With the focus on nonfiction, educators around the country have been asking for direction as they implement the goals of the Common Core initiative. A number of useful guides are available to assist those developing lists of retrospective titles. Librarians and teachers seeking fresh material to enhance their collections can continue to look to Curriculum Connections, and this column, as they move forward.
Each month “Nonfiction Notes” will highlight a few titles publishing that calendar month—books that have caught our eye and display the hallmarks of quality nonfiction: accuracy, cohesiveness, lively writing, and an interesting approach, along with support materials in the form of informative illustrations, primary resources, author and source notes, and lists of further reading. We’ll be on the lookout particularly for books that offer unique perspectives, ask readers to consider multiple points of view, and generate conversation, as well as titles that will encourage more nonfiction leisure reading. On occasion, a fiction title may slip in—one that offers a perfect complement to a nonfiction study.
Here are some of our favorites publishing this month:
Bolden, Tonya. Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty. (Abrams, 2013; Gr 5-10). This year marks the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. In this beautifully designed volume, Bolden tells the story of the document through the events and the work of individuals-citizens, soldiers, politicians, and abolitionists-that led to its eventual adoption. Reproductions of engravings, maps, paintings, and documents, and black-and-white archival photos, as well as the inclusion of well-chosen detailed captions, quotes, and primary sources enrich the text. Don’t miss the photo of Harriet Tubman in her nineties on page 94. See Vicki Reutter’s article “Whiskers, Dreams, and Grave-Robbing Schemes” in this issue of Curriculum Connections for more information about this and related titles.
Brown, Don. Henry and the Cannons: An Extraordinary True Story of the American Revolution. (Roaring Brook, 2013; Gr 2-5). In 1775, outside of Boston, MA, General George Washington fretted as the British occupied the city. Without cannons his troops had little chance against the crown’s soldiers. In stepped Henry Knox, a Boston Patriot and bookseller, who, despite preferring “a good meal to a good fight” was willing to trek 300 miles to Fort Ticonderoga, NY, to retrieve a cache of weapons captured earlier that year. A remarkable story of an indomitable spirit and an improbable winter journey over icy waterways and snow-covered mountains with 58 cannons in tow. Don Brown’s illustrations add information–and a touch of humor.
Bryant, Jen. A Splash of Red: the Life and Art of Horace Pippin. (Random House, 2013; Gr 2- 5). From an early age, Horace Pippin drew–he drew through his school years, his first jobs, in the trenches of World War I, and later, when he returned to the states, but it wasn’t until he was in his forties that this self-taught artist painted his first canvas. Delightfully detailed mixed-media illustrations by Melissa Sweet, winner of the NCTE 2012 Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children (Balloons over Broadway, HMH) and a Caldecott Honor winner, illustrate the book. Historical and author and illustrator notes, complete the volume. Other recent titles offering ample opportunities for comparison to Splash of Red include Done Tate’s It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw (Lee & Low, 2012) and Chuck Close: Face Book (Abrams, 2012) by the artist. Beyond the images, students will want to discuss the distinct challenges these artists faced as they pursued their art.
Fradin, Judith Bloom & Dennis Brindell Fradin. The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery. illus. by Eric Velasquez. (Bloomsbury, 2013; Gr 3-6) In the mid-1800s Oberlin, OH, was a stop on the Underground Railroad and the home of a number of former slaves. This stirring story recounts the rescue of John Price in 1856 from slave hunters by its citizens. Mixed-media paintings, in shadowy deep blues, impart a sense of the danger and clandestine nature inherent in travel along the Underground Railroad. When an Ohio court upheld the legality of the Fugitive Slave Act, the 37 men involved in what came to be known as the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue were jailed. A photo of this remarkable group, as well as author notes, are included.
Halperin, Wendy Anderson. Peace. (S & S, 2013; Gr 2-8 ) What is peace? And how do we have meaningful conversations about it with children? Through a circular text (“For there to be peace in the world…”) and spreads featuring a kaleidoscope of pastel images of children at work, play, school, and home, Halperin explores the concept. Each page incorporates quotes from around the world and through time from Jimi Hendrix’s “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace” to Albert Camus’s “Peace is the only battle worth waging.” Writing extension possibilities abound. Perfect for sharing on International Day of Peace (September 21) or any day.
Stone, Tanya Lee. Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles America’s First Black Paratroopers. (Candlewick, 2013; Gr 6 Up). In this title, Stone, the author of the Robert F. Sibert Medal winner, Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream (2009; both Candlewick), examines the training of and discrimination endured by the African American servicemen chosen under the World War II directive to establish black aviation units. Archival photos and fascinating author notes provide insight into a Stone’s research and what she discovered along the way. You’ll find an interview with the author in this issue of Curriculum Connections.
And don’t miss…Michael J. Rosen’s Sailing the Unknown: Around the World with Captain Cook (Creative Editions, 2012; Gr 2-5). It didn’t take me long to mention a fiction title in this column (and a 2012 one at that), but clearly this picture book is one everyone will want on their shelves when the topic of exploration comes up. The story follows 11-year-old Nicholas Young as he travels with James Cook on the HMS Endeavour. Little is known about the actual boy, who was responsible for caring for the ship’s goat. The text, which takes the form of brief journal entries, charts the ship’s progress and life onboard an 18th century vessel. Natural discussion prompts include point-of-view, exploration, and historical re-creation. Fluid watercolor scenes by Maria Cristina Pritelli take a birds-eye-view onto busy ports, exotic island locales, and the ship’s deck, and readers will enjoy trying to spot this engaging fellow who sports a red-and-white striped jersey reminiscent of another favorite fictional character.
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