Friday, June 1, 2018

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders and Illustrated by Steven Salerno

Four Paw Prints

So, a long time ago there were boys and there were girls.  Boys wore dark colors and played with building toys. Girls work pastel colors and played with dolls.  These boys and girls grew up and did what was expected of men and women. But, what about the children who grew up to be adults who didn’t feel comfortable doing what was expected?  Many times these adults had a hard time finding a job or finding a place to call home. Sometimes these adults would even be kicked out of their own families. You may be wondering what these adults did wrong that made life so difficult.  The truth is they did NOTHING wrong. They just fell in love. But in their cases some men fell in love with another man or some women fell in love with another woman. Today, this happens all the time and people rarely have a problem with these relationships.  But a long time ago these relationships were not allowed. Harvey Milk thought this was wrong. People should be able to love whoever they wanted without having to worry about being treated poorly. Not only did Harvey Milk want to change the laws to allow people to love who they wanted, he wanted to create a symbol that could help people feel good about themselves and who they loved.  Harvey Milk went to an artist named Gilbert Baker to create a symbol. The symbol Gilbert Baker created was the rainbow flag. The rainbow flag was first used at the Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco in 1978 and this flag is still used today. I thought this book was very good. It’s a great way to introduce this topic and these issues to children. My only concern was that countries like Russia were listed as flying the rainbow flag.  The implication in this section of the book is that the countries are supporting the flag but this is not true. There may be people in Russia and other countries who support the flag but the government does not. In some countries people can be arrested for showing support to others. I would have like to see this made clearer in the book or just include countries that currently support the flag and the pride movement. As always ask a parent before visiting a new website, but if you would like to learn more about Harvey Milk please visit or  To learn more about the Rainbow Flag visit,

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Children of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Hope and Survival During World War II

The Children of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Hope and Survival During World War II (young readers edition) by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen and adapted by Emil Sher

Four Paw Prints

In the 1930s big changes were happening in Europe with the most dramatic changes happening in Germany.  Germany had lost The Great War (World War I) in 1918 and was forced to pay money back to other countries for the cost of the war.  Then the Great Depression started and this left Germany with no money to pay back its debts. The country was poor and struggling. During this time the people decided they wanted a change in government.  The change they voted for was named Adolf Hitler and his Nazi government. Hitler promised the Germans he would make the country strong again and people would get jobs. He was able to accomplish this but at a great cost.  Hitler started making life very difficult for people he felt were NOT “true” Germans. This included people were Jewish. Life became difficult for people who were Jewish. They were not allowed to have professional employment, they could only shop in certain stores, people who weren’t Jewish could no longer do business with them, and children had difficulty going to school.  Hitler then decided he would start taking over other countries. One of these countries was Austria. Lisa Jura lived in Vienna, Austria at this time and she was Jewish. The middle of three girls she hoped to someday become a concert pianist. But things changed dramatically when her father was attacked and then arrested by people in Hitler’s government. When her father was released from jail he made the decision that his daughters were going to leave the country.  They were not going to wait and see what happens. He learned that people in England were sponsoring Jewish children to leave Nazi occupied parts of Europe to the safety of England. He was going to send his daughters to England. There was just one problem. He could only secure one ticket. Which daughter would go? The decision was to send Lisa. At 14 years old she was responsible for the hopes and dreams of her family and she had to find a way to help her sisters get to England too.  Would she be able to do it? This books tells the story of Lisa’s survival of World War II and her experiences in England as a refuge. There is now a foundation started by Lisa’s family in her honor called Hold On To Your Music. To learn more about the foundation visit,  To learn more about the Holocaust visit  As always, please ask an adult for permission before visiting these sites.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann Queen of Magic

Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann Queen of Magic by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

