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Posts Tagged ‘Martin Luther King’


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The Book Jam firmly believes that if you get a day off from work and school, you should know a little bit about why that day is celebrated. Thus, on today’s federal holiday in the USA, we review two great books (one for younger children and one for the rest of us) and highlight a comic book that all relate to the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Love Will See you Through by Angela Farris Watkins and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport (December 2014) – In this wonderfully illustrated picture book, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. discusses Dr. King’s six guiding beliefs, and how he embodied him in different moments in his life: 1) Have Courage, 2) Love your enemies, 3) Fight the problem, not the person who caused it, 4) When innocent people are hurt, others are inspired to help, 5) Resist violence of any kind, and finally 6) The universe honors love.  This is a great way to discuss Dr. King with the children in your life, and to start discussions about your own guiding principles and what you do to try to live up to them.

March: Book Two by John Lewis (January 2015) – This second part of a SUPERB series penned by Congressman John Lewis and his aide Andrew Aydin, and then illustrated by Nate Powell in a graphic novel form, is a moving portrayal of the USA’s Civil Rights movement of 1960s. Book Two takes off where New York Times bestselling Book One left us — just after the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign led by Mr. Lewis and his fellow students. (We also loved Book One, as seen in previous Book Jam posts.)

March: Book Two follows Mr. Lewis and his fellow Freedom Riders on to buses into the heart of the deep south, to their meetings with Dr. King, and into the offices of power in Washington, DC (culminating with President John F. Kennedy’s). Both books illustrate the brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder the protesters faced.  Book Two also shows the internal conflicts the young activists struggled with as their movement grew. Please read this series (and make sure your favorite younger readers find it) as an important reminder of why the work of Dr. King, Congressman Lewis, Diane Nash, Rosa Parks and so so many others is so important to all of us today. (Fun fact: This graphic novel series is inspired by a 1957 comic book – Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story that inspired Congressman Lewis and other Freedom Riders.)

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Ah summer… A time for young students to swim, to fish, to camp, to be bored and most importantly to read what they want, when they want.  And right about now is the time those of you who know kids spending hours at overnight camps might need things to pack in their care packages.  Since most camps won’t allow candy, we have selected some perfect books for you to include instead — even if the campers in your life are only making it as far as their back yard.

Because we like to highlight great independent bookstores everywhere, we would like to mention The Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont. This bookstore specializes in children’s books and seems the perfect partner for our picks for young summer campers. If your travels take you near Lake Champlain in northern Vermont, please stop in and peruse their shelves; their incredible staff will help you find our picks, as well as many other books that are perfect for you and the young readers in your life.

NOTE: All our picks today are targeted to elementary aged students and tweens.  Our picks for young adults and adults will follow later this month.

Relatively Recent Releases with Adventure as the Theme

Manhunt by Kate Messner (June 2014) – In this third book of the Silver Jaguar Society series, the youngest members – Henry, Jose and Anna head to Paris, with their Jaguar Society relatives, to solve a series of international art thefts. The ensuing complications include that the adults promptly disappear leaving them stranded in Shakespeare and Company (yes, the famous Paris landmark) with a boy they don’t quite trust, that they do not speak French and that they are constantly hungry as they try to recover both the lost art and the missing adults. ~ Lisa Christie

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (June 2014) – I would call this a cross between Mary Poppins (only for the roof top scenes, not the nanny) and The Adventures of Hugo Cabret. This story begins with a baby floating on the ocean in a cello case, who is then rescued and taken in by an unusual and kindly bachelor. Of course, the child services lady does not think the bachelor is fit to care for a girl. The solution? Find the girl’s mother armed only with the one small clue embedded in the cello case. The clue leads the pair to Paris, a variety of rooftops, and eventually, to other orphaned children who can help them. The clue also leads you to an enchanting story. ~ Lisa Christie

Boy or Beast: The Creature from the 7th Grade by Bob Balaban (October 2013) – While I disagreed a bit with the ending because I thought there was a squandered lesson, the humor and storyline are perfect for the middle grade reader approaching puberty or in the midst. Truly just fun. ~ Lisa Christie 

