PPBF: Ben Franklin’s Big Splash

Sorry the blog’s been so quiet, ya’ll. Following the whirlwind of the holidays, I’m now on deadline for two books with my publisher, Rourke Educational Media, and working on a third for a reading program. I took a short break to bring you a book I’ve been wanting to share for a while…

TITLE:  Ben Franklin’s Big Splash

AUTHOR: Barb Rosenstock

ILLUSTRATOR: S. D. Schindler

PUBLICATION INFO: Calkins Creek, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62091-446-5

SOURCE: personal library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 8+

GENRE: historical fiction picture book

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Before the world knew the famous Doctor Benjamin Franklin, his neighbors knew him as Ben, the sturdy, saucy, smelly son of a soap-maker — the boy who, on sweltering summer days, snuck away from stirring soap and snipping candlewicks in his father’s shop to head straight for the river…”

From the publisher:

“Ben Franklin loved to swim and, at the age of eleven, he was determined to swim like a fish—fins and all! This fascinating and lively account of young Ben’s earliest invention follows the budding scientist’s journey as he tests and retests his swim fins. That first big splash led Ben to even more innovations and inventions. Includes Franklin quotes, a timeline, bibliography, and source notes.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, invention

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I read this one with my six-year-old last night, and he could totally relate to Ben’s passion for swimming. Plus, Ben swims in the buff, which kids find hilarious. (Don’t worry, Schindler keeps Ben modest.) As a parent, I appreciated that Ben’s swim fins and sandals didn’t work out as planned, but he didn’t give up. And just when the six-year-old wanted to know about Ben’s other inventions, I turned the page to find back matter highlighting some of Ben’s contributions.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • What would you invent: What problems do you see around you? How could you solve them with a new invention? Draw a sketch or write a paragraph describing your ideas.
  • Ready to put your ideas to the test? NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab has a great video series on science fairs, which includes an overview of the engineering design process similar to Ben’s swim fin efforts.
  • PBS has eight lesson plans to accompany its series about Benjamin Franklin. Learn about inventions, newspapers, and more.

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: To Dare Mighty Things

With warm weather at last, we’re releasing butterflies, watching birds, and swimming in the pool. Our outdoor activities prompted today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick about presidential outdoorsman, Teddy Roosevelt.

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TITLE:  TO DARE MIGHTY THINGS

AUTHOR: Doreen Rappaport

ILLUSTRATOR: C. F. Payne

PUBLICATION INFO: Disney Hyperion, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4231-2488-7

SOURCE: library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 6 to 8

GENRE: nonfiction picture book biography

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“’Teedie,’ as he was called, coughed, sneezed, wheezed, had raging fevers, and hardly ate.”

From the jacket flap:

“President Theodore Roosevelt is known as “the man with a plan,” the “rough rider.” His figure stands tall in American history; his legacy stretching him to larger-than-life proportions.

But before his rise to fame, he was just “Teedie,” a boy with ambitious dreams to change the world, and the conviction to see his stupendous imaginings brought to fruition.

As an American president, he left an impressive mark upon his country. He promised a “square deal” to all citizens, he tamed big businesses, and protected the nation’s wildlife and natural beauty. His fearless leadership assured that he would always be remembered, and his robust spirit now dares others to do mighty things.

In her moving picture book portrait, award-winning author Doreen Rappaport uses her well-honed approach of personal quotes and vivid prose to spin together the tale of a sickly boy who became a monumental man. Coupled with C. F. Payne’s dramatic artwork, the story of President Teddy, touchstone of American history, is brought to life.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, biography

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Teddy Roosevelt is a fascinating character. He truly remade himself from an often-sick youth into the quintessential outdoorsman and bold politician. I’ve read other books that focused on snippets of his life, for example Rosenstock’s THE CAMPING TRIP THAT CHANGED AMERICA, but this is the first truly comprehensive biography I’ve seen. Rappaport integrates primary sources into the text and presents a balanced picture. She shows how Teddy intervened in other country’s affairs, like those of Panama, ultimately building the Panama Canal. Of course, Teddy Roosevelt could care less what others thought, she tells us. Rappaport reveals Teddy as truly larger-than-life, and Payne’s illustrations follow suit beginning with the cover. It shows only Teddy’s laughing face. No title. No author’s name. No illustrator’s name. Just Teddy, truly larger than life.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • Rappaport’s back matter has resources for further exploration, including books and Web sites.
  • A teacher’s guide is available through her Web site.
  • She also has links to several videos of Teddy, including one of him hunting big game  in Africa.
  • And, of course, you too can dare mighty things and try some of the things Teddy did: ride a horse, watch birds, hike, and write your own books about what you find.

