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#MentorTextMoment: HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE

9781454926917

The Book:

HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE: HOLLYWOOD STAR AND BRILLIANT INVENTOR

Author/Illustrator: Laurie Wallmark, illustrations by Katy Wu

Publication Info.: Sterling, 2019

Ages/Grades: ages 5 and up

Category: narrative nonfiction, biography

Overview (from the publisher):

Movie star by day, ace inventor at night: learn about the hidden life of actress Hedy Lamarr!
“To her adoring public, Hedy Lamarr was a glamorous movie star, widely considered the most beautiful woman in the world. But in private, she was something more: a brilliant inventor. And for many years only her closest friends knew her secret. Now Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu, who collaborated on Sterling’s critically acclaimed picture-book biography Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, tell the inspiring story of how, during World War Two, Lamarr developed a groundbreaking communications system that still remains essential to the security of today’s technology.”

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

Often providing too much context in a biography would steer us off our story path. Here, Laurie Wallmark needed readers to understand the breadth and depth of Hedy Lamarr’s inventive nature. Instead of listing Hedy’s many inventions in the text, Katy Wu includes them in the illustrations (below). Perfect solution.

Additional Resources:

Laurie Wallmark’s site includes a curriculum guide and other activities. Click here.

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#MentorTextMoment: JUST RIGHT

9781250155337

The Book:

JUST RIGHT: SEARCHING FOR THE GOLDILOCKS PLANET

Author/Illustrator: Curtis Manley, illustrations by Jessica Lanan

Publication Info.: Roaring Brook Press, 2019

Ages/Grades: ages 5-9

Category: expository nonfiction, descriptive text structure, first-person POV

Overview (from the publisher):

“Do you wonder 
if humans
are the only beings who wonder
if they are alone 
in the universe?

Our sun is a star.
In the night sky are all kinds of stars,
and orbiting those stars
are planets like the ones in our own solar system.

Could those planets have life
like we do on Earth?

Planet Earth is not too big,
not too small, not too hot,
and not too cold. It’s just right.
Our very own Goldilocks planet . . . .

Follow a young girl
as she explores these questions
in this gorgeous book about the wondrous search
for another Goldilocks planet.

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

Do you know how difficult it is to explain the techniques we use to search for exoplanets? Curtis Manley’s use of analogy makes JUST RIGHT accessible for young readers, as he talks about planets “winking” and “waving” and what that means to planet hunters. Takeaway: When trying to describe difficult concepts, why not try analogy?

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#MentorTextMoment: WHEN THE BEAT WAS BORN

9781596435407

The Book:

WHEN THE BEAT WAS BORN: DJ COOL HERC & THE CREATION OF HIP HOP

Author/Illustrator: Laban Carrick Hill, illustrations by Theodore Taylor III

Publication Info.: Roaring Brook Press, 2013

Ages/Grades: Grades 2-5

Category: Narrative nonfiction, biography

Overview (from the publisher): “Before there was hip hop, there was DJ Kool Herc.

On a hot day at the end of summer in 1973 Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at a park in the South Bronx. Her brother, Clive Campbell, spun the records. He had a new way of playing the music to make the breaks―the musical interludes between verses―longer for dancing. He called himself DJ Kool Herc and this is When the Beat Was Born. From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill’s book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.”

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

Picture book biographies are tricky. They have to go beyond “that’s cool” to tell the reader why they should care. It’s not enough to be first at something. There must be a larger meaning/impact. Laban Hill sums up the “so what” so perfectly in the last spread of WHEN THE BEAT WAS BORN. He tells us, “Herc didn’t just rock the block. He put the hip hip hop, hippity hop in the world’s heartbeat.”

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#MentorTextMoment: FLOWER TALK

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The Book:

FLOWER TALK: HOW PLANTS USE COLOR TO COMMUNICATE

Author/Illustrator: Sara Levine, illustrations by Masha D’Yans

Publication Info.: Millbrook, 2019

Ages/Grades: Grades 2-5

Category: Expository, humorous voice

Overview (from the publisher): “This new book from Sara Levine features a cantankerous talking cactus as a narrator, revealing to readers the significance of different colors of flowers in terms of which pollinators (bees, bats, birds, etc.) different colors “talk” to. A fun nonfiction presentation of science info that may be new to many kids—and adults!”

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

This is what informational fiction is all about: adding fictional elements that excite and engage kids. Who could resist learning about how flowers “talk” from this cactus narrator?

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#MentorTextMoment: SEASHELLS: MORE THAN A HOME

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The Book:

SEASHELLS: MORE THAN A HOME

Author/Illustrator: Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah Brannen

Publication Info.: Charlesbridge, 2019

Category: Nonfiction, compare/contrast, expository, layered text, list structure

Overview (from the publisher): “Prolific, award-winning nonfiction author Melissa Stewart reveals the surprising ways seashells provide more than shelter to the mollusks that inhabit them.

Young naturalists discover thirteen seashells in this elegant introduction to the remarkable versatility of shells. Dual-layered text highlights how shells provide more than a protective home in this expository nonfiction exploration. The informative secondary text underscores characteristics specific to each shell. Elegant watercolor illustrations create a scrapbook feel, depicting children from around the world observing and sketching seashells across shores. ”

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

Compare/contrast list books are hard to write. You must get the hook/concept just right in the opening spread. Then all subsequent examples must reinforce the idea. Melissa Stewart’s SEASHELLS: MORE THAN A HOME is a perfect example.

Additional Resources/Classroom activities:

Melissa Stewart’s website is a rich resource for educators (and authors). Her video lesson about voice choice draws upon SEASHELLS, and would be a great lesson for authors of all ages.

