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Some Catty Heroes

by Miriam Downey 30. June 2013 18:29


A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to books in which dogs played a large role. I heard from a lot of cats who indicated that this wasn't fair,  and that there were a lot of books where cats were the heroes--heroes far more interesting than dogs.

I have to apologize to my kitty friends. Today is your day. Actually, cat books are a lot more fun than dog books. It may be because cats have such unique personalities. The following list includes books for all groups of readers--picture books, chapter books, and novels. I'll throw in a few cat training books too--if it is possible to train a cat. (Sorry Kitty!)

These books are all available at your library or local bookstore.

Picture Books

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. Which cat is the prettiest?

Hi Cat by Ezra Jack Keats. Archie is adopted by a stray cat.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. The most famous cat of all.

Chato's Kitchen by Gary Soto. You got to love Chato as he tries to invite a mouse for dinner.

Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner. A Siamese cat is convinced he is a Chihuahua named El Skippito. There are several books in the series.

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel. This one is my all time favorite.

Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos. Ralph is just a rotten cat in a delightful and humorous series.

Puss in Boots by Charles Perrault. Get the version by Hans fischer.

Chapter Books

Captain Cat by Syd Hoff. A cat becomes a soldier. An Easy Reader.

The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth. A Japanese artist and his white cat. Newbery Prize winner.

Mr. Putter and Tabby series by Cynthia Rylant. This series is excellent for early readers.

Catwings by Ursula LeGuin. Four little kittens are born with wings. There are adventures in the several books that make up the series.

A Question of Trust by Marion Dane Bauer. A coming-of-age story featuring a boy and a stray cat.

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford. A classic story about three loyal animals' incredible journey home.

Holiday Inn and Return to Howliday Inn by James Howe. A trio of animals and their adventures at a boarding kennel. Very funny.


Time Cat: The Remarkable Journeys of Jason and Gareth by Lloyd Alexander. Gareth is a cat that can go through time, and he takes his owner Jason with him.

Skipping School by Jessie Hass. Philip saves two kittens and hides them in an abandoned house.

The Cat Who...a series of mysteries by Lillian Jackson Braun.

Captain Kidd's Cat by Robert Lawson. The story of Captain Kidd through the eyes of his pet cat.

The Joe Grey PI mysteries by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. The books in the series include Cat Seeing Double and Cat on the Edge.

Fact Books about Cats and Kittens

My New Kitten by Joanna Cole. Follows the growth of a litter of kittens.

Meet My Cats by Lesley Anne Ivory. A discussion of the different types of cats.

The Kitten Book by Camilla Jessel. Taking care of cats.

I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats. The quirkiness of cats in poetry.

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Reading Apps and Free Online Books for Beginning Readers

by Miriam Downey 17. June 2013 07:35

Here's something to try. There are several new reading apps out for the summer that you might want to try with your new readers. Beginning readers lose the most over the summer months, At the same time, children don't want to be tied down to the regular grind of school work. A book to read on the computer or a mobile device may help them retain what they have already learned and not cause them to lose the knowledge they gained over the regular school term.

An app for your computer, phone, or tablet may be just the ticket for your child. The following list is not exhaustive by any means, but just offers a suggestion for you to look at. A disclaimer: I have looked at all of these apps, but have not downloaded any of them to my computer or mobile devices. Give them a try and let us know how they work. Some of them are free: some have fees. Most apps have free trials, so I would certainly try out the free trial.

Apps for Mobile Devices

Penguin Leveled Readers. This is a free app for IPad or IPhone. Several levels of readers are available with nice stories. This app comes highly recommended.

Booksy: Learn to Read Platform for K-2. A free app for IPad. Mostly science and animal topics. Leveled.

LAZ Readers are an app for ITunes for your Mac or PC. This is an extensive library of books by Language Technologies. It has a cost but they offer a free trial and free samples.

