Friday, February 10, 2017

Top 10 Nonfiction Picture Books - Activists

I’m posting a little early this time so that I can contribute to this year’s Top 10 for 10: the Nonfiction Edition. I love these events.

Now in the fifth year, Nonfiction Picture Book10 for 10 (#nf10for10) is co-hosted by Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine and Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  Go to Picture Book 10 for 10 Community to see all the contributors.  There’s no better way to build your library than with recommendations from people who are really passionate about children’s literature and many of the teachers in the crowd generously share teaching ideas, as well.

This time round, I’m focusing on nonfiction books about people who are the do-gooders of the world, the righters-of-wrongs and the impossible optimists of causes, lost or otherwise.

#1.  Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson.
 The illustrations are particularly strong as you can see from the cover. This image introduces us to the man who had vision and was a great leader. The free-verse text sketches out the basic story of his life and a 2-page author’s note fills in more of the details of Nelson Mandela’s struggle. Recommended for elementary grades.

#2.  14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy.
 I’ve blogged about this book numerous times and included it at least twice in past lists for the Top Ten event. It really is a must-have. Again, the illustrations only emphasize the beauty of the story. A young Kenyan man studying in New York in 2001 when the Twin Towers collapsed returns home to seek support from his community to give a herd of cattle to the Americans as a way to show sympathy, support and as a way to heal. To the Maasi of Kenya, cattle are a way of life and mean everything to them as a people. I still tear-up when I read it.

#3. OnePlastic Bag by Miranda Paul
 I love this story because of the initiative taken by a Gambian woman named Isatou when she saw a problem that needed to be addressed. Single-use plastic bags were a problem in her community, polluting the area, killing livestock and attracting insects. With help from the community, repurposing the plastic bags, into crocheted carrying bags she is able to generate income and, at the same time, as reducing waste.

#4. Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged! By Jody Nyasha Warner & Richard Rudnicki
This is a Canadian story about Viola Desmond, a black woman who in 1946 was asked to move from a main floor movie theatre seat to a seat located in the balcony. When she refused, she was jailed, charged, and fined. This incident rallied the black community in Nova Scotia to push back against long standing racial discrimination.

      Rachel: the Story of Rachel Carson by Amy Ehrlich
Having just watched a PBS documentary about Rachel Carson it reminded me about the importance of her work. These two books tell us Rachel’s life story, her strong connection to nature, and why she was committed to increasing awareness to environmental issues. The book by Laurie Lawlor really ties into the impact a single person can have in the world. The beginning of the environmental movement is attributed in part to Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring

#6. A Boy and a Jaguar   by Alan Rabinowitz
This book also speaks to a person committed to the environment. I really appreciated how this story illustrates a man’s commitment to wildlife conservation and how his connection to animals helped him overcome a debilitating stutter. Finding his voice has enabled him to speak for the animals found in the wild.

Jane Goodall is the quintessential conservationist, internationally renowned for her work with chimpanzees in Tanzania.  The other book to be aware is a 2012 Caldecott Honor book,  Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell.

#8. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel
Awareness of transgender issues have been prevalent recently and Jazz Jennings is certainly doing her bit to help people understand what this experience has been like for her and her family. This picture book is appropriate for younger children whereas Being Jazz : My Life (as a TransgenderTeen) by Jazz Jennings a much longer book is directed to students in grade 6 and up.

Emmanuel was born in Ghana with a severely deformed leg. The biggest challenge for him to overcome was the prejudice he experienced from others.  With a great deal of grit, perseverance and encouragement from his mother he went to school, learned to play soccer and ride a bike. He undertook a 4000 km trip across Ghana on his bicycle to raise awareness and change attitudes in his county towards those with disabilities.

#10. Dreams of Freedom : In Words and Pictures by Amnesty International
This book is a collection of quotes from famous activists including Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Anne Frank, and the Dalai Lama who have lived experiences with ‘dreams of freedom’. Besides the provocative, beautiful, and inspiring words are provocative, beautiful and inspiring illustrations done by a bevy of international illustrators such as Mordicai Gerstein, Chris Riddell, Sally Morgan, Oliver Jeffers and Roger Mello. Works well with social studies when the Rights of Child is being taught. Beautiful book.

 Again, I highly encourage you to visit the rest of the entries in today’s event by clicking on Picture Book 10 for 10 Community. You will come away with many irresistible recommendations.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Building frenzy

Lots of building going on with our student-teachers these days: building lesson plans and units; building projects’; building prototypes of all sorts using various materials including Lego robotics, wooden blocks, foam blocks, straws, cardboard; and above all, building knowledge.

One topic that came my way recently was students wanting to develop a unit for primary grades around the idea of building a community. Did I have any recommendations that would inspire and inform a unit like this?


With the idea in mind that young children would connect readily with building homes (and ties neatly into the Alberta social studies curriculum to boot) we decided to start with that.

I recommended browsing the series, Young Architect with the following titles:

Futuristic Homes by Sa.Taylor       Working Homes by G. Bailey
Towering Homes by G. Bailey        Storybook Homes by G. Bailey
Adventure Homes by G. Bailey

Though the suggested grade level is 3 to 6, I think the illustrations would certainly spark the imagination of students in grades 1 and 2, as well. These particular student teachers got excited when they started flipping through them, for there’s lots of information about construction techniques and materials and definitions for specialized words. I didn’t think these books provided everything but were a good starting point.

I matched these books with the picture book by Chris Van Drusen, If I Built a House because it takes a fanciful, pie-in-the-sky approach to building a home for the narrator’s family.

Because the unit was going to go beyond homes, the student teachers wanted books that would show different kinds of buildings. They wanted iconic buildings from around the world, so I showed them 13 Buildings Children ShouldKnow by Annette Roeder. Also graded for grades 3 to 6, it does feature the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House, The Eiffel Tower and many others. Each entry includes photographs, illustrations, information about when they were built, construction techniques and the occasional quiz question.

I’m hoping I’ll find out how the students developed this unit further in the near future.

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