In the forward of Hitler Youth, Growing up in Hitler’s Shadow, author Susan Campbell Bartoletti is very clear with her audience-this is not a book abo...moreIn the forward of Hitler Youth, Growing up in Hitler’s Shadow, author Susan Campbell Bartoletti is very clear with her audience-this is not a book about Adolf Hitler. Instead, Bartoletti focuses on the children and teenagers who followed Hitler and the National Socialist Party during the timeframe of 1933 to 1945. There are pictures and short biographies right after the title page detailing the subjects of this book, a different perspective than what is usually studied in classrooms. The first chapter provides information on how Hitler came to power, told in a narrative format from the perspective of Melita Maschmann who was only fifteen at the time. Along with the text are photographs with captions which provide more historical information. Also included are publicity photos taken at the time, geared towards the young people in hopes of expanding Hitler Youth membership. At the end of the book is an Epilogue which wraps up the stories of the children and teenagers mentioned, often talking about the guilt and responsibility they felt once the war ended. There is also a detailed timeline, author’s note, photography information, source notes, and an index.
Once I began reading this book, I couldn’t put it down again. So often in textbooks this history is told, but always from an adult perspective. I think this would be a powerful text to share with middle school through high school students when teaching about this period in time. This would be a good companion text taught with a novel like “The Boy Who Dared”, I think it would foster engaging discussions for students. Its also evident that quite a bit of time went into researching and writing this book, there is so much information to take in, and its written in an accessible and engaging tone. (less)
Heart and Soul, The Story of America and African Americans is a beautifully illustration picture book by Kadir Nelson. In the prologue, the narrator t...moreHeart and Soul, The Story of America and African Americans is a beautifully illustration picture book by Kadir Nelson. In the prologue, the narrator tells the reader that “most folks my age and complexion don’t speak much about the past. Sometimes it’s just too hard to talk about…” In the pages that follow, told in a conversational tone, is the history of the African American experience in America; beginning in colonial times and ending with the Civil Rights era. The story gives information on important events in history like Reconstruction, Westward expansion, the Great Migration, and notes many influential African Americans as well.
The standout of this picture book would be the incredible illustrations accompanying each chapter. Some take up two pages at a time, they are vivid and realistic looking, bringing depth to the text. Each illustration has a small caption next to it, noting historical significance or names of the people represented. At the back of the book is an author’s note, a timeline, bibliography, and index. The timeline is particularly helpful to read afterwards, it provides even more information for the reader. This is an incredibly well done book, which makes these historical events engrossing to read about. A student just grabbing this book off of the shelf might be intimidated by the amount of text in each chapter. I plan on reading from this aloud with my seventh grade students, because the narrative is so well written is perfect to be shared in this way. I think this could also be taught in sections in a Social Studies classroom that might be discussing a particular time in history, where a teacher would want to show another perspective on these events. (less)
An American Plague, written by Jim Murphy, details the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, which occurred in Philadelphia. The book is written in a easy to...moreAn American Plague, written by Jim Murphy, details the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, which occurred in Philadelphia. The book is written in a easy to follow narrative, with excellent details, its evident that Murphy did his research about this time in history. At the beginning of the book is a map of the city of Philadelphia, which outlines the different streets and locations referenced in the chapters. It all began in August, when there was an alarming amount of flies, insects, and mosquitoes. There was no regulation when it came to waste disposal or cleaning of the streets. When a young French sailor falls ill with a fever and dies a few days later, initially no one takes notice. But as more and more citizens fall ill with the mysterious disease, panic takes over the city. This very thorough book walks the readers through different tactics doctors took in trying to find a cure, how the citizens with money fled Philadelphia, and the overall lasting effects of this disease on history.
I found this to be a gripping story to read, forgetting at times that this is classified as an informational text. Murphy writes in a narrative style, and gives a chronological timeline of all of the events linked to the plague. Accompanying the text are pictures of notable people, drawings, and other images that bring more information to the story. Its clear that much research went into the development of this book. At the back are pages of source notes, giving more information and background to the facts contained in the book. I think that this book could be used in a science classroom with students, and independent chapters could be used. The titles of the chapters could also be used as pre-reading activities with students to help them foreshadow and predict what might happen next. (less)
Wonderful Words is a poetry anthology with poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrations by Karen Barbour. All of the poems in this book are...moreWonderful Words is a poetry anthology with poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrations by Karen Barbour. All of the poems in this book are based around the themes of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The opening poem is “1212” by Emily Dickinson, accompanied by vibrant illustrations of flying birds. There is a wide range of poets included, both older and newer writers. Words Free as Confetti, by Pat Mora uses both Spanish and English words, with a translation provided. In total, fifteen poems are included with the illustrations varying to match the theme of the poem. In some poems the illustrations are lush and almost overwhelming, in others, like “The Dream”, by Nikki Grimes, the page is simply done with dark purples and blues.
