2.23.2020

Dancing Hands

How Teresa Carreno
Played the Piano
For President Lincoln

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
(Simon and Schuster)
(pub. 8.27.2019) 
 40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Margarita Engle
      and illustrator:  Rafael Lopez
 
C haracter: Teresa Carreno

O
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     "As a little girl, Teresa Carreno loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals.
     Then a revolution in Venezuela drove her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too - a Civil War.
     Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the white House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa's music bring comfort to those who needed it most?"

T antalizing taste: 
     "But the piano was poorly tuned, making her music sound ugly. What should she do? Refuse to play?
     She stopped, feeling discouraged, until Mister Lincoln smiled kindly and asked for his favorite song, 'Listen to the Mockingbird.' 
     Teresa knew she could play this lively piece even on an imperfect piano, so her fingers leaped across all the glorious dark and light keys, improvising the way mockingbirds do, the melody changing a she went along. Music swirled, twirled, and soared on wings of sound.
     The president listened quietly to notes that rose, swayed, rippled, and dipped like a bird in a blue sky above a green forest."

And something more: The Historical Note states that "Teresa Carreno became known as a composer and opera singer, as well as one of the best pianists of her era, playing with  such an intense spirit that audience members claimed they could hear the power of tropical nature in her music. She settled in Berlin, but returned to New York during World War I. Her remains, concert gowns, piano, and many of her documents were eventually returned to Venezuela, where she is remembered as La Leona ('The Lioness') of the piano."

2.02.2020

Our House is on Fire

Greta Thunberg's Call
to Save the Planet

Beach Lane Books
(Simon & Schuster)
(pub. 9.24.2019) 
40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor and illustrator:  Jeanette Winter
 
C haracter: Greta Thunberg

O
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"Our climate is changing.

Our planet is warming.

Will we do something to stop it before it's too late?

One brave girl is demanding this - and she is inspiring the world."


T antalizing taste: 
     "Greta is a quiet girl who led a quiet life in the city of Stockholm. Her dog Roxy was her friend.
     'All my life I've been invisible...
     ... the invisible girl in the back who doesn't say anything.'

     In school she felt alone.
   
     Then one day Greta's teacher talked to the class about the climate, about how our planet is getting warmer, about how the polar ice is melting, about how animals' lives are threatened.
    And ours, too.
    That's when Greta's life changed.
    She read for hours and watched film after film about our warming world ...
    Greta became sad thinking about the climate all the time.
    She barely ate or spoke.
    
    'These pictures are stuck in my mind.'
    
    The sad days went on for a long time, each day more unhappy than the next.    
    There might not be a world to live in when she grows up.  
    What use is school without a future?
    What can I do, she wondered.

    Greta decided to go on strike from school - for the climate...

     The quiet girl was invited to speak to important people at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It was necessary to speak.

     'I don't want you to be hopeful.
     I want you to panic.
     I want you to feel the fear I feel every day ...
     I want you to act as if the house was on fire.
     Because it is.'"
     

And something more: The back matter explains that "Greta Thunberg was fifteen years old when she first skipped school one Friday to strike for climate change in front of the Swedish Parliament building in Stockholm. Her lone call to action on August 20, 2018, sparked a children's movement that led to Friday school strikes in many countries and culminated in a worldwide Friday march on March 15, 2019." 

    The author and illustrator Jeanette Winters writes: "When I heard her speeches, I felt Greta was speaking for me. And I'm eighty years old."

1.26.2020

The Book Rescuer

How a Mensch from 
Massachusetts Saved
Yiddish Literature
for Generations
to Come

A Paula Wiseman Book
(Simon & Schuster Books)
(pub. 10.1.2019) 
48 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Sue Macy
     and illustrator: Stacy Innerst
 
