Dancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenhaler by Elizabeth Brown; illustrated by Aimee Sicuro

Dancing Through Field of ColorDancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenhaler by Elizabeth Brown; illustrated by Aimee Sicuro. 2019. Watercolor, ink, and charcoal pencil. Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: Young Helen enjoyed mixing her watercolors in nontraditional ways. In art class at school, she was able to follow the rules of how to draw and paint to please her teachers but she wished for more. She was able to follow the rules  in order to study art in college. She moved to New York where she created paintings where colors overlapped. She met the famous Jackson Pollock who was known for for his art in  the abstract expressionist movement. She began to experiment with the “soak stain” method of pouring paint onto the canvas.

Comments:  There is a quick biographical sketch, timeline, author’s note, quotes and sources, select bibliography, and poured paint/soak-stain activity. I think the activity would be perfect to do outdoors during the end-of-the-year field day or such when the students are already wet and messy.

 

Hildegard of Bingen: Scientist, Composer, Healer and Saint by Demi

Hildegard of Bingen: Scientist, Composer, Healer and SaintHildegard of Bingen: Scientist, Composer, Healer & Saint written and illustrated by Demi. 2019. Published by Wisdom Tales. 

Brief summary: Hildegard (1098-1179) was born in Mainz, Germany. As a child, she had “lights”, sometimes called visions of Heaven, at times when she closed her eyes. She was also able to predict the future. All of this gave her terrible headaches in which her parents thought it would be better for her to go the Benedictine Cloister of Mount St. Disibod where people who saw God could go and pray. As she was being educated, she proved to have an astonishing intelligence. She was able to compose the music after hearing the performance one time.

At eighteen, she became a nun and was later elected Abbess. She became  known for her visions. She told them to a nun and monk who began to  write them down in a book called Know the Ways of God. At 53, she finished her book and became famous. She and her nuns moved to a town near Bingen where she became Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard wrote five more books after age 65. She also wrote 77 symphonic songs. In her 60s and 70s, she toured around Germany organizing and reforming monasteries as she preached and healed. She was declared a saint in 2012.

Comments: This woman was amazing! I recommend this book  for sacred and secular libraries. She is an example of how one person can make  a difference. I was impressed how Hildegard started her writing career in her fifties. After researching her a bit on the internet, I was surprised and pleased to see that her teachings are still being recognized and followed.

 

The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs by Fiona Robinson; illustrated by Fiona Robinson

The Blues of BluesThe Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs by Fiona Robinson; illustrated by Fiona Robinson. 2019. “Montages of pencil drawings, watercolor paintings, vintage fabrics and wallpapers, wood veneers, and photographs.” Published by Abrams.

Brief summary: Anna and her father press flowers and collect  insects in Kent, England sometime in 1807. John Children has only one child, Anna, and is determined to give her the best education possible by home schooling her, since girls rarely went to school especially to learn about science.

Anna grew up to become a botanist often sketching her own specimens. Her father translates French scientific journals to English and needs 250  illustrations for a series he just finished called Lamarck’s Genera of Shells. Anna illustrates the various shells.

Anna marries and moves to London. Anna wants to attend the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge but women are not allowed. Her father shares the lectures with her. She wants to find a way to share her knowledge of the extensive herbarium she has collected. She is given membership to the Royal Botanic Society in London during 1839.

In 1841, Anna and her father learn how to take photographs. They visit Sir John Herschel where he shares how he has discovered the cyanotype print that does not need a camera to make a quick image in blue (due to the chemicals used). Anna decides to use this method and creates a book of her seaweed* which is completed in 1843. Her father shares her books with several of the scientific museums.

Comments: The color of this book and its pages are all done in blues. The end pages have labeled cyantypes of various plants.  In the back of the book, there is an author’s note, instructions of how to make your own cyanotype, bibliography, institutions holding Anna’s Cyanotypes, acknowledgements, illustration credits, and a detailed explanation of the mediums used for the book.

This book could be used for biography reports, a science and art class collaboration(students collecting specimens and then making their own cyanotype), and Women’s History Month in March.

