The Crayon Man

  • Title: The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons
  • Author: Natascha Biebow
  • Illustrator: Steven Salerno
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Houghton Mifflin-“Celebrating the inventor of the Crayola crayon! This gloriously illustrated picture book biography tells the inspiring story of Edwin Binney, the inventor of one of the world’s most beloved toys.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I found this lesson guide on Library Lessons With Books that uses this book as a learning tool about inventions. The activity they state to do is have children in groups and ask them to brainstorm an invention for an everyday problem.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I really liked that there is a step by step guide on how Crayola Crayons are made today, a brief biography of the real Edwin Binney, and a bibliography list.

Swan

  • Title: Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
  • Author: Laurel Snyder
  • Illustrator: Julie Morstad
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books
  • Publication year: 2015
  • Brief Summary: From Amazon-“One night, young Anna’s mother takes her to the ballet, and everything is changed. So begins the journey of a girl who will one day grow up to be the most famous prima ballerina of all time, inspiring legions of dancers after her: the brave, the generous, the transcendently gifted Anna Pavlova. Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova is a heartbreakingly beautiful picture book biography perfect for aspiring ballerinas of all ages.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this could be used in a music class or a humanities class to show a glimpse of the life of his famous ballerina. Perhaps a discussion could happen after reading the book on following one’s dreams, or a lengthier discussion on the time period in which this book is set.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I liked that Snyder included an author’s note on the life of Anna Pavlova and that she also included a bibliography and quotation sources. I do think the illustrations from Morstad are stunning, almost ethereal and do a great job of showing a frail, wraith-like Pavlova dancing across the stage.

Dancing Hands

  • Title: Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln
  • Author: Margarite Engle
  • Illustrator: Rafael Lopez
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Simon & Schuster-“As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War. Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the White House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa’s music bring comfort to those who needed it most?”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – Because this is a moment in the life of a real person, and the historical context is The Civil War, this could be taught in a variety of ways. Perhaps students could read about the real Teresa Carreño before or after reading this book. Perhaps students could read about Abraham Lincoln and about his life the moment Teresa met him. I found this lesson plan from Atheneum Books that has an extensive discussion guide and activities to do with students.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I was interested to read this book after the group presentation on illustrator Rafael Lopez. Like many of the books I have picked out with him as the illustrator, I am stunned by his colorful, whimsical illustrations. Particularly in this book, where as Teresa plays, the music is personified as waves of color, tropical birds and flowers soaring around her. I think that is a beautiful interpretation as many people (adults and children) imagine music in many ways.

Blue Sky White Stars

  • Title: Blue Sky White Stars
  • Author: Sarvinder Naberhaus
  • Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2017
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“Wonderfully spare, deceptively simple verses pair with richly evocative paintings to celebrate the iconic imagery of our nation, beginning with the American flag. Each spread, sumptuously illustrated by award-winning artist Kadir Nelson, depicts a stirring tableau, from the view of the Statue of Library at Ellis Island to civil rights marchers shoulder to shoulder, to a spacecraft at Cape Canaveral blasting off.  This book is an ode to America then and now, from sea to shining sea.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – There are so many ways to use this book in the classroom or library. This could be used for a history class, and English class, or a government class. I found this instructional guide from the website TeachersFirst that has helpful activities and questions to ask students after reading this book. I also think this article from The Horn Book which eloquently says everything I wish I could say.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I was interested in reading this book for myself and covering it after hearing the group presentation on Nelson. I love Nelson’s impactful illustrations in this book, I think they are profound. I think this should be on my Best 50 list.

A Scarf for Keiko

  • Title: A Scarf for Keiko
  • Author: Ann Malaspina
  • Illustrator: Merrilee Liddiard
  • Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Amazon-“t’s 1942. Sam’s class is knitting socks for soldiers and Sam is a terrible knitter. Keiko is a good knitter, but some kids at school don’t want anything to do with her because the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and her family is Japanese American. When Keiko’s family is forced to move to a camp for Japanese Americans, can Sam find a way to demonstrate his friendship?”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I definitely think this book could be used in a history class and in a discussion of WWII. I do not think the internment of Japanese Americans is discussed frequently or at length in our classrooms, rather brushed aside as a few sentences. I think is important that we as educators do not go past a significant grievance (among many) that this country has enacted on its own citizens. I think this book could go a long way to helping children understand the situation and feel empathy. I found this teacher’s guide from Kar-Ben Publishing that would be helpful in using this book in the classroom.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I was glad an author’s note at the end of the book, with real photographs from the time that were depicted in the book. But also there is an acknowledgement at the beginning of the book from Malaspina about where she gathered her information to write this book, such as the Japanese American National Museum’s book Los Angeles’s Boyle Heights, which is the neighborhood this book is based in.

Let the Children March

  • Title: Let the Children March
  • Author: Monica Clark Robinson
  • Illustrator: Frank Morrison
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication year: 2018
  • Brief Summary: From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt-“In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I definitely think this one should be in a school library and should be used while children are learning about The Civil Rights movement. I think what makes this particular book standout is that it is about the Child’s March and I think children would connect/empathize more with this story then just a book about The Civil Rights Movement. I found this activity guide from the blog Library Lessons With Books that gave an idea to use this book along with another book for a compare and contrast lesson.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I think Morrison’s illustrations really convey feeling and emotion. Especially in his haunting illustration of the children being hosed down by police.

Two Friends

  • Title: Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas
  • Author: Dean Robbins
  • Illustrator: Sean Qualls & Selina Alko
  • Publisher: Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
  • Publication year: 2016
  • Brief Summary: From Scholastic-“Some people had rights, while others had none. Why shouldn’t they have them, too? Two friends, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, get together for tea and conversation. They recount their similar stories fighting to win rights for women and African Americans. The premise of this particular exchange between the two is based on a statue in their hometown of Rochester, New York, which shows the two friends having tea”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this book could be used in a history class while students are learning about both of these historical figures. While of course this picture books takes some creative license in thinking of what the two might have discussed (see the author’s note), it is interesting to know (because I did not) that they met each other.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I did like the sort of patchwork quality of the illustrations that have bits of newspaper and words intermingled within the illustrations and in the backgrounds.

Fifty Cents and a Dream

  • Title: Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington
  • Author: Jabari Asim
  • Illustrator: Bryan Collier
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, an imprint of Hachette Book Group
  • Publication year: 2012
  • Brief Summary: From Little, Brown and Company-“Born into slavery, young Booker T. Washington could only dream of learning to read and write. After emancipation, with only fifty cents in his pocket and a dream in his soul, Booker walked five hundred miles to Hampton Institute, taking his first of many steps towards a college degree. The young slave who once waited outside of the schoolhouse would one day become a legendary educator of freedmen.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –While in grade school, I know I learned about Booker T. Washington, but only about his political stance and not about his personal life. So, I think young and older children would learn a lot more than they would in class about Washington’s life by reading this book. This book could be introduced while children are learning about the ideologies of both Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois in class.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –Like many other of Collier’s illustrative works that I’ve covered, I really enjoyed the patchwork quality of his illustrations, with all the patterns, colors, and pieces of photographs intermingled within the clothing or backgrounds.

I Dissent

  • Title: I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
  • Author: Debbie Levy
  • Illustrator: Elizabeth Baddeley
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication year: 2016
  • Brief Summary: From Simon & Schuster-“Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment, and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere. This biographical picture book about the Notorious RBG, tells the justice’s story through the lens of her many famous dissents, or disagreements.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I think this book could be used along with Shirley Chisholm Dared because both books show young readers powerful, strong diverse women leaders in government. This book could be used in a history class, or in a civics or government class while children are learning about the fundamentals of how our government works.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –While this book was published in 2016, before Ginsburg’s death in 2020, I still think that this book would be useful in a school library. The first few pages of acknowledgements shows that the author, Debbie Levy, was given helpful notes on the book by Ginsburg herself. There is a two-page summary of historical facts and real photographs of Ginsburg’s life, a note on the Supreme Court Cases referenced, and a bibliography. I think I would add this book to my Best 50 list.

Shark Lady

  • Title: Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist
  • Author: Jess Keating
  • Illustrator: Marta Alvarez Miguens
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
  • Publication year: 2017
  • Brief Summary: From Sourcebooks-“Eugenie Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But Eugenie quickly discovered that many people believed sharks to be ugly and scary—and they didn’t think women should be scientists. Determined to prove them wrong, Eugenie devoted her life to learning about sharks. After earning several college degrees and making countless discoveries, Eugenie wrote herself into the history of science, earning the nickname “Shark Lady.” Through her accomplishments, she taught the world that sharks were to be admired rather than feared and that women can do anything they set their minds to. “
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –This book could of course be used in a science class, or in a history class when talking about diversity/sexism in the field of science. I think this book can be for younger readers and older readers.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I like that there is an author’s note, two pages on sharks, a timeline of Eugenie Clark’s life, and a bibliography. Miguens illustrations are colorful, with blues and greens abounding, really connecting the reader with the sea. I think my favorite illustration is of a young Eugenie Clark pretending to have gills and swim in the aquarium and imagining fish swimming with her.