Showing posts with label Women's History Month. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Women's History Month. Show all posts

Monday, February 25, 2019

Biddy Mason Speaks Up, by Arisa White and Laura Atkins: a powerful biography of an early California woman fighting for justice (ages 10-14)

As we celebrate Black History, it is crucial we include many people's stories, not just the ones we know well. When our students study California history, we must bring to light the stories of African Americans who helped shape our state. Biddy Mason Speaks Up is a terrific addition to help children learn about an influential African American woman in Los Angeles's early history.
Biddy Mason Speaks Up
by Arisa White and Laura Atkins
illustrated by Laura Freeman
Fighting for Justice series
Heyday, 2019
Amazon / Your local library
ages 10-14
*best new book
Biddy Mason was an African-American healer, midwife, real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist who lived in Los Angeles from 1851 until 1891. Born enslaved in 1818, Biddy was brought to California by the Smith family as one of their slaves, when they moved west as part of the Mormon settlement.
"Even though Granny
isn't allowed to read
or write, she knows
how to read plants."
Arisa White and Laura Atkins weave together Biddy's story with well-researched historical information, giving young readers the historical context for her life. Free verse poems, which enable  readers to feel that they are getting to know Biddy in a personal way, are interspersed with historical information on slavery and midwifery, plantation life and economy, migration, the struggle for freedom, and life as a free black person.
"Biddy probably grew up on a cotton plantation. Cotton, a major cash crop, was grown throughout the Cotton Belt states."
"The record we call 'history' does not tell everyone's story." The voices of ordinary people, especially those who were enslaved or subjugated, were rarely recorded or preserved. When the authors Arisa White and Laura Atkins started writing the biography of Biddy Mason, they faced a challenge: how to accurately portray her story when historical records were scant. They write in the introduction:
"Writing this book was a creative act of repairing the historical record, of imagining Biddy Mason's life based on all the information and stories we could gather. We believe that we are all better when we hear everyone's stories, especially those that have been silenced."
Very little is recorded about Biddy's early years, and so the authors "had to imagine this time in Biddy's life using historical research, 'slave narratives' (written accounts by enslaved people after escaping slavery), and audio interviews with people who lived during the same period and in similar regions." I appreciate how they explain their process and how they used this information to paint a fuller picture.

After 4 years in California, Biddy's owner Robert Smith, planned to move to Texas in 1855. While California was a free state, slavery was legal in Texas. Local sheriffs intervened and took Biddy and her family away from Smith. I appreciate how clearly the text breaks this confusing situation down:
"Even though Biddy was legally free, she had to rely on her community to support her in resisting Robert Smith and the institution of slavery..."
The free verse poems remind me of Ashley Bryan's masterful Freedom Over Me. As Bryan did, White and Atkins used historical records to paint a full picture of ordinary people. This brings to life the stories of Black Americans who helped shape our country.

I wonder if young students will realize that the scenes in the free verse poems did not necessarily occur, or that the authors created the character of Granny Ellen. While the authors are transparent about their process, I wonder if it will be clear to young readers. I see this book as a blend of historical fiction and historical reporting. Detailed source notes show the extensive investigations that went into writing this book.

Illustrations copyright ©2019 Laura Freeman, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was purchased for our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Celebrating Women's History Month with Leontyne Price & Mahalia Jackson (ages 5-9)