Relatively Recent Releases With Girls as the Star

Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli (May 2014) – What do you do when your LITTLE brother gets all the credit for helping you save your neighbor’s life? Or, when your best friend and the boy down the block don’t quite get you? Or, when you don’t get a part in the community theater play? Why you become the poet Emily Dickenson of course. But then you discover being a recluse is not as easy as it seems. A charming look at life through the eyes of an unique girl. ~ Lisa Christie

Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer Blakemore (May 2014) – This book combines, small town Vermont, McCarthyism, potential Russian Spies, Union troubles and two intriguing kids. Kids will enjoy Hazel Kaplansky – the narrator and girl extraordinaire. Hazel strongly believes in the pursuit of knowledge and truth no matter what the cost, and she loves a good mystery.  So when Senator McCarthy targets a local union in her small Vermont town, Hazel knows it is up to her to uncover the Russian spies. But first, she enlists Samuel, the new boy with a mysterious past, to help. ~ Lisa Christie

Now Some Books that We Know We Mentioned Before —  But We Only Gave Them Six Words and They Deserve More

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (March 2014) – We agree with Publishers Weekly assessment – “Fans of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will find this another delightful lesson in art history.” In this novel, Theodora Tenpenny of Manhattan tries to solve the mystery of a painting she uncovers (literally) once her grandfather dies. It includes her eccentric mother who has spent at least fifteen years doing nothing but completing her mathematical dissertation and consuming very expensive tea.  It also shows how two amazing, but lonely girls can make great friends. And, along the way it introduces young readers to the world of art and the importance of asking for help when you need it.  Not bad for an author’s first children’s book. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Will In Scarlet by Matthew Cody (November 2013) – An EXCELLENT and FUN tale of Robin Hood and his merry men before they became famous.  In this version of this timeless tale, you meet them as a gang of outlaws and watch them find their mission in life.  A superb adventure for any middle grades reader and the adults who love them, or who love English legends. ~ Lisa Christie

IF You Are Worried Kids Will Forget All They Learned in School, A Few More Serious Books…

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell (August 2013) –  John Lewis, the Congressman and man who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., has, with two collaborators, written a memoir in the form of a graphic novel. This book begins with his childhood in rural Alabama and follows Mr. Lewis through meeting Martin Luther King and then his own student activist days in Nashville. The pictures explore how his life must have felt at the time.  The prose explains what he was thinking as each of the momentous moments of his life unfolds.  The 1958 comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story was inspirational to Mr. Lewis and other student activists.  We hope March proves as inspiring to future leaders.  We truly look forward to Book Two. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (February 2014) – Celeste Marconi is 11 and has bigger problems than many pre-teens.  Her country – Chile – is in the midst of being overtaken by a military dictatorship.  Once that happens, her best friend is among those “disappeared” by the General, her parents go into hiding to protect her from their support of the previous leader, and her grandparents send her to far-away Maine to live with her Tia and escape the problems brought by the dictator.  An excellent introduction both to Chile and to all that being an exile entails. ~ Lisa Christie

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson (December 2013) – A true story of one of the boys saved by Schindler’s List. This is a unique entry point into an important story for kids to know. It is also a well told tale. ~ Lisa Christie

 

Older Titles We Highlight Because Someone is Always New to Chapter Books

Frindle or Trouble-Maker or other titles by Andrew Clements – Mr. Clements is a former school principal and his love of kids – especially the ones who end up in the principal’s office – comes through in each of his books. He treats kids with humor and compassion and presents many real world dilemmas in each of his books for young readers. Pick one up and enjoy. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Anything – and we mean ANYTHING – by E.L. Konigsburg – She was truly a superb gift to young readers everywhere. Her books are fun, well-written, humorous and help kids work through the issues they face every day.  Our favorites – The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler and The View from Saturday.  But please discover your own. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Some Series for Kids Just Branching out of Early Readers and Needing Beginning Chapter Books

Calendar Mysteries by Ron Roy – Four young children – Bradley, Brian, Nate and Lucy (younger relatives of the A to Z Mystery kids) – continually unearth problems that need to be solved as they travel the roads and playgrounds of their home town. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Capital Mysteries by Ron Roy – Pre-teens KC and Marshall uncover bad guys and save the world from their homes in Washington, DC.  KC’s home just happens to be the White House. ~ Lisa Christie

