The path to peace is never easy--it's full of anger, turmoil and resistance. Hiawatha starts telling his tell by recounting how his family was killedThe path to peace is never easy--it's full of anger, turmoil and resistance. Hiawatha starts telling his tell by recounting how his family was killed in battle. Afterward, he could only think of taking revenge. But one morning, a man paddled across the water in a white stone canoe. The Peacemaker said to Hiawatha, in a halting voice,
"I-I-I know of your pain. I know of your loss. I carry a message of healing. I h-h-have come to tell you of the Great Law: Fighting among our people must stop. We must come together as one body, one mind, and one heart. Peace, power and righteousness shall be the new way."
Robbie Robertson, who is of Mohawk and Cayuga heritage, first heard this story as a young boy visiting his relatives at Six Nations of the Grand River in southern Ontario, Canada. In his author's note, he recounts the day they journeyed through "the bush" to a longhouse and heard a respected Elder tell the story of the Great Peacemaker and his disciple, Hiawatha. Now Robertson, with the aid of his son, comes full circle to becomes the storyteller.
Young readers, especially in 4th through 7th grades, will grasp the difficulties Hiawatha faced, first battling his own rage and anger at his enemies, and later as he brought the Peacemaker's message to warring tribes. Healing can only be achieved by forgiveness and trust. Hiawatha was passionate and convincing delivering his message to the Seneca and others:
"We will all perish if we continue this violence. A change must come, and the time is now. Alone, we will be broken," I said, "but together we are more powerful than the greatest warrior."
Students will be able to see how this transformed the Iroquois nations to form the united league that eventually became the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. I think it would be fascinating for students to also apply these themes to conflicts we face today, whether in our local communities or in world politics.
David Shannon's illustrations are powerful, evocative and stunning. Although you may know him for his humorous No, David!, his picture book The Rough-Face Girl (with Rafe Martin) remains one of my all-time favorite folktales. In Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, he conveys both the heroic and mythological nature of the two main figures--but he also lets readers feel the anguish that results from the conflict and the power struggles. I found this interview with David Shannon at TeachingBooks very interesting....more
Tonatiuh blends his signature style artwork with Posada's calaveras to help young readers understand both Posada's printmaking process and also his poTonatiuh blends his signature style artwork with Posada's calaveras to help young readers understand both Posada's printmaking process and also his political messages in behind these iconic images.
My students will certainly recognize La Catrina, but few will be know about Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada (called Don Lupe Posada), who created this and many other calaveras, skeletons prominent in Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. As a young man, Posada learned the printmaking techniques of lithography, engraving and etching. Students will be very interested to learn about these processes and see how he used them to create his images.
Tonatiuh also helps students think about the Don Lupe's ideas, the things he might have wanted his audience to think about when they saw his drawings. At school, we have talked about an author's message but we talk less often about an artist's message. Tonatiuh introduces this in a thoughtful way that invites students into thinking this way--without being heavy-handed.
For several spreads, Tonatiuh reproduces some of Posada's classic images, making them look like they are old-fashioned broadsides. Tonaituh invites students' own questioning by sharing his own questions.
Tonatiuh's illustrations are influenced by pre-Columbian Mixtec figures, especially those from codices. I think it's fascinating how he's combining powerful visual images from two different Mexican traditions. This is a must-have book for all school libraries, one that 3rd through 5th graders will especially like reading and discussing. ...more
Nolan introduces young readers to Mahalia Jackson, putting her life, passion and achievements in context. Right from the beginning, readers understandNolan introduces young readers to Mahalia Jackson, putting her life, passion and achievements in context. Right from the beginning, readers understand that music meant everything to Mahalia. Although she was surrounded by all types of music in New Orleans and Chicago, Mahalia found comfort singing in church--especially given the hard times she experienced as a child. Nolan especially emphasizes Jackson's determination to pursue her singing and stay true to herself and her passion for gospel.
"Mahalia sang for as many people as she could. She knew gospel lifted people up. And when you know something like that, you've got to tell it to the world."
This is an important addition to our collection of picture book biographies. Pair this with Andrea Davis Pinkney's Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song....more
There are so many different ways into sharing The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. The story centers around Richard and Mildred LoThere are so many different ways into sharing The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. The story centers around Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple who challenged Virginia's laws forbidding interracial marriages and took their case all the way to the Supreme Court.
You might approach it as a story of two people who stand up and fight for what they think is right--a book about courage, civil rights and fighting for change. Or you might see it as a way to start talking about race with young children, and the struggles one family went through not so long ago. Whichever you choose, this picture book makes a wonderful jumping off point for talking with kids about things that really matter.