Big Universe Learning has many books that are online or available for apps. This site has a fee, but they have a free trial.

Free Books Available Online

Starfall is a very nice phonics reading system. Lots of good stories.

We Give Books has a very good selection of free books. You need to register, but then the books are free. The advantage of this site is that many of the books are by famous children's authors.

The International Children's Digital Library is a great source for online books. The advantage of this site is that many of the books are bilingual.


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Everyone Likes Dogs: Great Books About Dogs

by Miriam Downey 28. May 2013 18:11

 I recently read an article by a veterinarian who said that there are certain breeds of dogs that he isn't seeing much of any more. The list included Irish setters, cocker spaniels, and collies among others. All three of these are breeds of dogs that have played important roles in my life. The writer of the article suggested that the popularity of certain dog breeds has to do, in part, with the breeds of dogs that are being shown on television. He suggested, for instance, that when the show Lassie was no longer on the air, the popularity of collies waned, and that when the Taco Bell ads featured the talking Chihuahua, the popularity of the Chihuahua dramatically increased.

Many of us have dogs that we love. I inherited a mutt named Buck when my son and family moved into a third floor condo in Chicago. No room for a dog. Buck came to live at our house. He was already an old dog when he came, and he lived with us for five years. Every afternoon at 3 pm, he would come and lay his head on my lap. "Leave your desk. It's time to go for a walk," he seemed to be saying to me. Such a wonderful dog!

This week, let's look at some chapter books and novels where dogs play an important role. Several of these books are available as ebooks, while the rest are available at your library or book store.

Chapter Books

Bulu: African Wonder Dog by Dick Houston. A true story of an incredible dog that became the foster parent to orphaned animals in the African bush.

Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune. Lad is a collie dog with a soul. The first in a series of books.

Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight.The first book in a series about a beautiful collie. There is a movie and an entire television series based on this book. There is also a picture book series by Rosemary Wells based on Eric Knight's books.

Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard. The first book in a series about an Irish Setter. Wonderful adventure series.

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson. Yeller is a stray dog on the Texas frontier. A Newbery award book. Also a movie.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Justor. Milo and his watchdog named Tock take a memorable magical journey.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. A boy and his two hounds roam the countryside. A children's classic.

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Marty finds an abused beagle named Shiloh in the hills, but there is nothing but trouble when he brings the dog home.


Alpha Dog by Jennifer Ziegler. Katie's adoption of Seamus, an orphaned dog, changes her whole world.

Marley and Me by John Grogan. The golden retriever Marley plays an important role in a young family's life. Also a delightful movie.

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DeCamillo. Opal goes into the grocery store and comes out with a stray dog. She names him Winn Dixie after the store. An excellent movie as well.

The Dog Who Wouldn't Be by Farley Mowat. The absolute funniest dog book ever!

Sounder by William H. Armstrong. Sounder is the pet dog of an African American sharecropper family. Newbery award book and a great movie.

Books About Choosing and Caring for Dogs

Complete Dog Book for Kids by the American Kennel Club.

How to Speak Dog by Sarah Whitehead.

Puppy Training for Kids by Sarah Whitehead.

My Dog! A Kid's Guide to Keeping a Happy and Healthy Pet by Michael J. Rosen.



Graphic Novels for Middle and High School Students

by Miriam Downey 12. May 2013 12:28

The graphic novel is a genre that has evolved over the last 20 years. Although they have some aspects of a comic book, they are very different from comic books in topic and style. The graphic novel combines a story line that is a complete plot with a lot of illustrations. Some of the dialogue appears in bubbles; other dialogue appears in text. Some parents might be concerned that graphic novels are either not appropriate for students or are not "good" literature, but they have evolved to the point that many graphic books are receiving awards from the major book awards. Even classic children's series like The Babysitter's Club and Nancy Drew (and even Jane Eyre) are now appearing as graphic novels.

