All things literacy — Authors, Books, Connections . . .

Friday, May 03, 2019

Making Connections: She Persisted... (Chelsea Clinton & More)

making connections
Love it when books lead from one to another and the connections begin to tie the threads together.  After reading Chelsea Clinton's She Persisted Around the World, I quickly connected to several books about Wanari Maathai and then to a reissue of Pat Mora's A Library for Juana, and while looking at Clinton's other books I realized she has a forthcoming title Don't Let Them Disappear, which lead me directly to revisit a classic title by Bill Martin Jr., and Eric Carle, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do You Hear? - follow my connections path here...
I usually eschew celebrity books but have found a few gems among celebrity books - among them books by Jamie Lee Curtis, and Harry Winkler to name a couple.  Now Chelsea Clinton can be added to that list as while she is not the most engaging in terms of writing style (she's certainly okay) she makes up for it in such interesting subjects and tidbits.  All in all she is an interesting writer ... .
Cover for She Persisted Around the World by Chelsea Clinton
Clinton came up with a diverse and interesting group of women for She Persisted Around the World: 13 American Women Who Changed History (Philomel, 2018)  From a 17th century nun (Juana Inés), a Black Canadian who was civil rights activist, a 21st century peace activist from Liberian, an astronomer from the turn of the 19th century… she included some very interesting women.  The only ones with whom I was familiar was Malala Yousafzai (and there are several books about her) and of course, J.K. Rowling.

Clinton included Kenya's environmental activist, Wanari Maathai, and she is a very favorite — there are actually four great picture books about Maathai (all written prior to her death in 2011) - Wangaari Maathai became well known for her project of planting trees in Kenya, and her environmental work in general.
  • Seeds of Change: Wangari's Gift to the World by Jen Cullerton Johnson (Lee & Low, 2010)
  • Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story of Africa by Jeanette Winter (HMH, 2018 reissue)
  • Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola. (Frances Foster Books, 2008)
  • Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli (Simon & Schuster, 2010)
Covers of books about MaathaiI had read those several years ago for an article now available at
Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 but had so many other honors and awards along the way.  Always wished I had as much energy and passion for work.

Clinton's She Persisted Around the World: ... seems much more interesting than her earlier book, She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World (Philomel, 2017). The subjects of that book seemed rather mundane as most were old sages that are often touted out to represent strong women - and seemed dominated by Blacks (a common effort to represent diversity), although Maria Tallchief is included as a Native American, and Sonia Sotomayor as a Hispanic woman.

covers of books about Sonia Sotomayor
Kathleen Krull has an excellent book, Women Who Broke the Rules: Sonia Sotomayor (Bloomsbury, 2015) as does Sotomayor who wrote a book about herself with Lulu Delacre, Turning Pages: My Life Story (Philomel, 2018) - the book is also available in a Spanish edition, pasando páginas: La historia de mi vida, and Jonah Winter who wrote, with Edel Rodriguez, Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx/La juez que crecio en el Bronx (Atheneum, 2009).

cover of Don't Let them Disappear: 12 Endangered Species Across the Globe
I am anxious to read Clinton's 2019 title Don't Let them Disappear: 12 Endangered Species Across the Globe (Philomel).  I think the younger learners will be more interested in that title than in the She Persisted titles.  The Pre-K and Kindergarten and into the 2nd grade or so are always interested on the focus on animals of any type.  I'm anxious to see  how the Don't Let Them Disappear title correlates with Bill Martin Jr's and Eric Carle's classic title Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do You See? (Henry Holt, 1992).  Clinton's title includes the Blue whale, sea otters, and rhinos, tigers, pandas, whereas The Martin and Carle title includes an interesting list of animals - Bald Eagle, a Spider Monkey, a Macaroni Penguin, and a Red Wolf, and the Polar Bear along with a few others - but all endangered.
Cover of Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?
Since the Martin and Carle book do not announce that the animals are all endangered it is a great book to read to 4th & 5th graders and then challenge them to come up with the one critical element that joins them all together (of course it is the endangered designation, but in the process they will find many other connections but never manage to connect all to any one element other than the endangered status - one student usually figures out that is one of the animals and he/she gets the ball rolling.

