I have never understood why people can do such evil to other people… yet it is so common in our world: Cambodia; Rwanda; Myanmar; Sudan; Kosovo… where does it stop?
Genocide has been part of my own family history from World War II in Poland. In The Sandcastle Girls, through a love story, Chris Bohjalian exposes the horrors of the Armenian genocide – the slaughter of 1.5 million people just over a century ago that many Americans are unaware of.
Set in Aleppo, Syria, with well-developed characters and captivating plot, you won’t be able to set this story down.
This is the story of Stefania Podgorska, a Polish teenager who risked her life to hide Jews. With gripping first-person narration, this fast-paced historical novel captivated me as a reader. The story shows that, even in terrible times, there are good people. Knowing it meant certain death if they were caught, there were still people willing to hide Jews – like the folks who hid my mother and my uncle, who are also Polish Holocaust survivors. It’s a part of history we should never forget.
This is an excellent introduction to the culture and tragedy of Sudan and Darfur.
Author Andrea Pinkney uses narrative verse, vivid imagery and figurative language that immerses the reader in the Sudan landscape and culture.
12-year-old Amira and her family must flee as the Janjaweed militia invades and sets their village ablaze. They end up at the Kalma refugee camp where the gift of a red pencil sets Amira’s imagination on fire.
There are dreamers – and there are builders.
We celebrate the dreamers – the visionaries like Gretas and Malalas, the Ghandis and Mandelas… we celebrate artists, writers, leaders, musicians, sports heroes. But what about the workers, the laborers who make things happen?
Someone Builds the Dream celebrates them. It shows children that workers and tradespeople are important too, and that we need to work together to get the work done.
Karen Long’s clear illustrations show women and people of different ethnic groups doing these important skilled trades jobs. Lisa Wheeler’s catchy, fast, rhyming text with the refrain “Someone had to build this dream” draws young readers in. A must read.
I loved this fun book! I was odd and quirky as a kid... so i understand not being accepted because of differences.
Sassafrass doesn’t fit in because of her short tail – until it becomes a plus instead of a minus! Kids will love this engaging story about a unique and special squirrel – and will learn that being different can be a good thing.
These two books show children that everyone can practice kindness.
The main character in this story wants to help her friend feel better. At first, t doesn’t work… She can’t fix Tanisha’s problem. She wonders what she could have done… then asks, “What does it mean to be kind anyway?“ The rest of the book explores this with examples like putting dirty dishes in the sink or making cookies for a neighbor who lives alone, or painting a picture for a friend.
Kindness is… a kite string that lifts spirits, a footbridge that bridges what divides us, a chain that connects us. It is a ray of sunshine and an open door, inviting others in. Michelle Schaub uses similes and metaphors to show the power of kindness. Begin the day with a hug… and end it gently. Kindness is contagious – be sure to pass it on!
So many examples of kindness in this lovely book – and there are questions and ideas for discussing kindness with kids at school or at home. As well as information about metaphors and similes.
Both books show many examples of kindness, and show the reader that small acts of kindness matter.
Both promote conversation about what it means to be kind. Even though the girl could not fix Tanisha’s problem, her kindness helped her feel better.
Kindness makes the world better.
A century ago, girls were told they couldn’t become conductors. But Antonia Brico didn’t listen – and she didn’t let that stop her!
In one ear and out the other: Antonia Brico and her amazing musical life by Diane Worthey. Illustrated by Morgana Wallace. Penny Candy books, 2020. 48 p. ; 12,000 words.
This 1200-word chapter book biography inspires girls to never give up on your dream! Antonia Brico had many things against her. Her foster parents abandoned her when she turned 18. She was told the audience would throw rotten eggs at a woman conductor. But she didn’t listen… she let the negative comments go in one ear and out the other and persevered in the pursuit of her goal to become a conductor. She was the first woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
As a teenager, Diane Worthey performed under Brico's baton - so she has firsthand experience with the subject of her biography.
Dianne White is another author I would like to emulate. I’ve read two of her books – Green on Green and Blue on Blue.
Green on Green describes the vibrant colors of the seasons – shades of yellow for spring, blue for summer, brown for fall and white for winter. The illustrations tell a parallel story of family, culminating with the birth of a new baby just when winter ends and seedlings come up in early spring.
Blue on Blue takes us through a summer storm, from start to finish. It’s a peaceful, contemplative bedtime story ending with the stars shining at night.
Both books are a feast to the senses, with beautiful rhyme and rhythm.
I’m looking forward to reading her other books: Sometimes a Wall, Goodbye Brings Hello and Who Eats Orange.
A Small Blue Whale (illustrated by Lisa Mundorff Alfred Knopf, 2017, 34p.) is another tender friendship story. The whale wishes and wants and waits for a friend… who will be his friend? The sun? The cloud? The penguins? This touching story is full of feelings, and we watch as the whale learns what friendship sounds like, feels like, tastes like and feels like… and it is worth the wait.
The Rules of the Birthday Wish (illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, G.P. Putnam 2019; 48 p.) is completely different from the other two. Fun language and whimsical animal illustrations capture the festive birthday party mood. Silly exceptions to the ‘rules’ are rollicking fun!
Beth Ferry is a New York Times best-selling children’s author from New Jersey. I was introduced to her books when one of my book groups, Missing Voice, was studying her latest work, Swashby by the Sea. Since my library didn’t have a copy of Swashby, I took out three other books and immediately fell in love!
The first book I read was The Scarecrow (Harper Collins; 2019; 40 p.; 398 words) – a touching story about the friendship between a scarecrow and a crow. In gentle rhyme, Beth takes us through the seasons and we feel the Scarecrow’s loneliness, kindness, and acts of love. Such a beautiful poem about the joy of helping others. Soft, textured illustrations move us through this tender, gentle story.
A good book, a comfy chair,