Here are some ways that graphic books promote reading and literacy:

  • They can motivate reluctant readers to read. Educators report great success getting reluctant readers to read graphic novels.
  • They are great for struggling readers, special needs students, and English-language learners. In the same way picture books work for younger children, graphic novels work for middle school and high school students.
  • They are highly accepted by librarians and educators.
  • They foster the acquisition of critical reading skills.
  • They have many of the same literary themes as classic literature.

Frankly, I love graphic books. I was first exposed to them when my book club read the graphic memoir Persepolis by Marjane Santrapi. It is such an intensely written and illustrated book that I was completely enthralled. It is the story of the Iranian Revolution of the 1970s told through the eyes of a little Iranian girl. It was made into a movie which was nominated for an Oscar. It is appropriate for high school students.

Another of my favorites is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This novel is based on the author's experiences as a Native American who left the reservation to attend another high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Alexie won the National Book Award for this memoir.

For middle school students, of course there are the books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. These are widely popular books that reflect all the anxieties of middle school age kids, and they are very funny too. There are several movies, and Kinney has a series of cartoon classes where he teaches kids to draw cartoons like he does. You can find the videos here.

Here are some other graphic novels that your teenager will enjoy.

Bone by Jeff Smith. Hilarious and action packed. 10 volumes in all. (middle school)

Smile by Raina Telgemeier. A memoir of the author in her middle school years.

Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi. There are 5 books in this fantastical series. (middle school)

The Arrival by Shaun Tan. A remarkable wordless graphic novel about immigration. (high school)

The Good Neighbors series by Holly Black. Three books in the series about a mysterious, darkly beautiful world. (middle School)

Maus: A Survivors Tale by Art Spiegelman. An incredible portrayal of the Holocaust through the eyes of Spiegelman's father. (high school)

If your teenager is truly interested in graphic novels, he/she will want to look at this website. It is an excellent resource.



The Public Library: A Great Resource for Homeschooled Children

by Miriam Downey 10. May 2013 07:52

One of my fondest memories as a child was walking up the marble steps of the Carnegie Library in the little town in Minnesota where I spent my early childhood. I was overwhelmed by the surprises that awaited me--more books than I could possibly imagine and a story time once a week. And that was before computers, DVDs, and audio books and all the other wonders that libraries now hold.

Some important new research from the Pew Research Center finds that the majority of parents, especially those with children younger than 18, view the library as an important resource for their children. See how you compare with the parents in the Pew study. "Some 50 percent of parents with children under the age of 12 read to their children every day, and another 26 percent read to their children at least a few times per week." The younger the children, the more likely that parents are to read with them every day. Mothers especially are more likely than fathers to take their children to the library.

A research analyst for the Pew project commented: "Parents' ties to libraries are all the more striking because parents are more likely than other adults to have computers, Internet access, smartphones, and tablet computers. the presence of this technology in their lives might make them less reliant on libraries . . . but the opposite is the case--the more technology they have, the more they're likely to take advantage of library services." You can find the Pew research study here.

It is likely that the public library is even more important to home school families. All across the country, public libraries are realizing that the homeschooling population is growing, and many, if not most, public libraries are offering services to families, including programming, resource services, special computer services, websites, and special story hours for home school groups.

Here are 10 good reasons to take your child to the library:

1. It's Free.

2. It is much more than a collection of popular fiction books. There is something for everyone.

3. Downloads, online resources, and media are free. Most libraries now lend ebooks.

4. There are great librarians eager to help.

5. You can get recommendations and help with material choices.

6. Children's programming and special events.

7. Free wifi and computers.

8. Special programming and materials for home schoolers.

9. Supporting your library supports the community.

10. It's free.

 Free public libraries are one of the great assets that we have in our democracy. We will only have them if we continue to support them and use them. Here are some interesting books about libraries and librarians that you can find in--of course--your local library.

Picture Books

Miss Brooks Love Books! (and I don't) by Barbara Bottner. A first grader finds a book that she can love.