And there are more connections to make and a lot of research reading to do.  Follow your path.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Being Good With Gizmos and Gadgets

This past week I was ready to introduce Maxine to kindergarten students and hoped they would connect Maxine with Oona.  They did.  They got that both were good with gizmos and gadgets, and each had a problem that they solved by being creative and inventive.  And along the way we had some great discussions about thinking and doing.

You see Oona is a duck, a waddler and every morning she and her friends, Bim, Bam, and Bop went to the pond.  Oona was always last.  And "being last was a blot on my life."  But not to sulk or worry, Oona set out to change all of that.  With the encouragement of her frog friend, Roy, who reminded her that she was good with gizmos, Oona tinkered and put together odd pieces of things she found in the barn and soon she had a gadget and a solution.  A wonderful solution that had her friends celebrating her creativity - OOO-hoolie-hoo!

After reading the story we talked about Bim, Bam, and Bop, and  Indian running ducks.  You see Indian Running ducks have tall up-right bodies and are able to run -- faster than Oona who was a waddler; with her stout body and full-chest, she was always last to the pond.  But she was good with gizmos and was able to make a gadget that would carry her and her frog friend, Roy, straight to the pond.  Her gadget was a hit, solved her problem, and impressed her friends - who clamored to ride to the pond with her.  But most of all we talked about Oona being good with gizmos and gadgets and the fact that she took apart and reassembled parts of other things to make something new that would solve her problem.

A few days later I introduced Maxine to the young learners.
Maxine liked to tinker too.  She took apart things, reassembled them, and made new things.  And when she fell in love with her fish friend, Milton, she thought he deserved a better home than the boring old fish bowl.  So she set out to make one - and she did.  But her real challenge came when her class was going to have a pet parade and march around the school -- fish don't have feet and of course can not march. Maxine loved Milton and was determined to find a way to include Milton in her class's pet parade.  It turns out Maxine is good with gizmos and gadgets too.  

Both Maxine and Oona used their own ingenuity to solve a problem.  And both had special friends who inspired and encouraged them.  Roy gave Oona encouragement and Maxine's love for Milton encouraged her to think creatively.

Soon the young scholars (and perhaps future engineers) were thinking about what they could make.  And with the encouragement of their friends they set out to do just that.
Good books! Good times!  Creating thinkers and doers.

These books get ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ five hearts.

Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. (2019). Bim, Bam, Bop . And Oona. Illustrations by Larry Day. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN-13/EAN: 978-1517903954

Spiro, Ruth. (2018). Made by Maxine. Illustrations by Holly Hatam. Dial Books. ISBN-13/EAN: 978-0399186295

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Be a Citizen Scientist - Counting Birds

Heidi Stemple and Clover Robin have joined their talents to create an awesome book about Frank Chapman who had an idea - that idea was to promote a bird census on Christmas Day to replace the annual hunt that had become a tradition in many communities.  Chapman's idea and promotion of the Bird Count is credited for saving many species of birds.
I wondered what the audience for the book would be - as an adult I LOVED it.  But would the picture book set enjoy it as much.  So one morning I set down to read the book to a kindergartener that hangs around my house before school most days.  He has heard many books since he was a baby and definitely has likes and dislikes.  He LOVED it.  We named birds, talked about geography, talked about counting birds, what identifying birds meant, and learning bird calls, and he wants to count birds. I suggested we start as suggested in the book as bird feeder counters. Well he thought that might be too easy (I'm thinking it is not easy enough.). But we will begin this summer to "practice." And then he thought that his friends in his class will surely want to hear the book. 
We loved learning about Frank Chapman and how one person could make a difference - and the 6-year-old totally got that.The writing is accessible and informative but most of all interesting.  The art is magnificent and showcases Robin's artistic talents superbly.  And how fitting is it that an artist with the last name Robin has illustrated a book about birds?
Anyway whatever happens next, I love having material to get him thinking about being kind and thoughtful (including to birds) developing good citizenship, and being involved in doing something good. Never too early to begin and never too late to start - counting birds and reading.