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: The Daring Miss Quimby

MissQuimby

TITLE: THE DARING MISS QUIMBY

AUTHOR: Suzanne George Whitaker

ILLUSTRATOR: Catherine Stock

PUBLICATION INFO: Holiday House, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8234-1996-8

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 4 to 8

GENRE: nonfiction picture book, history

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Harriet Quimby was the picture of a modern American woman of 1912.”

From the publisher:

“In 1912, airplanes looked like bicycles with wings and only men flew these new machines. When the spirited young woman, Harriet Quimby, decided to learn to fly, everyone said it would be too dangerous. But Harriet tried it anyway. Soon the whole country was just wild about this daring woman, dressed in her special purple satin flight suit, who flew through the skies to become the first woman in the United States to earn her pilot’s license and fly across the English Channel.”

THEMES/TOPICS: women’ history, aviation, biography

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: What’s not to love about Harriet Quimby? While most women of her day sported corsets and long dresses, she donned a shiny purple flight suit. She also drove fast cars, wrote for magazines, and enjoyed adventure after adventure in the days before women could even vote. Whitaker’s book conveys Harriet’s spirit and zest for life in an age-appropriate way. And Stock’s watercolor images are simply heavenly.

RESOURCES:

  • Whitaker includes an in-depth author’s note and women in aviation timeline. See an online timeline here.
  • Kids can learn about the science of flight at the National Air and Space Museum’s “How Things Fly” website.
  • NASA has a number of aeronautics educator resources on its website.
  • Why not build your own paper airplane? Try different designs and see which flies the best.

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: 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!

PPBF: THE MIGHTY LALOUCHE

TITLE: THE MIGHTY LALOUCHE

AUTHOR: Matthew Olshan

ILLUSTRATOR: Sophie Blackall

PUBLICATION INFO: Random House’s Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86225-0

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 4 to 8

GENRE: picture book biography, historical fiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

From the publisher:

“In Paris, France, there lived a humble postman named Lalouche. He was small, but his hands were nimble, his legs were fast, and his arms were strong. When his job was replaced by an electric car, he turned to boxing to support himself and his pet finch, Genevieve. But—’You? A boxer?’ the fighters asked. ‘I could sneeze and knock you down!’ Still, Lalouche refused to give up. And perhaps small Lalouche was just nimble . . . just fast . . . and just strong enough to beat his fierce competitors. This is a marvelous story, full of humor and heart, and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, winner of a New York Times Best Illustrated Award.

THEMES/TOPICS: boxing, history, France

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: The illustrations are the star of the ring in this book. The characters’ expressions are priceless, and the images have a 3D feel, thanks to a Japanese diorama technique Blackall used. In fact, Matthew Olshan wrote the book specifically for Sophie Blackall to illustrate. She collects old pictures of boxers. Learn about how the story came together from Sophie at her blog.

RESOURCES:

  • The book includes an author’s note about French boxing and early electric cars.
  • A brief history of French boxing can be found here.
  • Information about boxing from PBS Kids.

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: Thomas Jefferson – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything

TITLE: Thomas Jefferson – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Maira Kalman

PUBLICATION INFO: Penguin’s Nancy Paulsen Books, Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-24040-9

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 to 8 (publisher), but I think 7 and up is a better estimate

GENRE: picture book biography

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Thomas Jefferson had red hair and some freckles (about 20 I think), he grew to be very tall and oh yes, he was the third president of the United States.

From the publisher:

“Renowned artist Maira Kalman sheds light on the fascinating life and interests of the Renaissance man who was our third president.

Thomas Jefferson is perhaps best known for writing the Declaration of Independence—but there’s so much more to discover. This energetic man was interested in everything. He played violin, spoke seven languages and was a scientist, naturalist, botanist, mathematician and architect. He designed his magnificent home, Monticello, which is full of objects he collected from around the world. Our first foodie, he grew over fifteen kinds of peas and advocated a mostly vegetarian diet. And oh yes, as our third president, he doubled the size of the United States and sent Lewis and Clark to explore it. He also started the Library of Congress and said, “I cannot live without books.” But monumental figures can have monumental flaws, and Jefferson was no exception. Although he called slavery an “abomination,” he owned about 150 slaves.

As she did in Looking at Lincoln, Maira Kalman shares a president’s remarkable, complicated life with young readers, making history come alive with her captivating text and stunning illustrations.”

THEMES/TOPICS: U.S. history

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Many picture book biographies of Jefferson focus on Jefferson’s roles as writer of the Declaration of Independence or President of the United States. Kalman’s book is the first I’ve seen that addresses Jefferson as a complex character, a man who condemned slavery while owning 150 slaves, and a man who might have had children with his slave, Sally Hemings. This is heavy stuff for young children, and I think much of the subject would be difficult for children younger than 7 to understand. Kalman’s conversational tone and bright artwork lighten some of the weightier topics. And I do appreciate that she is forthright with young readers, showing them that nobody’s perfect, not even Thomas Jefferson.