D.W's Library Card by Marc Brown. D.W. has learned to write her name and can get her own library card.

Book! Book! Book! by Deborah Bruss. The animals wander into the town library with humorous results.

The Inside-Outside Book of Libraries by Julie Cummins. A well-illustrated look at a variety of libraries.

Walter's Magic Wand by Eric Houghton. Walter finds magic in the library.

Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack. Tricia Ann is on her way to the library for the first time in the Jim Crow segregated South.

Chapter Books

Return to the Library of Doom series by Michael Dahl. The librarian and the specialist save the world in a series of chapter books for grades 4-6.

The New York Public Library Kid's Guide to Research by Deborah Heiligman. an excellent guide for middle graders who are doing research for the first time.

The Library Cat by Vicki Myron. How an abandoned kitten changed the life of the librarian-author. There is also an adult version of this book.

Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck. How a small town library changed the lives of the inhabitants.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series by Brandon Sanderson. Four zany adventures involving thirteen-year-old Alcatraz and a host of evil librarians.

The Library Card by Jerry Spinelli. Four stories about the magic of having a library card.

Teenage Book

The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne. A remarkable memoir about a librarian and weightlifter with Tourette Syndrome. Very inspirational.

The Library Cat by Vicki Myron. How an abandoned kitten changed the life of the librarian-author. There is also a chapter book version of this book.

Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration during World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Openheim.


Spring Gardening

by Miriam Downey 30. April 2013 12:54

It's spring, finally, in Michigan, and it has been a long time coming. I took my toddler granddaughter outside yesterday afternoon, and she exclaimed, "Outside! No coat?"

Children are naturally drawn to gardening and watching things grow. It is an excellent way to teach botany and nature. Even if you live in the city or in an apartment, a little garden is so refreshing. In this week's book list, you will find picture books and stories about children in gardens.

My all time favorite book as a child was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Surprisingly, it has stood the test of time very well and remains a favorite of children. Children in grades 3 through 5 should have the opportunity to read it, but it also makes a wonderful read-aloud. It is about the restorative power of a garden and the creativity of children. Luckily it is a book that you can find easily online here:

My favorite for small children is The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. It is a great book for children who are beginning to read, but it is also wonderful for preschoolers because there are very few words. If you allow your children to watch YouTubes, you can find a cute version of it here:

 And then, of course, there is the delightful award winning book, And Then Its Spring by Julie Fogliano. The little boy in the story is expressing my sentiments about spring.

I have listed some other great picture books about gardens and gardening. These books can be found at your local library or bookstore. Some are available online.

Picture Books

Quiet in the Garden by Aliki. A little boy is nurtured in his garden along with all the birds and small animals.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. Little Peter Rabbit gets into Mr. MacGregor's garden.

Strega Nona's Harvest by Tomie dePaola. A gardening book for fans of Strega Nona.

Jody's Beans by Malachy Doyle. Jody and her grandfather plant a garden.

All Things Bright and Beautiful by Cecil Frances Alexander. The beautiful hymn to nature with glorious illustrations.

Gardening Books

Seeds by Ken Robbins. Everything you need to know about seeds before you plant the garden.

Up, Down and Around by Katherine Ayres. Introduces young readers to gardening.

Two Seeds by Ruth Brown. A counting book about the life cycle of a sunflower.

Jack's Garden by Henry Cole. Follows a garden through the season. The follow-up book is called I Took A Walk.

Secrets of the Garden by Kathleen Zoehfeld. The story of Alice and her family as they plant their garden each spring.

Inside the Secret Garden: A Treasury of Crafts, Recipes, and Activities by Carolyn Strom Carlson. A book to be read in conjunction to the classic The Secret Garden.

Urban Gardens

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart. Lydia Grace has to move to the city, but she still finds a place to garden.

Flower Garden by Eve Bunting. With the help of her father, a little girl assembles a window box garden.