Read more about the author, Heidi Stemple on her website at  Follow her on Twitter @heidieys and Facebook as Heidi E.Y. Stemple.
Read more about the collage artist and illustrator Clover Robin, on her website at  Follow her on twitter  @cloverrobin; and on instagram @clover_robin, or on Facebook as cloverrobincollage.  

If you have other great books about birds, great field guides for identifying birds, or identifying bird calls or other great collaborative reads please post those suggestions in the comments.

And if you wish to have Quarto Books' great 8 page teachers guide to this book you will find a pdf of the guide on Stemple's website  (a free downloadable guide).

This book gets ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ five hearts.

Stemple, Heidi. (2018). Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends. Illustrated by Clover Robin.  Quarto Kids.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Laura Ingalls Wilder -- a Perspective (Bake Gingerbread Today)

Laura Ingalls Wilder - a Perspective

(Portions of this blog have been published in earlier blog posts).

Today - February 7th is the 152th anniversary of Laura Ingalls Wilder's  birthday in 1867.  She died three days after reaching 90 years of age (Feb. 10, 1957). Anyone who "teaches" these books or reads them with children should be aware of some of the concerns about the depiction of American Indians in these books.  Please check out Debbie Reese's blog and search for "Laura Ingalls Wilder" -- I think you will uncover some very thought provoking ideas.  And another essay about Wilder that must be read is Laura June's Parent Rap "No Offense to Laura Ingalls Wilder" -- you will see that the stories are no better to African Americans either (although less frequent in the text).  See page ninety-eight of Little House on the Prairie.    But better than being a writer, she was a strong independent woman at the turn of the century and beyond.  She cared for her husband, wrote a column for a newspaper, and became a nationally recognized writer -- all because she was the strong woman that she was.  I'll celebrate that, and to honor her I will eat gingerbread...
I did not read the books until I was an adult and I read them from another perspective.  I realized that Wilder wrote with memories of her childhood and with the stereotypical perspective of a 65-year-old woman who had the ingrained attitude toward many people that had developed over a life-time.  Just as she described the prairie lands surrounding her Dakota home with flowers that did not exist there when she was growing up.  The memories of some of the flowers she describes came most likely from visions she gathered during one of her adult visits back home to see her family.  Her books are indeed a look into the pioneering spirit but they also are reflective of the prejudices and attitudes Wilder developed as she matured into adulthood.  The value in her books is a look at the attitude and prejudices that exist during the 1930s when she and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane wrote them. 
The books were written at a time when it seemed acceptable to have a cigar store Indian in front of your store.  And the genocide of 100,000 Native American children was supported by the citizenry of the USA. -- Certainly these attitudes toward Native Americans provided enhancement to any childhood memories and created situations with a lot of hyperbole.

HarperCollins, her long time publisher has put up a list of 10 things one can learn from reading the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder at  Sadly there are other things one can learn from the books as well. She does not treat Native Americans very well in her writings and that is a product not so much of her childhood but of the time in which she lived and wrote.

Consider the following:  
Try the Birchhouse Series by Louise Ehrlich -- or I can suggest others such as Laurie Lawlor's Addie series.

And you may also be interested in this post about LIW's days in Iowa --

Just think about it --

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wilder's books  are definitely fiction -- but do share some very important glimpses of pioneer life.
On Laura's birthday I will celebrate her strength of character with her own favorite cake -- gingerbread.  In her later years she often greeted guests with her well-known gingerbread with a glaze of chocolate frosting and lemonade.

Here's her recipe for the gingerbread --

Laura Ingalls Wilder's gingerbread was
most often served with a thin glaze of
chocolate and a glass of freshly made

1 cup brown sugar blended with
1/2 cup lard or other shortening.
1 cup molasses mixed well with this.
2 teaspoons baking soda in 1 cup boiling water
(Be sure cup is full of water after foam is run off into cake mixture).
Mix all well.
To 3 cups of flour have added one teaspoon each of the following spices:
ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Sift all into cake mixture and mix well.
Add lastly 2 well-beaten eggs.
The mixture should be quite thin.
Bake in a moderate oven for thirty minutes.

