I've loved libraries since I was a wee lad. My parents, being intellectual hippie-types, taught me to read by the age of three, and by four I was chec...moreI've loved libraries since I was a wee lad. My parents, being intellectual hippie-types, taught me to read by the age of three, and by four I was checking out stacks of library books. Sure, they were mostly Dr. Seuss, but it was something. Had I been born 100 years earlier, I never would have been able to go into a library. In the 19th Century, most libraries were off-limits to children. A new picture book explains how all that changed: Miss More Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children, by Jan Pinborough, and illustrated by Debby Atwell.
Anne Moore was raised with fairly progressive parents, who taught her to read and encouraged her reading. This was at a time when female literacy was still on the back burner for most families, preferring instead to prepare their daughters to run households. Embroidery, cooking, those were respectable pastimes. Teaching their girls to read was a waste of time.
Well, as the book's title explains, "Miss Moore thought otherwise." After leaving home, she graduated from library school, and got her first job at a library that had something unique--a section of the library dedicated to children. She loved the idea, and set up programs and activities for kids. Her fame spread, and soon she was in charge of children's sections in all of Boston's libraries.
Her crowning achievement came with a move to New York City, where they were building a new central public library--one of the most famous in the world. She was asked to design the children's reading room, and she planned out every detail.
The book does a good job of describing Moore's philosophy about reading and children, and explains the programs she established for children's librarians across the country. My sister is a children's librarian, and this book gave me some insights into her job and the history of her career. The colorful illustrations help tell the story, and give personality and life to Pinborough's words.
If you're a bibliophile--and if you're reading this, you probably are--this is a fun book that will make you look at libraries differently. Thank goodness for Miss Moore. (less)
Part of my job this year has been reading and evaluating children's and young adult books and seeing if they're appropriate to teach students history...morePart of my job this year has been reading and evaluating children's and young adult books and seeing if they're appropriate to teach students history and other social studies concepts. One of the books I received was an "Easy Reader" style picture book from Random House, one of their Step Into Reading publications. The book, by Jane Kohuth with illustrations by Elizabeth Sayles, is Anne Frank's Chestnut Tree.
The title alone raised about twenty-three red flags. A picture book about Anne Frank? Teaching little kids about the Holocaust? And specifically Anne Frank? Most kids read Anne Frank's story at some point in middle school, and there's an undeniable power in reading her own words in her diary format. So I opened the book with some trepidation.
Intended for grades 1-3, the book has short chapters and an easy-to-follow plot. The text is simple, with short sentences and a large enough font to read, but it does retell Anne Frank's story in a way that is both respectful of the original material and of history, but softens some of the harshest edges.
The book is divided into sections: In the Attic, The Secret Annex, and Anne's Chestnut Tree. The first sets up her story, the second is the bulk of her biography, and the last section is the aftermath and a sort of tribute to Anne and her writing.
Anne Frank's Chestnut Tree does a good job of introducing young readers to complicated topics, like war, antisemitism, and even the idea of concentration camps. Through it all, the authors use the window from the Annex where Anne can see her chestnut tree as a sort of escape, as hope, as her proof that God was still there and loved her. Towards the end of the book, instead of saying something like "Anne died in the concentration camp," Kohuth uses more passive language which feels safer for young readers: "Anne did not survive the war." It's a small difference, but a significant one.
The author is able to end Anne's story on a hopeful note, which can be difficult with stories set during the Holocaust. End notes cite the Anne Frank House, linking to their website at http://www.annefrank.org, but it's not clear if the book is officially endorsed by them or not.
The illustrations are dark pastels, fitting to the story being told, with splashes of color here and there, like I imagine Anne's life was. The characterization of Anne and her family in particular looks as they do in photographs, and I appreciated the efforts of illustrator Elizabeth Sayles in softening the edges without making the family or other characters seem cartoonish.
Can such an elementary reader tell Anne's story effectively? Yes, I think this does. If you're looking for something that's an introduction to some of the horrors, but also heroism, of the 20th Century, it's worth checking out.(less)
One of the perks of my current job is that I end up seeing a lot of current books. Most of them claim to be social studies-related, but there are many...moreOne of the perks of my current job is that I end up seeing a lot of current books. Most of them claim to be social studies-related, but there are many different ways to interpret what that means. It can be history, geography, or just personal relationships. Which means that pretty much any book can qualify.
One book came across my desk at the end of last year that I didn't think I'd like, but ended up loving: The Cat with Seven Names, written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Christine Davenier. I'm not generally a cat person (I do have one)(it might be because I have one), I'm really more a dog-lover. But this book, and the message in the book, captured my heart.
In a busy neighborhood, filled with brownstone apartments, different people go about their lives. They don't necessarily interact with each other, they pass each other on the streets, but don't say hello, don't even notice each other--they just hurry about their business. Like most of us do.
A cat came to my back door one day. Gray, with white paws. Nobody visits me much. I put down the book I was reading (I am a librarian), and I let him in.
The kind woman feeds the cat, reads some books with him, and feels the love and companionship that a cat can bring. The librarian names him "Stuart Little." A few pages later:
I went out for the paper once, in the cold of dawn. Left the door ajar. With my walker I moved slow as molasses. So a cat slipped in. Just like that. My family's grown and gone, so this small bit of company felt nice. Kinda filled up the house again.
...this older man also feeds the cat, and has conversations with the cat, who he names "Kitty-Boy." Kitty-Boy just talkes back in cat language, but the old man is fine with it.
The cat comes and goes as it pleases, eventually visiting six different people and families in the neighborhood. And gets six different names as it does so. The other people include a homeless man, a police officer, and others...and then the cat's true owner finds him. She's been looking all over for him, and finally finds him. The circumstances bring the neighborhood together, bonding over this pet they've come to have in common. They're able to build on this community, actually talking to each other, and eventually having street parties and opening up their homes and their hearts.
The end papers of the book tell the whole story--the beginning of the book is a view of the street, with everyone looking down at the sidewalk, turning towards their own homes, a dark aspect about the scene...at the end of the book, it's a brighter view, ostensibly the same, but with friendly faces, hands waved in greeting, happy faces, and a sense of community that was missing. All because of that dumb lost cat.
I really loved this book. It's got a powerful message, and the story and artwork match up beautifully. If you've got children, or teach them, and want to help them learn about building bridges to other neighbors and cultures, this is a great way to do it. (less)