C haracter: Aaron Lansky

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     "It starts a long time ago in Eastern Europe with a suitcase bound for the United States. Among the precious items inside were books written in Yiddish, the language of generations of European Jews. That suitcase never made it to its destination, but its owner did. And she inspired a man with an extraordinary mission.
     Aaron Lansky never forgot the story of this grandmother's suitcase. It helped to stir in him a deep desire to save the world's Yiddish books. His quest took him on rain-soaked dumpster dives, excursions through musty basements, and tours of cramped attics.
    The Book Rescuer tells the true story of how Aaron Lansky preserved culture and history. It celebrates the power of an individual to bind past and future generations through language and literature.
T antalizing taste: 
     "Although Aaron was the grandson of Eastern European immigrants, he knew only those Yiddish words that had entered the English language. Words like 'bagel' and 'klutz' and 'nosh' and 'glitch.' 'No one ever spoke Yiddish to me, to my brothers, or to anyone else our age,' he said.  Like many other first-generation American Jews, Aaron's parents wanted their kinder to fit in by speaking and reading English.

     As Yiddish speakers disappeared, so did books written in Yiddish. Students like Aaron had a hard time finding Yiddish books for school. That's why he was stunned when he visited his hometown rabbi and spotted a basket filled with Yiddish books on the floor of his office. What were they doing there? The rabbi said he intended to bury them.

     Aaron could have plotzed! Destroying Yiddish books was like erasing Jewish history. But these books were no longer useful, the rabbi explained, and burying them was a sign of respect.  Aaron was not having it. With the rabbi's blessing, he took everything in the basket."

And something more: The Illustrator's Note by Stacy Innerst explains that "the pictures in this book were inspired by the extraordinary vision of Marc Chagall. There is, perhaps, no painter who conveyed the visual language of his culture more intimately and poetically than Chagall, and I've loved his work for as long as I can remember."

1.12.2020

16 Words

William Carlos Williams
& "The Red Wheelbarrow"

Schwartz & Wade
(pub. 9.24.2019) 
 40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Lisa Roger
      and illustrator:  Chuck Groenink
 
C haracter: William Carlos Williams

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     "A wheelbarrow.
      A drizzle of rain.
      Chickens scratching in the damp earth.

Open this oh-so-simple picture book and discover how William Carlos Williams turned the everyday things he saw outside a window into his greatest poem."

T antalizing taste: 
     "Dr. Williams depends on his doctor's bag to carry the tools he needs.
     Along with his stethoscope and syringes, he carries a pen. A pen for writing prescriptions. A pen for crafting poems.
     Writing poems brings Dr. Williams joy, and he fits in his writing around his doctoring...
     He writes about trees, a fire engine, cats, and plums.
     He chooses the words for his poetry as carefully as he examines his patients."

And something more: The Author's Note explains that "as a young man, Williams had wanted to be an athlete, but he collapsed after a high school race  and was found to have a heart condition. He was despondent. 'Like a bolt out of the blue,' his first poem came to him:

     A black, black cloud
     flew over the sun
     driven by fierce flying
     rain.

He felt such happiness that 'from that moment I was a poet.'"

12.09.2019

Thurgood

Schwartz & Wade Books 

(Random House Books)
(pub. 9.3.2019) 
40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Jonah Winter
and illustrator:   
Bryan Collier
 
C haracter: Thurgood Marshall

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"FACT: Thurgood Marshall was a born lawyer, always arguing.

FACT: Thurgood Marshall grew up to become the first black justice on the Supreme Court.
  
FACT: Thurgood Marshall revolutionized America.
   
  Before Rosa Parks, before Martin Luther King Jr., before the civil rights movement, there was Thurgood, fighting for African Americans - and winning. Here is the powerful story of the trailblazer who proved separate is not equal."

T antalizing taste: 
     "As it turned out, this sloppy kid with untucked pockets had a knack for arguing. He became captain of his high school debate team - unparalleled in his debating AND talking skills. He gave epic classroom presentations - so long that his teachers would have to cut him off! No one could outtalk Thurgood - especially once he went to college ..."

And something more: The Author's Note states that "there is no single person in American history who contributed more to the cause of civil rights than Thurgood Marshall in terms of the sheer number of legal rights he secured through court battles.  Starting in 1936 with the University of Maryland case [whereby the law school would have to accept black students] and continuing through the twenty-nine Supreme Court cases he won as the NAACP's top lawyer until 1961; his fourteen Supreme Court victories a Solicitor General, and his profound legacy as a Supreme Court justice, Marshall helped to make America 'a more perfect union,' to quote the U.S. Constitution. He was a giant."