Five Paw Prints

Historically the most famous magicians have been men.  David Copperfield, Harry Houdini, Penn and Teller...Merlin.  Women are not usually remembered for magic unless they were the “beautiful assistant”.  But, I’m going to guess you’ve never heard of Adelaide Herrmann.  Adelaide was born and raised a “proper” young lady during Victorian England but Addie wasn’t interested in being “proper”  because she wanted excitement.  She learned how to dance, ride a bike (VERY un-ladylike), and she traveled Europe looking for excitement.  She eventually decided to travel to the United States to look for more excitement.  While traveling SHE proposed to a man she met.  SHOCKING!  Addie became his “beautiful assistant” and they became famous, but when he died suddenly something needed to be done or else their magic show would have to be cancelled.  Addie had a decision to make, what would she do?  I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about magic and it’s never been a topic of interest to me.  I was wandering through the library when I stumbled on this book and I’m so happy I decided to read it.  I really loved this book.  I thought Addie with her adventures and bravery was awesome.  I want to learn more.  If you want to learn more about Adelaide Herrmann too then visit  If you want to learn more about becoming a magician then visit

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Five paw prints!

It’s the first day of school and Peppi is nervous because she is starting at a new school.  She is so nervous she accidently bumps into a boy named Jamie and she knocks all his paper onto the floor.  To be polite she tries to help him pick up the mess but all she does is make it worse.  After a while Peppi begins to find her way and she joins the Art Club.  The Art Club is forever at odds with the Science Club.  The kids in these clubs do NOT get along.  The only problem with Peppi’s new school is that she is horrible at science and her science teacher assigns a tutor to her to help improve her grades.  Unfortunately, her tutor is Jamie, the same boy she bumped into on the first day of school.  Not only is Jamie her tutor but Jamie is a member of the Science Club.  To make matters even worse...Peppi and Jamie become friends.  UGH!  Peppi has become friends with a member of the ENEMY!  This book is so much fun.  I don’t read many graphic novels but this is what a good graphic novel looks like.  It’s a good story, it’s well told, and the images are great.  More importantly it is a book that takes place in middle school and it really gives a good idea of what a typical middle school with typical kids looks like.  What’s not to love?  To learn more about books by Svetlana Chmakova visit  

Diana’s White House Garden

Diana’s White House Garden by Elisa Carbone and illustrated by Jen Hill

Four paw prints

During World War II people (adults and children) were looking for ways to help our soldiers win the war against our enemies.  One of these children who wanted to help was Diana Hopkins.  Diana’s father worked as an advisor to President Roosevelt so Diana and her father lived at the White House along with the president and his wife Eleanor.  Diana did all kinds of things to try to help our country but she usually just got into trouble with the White House staff.  FINALLY, President Roosevelt had an idea that Diana knew she could do...with help from Fala the White House dog.  I really liked this book.  I grew up hearing about what families (including children) did on the homefront during World War II and it was interesting to learn how one of these programs started.  I really liked that the book showed that children are NOT perfect and sometimes a dog is needed to help make things work properly.  To learn more about President Roosevelt visit FRD Library at, the official White House entry on FDR at, or the National Park Service at  To learn more about Eleanor Roosevelt visit the Center at Val-Kill at or the National Park Service at  To learn more about Diana Hopkins visit  Finally, for any families that would like to learn about gardening with their children visit  

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman and illustrated by Daniel Minter

Four paw prints

There was a time when buildings, animals, AND certain people were considered property.  These items could be bought, sold, and sometimes moved to other locations without anyone being able to do anything about it.  This was the time period when William Key was born.  William Key was born before the American Civil War and he was an African American.  This meant that William Key was a slave who belonged to someone else as property.  But people noticed that William Key had a good way with animals.  William Key became known as “Doc” Key.  After the Civil War ended and slaves (like Doc Key) were freed, Doc became the veterinarian of choice for the town and the surrounding community.  Doc realized that the best way to treat animals and get them to respond to people was through kindness instead of harshness which was the traditional way of dealing with animals at the time.  Doc traveled the country helping animals and teaching people how to treat animals.  Along the way Doc became the owner of a sickly race horse that he named Jim.  What Doc didn’t realize was that Jim was an EXTREMELY smart animal and Jim could do amazing things.  But, I’m not going to tell you what those amazing things have to read the book.  Now, I’m not an animal expert and I know very little about horses, but I’m fascinated by the thought thet people have the potential to communicate with animals better than we do now.  This book was wonderful.  It had three things I love in a interesting story, good pictures, and additional facts with photographs at the end.  If you are interested in having a pet (NOT necessarily a horse) then visit to learn more about what you need to know to be a good pet owner.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Roller Girl