We celebrate Women's History Month each year, reading picture book biographies, investigating women through online sources and talking about women in our community. I'm happy to share today two new picture book biographies of inspiring African American singers, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and opera singer Leontyne Price.
Mahalia Jackson
Walking with Kings and Queens
by Nina Nolan
illustrated by John Holyfield
Amistad / HarperCollins, 2015
Your local library
ages 5-9
Nolan introduces young readers to Mahalia Jackson, putting her life, passion and achievements in context. Right from the beginning, readers understand that music meant everything to Mahalia. I just love this opening spread:
"People might say little Mahalia Jackson was born with nothing, but she had something all right. A voice that was bigger than she was."
Although she was surrounded by all types of music in New Orleans and Chicago, Mahalia found comfort singing in church--especially given the hard times she experienced as a child. Nolan especially emphasizes Jackson's determination to pursue her singing and stay true to herself and her passion for gospel.
"Mahalia sang for as many people as she could. She knew gospel lifted people up. And when you know something like that, you've got to tell it to the world."
This is an important addition to our collection of picture book biographies. Pair this with Andrea Davis Pinkney's Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song.
Leontyne Price:
Voice of a Century
by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Raul Colón
Knopf / Random House, 2015
Your local library
ages 5-9
I adore the beauty and strength in this new biography of opera singer Leontyne Price. Weatherford clearly introduces Price's life, showing how difficult it was for her to pursue singing as a career. Leontyne's family supported her passion for music: "Their song of encouragement rose above the color line." But it was Marian Anderson, the African American opera singer who gave a famous performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, who truly inspired Price.
"Singing along to her daddy James's records and listening to the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday-afternoon radio broadcasts...
Art songs and arias, shaping a brown girl's dreams."
Weatherford's language is poetic and beautiful, yet always simple enough for young students to understand.
"Leontyne was never more majestic than as Aida, playing the part she was born to sing... Standing on Marian's shoulders, Leontyne gave the crowd goose bumps. The song of her soul soared on the breath of her ancestors."
Raul Colón's soft watercolor illustrations capture Price's grace and grandeur, while still feeling personal. An inspiring combination of text and artwork that draws children to it right away.

Mahalia Jackson illustrations ©2015 by John Holyfield; used with permission from HarperCollins. Leontyne Price illustrations ©2015 by Raul Colón; used with permission from Random House. The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees, by Franck Prévot (ages 7-12)

Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work helping women throughout Africa planting trees to improve the environment and their quality of life. As we celebrate Women's History Month, I am excited to share this new picture book about her struggles and accomplishments with my students.
Wangari Maathai
The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees
by Franck Prévot
illustrated by Aurélia Fronty
Charlesbridge, 2015
Your local library
ages 7-12
*best new book*
Maathai's political activism shines through in this biography, in her determination to reverse environmental damage caused by large, colonial plantations and empower local villagers--especially women--to improve their local conditions. Prévot begins by introducing young readers to Maathai's legacy:
"It's almost as if Wangari Maathai is still alive, since the trees she planted still grow. Those who care about the earth as Wangari did can almost hear her speaking... Wangari encouraged many village women. She dug holes with them in the red soil--holes in which to plant hope for today and forests for tomorrow."
As Prévot tells Maathai's story, he emphasizes how her childhood and her education shaped Wangari, especially, in a time when very few African women went to school or learned to read.
"When Wangari planted a large-leafed ebony tree or an African tulip tree, she was reminded of her own roots."
This biography allows students to develop a deeper understanding of the political, economic and social structures Maathai stood up against. I love being able to share with students the value of reading more than one book on a subject, seeing how different authors draw out different details. I would start by reading Seeds of Change, by Jen Cullerton Johnson, and watching a short video. If you build background knowledge, students can then dig into statements such as this:
"The government officials who built their fortunes by razing forests try to stop Wangari. Who is this woman who confronts them with a confident voice in a country where women are supposed to listen and lower their eyes in men's presence?"
The illustrations are striking and stylized, lush and vibrant. I especially noticed how Fronty varies the rich, saturated background colors on each spread, adding to the emotions. Just look how bold and strong the red is below--and notice how it contrasts to the cool greens and blues above:
"Wangari believes confident women have an important role to play in their families, their villages, and on the entire African continent."
This is truly an outstanding picture book biography. Prévot finishes with a detailed timeline of Maathai's life, illustrated with several photographs. This background material is both easy to access, written in short chunks, but also detailed to give a rich picture of her struggles and achievements.
From the backmatter -- timeline, informaiton about Kenya today, the damage caused by deforestation
Illustrations ©2011 by Aurelia Fronty; originally published in France. Used with permission from Charlesbridge. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Writing nonfiction that honors women in history: an interview with Tracey Fern

As I explore Women's History Month with students, I want to help them think about how they can honor women in history. We talk about honoring women in their lives, because for young students the immediate it so important. But I'm also fascinated by the way authors investigate women whose stories we might not have heard yet.

