April Issue Day

It’s new issue day!

Have you ever wondered what the Curiosity Mars rover’s wheels are made of?

Are you curious why scientists attached satellite trackers to sea lions?

You’ll find answers to these questions and more in my articles for the April issues of Odyssey and AppleSeeds. Enjoy!

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PPBF: UNDER THE FREEDOM TREE

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TITLE: UNDER THE FREEDOM TREE

AUTHOR: Susan VanHecke

ILLUSTRATOR: London Ladd

PUBLICATION INFO: Charlesbridge, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-58089-550-7

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 6 to 10

GENRE: nonfiction picture book, history

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“1861: May moon gleams bright as Colonel’s buttons. Three slip out unseen.”

From the jacket flap:

“One May night in 1861, three slaves escaped the Confederate line and rowed across the harbor to a Union-held fort. Frank Baker, James Townsend, and Shepard Mallory didn’t know what they would find across the water, but they knew it had to be better than what they left behind.

At the fort, General Benjamin Butler considered the men’s plight. The Fugitive Slave Act required him to return the runaways to their master. But what if they were declared “contraband of war”? Then the Union could claim them as enemy property—and protect them.

Frank, James, and Shepard—the Civil War’s first “contrabands”—opened the door for thousands of other runaway slaves who poured into the fort. The contrabands built a community, helped the North win the war, and learned to read under the spreading branches of the tree later known as the Emancipation Oak. This is their story—and the story of the beginning of slavery’s end.”

THEMES/TOPICS: slavery, history, courage

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Oh, dear, where to start? First, Hampton, Virginia, home of Ft. Monroe and Emancipation Oak, is my hometown. Yet, before this beautiful book, I had never heard this compelling story. Second, VanHecke tells this tale in brilliant blank verse, reminding me of other historical favorites told in similar fashion, like Brian Floca’s MOONSHOT or LOCOMOTIVE. Plus, Ladd’s images have a kind of poetry too.

RESOURCES:

  • UNDER THE FREEDOM TREE has its own Web site complete with Educator’s Guide and Reader’s Theater script.
  • You’ll also find videos of Emancipation Oak and Pres. Obama declaring Freedom’s Fortress a national monument.
  • If you visit Hampton, you can see Emancipation Oak.
  • And my boys love walking Ft. Monroe. The cannons are their favorite part. The National Park Service has a page just for kids with activities related to Ft. Monroe. And don’t miss the Casemate Museum.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

PPBF: RON’S BIG MISSION

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TITLE: RON’S BIG MISSION

AUTHOR: Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden

ILLUSTRATOR: Don Tate

PUBLICATION INFO: Dutton, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-525-47849-2

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 6 to 8

GENRE: picture book biography, historical fiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“You’re up early this morning, Ron. What’s the rush?” asked Mrs. McNair.

From the publisher:

“Nine-year-old Ron loves going to the Lake City Public Library to look through all the books on airplanes and flight. Today, Ron is ready to take out books by himself. But in the segregated world of South Carolina in the 1950s, Ron’s obtaining his own library card is not just a small rite of passage – it is a young man’s first courageous mission. Here is an inspiring story, based on Ron McNair’s life, of how a little boy, future scientist, and Challenger astronaut desegregated his library through peaceful resistance.”

THEMES/TOPICS: Civil Rights, equality, justice

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: McNair’s story will inspire young children to do something about justice and  inequality. McNair doesn’t follow “the rules,” but he’s moved to do what’s right.

RESOURCES:

  • Please see this past post about Martin Luther King, Jr. to learn how to talk about Civil Rights with very young children.
  • Here’s a Common Core aligned second-grade lesson plan for the book.
  • The Challenger Center has a number of educator resources, as well as information about the Space Shuttle mission.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!