Nonfiction

Nonfiction, Picture books

Celebrating Children’s Book Week May -9

Let’s Play! Kidlit For Growing Minds is hosting a 7-DAY 9-BOOK ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ giveaway!

We’re celebrating Children’s Book Week on Twitter, May 3-9. To enter, reply to each author’s original tweet. US educators ONLY. Winner selected every 48 hours!

Check out our Twitter page, @ForGrowingMinds, where we will retweet but don’t forget to reply to the original author’s tweet. Join us!

Diverse Books, Nonfiction, Picture books

OPENING THE ROAD

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: 

“Dawson’s text makes a stark, complex topic accessible and comprehensible to younger readers.”

VERDICT A compelling picture book that introduces the history of segregation and its impact in the U. S. to young readers.–Hilary Tufo, Columbus ­Metropolitan Lib., Reynoldsburg, OH

From a presentation on OPENING THE ROAD, students learn:

-the untold story of Victor Hugo Green’s contribution to history, making it a great foray into lessons on equity and social justice for young learners

-how to make historical connections from the past text to today

-the vocabulary needed to understand complex concepts in the long road toward seeking social justice

-to use skills in cause and effect connecting historical events and their impact on Black Americans.

-how research is used to write fiction and nonfiction stories

WHAT I DO AT SCHOOL VISITS:

-Discuss the importance of stories about unsung heroes like Victor Hugo Green.

-Introduce concepts and vocabulary needed to understand the story.

-Read OPENING THE ROAD.

-Discuss research methods, obstacles, and my writing process.

-Share an activity to make a real life connection to the story.

-Leave time for Q&A

ADDITONAL CONTENT:

Educational Guide with standards-aligned  Educational Activity Guide

Flipgrid Discovery LibraryOPENING THE ROAD has topics for students to explore in the Discovery Library. Parents and educators can access videos, and mini lessons specific to the topics, content and vocabulary used in the book. Readers can watch and respond to the videos with their own recordings and writings! For privacy, teachers can copy this module into their own classroom Flipgrid sites. 

ENDORSEMENTS:

“This intricately illustrated and inspiring book reveals the courageous spirit of Victor Hugo Green and reminds us that within us all lies the power to change the world.” —Oge Mora, author and illustrator of Thank You, Omu; Saturday; and The Oldest Student

“Opening the Road is a story of resilience in the Black American tradition of ‘making a way out of no way’–that is, challenging the limits of racism through ingenuity, community, and hope.” —Veronica Miller Jamison, illustrator of A Computer Called Katherine

“In Opening the Road, author Keila Dawson opens children’s eyes to the dangers of segregation and the power of the human spirit to resist and find detours around injustice.” –Nancy Churnin, award-winning author of Manjhi Moves a Mountain and The William Hoy Story

“This road trip into history detailing Victor Green’s efforts to bypass racial discrimination when traveling is a welcome companion to the stories of Rosa Parks and Elizabeth Jennings.” –Beth Anderson, author of Lizzie Demands a Seat and An Inconvenient Alphabet

History, Media, Nonfiction

Happy Book Birthday to OPENING THE ROAD!

To celebrate OPENING THE ROAD: VICTOR HUGO GREEN AND HIS GREEN BOOK, I created a video using Doodly. And below the video find FREE content for curious kids I created to use with the book in the classroom.

I can’t wait to hit the road with Victor’s story. Let’s go!

Activism, Diverse Books, Nonfiction, Picture books

OPENING THE ROAD Educator’s Guide

It’s a long, winding road toward social justice. Keep going!

Click on the cover for a free classroom guide to use with OPENING THE ROAD: VICTOR HUGO GREEN AND HIS GREEN BOOK.

Activism, Media, Nonfiction

The Classroom Bookshelf features NO VOICE TOO SMALL

So honored that The Classroom Bookshelf, an SLJ blog, wrote an extensive article on how to use NO VOICE TOO SMALL in the classroom to lift student voices! A great resource and extension to the book’s free activity guide.

History, Nonfiction, Picture books

Unboxing OPENING THE ROAD!

Unboxing is popular among authors after receiving their author copies. So here’s my unboxing video of my new book releasing January 26, 2021!

OPENING THE ROAD: VICTOR HUGO GREEN AND HIS GREEN BOOK is the untold true story of the mail carrier who wrote the Green Book travel guides published from 1936 to 1966 that African Americans used to plan safe road trips & vacations when they didn’t have the freedom to go anywhere they wanted.

