Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Some new twists on some old guys

6 May

How do you keep history books fresh for kids? How do you present the information na new and engaging way? Jonah Winter and Alan Schroeder have some good ideas.

Schroeder’s new book,  Abe Lincoln: His Wit and Wisdom from A-Z is illustrated by John O’Brien.


As the title promises, this is an alphabet book that sheds some light  on the  key events, people and places in Lincoln’s life. Scattered throughout the book are also quotes by Abraham Lincoln–short, pithy statements that have lasted through the years.This is a very fun and interesting read.


O’Brien’s illustrations really enhance the detailed information.

Jonah Winter’s new book, illustrated by Barry Blitt, is entitled  The Founding Fathers: Those Horse-Ridin’, Fiddle-Playin’, Book-Readin’, Gun-Totin’ Gentlemen Who Started America.  That’s a mouthful, isn’t it!


As you might surmise from the title, the book takes a humorous tone while providing lots of facts and figures, quotes, and the good, bad, and ugly character traits of each one. Each Founding Father gets a two-page spread with a full-page portrait (name, sobriquet and dates included) along with a casual, colloquially phrased summary biography and then lots of stats presented briefly and intriguingly: height, weight, political leaning, education, wealth, and religious belief, in addition to hobbies, nickname and position on the Boston Tea Party.


Two wonderful books that kids will certainly enjoy reading because of the excellent information and the way they are formatted.

Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge, Part 2

6 Dec

The 2014 YALSA Nonfiction Award Finalists were announced yesterday. My goal is to read all the books on both lists by January 27th. Will you join me? If not, wish me luck? Here’s the nonfiction list.


The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi written by Neal Bascomb, published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

At the end of World War II, Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi leader responsible for organizing the deportation and imprisonment of millions of Holocaust victims, went into hiding under an assumed identity.  Eventually he fled to Argentina where he lived and worked under a false name for 10 years.  Bascomb tells the story of Eichmann’s crimes, his years in hiding, and his eventual capture and trial with rich detail and riveting suspense.  At the same time, Bascomb introduces readers to the courageous Israeli agents, Holocaust survivors, and their families who worked together to track down, capture, and bring Eichmann to justice.


Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design written by Chip Kidd, published by Workman Publishing Company.

This innovative book offers an introduction to the history and basic concepts of graphic design from one of the most successful designers working today. Using real world examples and rich visual aids, Kidd teaches readers how effective design can communicate ideas and messages, and he suggests ways to think critically about the design elements that infuse the media around us. Kidd invites readers to experiment with design themselves by ending the book with a series of 10 design challenges and offers a venue to share their work online.


Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II written by Martin W. Sandler, published by Walker Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.

After the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcing the internment of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans. This detailed and compassionate chronicle of the internment years incorporates many first-hand accounts and photographs. Sandler skillfully provides context for the internment and also examines its lasting legacy by examining anti-Japanese sentiment in America before World War II and then the redress movement, which advocated for compensation and formal apologies for internees after the war.


Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers written by Tanya Lee Stone, published by Candlewick Press.

“What is it like to jump out of an airplane? Imagine.” From these opening sentences, Stone chronicles the courage and persistence that were the hallmarks of the Triple Nickles, the African-Americans who pushed through military barriers to become the first black paratroopers. Their individual efforts, the eventual recognition of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, and the broader issues of segregation during the war period are illustrated with a with a rich collection of interviews, letters, and photos. Stone’s afterword, the timeline, and the detailed source notes offer valuable insights into her research methods. Ashley Bryan’s foreword and artwork add personal insight and extend the power of this skillfully told story.


The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy written by James L. Swanson, published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

James Swanson takes readers back in time with a thoroughly researched and tightly written narrative of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.  Beginning with a succinct introduction to Kennedy’s early life and presidential administration, Swanson sets the scene for a detailed and engaging examination of the events before, during, and after November 22, 1963, when JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald crossed paths in Dallas with tragic results.  The book brings events to life with extensive photographs, diagrams, and primary documents, and illuminates Swanson’s research and writing process with detailed source notes, an extensive bibliography, suggestions for further reading, and a comprehensive index.

Crime, Punishment & Presidential History

22 Nov

Fifty years ago today, I was a year, a month and a day away from being born. Growing up, I was like the kids I teach. When people asked  “Where were you when you heard the news” I had nothing to say. My 4th graders weren’t born in 2001, so they can’t answer the 9-11 version of that question. No one is left to answer the Lincoln version either.

Fortunately there are two non-fiction books that can help us understand presidential history a little better.


The assassination of JFK was a pivotal moment in American history. In  The President Has Been Shot ,James L. Swanson does an excellent job of going through the background of the key players, expressing facts that really laid out the event from many perspectives. While maintaining historical accuracy, the story is woven together through the eyes of all involved. I found myself feeling Oswald’s tension, the secrets service’s hesitance, the President’s gentle joy, and most powerfully, Jackie’s heartbreak.The book has a lot of pictures to support the text, other supporting material at the back, source notes, a list for further reading and  an extensive bibliography that includes a list of conspiracy theory literature.

This is a well-researched book that I bet will appear on a non-fiction award list for 2013.

Although not about the assassination itself,  Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin is another good read.


The book tells an odd bit of history.Yes, a group did try to steal Abraham;s Lincoln’s body. In telling this bizarre tale, Sheinkin sheds light on counterfeiting, the Secret Service and 19th century body snatching. It reads like a thriller and is hard to put down

Abraham Lincoln – President’s Day Books #3

13 Feb

Yesterday, I read Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek:  A Tall, Thin Tale (introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend) by Deborah Hopkinson, to my Level 1 ELD reading group.


I used it to teach them a note-taking technique that also involved sketching and today we’ll see how they do on the retell. Before hand we brainstormed Presidents they knew ) Obama, Washington, Lincoln & Kennedy).  We looked at a poster of all the presidents and they though some looked like girls and wondered why there were;t any girls.  Go team!!! Some were saddened to learn that you had to be born in the US to be eligible to be president. This was a good book to introduce presidential discussions.

Another great Lincoln book I read earlier in the year was Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship by Russell Freedman.


True confession time: not having really paid attention to the title I thought it was going to be a book about the Lincoln Douglas debates. I like the way it compared & contrasted the upbringings of the two men. I didn’t really know much about Douglass, except that he was an excellent abolitionist orator.  This gave me new insight into his earlier life and the relationship he & Lincoln shared.   Although it is beyond the reading level of my Level 1 readers, it is a recommended read.

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