November 17, 2017

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History That Bears Repeating: Picture Book Nonfiction │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

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We tell our students that knowing our history keeps us from repeating our mistakes. However, as any historian will tell you, some history is worth retelling because of its lasting impact. Inspirational tales of famous leaders like Gandhi motivate us to take a stand. Pioneers who journeyed without a GPS encourage those who followed in their trail. The tale of how Abraham Lincoln’s killer was found answers the question why he would want to assassinate the President. Fascinating narrative nonfiction satisfies the curriculum while quenching kids’ thirst for a riveting story. The following selections by the editors at Junior Library Guild bear repeating.

Stubby the War DogBAUSUM, Ann. Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog. National Geographic. 2014. ISBN 9781426314872. JLG Level: NE : Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Though dogs were commonly used on the battlefield in WWI, no one ever expected the stray Boston bull terrier who adopted the Connecticut National Guard to become a war hero. Finally selecting Robert Conroy as his master, Stubby stowed away on a military ship bound for France. Upon being discovered, Stubby sat down and saluted Conroy’s commanding officer. Thus, began his exemplary military career.

Visit the author’s website to read Bausum’s story, see her award-winning books, and discover behind-the-scenes snippets of research. A Common Core State Standards discussion guide has been produced for grades four to eight. Kids will be curious about Stubby’s final command post, so lead them to the Smithsonian exhibit. Listen to the author read an excerpt at Teachingbooks.net, though membership is required. For more of Stubby’s military history, see the article at the Connecticut Military Department. Additional resources listed in the author’s Resource Guide are posted in the JLG BTG LiveBinder.

He Has Shot the PresidentBROWN, Don. He Has Shot the President!: April 14, 1865: The Day John Wilkes Booth Killed President Lincoln. (Actual Times). Roaring Brook. 2014. ISBN 9781596432246. JLG Level: NE : Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Who knew on the morning of April 14, 1865 that there would be more action on the Ford Theatre stage than was rehearsed? One actor in particular, John Wilkes Booth, wrote his own script and choreographed his every move. Yet his purpose was not to entertain. His role was to kill the president. His master plan included not only Lincoln, but involved a complicated plot that would attempt to assassinate many major elected leaders.

Brown recounts details about the conspiracy to assassinate the top leaders in the United States government. While Lincoln resources abound, readers may want to know more about Ford’s Theatre where they’ll find a video tour, museum artifacts, and an opportunity to create a video about what Lincoln means to them. Teachers will also find lesson plans on the site. Look for primary resources and more lesson plans on the Teaching History site.  At the President Lincoln organization’s site, you’ll find a photography lesson where students will gather research about the fallen leader. Additional resources are posted in the JLG BTG LiveBinder.

Taste for FreedomKIMMEL, Elizabeth Cody. A Taste of Freedom: Gandhi and the Great Salt March. illus. by Guiliano Ferri. Walker 2014. ISBN 9780802794703. JLG Level: E+ : Easy Reading (Grades 1–3).

A young boy seizes the chance to walk with Gandhi in his great march. The British who ruled India required citizens to buy their salt when they could easily harvest it themselves from the sea. The Great Soul, as he was called, proclaimed that steps for freedom could be taken with their simple act of one simple action―the making of salt.

Kids can read more about Gandhi at Pitara.com or watch videos of the Salt March on Shelf3d.com where they can even select a different language. Teachers can tap into kids’ interest in the story with the Wonderopolis lesson, “Are You Worth Your Salt?” which includes a three-minute video from National Geographic, links to experiments, and a Wonder Word Challenge.

My Country Tis of TheeMURPHY, Claire Rudolf. My Country, ‘Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights. illus. by Bryan Collier. Holt. 2014. ISBN 9780805082265. JLG Level: NE : Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Since 1931, Americans have sung “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” but in England in the 1740s, British citizens sang the same tune, with words to “God Save the King.” In 1795, an anonymous woman wrote new lyrics encouraging leaders to remember the ladies. In 1870 freed blacks sang new verses, rejoicing in their freedom. Through the years, as more freedom was gained, new words left a historic trail to America’s path to civil rights.

Murphy has launched her own music project. Students, choirs, classes, and clubs can submit their own lyrics and performance recording of the patriotic song. Winning submissions will be featured on her website and on YouTube. Read an interview with Murphy on The Storyteller’s Inkpot. Follow her and the illustrator on Facebook. Resources at the Library of Congress include recordings and sheet music of various versions in history.

Voices from the Oregon TrailWINTERS, Kay. Voices from the Oregon Trail. illus. by Larry Day. Dial. 2014. ISBN 9780803737754. JLG Level: A : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3–5).

In 1848, families packed up everything they owned and journeyed 2,000 miles across mostly undeveloped territory. The promise of free Oregon land drove them to face disease, injury, accidents, and death in order to start over. Listen to the voices of the young and old as they describe their passage across the prairies, rivers, and mountains. Will they all survive? Will they stay in Oregon or will the promise of gold in California lead them into another experience?

Filling additional pages with historical notes, Winters provides readers with more details about this historic time period. Supplement this information with weird facts about the Oregon Trail. ReadWriteThink posts a lesson plan using postcards to present research found in an Oregon Trail unit of study. Singing often helped pass the time as the overlanders traveled. Learn about the music of the time from Trailband.com. The Oregon Trail game is now available on Wii.

Additional Resources

Check out our award-winning LiveBinder which organizes all of the above resources. All websites are posted within the LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources are added. Simply go to JLG Booktalks to Go where you will see the LiveBinder main tabs. Each tab is a book title. Under each color-coded tab are gray subtabs with links to media, websites, and other related documents. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Booktalks and resources are also included on JLG’s BTG Pinterest board.

For library resources, tips, and ideas, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com. (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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