Beaming Books | ISBN: 978-1506467917
40 pages | ages 4-98

January 26, 2021

Pre-order wherever books are sold!

Bookshop | Beaming Books | Amazon | B&N

Activism, Nonfiction, Picture books

Happy Book Birthday NO VOICE TOO SMALL!

What an amazing day! Lindsay, Jeanette, and I planned a fun-filled virtual book launch for NO VOICE TOO SMALL. An Unlikely Story Bookstore agreed to host us. The anti-bullying activist featured in the book, DJ Annie Red, agreed to perform.

And the day finally arrived!

It started with book lovers sharing the news of our book birthday…

…on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Messages poured in. Friends, authors, our publisher, book reviewers, booksellers. All sending congratulations and praise.

All morning long!

We felt so much love for a book that so many poured so much heart into so it would be ready for this day, to be sent out into the world, and into the hands of children.

We even got a mention in the Washington Post! WOW!

At the book launch that evening, Lindsay, Jeanette and I spoke a bit about the book and thanked the the fourteen young activists, poets, our editor, art director and the our Charlesbridge team that were all a part of this project. We shared the opening and closing poems and one of the contributing poets, Lesléa Newman, read the poem she wrote about Zach Wahls. Jeanette demonstrated how she created the art for the book and drew a picture for us – live! DJ Annie Red performed an acapella version of her song “No You Won’t Bully Me”. Who had fun? WE DID!

We asked our audience to promise to use their voices and take the NO VOICE TOO SMALL pledge. Lindsay and Jeanette’s kids joined in!

So many friends, family, and creatives from the writing community came to our virtual event to support us. It was an unforgettable experience!

For weeks we noticed the “orange banner” on Amazon that designates a book as a #1 Release in a particular category which also compares and ranks books in the same categories.

The three Amazon categories for NO VOICE TOO SMALL are:

  • Children’s American History of 2000s
  • Children’s Social Activists Biographies (Books)
  • Poetry (Books)

On our book birthday, NO VOICE TOO SMALL became an Amazon Hot New Release in the category of Social Activists Biographies! But that’s not all.

Something else happened that didn’t involve sales or marketing or book promotion. Instead, someone helped make this night more special than it already turned out to be. Because it reminded me of why I write books for kids. And why this book matters.

The same day NO VOICE TOO SMALL released, a blog post Lindsay, Jeanette and I wrote for Reading For Research Month went live. We discussed books that inspired us.

In that post I wrote, “I have witnessed the power of story. It is undeniable.” Although I know that to be true, I didn’t know I would witness it on our book birthday. We may not know how or when or for whom books may affect, but we know the power of books. It’s undeniable! What a gift to see the reaction by Judy Adams to her featured story. Judy speaks UP about living with DOWN syndrome. At age twelve, she created Dimes for Down syndrome and grants wishes to others.

Kids need to see themselves in books. They want their stories shared. Adults can help empower, uplift, and amplify their voices.

Thanks to all for the support that made this a wonderful day for us and NO VOICE TOO SMALL.

Keila

Diverse Books, Nonfiction, Picture books

Opening The Road Reviews

HONORS:

  • Ohioana Book Award 2022 finalist.
  • Bank Street College of Education Best Books of the Year 2022 and with a ⭐️ for Outstanding Merit
  • Jane Addams Book Award Finalist 2021
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2021
  • John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum’s Noteworthy Book for Young Readers 2021

So honored OPENING THE ROAD earned a ⭐️ for outstanding merit on the Bank Street College of Education 2022 Best Children’s Books of The Year list! Congratulations to Team Green!

What an honor to see OPENING THE ROAD listed as a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award finalist for younger readers 2022!

I am so grateful that OPENING THE ROAD made the NYPL Best Books for Kids 2021 list!

School Library Journal subscribers can read their full review here.

“Dawson’s text makes a stark, complex topic accessible and comprehensible to younger readers.”

I am honored to see OPENING THE ROAD on the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum’s Noteworthy Books for Young Readers list of Stories of Protest, Resistance, and Change!

This review of OPENING THE ROAD on by Lisa Browne on her COLORUL STORIES blog warms my heart! My objective in writing this story – achieved!