While l found the information interesting, I think some maps and timelines would have helped kids put it together. As it is, the information seems a bWhile l found the information interesting, I think some maps and timelines would have helped kids put it together. As it is, the information seems a bit random....more
A moving story, but I'm concerned about the lack of sources, use of dialog and over-sentimental stance. Reads more like historical fiction, and yet itA moving story, but I'm concerned about the lack of sources, use of dialog and over-sentimental stance. Reads more like historical fiction, and yet it's classified as nonfiction....more
Children will be outraged by this early battle for desegregation that took place in the California public schools seven years before Brown v. Board ofChildren will be outraged by this early battle for desegregation that took place in the California public schools seven years before Brown v. Board of Education. Sylvia Mendez and her family fought their Orange County school district, which placed Sylvia and her brothers in the “Mexican school” school because of their skin tone and surname. Tonatiuh adeptly combines clear text and folk-inspired art to bring this important story to children, showing how important it is to stand up for what’s right. ...more
I've always been amazed at the journeys gold prospectors underwent to travel to California in the 1840s and 1850s. Can you imagine taking a covered waI've always been amazed at the journeys gold prospectors underwent to travel to California in the 1840s and 1850s. Can you imagine taking a covered wagon across the Rockies or a clipper ship around Cape Horn? If these voyages fascinate you, I highly recommend Tracy Fern's new picture book, a biography of Eleanor "Ellen" Prentiss, who navigated the fastest clipper ship to sail from New York to San Francisco.
Tracy Fern builds this dramatic story, carefully helping children understand the difficulties Ellen, Prentiss and the crew faced. My students gasped when The Flying Cloud's mast broke, and you could see the worry on their faces as Ellen faced stormy weather around Cape Horn. Share this terrific story with young readers who are fascinated by science, math and adventure. They'll love how Ellen not only used her daring courage, but also clear calculations to find the fastest routes. ...more
As a young girl, Georgia knew that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up, but few women could pursue that dream in the early 20th century. “GeorAs a young girl, Georgia knew that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up, but few women could pursue that dream in the early 20th century. “Georgia sees life differently. She paints and paints. Hours pass by. She wonders if she can achieve her dream.” Local author Rodriguez captures O’Keefe’s vision and determination, presenting it for a young audience with a perfect tone. Share this with children, especially if you are going to see the new exhibit at the de Young Museum. ...more
A young mother and her children journeys on the newly completed Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, traveling from Omaha to Sacramento. Floca, who hasA young mother and her children journeys on the newly completed Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, traveling from Omaha to Sacramento. Floca, who has been recognized with three Seibert Award honors, takes readers on this ride through the west, experiencing the journey as if they were there on the train. The direct second-person voice creates an immediate sense for readers. “Here your trip begins,/ at the depot, on the platform.” Without a doubt, this nonfiction picture book is large in scope and trim size, filling its 64 pages with expansive views, looming engines and intricate details. But the compelling rhythm of the free verse text and the variety of lines, perspectives and scenery keeps the pacing moving forward, even if the journey seems long at time. In fact, one of Floca’s accomplishments is conveying the sense of just how long the journey took compared to today’s standards. Readers feel the strain of the journey on passengers and think about how many times the crew and engine needed to change in order to get the train all the way to California. Floca engages all the senses with both his language and illustrations, as readers hear the train’s hissing and clanking, feel the engine’s vibrations and heat, smell the burning coal, and watch the speeding landscapes zoom by. Detailed front- and endpapers set the historical and technical stage, and the author’s note provides a substantial explanation of his research methods and sources. As the young family walks down the San Francisco street, readers will feel a sense of awe at all their journey entailed in 1869....more
This picture book biography celebrates the way Helen Keller learned to communicate inspite of the darkness and silence that surrounded her. RappaportThis picture book biography celebrates the way Helen Keller learned to communicate inspite of the darkness and silence that surrounded her. Rappaport sprinkles quotes from Keller’s own autobiography and other writing throughout, providing young readers an intimate sense of Keller’s struggles and determination. ...more
At age nineteen, Sarah Edmonds disguised herself as a man and joined the Union Army to fight in the Civil War. She took the name Frank Thompson, and hAt age nineteen, Sarah Edmonds disguised herself as a man and joined the Union Army to fight in the Civil War. She took the name Frank Thompson, and headed off to battle the Confederacy with her Michigan regiment. Frank, as Sarah was known, was an outstanding soldier, brave and true, risking his/her life to help others.
My students loved the way Hendrix showed the battle scenes, using both color and dramatic lines to bring readers right into the scene. Hendrix also makes the words pop out from the page with his dramatic design. My students found this particularly effective. I was very interested to learn from Elizabeth Bird's Fuse 8 post in the School Library Journal that "Hendrix takes his hand-drawn letters from the illustrated letterforms found on broadside posters from that era."...more