1.17.2021

Saving the Countryside

The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit

Little Bee Booka

(pub. 1.28.2020) 

40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Linda Elovitz Marshall
       and illustrator: Ilaria Urbinati
C haracter:  Beatrix Potter

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"Growing up in London, Beatrix Potter felt the restraints of Victorian times. Girls didn't go to school and weren't expected to work. But she longed to do something important, something that truly mattered. As Beatrix spent her summers in the country and found inspiration in nature, it was through this passion that her creativity flourished. 

There, she crafted The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She would eventually move to the countryside full-time, but developers sought to change the land. To save it, Beatrix used the money from the success of her books and bought acres and acres of land and farms to prevent the development of the countryside that both she and Peter Rabbit so cherished. Because of her efforts, it's been preserved just as she left it.

This beautiful picture book shines a light on Beatrix Potter's lesser-known history and her desire to do something for the greater good."

T antalizing taste: 
 

"The Tale of Peter Rabbit was of no interest to most publishers. One publisher considered it, but he took such a long time and Beatrix could not keep waiting.

So, using money she'd earned from drawing Benjamin Bouncer on holiday cards, Beatrix had 250 copies of the Tale of Peter Rabbit printed.

She put the books up for sale. Every copy sold.

She order more copies. They sold, too!

The Tale of Peter Rabbit was such a success that, at last, the publisher made her an offer. Beatrix Potter struck a deal!

Beatrix made sure that her beautiful little books would not cost too much.  She wanted everyone to be able to buy them."


And something more:  The Author's Note explains Linda Elovitz Marshall's inspiration for writing the book: "In 2018, I participated in a 'literary ramble,' visiting England with a group of children's authors and illustrators.... On arrival in Near Sawrey, in the Lake District where Beatrix Potter had lived, my heart did a flip-flop! It was March, a rather dreary time of the  year, yet the countryside - the hills, lakes, and farms - sang to me. How could it be that, after so many years, the area looked exactly as it did in Beatrix Potter's little books? ...The mystery was solved! The Lake District looked undeveloped and peaceful because of Beatrix Potter. She helped save the area from trains running through it, from farms being split into housing developments, and from the myriad intrusions of the developments of city life....She bought more than four thousand acres of land and donated it all to the National Trust, the United Kingdom organization that preserves places of historical or natural interest. What a woman!"

1.11.2021

Patricia's Vision

The Doctor Who Saved Sight

Sterling Children's Books

(pub. 1.7.2020) 

48 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Michelle Lord
       and illustrator:  
Alleanna Harris
 
C haracter:  Patricia Bath

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    "Born in the 1940s, Patricia Bath dreamed of helping people as a doctor, even though that wasn't a  career option for most women at that time —especially African-American women. This empowering biography follows Dr. Bath in her quest to save and restore sight to the blind, and her decision to “choose miracles” when everyone else had given up hope. Along the way, she cofounded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, invented a specialized laser for removing cataracts, and became the first African-American woman doctor to receive a medical patent."

T antalizing taste: 

     "Dr. Bath couldn't wait to begin her career as an ophthalmologist. She moved across the country join the famed Jules Stein Eye Institute in California. Walking into work that first morning, she had no idea she was the first woman on the faculty! Her eyes widened upon finding her new office ... away from the others, in the basement, next to the lab animals ...

     She marched upstairs and demanded a workspace equal to what the other new professors had.

    'Taking the high road may be arduous and long, but it will lead to justice and triumph.'"

 
And something more:  At the back of the book, the More About Dr. Patricia Bath explains that "when Patricia applied to college, the interviewer told her that an education was a waste for women....As an intern at Harlem Hospital, Dr. Bath discovered that blindness was twice as common in black patients compared to white patients. She came up with a new idea she called community ophthamology. It offered eye care and blindness prevention to underserved communities. Dr. Bath lived her lifelong goal of helping the blind. Countless people have benefitted from her Laserphaco Probe."

12.21.2020

The Efficient, Inventive (Often Annoying) Melvil Dewey

Calkins Creek (Boyds Mills& Kane)


(pub. 11.10.2020) 

40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: 
Alexis O'Neill
       and illustrator:   
Edwin Fotheringham
 
C haracter:  Melvil Dewey

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"Melvil Dewey’s love of organization and words at a very early age drove him to develop and implement his Dewey Decimal Classification system, a school to train librarians, inventions to streamline librarians’ work, and more, leaving a significant and lasting impact in libraries throughout the world."