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Five paw prints

Let me first begin by saying...what an awesome and fun book.  It begins with two girls watching their first roller derby game. Nicole is unimpressed but Astrid is hooked and she insists that her mother sign her up for roller derby camp during summer vacation.  Astrid is allowed to sign up for camp if Nicole goes with her but Astrid is afraid to tell her mother that Nicole is going to Ballet Camp.  So what's a 12 year old supposed to do?  Lie (of course) and (of course) this leads to a long summer of trying to keep up the lies without getting caught, learning a new sport, making new friends, while trying not to loose the old friends.  Life can be very complicated when you're getting ready to start middle school.  On the surface this could be just another story about elementary school friends starting to go their separate ways with the start of middle school while using the graphic format to stand out in a crowd of “growing up” books but I LOVE the use of the roller derby to help show the differences growing between the best friends. I'll be honest, after reading about roller derbies I want to learn more!  If you want to learn more then visit or even the team mentioned in the book  Better yet, visit the websites of teams in our area and to learn about our own hometown teams.

Save Me A Seat

Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Five paw prints

It's the first week of school and Joe and Ravi are both experiencing big changes.  Joe is starting without his best friend because his friend moved out of state. Joe is very smart but most of the kids in the class don’t know this and make fun of him because of his special needs.  Ravi just moved to the United States from India because of his father's new job.  Ravi was considered one of the smartest and most popular kids in his school in India and he wants this to continue in America.  Joe and Ravi don’t know it but they have something in common and his name is Dillon.  Dillon is in class with Joe and Ravi.  Joe knows all about Dillon and knows to avoid Dillon as much as possible.  Ravi is about to learn more than he wants about Dillon.  But is Ravi willing to listen to Joe to survive the new year?   I really like this book and the way it handled bullying at the elementary level.  I especially like that the book goes back and forth between the “voices” of Joe and Ravi throughout the book.  My elementary school usually uses The Bystander by James Preller to teach the older students about bullying but now that the middle schools are using it as part of their curriculum we need to find a new book.  Save Me A Seat is the perfect replacement and it will work so much better in my school.  To find more books by Sarah Weeks visit to learn more.  Unfortunately Gita Varadarajan doesn’t have a website yet (since this is her first book) but she does have a twitter site.  With a parent or guardian's permission you can visit  To learn more about what to do if you are bullied or want to help someone who is being bullied visit or ( this is the program that our school district uses) or

Monday, November 7, 2016

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

Five paw prints

Growing up I always understood and knew that I was going to college after high school just like my mother and grandmother. But this was not the understanding for most girls growing up during the 1930s.  Ruth Bader was a daughter of immigrants. Everyday her father went to work and her mother stayed home to raise her. But Ruth’s mother was very smart. She recognized that Ruth was smart too and made sure to take Ruth to the library to read as much as possible and she expected Ruth to have good grades in school.  After high school Ruth went to college unsure of what she wanted to do and study. After hearing in class that lawyers have the ability to defend people and protest against unjust laws she knew what she would study. She would become a lawyer and not let anyone tell her that she couldn't or shouldn't because she was a married Jewish woman with children. Not only did she become a lawyer but she became one of the most successful and respected lawyers in the country. This led her to one of the most important jobs in our country...the United States Supreme Court.  To learn more about Ruth Bader Ginsburg visit To learn more about the United States Supreme Court visit Brain POP to watch some very good videos or visit

