The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

 

the underground railroadColson Whitehead uses an actual railroad under the ground as the center of the affecting tale of a slave’s s fight to be free. Cora is the lowest of all slaves on the plantation. Living in the hob, where the least desirable and most abused slaves are sentenced to live. She tends one small plot of dirt and grows a handful of her own vegetables. Even this pitiful plot of land is destroyed by a fellow slave. One night Cora takes her chance, and runs, beginning her journey on the train to freedom. With a fellow slave, her journey begins rough, and proves to be a grueling fight to live in peace. Stories of the horrors of slavery are nothing new in our literature, yet this book gets deep into the core of the depraved beliefs that kept freedom from so many people. Slave catchers hunt for Cora the entire book, bent on revenging her betrayal, and ultimately cleansing the world of black people. These horrors need to be read about and thought about, because prejudice is still alive today. This book is a sad journey, you will feel the depths of despair with Cora, but also clutch to hope alongside her. The Underground Railroad is an impeccable work of fiction. Let us all never forget the history before us and work to right the wrongs.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Underground Railroad (Pulitzer Prize Winner) (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel

Train Books for All Ages

Loving all things transportation and trains is a stage or sometimes obsession almost every child goes through. Here are 5 books that range from creative, to informative, to historical. They will feed your train lovers brain, and hopefully inspire more creative play.

Old Tracks, New Tricks by Jessica Peterson

Old-Tracks-New-Tricks-by-Jessica-PetersenBrand new train tracks come home from the toy store. They are ready to play, but the trains like things their way. Eventually the old tracks, the new tracks, and finally the trains, all learn to work together to create new track tricks. This book is a fantastically creative take on train books. The photography is beautiful, and it will inspire creative play in your child. It has talking bubbles, perfect for partner reading with your beginning reader.  I would recommend this book for preschool through second grade, depending on your child’s interest.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Old Tracks, New Tricks

Locomotive by Brian Floca

locomotiveThere are so many uses for this book in a classroom setting. You can use it to show examples of personification and onomatopoeia during a poetry unit. It explains how steam trains work, it can be woven into a STEM unit. Locomotive also explains the expansion of the United States as trains changed our country. It also won a Caldecott. It is an older grade picture book, 3rd through 5th, it is children’s literature at it’s finest.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Locomotive (Caldecott Medal Book)

 

Trains by Byron Barton

trainsThis is a classic, simple picture book for your toddler and preschooler. I love books like this because so much learning is packed into a little book. The story arc follows the train through an entire day, teaching a child day and night. It teaches different types of trains, and the people that keep a train running. It also incorporates rich vocabulary, such as freight, engineer, and caboose. Children build vocabulary through reading. Books with simple words mixed with larger vocabulary are perfect for preschool age children.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Trains Board Book

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold

a boy called batBixby Alexander Tam, nicknamed Bat, likes his routine. One afternoon, his routine is interrupted by an extraordinary surprise. A newborn skunk. Bat’s mother is a veterinarian, and brings home a motherless skunk to be nursed back to health. This small animal, who cannot yet open its eyes, becomes Bat’s whole world. His mission becomes finding a way to keep the skunk forever.  Bat has autism, and relating to others is a challenge. However, connecting to animals is second nature to Bat. The story is told through Bat’s perspective. The author does a magnificent job of showing the reader what it is like to have a brain that processes social and emotional information in a different way. Bat is relatable for young readers, however, he has challenges navigating his world, as most children do. This book can spark important discussion with young readers about autism, and social thinking.  I have always had a compassionate heart for children on the Autistic spectrum, and this book gives a voice to their struggles, and shows their amazing gifts and strengths as well. A brilliantly thoughtful, and important book.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: A Boy Called Bat

 

The Power of Vulnerability

brene brownI just finished listening to the Power of Vulnerability while putting together a puzzle.  The reason I mention the puzzle is because, listening to audiobooks and simultaneously putting together a puzzle is one of my quirky, uncool loves. Guess what? Brene’ Brown kindly just taught me being cool is the enemy of authenticity. So, here I am, authentic as can be. Also, the people who truly love me, find these quirks wonderfully lovable and endearing. Why? Because I am being true to myself.