Plant a Little Seed by Bonnie Christensen. Planting a community garden.

City Green by Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan. An empty lot becomes a neighborhood garden.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. Liam takes care of a struggling garden and turns the dark city green.


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Finding Hispanic Characters in Children's Books

by Miriam Downey 5. April 2013 11:28

A recent article in the New York Times discusses the lack of Hispanic characters in books for children. Nearly one-fourth of all the children in the United States are Hispanic, yet very few of the characters in children's books are Hispanic. The article states: "Kids do have a different kind of connection when they see a character that looks like them or they experience a plot or a theme that relates to something they've experienced in their lives."

The article goes on to say that Hispanic children are not the only ones who have trouble finding books that have characters they can identify with. Additionally, the article notes that reading and language progresses faster when children can see themselves in the books they read. Publishers are scrambling to create books with Hispanic characters, and there are several new series of easy readers with Hispanic characters. Needless to say, it is also important that books with great characters, black, white, Hispanic, or Asian, be available to all children. Empathy comes from reading.

Gary Soto, Pat Mora, Arthur Dorros, Sandra Cisneros, and Pam Munoz Ryan are authors to look for when you seek books about Hispanic children of all nationalities.

In this post, I have included picture books, easy readers, and chapter books with Hispanic characters. They will all be available at your local library or bookstore. If you have suggestions for other books with Hispanic characters, please include them in the comment section.


 Picture Books

Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora (Grades K-2). Tomas and his migrant worker family find the local library.

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto (Grades K-3). The children are making tamales for Christmas dinner and suddenly mother's diamond ring is missing.

What Can You Do with a Rebozo? by Carmen Tafolla (Grades 1-3) Children show what they can do with a rebozo, a traditional Mexican shawl.

Papa and Me by Arthur Dorros (Grades K-2). The warm relationship between father and son.

Fiesta U.S.A. by George Ancona (Grades K-3). The photographer focuses on four holidays celebrated by Hispanics in the United States.

Hairs by Sandra Cisneros (Grades K-3). all the different hair styles in the family.

Abuela by Arthur Dorros (Grades K-3). First in a series of wonderfully imaginatively books about Grandmother.

Easy Readers

My Name Is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada (Grades 2-3). Maria has trouble on the first day in the new school when her teacher wants to change her name.

Tia Lola Stories by Julia Alvarez (Grades 2-3). Tia Lola comes to visit her Dominican family who have just moved to Vermont.

No English by Jacqueline Jules (Grades 2-3). Blanca is the new girl in school and knows no English. She feels lost and afraid.

Under the Mambo Moon by Julia Durango (Grades 3-4). A story told in Latin musical styles and dance.

Zapata Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off by Jacqueline Jules (Grades 1-3). The first of a delightful easy reader series about Freddie at school.

Chapter Books

Mercy on These Teenage Chimps by Gary Soto (Grades 4-6) Very funny book about boys approaching adolescence.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munez Ryan (Grades 6-9). Esperanza immigrates to California during the Great Depression.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (Grades 7-12). This book is a classic. The story of a Mexican girl growing up in Chicago.

How the Garcia girls Lost their Accents by Julia Alvarez (Grades 9-12). Four Dominican sisters arrive with their parents in New York city and learn to adjust to life in America.

Breaking Through by Francisco Jimenez (Grades 6-9). Francisco fights to move out of the fields as a migrant worker and complete his education.

Red Midnight by Ben Mikaelsen Grades 5-9). Teenage Santiago and his four-year-old sister escape from the civil war in Guatemala in a small boat to get to the United States.


To Infinity and Beyond: Books about Space and Astronomy

by Miriam Downey 26. March 2013 07:10


 One of our favorite family nighttime activities is to lay on the beach at our cottage on Lake Michigan and stare up at the skies. I don't know all the names of stars and constellations, but I love to look at them, staring into infinity. Because it is so dark down there on the beach, we can dream big dreams and talk about important things. In August the sky is often filled with falling stars, and sometimes on very clear nights, we can see the Northern Lights. It is no wonder that the night sky has enthralled people for thousands of years.