TWOBOOKWORMS Blog review of OPENING THE ROAD: “Books like this make history interesting and personal.”

This 8th grade teacher created a lesson plan, Picture Books and the Green Book, to introduce her students to the Jim Crow era and recommended OPENING THE ROAD.

GoodreadsFromRonna Five Recommended Reads for Kids – Black History Month 2021

A review by Jilanne Hoffman for Perfect Picture Book Friday

A wonderful review from Vivian Kirkfield for Perfect Picture Book Friday

What a review! Click on the picture to read the full review.

Come 2021, The Green Book’s Creator Gets the Kid Lit Treatment History in the making! The story of the Green Book for the babies! by Carrie McClain, Black Nerd Problems blog.

Available now! Get your copy wherever books are sold!

Bookshop | Beaming Books | Amazon | B&N

Activism, History, Nonfiction, Picture books

OPENING THE ROAD: The Story Behind the Story

OPENING THE ROAD is the true story behind the Green Book guide Black Americans used to travel safely during legal segregation and the mail carrier who wrote it. I was honored to reveal the cover of my upcoming release on author Tara Lazar’s blog. Click on the cover to see a sample spread from the book by the talented artist Alleanna Harris.

I also wrote about my inspiration, the story behind the story, and a little about my road to publication.

BEEP! BEEP! On our way, be there January 26, 2021!

And there’s a GIVEAWAY! Comment on the blog post to enter a chance to win a copy of OPENING THE ROAD: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book.

Beaming Books | ISBN: 978-1506467917
40 pages | ages 4-8

Pre-order wherever books are sold!

Activism, Nonfiction, Picture books

Kirkus STARRED Review!

It is what it is. GOOD TROUBLE!

NO VOICE TOO SMALL got a star 🌟 from Kirkus Reviews! Click on the picture to read the review.


Thank you to the wonderful words by  Nikki GrimesCarole Boston WeatherfordTraci SorellCharles WatersHena KhanJanet WongJoseph Bruchac,Guadalupe Garcia McCallAndrea J. LoneyLesléa NewmanGreg NeriS. Bear Bergman, and Fiona Morris.  And to Charlesbridge Publishing, our editor Karen Boss and Literary Agent Emily Mitchell who represented us in this project.

We can’t wait to share this book with readers of all ages!

Diverse Books, Nonfiction, Picture books

Reviews are coming in!

ALL THE FEELS! Check out this video review of NO VOICE TOO SMALL by Kirsten Williams Larson.🎤 Empower youth. They are are our future and our hope.

Check out other reviews by Kirsten on her YouTube channel where she dives deep into nonfiction books. Excuse me while I grab a tissue. 😭

Activism, Diverse Books, Nonfiction, Picture books

SLJ Review: Inspiring!

What does the School Library Journal think of No Voice Too Small?

Pre-order your copy today!

Charlesbridge | ISBN: 978-1-6235-4131-6
40 pages | ages 5-9

Bookshop | Charlesbridge | Amazon | B&N

Activism, History, Nonfiction, Picture books

Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book

GREEN LIGHT!

I am so excited to announce my latest book deal! And I am thrilled to be working with my agent Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary, Beaming Books, editor Naomi Krueger and the talented illustrator Alleanna Harris to bring the story of Victor Hugo Green and his Green Book to young children. Stay tuned.

BEEP! BEEP!

Coming to a shelf near you on January 19, 2021

Activism, Nonfiction, Picture books

TAKING THE MIC by Jeanette Bradley, Keila V. Dawson, and Lindsay Metcalf

I am thrilled to be a part of this project! In addition to the amazing youth, look at the talent who will write about them. Nikki Grimes, Carole Weatherford, Greg Wray, Traci McClellan-Sorell, Janet Wong, Hena Khan, Charles Waters, Andrea J. Loney, Lesléa Newman, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Fiona Morris, Joseph Bruchac, S. Bear Bergman.

Nonfiction, Picture books

Photography – Non-fiction biographies about photographers

This Perfect Picture Book Pair is dedicated to two nonfiction biographies about American photographers. Both artists chose to capture current events by taking pictures of people  during important eras in our nation’s history.

Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! by Andrea Loney, illustrated by Keith Mallet, published by Lee & Low is about photographer James Van Der Zee whose pictures depict an important era and people in American history – the Harlem Renaissance.

Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Gérard Dubois, published by Calkins Creek Books is about photographer Dorothea Lange whose pictures depict an important era and people in American history – the Great Depression.

A Perfect Picture Book Pair showcases two books with universal themes, but one must include a diverse setting, or life experience,  or main character. My goal is to support books in the market that contribute to diversity in children’s literature.

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…” I believe reading is too!

Kids love to see their reflections in books. Join me and #ReadYourWorld!

Nonfiction, Picture books

Martina & Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry in the History or Sports

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is Martina & Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry in the History or Sports

 

This Saturday is the kick-off of the Western & Southern Open Tennis Tournament here in Cincinnati, an exciting week for tennis fans. As a player, I enjoy keeping up with the pros and watching professional tennis. Some of the most thrilling matches in women’s tennis happened between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. This dual biography tells their story.

Written by: Phil Bildner

Illustrated by: Brett Helquist

Publisher: Candlewick (March 14, 2017)

Suitable for ages: 7-10

Themes/Topics: Sportsmanship, women in sports, professional athletes, perseverance, resilience, equality, and respect

Brief SynopsisTwo professional female tennis players, Chris Evert from America and Martina Navratilova from Czechoslovakia, had very different upbringings and very different approaches to the game. But both shared the same goal – to be the best in the world.

Why I like this book Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert were two talented, hard-working athletes who competed for the #1 ranking in women’s tennis . As the top female  players on the tour in the 1970’s and 80’s they were often fierce opponents. Martina & Chrissie were also friends. These two talented hard-working athletes competed  for fifteen years. Martina and Chrissie met 80 times on the court – 60 of their matches were in tournament finals!

The two best players in the world battled tournament after tournament. One time Martina beat Chrissie, another time Chrissie beat Martina. When Martina started losing often to Chrissie, she decided to train harder. The training paid off and Martina started winning their matches.

Martina beat Chrissie 13 times in a row in tournament finals! But Chrissie never gave up. At one tournament when everyone thought Chrissie would lose, she fought back and won. Chrissie and Martina made each other better players. Their friendship endured the greatest rivalry in the history of sports. And both won the hearts of tennis fans worldwide.

Resources

Happy reading!

History, Nonfiction, Picture books

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday pick is She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. 

When Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) voiced her objections about the nomination of Jeff Sessions for US Attorney General during his confirmation hearing on February 7, 2017, she was silenced. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) interrupted Senator Warren as she read from the letter written in 1986 by civil rights leader Coretta Scott King. That letter helped prevent the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as a federal judge for his home state of Alabama. McConnell accused Warren of making statements that impugn the character of Sessions which he determined was against Senate rules. 

The senator presiding over the hearing advised Warren that she was out of order under Senate Procedural Rule 19. “I’m reading a letter from Coretta Scott King to the Judiciary Committee from 1986 that was admitted into the record,” Senator Warren argued. “I’m simply reading what she wrote about what the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be a federal court judge meant and what it would mean in history for her.” 

Senator McConnell asked for a vote. After a 49-43 vote split across party lines, Senator Warren was not allowed to finish nor speak again. Instead, she continued reading the letter outside the door of the Senate floor. 

Defending his actions, Mitch McConnell later explained, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”  

Inspired by that event, Chelsea Clinton wrote this book and featured thirteen other women in America who also faced opposition and or adversity but succeeded because they persisted

Written by: Chelsea Clinton

Illustrated by:  Alexandra Boiger

Publisher: Philomel Books (May 2017)

Suitable for ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: Women in US history, perseverance, resilience 

Brief Synopsis:  In She Persisted, Chelsea Clinton introduces young readers to thirteen American women throughout history who, despite resistance from others or society, made positive contributions to our nation because of their persistence. 

Opening pages“Sometimes being a girl isn’t easy. At some point, someone probably will tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams are impossible. Don’t listen to them. These thirteen American women certainly did not take no for an answer. They persisted.” 

Why I like this bookShe Persisted is an inspirational tribute to thirteen women whose contributions to our nation deserve recognition. Some of the women featured are well known and others are not. The colorful illustrations by Alexandra Boiger include a diverse cast of characters, girls and boys, that reflect our nation’s multicultural population. 

