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


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

The Magnolia Story

When you read about the reigning champions of  Do-It-Yourself, the natural thing to do it create hand poured candles at book club. It was sweet to expand our activities together beyond wine, snacks, and laughs. Here is our lovely club:

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Here is what I thought of The Magnolia Story:

magnoliaThe Magnolia Story surprised me. I was far more inspired and impressed with their family story than I predicted. Most celebrities write books these days, many are hit and miss, in my humble opinion. However,  Joanna and Chip write from their hearts. They tell their simple story, driven by a desire to invest their lives into Waco, Texas. They are much like their television persona: honest, driven, and goofy. I have always had a need to do things with my hands, to create, to grow seeds into food, to nurture children. I did a lot of soul searching thinking about a career move; at the root of some my dreams was creating with my own hands. Joanna and Chip echo the same desires, to help people with their hands. To build, remodel, create, and design. I liked walking through the ups and downs as they pursued their passions. They are not pushing anyone to be like them, or take on their values, they are simply doing their dream. I enjoyed reading about two people living and loving imperfectly, but doing their best to give back and give grace.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Magnolia Story



3 Books for Winter Weather

Shakespeare said, “A sad tale is best for winter.” In Seattle, we have endless days of gray and rain in winter.  It is perfect weather for book steeped in a bit of melancholy. These three books have a touch of sorrow, but do not leave you devastated. Two out of three have a happy ending.

the-snowchildThe Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey– A young married couple moves to rural Alaska to homestead. Their plan is to endure the winter, in order to farm through the summer of never setting sun. They long for a child, and that has left a rift in their marriage. One evening, in a moment of renewed friendship, the husband and wife build a little snowman in the fresh Alaskan snow. The husband begins to see small footprints in the snow, and imagines the child has come alive. Part magical realism, this is a novel that envelopes it reader. The storytelling and world building is so rich, time melts as you read. It also has a happy ending.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Snow Child: A Novel

russian-winterRussian Winter by Daphne Kalotay- Oh, this book made time pass so quickly. The book opens in Boston, a former star ballerina is selling off her jewelry. The auction of her possessions brings up memories of her past.  Her life as a prima ballerina, and dark secrets that caused her to flee Russia as it came under Stalin’s power. This story is engrossing, the end comes full circle with a satisfying ending.


To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Russian Winter: A Novel

i-will-send-rainI Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows- Drought, dust, and dirt as far as anyone can hope. Oklahoma farmers Annie, Samuel, and their children Birdie and Fred, wait desperately for rain. Each member of the family carries their own secrets and longings. They are all weighted down by the shadow of the fire and brimstone preaching they hear every Sunday in church. Is the drought the result of their own unbelief? Is God pouring out his punishment in the form of scorching sun? You can feel the dirt in your hair and eyes as you read. The writing is stunning and the story is moving. A perfect winter read.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: I Will Send Rain: A Novel


The Best Five Books of 2016

I finished my reading goal of 52 books a year in 2016. Reading time is precious, and no one wants to waste it on a book you have to fight your way through. I was moved by each of these works. I savored the feelings the pages brought to life, or what I pondered as I read. May your reading be worthwhile and fill you will joy and wonder in the New Year.

homegoingHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi– Homegoing is a powerhouse of a novel. It spans hundreds of years of history. It begins in Africa as slaves are shipped from the Cape Coast, to life on southern plantations, and ending in poor Harlem. I thought about all the ways we are enslaved, through our own thoughts, emotions, through addictions, bitterness or anger. Even after the characters were freed, they were enslaved by these things until they worked those shackles off as well. This is a work of impressive fiction.

To Purchase on Amazon, click here: Homegoing: A novel

avalavender__spanThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton– I love to imagine life in old Seattle at the turn of the century.  This book let me wander through a barely settled rainy Seattle, with strong and beautiful characters. I love a good tragedy, I long for books that captures the longing of the human heart. I also love odd, and this story was wonderfully quirky as well. If you only like happy books, stay away. If you love rich writing, exquisitely woven settings, with twists and a little sadness, you will savor Ava Lavender and her beautiful sorrows.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Fish in a treeFish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt– I have taught for many years, and my heart has always been for the children for whom learning does not come easy. The main character has dyslexia, and has carefully hidden her inability to read.  I believe when one person understands our struggle, it makes it a little easier to carry. I loved this book, because it provides a voice of understanding for those who struggle to learn.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Fish in a Tree

up to this pointeUp to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo– When a ballerina in San Francisco has her life plan derailed, she does what most would never do, goes to Antarctica. I loved the dual settings of this book. The love story was believable, but not sappy, contrived or predictable. It combined science, history, and a fun story. Light hearted, and well written, I enjoyed the journey. A little bit, Where’d you go Bernadette without the zany breakdown.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Up to This Pointe


the readers of broken wheel recommendThe Reader’s of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald- I live to find books about book lovers. Two bookstore owners from opposite sides of the world (Sweden and Iowa) become book sharing pen pals, and meet in Iowa one summer. When a swedish book worm lands in a small Iowa town, no one knows what to do with her. They finally find common ground with, you guessed it, books. I was sad when this sweet and charming book was over. This is the happiest little tale of friendship, and I devoured every word.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend