Meet Clemantine Wamariya

The Girl who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

the girl who smiled beadsClementine has written a deeply moving account of her life as a Rwandan Refugee. At six years old she survived the genocide in Rwanda. For years, she lived through conditions that would break any human in two. The book travels back and forth from Clemetine’s adult life to her childhood in Africa. I learned so much about the roots of conflict and the ripple of devastation it spread. Clementine’s description of her feelings,  how she wrestled with the residual trauma are beyond moving. Without empathy for what others have suffered, we cannot treat others with compassion and kindness. I was gripped with sorrow, and amazed at the author’s fighting resilience.  This memoir is necessary and worth every moment. I am thankful she was brave enough to put this story into words, and I am thankful I read every one of them.

To Watch more about her life, watch her TED Talk:

Ted Talk

Look for this title at your local book store withIndie Bound

Best Books of 2017

My Favorite Books of 2017

eleanor Oliphant is completely fineBest Overall Character: Emily Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman– Emily is the most real, quirky, and charming character I have read in a long time. She has been through very difficult circumstances, and we meet her just as she is beginning to step out of a safe, but isolated life. I was moved, laughed, cringed, and cheered for her the whole way through.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel

the other einsteinBest Historical Fiction: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict– Did you know Albert Einstein’s wife was also a genius mathematician and physicist? This is a riveting and heartbreaking story of their love affair. It was fascinating.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Other Einstein: A Novel


wishtreeBest Middle Grade Novel: Wishtree by Catherine Applegate– Told from the perspective of a tree, the history, heartache, and hope of a little town is revealed by one little tree. Beautiful, imaginative, and wonderful.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Wishtree


when dimple met rishiBest Sophisticated Brain Candy: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon– When Dimple heads to Standford for a summer program, she has no idea her traditional Indian parents have betrothed her to another student in the program. Calamity ensues, and it is funny, sweet, and light. Sometimes you just need a light read, this is it, but well written.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: When Dimple Met Rishi


a long walk to waterBest Non-Fiction: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park– A simply stunning novel about the lost boys of Sudan. Everyone should read this book, and teachers or parents of 4th graders and up should add it to their read aloud list.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story

like water for chocolate

Best Re-Read: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel- This was a book club pick, I had read it in college, and loved reading it again. It is passionate, tragic, and beautiful.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies


born a crime

Best Celebrity Novel: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah– Ever since the success of Tina Fey’s book, it gave license for nearly every celebrity to write a book. Most are not my favorite.  However, I learned a lot from Noah’s book. You will learn a little about slave history, apartheid, and hear Noah’s powerful life story.  A solid read, but not too challenging.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

2018 To Be Read List: (So Far) 

Peace Like a River by Lief Enger

Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary by Martha Brokenbrough

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

I was humbled to learn I was completely unaware of the history of the Orphan Trains in the US. In 1850, there were 30,000 homeless children in New York City. In an effort to help these children, they were put on trains and taken to live on farms in the midwest. From 1853 to the early 1900’s thousands of children were relocated, this movement is credited with starting the Foster Care System. You can read more about the history here:

Childrens Aid Society


Photo credit to the Childrens Aid Society Website

orphan train book coverOrphan Train, the historical fiction novel set in this time period is outstanding. We meet three characters, Neeve, an orphan in 1929, Molly, aging out of the modern day foster system, and Vivian, a 90 year old woman who Molly is placed to serve community service.  Their stories fit together perfectly, their struggles are different, but also a mirror image of one another. Each womans life is rich with emotion, perseverance, and redemption. A perfect historical fiction novel. The Audiobook was fantastic, I think it added to the book because of the characterization through different voices.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Orphan Train

To Purchase the Audiobook, click here: Orphan Train: A Novel

7 Incredible Women in History

Women’s history month just ended, so now is the perfect time to keep teaching and reading about women. Here are seven engaging picture books about women who discovered, pioneered, and pursued their dreams. Read them all! 

The House that Jane Built by Tanya Lee Stone

house that jane built_Jane Adams’ story is inspiring to adults as well as children. She grew up wealthy, yet she used her wealth to build a safe place for poor families and children.  She provided food, work for immigrants, and schooling for teenagers with day jobs. This is a wonderful book to show children how to give, and think of others. I never knew of her influence and contributions, I am glad I know now.

To Order this Book on Amazon, click here: The House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Addams

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle 

summer birdsMaria Merian was the first person to discover and explain butterfly metamorphosis to the world. In her era no one, especially a woman, studied insects. Her drawings and research changed the medieval way of thinking about nature. This book is poetic, and combines science concepts into a biography.  The back story about her life at the end enriches the reader’s experience.

To Order this book on Amazon, click here: Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian


Sewing Stories: Harriett Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist by Barbara Herkert

sewing stories_Harriett Powers was a slave in Athens Georgia. She became a renowned quilter when a school teacher saw her quilt at a fair and offered to buy it. The teacher wrote down the stories Harriett had represented on the quilt to display in a museum. Today, Harriet’s quilts hand in the National Museum of American History in Washington DC. The story is engaging, and there are facts printed on quilt squares throughout the illustrations to give more details. Sewing Stories is a powerful story and stunningly designed book.

To Order this book from Amazon click here: Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist


Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle

drum dream girlDrum Dream Girl is about Cuba’s first famous female drummer. She broke the outdated rule that only men could be drummers. The book is rhythmic, poetic, with a beat suitable for an engaging read aloud. The illustrations are vividly colorful and alive with movement.

To Order this Book on Amazon, click here: Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music


The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller

the quickest kid in clarksvilleClarksville is the hometown of the great Wilma Rudolph, the Gold Medalist from the 1960 Olympic  games. In this book, two girls are competing to be the fastest runners, just like their hero Wilma. The girls learn about strength and friendship in this fictional picture book. The back of  the book features pictures of Wilma in the Clarksville Parade after her win. The connection from present day hero to history is well done.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Quickest Kid in Clarksville


Mary Cassatt- Extraordinary Impressionist Painter by Barbara Herkert

mary cassatt_This is a lovely account of the Mary Cassatts life and striving to become an artist. It was not acceptable for women to paint, and she received harsh reviews of her first efforts. She kept painting, and keenly observing life in order to capture it. The illustrations are done in Mary’s own style of painting. This is a lovely book to launch a lesson on Cassatt and her work.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Mary Cassatt: Extraordinary Impressionist Painter


Nothing But Trouble- The Story of Althea Gibson by Sue Stauffacher

nothing but troubleAlthea Gibson was the first Africa American woman to win Wimbledon. Her story is so powerful, she was discovered on the streets of Harlem hitting hard and accurate ping pong balls. A few people saw her athletic talent, and invested in her life and future. She learned to play tennis, and worked very hard against many racial barriers to win Wimbledon. She is a woman all children should know about.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson