March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

From Diversity to Civil Rights | Nonfiction Notes, August 2013

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The diversity of America’s peoples and their struggles for civil rights feature prominently in this month’s column.


Ada, Alma Flor and F. Isabel Campoy. Yes! We Are Latinos! (Charlesbridge; Gr 4-8). illus. by David Diaz.
Twelve narrative poems tell the stories of children and teens living in the United States. The first-person entries all begin in the same way with the narrator’s name, country or culture, current home, followed by “I am Latino/a.” The characters hail from a variety of nations (Puerto Rico, Peru, etc.) and identify with diverse cultures (Zapotec, Sephardic). Several children claim mixed ancestry, such as Lili who is Chinese and Guatemalan. The poems bear witness to lives uprooted, families separated, pride in culture, and friends reunited in a new land. Each poem is followed by a nonfiction entry. For example, Mónica from El Salvador tells the story of a father who “went North” and how the family, which now resides in Houston, TX, was reunited. This poem is followed by a brief history of “Latino Immigration to the United States.” Through Mónica’s story, and her father’s reaction to the word “illegal,” readers will also learn that “undocumented” is the preferred term when referring to someone who does not have U. S. citizenship or the documentation to live in the country. A well-researched, poignant volume. The woodcut illustrations by David Diaz are superb.

The Animal Book: A Visual Encyclopedia of Life on Earth.(Smithsonian/DK; Gr 3-7).
Don’t let the title mislead you—this striking compendium covers microscopic, plant, and animal life. Interspersed among spreads detailing in text and images the varieties of bacteria, crustaceans, ferns, and turtles, are stunning double-page close-ups of fungi, the Venus Flytrap, a Barred Owl, African Elephants, and other forms of life. Captions and notes highlight features and the more than 1,500 specimens and species in the book. Next time your students need visual guides to conifers, sponges, or whales, send them to The Animal Book.

Lewis, John and Andrew Aydin. March. Book One. (Top Shelf Productions; Gr 9 Up). illus. by Nate Powell.
Congressman John Lewis was only 23 years old in 1963 when he addressed the crowd assembled at the National Mall in Washington, DC, during the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In this volume in graphic format, Lewis recounts his early years, his education, and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Lewis participated in non-violent anti-segregation protests from a young age and played a key role in played in lunch-counter sit-ins, bus boycotts, Freedom Rides, and other pivotal actions of the movement. This is a powerful story, told by one of America’s most distinguished activists. Two more volumes are planned. A guide for teachers is available online.

Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song. (Little, Brown, Gr 2-6). illus. by Brian Pinkney.
There are a number of books written about the historic 1963 March on Washington, many offering a unique perspective on the event. In their latest collaboration this celebrated author and illustrator team tells the story of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s and Mahalia Jackson’s participation in the March, along the way touching on their childhoods, their dreams, and their friendship. End notes by the author and a time line add details and place the March in the context of the Civil Rights Movement, while the illustrator’s notes describe the traditions he drew on and his artistic influences—social realists painters Ben Shahn and Charles Wilbert White—broadening the use of this tribute.

Rusch, Elizabeth. Volcano Rising. (Charlesbridge, Gr 2-5). illus. by Susan Swan.
Most often what we hear of and read about are the destructive forces of volcanoes—huge explosions spewing smoke and rivers of lava destroying everything in their paths. Here Rusch focuses on the lesser-known creative aspects of volcanoes: they form mountains and islands, and fertilize and repair scarred lands. Each spread in the book offers two texts: a few large-print sentences with general information for young readers, and a smaller print, longer paragraph adding pertinent facts. The author relates the amazing story of the 1943 eruption of a volcano in  Paricutin, Mexico, which began as an ash-exploding fissure in a cornfield, giving rise to a 500-foot high cone within a week. One year later it was 1,000 feet in height, offering scientists one more “laboratory” in which to study these natural forces. Swan’s dramatic scenes of fiery eruptions above ground in oranges and reds, submarine volcanoes bathed in blues, and serene mountain landscapes and islands rising from the middle of the ocean, will have children poring over these pages. Rusch is also the author of Eruption! for older readers, featured in last month’s “Nonfiction Notes.”

Sayre, April Pulley. Let’s Go Nuts!: Seeds We Eat. (S & S/Beach Lane; K- Gr 3).
Though a minimal text and full-page color images, the author of Rah, Rah, Radishes! (2011) and Go, Go, Grapes! (2012, both S & S) explores the world of edible seeds. Each page in the book features two lines of rhyming text (“Peanut, pine nut./Go, nuts, go!”) accompanied by a close-up photo of an array of seeds. Along with familiar foods are others children may not be familiar with such as quinoa and carob. End notes explain why seeds are “such good foods,” discuss nut allergies, and answer questions (“Why don’t seeds we eat grow inside our stomachs?”). From units on farmer’s markets to cultures, this book has multiple curriculum applications. It’s also a great read-aloud choice.

Schwartz, David M. Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices Creston Books; Gr 1-4).
Just in time for the fall harvest season, Schwartz, the author of a number of books on math topics [How Much Is a Million? (HarperCollins,1985) and G Is for Googol (Tricycle, 1998)] examines the life cycle of a pumpkin from seed to jack-o’-lantern to decaying squash–and its eventual rebirth as the seeds that remain begin to sprout. Schwartz adopts a first-person voice for his pumpkin and the critters and organisms that visit it. As School Library Journal’s reviewer noted, “The gross-out factor is high, as each of the rodents, insects, molds, fungi, etc., do their respective jobs.” Suggestions for classroom investigations are included. Consider pairing with Wendy Pfeffer’s A Log’s Life (S & S, 1997), a “gentler” look at decomposition.

Sandler, Martin W. Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II. (Walker; Gr 7 Up).
Combining a lucid text; poignant black-and-white archival photos; reproductions of artwork, sketches, and documents; and charts, Sandler offers an in-depth, sensitive look at the internment of Japanese-Americans in the United States during the Second World War. He begins his narrative with information on the movement of more than 250,000 Japanese citizens to the United States at the turn of the 20th-century and ends with chapters devoted to redress and the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. In between, the author covers Anti-American sentiment toward the Japanese before and after the attack on Pearl Harbor, life in the relocation centers, and the Japanese-Americans who served in our military.


Curriculum Connections

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.



  1. Great list! Thanks very much!