Many children want to know all that they can about the sky, about space, about stars--about infinity. Infinity is one of those words that children like to bandy around--both when counting or when talking about space. Your local library has a wealth of materials about the sky and space as well as books that name all the constellations. Here is a beginning list of books that can be found at the library. I have also included a couple of websites that will be helpful too.

Books for Grades K-4

Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey. Be sure to get the 2008 edition of the book. H.A. Rey is also the author of the Curious George books. Who knew?

Seeing Stars by Dandi Dailey Mackall. A book of stars for very young children.

Constellations: A Glow-in-the-Dark Guide to the Night Sky by Chris Sasaki. This book is cool because it glows in the dark.

Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations by Jacqueline Milton. Discusses 19 animal constellations and explains how to find them in the night sky.

3D Explorer: Solar System by Ian Graham. This is a pop-up book--very cool, although most libraries don't carry pop-up books. It would be a great gift book for kids who love space.

Books For Grades 5-12

The Stargazing Year: A Backyard Astronomer's Journey Through the Seasons of the Night Sky by Charles Laird Calia. This is a science book but also a memoir about an amateur astronomer who looked at the night sky every night for a year.

The New Atlas of the Stars: Constellations, Stars and Celestial Objects by Melinger and Hoffman. This is a reference for stargazers anywhere in the world.

Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, Jr. The true story of Homer and his friends in West Virginia who built and flew sophisticated rockets. The basis of the equally awesome movie, October Sky.

Out of This World: All the Cool Bits About Space by Clive Gifford. A fact-packed little volume.

Man on the Moon: How a Photograph Made Anything Seem Possible by Pamela Jain Dell. The effect the photograph of Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon made on individuals and society.


The Planetary Society for Kids. This very cool website has a little bit of everything. It is created by Bill Nye so it is fun as well as very informative.

Kid Lots of information and games. (This website does have some advertisements.)

Ask an Astronomer for Kids. Has lots of factual information in a question and answer format.

Astronomy for Kids. This is a children's version of the magazine Astronomy.






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World War II Revisited: Accessible Books for Kids

by Miriam Downey 8. March 2013 05:27


Maxwell, my 15-year-old grandson, is fascinated by World War II. His great grandfather served in the war in the Pacific, and Maxwell has some of his medals and pictures. He is taking a trip with his father this summer to Dunkirk and Normandy as well as some of the other infamous sites of the European war.

I am currently reading a remarkable biography of the war with Japan called Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It is the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner, whose plane was bombed down over the Pacific in 1943. One of my other grandsons read the book last year and was fortunate to hear Louis Zamperini, now in his 90s, speak at our nearby university. I would highly recommend this book to students of high school age for a look at an important time in American history.

Thousands of books have been written about World War II. The following list includes books from several genres: fiction, biography, and history. Of course, this cannot possibly be an exhaustive list, but these are books that are accessible to young people. The war continues to be an important topic for authors of all types. We are losing the last of the veterans of World War II, and this generation of children only know of the war as history. All of these books will be available at your local library or bookstore. Following the book list are a couple of websites that may be of interest.

Non-Fiction History

Where the Action Was: Women War Correspondents in World War II by Penny Colman. Describes the work of women war correspondents who covered all the theaters of the war. (grades 6=12)

Left for Dead: A Young Man's Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis by Peter Nelson. This tells about a young boy who helped solve some of the mysteries about the sinking of the Indianapolis 55 years after it happened. (grades 6-12)

Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II by Penny Colman. Describes the many jobs women took on during the war. (grades 6-9)

Is Paris Burning? by Larry Collins. The story of how Paris was saved from Hitler in 1944. (grades 9-12)

