Board Book Review: Dream Big, Little One

“Dream big, little one. There’s so much you can do. Just look at all the leaders who came before you.” pages 1 and 2

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Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2018.
Board book nonfiction, 26 pages.
Not leveled.

A board book adaptation of Harrison’s popular book Little Leaders.

dream big little one cover resized

We already have more board books than one family really needs.  But after spending so long hunting for great diverse board books, I still get excited about new releases, especially one like this that has excellent role models for our daughters.

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Review: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

“Slavery corrupts the owners. The master’s sons are corrupted by their father’s immoral behavior. The master’s daughters hear their parents fighting about slave women and may overhear talk of their father having seduced or raped slaves.” page 30

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself by Harriet Jacobs, edited by Lisa Barsky.
The Townsend Library, Townsend Press, New Jersey, 2004 (first pub. 1861).
Slave narrative, 152 pages including editor’s afterword.
Lexile:  740L  .
AR Level:  7.1 (worth 14.0 points)  .
NOTE:  I read a printed book which had been edited and contained additional back matter.  Project Gutenberg has a free ebook version of the original text available.

The autobiography of a young woman born into slavery in 1813.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl cover

This book is remarkable, and I’m only surprised I didn’t read it sooner!  But let me write a review anyway in case you need more convincing and haven’t clicked the link above to read it already.  So many aspects of Jacob’s life are typical of her time, place, and station in life, but she herself is not very typical.

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Review: My Brother Martin

“We three stuck together / like the pages in a brand-new book. / And being normal young children, / we were almost always up to something.” page 10

My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Christine King Farris, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet.
Simon and Schuster, New York, 2003.
Picture book nonfiction, 40 pages.
Lexile:  970L  .
AR Level:  5.0 (worth 0.5 points)  .

Personal remembrances of Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood from his older sister Christine.

My Brother Martin

I debated a lot before buying this book.  Our local libraries didn’t have it and the cover, especially in a small thumbnail version, is just so unattractive.  However, I was hoping for something different from the standard stories, which is exactly what this book delivers.  Luckily the interior art is excellent!

The book does skew a bit toward older readers with denser text and more difficult words like chifforobe, Cyclorama, Auburn, cruelty, bigotry, nourishing.  The main focus here is on MLK’s childhood, specifically on two fronts – both the ways in which he was an ordinary, sometimes mischievous little boy, and the events that shaped his personality.

My Brother Martin p28-29 resized
Martin Luther King’s congregation includes his son MLK, Jr. on pages 28 and 29 of My Brother Martin.

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Review: Away West

“Everett had been wandering around for almost an hour. His body ached from the cold, and he had no idea where to go.” page 19

Away West (Scraps of Time 1879) by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Gordon James.
Puffin Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, New York, 2006.
Elementary historical fiction, 121 pages.
Lexile:  510L  .
AR Level:  3.4 (worth 1.0)  .

The Scraps of Time series is built around the idea of a grandmother and three grandchildren building a scrapbook about their family from items kept in their grandmother’s attic.  One of the children finds something and asks Gee about it, and then the story proper begins as she tells them the story behind that item.

Scraps of Time 1879 Away West resized
Scraps of Time 1879 Away West by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Gordon C. James.

In this case the item is a Civil War army medal, although the story does not deal directly with the Civil War.  Instead, Gee tells them about her grandfather, Everett Turner.  The youngest of three brothers, he was determined to find his place in the West.

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Review: Black Cowboy, Wild Horses

“Bob had been a slave and had never learned to read words. But he could look at the ground and read what animals had walked on it, their size and weight, when they had passed by, and where they were going.” page 7

Black Cowboy, Wild Horses: A True Story by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin, New York, 1998.
Picture book nonfiction, 40 pages.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  4.5 (worth 0.5 points)  .

One expedition of a cowboy named Bob Lemmons, famed for his ability to bring in herds of wild mustangs solo.

Black Cowboy Wild Horses
Black Cowboy, Wild Horses: A True Story by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.

As a young reader I acquired a childish interest in the West.  Actually, I’m pretty sure it was from Laura Ignalls Wilder (and yes, I now know how problematic that was, and our kids read Louise Erdrich instead).  In adult life, I’ve been learning just how very much was wrong, or omitted, from my early education.  Even so, it was surprising to learn that the common all-white image of cowboys were actually roughly a third Hispanic and that one in four cowboys was African-American.

Luckily there are several diverse books about this, so I can share a much more accurate and sensitive culturally appropriate portrayal of the West with our kids.  Since we love Jerry Pinkney, of course this was our first title.

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Review: The Underground Railroad

“His patients believed they were being treated for blood ailments. The tonics the hospital administered, however, were merely sugar water.” p. 124

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
Anchor Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2016.
Adult fiction, 313 pages.
Lexile:  890L  .
AR Level: not yet leveled

Cora is a young woman on a Georgia plantation when a new arrival asks her to run away with him.  Only one slave has ever successfully escaped the Randall plantation, but Caesar believes that if they run together, they’ll make it to the elusive Underground Railroad.

The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead) resized

It took me a good while to get to this one.  I’d seen a lot of mixed reviews, and in general I’m not a fan of magical realism (which is what most people were calling this).  Finally I saw this at Target and decided to use it as one of my targetpicks selections.

Going into the read with low expectations definitely helped this novel blow me away.  It’s a very difficult book to classify.  Whitehead uses elements of many different genres, including historical fiction, adventure, science fiction, magical realism, and realistic fiction.

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Review: Singin’ and Swingin’ and…

“Paris was not the place for me or my son. The French could entertain the idea of me because they were not immersed in guilt about a mutual history…” p. 165

Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou.
Bantam, New York, 1977 (originally published 1976).
Adult autobiography, 242 pages.
Not leveled.

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Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou.

In a funny coincidence, I gave away Angelou books (not even read yet… but better loved by someone else) and then a month later came across this in the free books.  Of course I started reading this one immediately and it was fascinating.  I’ve read quite a bit of her poetry before, but never one of her autobiographies.  Upon reading this one I realized that they are probably best read chronologically.

This title is the third, and covers the time when she lived in San Francisco after her son was born, worked a wide variety of jobs, spent a few years married to a white man, and eventually found herself with an entertainment career that took her all over the world, but sadly separated her from her son.

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