Raisins and, or, candied fruit may be added and a chocolate frosting adds to the goodness.
And for Google's take on the legacy of LIW - check out the links on this page

Carolyn Fraser the author of “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder” and editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series wrote an interesting essay regarding the change of the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to one celebrating the lifetime achievement of an author of children's literature  - The Children's Literature Legacy Award.  Read the Washington Post  article at


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Math Connections & Literacy

Integrating Math and Reading

Books - Compare/Contrast - Graphs - Read Alouds

There are a number of great books for integrating math and reading - in today's post we share two ways of doing just that:

1) Reading correlating picture books - and using them to share information about creating math and reading them; and,
2) Reading aloud a math focused title to correspond with lessons on the math concepts.

Reading and Graphs

With any title such as Goldilocks -  you can teach the reading of graphs and correlate with math.
1) Over a period of days/sessions read 3-4 related titles (in this case versions of Goldilocks)
2) Along the way discuss and compare/contrast the versions/stories.
3) Put up a facsimile of the book jacket of each of the books and ask each member of the class to make a line in front of the book jacket cover that they like best. -- a HUMAN bar graph.
4) Use small pictures of each student (I generally took their class picture and made photo copies of it and cut apart the students's pictures and put each set of pictures in an envelope - and pulled an envelope out when needed), and make a large wall bar graph.  Make sure you make the bars with grids to correspond with each book jacket.  Each child pastes his/her picture in the appropriate grid square to collectively form a vertical bar.  A PICTORIAL bar graph.
5)  Make an tissue paper overlay with the same grid and jacket pictures.  Lightly tape it over the bar graph and put a dot at the edge of the top of the last picture in each bar.  Choose a different color for each bar and color the bar in solid.  A BAR GRAPH
6)  Make an tissue paper overlay with the same grid and jacket pictures.  Lightly tape it over the bar graph and put a dot at the edge of the top of each bar.  Connect the dots - it will become a LINE graph.
7) From there you can use the same data to create a circle graph.  Create a circle and dissect it into the correct number of triangular pieces.  Use the same colors as used for the bar graph - each child will color in "their" pie piece to represent the same information as shown in the bar graph and the line graph.

You may not want to do  these graphs all with the same book set; but along the way as you compare/contrast a different set of books you can create the various graphs.
However, don't make the mistake of doing #1 with one set, and only #2 with another etc.  Much of the learning will come with the viewing of the same information in a variety of forms.
So do the human bar graph a couple of  times, then the next time do the pictorial graph.
With each new literature set go one step forward until you do all seven graphs with a literature set.   This connection to the math standards will not be accomplished in one session; or in one week etc.  It is a process that will be revisited over a period of weeks during a semester.

By the time you accomplish the seventh step with a 8th or 9th literature set you will have taught the children the function of graphs and I will guess that each child will understand the function and the reading of graphs.

I've done this with all ages from K to much older students who did not yet "get" graphs. Kids love it - the chance to vote and they didn't even realize that they were learning how to read graphs so make sure you tell them what they have learned that day, "You helped make a bar graph today."  "We learned to read a line graph, ... " etc.

Infusing Math into the day - with Read Alouds

Every teacher should be reading aloud a minimum of five times during a day's studies.  Concerned about being able to carve out time to read aloud - try infusing the read aloud into content area curriculum.  This post's focus is on books with mathematical concepts.
Great books to read aloud can be infused into every corner of the curriculum.  Here's a few of my favorites and links to some additional resources.

