Archive for Nonfiction

17 Women Who Shook the World

Written by Preethi Burkholder

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Today it’s hard to imagine a society that was so misogynist as it was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but recalling the odds that many women overcame to gain the rights to get an education, vote, and run for a political office helps us to appreciate these rights that we consider basic. In 17 Women Who Shook the World, Preethi Burkholder gives an overview of the lives of obvious impactful women like Susan B. Anthony, Mother Theresa, and Oprah Winfrey, but readers also learn about the lives of Emmeline Pankhurst, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Meryl Streep whose lives each “shook the world” in their own, unique ways. This book does not delve deeply into the lives of these women, but it does give a great outline of these women’s lives and how their efforts affected the world. At the end of each of the seventeen chapters, Burkholder writes a summarization paragraph titled, “The Strides She Made,” which gives readers a quick sketch of each woman’s life.

This book is obviously too long to read aloud in one sitting, but it would be a fantastic chapter-by-chapter read aloud for an older elementary class such as second, third, or fourth grades during March, which is Women’s History Month. Burkholder is not only passionate about women’s history, but she also passionately works at motivating and helping women and children. The first portion of 17 Women Who Shook the World has two of Burkholder’s brief motivational writings entitled, “Learn the Secrets for Embracing Highly Effective Lives” and “A 24-step Program for Achieving Your Dreams.” These two essays combined with the main text create an incredibly motivational and informative book. It’s a must-have for any older elementary classroom.

  • 17 WomenTitle: 17 Women Who Shook the World
  • Author: Preethi Burkholder
  • Publisher: Schiffer
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Paperback, 192 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7643-4141-0
  • Genre: non-fiction/biography/women leaders/history

Delicious Vegetarian Main Dishes

Written by Jennifer S. Larson

Illustrated by Brie Cohen

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Ready to cook?  Here is another book in the “You’re the Chef” series.  Recipes include Eggxtra Tasty Bake, Simple Black Bean Salad, Tortilla Tower, Crispy Tofu Sticks, Curried Potatoes and Rice, Who Needs Meat Sloppy Joes and others.  The recipes are vegetarian but not vegan.  The photographs are so mouth-watering that anyone will want to get in the kitchen and start cooking.  The recipes use mostly fresh ingredients and, even though there is an allergy alert in the opening, the recipes are mostly free of those allergy foods.  The author developed these recipes with her boys, so they are plenty kid-friendly.

Every step in each recipe has a diagram of the mentioned cooking technique.  The safety tips and advice about cooking are smart, without talking down.  There are definitions about everything a young cook needs to know: an informational graphic of cooking tools, a diagram with each recipe for the appliance needed to prepare it and a glossary of special ingredients in case a young reader doesn’t know something like cilantro or couscous.  There is an index and a section of other readings and websites.  The reading level is 4.7 making this a very accessible how-to book.  A solid recommendation for those “how-to” units especially if the literacy activity is to make or do the thing described in the book.  The publisher has an additional recipe and other downloads on their website with a log-in: (https://www.lernerbooks.com/products/t/11665/9780761366355/delicious-vegetarian-main-dishes).   The series has several other titles.

  • Delicious Vegetarian Main DishesTITLE: Delicious Vegetarian Main Dishes
  • AUTHOR: Jennifer S. Larson
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Brie Cohen
  • PUBLISHER: Millbrook/Lerner
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Hardcover, 32 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-6633-1
  • GENRE: How-to, Cooking
  • LEXILE: 790, Reading level 4.7

Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire

Written by Roxane Orgill

Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch

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Most youngsters are interested in show business and the movies, but few reading at the fourth grade reading level are familiar with vaudeville or one of the most famous movie dancers of all time, Fred Astaire or his sister, Adele, his dancing partner for three decades. This rich biography, beautifully illustrated, can be a good read aloud book as well as good for children with comprehension at the fourth grade level to read on their own.

Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire is a fascinating biography of people who began their professions at such a young age, readers will find it hard to believe. At a time when child labor laws were nearly non-existent, young Fred and Adele traveled by train with their mother from Omaha to New York City. After more training in the art of dance, they donned costumes and began their careers singing and dancing on stage. They were only five and eight, Adele being the older. Times were so different then. No radios or television existed, and although there were movies, the movies had no sound. People went to the theatre to see live performances by all kinds of artists – jugglers, singers, talking dogs, trick bicyclists and more. That was vaudeville. Fred and Adele were right in the middle of it. They did two shows every day. At the end of each week, they would pack up and travel with their mother to another town to do it all over again. The only friends they had were each other. They couldn’t go to school, but their mother taught them their subjects. Things were not always easy and their careers stuttered when Adele grew into a young lady and Fred, small for his age, was left behind. However, they persevered and went on to be big stars. Adele hung up her dancing shoes when she was still relatively young, and that was when Fred changed gears and moved on to even greater fame.

The back of the book contains further readings, as well as suggestions for listening to recordings of Fred and Adele and a website (www.AlsoDances.net) that is a dedicated Fred Astaire site. There is also a good list of suggested videos. Candlewick Press, the publisher, offers a short author interview at http://www.candlewick.com/authill.asp?b=Author&pg=1&m=actlist&a=&id=0&pix=n&dlisbn=0763621218. The author has a webpage (http://www.roxaneorgill.com/) with some tips on becoming a writer.

  • FootworkTitle: Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire
  • Author: Roxane Orgill
  • Illustrator: Stéphane Jorisch
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6440-2
  • Genre: Biography, Picture Book, Non-fiction
  • Lexile Score: 1040

Celebrating New York

Written by Marion Dane Bauer
Illustrated by C. B. Canga

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Mr. Geo is on the move again in Celebrating New York. This time he is taking a trip to the state of New York. On this visit, he goes to Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls, just to mention a few places. He even goes to the 86th floor, which happens to be the top, of the Empire State building. Many people think of New York City as just a bunch of buildings and skyscrapers, but Mr. Geo shows us that is not the case with Central Park being right the middle of Manhattan. This park takes up several city blocks with carousels, horseback riding, museums and even a zoo. How’s that for city living? Even the site of the World Trade Center is mentioned, along with the new construction of the One World Trade Center.

Celebrating New York is loaded with fun facts and illustrations of not only New York City, but other parts of the state, too.

While written for fourth grade reading, other elementary grades would also enjoy this book. There is also a page of activities, at the end of the book as well. Geography, history and fun trivia facts about the state of New York are all covered in this one book. The author has also included a glossary page as well. Students will develop further reading skills by using Mr. Geo’s trip as a jump start to some further research and discovery of the state.

  • Celebrating New YorkTitle: Celebrating New York
  • Author: Marion Dane Bauer
  • Illustrator: C. B. Canga
  • Publisher: Sandpiper Publishing
  • Reviewer: Cheri Liddy
  • Paperback: 36 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-89781-3
  • Genre: geography, history

On the Slant

Written by Jane Yolen
Photographed by Jason Stemple

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Jane Yolen who has written over 300 books and won numerous awards including a Caldecott for Owl Moon, Golden Kite, two Nebula and Christopher awards, etc., gives readers an insight into how she turned her passion into her career. Of course every one of her works can be read aloud and loved by preschoolers to 2nd graders and clear up to adults.

On the Slant belongs on any reading lists for young authors to learn how to take criticism and make it into a published work or create a work space that enhances the creative juices to overflow. Jane also shares her life story, from her fascinating young childhood where she generated an apartment building newspaper using carbon paper to her first pink manual typewriter. The story continues as the reader learns the secret to her success starts with writing everyday whether it be ideas, stories, or poems regardless if they ever get published or not.

Photographs from her past and present provide another layer of her life, showing baby pictures to more current photographs taken by her son, Jason Stemple. These photos even show how she lives part of the time in Massachusetts, while the rest of the year in Scotland and that the most important part of her life includes her family. This book takes every age reader to a place where imagination and hard work meet. The organized format and straight forward voice keep readers turning each page to learn more about Jane. Be sure to check out her website at www.janeyolen.com to email her with your questions.

  • Title: On the Slant
  • Author: Jane Yolen
  • Photographer: Jason Stemple
  • Publisher: Richard C. Owens Publishers, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Julia Beiker
  • Edition: Paperback
  • ISBN 13: 978-1-57274-978-8
  • ISBN 10: 1-57274-978-4
  • Genre: Nonfiction biography

Reflections

Written by Ralph Fletcher

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Many youngsters wonder how books are created. There are many books on writing, but few are written for the fourth grade reading level. It is a real challenge to write a book that offers comprehension of such a complex subject for the fourth grade level, but Ralph Fletcher has done a masterful job of it without ever talking down to this young audience.