As a language arts teacher, I was drawn to this book because of the themes of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I also liked the varying selection of poets offered in this book. The illustrations are beautiful, but at times they almost overwhelm the poem. The colors are bright and vibrant or muted and calm depending on the message of the accompanying poem. Younger students would enjoy the images shared along with the poems. I would use this book with my seventh grade class, but not as a whole. I would use differing poems depending on what we are studying in class, and tie them in that way. For example, the book includes the poem “How to Learn to Say a Long, Hard Word” by David McCord. This would be an excellent poem to use when introducing new vocabulary to students. They could then write their own version of the poem, using a word from the lesson. (less)
Poetry Speaks Who I Am is an anthology of poetry edited by Elise Paschen and Dominique Raccah. This book contains 108 poems written by poets from diff...morePoetry Speaks Who I Am is an anthology of poetry edited by Elise Paschen and Dominique Raccah. This book contains 108 poems written by poets from differing time periods. From Shakespeare to Langston Hughes to Billy Collins, a wide range of perspectives are covered. Even though the voices are different, there is a common theme through all of the poems selected; adolescence and the common coming of age topics we all struggle with. The note from the publisher as well as the introduction makes it clear that this is a book for middle school students. Along with the book is a CD with selected poems read aloud by the poets who wrote them. Forty-four of the poems are included on the audio CD; some of them have introductions by the poets, with explanations as to what inspired the poem. This is a very complete collection of poems that any middle school student can read and relate to. I definitely plan on using some of these poems with my seventh grade students. Even though the introduction says that this is a personal collection just for students to enjoy, I think that it could definitely be used in the classroom. That being said, I did have mixed feelings regarding the accompanying CD. Some poets introduce themselves, give background, say the title of the poem, and begin to read. Others just jump right into the poem without any introduction or title, which is confusing. The book is organized well however and there are notes at the top of the page correlating the poem with the CD and track number, which makes it easier to maneuver when listening. I did enjoy listening to Molly Peacock read “Good Girl”, because she gave the background story to the poem, and what inspired her to write it. I think that certain selections on the CD would be well suited for classroom use. Many of the themes of the poems include common experiences of middle school students like bra shopping, first loves, family situations, etc. What I also like about this book is that it was created with middle school students specifically in mind, the publishers note and introduction are both written specifically to this age group, which I think sets a more personal tone to this anthology. (less)
Pablo Neruda, Poet of the People is a picture book written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Julie Paschkins. This story is simply narrated, but with...morePablo Neruda, Poet of the People is a picture book written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Julie Paschkins. This story is simply narrated, but with powerful language and word choice. The accompanying illustrations add to the story line because they are interwoven with words both in English and in Spanish. For example, when he was a teenager, Neftali changed his name to Pablo Neruda and began publishing his poems-always writing in green ink. The images accompanying this text have his different names making up a leaf, and words like fabula (fable), brillando (shining), and escriber (write) making up the surrounding designs. It’s appropriate that there is so much text making up the images since Pablo Neruda was a lover of words. The story follows him from his childhood, to adolescence, to his adult life in Chile. It also touches on Neruda’s activism, marching for justice on behalf of coal miners’ rights. At the end of the book is an Author’s Note giving more information on Neruda, his works, awards, and achievements. There is also a resources page listing titles of poems, books written about Neruda, and two different websites for further research. I have read different books on Neruda and I found this one to be both engaging and informative. The story opens with the sentence, “Once there was a little boy named Neftali, who loved wild things wildly and quiet things quietly;” a beautiful way to begin a story about such an accomplished poet and writer. For visual students, they will be engaged by the illustrations and the use of text-both Spanish and English-to further tell the story. The author notes and resources at the end make it a versatile book for both lower elementary students and even middle school students. I teach some of Neruda’s poems in my seventh grade classroom and I would definitely use this picture book when introducing background information on this poet. I think this would also make an effective companion text to The Dreamer, by Pam Munoz Ryan.
In the picture book, Actual Size by Steve Jenkins, images of all the animals shown are at actual size, both large and small. Page by page the author s...moreIn the picture book, Actual Size by Steve Jenkins, images of all the animals shown are at actual size, both large and small. Page by page the author shows a number of animals, displayed in their actual size, with their dimensions included beneath the image. For the larger images it’s almost startling to see just how grand the actual size is in proportion to the page of the book. For example, one turns the page to see it is entirely filled with the eyeball of the giant squid, measuring in at twelve inches across. Just as interesting are the smaller animals, like the dwarf goby fish, which is so small I missed it during my first read through of the book. The illustrations are done collage style with cut paper, adding a texture like feel to the animals, so vivid the reader may want to touch the page. Included in the back of the book are short paragraphs on each animal included, giving a bit more background information.
The standout feature of this picture book is the images that Jenkins creates with cut paper, giving them a layered, realistic feel. Many of the animals appear to have realistic looking fur because of how the images are created. Since the pictures are so vivid, it makes interacting with the book almost necessary. I read this text aloud with my seventh grade students and they were captivated; amazed at some of the actual sizes of the animals included. This book would work well as a read aloud, it’s incredibly engaging for children of varying grade levels. On the page that has the hand of a gorilla; students could compare their own hand size to the image. This book offers many different classroom tie ins. It could be used as a math lesson, comparing or graphing the differing sizes of the animals. It naturally also fits a science lesson, since it introduces such a wide range of animals. With older students, a teacher could use this book in order to have students research the geographic locations of the animals in the story. The afterword at the end is a nice way to provide a few more facts on the animals, possibly enticing a student to learn more. (less)