I Am Not a Number by Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer and illustrated by Gillian Newland. 2016. Water color, ink, and pencils.
Brief summary:“…You are 759.” I am not a number. I am Irene Couchie, daughter of Ernest and Mary Ann Couchie.” Irene lives on Nipissing First Nation with her father, (the Chief of the community), her mother and several brothers and sisters. One day an Indian agent comes to take three of them to a residential school, as they are considered to be wards of the government. If there is opposition, the parents will be fined or sent to jail. Terrified, the three go with the agent where they are separated into groups of boys and girls.
They lose their names to being called numbers instead. They have to shower in ice water, wear a uniform, and have their hair cut. Having one’s hair cut by Sister Mary was more then a simple cut. In Irene’s culture, one cuts the hair if a loved one dies. Long hair is considered beautiful and something to wear proudly. They have to eat porridge and stale bread while the nuns and teachers eat steak and potatoes. They are not allowed to speak in their native tongue. If they do, a physical lesson involving a wooden spoon or strap would be put into effect. They are forced to attend mass which is the only time Irene sees her brothers.
Summer finally comes. They are permitted to return home where they slowly tell their parents of the abusive lessons they endured; begging never to return to the school. The father hides his children when the agent comes to get them. Irene’s father lies and tells him the children are not there. The two men have a stare down. The agent does not return.
Comments: This story is based on the childhood of the author’s grandmother, Irene Couchie Dupuis, who was an Anishinaabe woman. Photos are included. Back pages tell about the Residential School System in Canada and an afterword about these types of schools. There is also a back section explaining the laws and how they have changed. An apology is cited. I was surprised how recent the laws were put in place. I thought these type of residential schools all happened decades ago.
These are the stories that must be told, and I am thankful that Dr. Dupuis does share the horrific residential school experience of her granny. I would suggest this for intermediate students as some of the scenes are difficult but would make thoughtful and heartfelt discussions. I highly recommend this book for parents and teachers to discuss and understand how indigenous citizens were treated. The illustrations are serious and dark at times but superbly enhance and coincide with the story. I would like to see more of these stories shared to make sure this injustice never happens again to children. I feel this is a must for every library collection.
(I may get a commission for purchases made through links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program. Books reviewed were checked out of the public library and not sent to me free for review).
The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation by Gilbert Ford; illustrated by Gilbert Ford; photography by Greg Endries. 2016. “Drawn and colored digitally with found objects into dioramas, and photographed.”
Brief summary: Richard James worked as an engineer of the U.S. Navy in 1943 trying to invent an object that would keep ship equipment from vibrating when on the rough seas. A torsion spring fell onto his desk and bounced in an interesting way. He took it home where his son dropped it on the stairs and was amused how it appeared to walk down the steps. His wife came up with the name slinky which means “graceful and curvy in movement.” Mr. James had four hundred made and took them to several toy stores until one allowed him to demonstrate how it worked selling all 400 in ninety minutes. The couple created more with its instant popularity and built a small factory.
Comments: Mrs. James took over at this point, as her husband left to do missionary work in Bolivia. She advertised the slinky on television, which I found one of the commercials on youtube along with the famous song from my own childhood days. Betty James was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. Narrative nonfiction/biography. Author’s notes. I found the illustrations to be unique and interesting.
Anything but Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrman, Queen of Magic by Mara Rockliff; illustrated by Iacopo Bruno. 2016. Pencil and digitally colored.
Brief Summary: Spunky Adelaide meets her future husband while taking a ship to America and shortly becomes Adelaide Herman. She assists her husband in his magic shows until he dies. She decides to continue the show by becoming Adelaide Hermann: The Queen of Magic, one of the first women magicians.
Comments: This is a narrative nonfiction/biography with a brief bio timeline in the back. No glossary.
Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber by Sue Macy; illustrated by C.F. Payne.
Brief Summary: Mary Garber’s father took her to the football games and explained the rules to her sparking her love of sports. She was one of the first women to become a sportswriter, paving the bumpy road for women in the future.
Comments: This inspiring biography will encourage girls in sports and those wanting to become sportswriters to persevere in daunting circumstances. The interesting narrative nonfiction and excellent illustrations are a great addition to any elementary school library.
Story Behind the Name Series consists of four biographies(as of July 2016) that are written and illustrated in an interesting and fun way that makes the reader want to know more about the individual. Students will enjoy reading these narrative nonfiction books for reports as well as reading for fun. The illustrations are large and colorful. The books have a glossary, read more, internet site referrals, and critical thinking using the common core sections. No index or table of contents. I bought all four for my elementary school library to be used with 4th and 5th grade biography reports. All four are also available in library binding.
George Ferris’s Grand Idea: The Ferris Wheel by Jenna Glatzer; illustrated by Stephanie Dominquez
John Deere’s Powerful Idea: The Perfect Plow by Terry Collins; illustrated by Carl Pearce
Gustave Eiffel’s Spectacular Idea: The Eiffel Tower by Sharon Katz Cooper; illustrated by Janna Bock
Milton Hershey’s Sweet Idea: A Chocolate Kingdom by Sharon Katz Cooper; illustrated by Alvaro Iglesias Sanchez
Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Robert Burleigh; illustrated by Raul Colon. 2016. Watercolors, prismacolor pencils and lithograph pencils
Brief Summary: Told in first person at times rather than the usually third person. Marie Tharp’s father was a map maker and traveled with his family around the United States. This is what inspired her. She went to school but had a hard time getting a job where her colleagues took her seriously as a female map maker. She wondered what the ocean looked like under the water and if it could be mapped. Scientists were starting to use “sounding” which is when a ship sends sound waves to the bottom of the sea and waits for it to return. This would tell them how deep the water was in that area. Ms. Tharp made a huge graph using these soundings and was able to make a map of the mountains and valleys of the ocean’s floor. She discovered the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Photo of her in the back of the book. Included a glossary, other books to read, and internet links.
Comment: This narrative nonfiction/biography could be placed in the map area of nonfiction or biography area. I think it will circulate more in my school library in the mapping area as teachers are always asking for map book collections to go with their units. I think students will be surprised of how the ocean is mapped and the method used. I will use this in my “Did you know?” book teaser talks.