Personal note: As I am reading this book, I am reminded of how unique it was for Anna to have a father who valued the intellect of his daughter and educated her to become a  botanist. Even with all of her work with creating and recording her specimens in several books of cyanotypes, she is not given due credit. She wrote a biography about her father and a book titled Photographs of British Algae. She did not use her name but her initials A.A. which were taken for many years as “anonymous author.”

I paused and thought several times during this book of how many other women with wonderful scientific minds were ignored during this time period because of the  prejudices towards women.

*Note: The author does not know for sure what the subject matter was for Anna’s first cyanotype.

Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson; illustrated by Don Tate

Carter Reads the NewspaperCarter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson; illustrated by Don Tate. 2019. Mixed media. Published by Peachtree Publishers.

Brief summary: Carter G. Woodson was born in 1875 and grew up hearing about his family’s history.  He reads the newspaper to his family and learns about the world. He works as a farmer, garbage collector, and coal miner. He opens his house to the other miners filling it with books and newspapers. He reads the newspapers aloud to those who cannot read.

After mining for three years, he moves home and starts high school finishing it in two years at age 22. He goes to college to become a teacher. He continues his formal education earning a PhD in history from Harvard University.  In 1926, he is able to create Negro History Week to be the second week of February to mark the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. He sends out pamphlets and puts notices in newspapers about it as a way to talk about and preserve African-American history. Today, we celebrate Black History Month in February thanks to Carter Woodson’s efforts.

Comments:  There are internet and print resources listed in the back along with an author’s and illustrator’s note. The back of the book also has a timeline of his life and a list of quotations. I would introduce this book at the end of January as an introduction for Black History month.

Follow That Bee!: A First Book of Bees in the City by Scot Ritchie; illustrated by Scot Ritchie

Follow That BeeFollow That Bee!: A First Book of Bees in the City by Scot Ritchie; illustrated by Scot Ritchie. 2019. Artwork is done digitally. Published by Kids Can Press.

Brief Summary: Mr. Cardinal keeps beehives in his backyard in the city. He invites Martin and his friends over to the backyard where they learn what bees need to thrive. They help plant a variety of flowers that bees like and learn how pollinators move pollen around. The children learn about how natural honeycomb  is made and the ones Mr. Cardinal has in his yard.  One of the children gets stung by a bee and is shown how to take out the barbed stinger. They are told what happens to the bee.  The students are shown how to wear protective gear and smoke the bees to get the honey to sell at the farmer’s market.

Comments: Great bee basics with many nonfiction text features such as a map, labeled diagrams, bold words, and pictures with captions. The back of the book includes directions of how to make a bee bath and a “words to know” section.

The narrative was on the left side with  two paged layouts.

I thought it was funny how calm the child was when Mr. Cardinal took the stinger out of foot. I’m sure young readers will share about their experiences with bee stings.

A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights by Kate Hannigan

aladyhasthefloorA Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights by Kate Hannigan; illustrated by Alison Jay. 2018. Alkyd paint with crackle varnish.  Published by Calkins Creek.

Brief summary: Belva was already a teacher at age 14 and went to college in 1857 to learn more. She taught in New York encouraging and teaching girls how to speak publicly and for the girls to be able to have gym classes. She went to law school and completed her studies but was not given her diploma, because she was a woman. Belva wrote to the president of the school who later delivered it to her personally…Ulysses S. Grant who just happened to also be the President of the United States of America at the time. Belva was the first woman to have a law license. She fought for widows and Civil War veterans.  She was not allowed to argue her cases, because she was a woman. She was the first woman to run for President under the National Equal Rights Party.

Comments: I really did not know how many things a woman was not permitted to do until I read this book. Belva Lockwood had guts and was a determined women’s rights activist that I’d like to have more credit given to in the history books. I can just imagine how it felt to have men dress up in women’s clothing and making fun of her in the streets as she tried campaigning against Grover Cleveland. Thank you, Belva! Back pages:  Author’s note and Timeline

 

 

 

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery by Sandra Neil Wallace

BetweenthelinesBetween the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery by Sandra Neil Wallace; illustrated by Bryan Collier. 2018. Watercolor and collage. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: It was the 1940s. Ernie Barnes really did not want to play football but was encouraged to make a living from it. He played for several teams. Although he was successful, his heart was not into it. He found himself drawing and painting all the time. He stopped playing football after a foot injury and was able to put his time into his art.