BallPark Mysteries by David Kelley – Two kids travel the country attending baseball games (one of their moms is a sports reporter) and solving mysteries. Reminiscent of those original “meddling kids” – Scooby’s gang. ~ Lisa Christie

Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne – This seems to be the original model for this genre. It now bring over 50 titles with the adventures of young siblings Jack and Annie and their time-traveling adventures in their magic treehouse to young readers everywhere. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Great Audio Books for Route to Camp or for Those Kids Who are Reluctant Readers, but Avid Listeners 

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling – This series, broken into seven books of young witches and wizards, is a page-turning tale. Luckily, it is also an amazing audio book narrated by British Thespian Jim Dale. He has created distinct voices for the many, many characters – that is fun for all ages. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan – This set of five books is creating a generation of Greek Myths experts.  It also makes a great family listen in audio book form.  Enjoy the tales of Percy and his friends and their exploits saving the world from monsters. Bonus: You can then continue with the books of Mr. Riordan’s Lost Heroes series. `  Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

 

 

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The Book Jam is of two minds about African-American history month.  On the one hand, any excuse to delve further into books by amazing authors who are African-American (see Toni Morrison) is a reason to rejoice.  On the other hand, we do not want to seem belittling by focusing on African-American history just because it is February.  And, since one of our sons (who technically is Latino) is identifying as a Black boy, we are especially cognizant of the complicated issues this month brings to light.

Martin Luther King Jr.Civil Rights MovementBlack History FactsAfrican-American Soldiers in the Civil WarHarriet TubmanMarch on WashingtonFreedom Rides

We also recognize that as white women, we can not ever know what it is like to be Black in the USA.  However, we believe as recent well-publicized research about reading has shown, good fiction has the power to transform and teach.  So in that light, and, since The Book Jam often features books by or about African-Americans and/or Africa, we are choosing to look at February as another excuse to highlight more great fiction and nonfiction options by and about African-Americans. May we all learn something. 

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kid (2014) – I sincerely hope any Oprah nay-sayers are ready to overlook her pick of this book for her book club.  If you dismiss this novel just because she chose it, you will miss out on a great story. Besides, we honestly believe that any book that helps you understand the day-to-day plight of African-American slaves and the forming of two important American abolitionists is worth your precious reading time.  The narration mostly takes place in Charleston, SC and alternates between the voices of a young woman slave owner and of her young slave.  The prose by the best selling author of The Secret Life of Bees keeps you turning the pages, the characters are interesting, and few of the relationships are simple – which makes you think.  What I most loved about this book — both of the narrators are based upon actual people from history. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Christie

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell (2013) – Yes, that John Lewis, the Congressman and the man who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., has (with two collaborators) written a memoir in the form of a graphic novel. Told in flashback as a story relayed to two young constituents who came to visit his Capital Hill offices on the morning of Barack Obama’s first inauguration, this book begins with his childhood in rural Alabama and follows Mr. Lewis through meeting Martin Luther King, Jr. and into his student activist days in Nashville.  The pictures perfectly explore how his life must have felt at the time.  The prose explains what he was thinking as each of the momentous moments of his life unfolds.  According to the authors, the 1958 comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story was inspirational to Mr. Lewis and other student activists.  We hope March proves as inspiring to future leaders.  We are so glad we found this book (thanks to our town’s children’s librarian), and are truly looking forward to Book Two. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations Edited by Retha Powers and Henry Louis Gates (2013) – Perfect for anyone interested in history, famous individuals or words of wisdom.  Five thousand (although we took the editors’ word for that number and did not count them) quotes are pulled — covering such diverse time frames as Ancient Egypt, American slavery, the Civil Rights Era, Apartheid, and today. With a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and passages from authors, artists, scientists, philosophers, theologians, activists, politicians, this volume places quotes from Aesop’s Fables and the Holy Bible beside the words of Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou and Jay-Z. How many books can claim that? ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

And yes, we reviewed these last year, but we believe they are worth mentioning again –

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012) – As the author himself facetiously writes, please read this as part of your preparation for African-American history month activities. Through truly funny and often painful humor,  Mr. Thurston makes readers think hard about their own racist tendencies.  He even has a focus group, with a token white person, to help him think through many of the items he discusses.  Whether you agree with him or not, for me, any time I am thinking about how I could better interact with the world, I am truly appreciative of the source that started me thinking about improving my actions. Bonus – it makes you laugh. ~ Lisa Christie