Reflections is really the story of Fletcher’s life’s journey to becoming a writer. He introduces the reader to some of the realities of being a working writer with the story about the manuscript for his first novel and what happened to it. It’s quite a story. His childhood is the foundation of his writing life. Growing up in a family with nine kids gives him plenty of grist for his writer’s mill, especially since his mother taught him to be a true observer of everything around him. And that observation ability became absolutely critical to his writing. Fletcher not only writes about his writer’s notebooks, what goes into them,  and what he gets out of them, but he includes photographs of his notebook pages so the young reader can really see the product. He discusses how he finds his ideas for a wide variety of projects. Youngsters will find hope for a writing future when they see how great ideas can come from the simplest things. Fletcher goes on to give a clear view of the writing process and how important the many steps are to successful writing. As any writer knows, revision is probably the most important and time consuming part of the process, and Fletcher spends some good time on that. This is a very realistic picture of writing as a career, and it is one fourth graders and up will find fascinating.

Fletcher is a prolific writer with many books on writing, and Reflections is not the only one for elementary students. Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out and How to Write Your Life Story are two of his other books that will be of interest to budding writers. On his web site, kids can find Tips for Young Readers (http://www.ralphfletcher.com/tips.html), a wonderful resource. He offers teacher handouts (http://www.ralphfletcher.com/teacher.html) as well.

  • Title: Reflections
  • Author: Ralph Fletcher
  • Publisher: Richard C. Owen Publishers, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • ISBN: 1-57274-858-3
  • Genre: Nonfiction

Fabulous Fashions of the 1960s

Written by Felicia Lowenstein Niven

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Go-go boots, beehive hair and bell-bottom pants!  The fashions of the 1960s were casual, breaking away from the formal looks of the older generation.  This book examines not only the fashions of the era, but some of the social conditions that contributed to styles.  The 60s were a time of change.  Designers experimented with advances in fabrics and other materials such as plastic, vinyl, and even paper.  They used bright colors and bold patterns.  Elements of Africa, Asia and India, as well Native Americans, appeared in clothing styles.  Some hairstyles were bigger than the bouffant of the 50s and some were straight even if a person’s hair was naturally curly.  Men’s fashions were more relaxed, too.  No more hats!  A man could wear a turtleneck sweater or a Nehru jacket and still be fashionable.  Designers got ideas from such things as the Beatles and Woodstock.  This was a time when small boutiques and individuals with artistic ideas could affect what was popular to wear.

An insightful look into how people looked in the 1960s and why.  A reading worksheet could be easily written using the table of contents and chapter subheadings as an outline to demonstrate the skill of writing from an outline as a literacy activity.  The photographs are a good representation of the time.  The book includes a timeline summarizing all the decades of the series, a glossary, a list of readings and internet addresses and an index.  Fun series.

  • Fabulous FashionsTITLE: Fabulous Fashions of the 1960s
  • AUTHOR: Felicia Lowenstein Niven
  • PUBLISHER: Enslow
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Paperback, 48 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-279-2
  • GENRE: Non-fiction, fashion

Hottest Muscle Cars

Written by Bob Woods

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For the reader who likes cars, this is a must-read book. Beginning in 1901 with Henry Ford’s Sweepstakes car, automobile manufacturers have built some of their products mostly for speed. Until 1974, when the gasoline shortage became critical, many drivers sought increased speed, power, and sleek design. One of the best known of the muscle cars was the Pontiac GTO, built for fun as much as for racing. Ronnie and the Daytonas even sang about the GTO. In 1974, Pontiac downsized the GTO, but the style was revived in the 2000s. The 1964 Ford Mustang prompted the rise of the pony car. Powerful and light, it was an instant hit. It went through many changes, but the classic style made a comeback in 2005. Chevrolet has made both the heavy, strong Camaro and the small, light Corvette. Both have gone through many changes and have been popular over the years. The Dodge Charger led the pack for fastbacks. With huge engines and sleek designs, they did amazingly well in races. “General Lee” from The Dukes of Hazzard was a Charger.