Comments: In the back of the book: Historical note, Author’s note, illustrator’s note, To Learn More, Quote Sources, additional resources. I recognized this style immediately from somewhere in my past but did not know the artist until after reading this book. His unique style of elongated figures caught the eye of many. His website: http://www.erniebarnes.com/

 

 

Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker’s Story by Joseph Bruchac

Chester Nez and the Unbreakable CodeChester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker’s Story by Joseph Bruchac; illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes. 2018.

Brief summary: In 1929, a missionary truck took an eight-year-old Navajo boy from his family to go to a Catholic boarding school.  It wasn’t optional. He was stripped of his Navajo name and given his new English name of Chester by a missionary nun. His hair was cut and he was not allowed to speak his native tongue; only English. He was forced to become Catholic and told that his heritage was to be forgotten. During tenth grade, Chester joined the Marines in 1941 after the Pearl Harbor bombing. Platoon 382 consisted of 29 Navajos. These men created the famous Navajo code that the enemies could not decipher. Ironically, the language they were forbidden to speak saved the English speaking one.

Comments: The back consists of an Author’s note, The Navajo Code, and a timeline.  I’m glad to see more of these books being published lately on the subject of mandatory boarding school for Native American children and other atrocities that the Canadian and US government forced upon these indigenous people.

Joseph Bruchac (of the Abenaki Tribe) is one of my favorite Native American writers. Thanks to him, many of the Native American stories told through oral tradition are being put into print. Students love his monster lore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhyme Crime by Jon Burgerman

Rhyme CrimeRhyme Crime by Jon Burgerman; illustrated by Jon Burgerman. 2018. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: Hammy’s hat is stolen and switched for a cat. A mystery shadow hand is seen throughout the book taking and switching it with rhyming items from the many characters in this silly and clever book of rhymes. Who is this mysterious thief? Will the police catch the perpetrator? Where did it all go wrong?

Comments: I can’t wait to share this with primary students when we go back to school. Students will need to think of a rhyming word that could match what was just stolen by the mystery hand. Turn the page to see if they are correct and then get ready for the next character on the right side of the page that gets something stolen.

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Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe

Nothing Stopped SophieNothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe; illustrated by Barbara McClintock. 2018. Pen-and-ink, watercolor, and collage. Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: Sophie lived during the French Revolution in Paris.  During this turbulent time in history, Sophie was interested in math. Her family tried to get her to stop studying at night by taking away her candles, fires, and warm dresses to keep her in her bed and not calculating complex math problems.  By age 19, she wanted to go to a university to study math, but that was unheard of for a woman to do that. She was able to get notes from math classes and turned in assignments signing them “Monsieur LeBlanc”.  A professor came to her house and discovered she was the student. She met several scholars and was quietly becoming known. Her most famous math contribution was when she was able to find a mathematical formula that would predict vibration patterns. The Academy of Sciences had a math contest that had a prize of 3,000 francs. Sophie applied had the wrong solution. She kept testing and experimenting until 1826 when she found the answer to the problem and won.

Comments: Sections in the back are: short bio sketch, Is this Math or Science? Discover the Effects of Vibration for Yourself, Notes from the author and illustrator, and a bibliography.

(I have the comment moderation turned on. Your comment will appear after it has been approved. Keep in mind that young readers may be reading the picture book I reviewed so I will not approve your comment if there is inappropriate language. Be kind; be polite. No spam or ads, please. Because I am working as a library media specialist, it may take me a day to get back to my blog.

If you see that I made a typo or grammatical error, I’m totally cool with you politely letting me know. No need to be snarky. I am fully aware that I have an attention span of a hummingbird and miss things when I proofread. I also realize that I am not a professional writer, but I am willing to learn and improve)