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#MentorTextMoment: CARTER READS THE NEWSPAPER

carterreadsthenewspaper_mainThe Book:

CARTER READS THE NEWSPAPER

Author/Illustrator: Deborah Hopkinson, illustrations by Don Tate

Publication Info.: Peachtree, 2019

Categories: Biography, narrative nonfiction

Overview (from the publisher): “Carter G. Woodson didn’t just read history. He changed it.” As the father of Black History Month, he spent his life introducing others to the history of his people.

Carter G. Woodson was born to two formerly enslaved people ten years after the end of the Civil War. Though his father could not read, he believed in being an informed citizen. So Carter read the newspaper to him every day. When he was still a teenager, Carter went to work in the coal mines. There he met a man named Oliver Jones, and Oliver did something important: he asked Carter not only to read to him and the other miners, but also research and find more information on the subjects that interested them. “My interest in penetrating the past of my people was deepened,” Carter wrote. His journey would take him many more years, traveling around the world and transforming the way people thought about history.

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

Prologues in picture books? Sometimes a book needs a spread in the beginning to tell readers why they should pay attention and care about the subject. Here readers learn that Carter Woodson started Black History Month BEFORE they start reading about his life.

Also, just how do we deal with unsubstantiated facts in picture books. We often leave this to the author’s note. But in CARTER READS A NEWSPAPER, Deborah Hopkinson lets us know in the main text using “as the story goes.” Hopkinson writes, “At Harvard, as the story goes, one of Carter’s professors said Black people have no history.” This is supposedly the pivotal moment that inspired Woodson to create Black History Month.

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#MentorTextMoment: SUPERLATIVE BIRDS

superlativebirds_mainThe Book:

SUPERLATIVE BIRDS

Author/Illustrator: Leslie Bulion, illustrated by Robert Meganck

Publication Info.: Peachtree, 2019

Category: Nonfiction, compare/contrast, lyrical, list structure

Overview (from the publisher): “Ever wonder which bird has the loudest voice? Which one builds the biggest nest or has the most feathers? Get to know all about the best and brightest―and smelliest!―denizens of the bird world with this collection of nonfiction science verses. You won’t need your binoculars to observe the superlative characteristics of these avian wonders.”

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

#Nonfiction needs multiple hooks. Leslie Bulion’s SUPERLATIVE BIRDS includes science notes (sidebars) on each page and employs multiple poetic forms, which are explained in the backmatter.

Additional Resources/Classroom activities:

On Leslie’s website, you’ll find two teacher’s guides, one from Leslie, as well as one from CLASSROOM BOOKSHELF. She also has a song poem recording.

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#MentorTextMoment: A SONG FOR GWENDOLYN BROOKS

9781454930884The Book:

A SONG FOR GWENDOLYN BROOKS

Author/Illustrator: Alice Faye Duncan, illustrations by Xia Gordon

Publication Info.: Sterling, 2019

Category: Nonfiction, biography, narrative nonfiction

Overview (from the publisher): “With a voice both wise and witty, Gwendolyn Brooks crafted poems that captured the urban Black experience and the role of women in society. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago, reading and writing constantly from a young age, her talent lovingly nurtured by her parents. Brooks ultimately published 20 books of poetry, two autobiographies, and one novel. Alice Faye Duncan has created her own song to celebrate Gwendolyn’s life and work, illuminating the tireless struggle of revision and the sweet reward of success.”

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

The best nonfiction has multiple hooks. Alice Faye Duncan’s A SONG FOR GWENDOLYN BROOKS shows readers the value of revision as well as telling Brooks’s life story and sharing her poems. Duncan aptly uses lyrical voice to share Gwendolyn Brooks’s story.

Additional Resources/Classroom activities:

Alice Faye Duncan has two lesson plans on her website (scroll down). One if for alliteration, assonance, and rhyme. The other focuses on sonnets.

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#MentorTextMoment: BEWARE OF THE CROCODILE

Dear blog readers,

I’m back! First, my apologies if you are subscribed to my blog via email. You are going to get many, many emails over the next couple of days, as I move my archive of #MentorTextMoment posts from Instagram to this site for better searchability. I promise in about a week, you won’t get more than an email every week or two from me. Now, on to content.w204

The Book:

BEWARE OF THE CROCODILE

Author/Illustrator: Martin Jenkins, illos. by Satoshi Kitamura

Publication Info.: Candlewick, 2019

Categories: Nonfiction, expository, humorous voice

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

How do we deal with difficult topics in #nonfiction. Martin Jenkins deals with death offstage in BEWARE THE CROCODILE. In other words, it happens between the pages, and the reader doesn’t see it. Instead, Jenkins muses, “What happens next is rather gruesome. In fact it’s so gruesome that we should skip the details. Let’s just say there’s a lot of twirling and thrashing, and then things go a bit quiet.” The reader gets the suggestion of death with humor and without the gory details.

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#MentorTextMoment: PLANTING STORIES

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The Book:

PLANTING STORIES: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre

Author/Illustrator: Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrations by Paola Escobar

Publication Info.: Harper Collins, 2019

Category: Nonfiction, biography, narrative nonfiction

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

Anika Denise and Paola Escobar do a masterful job of carrying the idea of planting stories from beginning to end of this #picturebook biography. First Pura arrives with the seeds of stories carried from Peurto Rico. A factory job doesn’t provide “fertile ground” for Pura’s stories to take root. But by the end of the book, seeds become a “lush landscape” and plants take over the page in Escobar’s illustrations.

Additional Resources/Classroom activities:

A teacher’s guide is available on the Harper Collins website, here.

Why not try planting your own garden after reading this book? Here’s a cool ziploc bag activity from Mad In Crafts.