Abundant photographs help the reader to know these truly unique vehicles. Useful and entertaining sidebars appear throughout the text.

This volume is part of the “Wild Wheels” series. It has a very good table of contents, glossary, and index. Fourth graders can learn more from the books and websites in the “Further Reading” section. The publisher’s website, www.enslow.com, has a free educator’s guide with numerous reading activities and reference for curriculum standards.

  • Hottest Muscle CarsTitle: Hottest Muscle Cars
  • Author: Bob Woods
  • Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback, 48 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7660-3611-6
  • Genre: Middle grade, Automobiles.

When I Was Eight

Written by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

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Her father teaches Olemaun how to do many things; however, he cannot teach the eight-year-old Inuit how to read because he does not read himself.  Hearing the books read to her by her older sister Rosie is no longer enough. To read them herself becomes Olemaun’s dream. All through the winter, she begs her father to let her go to school far from her Arctic home, but he refuses. He knows bad things about the school that she doesn’t. But Olemaun is nothing if not persistent. After all, her name means “the stubborn stone that sharpens the half-moon ulu knife.” Against his better judgment, he leaves her off at the school in spring when they make their long journey to trade with the outsiders.

When Olemaun first arrives, the nuns strip her of her beautiful hair, her warm clothes, and even her dignity. They call her Margaret and treat her as a slave. When she is finally called into the classroom by a kindly nun, she hopes to learn to read; but the actual teacher turns out to be the same nun who had cut her hair with such pleasure. Instead of teaching her to read, the nun makes fun of Olemaun and puts her in a corner. After that, she takes every opportunity to prove Olemaun’s inferiority, giving her extra chores until her muscles ache. But Olemaun learns as she goes, studying letters before she wipes them from the board and sounding out the words on cleaning supplies. Even being given red socks as punishment and being shut up in the cellar cannot thwart Olemaun from her quest to learn to read.

Readers at the fourth grade levels will treasure this book about Olemaun’s determination to read. The book has the feel of a fairy tale with a wicked stepmother, but it’s all the more powerful because it’s based on a true story. Although the prejudice underlying the nun’s cruelty will likely shock readers with fourth grade reading skills, Olemaun’s ultimate victory will make them cheer silently.

About the authors: http://www.annickpress.com/modules/books/author/356/Christy_Jordan-Fenton and http://www.annickpress.com/modules/books/author/357/Margaret_Pokiak-Fenton

  • When I Was EightTitle: When I Was Eight
  • Author: Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
  • Illustrator: Gabrielle Grimard
  • Publisher: Annick Press
  • Reviewer: Bonita Herold
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978—1-55451-490-8
  • Genre: Social Studies

Angelina Jolie

Written by Michael A. Schuman

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Most people know of Angelina Jolie from tabloid reports, but the tabloids often don’t even get the basic facts correct. So, anyone who wants to know her at all needs to read this wonderful biography, part of the “Celebrities with a Heart” series. Jolie is the daughter of two actors, Marcheline Bertrand and John Voight. Her parents split shortly after her birth, though she did spend time with each of them during her childhood. She was a troubled teenager, experimenting with drugs and self-cutting. Even when she ended that phase of her life, Jolie had a tendency toward self-destruction. For example, she would fall in love with a co-star then lose interest after the project ended. Her acting career has also had its ups and downs. But she is genuinely interested in helping refugees and others less fortunate than she is. Working with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), she has made more than thirty trips to refugee camps throughout the world, shining a light on the refugee situation and helping out where she can. She’s also contributed a great deal of money to this cause and adopted three children from refugee camps.

Fourth graders will enjoy this biography, though some of the details are harsh enough that parents will want to discuss them with the readers. In particular, the conditions, including genocide and rape, in some of the locations Jolie visits may need further explanation. But the author in no way dwells on these subjects. To aid in comprehension and giving added value, the author includes a table of contents, excellent chronology, a filmography, a list of Jolie’s goodwill trips, chapter notes, a comprehensive list for further reading, and an index.

  • Angelina JolieTitle: Angelina Jolie
  • Author: Michael A. Schuman
  • Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-203-7
  • Genre: Middle grade, Biography
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