Tag Archives: true story

Arrowhawk

Arrowhawk
by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Henry Holt and Company, 2004
Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12

Illustrator Gabi Swiatkowska and writer Lola M Schaefer bring alive a true story about a hawk that was wounded by and lived with an arrow running through its body for several months.

When Hawk takes an arrow in his side, he learns he can fly and gets him to the top of a Red Oak tree where he can rest.  He cares for his wound as best he can.  But after two days he is hungry and set off to find what he can.  He learns to negotiate with the arrow and goes after easier food to catch.  One day Hawks gets the arrow tangled in tree branches and snaps off part of the arrow.  Life is a bit easier.  One day he spots a field of mice, easy prey, and when he drops down to feast, his claws become entangled in a netting.  Rescuers remove the arrow and care for Hawk until he is fully healed.  They return him to his home and release him.

An afterword shares details of the Hawk’s story.  Geared more for the reader 6-11 years old.

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Winnie, The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh

Winnie, The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh
by Sally M. Walker,  illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss
Henry Holt and Company 2015

A must have book for Winnie-the-Pooh lovers!  This book tells of how Winnie-the-Pooh came to be!

In the early 1900’s, Harry Coleman, a service veterinarian (for horses), discovered a small bear cub at a train station.  He learned the bear’s mother had died, and the old man sitting with her was wanting to sell the bear.  $20 later the bear boarded the train with the vet!  Harry immediately named the bear Winnipeg, where the vet was stationed.  When he was transferred to London, for World War I, Winnie went with him.  When he was transferred to the front lines, Winnie was housed in the London Zoo.  Because the bear was so friendly, people often joined the bear in his quarters.  One day a special boy visited him—Christopher Robin!  His dad watched the boy’s fascination with the bear, and began making up bedtime stories for his son.  Those eventually became the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

The art and the story are beautiful.  The book includes old photos of the real Winnie, Christopher Robin and author A.A. Milne.

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Balloons Over Broadway, The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade

Balloons Over Broadway,
The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade

By Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011

Everyone knows about the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving and this is the story about how it got started.  And it’s likely, that without the specific talents of Tony Sarg, the traditional holiday event may not exist today.

Anthony “Tony” Sarg loved to see how things worked when he was a boy.  At age six, he announced he was going to be a marionette man.  He was very clever and when his father asked him to feed the chickens at 6:30 in the morning—every day!—Tony rigged up a system that he could do so from his bed, and sleep in!  Impressed, his father never asked him to do another chore.

As a young man Tony began making marionettes and ended up in New York City and performing on Broadway.  Macy’s heard about Tony’s puppets and asked him to design a ‘puppet parade’ for the store’s holiday windows.  The first outdoor parade was for the employees, and it was such a hit, it only grew from there.

Melissa Sweet’s brilliant illustrations take the reader back in time.  The book includes a photo from an early parade balloon, as well as Macy’s original advertisement in the New York Times in 1933.

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The Girl from the Tar Paper School

The Girl from the Tar Paper School
Teri Kanefield
Abrams books for young readers, 2014

This is a delicious, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat story of Barbara Rose Johns and the advent of the Civil Rights Movement, a story almost lost to history because of the racism of the times.

In Farmville, Virginia, at the age of 15, Barbara launches in her tar paper high school a strike, demanding equal education be offered to the black population.  Secretly she talks to all the kids and enlists the help of a few adult supporters.  Once the strike is launched, at an assembly where she directs everyone what to do, she enlists the help of NAACP and others.  In the onslaught of threats and ‘damage’ done to activists’ property, she persists until NAACP files a petition with the county school board demanding ‘integration of the schools’.  The school board rejects the petition and NAACP files a lawsuit in federal court alleging that segregation was unconstitutional.  This lawsuit is one of the four filed in federal court and that come together to form the Brown v. Board of Education case.  In 1954, three years after the strike at Moton High School, the US Supreme Court renders its decision declaring segregation in schools unconstitutional.  Segregation was a long time coming to the county, however, resulting in a generation of illiterate black students.

An incredible story in its day, it helps readers understand how dangerous it was to try to institute civil rights change in earlier times in the United States.  Fascinating story that will inspire readers.

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Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm

 Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm
By Jon Katz
Henry Holt and Company, 2011

With truly an eye for the picture and a heart for dogs, best-selling adult author Jon Katz brings the two together in his first picture book for children, Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm.  He gently tells the story of how his four dogs came to join him at Bedlam Farm and what jobs they do.  Through brilliant photo journalism and masterful storytelling, we see Border Collie Rose in the snow herding sheep.  We see Border Collie Izzy, who was abandoned and alone until he joined Bedlam Farm, comfort sick people.  We see Frieda, part Rottweiler and part German Shepherd and formerly a wild dog, protect the farm from foxes and coyotes.  In each dog’s photo story we see Lenore, and throughout the story Katz asks: What is Lenore’s job?