Friday, September 9, 2016

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Five paw prints

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was a beautiful day. I wasn't too hot or too cold. There was a slight breeze.  There was hardly a cloud in the sky.  But in New York City everything was about to change. Sadly, Deja doesn't know about any of this.  9/11 was 15 years ago and Deja is only 10 years old. The only things she knows is that she and her family are homeless, she has to start a new school, and her father is never well.  Her old friends won't talk to her because she is homeless and she doesn't know anyone at her new school.  But there seems to be something that the kids in her new school know that she doesn't and when she learns the history of her home town of New York City she begins to understand why her father is always so sick.  The author of Falling Towers is known for her wonderful writing and this book is no exception.  I can tell you exactly where I was when the events on 9/11 took place and how many of my students lost family members that day.  I know too many people who think by not talking about these events we are protecting our children, but I disagree.  Children need to be taught our history no matter how painful and this is a wonderful book to start a conversation.  If you are interested in learning more about 9/11 then I suggest visiting the following sites with permission from an adult.  The sites are The New York State Museum at or the 9/11 Memorial at An excellent video to watch (again with permission from an adult) is about the boat lift to evacuate people from the lower tip of Manhattan.  This video can be found at  To learn more about that author and her books visit

Friday, May 20, 2016

Flora & Ulysses

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated K. G. Campbell

Five paw prints

Flora is girl in need of a friend...she just doesn’t know it.  Her parents are divorced and her father lives on the other side of town.  An annoying boy has just moved into the house next door and he thinks he is blind.  Her mother is an author who writes romance novels and she wants Flora to read more books.  But her mother doesn’t want Flora to read comic books.  Unfortunately, Flora LOVES comic books, especially comic books with super heroes.  Flora would really like to meet a superhero.  Ulysses is a squirrel.  He was sucked into a vacuum cleaner.  Now he LOVES Flora.  And Flora...she thinks Ulysses IS a superhero.  Together they have some very interesting adventures.  This is such a sweet and wonderful book.  I never would have thought I would enjoy a book where one of the main characters is a squirrel, especially a squirrel with superpowers.  And while I believe this book can be read and enjoyed by oneself, I feel this book is best shared out loud with a little friend; a friend who loves a good animal book at bedtime.  To learn more about this book visit or

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tucky Jo and Little Heart

Tucky Jo and Little Heart by Patricia Polacco

Five paw prints

During World War II many young men from our country were sent to war after our country was attacked at Pearl Harbor.  Some young men were so determined to defend our country that they lied about their age saying they were older than they really were.  One of these young men was Johnnie Wallen from Kentucky.  When Johnnie heard about what was happening in the world he begged his parents to lie about his age.  He knew he was a sharpshooter (he had always been good with a gun) and he felt he could help his country.  Reluctantly, his parents agreed to lie about his age and soon after Johnnie found himself in the thick of fighting in the Pacific Islands.  It didn’t take long for Johnnie to realize that “there ain’t no glory in war” and he missed his home and family.  After over 200 hundred days of non-stop fighting Johnnie was on reconnaissance when he met a little girl from a nearby village.  She didn’t say anything, but she did help Johnnie calm down about where he was, and he decided he was going to do everything he could for her and her village.  Life for Johnnie, now called Tucky Jo by his young friend, was going as well as could be expected until the day the enemy came back to the island where he was stationed and where Little Heart, his name for his friend, lives.  The United States Army decided to relocate the soldiers from the island and fire bomb EVERYTHING!  What would Johnnie/Tucky Jo do...follow orders or save his friend?  This story, based on real people and events, is extremely moving.  I refuse to describe this book as “good” or “great” because I don’t like to use these words when describing war.  But it is definitely a book worth reading.  To learn more about the real Tucky Jo visit  To learn more about World War II visit or  Please remember that war is not “glorious” and these websites should be visited only with permission from a parent or guardian.  A website that you can visit without an adult would be  Finally, if you are related to a World War II veteran you can visit the National WWII Memorial website at to type in the name of a veteran and learn more about him or her.

