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.

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.

The Day War Came

  • Title: The Day War Came
  • Author: Nicola Davies
  • Illustrator: Rebecca Cobb
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press (published in association with Help Refugees)
  • Publication year: 2018
  • Brief Summary: From Candlewick Press-“Imagine if, on an ordinary day, after a morning of studying tadpoles and drawing birds at school, war came to your town and turned it to rubble. Imagine if you lost everything and everyone, and you had to make a dangerous journey all alone. Imagine that there was no welcome at the end, and no room for you to even take a seat at school. And then a child, just like you, gave you something ordinary but so very, very precious. In lyrical, deeply affecting language, Nicola Davies’s text combines with Rebecca Cobb’s expressive illustrations to evoke the experience of a child who sees war take away all that she knows. A moving, poetic narrative and child-friendly illustrations follow the heartbreaking, ultimately hopeful journey of a little girl who is forced to become a refugee.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I did find this resource from Candlewick Press that has discussion questions to use in class as well as Common Core connections.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I thought this was a very powerful picture book with moving illustrations, such as the illustrations that show the aftermath of a bombing on our protagonist and her city.

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.

Power Up

  • Title: Power Up: Your Incredible, Spectacular, Supercharged Body
  • Author: Seth Fishman
  • Illustrator: Isabel Greenberg
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From HarperCollins-“Did you know there is enough energy in your pinkie finger to power an entire city? And that everything you do—running, jumping, playing, and exploring—uses that same energy inside of you?”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I definitely think this book would work for a science class to teach some of the basics of energy in the human body, and some of the bones and muscles in our body. I think this book could be used for older children as well as younger children. This resource from HarperCollins had some suggestions to use Fishman’s other book The Ocean in Your Bathtub (which now I want to find and read) for STEM activities for children. I also think this article was interesting because it gives a brief introduction to Fishman, his life, and his move to L.A. from Texas.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –What I found refreshing in this book is the diversity present. Unlike in The Moon Seems to Change or What Makes Day and Night that I covered in my first 100, this book has a diverse main character, and diverse characters throughout. The protagonist is not “defaulted” to a white boy. Our main character that we are following throughout our “science lesson” is an African American girl and the book is written as if her parental figure is telling her all of these scientific facts (see the first page illustration of our protagonist and her mother (or mother figure, teacher, the relationship is not defined, but can be assumed to be an older person acting as her guide). I enjoyed Greenberg’s bright, wavy, and engaging illustrations too. The author’s note at the end (which I think older children could read on their own and comprehend) explains Einstein’s E = mc2. I would include this in my Best 50 list instead of the books I mentioned above.