Today, I'm thrilled to share with you an interview with Tracey Fern about her journey to learn about the life of Eleanor Prentiss and then writing Dare the Wind. My questions are in red; Tracey's answers follow in black.

MS: How did you first learn about Eleanor? What drew you to her story?

TF: I first learned about Eleanor when I was browsing through my local bookstore and happened upon David Shaw's book, Flying Cloud. I'm always on the lookout for strong female characters, and so I knew instantly that I wanted to write about Eleanor. Eleanor's story also combined adventure and science, two elements that I'm also often drawn toward. Finally, I'm a Massachusetts gal who grew up with the ocean and the beach in my backyard, and I love that Eleanor grew up here, too!

MS: Did you travel at all to do your research? What was your research process like?

TF: I traveled to Marblehead, Massachusetts while writing Dare the Wind. Marblehead was Eleanor's home town, and parts of the town still look much the way I imagine they looked when Eleanor walked its cobbled streets. I also visited the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut and toured the USS Constitution in Boston harbor to get myself in a seafaring state of mind! My research process for this book was different from my usual research, because there are relatively few primary sources available. As a result, I relied more heavily on secondary sources than I typically do.

MS: I was amazed at how well you conveyed being on a ship at sea in a storm. Have you sailed like this at all?

TF: Thank you! I've been sailing before but never under the challenging conditions that Eleanor faced. I'm so happy that I could convey the sensations of being on a ship at sea in a storm to readers.
MS: Did you provide any guidance to Emily McCully to help her make sure the illustrations were historically accurate? What details do you want children to notice in the illustrations?

TF: I adore Emily's illustrations! She did her own research to ensure that her illustrations were accurate. I did send Emily a very detailed description of the Flying Cloud that was published at the time of the ship's launch. Some of the details that I love in Emily's illustrations are the wonderful spread of the Flying Cloud at the pier in New York City, the view of Ellen (Eleanor) below deck working on her charts which beautifully captures the feeling of motion in the tilt of the lamp above her head, and the cover illustration which shows the figurehead of an angel on the prow of the ship, mirroring Ellen and her telescope on deck. I especially love the cover illustration because it seems to capture the forward movement of Ellen's amazing journey!
MS: What was the most surprising thing you learned about Eleanor doing your research?

TF: The most surprising thing about Eleanor was just how ahead of her time she was. Not only did she assumed the role of navigator at a time when that was absolutely atypical for a woman, she also embraced the new navigational theories of Matthew Fontaine Maury, which went against the prevailing wisdom of the time. Eleanor was clearly a force to be reckoned with!

MS: Did you have to leave anything out that you really wanted to include?

TF: There's always so much more I'd love to include in all of my books! Believe it or not, Eleanor's journey was filled with even more exciting incidents, including a threatened mutiny that I simply couldn't include. I would have also loved to have included more details about Donald McKay, the builder of the Flying Cloud, and the ship-building process, but perhaps that's material for another book!

Thanks so much for your interest in Dare the Wind!

Thank you, Tracey! I loved sharing this story with students, and hearing their reactions. Eleanor was definitely a force to be reckoned with!

For more information, definitely check out Tracey's website. Illustration copyright © 2013 by Emily Arnold McCully, shared by permission from the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Emerson's Museum of Amazing Women, Part 3

Women's History Month inspires kids in so many different ways. Here are two modern women that our kids look up to: author Jennifer Holm, and soccer star Alex Morgan. Each of these women gives the message to all our kids: you can follow your dreams and become whoever you want to be.