RESOURCES:

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!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Henry and the Cannons

Wow, it’s been awhile. My last PPBF post was in October! Yikes.

Yesterday’s blizzard in Boston and New York inspired this PPBF pick. Stay warm everyone! (I probably shouldn’t tell you it’s in the 60s in California.)

TITLE: Henry and the Cannons

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Don Brown

PUBLICATION INFO: Roaring Book Press, January 2013

ISBN: 978-1596432666

SOURCE:  Library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 to 9

GENRE: nonfiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“It was the winter of 1775. The American Revolution had begun, and things weren’t going well for the Patriots of Boston, Massachusetts.”

From the publisher: “Before Washington crossed the Delaware, Henry Knox crossed Massachusetts in winter—with 59 cannons in tow.

In 1775 in the dead of winter, a bookseller named Henry Knox dragged 59 cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston—225 miles of lakes, forest, mountains, and few roads. It was a feat of remarkable ingenuity and determination and one of the most remarkable stories of the revolutionary war. In Henry and the Cannons the perils and adventure of his journey come to life through Don Brown’s vivid and evocative artwork.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, nonfiction

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I’m working on a slice-of-history picture book and used HENRY AND THE CANNONS to study form and structure. Much like Barb Rosenstock’s THE CAMPING TRIP THAT CHANGED AMERICA, this book focuses on one episode in American history and shows how it connects to a larger story.

RESOURCES:

Don Brown found an unsung hero, as there’s little for students about Henry Knox on the Web. Here are a few sites:

  • The Knox Museum in Maine has several Revolutionary War lesson plans on its education site.
  • The Library of Congress has a lesson plan built around a letter from General George Washington to Henry Knox.
  • Daughters of the American Revolution exhibit about Knox.
  • Travel the Knox Trail in the Hudson River Valley (but probably not today due to the weather.)

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!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: BRAVE GIRL

I have read so much about this incredible book, and I was delighted to win an autographed copy through one of my favorite blogs, Teaching Authors. Michelle’s inscription reads: “For Kirsten, Be bold, brave and fearless with your writing!”

TITLE: Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909

AUTHOR: Michelle Markel

ILLUSTRATOR: Melissa Sweet

PUBLICATION INFO: HarperCollins’ Balzer + Bray, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-180442-7

SOURCE: author-provided copy

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 4 through 9

GENRE: nonfiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“A steamship pulls into the harbor, carrying hundreds of immigrants — and a surprise for New York City.”

From the publisher’s Web site:

“When Clara Lemlich arrived in America, she couldn’t speak English. She didn’t know that young women had to go to work, that they traded an education for long hours of labor, that she was expected to grow up fast.

But that did not stop Clara.

She went to night school, spent hours studying English, and helped support her family by sewing in a factory.

Clara never quit. And she never accepted that girls should be treated poorly and paid little.

So Clara fought back. Fed up with the mistreatment of her fellow laborers, Clara led the largest walkout of women workers in the country’s history.

Clara had learned a lot from her short time in America. She learned that everyone deserved a fair chance. That you had to stand together and fight for what you wanted. And, most importantly, that you could do anything you put your mind to.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, immigration, labor relations, biography

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Markel’s expertly crafted text begins with the promise of a new and better  life in America and ends with the fulfillment of that promise through one girl’s grit, determination and bravery. Markel includes a bibliography of primary and secondary sources and backmatter on the garment industry. Sweet’s illustrations are a perfect match for the story, giving the book a personal,scrapbook-like quality.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: ALL STAR!

TITLE: ALL STAR! HONUS WAGNER and the MOST FAMOUS BASEBALL CARD EVER

AUTHOR: Jane Yolen

ILLUSTRATOR: Jim Burke

PUBLICATION INFO: Penguin’s Philomel, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-399-24661-6

SOURCE: Library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 6-8 (Publisher’s recommendation)

GENRE: picture book biography

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“In July 2007 a rare baseball card was sold at auction for almost three million dollars.”

From the publisher’s Website:

The Honus Wagner baseball card is the most valuable baseball card of all time! But he was born poor, ugly, bow-legged, and more suited to shoveling coal in his Pennsylvania mining town than becoming the greatest shortstop of all time. How could it happen? Did those strong arms and fast legs turn him into a Pittsburgh Pirate and one of the game’s most unforgettable players?

In this true story, Jane Yolen shows us that wit, talent, perseverance, and passion score more than home runs. As Honus would say, “How about that!”

THEMES/TOPICS: baseball, perseverance

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: As Yolen points, out Wagner was a star in the days before performance enhancing drugs and fancy training schedules. As an early teen, he gained strength and endurance by working in the coal mines of Pennsylvania alongside his father. Also, the reason Wagner’s card is so rare, is because he had it pulled from the market. The card was found in packs of cigarettes. Wagner was a nonsmoker and worried about the health of his young fans.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.