and honor earned.  A fresh story about the importance of the holiday.

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The Skydiving Beavers, A True Tale












The Skydiving Beavers, A True Tale
by Susan Wood, illustrated by Gysbert van Frankenhuysen
Sleeping Bear Press, 2017

A recounting of a true story that happened in 1948 in McCall, Idaho, when, after the war, people and houses were taking over the beaver’s territory.  It soon became apparent that beavers and people don’t mix well when dammed water flooded roads and land for food became land for houses.  Elmo Heter, a staff person for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, decided they needed to move the beavers to some open land, many miles away.  But how? After many ideas and several practice parachute jumps with Geronimo, a senior beaver, Elmo had a plan.  That fall they successfully moved a beaver colony to an open area.

Well-written, well-paced out, and written in a friendly voice, this is a delight to read.

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Out of School and Into Nature, The Anna Comstock Story

Out of School and Into Nature, The Anna Comstock Story
by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Jessica Lanan
Sleeping Bear Press, 2017

A delightful introduction to Anna Comstock, a naturalist and artist, who became a scientist in the 1800’s, well before women were allowed to do so.  From a very young girl, she loved being in nature and learned many things through observation.  At college, she learned more about insects and was inspired to draw them.  Which led to her carving lines into a woodblock and printing them.  Her fine art were used in colleges and to help teach farmers about insects.  Author Suzanne Slade sprinkles delightful phrases throughout the story, such as “nutty as an oak tree” and “spread faster than dandelion seeds on a windy day.”  When Anna discovered nature was not taught in the schools, she created curriculums and taught teachers about nature.  In this way, she helped inspire future naturalists, today’s environmentalists.

An inspiring nature book for young children.

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Out of Wonder, Poems Celebrating Poets












Out of Wonder, Poems Celebrating Poets

By Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth.
Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press, 2017

It’s a delight to read each poem celebrating a poet and written in that poet’s ‘style’.  This poem collection is packed with freshness, with so many layers going on at once.  Poets celebrated include Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Nikki Giovanni, and Langston Hughes, twenty in all.

Using bright, bold colors and shapes, Ekua, a fine artist, uses mixed-media collages to explore the poem’s message in visual form. Each poems’ illustration is uniquely and masterfully done.  This is a treat for poetry lovers and an interesting way to introduce poets to young readers.

The book includes an afterword with a few paragraphs on each poet celebrated and on the three poets who created this collection.  Good energy exudes from between the covers.  A book worth picking up.

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Are You an Echo?










Are You an Echo?  The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko
by David Jacobson
Chin Music Press, 2016

Are You an Echo? is a treasure.  The beautifully illustrated cover and the textured and heavy-stocked pages, make a strong presentation of Japan’s beloved children’s poet.  The book includes Misuzu’s brief biography and presents 25 poems.  Fifteen poems are presented in English and Japanese on beautifully illustrated two-page spreads.

Misuzu’s poems give voice to cocoons, fish and snow.  Written with such innocence, they are the words of a four-year-old.  Of course, they are translated from Japanese, but they have a unique flavor different from children’s poetry in America.

Unlike most girls of the early 1900’s who stopped going to school after the sixth grade, Misuzu went to school until she was seventeen.  She was raised in her mother’s bookstore and she had a hard time telling the difference between real life and what she read.  Everything was alive and had its own feelings.  Always a thoughtful child, she was sensitive to everything around her and questioned everything. Unfortunately, extreme hardships entered into Misuzu’s life and she took her life at the age of 25.  This fact is included gently in the brief biography.

A delight to the imagination, this is a book to savor, study, and enjoy again and again.

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Stepping Stones, A Refugee Family’s Journey










Stepping Stones, A Refugee Family’s Journey

by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr
ORCA Book Publishers, 2016

The artwork, made of water-smooth stones, will fascinate young readers and their parents.  River rocks beautifully laid out, tell the story of a Syrian refugee family escaping from their now hostile home to a new, unknown place.  The natural hardness of the stones poignantly illustrates to hardships the family experiences.  The book includes photos showing how the artist creates the illustration. After the scene is captured in photos, it is dismantled for the next scene, for the artist can’t afford ‘glue’ to make them permanent.

The story starts out on a normal day before there was hostility. But even then, the family wasn’t free, for they could not sing their songs, dance their dances, nor pray their prayers of choice.  Then rivers of people began leaving the city, until one day the family decided they must leave, too.  Only what they could carry went with them.  They traveled by foot, then by boat, hoping they’d be safe, for many others did not survive.  After a long time, a family took them in and helped them create a safe home.  The story ends on a note of peace.