Black Labrador retriever Lenore “…licks the other dogs, touches noses and wags her tail.  She makes sure everyone is happy.”  She’s the one that tamed Frieda, comforted a frightened Izzy and taught a hard-working Rose how to play.  “Her job is loving and accepting and having patience.”  “Thanks to Lenore, the dogs are a family.” Katz’ book is an ideal book for dog lovers, the perfect book for any young child.

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Heart of a Samurai

Heart of a Samurai
by  Margi Preus
Amulet Books, 2010
Newbery Honor Winner

Heart of a Samurai is a captivating novel of John Manjiro, a poor Japanese fisherman’s son, who one day (impossibly) becomes a Samurai.

Caught in a storm and stranded on an island, Manjiro is rescued by an American ship.  But in 1841, Japan is isolated from the world, and boarding an American ship closes him off from ever returning to Japan, as well as risks his life with these “butter stinkers” (westerners).  Unlike his fellow fishermen, however, Manjiro wanted to know more about lands outside of Japan.  His inquisitiveness and yearning for adventure befriends him with the ship’s captain.  In his three years on the ship, he learns English well and becomes an interpreter.  Eventually Manjiro makes the decision to travel to America.  Unable to return to Japan and not exactly welcomed in America, he grows up to be a man from two cultures.

Based on the true story of John Manjiro, readers learn how Manjiro came to become the person who forged relationships between Japan and the outside world.  I found it easy to be drawn into the Heart of a Samurai.  It’s written simply and full of adventures that challenge Manjiro’s character.  Without realizing it, I slipped into Manuiro’s experiences, as if they were my own.

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That Book Woman

That Book Woman 
By Heather Henson, illustrated by David Small
Atheneum Books, 2008

Told from the point of view of an older brother who resisted reading, thinking it more important to work the land, we learn about the brave Pack Horse Librarians, known as the “Book Women” (most were women) who, through the US Work Progress Administration program, served people in remote regions where even schools aren’t available.  They came every two weeks.

We open with Cal glowering at this sister Lark who “would keep her nose a-twixt the pages of a book daybreak to dusky dark”.  Without his nose in a book, he is the first to hear the lady riding a sorrel mare.  The lady brings in a leather bag of books and leaves them.  The family offers a poke of berries for a trade, but the women says they are free, there is no charge, and the children are relieved they will have their cherished pie.  Cal thinks this is all a waste of time.  The women comes rain, snow or shine; she even came during the worst blizzard, knowing, “My horse will see me home.”  Why would that women risk her life in the blizzard, Cal begins to wonder.  What’s in those books?  He picks up a book and asks Lark to teach him what it says.  It’s not until next spring before the woman sits and visits a spell and mom gifts her with her most prized possession, her mother’s recipe to berry pie.  Cal says he wishes he had something to give, and the librarian asks him to read something to her, and says, “That’s gift enough.”

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Almost Astronauts, 13 Women Who Dared to Dream

Almost Astronauts, 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
Tanya Lee Stone
Candlewick, 2009

Always attracted to books about successful women, I discovered a rich telling of 13 women with very different stories who fought to do what was natural to them, fly.  While these 13 women were unable—in the late 50’s/early 60’s—to break the barriers against women and were unable to join NASA’s space program, they were able to lay strategic groundwork that later allowed other women into NASA’s program.

We meet Jerrie Cobb, the woman who challenged the male-dominated space program, secretly taking the same tests the men took to get into the program.  She passed them, far surpassing the men.  But the world wasn’t ready for women as equals yet.

A compelling slice in time, the author weaves 13 stories in with stories of key supporters as well as key non-supporters. She helps readers understand the era, and includes insights learned from some of the original 13 women.  Using dozens of photos we see the women who logged thousands of flight hours, in a time when they endured blatant discrimination for even that.  An inspiring book, especially for young people aspiring to fly.  Adults will enjoy, too.

Almost Astronauts won both the Seibert Information Books Medal and the Amelia Bloomer Award.

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Black Cowboy Wild Horses, A True Story

Black Cowboy Wild Horses, A True Story
Julius Lester & Jerry Pinkney
Dial Books for Young Readers, 1998

Based on a true story of an ex-slave, Julius Lester tells a story of a cowboy who, without a word or a rope, befriends a small herd of wild horses. In silence he watches the horses, moving when they move, responding how they respond, until an opportunity comes. Using his own horse, he challenges the lead stallion and takes over leadership of the herd. Pacing with the herd, he eventually leads them to a corral, and they follow. Fascinating.

A story of patience. A story of nature. Beautifully illustrated with wild horses that tell their own story. The story will long be remembered.

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