Emily had a lot of fun making an Animoto about her favorite author Jennifer Holm. Many of our students love Holm's Babymouse series (did you know Happy Birthday, Babymouse comes out in 3 weeks?!), but Emily also gives a shout-out for Turtle in Paradise, Holm's novel set in 1930s Key West.
Madeline honors Alex Morgan, an American soccer player and Olympic gold medalist. Madeline was so excited to try out using Animoto -- and I'm really excited to learn about a new sport hero our girls admire.
I just learned that Alex Morgan is writing a new series perfect for kids in 4th through 6th grade:
Booklist writes of the first Kicks installment, Saving the Team:
U.S. women’s soccer team player and Olympic medalist Morgan’s enthusiasm for the game is evident throughout this light and lively contemporary read. Though there are some predictable story elements, Devin is an appealing protagonist whose peppy first-person narrative incorporates abundant soccer details, along with familiar themes of making friends and the value of teamwork.
Stay tuned for my Animoto showing all the great posters that students have made. Thanks very much for celebrating Women's History Month with Emerson students!

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dare the Wind: a tale of courage and calculations for Women's History Month (ages 6-10)

I've always been amazed at the journeys gold prospectors underwent to travel to California in the 1840s and 1850s. Can you imagine taking a covered wagon across the Rockies or a clipper ship around Cape Horn? If these voyages fascinate you, I highly recommend Tracy Fern's new picture book, a biography of Eleanor "Ellen" Prentiss, who navigated the fastest clipper ship to sail from New York to San Francisco.
Dare the Wind
by Tracey Fern
illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2014
your local library
ages 6-10
*best new book*
Ellen Prentiss loved the sea her whole life, but she was no ordinary little girl. Her father taught her how to sail his trading schooner and use complicated navigating tools like a sextant, and soon she was sailing her own ship, racing the fishing fleet across Massachusetts Bay.

Ellen married Perkins Creesy, a ship's captain, and soon they were sailing together, with Ellen navigating their ship. When Perkins was given command of The Flying Cloud, a fast new clipper ship built to take passengers and cargo from New York to the California Gold Rush, Ellen knew it was up to her to help find the fastest winds and swiftest route.
"She plotted a course to catch the strongest wind and current she could."
Tracey Fern builds this dramatic story, carefully helping children understand the difficulties Ellen, Prentiss and the crew faced. My students gasped when The Flying Cloud's mast broke, and you could see the worry on their faces as Ellen faced stormy weather around Cape Horn.
"Now is the time for caution, she thought. I can still read the sea."
Share this terrific story with young readers who are fascinated by science, math and adventure. They'll love how Ellen not only used her daring courage, but also clear calculations to find the fastest routes. As her father told her,
"A true navigator must have the caution to read the sea, as well as the courage to dare the wind." 
There are many excellent resources for children who are interested in this story. Check out the new LiveBinder page put together by the Junior Library Guild: Booktalks To Go. I also love the way that Tracey Fern has included some of her favorite links on her website.

Illustration copyright © 2013 by Emily Arnold McCully, shared by permission from the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Emerson's Museum of Amazing Women, Part 2

Here are two more great projects celebrating women that our students admire -- both have strong roots in the Bay Area as well as national garden movement.

Kaiyah honors her mom, Kelly Carlisle, founder of Acta Non Verba, a youth urban farm project in East Oakland. Kaiyah was particularly excited to try out using Animoto, and she did a terrific job combining bold text and pictures. Watch her Animoto by clicking through:
Bella honors Alice Waters, chef and activist. Our students at Emerson have loved having a school garden, a project that Waters has been particularly instrumental in spreading throughout the Berkeley schools.

Did you notice how Bella included her photo credits on the last slide? This made my librarian heart smile -- here's a student really incorporating Digital Citizenship lessons. Hooray!

These are the first digital projects that these students have done. I love how they've ventured into this new way of presenting information. If you have a chance, they would love to hear what you think about their projects. Leave a comment below if you can!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Emerson Museum of Amazing Women 2014, Part 1

Emerson students have been so excited to share their projects on amazing women. I just love the way they're celebrating women who inspire them. Over the next week, I'd like to share several projects.