Perseverance, persistence, fairness, and dreaming big are common themes in children’s books. I enjoyed the inclusion of women in a book that also teaches US history. As a non-fiction book, there are endless opportunities for educational use. Students could conduct more in-depth study of each character, or research other lesser known female figures who have also helped shape our nation. The adults in this book are role models children should know about and look up to. The author includes a quote that explains why every child, especially girls, should read this picture book, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” -Astronaut Sally Ride 

Resources

Read other perfect picture book Friday reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog

Happy reading!

Activism, History, Nonfiction, Picture books

Miss Paul and the President by Dean Robbins

Today’s Perfect Picture Book pick is Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote. 

Written by: Dean Robbins

Illustrated by: Nancy Zhang

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers  (September 2016)

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Activism, Right to vote, Women’s suffrage, US history

Brief Synopsis:  As a child Alice Paul saw her father go off to vote but not her mother. Why?  She studied the nation’s laws and knew they needed to change to allow women the right to vote. Alice protested in different ways and convinced other women to join her.

One day in 1914, she organized a parade that upstaged the arrival of the newly elected President, Woodrow Wilson. He asked to meet her. However, the president told her he had more pressing issues to deal with that working on the women’s right to vote . But that didn’t stop Alice Paul. She persisted. Even the president’s daughter Margaret agreed with Alice Paul. Then one day in 1918, President Wilson agreed too!

Opening pages:

Alice Paul hurried up and down Pennsylvania Avenue in a purple hat.

She wanted to make everything perfect for her parade. A parade in Washington D. C. no one would ever forget!”

 Why I like this bookThis is a wonderful introduction to a female activist who was instrumental in the fight for the right to vote for women. Through scenes that are both playful and serious, Robbins tells the story of activism by describing the actions and persistence of Alice Paul. 

The book is a wonderful introduction to this period in history and could spark discussion about the US Constitution as well as the role of Congress in making laws. 

Resources

  • Scroll down the author’s website for Activities for Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote. 
  • A teaching unit about women’s suffrage movement can be found from Rutgers: Teach a Girl to Lead
  • Head over to A Mighty Girl to find girl-empowering resources such as toys, movies, music and books. 

Read more of today’s reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

History, Nonfiction, Picture books

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Written by: Chris Barton 

Illustrated by: Don Tate

Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (April 1, 2015)

Suitable for ages: 7 and up

Themes/Topics: US History, Reconstruction, Civil Rights, Mississippi politics, racism, slavery, perseverance, hope, courage, inspiration

      Born: 1847 – Died: 1939

Brief Synopsis: The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is a picture book biography about the inspirational life of a man born enslaved, freed as a teenager after the start of the Civil War, and 10 years later elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives during Reconstruction.

John Roy’s father, Patrick Lynch, was an Irish overseer, his mother enslaved on the plantation where they lived. Patrick planned to save enough money to purchase and ”own” his family since by law he could not free them. But in 1849, when his son was a mere a toddler, Patrick became ill. He entrusted a friend to free his family in case of his death, but instead this man sold them to a new owner.

Opening pages:  John Roy Lynch had an Irish father and an enslaved mother. By the law of the South before the Civil War, that made John Roy and his brother half Irish and all slave.”

Why I like this book: Let me start by saying I am a genealogy addict which involves a lot of historical research. And for that reason, I love this book!

Barton does a phenomenal job recounting the life of this extraordinary man who overcame so much hostility and oppression to become a justice of the peace and a state representative in Mississippi during a time when laws marginalized people of color. The author’s research is impeccable. The use of primary documents gives us a sense of the man John Roy was and brings readers into the world in which he lived. Barton does not sugarcoat the history nor the inhumane treatment a select group of people suffered. He does give us a history of how one man was able to rise above the fray despite insurmountable obstacles.

The watercolor illustrations by Don Tate carries the lengthy story helping young readers digest these harsh periods in US history.

This book is well done all around and for this reason it is a must read for all ages, not just kids. Many citizens have not learned the history presented in this book. The historical note, timeline, author’s note and illustrator’s note are supplements that add even more to this remarkable story. And of course it is a treasure because -#weneeddiversebooks that are this well researched and written.

“When every man, woman, and child can feel and know that his, her, and their rights are fully protected by the strong and generous and grateful Republic, then we can all truthfully say that this beautiful land or ours, over which the Star Spangled Banner so triumphantly waves, is, in truth and in fact, the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

John Roy Lynch

United States House of Representatives 1876

Congressional Record, vol. 2, Part 5, 43rd Congress, 1st Session (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1876), pp. 4782-4786.