Math Books for Young Readers (K-6) - a Booklist

This bibliography features a selected list of books that feature a mathematical concept. Some of the titles are appropriate for use as an introductory text, while others are better suited to reinforce or review mathematical concepts. Some titles are best used when learners have prior experiences upon which the reader can attach the new learning.  For example:  Before reading Calvert’s title learners would benefit from having heard and being quite familiar with several versions of the traditional Rumpelstiltskin folk story.   Some of the books on this list are available on YouTube in recorded versions. Some are uploaded there by the publisher or authorized producers – however, many are uploaded without formal permission and thus are not entirely legal for use and sharing.
  •      Adler, David A. (2017) Place Value.  Illustrated by Edward Miller. New York: Holiday House. (Place Value)
  •      Axelrod, Amy. (1997) Pigs Will Be Pigs: Fun with Math and Money. Illustrated by Sharon McGinley-Nally. New York: Aladdin. (Money)
  •      Baker, Keith. (2004) Quack and Count.  Illustrated by Keith Baker. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. (Counting)
  •      Burns, Marilyn. (1997, 2008) Spaghetti and Meatballs For All! Illustrated by Debbie Tilley.  New York: Scholastic. (Equations for 32)
  •      Calvert, Pam. (2006) Multiplying Menace: The Revenge of Rumpelstiltskin (A Math Adventure). Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing. (Multiplication)
  •     Crews, Donald. (1995) Ten Black Dots. Illustrated by Donald Crews. Illustrated by Donald Crews. New York: Greenwillow. (Counting 1-10)
  •      Demi. (1997) One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale. New York: Scholastic. (Multiplication)
  •     Einhorn, Edward. (2014) Fractions in Disguise: A Math Adventures. Math adventures series) Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing. (Fractions: Simplifying)
  •      Gehl, Laura. (2014) One Big Pair of Underwear. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.  New York: Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books. (Counting; by 1’s; by 2’s)
  •     Giganti, Paul, Jr. (1999) Each Orange Had 8 Slices.  Illustrated by Donald Crews. New York: Greenwillow. (Counting)
  •     Hong, Lily Toy.  (1993; 2017 pb )  Two of Everything: A Chinese Folktale. Illustrated by Lily Toy Hong. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Co. (multiplication)

  •     Hutchins, Pat (1986) The Doorbell Rang.  Illustrated by Pat Hutchins. New York: Greenwillow Books. (Division)
  •     Kroll, Virginia. (2005) Equal Shmequal. Illustrated by Philomena O’Neill. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing. (Equal: Math, art, the law, and team sports)
  •      Long, Lynette. (1996) Domino Addition. Illustrated by Lynette Long. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing. (Addition)
  •      McKellar, Danica. (2017) Goodnight, Numbers. Illustrated Alicia Padron. New York: Crown Books. (Counting)
  •     Merriam, Eve. (1996) 12 Ways to Get to 11. Illustrated by Eve Merriam. New York: Aladdin. (Counting)
  •     Murphy, Stuart J. (2005) More or Less.  Illustrated by David T. Wenzel. (MathStart Series). New York: HarperCollins. (Estimation – more and less)
  •      Murphy, Stuart. (1996) Give Me Half. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. New York: HarperCollins. (Division; fractions)
  •     Myller, Rolf (1962; 1990) How Big Is a Foot.  Illustrated by Rolf Miller. New York: Scholastic. (Measurement)

  •     Neuschwander, Cindy. (1997) Sir Cumference and the First Round Table.  Illustrated by Wayne Geehan. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing. (Geometry)
  •     Pinczes, Elinor J. (1999) One Hundred Hungry Ants.  Illustrated by Bonnie MacKain. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. (Counting by 2’s, 4’s, and 10’s)
  •     Schwartz, David M. (1994) If You Made a Million. Illustrated by Steven Kellogg. New York: HarperCollins.
  •      Scieszka, Jon. (1995) Math Curse. Illustrated by Lane Smith. New York: Viking. (General Math)
  •      Sparagna, Angeline. (2003) A Place for Zero.  Illustrated by Phyllis Hornung. (Math adventures series) Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing. (Zero)
  •      Sturges, Philemon. (1997) Ten Flashing Fireflies.  NorthSouth Books. (Counting 1-10; 10-1)
  •      Tang, Greg. (2004) The Grapes of Math. Illustrated by Harry Briggs. New York: Scholastic.  (Math Riddles)
  •     Walsh, Ellen Stoll. (1995) Mouse Count. Illustrated by Ellen Stoll Walsh. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. (Counting 1-10; 10-1)
For more titles that feature mathematical concepts:

EEG Publishing/  (2007) Picture Books for Math.  Retrieved from

Three Sisters: Betsy, Cindy, & Virginia. (2018) The Best Children’s Books.  Retrieved from

© 20182019 McBookwords.  Permission to reproduce for private/professional use or in conjunction with workshops, seminars at professional /non-profit conferences, or for use as part of classroom activities for graduate or undergraduate students.

If you wish to download a pdf of this bibliography you may do so here