11.18.2019

Rise!

From Caged Bird to Poet
of the People,

Maya Angelou

Lee & Low Books
(pub. 8.13.2019) 
48 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Bethany Hegedus
and illustrator: Tonya Engel
 
C haracter: Maya Angelou

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     "Maya Angelou's life was defined by transformation and perseverance. From her early days as a passionate reader in Arkansas, through her work as a freedom fighter with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, to her triumphant rise as a post of the people, Maya Angelou did more than survive. She thrived, and along the way she became an inspiration to millions. 
     In honor of the 50th anniversary of Angelou's classic I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and with a foreword by her grandson Colin Johnson, Rise! celebrates the luminous life, spirit, and legacy of a truly phenomenal woman."

T antalizing taste: 
"The sights, sounds, and smells of San Francisco 
   delight Maya.
She floats through the fog,
   a cocoon of creativity that blankets the city.
Maya's love of language now moves within her,
   rhythm, rhyme,
   meter as music.
Before long, Maya earns a scholarship
   to the California Labor School.
There she dons black tights
   and learns to occupy space
   with her long limbs.
Maya the dancer,
   the performer,
        is born."

And something more: The Foreword by Colin Johnson, Maya Angelou's grandson, states that as my grandmother "moved past the pains of her own childhood and managed that pain, she came to believe: 'My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.'" And Bethany Hegedus, the author of Rise! and owner of The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas, is someone who also shares a powerful message: "What I learned after surviving 9/11 and during the 12 years it took for Grandfather Gandhi [her first children's biography] to be published was to keep being creative, believe in your vision, be resilient, and believe in the power of story to heal."

11.10.2019

Our Flag Was Still There

The True Story 
of Mary Pickersgill
and the Star-Spangled
Banner

A Paula Wiseman Book
(Simon and Schuster)
(pub. 5.21.2019) 
48 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthor and illustrator:  Jessie Hartland
 
C haracter:Mary Pickersgill

O
 verview from the jacket flap
     "If you go to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History  in Washington, D.C., you can see a massive American flag: it's thirty feet tall and forty-two feet long. That's huge! But how did it get there? And where did it come from? Well...
     The story of that giant flag begins in 1812 and stars a major on the eve of battle, a seamstress and her mighty helpers, and a poet named Francis Scott Key. This isn't just the story of a flag. It's the story of the poem that became our national anthem, 'The Star-Spangled Banner.'
     Dynamically told and stunningly illustrated, this fascinating and true story is brought to life by Jessie Hartland."

T antalizing taste: 
     "The year was 1813. Only thirty years had passed since America's thirteen colonies fought long and hard for independence form Great Britain ... and we wanted to be free.
     But in 1813 we were once again at war with England ... And the British were on their way to capture Baltimore...There stood Major George Armistead, ready to lead American troops to defend Fort McHenry... George wanted to send a big message to the British:This land  belongs to America!
     'It is my desire to have a flag so large that the British will have no difficulty seeing it from a distance.'
     Lucky for George, not far away ... lived Mary Pickersgill.
     Mary had learned the flag-making trade from her widowed mother, who had also made blankets and uniforms during the Revolutionary War."

And something more: Jessie Hartland's Author's Note explains that "the flag discussed in this book was the second official version of [the American flag]. It had fifteen stripes and fifteen stars, acknowledging the two newest states at that time: Kentucky and Vermont. In 1818, the United States Congress passed an act to revert to the flag's original design, with thirteen stripes to honor the original thirteen colonies, and to continue adding a star from each new state.
     Major Armistead's heirs gave the flag to the Smithsonian Institution on the condition that it never be loaned out. They wanted the flag always on view ... The museum has kept its word with one notable exception: Fearing enemy attack during World War II, the flag was moved temporarily out of the city for safekeeping."