Orion was inspired by learning about Jane Goodall, through the Jane Goodall Institute and Patrick McDonnel's wonderful book Me, Jane. He worked with his parents to create a wonderful Animoto
-- click through to watch it.

Mykeia created a Google Presentation about Fantasia Bronno, an amazing winner of American Idol.

One of the things I've loved about this project is how excited the kids are to find out about these women and share their information in new and interesting ways. Because it isn't a required project, it's more fun to do! And, they've learned great presentation skills, while having fun.

If you see any projects that you like, it would mean a whole lot to our Emerson students if you left a quick note. Thanks so much learning about these great women --

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss (ages 6-10)

Do you remember when you were a little kid and looked into the cockpit of an airplane? Wowwwww... all those controls and buttons and dials. I love sharing the story of early women pilots, and one of my favorites is Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee. Pair this with a great video interview of Maggie, which I'll include below.
Sky High:
The True Story of Maggie Gee
by Marissa Moss
illustrated by Carl Angel
Tricycle Press, 2009
your local library
ages 6 - 10
As a young girl, Maggie Gee longed to fly, but it wasn’t until World War II broke out that she was able to achieve this dream. One of only two Chinese-American women to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), Maggie’s passion for flying shines through in this biography of a true local hero. Gee went to UC Berkeley and was a longtime resident of Berkeley after her days in the WASP.
Maggie Gee
WASP 44-W-9
Young kids often ask me, "Is this real? Is she still alive?" They're trying to put history into context. Maggie Gee lived in Berkeley for many years, passing away in February 2013. Here is a wonderful interview to share with students:

Older students might want to use this as a launching pad for talking with neighbors, family members and friends about their experiences when they were younger. I found this article about Maggie Gee in Bay Area Insider also very interesting.

The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell, by Tanya Lee Stone (ages 6-10)

Do we help our girls by sharing stories of women who broke through barriers, daring the world to accept them as they wanted to be seen? I definitely think we do. Who knows what our girls will want to do as they explore their passions and confront others' expectations. Tanya Lee Stone's upbeat portrait of Elizabeth Blackwell is a delight to share with young girls.
Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?
The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell
by Tanya Lee Stone
illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Henry Holt / Macmillan, 2013
your local library
ages 6 - 10
Girls will like the way Tanya Lee Stone talks directly to them right from the beginning:
"I bet you've met plenty of doctors in your life. And I'll bet lots of them were women. Well, you might find this hard to believe, but there was once a time when girls weren't allowed to become doctors." 
Stone's challenges young readers: Who do you think changed all that?

Elizabeth Blackwell loved exploring new things, taking on challenges and doing the best she could. Don't you just love Marjorie Priceman's illustrations? As The Horn Book writes, they lend a perfect framework of energy and pacing to the text."
Even though she was rejected from 28 medical schools, Elizabeth kept pursuing her dream. Read this aloud with 1st through 4th graders, talking about what qualities helped Elizabeth persevere. See where you can see her courage, sense of self, and determination.

For more resources, definitely check out The Classroom Bookshelf, a blog created by four terrific professors of education and literacy. Their posts include a wealth of ideas for using books as a springboard for discussions and projects. They also always include many links to pursue for further information. Here are some gems they share about Elizabeth Blackwell:

Illustration copyright © 2013 by Marjorie Priceman, Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?, written by Tanya Lee Stone. Published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Me, Frida: Frida Kahlo in San Francisco, by Amy Novesky and David Diaz (ages 6-10)

Frida Kahlo's artwork captures my imagination. I love introducing her artwork to younger students with the beautiful picture book Me, Frida by Amy Novesky and illustrated by David Diaz. Novesky focuses on how Frida really came into her own, discovering her own voice through her artwork.
Me, Frida
by Amy Novesky
illustrated by David Diaz
Abrams, 2010
your local library
ages 6-10
This lush picture book focuses on Frida Kahlo’s trip to San Francisco with her new husband, Diego Rivera. Frida felt so far away from home in our cool, gray city, but as she started exploring the city on her own and began painting she began to find a place for herself. The spread below shows Frida after she found her voice, painting "something great: a colorful wedding portrait of herself and Diego. She painted Diego big, and she painted herself small, just as the world saw them."
Glowing with vibrant, jewel-tone colors, this book will inspire young readers to learn more about this glorious artist. David Diaz's work is truly stunning. Head over to Amy Novesky's website to see more.

