Tag Archives: Biography

Non-Fiction in January


Well, 2014 is off to a good start. Apparently I read more non-fiction than I realized.  The five books I’ve read this year have all been stellar, too.

I loved Army Camels: Texas Ships of the Desert.  It’s such a small piece of random Texas history  that so few people know about.  What a neat book to have in a 4th or 7th grade social studies class.  It could be that spark that gets a kid interested in Texas history.

Texas Camels

To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt is a wonderful biography of Teddy Roosevelt.  I thought the author did a great job of hitting the highlights of such an accomplished public figure.  There are so many things Roosevelt is known for and this book, with it’s colorful, active pictures does a nice job of introducing Roosevelt’s many facets.  I could see using it as a springboard into students researching different aspects of his life.  It’s also a great model for students on how to pick those really key, most important topics that you want to write about.  Have you read The Camping Trip That Changed America by Barb Rosenstock?  It pairs nicely with To Dare Mighty Things.

Teddy Roosevelt

After spending a week with the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham a few years ago, I naturally gravitate towards books like We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March and Birmingham, 1963.  I love how both of them focused on the role of children in Birmingham’s fight for equality.  Birmingham, 1963 is a bit harder to read; it’s about the four victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.  But you’ll absolutely want to include it in any study of the era.  And We’ve Got a Job is a detailed look at the events of 1963 through the eyes of four children who participated in different ways.  Both great resources that will heighten interest in this era.

Birmingham 1963     We've Got a Job

Locomotive had been on my to read list for so long and I’m so glad I finally got to it.  Gorgeous, detailed illustrations that give the reader a deep understanding of the Transcontinental Railroad. Another great resource to include in an American History class; much more enjoyable than reading the textbook I’m sure.  And congratulations to Brian Floca.  Just last week it was announced that Locomotive won the 2014 Caldecott.  Definitely well deserved!


Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2014! Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction titles.  My goal is to read 25 nonfiction picture books for 2014. Progress: 5/25 complete!


What I Read the Week of February 3, 2013


Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Elijah of Buxton FNL JKTinddThis is the fourth book I’ve read by Christopher Paul Curtis and I’ve enjoyed it just as much as the other three. Curtis takes an under-taught and under-appreciated historical element of American (& Canadian) history and uses it as the backdrop to an amazing story in which a young child surprises us with his courage and determination. Elijah is an 11-year old boy living in a Buxton, Ontario, a settlement of freed and escaped slaves, during the mid-1850s. This book is simply a narrative of a part of Elijah’s young life. What I enjoyed about this book (and Curtis’s other works) is that the protagonist is a young child, usually on the cusp of adolescence living in a particularly challenging time and place. Despite the pressures of the world, Elijah lives life as he has been raised, respectful and always expecting good from people. In fact, I often found myself talking to Elijah, encouraging him to make the decisions I already knew he’d be making. I think the message it sends to its readers is that the heroes can and do come from the unlikeliest of people and places.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Wow! what took me so long to pick up this book and read it? John Green writes a beautiful story of a sixteen year old girlthe fault in our stars who has been fighting cancer for the past three years. Not really in remission, the meds she’s on are just really buying her time. Hazel meets Augustus at a Support Group, which is composed of teenagers living with cancer. The Fault in Our Stars is the story of Hazel & Augustus. I’ve read a variety of interesting commentaries of this novel. They all just prove that your personal experiences impact your perspective and connection to what you read. I thought this book was very well done and that the emotions of teenagers dealing with life-threatening diseases were well portrayed. What families of cancer victims and survivors experience cannot possibly be understood by others, I felt as though this book at least offers readers a glimpse into that world.

Adele & Simon and Adele & Simon in America by Barbara McClintock

adele & simonI also read Adele & Simon and Adele & Simon in America by Barbara McClintock.  Adele is the older sister to Simon,which means she’s always looking after him.  This is a pretty heavy responsibility considering that Simon is always losing things.  And that is the premise of both of these books.  The first takes place in their hometown of Paris,France, and the second adventure takes place as they travel throughout America with their aunt.  Both of these books are incredibly precious and introduce the read to famous sites relevant to each setting.  I appreciated the guide at the end of the book which described each site in detail and listed famous figures you might even find at each location.  In fact, with both books, I found myself turning back to each page to understand the details given and to look for those mystery figures.

Play, Louis, Play!: The True Story of a Boy & His Horn by Muriel Harris Weinstein and Frank Morrison

Play Louis PlayFinally, I read Play, Louis, Play!: The True Story of a Boy and His Horn by Muriel Harris Weinstein and Frank Morrison.  It is the biography of Louis Armstrong as told by the very first horn he ever bought. It’s a fabulous story that offers young readers a glimpse into the hard, young life of this musical genius.  Play, Louis, Play  is a Texas Bluebonnet Book for 2012-2013 and so far one, of my favorites.  There are multiple avenues for students to make connections, whether it’s growing up poor, having an absent parent, or simply the love of music.  Not only is this a wonderful, easy to read biography, but it’s also one in which students should be able to easily connect to.

On Deck – 

I am currently ready The Giant and How He Humbugged America by Jim Murphy.  My next audio books will Classic Short Stories from the 19th century, edited by Mark Twain and The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.  And I think I’ll focus on the stack of Caldecotts I’ve had on my bookshelf for the past couple of weeks.  Still thinking about what my next chapter book will be.  I have Hero by Mike Lupica and Divergent sitting on my shelf.  Thoughts???