Raymie Nightingale

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Four paw prints

Raymie is a girl on a mission.  Her father has left her and her mother to be with his new girlfriend.  Raymie is determined to encourage her father to come home.  She is convinced the only way to do this is to enter and win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition.  Raymie is also convinced that to win the competition she needs to learn how to twirl a baton.  While at baton twirling lessons Raymie meets two girl named Louisiana and Beverly.  Unfortunately they are also taking lessons in the hopes of winning the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition.  Though these girls are completely different from each other, through some unusual circumstances they become unlikely friends.  But can their friendship last through the competition and will Raymie be able to make her father come home?  Now I must say I did like this book; but I’ll admit it’s not my favorite book by Kate DiCamillio.  I liked the girl, I liked the “adventures” they did together, and I really felt for each of the girls and the problems they were experiencing in their lives.  I even read this book in one day because I did really enjoy it that much.  So, why isn’t it my favorite book by this author?  I really felt like the story ended too soon.  I want to know what happened to the girls after the competition.  But, I think the book was written this way to make you wonder.  And that’s OK too.  To learn more about Kate DiCamillo and her books (including my favorite The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) visit

The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created A Holiday Tradition

The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created A Holiday Tradition by Chris Barton and illustrated by Cathy Gendron

Five Paw Prints

Shhh…  I have a secret to tell you.  You probably know that many girls and women love dancing especially ballet.  But did you know that many boys and men like ballet too?  It’s true and while you may not have heard of Christensen Brothers, they helped create yearly family traditions for our entire country.  So, who are the Christensen Brothers?  Willam, Harold, and Lew were three brothers who grew up in Utah in the early 1900s with a family that owned a dance school.  Whether they wanted to or not, dancing was in the family and they all became dancers.  One of their favorite types of dancing was ballet.  They ended up with the San Francisco Ballet during World War II, but due to the war, there wasn’t any money to maintain a proper ballet program.  The San Francisco Ballet Company was at risk of going out of business.  The brothers decided to have the dancers perform the full production of The Nutcracker.  Not only was the production successful, but it led to other dance companies doing their own productions every December.  Who would have thought that three boys from Utah could change the ballet world in the United States?  I really did love this book for a few reasons.  I love seeing a well done theater production, I love history books, and I especially love that this is a dance book that’s about BOYS!  I’ve read many books with dancing but very few with boys.  I especially like that these boys didn’t continue dancing as adults because they were forced to dance by their family, they danced because they truly enjoyed dancing and wanted to share that love and talent with others.  To learn more about the San Francisco Ballet visit or  To learn more about the Christensen Brothers visit or

Friday, September 18, 2015

ALLY-SAURUS & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey

ALLY-SAURUS & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey

Five paw prints.  Ally is a little girl who LOVES dinosaurs.  She has toy dinosaurs, wears clothes with dinosaurs, her bookbag has a dinosaur, and she loves to play as a dinosaur.  She is very excited to go to school on the first day to (hopefully) meet other dinosaurs like her.  There is just one problem, the other girls she meets all LOVE princesses.  Just when Ally starts to think she may never have a “dinosaur” friend she meets other children who are just as unique as she is and she realizes school might just be OK after all.  I really loved this book.  I’ll admit, I have my own Ally-saurus at home and not all little girls want to be princesses.  Throughout the book you see Ally as she imagines she would look as a dinosaur.  As Ally gets to know other kids in her class you start to see how those students imagine they look as dragons or aliens or anything else imaginable.  To learn more about author/illustrator Richard Torrey and to discover more of his books please visit  You will be glad you did.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Danger in the Darkest Hosue