Resources:

  • Click here to find more books and facts about John Roy Lynch.
  • Click here for the educator’s guide.
  • Click here to see the book trailer.

For more of today’s book reviews, click here go to author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page.

History, Louisiana, Nonfiction

A Penguin Named Patience: A Hurricane Katrina Rescue Story

Title: A Penguin Named Patience: A Hurricane Katrina Rescue Story

Written by: Susanne Lewis 

Illustrated by: Lisa Anchin

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press, February 1, 2015

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: survival, courage, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, penguins, aquarium animals

Brief Synopsis: This is a Hurricane Katrina story about the rescue and aftermath of the penguins from the New Orleans Audubon Aquarium of the Americas Aquarium of the Americas. The story is told from the perspective of Patience and begins on the night the hurricane hit the city. As the oldest and head penguin, Patience had to be patient and keep Fanny, Ernie, Kohl, Bunny, Amquel, Voodoo, Rocky, Stachmo, Dyer, Zelda, Dennis and the other in line during this ordeal. Tom, the penguin keeper, helped them stay cool and fed until they were all transported to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Tom went along too, but couldn’t stay for long. Patience, once again, had to be patient. Nine months later, and the aquarium repaired, the penguins returned home in a New Orleans style celebration!

Opening pages: “Patience knew something was terribly wrong.

It was dark and steamy hot inside her home at Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans. Being an African penguin meant she was used to a warm climate, but not this warm!”

Why I like this book: Anyone with ties to New Orleans was personally affected by the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. This is one story that highlights the struggle and determination not only to survive but return. Everyone will root for Patience and her fellow penguins to go back home!

Resources: Suzanne Lewis has activities on her site here.

  • Click here for Facts for Kids.
  • Click here for Education World lessons on hurricanes.
  • Click here for Scholastic site. Hurricane Katrina for upper primary and middle school kids.
  • Click here for a wealth of articles and lessons for kids from TeacherVision
  • Click here for more about hurricanes from Science for Kids.
  • In My Heart: A Child’s Hurricane Katrina Story on YouTube.
  • Children of the Storm on YouTube
History, Nonfiction, Picture books

Swing Sisters by Karen Deans

Swing Sisters: The International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Karen Deans is my pick for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday in honor of Jazz Fest in New Orleans and Teacher’s Appreciation Week, both celebrated in May.

Illustrated by: Joe Cepeda

Publisher: Holiday House (January 1, 2015)

Suitable for ages: 7-11

Themes:  women in music, educational activism, integration, jazz, gender studies, perseverance, inspiration, US history, Jim Crow laws, stereotypes

Brief Synopsis: This book brings attention to the first interracial all female jazz/swing band, The International Sweethearts of Rhythm formed in 1939 at Piney Woods Country Life School in Mississippi. The band became popular in the 1940’s and toured the US and Europe.

The story opens by bringing attention to Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones, a black educator who started a school in 1909 for orphans in Mississippi. Music education eventually became a part of the school’s curriculum and many of the Sweethearts were part of the school band.

Swing Sisters highlights the struggles these women endured from society because of both race and gender.

Opening pages:  “Way back in 1909, not far from Jackson, Mississippi, there was a special place for orphans It was called Piney Woods Country Life School.

A man named Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones started the school. He wanted to make sure these African American kids had a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, and a good education. In return, the children worked at the school to earn their keep. Some planted seeds and picked weeds outside on the farm; others chopped vegetables in the kitchen or did laundry.”

Why I like this book: A great example of history using a story that inspires and educates. During one of the most difficult times in US history when the intent of oppression from Jim Crow laws was to prevent African Americans from achievement, this band of talented women, black and white, formed and succeeded in entertaining Americans and Europeans.

Further research shows Dr. Jones came from a family of educators, with an uncle who started a school back in 1846. When Dr. Jones learned about a county in Mississippi that had an eighty percent illiteracy rate, he moved there from Missouri and eventually started Piney Woods Country Life School.

Resources: See the Teacher’s Guide here. Listen to their story on NPR. Listen to them play! Dare you not to boogie!

For more of today’s book reviews from May 15, 2015, go to author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WczP3PyHt20

http://www.npr.org/2011/03/22/134766828/americas-sweethearts-an-all-girl-band-that-broke-racial-boundaries