For older students, I would direct them to both the PBS website for the film The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo and the SFMOMA website from their exhibition on Frida Kahlo. In the SFMOMA site, check out the interesting multimedia resources for interactive features that kids (ages 9-12) will find interesting.
SFMOMA website's interactive feature on Frida Kahlo
Illustrations copyright 2010, David Diaz, shared with permission of the publishers. The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ain't I a Woman? Pulling today's kids into history with dynamic performances (ages 9-14)

Sojourner Truth, from
I know in my heart that we can bore our kids with history or we can engage them, show them them that it matters, that it's wrought with conflict -- and we're still wrestling with many of these same conflicts today.

Try showing these two videos, with clips of powerful actresses reading Sojourner Truth's speech, Ain't I a Woman, and see what your kids think. -- Kerry Washington reads from Sojourner Truth's speech Ain't I a Woman

Kerry Washington combines the swagger of today's girls with Sojourner Truth's strong declarations. I like the way this video clip splices together parts of Truth's speech with Washington's reflections on why it's important to learn about history.

Alfre Woodward reads from Sojourner Truth's speech Ain't I a Woman

This video clip has much more of Sojourner Truth's speech, It would be very interesting to have kids watch both of these videos and talk about what each actress brings to their performance.
What questions does Truth ask that we could still ask today? What issues are we still wrestling with?
I would follow up this with reading aloud Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (read my full review here) -- one of my all-time-favorite nonfiction books.

Both of these videos came from Anthony Arnove, co-editor, along with Howard Zinn, of Voices of a People's History of the United States. See more at Arnove's You Tube channel.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream, by Kristy Dempsey & Floyd Cooper (ages 4-9)

What's it like to hold on to a dream? Can a role model truly encourage a young child, or is that just what parents and teachers tell themselves? There are times that sharing a story helps me keep faith, just as much as reading an inspiring biography. A Dance Like Starlight is a book that filled me with hope and warmth, as I read about one little ballerina's dream.
A Dance Like Starlight
One Ballerina's Dream
by Kristy Dempsey
illustrations by Floyd Cooper
Philomel/Penguin, 2014
your local library
*best new book*
ages 4-9
A young African American girl longs to dance with the ballet school, but her mama says "wishing on stars is a waste anyhow." Hope is the key, mama says, but "hoping is hard work." Her mama certainly knows hard work, taking in laundry at night, and working every day sewing and cleaning costumes for the ballet school.
Mama says
is hard work.
When the Ballet Master sees her dancing in the wings, he notices her talent and dreams and invites her to join lessons each day "even though I can't perform onstage with white girls." Demspey and Cooper build up the story slowly and softly, helping readers understand the setting in 1950s New York, the discrimination at play.

When Mama takes her daughter to see Miss Janet Collins, the first African American prima ballerina to dance with the Metropolitan Opera House Ballet, the little girl's heart soars, "dancing, opening wide with the swell of the music."
It's like Miss Collins is dancing for me,
only for me
showing me who I can be
This story reminds me of the power of role models, the way they can inspire us to reach out for our dreams and persevere through hard times. Floyd Cooper's artwork is uplifting and dreamy, with soft grainy textures. Did you know he creates all his artwork by first painting layers, and then erasing them slowly to reveal the shapes?

Share more information about Janet Collins with your children. I loved reading about her in the New York Public Library article and this New York Times article, both celebrating the life of Janet Collins.