T antalizing taste: 

     "Melvil Dewey loves putting things in order.

    Oh, no - what's he doing now?

    He's organized the chaos of his mother's kitchen cupboard. And now the cellar.

    There. Nice and neat.      

    Melvil loves keeping track of things.

    He's recording his height. His weight. How much money he has earned.

    Melvil loves books. He tucks his money into this pocket and goes for a ten-mile walk.

    Wait - where is he going?"


And something more: I attended the wonderful virtual release celebration of The Efficient, Inventive (Often Annoying) Melvil Dewey, and later Alexis shared with me the inspiration for the book: "A goofy video about the Dewey Decimal Classification system sent to me by a school library sparked this book about this quirky and controversial creator of the DDC. The number 10 held Dewey in thrall throughout his life. His birthday is on December 10. As a kid, he walked 10 miles from his home in Adams Center to Watertown, New York to purchase a dictionary for a reported $10. He even said, 'I am so loyal to decimals that I even like to sleep decimally” – 10 hours a night!'"

12.13.2020

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

(Simon & Schuster)

(pub. 8.25.2020) 

 48 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Carole Boston Weatherford
       and illustrator: Frank Morrison
C haracter:  Aretha Franklin

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"Aretha Franklin was born to sing. The daughter of a pastor and a gospel singer, her musical talent was clear from her earliest days in her father’s Detroit church where her soaring voice spanned more than three octaves.

Her string of hit songs earned her the title “the Queen of Soul,” multiple Grammy Awards, and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But Aretha didn’t just raise her voice in song, she also spoke out against injustice and fought for civil rights.

This authoritative, rhythmic picture book biography will captivate young readers with Aretha’s inspiring story."

T antalizing taste:

D-E-B-U-T

            Fourteen, recording live, and nervous as can be.

            She cuts a gospel album, gives God the victory. 

V-O-I-C-E

            Aretha’s voice resounds with color and clarity,

            spanning three-plus octaves, the maestros all agree. 

G-R-O-O-V-E

            Aretha finds her groove when she’s rocking R&B.

            No woman of her time has more chart-toppers than

             she. 

R-I-G-H-T

            For the civil rights movement for racial equality,

            Aretha raises funds and gives concerts for free.


And something more:  Carole Boston Weatherford's Author's Note explains that "as a girl, Aretha learned to play piano by ear and sang with her sisters in the church choir. Touring the gospel music circuit with her father, she met singers Clara Ward and Mahalia Jackson and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

    At age fourteen, Aretha recorded her first album, Spirituals.  The music industry took notice, and by age eighteen, Franklin had landed a contract with Columbia Records... Franklin was not just an artist, though; she was also an activist. During the 1960s, she performed at benefit concerts to support the civil rights movement and quietly donated funds to bail protesters out of jail."

12.07.2020

Fauja Singh Keeps Going

The True Story of the Oldest Person To Ever Run A Marathon

Kokila

(Penguin Random House)

(pub. 8.25.2020) 

48 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Simran Jeet Singh
       and illustrator:  Baljinder Kaur
C haracter:  Fauja Singh

O
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    "Fauja Singh was born determined. He was also born with legs that wouldn’t allow him to play cricket with his friends or carry him to school miles from his village in Punjab. But that didn’t stop him. Working on his family’s farm, Fauja grew stronger to meet his own full potential.

He never stopped striving. At the age of 81, after a lifetime of making his body, mind, and heart stronger, Fauja decided to run his first marathon. He went on to break records all around the world and became the first person over 100 to complete the grueling long-distance race.

With exuberant text by Simran Jeet Singh and exhilarating illustrations by Baljinder Kaur, the true story of Fauja Singh reminds us that it’s both where we start and how we finish that make our journeys unforgettable."

T antalizing taste: 

     "He wished he felt as strong as his name, which meant 'warrior lion.'

     When he was very little, his parents thought that he might never walk.

    Month after month and year after year went by, but Fauja did not take a single step.

    Aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas shook their heads  gravely and said: 'It's too hard. He's too weak.'

    But Fauja did not listen and Fauja did not stop.

    Instead, every morning he would listen to  his mother, who said, 'You know yourself, Fauja, and you know what you're capable of. Today is a chance to do your best.' 

    Fauja practiced walking outside his family's hut each day, staying in the mud to soften every fall."

 
And something more:  The foreward by Fauja Singh says: "I'm now 108 years old, which means I'm probably more than 100 years older that you. Can you believe that?

My  secret to a long and healthy life has been taking care of my mind, body, and soul. Every day, I challenge myself to think, exercise, eat healthy, and pray... I have really enjoyed my long life and hope you have a long and happy life too. I'd love for you to take care of  yourself, try your  hardest, and always choose yes when you meet a challenge."

11.30.2020

Drawing on Walls

The Story of Keith Haring

Enchanted Lion Books

(pub. 5.19.2020)  

64 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Matthew Burgess
       and illustrator: 
           Josh Cochran
 
C haracter:  Keith Haring

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 verview:
       
"'I would love to be a teacher because I love children and I think that not enough people respect children or understand how important they are. I have done many projects with children of all ages.' --Keith Haring
 
Truly devoted to the idea of public art, Haring created murals wherever he went... Often seen drawing in white chalk on the matte black paper of unused advertising space in the subway, Haring's iconic pop art and graffiti-like style transformed the New York City underground in the 1980s. 
 
A member of the LGBTQ community, Haring died tragically at the age of thirty-one from AIDS-related complications...this honest, celebratory book honors Haring's life and art, along with his very special connection with kids."
 
T antalizing taste: 

     "On a trip home for Christmas, Keith stumbled upon The Art Spirit by Robert Henri.

    After a few sentences, he felt as if the book was speaking directly to him, like a friend.

    'Do whatever you do intensely. The artist ... leaves the crowd and goes pioneering.'

    ... But no matter how busy he became or where in the world he went, he always made time for children.

    Keith understood kids and they  understood him. There was an unspoken bond between them.

    And since children often asked him to draw on their t-shirts, skateboards, and jeans, he always kept a black marker handy."

And something more:  In the Illustrator's Note, Josh Cochran writes: "My favorite way to draw is to start in the upper left-hand corner of the page and slowly work my way out. Sometimes I will draw an arm or a cheeseburger too big or too small, and this will affect how I draw the next things. I'll have to compensate by squeezing something in a tiny space or rendering a bright purple cloud to balance the composition. Drawing as stream-of-consciousness poetry is something that I absorbed in large part from Keith. The way he would approach a wall or a canvas with no hesitation is a constant source of inspiration."

11.23.2020

Dark Was the Night

Blind Willie Johnson's Journey to the Stars

Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Random House)

(pub. 8.25.2020) 

32 pages 

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Gary Golio
       and illustrator:  E.B. Lewis
 
C haracter:  Willie Johnson

O
 verview:
       
    "Willie Johnson loved to sing and play guitar. He went blind when he was young, but that didn't stop him from traveling all over Texas to perform on street corners and in small  churches. The unique way he  played slide guitar - with a penknife - gave  the instrument a voice of its own, and paired with his own raspy singing, he created an unforgettable sound...
     This powerful story introduces young readers to an influential musician who helped people find light and hope in their lives. Along with pieces by Bach, Beethoven, and the sound of a human heart, Willie Johnson's evocative 'Dark Was the Night' was chosen to represent humanity on the historic Golden Record, carried into space by the Voyager I."

T antalizing taste: 

     "In a dark quiet room, your voice poured into a microphone, slid down some wires, and scratched itself onto a wax disc. The record caught you breathing, singing, and moving your knife along those steel strings.

     It was the sound of one human being reaching out to all the others, telling them not to be afraid of the dark.

     After all, if a blind man could see the light ..."

And something more:  The back matter of Dark Was the Night discusses the background of The Golden Record time capsule sent out into space in 1977: "On August 25, 2012, Voyager I  - traveling through space at 38,000 miles per hour - became the first human-made object to leave our  solar system and journey so far from Earth.  On it is the song of a blind man, someone who knew both light and darkness, bearing a message of hope to the stars themselves."