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.

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.

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.

Josephine

  • Title: Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
  • Author: Patricia Hruby
  • Illustrator: Christian Robinson
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books
  • Publication year: 2014
  • Brief Summary: From Chronicle-“In exuberant verse and stirring pictures, Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson create an extraordinary portrait for young people of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. Meticulously researched by both author and artist, Josephine’s powerful story of struggle and triumph is an inspiration and a spectacle, just like the legend herself.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I have to admit I did not know of Josephine Baker until this class, our presentation on Robinson, and reading this book. So, I think it is important that a famous African American dancer and show-woman like Baker be taught in schools as a historical art figure ( with other modern and post modern dancers). I found this teacher’s guide from The Classroom Bookshelf (from The School Library Journal) that has helpful suggestions for teaching this book in the classroom, including examining picture book poetry, African American dancers, and diversity within entertainment (this could be used in a music or humanities class as well). There is a also a section referring to different films and videos on African Americans and France.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – As always Robinson’s illustrations coexist with the text in a beautiful collaboration. I like the change in font between Josephine Baker’s quotes and the rest of the text. And I liked that in some moments of the text, to emphasize, the text is capitalized. Also, there is an author’s note, an illustrator’s note, a Bibliography, and sources for all the quotations used. I think this would make a great addition to any school library and I think for the reasons stated about this would be a great addition to the Best 50 list.

Shirley Chisholm Dared

  • Title: Shirley Chisholm Dared: The Story of the First Black Woman in Congress
  • Author: Alicia D. Williams
  • Illustrator: April Harrison
  • Publisher: Anne Schwartz Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2021
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“Meet Shirley, a little girl who asks way too many questions! After spending her early years on her grandparents’ farm in Barbados, she returns home to Brooklyn and immediately makes herself known. Shirley kicks butt in school; she breaks her mother’s curfew; she plays jazz piano instead of classical. And as a young adult, she fights against the injustice she sees around her, against women and black people. Soon she is running for state assembly…and winning in a landslide. Three years later, she is on the campaign trail again, as the first black woman to run for Congress. Her slogan? “Fighting Shirley Chisholm–Unbought and Unbossed!” Does she win? You bet she does.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – This could definitely be used for a history class while children are learning about government officials. In fact, I would say it’s a book school librarians should have in their library for children to learn about diversity in our government.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – Harrison’s artwork (like in Nana Akua Goes to School) is vivid with color and pattern. I think my favorite illustration is of Chisholm making her collection box, talking to the other women to convince them they can and should be a part of politics. I think this may go on my Best 50 list.

We Are the Ship

  • Title: We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
  • Author: Kadir Nelson
  • Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
  • Publisher: Jump at the Sea/Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group
  • Publication year: 2008
  • Brief Summary: From Amazon-“The story of Negro League baseball is the story of gifted athletes and determined owners; of racial discrimination and international sportsmanship; of fortunes won and lost; of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. It is a perfect mirror for the social and political history of black America in the first half of the twentieth century. But most of all, the story of the Negro Leagues is about hundreds of unsung heroes who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do the one thing they loved more than anything else in the world: play ball.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – Like many of Nelson’s other books, I feel like this book could definitely be used in a school library. I think if there are children who are interested in sports, this book could be given to them to read and enjoy. I think especially if that child is interested in baseball, this would give them a diverse viewpoint of their favorite sport. Additionally, for African American children, this would be giving them a “mirror” of themselves in sports.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – Like many of Nelson’s works I have already referenced and used (thanks to the group presentation on him in class), I think his illustrations are stunning and powerful. Nelson also includes an Author’s Note, Bibliography, and Endnotes. I think all of Nelson’s works have merit in a library, particularly in my eyes in a school library.

Heart and Soul

  • Title: Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
  • Author: Kadir Nelson
  • Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
  • Publisher: Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication year: 2011
  • Brief Summary: From HarperCollins-“Heart and Soul is about the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton for their masters; it’s about the America ripped in two by Jim Crow laws; it’s about the brothers and sisters of all colors who rallied against those who would dare bar a child from an education. It’s a story of discrimination and broken promises, determination, and triumphs. Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul—the winner of numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Author Award and Illustrator Honor, and the recipient of five starred reviews—is told through the unique point of view and intimate voice of a one-hundred-year-old African-American female narrator. This inspiring book demonstrates that in striving for freedom and equal rights, African Americans help our country on the journey toward its promise of liberty and justice—the true heart and soul of our nation.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – Naturally, I think this book could be used for a history class. I think the length of this book, and some of the content would make this book ideal for older children too. I did find this interesting lesson plan from Fishtank Learning for a 4th grade English Language Arts class that would be helpful for teachers and librarians alike
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I was very interested in finding this book after one of our groups in class did their presentation on him. And I am so glad I read this one as I think this picture book would be invaluable for a school library. Much like Nelson’s other illustrative works, such as Henry’s Freedom Box, this book has very powerful, almost luminescent art. As the reader, we are shown various African American historical figures such as Harriet Tubman or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and portraits of African Americans in various time periods. One of the most striking to me was the portrait of a family migrating north, all of their possessions on the top of their car, their faces determined. Nelson includes an Author’s Note, a Timeline, and a Bibliography showing his references for this book. I definitely will be putting this on Best 50 list.