Beautiful story, exquisite, moving illustrations.

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Freedom Over Me, Eleven Slaves, their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life












Freedom Over Me, Eleven Slaves, their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life

By Ashley Bryan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book & Newbery honor award

Freedom Over Me jumps into the lives of eleven slaves, their thoughts, feelings, dreams.  The eleven selected were from Mary Fairchild’s estate listing of her property, including their names, sex, and worth.

The story opens with Mary selling off her estate and returning home to England after her husband died.  Each slave is given a story, a voice to be heard.  While the stories are fiction, they are composites of true stories of real slaves.  Written in open verse, we learn of what they currently do, their past when they were ripped from their villages, their future, all with the same dream of freedom.  At this point in the story they wait, helplessly, knowing they will be sold, and likely separated.

Loose, color-filled illustrations bring life to the people, show the love they had and the pains they survived.  An insightful, heart-felt book that gives a deep look into the lives of those enslaved.

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I am Jim Henson (Ordinary People Change the World)












I am Jim Henson

by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017

Several generations have been raised on Sesame Street and Jim Henson’s Muppets and this book is a delight to learn about what experiences Jim had as a child that helped shape him to create the highly successful M
uppets.  Jim was one of author Brad Meltzer’s childhood heroes and readers will note an extra boost of energy woven throughout the biography.

Jim was raised in a family of jokesters, art creators, and with a grandmother who encouraged his storytelling.  One of his favorite radio comedians was ventriloquist, Edgar Bergen.  Jim badgered his parents until they got a television, which opened his world to live shows.  As a teen, he decided he wanted to work in television and visited all his local TV stations to get hired.  Soon after that, one station looked for a puppeteer.  He’d never used a puppet before, but created one and the station gave him a chance. Although the show was cancelled, Jim was hooked and created more puppets, including a frog he named Kermit.  Then one day two TV producers offered him an opportunity to create puppet characters for a new show targeting children of families that didn’t have a lot of opportunities.  And on November 10, 1969, their first episode of Sesame Street aired and was a smash hit.

Wonderfully inspiring book, especially for creative children. Both children and adults will enjoy the book.

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A Poem for Peter, the Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day












A Poem for Peter, The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day

by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson
Viking, 2016

Written in poems, readers learn how Ezra Jack Keats bravely pioneered books in 1962 about African-American kids’ experience in the city.  Born of poor Jewish immigrant parents, Ezra faced prejudice early.  Drawn to be an artist, his father supported Ezra’s interests as much as he could with leftover paints.  Just when Ezra managed to get a scholarship for college, his dad died, and he had to earn a living to support his family. Enlisting in the Air Force for World War II, he made posters, booklets, charts, maps and art.  After the war, he returned to the same prejudices and decided to rearrange his name.  After he successfully illustrated a couple children’s books, the editors invited him to write and illustrate his own story. He created a story of Peter, a ‘brown-sugar boy’. In 1962, his book, The Snowy Day, led to six others.

The book takes you down a delightful lane sharing how Ezra came to do his books and how much kids enjoyed them.  Illustrations used are similar to Ezra Jack Keats style.  A great reminiscent look down memory lane for parents, a great introduction to a writer/artist for children.

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Adventures in Asian Art, An Afternoon at the Museum













Adventures in Asian Art, An Afternoon at the Museum

By Sue DiCicco with Deborah Clearwaters and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Tuttle Publishing, 2016

In Adventures in Asian Art, An Afternoon at the Museum we follow a girl and her brother as they explore 53 pieces of art at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. The author and illustrator cleverly work in how the children interact with each art piece shown.  They meditate with the Buddha, they ride rhinos, they wear samurai warrior suits of armor.  The story is written in simple, up-beat rhyme, blending the art with the child’s imagination:

“You’ll dance with the Sky-walker
And clear the path ahead.
You’ll carry the fire of wisdom
Through the hair upon your head.”

Juxtaposing the rhymes with the art, the child can put together the references to each.  Each page invites the youngest into the fun and imagination of the artwork, while showing the actual art piece itself.  Art pieces includes kimonos, statutes, puppets, paintings, and more from centuries ago to modern times.  Unlike traditional museum art books, this book is abundant with up-beat energy and kid-like fun on every page to draw in young readers.

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