Beyond Courage by Doreen Rappaport. Describes the ways that teens and young adults stood up to the terrorism of the Nazis during the war. (grades 8-12)


Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Newbery Medal winner about the Danish Christians and their efforts to rescue Jews. (grades 4-8)

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green. The friendship between a young Jewish girl in Arkansas and a German prisoner of war. (grades 5-8)

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki. Japanese American boys play baseball in an internment camp during the war. (grades 4-8)

Kingdom by the Sea by Robert Westall. A 12-year-old boy and his dog seek safety in war-torn England. (grades 5-9)

For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy by Kimberly Bradley. A novel based on the experiences of a young woman spy during the French Resistance. (grades 9-12)

Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World WarTwo by Joseph Bruchac. Young Navajo Marines use their language to send coded messages during the war. (grades 8-12)

A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Harry Mazer. A Hawaiian boy tries to find his father after the attack on Pearl Harbor. (grades 6-9)

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. An award-winning novel about two young women involved in the war effort in Great Britain. (grades 10-12)


No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War by Anita Lobel. The story of the author's journey during World War II trying to escape from Poland. (grades 5-9)

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. This is probably the most famous memoir of Jews during World War II. (grades 6-9)

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. The story of an Olympic runner whose plane was bombed down in the Pacific. (grades 8-12)

The War Journal of Major Damon "Rocky" Gause by Damon Gause. A firsthand account of a soldier who escapes from the Bataan Death March in the Philippines. (grades 8-12)

Hiding in the Spotlight by Greg Dawson. The story of Zhanna and Frina, piano proteges who were living in the Ukraine when the Nazis invaded. They entertained their way through the war and escaped the death march. (grades 9-12)


The Perilous Fight: America's World War II in Color. This is a PBS series with some rare color photographs.

Pictures of World War II. Pictures and writings from the National Archives.

Life in World War II: The Photos We Remember. The story of the war as it was portrayed in Life and Time magazines.




In Honor of Black History Month: Some Awesome African American Authors

by Miriam Downey 27. February 2013 07:32

February is Black History month. Over the past months, I have included many books in my blog postings that tell the stories of African American history in picture books, novels, and biographies. But, oh, there are so many books, and so little time! Every year, the American Library Association awards the Coretta Scott King Award to the outstanding contributor to African American literature and gives out awards to several honor books as well.

This year's author award recipients were Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney for the books Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America (grades 4 and up). This is the story of ten men, each from a different era and with a different background who had a part in the growth of America. They are included in what the author calls a "freedom chain" of hands, drawing inspiration from the past and moving to the future. Other books by the Pinkneys that you will want to read include a companion book, Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters (grade 4 and up), which was a Coretta Scott King honor book in a previous year. By the way, any book by the Pinkneys is worth reading.

The illustrator award went to Bryan Collier for his book I Too Am American for grades 1 and up, which is a picture book version of a poem by Langston Hughes. it is a tribute to the porters on the Pullman railroad cars. Collier is a well known African American illustrator. He won the Coretta Scott King award for his book Uptown and a Caldecott Honor Award for one of my favorites, Martin's Big Words.

The other author award winning book was Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson for grades 2-5. This is a novel about relationships, bullying, and economic difficulties. Another of her books is The Other Side for grades 1-4 which is about the right side and the wrong side of the tracks.

The honor book for illustration went to Daniel Minter for Ellen's Broom. This is an autobiographical story of children's author Kelly Starling Lyons and is illustrated by Minter, who has also illustrated several of Lyon's books.

Here are some authors whose Coretta Scott King award winning books about African American history, African American life, and African American children are always valuable: Kadir Nelson, Vera Williams, Donald Crews, Virginia Hamilton, Eloise Greenfield, James Ransome, Mildred Taylor, Julius Lester, Christopher Myers, Ashley Bryan, Nikkin Grimes, and Angela Johnson.

These award winners will be available at your library and bookstore. Check them out!

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