Category Archives: History

True stories or stories set in history.

Carter Reads the Newspaper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carter Reads the Newspaper
by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Don Tate
Peachtree Publishers, 2018

Carter Reads the Newspaper documents the history of Black History Month, beginning with two unknown figures.  Oliver Jones, a coal miner, and Carter G. Woodson, a former miner and, later, historian.

Oliver opened his home to other miners and provided them books written by African-Americans and newspapers from all over the world.  One of the people visiting his home was Carter, who had had some education and knew how to read.  He soon began reading to others.  When others asked questions about the news, Carter researched them and found the answers. After three years in the mines, he returned to school, graduating at age 20, eventually earning his Ph.D. in history from Harvard.  In 1926 he established Negro History Week, which later expanded into Black History Month.

Well documented story, with illustrations inspiring pride. The book also includes illustrations of 43 Black leaders and a bit about them.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh

Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh
by Uma Krishnaswami
Tu Books, 2017

Set in Yolo County California in the 1940s. The top story features Maria Singh, a girl from a mixed marriage (India/Mexico) who loves baseball, but woven into the story are multiple subplots.  The rich layers include: a heartfelt story on how the family and community made up of different cultures support each other during important challenges, even when they may not normally support each other; old laws where people not from America can’t purchase their own land; interracial marriages are not allowed; and baseball for girls. It includes insights on women working during World War II when men were on the battlefields.

I heard Uma Krishnaswami speak at a picture book bootcamp and she gave a talk like no other I have heard.  I felt empowered to write.  She detailed several of her journeys to publication, sharing how the stories started, evolved and ended.   Insightful and meaningful.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Rice from Heaven, The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rice from Heaven, The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans
by Tina Cho, illustrated by Keum Jin Song
Little Bee Books, 2018

A story based on a true event.

A group in South Korea organize to send balloons carrying rice across the border to South Korea in the hopes that the families will receive the rice.  The people in North Korea are starving and their government does nothing.  Some who help send the rice, are from South Korea and know starvation.  When some children cry, “They are the enemy,” the story’s hero declares the children are eating grass and bark for they have no food. Understanding, the opposing children join in the effort.  Launched under the cover of darkness, the rice must fly 118 miles and not be noticed by North Korean soldiers.  Six pages of backmatter introduces Korea and what is taking place there today. This book is ideal for discussion to supplement what children are hearing in today’s news.

Read more reviews and order on Amazon.

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.

Read more reviews and order on Amazon.

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.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

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.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

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.

Read more reviews and order on Amazon.

Tree by Melina Sempill Watts


Tree
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 (https://youtu.be/tUx3twJDisQ) 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 https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/melina-sempill-watts/treeT/

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.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.