Brene’s writing taught me more about how to move beyond the hang ups in my head more than any other book in years. I did not want to write about it all, why? Too vulnerable, too much of a risk to write about a book that is so life changing and popular, I could never do it justice. But here I am, showing up, writing, and ignoring all the shame voices that whisper I am not good enough. I am showing up.

I also usually hate self-help books, but this is so much more than self-help. It is scientific research applied to everyday life.  She is brutally honest and hilarious as she shares her own failures and blunders, it makes you want to be her best friend. She gives you permission to be that imperfect best friend, the one that shows up, listens, and gets in the trenches with you. Read this book, and then read it again.

To Purchase on Amazon, click here:

The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection and Courage

 

Black History: Beyond Slavery

 

Somewhere along the way I remember reading about the importance of children seeing African American’s in books not being depicted as slaves. Thankfully, books are being published featuring African Americans contributions to society, art, engineering, and mathematics. Here are five books every teacher and parent should read to a young person.

the-boy-whoThe Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer- The true story of how one boy saved his African village from drought. A child saw his village starving and suffering through a drought. He read books from the library and wondered if a windmill could solve the problem. He built a windmill out of salvaged junk yard parts, which brought electricity, and water to their crops. His story is incredible, and shows children what perseverance and faith can accomplish. It would fit perfectly into a STEM unit.

 

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

planting-the-treesPlanting the Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola- Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize for replanting trees across Kenya. After studying in America, she came home to find her home town had been deforested. She taught the women to plant tree seeds, and nourish the seedlings to maturity. Her story is compelling, she empowered the people of her native country, and restored it’s natural habitat. I love this version, the illustrations are lovely, and it explains her extensive teaching and empowerment of women and children.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai (Frances Foster Books)

mollyMolly, by Golly! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter by Dianne Ochiltree – The cook at the New York City fire department is credited with being the first woman to serve as a Fire Fighter in the early 1800’s. When many men were sick during a snowstorm, Molly saved the day by distinguishing a fire. This is a gem of little known history.

 

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter

FAMILIES of DEEP textWhoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton-  The perseverance this inventor had is unprecedented.  Lonnie Johnson was a child of six children who loved to tinker and invent things while growing up in Mobile, Alabama. He pursued engineering as a career, and successfully worked on space exploration. His passion was inventing, and he never gave up on his dreams. After many setbacks, he invented the super soaker. Don Tate did an incredible job illustrating this story. Tate is a great talent in children’s publishing.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

harlemHarlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson- This book is simply stunning. Florence Mills was a renowned  singer during the Harlem Renaissance. The daughter of former slaves, she faced prejudice after prejudice attempting to launch her singing career. Her life story takes the reader from a shack in Washington DC, to Harlem, London, and New York City. Her direct quotes are included seamlessly in the text, it has a rich cadence, and a powerful story-teller’s voice.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills

 

 

 

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

today-will-be-different

Like most of the world, I loved Maria Semple’s first book, ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette.’ Her first book was such a huge success, I cannot imagine the pressure of writing the follow up. I was determined not to compare the two. I vowed to myself I would read ‘Today Will be Different’ as if I had never heard of Ms. Semple. I truly and fully enjoyed this book, and (not that I am comparing) it is not like her first novel. However, it was authentic, which was satisfying for me as a reader.

Eleanor wants to be better. The day, we meet her she has vowed to be her best self. To be kind, generous, and put together. Then life slaps her in the face and her vow goes out the window. Her husband is acting odd, her child is not behaving, and nothing is working Eleanor’s favor. Eleanor flashes back to her successful career as the creator of a hit television show, and compares it with the struggle of daily life as a mother. I appreciated the creativity and depth of this novel. Eleanor’s back story is told through a graphic novel in the middle of the book. It is sad, but makes the reader gain empathy for her slightly selfish and erratic choices.  This book is unexpected, funny, gloomy, and well done. If you love books set in Seattle, and can appreciate a character with many flaws, give it a go.

To Purchase this on Amazon, click here: Today Will Be Different