Thanks very much to Deborah Ford's and Junior Library Guild's Booktalks to Go LiveBinder. If you're looking for more books to read with kids and information to make that reading experience richer, I highly recommend this site.

All illustrations are copyright ©Floyd Cooper, 2014, shared with permission of the publisher, Penguin Books for Young Readers. The review copy came from our school library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Using Goodreads: Building my reading life

I read ten or more books each week. They feed my soul. But they also start swimming around in my mind like minnows in a stream. So how do I keep track of the books I've read, remember those I've liked and recommend books to friends? I have used Goodreads for over five years, and I love it.

Here's my shelf on books to recommend for Women's History Month, with just five of the books I've recently added. Click through to Goodreads to see more!

Mary Ann's bookshelf: women's history

Michelle Obama
4 of 5 stars

1st, biography, picture-books, preschool, kindergarten, nonfiction,...
Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies
4 of 5 stars
1st, 2nd, 3rd, biography, history, picture-books, and women-s-history
Through Georgia's Eyes
5 of 5 stars
As a young girl, Georgia knew that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up, but few women could pursue that dream in the early 20th century. “Georgia sees life differently. She paints and paints. Hours pass by. She wonders if she can...
women-s-history, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, biography, history, parents-press-2...
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World�s Fastest Woman
5 of 5 stars
No one expected Wilma Rudolph to survive her difficult childhood. My students are continually amazed at how Rudolph not only learned to walk after having scarlet fever and polio, but joined her school’s basketball team and then her colle...
2nd, 3rd, 4th, african-american, biography, women-s-history, pictur...

When I'm doing a blogging challenge or planning a teaching unit, Goodreads helps me remember books I've read -- kind of like browsing the physical shelves in my library. How do you keep track of the books you've read and those you want to read? Do you like keeping this list to yourself, or do you like sharing it with friends?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, March 14, 2014

Digital projects to celebrate Emerson's Museum of Amazing Women

Emerson students are having so much fun creating projects to celebrate amazing women this month. Some are researching pop stars, others are celebrating their mothers or teachers. I'm excited to share two digital ways to create projects.
Animoto is an easy-to-use online video creation site that you can use to create short, dynamic slide shows. Kids love the music and movement. I love that you can add just a few words with the images to really communicate your ideas. Plus, it's free (for short videos)!

Here's an Animoto I created to celebrate Gabby Douglas, Olympic champion:

Our 4th and 5th graders are also learning how to use their school Google accounts, and some are taking the challenge to create a Google Presentation. Again, they love using images! For many kids, this is much easier than creating a poster board.

Here's an example I created about Jane Goodall. I really tried to show the kids how one simple picture with a short caption can communicate a lot of what you admire about a person. We talk about how this presentation doesn't have much of a conclusion, that I could have put in more of my own ideas.

I'm excited to see what projects the students create! Are your students creating anything using new digital tools that they love? There are so many to choose from!!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wilma Rudolph: inspiring Olympic Champion (ages 6-12)

Throughout Women's History Month, I share with students stories of women who inspire me with their determination and courage. When I first read about Wilma Rudolph, Olympic champion sprinter who overcame incredible odds to win victory, I was awe-struck. My students sit in rapt attention each time they hear in Kathleen Krull's picture book biography Wilma Unlimited.
Wilma Unlimited
How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman
by Kathleen Krull
illustrated by David Diaz
Harcourt Brace, 1996
your local library
ages 6-10
No one expected Wilma Rudolph to survive her difficult childhood. She not only learned to walk after having scarlet fever and polio, but joined her school’s basketball team and then her college’s track team. Through sheer determination and hard work, she went on to win three Olympic gold medals. My students cheer for Wilma at every turn in this inspiring biography.

If your children are inspired to learn more about Rudolph, I'd recommend two websites: and ABC Sports. You'll find historic film footage and photographs on, the official website for the Olympics. I like the way it combines brief facts, compelling images and a short biography that students can read for more information.
The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books