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 checI'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. ...more
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 historyPart 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....more
One of the subjects I feel like I'm weakest on is art. I never took any art classes in school--not even the rudimentary drawing classes I probably shoOne of the subjects I feel like I'm weakest on is art. I never took any art classes in school--not even the rudimentary drawing classes I probably should have had in middle school. I wish I had. But I didn't. So I got some art in my AP History classes, and...well, I guess that's it. So when I picked up the book Diego Rivera: An Artist for the People, I felt a little overwhelmed, but also excited to read it. Maybe I'd actually learn something.
Susan Goldman Rubin's biography of Diego Rivera is intended for middle grade readers (usually 5th to 8th grades), but it's an excellent introduction to the man and his place in both Mexican and American history.
Diego Rivera was a painter, specializing in enormous murals. He trained in Europe, then returned to his native Mexico, where he started experimenting with frescoes (painting on still-wet plaster) and other forms of murals. As his subjects, he chose the Mexican people. Instead of just the descendants of Spaniards, he also celebrated the history and culture of the many native tribes that were absorbed into Mexico over the centuries. He ended up being invited to paint a dozen incredible panels in the National Palace in Mexico City; the entire artwork together is called Epic of the Mexican People: History of Mexico from the Conquest to 1930. Incredibly detailed, and vibrant with explosions of color, they tell the history of Mexico through the 20th Century, but instead of focusing on the upper classes, as histories often do, he really focused on the peasants, the laborers, the working class.
During this same period, he married Frida Kahlo, and their distinctive and different art styles could be seen as an analogue to their rocky marriage. They actually separated and remarried, and were a tempestuous couple. They were probably also enormously entertaining. There's a humor in their relationship that Rubin is able to draw out in her descriptions, making for a fun read.
The book focuses on two major projects in the United States: one in San Francisco, the other in Detroit. Both murals were about work--one about the work of making a mural (pretty meta) and the other industrial workers. Both murals faced criticism, which redoubled because of Rivera's history with the communist party. The Detroit Mural may be my favorite, and a big part of that is how Rubin decided to present the work. She shows us the early sketches and charcoal drawings of how the mural would be laid out, more detailed and fine-lined "cartoons" that were the actual size of the fresco, and then the finished painting, including details you might overlook if you were looking at the whole mural.
Overall the book is a beautiful tribute to a man who made the most of his talents, and who continued to do work that he felt was paying homage to "the little people" of the world his entire life. I wish there were more people like him....more
When I was a kid (a long time ago), there was a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure. You'd start with a basic storyline, then get asked tWhen I was a kid (a long time ago), there was a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure. You'd start with a basic storyline, then get asked to make simple yes/no, left/right, eat/don't eat decisions. Each decision would take you to a different page in the book, and in this manner, the story would branch off in different directions. Some directions would lead to success, others to failure.
Michael Burgan has revisited that format with his World War II Pilots: An Interactive History Adventure. The 2013 hardcover is part of his ongoing series of You Choose books; he's got seven others with different World War II themes and settings.
The first short chapter sets the stage for World War II, and why the United States gets involved. By Page 11, you need to make a choice: become a British pilot in the Royal Air Force, an American pilot in the Pacific, or a Tuskegee Airman. From this point on, there are many choices to be made, but Burgan lets each of the three storylines run their course. As with the Choose Your Own Adventure series I loved as a kid, some of these end up with the reader "dying," others to successful missions. We see the racism and triumphs of the Tuskegee Airmen, and the differences between the Spitfire, Mustangs, and other types of military fighters and aircraft. Altogether there are twenty different endings you can find, with 36 choices for kids to make as they read.
Throughout the book, Burgan inserts historic photographs with captions that give context to them. He works in factoids about World War II both in the ongoing storyline and in sidebars. The design of the book is cool, with the text looking like it's been printed on aluminum plates screwed into the pages, and the page numbers are on dog tags that drop off the sides.
I really enjoyed this book--enough that I want to pick up some of the other books in the series for my sons. It's the kind of high-interest, informative reading that they love. If you're interested in World War II, and have kids between about 4th and 8th Grade, check out Michael Burgan's series of You Choose books. I've only read one, but I'm hooked....more