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Bradley (2011) – A book for children and the adults in their lives.  In this book, three young slaves, two of them President Jefferson’s own children fathered with his slave Sally Hemings, tell their stories of life at Monticello.  Their voices highlight the contradiction between slavery and freedom, and illustrate the USA’s struggles while the Founding Fathers still lived and worked.  As such, the USA’s history unfolds from a typically unseen perspective. ~ Lisa Christie

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My eldest son and his fourth grade classmates have been challenged by their amazing teacher to memorize a portion of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.  Thus, while I am not writing from the “prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire” or the “mighty mountains of New York“, our house on a Vermont hilltop has been filled this past week with important and familiar phrases. Phrases such as:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

and

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

These immortal phrases, combined with the convergence of the holiday weekend honoring Martin Luther King and President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, have us thinking about race and identity in America. This, in turn, has affected our reading.  So here are some recommendations for those of you who wish to also think a bit more about race, or who just want to read a good book.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012) – I should warn you I am white (as you may have surmised from my pictures on this blog and the fact I live in Vermont, one of the least ethnically diverse states in America). But, I am raising two Latino children; one of whom periodically identifies as a Black man.  So, I picked this up for some insight and I am glad I did. Through truly funny and often painful humor,  Mr. Thurston, of Jack and Jill Politics and The Onion, makes the reader think hard about their own racist tendencies.  Besides the memoir aspects of the book, during which he shares stories about his politically inspired Nigerian name and the heroics of his hippie mother, Mr. Thurston also offers practical advice on “How to Be the (Next) Black President” and “How to Celebrate Black History Month.”  He even has a focus group, with a token white person, to help him think through many of the items he proposes or discusses.  Whether you agree with him or not, for me, any time I am thinking about how I could better interact with the world, I am truly appreciative of the source that started me thinking about improving my actions. In this case, I was also glad for the laugh out loud moments.  As the author himself facetiously writes, please read this as part of your preparation for African-American history month activities. ~ Lisa Christie

Looking for The Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco (2012). Each of the poems in this latest book of poetry by Inaugural poet Richard Blanco takes a particular part of the author’s childhood (i.e., a beach vacation) and uses it to explore the person he is today.  As the poems reveal, Cuban-American, gay man, poet, New Englander, Florida born and bred, are all possible adjectives for Mr. Blanco.  But labels don’t quite capture the entirety of a person.  As the poet himself states that in this book, “I am looking to capture those elusive moments that come to define us, be it through family, country, or love.”  This looking is no small task, and one, as these poems remind us, that it seems each of us, poet or not, tackles in our own way throughout our life.

Besides the honor of being part of today’s inauguration, Blanco has won several awards for his work: the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh for his first collection, City of a Hundred Fires, and the PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award for his second book, Directions to the Beach of the Dead.  If you have not yet discovered his work, or wish to learn a bit about American identity, or want to feel a small part of today’s inaugural festivities, or just want to read a few good poems, pick up this book and enjoy.  ~ Lisa Christie

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama (2004) – This review focuses on the audio version of this book for which our President won a Grammy. (Side note:  President Obama and his producer also won one for The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.) I am truly glad that I finally found the time to listen.  Not only was it fun to have his voice in my minivan as I drove over our snow-covered roads, it was enlightening and thought-provoking to hear how his childhood, his absent father,  his step-father, his mother, his grandparents, as well as important teachers, shaped President Obama’s life.  It may serve as a good reminder that you never know who you will be influencing with your own actions. It may inspire you in its telling of an American story.  But, it is definitely a source of insight into our 44th President as he takes the oath of office for the fourth time today. ~ Lisa Christie

For those of you feeling the need to “attend” an inaugural ball, check out http://busboysandpoets.com/events/info/peace-ball-2013.  This is a bash organized by an independent bookseller in the DC area, and while it occurred last night, we thought it was worth highlighting.  The New York Times also lists it as one of the “hot ticket” inaugural balls – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/fashion/a-list-guide-to-the-inauguration-parties.html?pagewanted=all.  So click away, and enjoy a bit of inaugural festivities on your own electronic devices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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