#MentorTextMoment, Books

#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.”

#MentorTextMoment, Books

#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.

#MentorTextMoment, Books

#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.

#MentorTextMoment, Books

#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.