#Nonfiction Monday The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls

 

Great news for older readers:  author Janet Halfmann has developed her acclaimed 2008 picture book Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story into a new chapter book in Lee & Low’s The Story of… series, The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls, also illustrated by Duane Smith.

Born into slavery in South Carolina, young Robert Smalls worked his way up to the esteemed position as a wheelman on a wooden steamboat named the Planter that carried supplies for the Confederate army. With patience and ingenuity, he developed a plan to take his family on the boat and make a daring run for freedom. Would it work?

To help flesh out the book, Janet Halfmann delved deeply into the history of the Civil War to give background and context to the story. She added sidebars — like the one on slavery in the selection below –to extend the original story. She also  created a timeline, glossary, and recommended reading list.

Boat enthusiasts and budding engineers are going to love the sidebar about the steam-powered boat, the Planter. You can almost hear the hiss of the steam and the slap of the paddles hitting the water.

Janet Halfmann also includes a sidebar with the story of another daring escape to freedom, this time by a young woman who stowed away in wedding chest that was really no more than a large box. Readers will hold their breath waiting to see if she succeeds.

The daring escape in The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls is what will likely initially attract readers, but it is the fascinating history that will keep them reading. This book is perfect for unit on the Civil War or for Black History Month. Delve into a copy today!

Related and Activity Suggestions:

1. Check out the Teacher’s Guide for Seven Miles to Freedom, which has many ideas that can be used with this book as well.

2. Consider a science/engineering project of building a paddle boat. We have some ideas about boat propulsion at Growing with Science to get you started.

3. See Writing and Illustrating blog for an interview with Janet Halfmann about the book.

Age Range: 8 – 11 years
Publisher: Lee & Low Books (February 25, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1643790161
ISBN-13: 978-1643790169

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

#kidlit Nobody Hugs a Cactus, A Way to Talk About Distancing

cactus flowers

Want an adorable picture book the “pokes” a little fun at prickly characters while at the same time being a cute way to introduce the idea of distancing? Then look no further than Nobody Hugs a Cactus* by Carter Goodrich.


(*Amazon affiliate link)

Hank the Cactus sits all alone in his pot on a windowsill and that’s the way he likes it. Whenever someone tries to visit him, he ignores them. Sometimes he even yells at his neighbors, tortoise and jack rabbit. Over time, Hank realizes his lifestyle is making him lonely. Will he ever find a friend?

Carter Goodrich is an illustrator who is known for his covers on The New Yorker, so it is not surprising that it is the art that strikes you first when you open the book. The colors capture the brilliant light of the desert Southwest. Plus, Hank’s expressions range from silly to enchanting.

To gush about the illustrations, however, is not a knock to the text. The story is concise, yet lyrical enough for reading aloud. Kids are going to love the light humor.

In addition to being an introduction to social skills, Nobody Hugs a Cactus would be appropriate to accompany a unit on deserts.  Get a warm, fuzzy feeling from a copy today!

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (April 16, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1534400907
ISBN-13: 978-1534400900

Looking for more children’s books about deserts? Try our growing list at Science Books for Kids.

STEM Friday #Kidlit Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids

Right in time for Women’s History Month we have the middle grade title Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids: Her Life and Ideas, with 21 Activities and Experiments (For Kids series) by Rowena Rae. What could be better than an in depth history combined with hands-on activities to reinforce learning?

Rachel Carson is an amazing woman who is often credited with starting the modern environmental movement. She was a trained marine biologist, conservationist and outstanding nature writer. Her final book, Silent Spring, revealed the dangers of overuse of pesticides to a wide audience.

As to be expected from a middle grade title, the book delves deeply into Rachel Carson’s life. For example, perhaps you may wonder how the author handles the fact that Rachel Carson had health problems and was dying of breast cancer while she wrote Silent Spring? Rowena Rae does not pull any punches. She explains that Rachel found lumps and had a mastectomy. My mouth dropped when I read on pages 88-89 what happened next.

Although centered on Rachel Carson’s love of nature and ecology, Rowena Rae also highlights Carson’s writing process and the power of the written word. For example, she reveals that that Carson worked hard on her early pieces to make sure they sounded good when read aloud.  Then she has the reader explore how to revise their own writing using audio. In fact, several of the activities for children in the book center on writing and honing writing skills.

Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids is another outstanding title in the Chicago Review Press For Kids series. It will appeal  to young nature lovers, history fanatics, and budding authors. Check out a copy today!

Related Suggestions:

Read one of Rachel Carson’s books, such as Under the Sea-Wind, The Sea Around Us, or The Sense of Wonder.

See even more activity suggestions to celebrate Rachel Carson at readwritethink.

Want to learn more? Visit our growing list of children’s books about women scientists at Science Books for Kids, including:

 

Age Range: 9 – 12 years
Publisher: Chicago Review Press (February 4, 2020)
ISBN-10: 0897339339
ISBN-13: 978-0897339339

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.Opens in a new window Note: this is a new link as of 1/2019.

#Nonfiction Monday Wood, Wire, Wings by @kirstenwlarson

Just in time for Women’s History Month we have the picture book biography Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane by Kirsten W. Larson and illustrated by Tracy Subisak.

*****

Emma Lilian Todd loved to tinker. As a child she made a weather vane and took apart a clock. As an adult, she made model airplanes and tested their designs until she was ready to build a real one. Could she achieve her dreams and get a flying machine off the ground?

With text that soars, Kirsten W. Larson reveals the compelling story of a woman whose contributions might otherwise be forgotten. She draws young readers in and establishes the setting with a fascinating collection of inventions made around the time Lilian Todd was growing up. She then cements their interest with details of Lilian’s childhood love of tinkering. Finally, she uses Lilian Todd’s own words to describe what she was thinking during the significant events of her young life.

Tracy Subisak’s lovely illustrations lend just the right amount of airiness to match the theme of flight. At times it seems like young Lilian might fly right off the page. Learn more about Tracy Subisak and how she created the illustrations in a recent interview at Writing and Illustrating Blog.

Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane will thrill young inventors as well as budding historians. It is also a perfect example of how picture book biographies should be done. Check out a copy today!

Related activities:

A book about a maker -tinkerer- inventor begs to be extended with activities.

1. Visit a museum that celebrates the early pioneers of flight.

Glenn Curtiss Museum

2. Make a paper airplane.

Encourage youngsters to make their own paper model airplanes and fly them.

Check our How to Make a Paper Airplane Pinterest board for suggestions.

paper-airplane-pinterest-board3. What better month than windy March to make and fly a kite?

 

 

Age Range: 7 – 10 years
Publisher: Calkins Creek (February 25, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1629799386
ISBN-13: 978-1629799384

Disclosure: The book was provided electronically for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

Also read for the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2020