Danger in the Darkest Hour by Mary Pope Osborn

Four paw prints.  The tree house is back and Jack and Annie are ready for a new adventure.  But, when they start their newest adventure they didn’t realize how much danger their lives would be in.  They land in England on June 5, 1944 and they are asked to enter France at night by an illegal parachute drop.  It’s World War II and Teddie has asked them to find and rescue Cathleen from inside Nazi occupied France.  This is an extremely dangerous job, probably their most dangerous job ever, and if they fail Cathleen could die.  Now, I usually enjoy all the Magic Treehouse Books, but I have always felt a little frustrated when the story ends.  The stories always feel too short to me and I want more.  Luckily, this is Magic Tree House Super Edition #1.  It is longer and more in depth and I’m sooo excited.  This has been by far my favorite Magic Tree House book in the series.  It probably helped that I love historical fiction, especially from World War II, but I already wanted “more” from this series and this book definitely didn’t disappoint.  To find more Magic Tree House fun, visit

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Schools of Hope: How Julius Rosenwald Helped Change African American Education

Schools of Hope: How Julius Rosenwald Helped Change African American Education by Norman H. Finkelstein

Four paw prints.  In the early 1900s it was very difficult for an African American child to receive a good education in the southern United States.  Actually, it was difficult for African American children to receive any type of education. Booker T. Washington saw the lack of education as a huge problem since the lack of education meant a lack of opportunities.  Mr. Washington worked with older students in advance studies, but there was nothing in place for the youngest of children.  He tried to get people with money, power, and influence to help with this problem without much luck.  But his luck changed when he met Julius Rosenwald.  Julius Rosenwald was a very unlikely friend to the cause of educating African American children in the South.  Julius Rosenwald was a rich Jewish man from Chicago who happened to be the CEO of the Sears Roebuck Company. He was EXTREMELY wealthy, and he believed in the philosophy of "live to give".  He wanted to use his money to help as many people as possible. But he had one important requirement if you wanted his money and help; the person or group requesting help needed to help, too.  If a community wanted a new school, then the community had to help raise money and help build the school.  This became a huge opportunity for poor African American families to give their children the education that they never had.  These schools were built over decades. By the time the last school was built, over 5,000 schools had been built where there were once no opportunities, and ALL of Julius Rosenwald's money was gone.  And that's just what Mr. Rosenwald wanted to happen.  This is a fascinating story because when history is taught in school, teachers barely have enough time to teach basic historical facts like “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, and “why”. It is extremely difficult to get to the “how” in history.  We need more authors and illustrators who take the time to teach us about these important events because if they don’t, we may lose the history that helps to make our history so interesting and wonderful.  To learn more about Julius Rosenwald and his schools visit,,, or


George by Alex Gino

Four paw prints.  George has a huge problem.  George looks like a boy to everyone around her.  But George KNOWS she is a girl.  She feels uncomfortable in boy clothes, she loves to read teen girl magazines, and she really wants the lead in the school play.  But the 4th graders are doing the play Charlotte’s Web, and the lead is Charlotte the spider...  Charlotte the FEMALE spider.  George doesn’t know what to do.  She doesn’t know who to talk to and tell her concerns.  Her teacher won’t let her try out for Charlotte, her mother doesn’t want her reading magazines for girls, her brother is “all boy”, the boys in her class make fun of her of being too “girly”, and she’s afraid to say anything to her best friend Kelly out of the fear of losing her.  It’s getting harder for George to be someone she isn’t, but it might just be too hard to be who she really is.  I didn’t know what to expect when I first started this book.  I had never read a book about a transgender student aimed for younger students.  I was very worried that it wouldn’t be very good and it would be too mature for younger students.  My only concern is that it may still be a little too mature for those Grade 3-7 students the book is intended for.  I would have prefered everything in the book remain the same but put George in 6th grade instead of 4th grade.  Then I would prefer to see the book aimed for students in grades 5-8.  This way the book is still aimed at upper elementary students, but not the younger students.  I think students reading this book need to have a little more maturity before tackling this subject matter.  I know MOST though NOT ALL of the students I work with wouldn’t be ready for this book unless they were a little older.  But I’m happy to admit...I really loved this book and I had a hard time putting it down.  To learn more about the author Alex Gino and to find resources related to transgender issues, please visit  (Please be aware, this review is based on an uncorrected proof copy of George.  George is not expected to be released to the public until August 2015.  There may be some changes to the final book at this time.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution

Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

Five paw prints!  When the American colonists decided to rebel against British rule in the hopes of becoming an independent country, many men left their homes to join General Washington and the Continental Army.  Most of these volunteers were young men and older boys.  There was one important exception to this unwritten rule and his name was Christopher Ludwick.  He was born in Germany, learned to be a baker, spent time in the Austrian and Prussian armies, and eventually settled in Philadelphia and married.  In Philadelphia he became a successful and generous baker.  When the American Revolution began he wanted to help defend the new country he loved.  Some people thought he was too old to help the Continental Army, but George Washington had a special job that only Christopher could do.  Not only would Christopher become one of the main bakers for the entire Continental Army, but Christopher could speak in German to the soldiers who were hired by the British king to fight the colonists.  As a result, many of these Hessian soldiers decided to change sides and join the Continental Army.  Christopher Ludwick is a little known American hero who more people should learn about.  This book is now one of my all time favorite non-fiction picture books.  I had never heard of Christopher Ludwick and I’m so happy to know about him now.  He was such an interesting and generous man, and more students should and could learn so much from him.  And the wonderful.  Who knew gingerbread illustrations could be used to help tell such an important story?  To learn more about Christopher Ludwick visit (families...please be aware this is a Philadephia newspaper website, articles are always updated and you may want to review materials carefully with your child) or for students who like a challenege try and finally you could visit  It will be well worth the visits.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan.

FIVE STARS!!!  The website defines music as an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.  This is the perfect description of the book Echo.  This story is about seven children who live in different parts of the world during different time periods.  The bulk of the story revolves around the lives of Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy.  Each of the children has a special musical gift, but each has a crisis within their families that risks these gifts.  The one thing they have in common is a harmonica that may or may not be magical.  This is by far one of the best fiction books I have read in a very long time.  I’ll admit that I love music and that may be one of the reasons why I was so drawn to this book, but I really believe anyone (musical or not) would truly love this book.  Between the music references and the World War II history, I had a very hard time putting this book down.  At almost 600 pages I still read this book in less than three days.  I know the size will look intimidating to some, but just give it a won’t be sorry.  To learn more about harmonicas visit or  To learn more about Pam Munoz Ryan and her books visit

Thursday, May 21, 2015

enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings

enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess and illustrated by Kris DiGiacomo

Four paw prints.  In October of 1894 a baby was born to a family in Massachusetts.  He was named Edward Cummings after his father, but his family called him Estlin.  It was the dawn of a new century and there was new art and technology all around the world to fascinate a young boy. But, with everything around him, he was still interested in simpler things like birds and nature. Even at a young age he would describe what he saw and how he felt in such a beautiful way that his mother started writing his thoughts on paper when he was only three.  He graduated from college with a degree in literature, but before he could really concentrate on his future career he joined the military where he was sent to France as an ambulance driver during World War I.  After the war he remained in France for a few years, but when he was done experiencing Europe he moved back home.  He settled in New York City where he began writing.  He experimented with different forms of poetry.  Some people didn't know what to make of his style, but many people loved his new style of expression.  As time went on he went from being known as Estlin Cummings to e. e. cummings, one of the most famous and influential poets in 20th century America.  I'll admit, this book left me a little confused.  I loved the story and I loved the illustrations, but I had a hard time understanding the poems.  But, I enjoyed the book so much that I now want to learn more about e. e. cummings and isn't that what a good book should do?  If you are interested in learning more about e. e. cummings (like I am) then visit or  These websites are not as "kid friendly" as I would like, but they are a good start.