Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Our Hearts Will Hold Us Up

Jack­ie: It seems per­fect­ly appro­pri­ate that the Man­ag­er of Hol­i­day Place­ment  has placed Valentine’s Day, a day to cel­e­brate love and affec­tion, right in the mid­dle of cold, dark Feb­ru­ary. I want that cel­e­bra­tion to spread out for the whole month (why not the whole year?) the way the smell of bak­ing bread fills an entire house, not just the kitchen. Why can’t all of Feb­ru­ary be Heart Month? We are choos­ing books this month with that goal in mind. We want to cel­e­brate heart, love, ties of affec­tion. And we have cho­sen a new book, a cou­ple of medi­um new books and an old book to help us.

More, More, More Said the BabyA while back we did an entire col­umn on Vera B. Williams. But I am still miss­ing her. I need her polit­i­cal activism and her huge heart in my neigh­bor­hood. I turned to More, More, More Said the Baby. (Green­wil­low, 1990). 

This book is a huge cel­e­bra­tion of the love between dad­dies and kids:

Just look at you
With your per­fect bel­ly but­ton
Right in the mid­dle
Right in the mid­dle
Right in the mid­dle
Of your fat lit­tle bel­ly.
Then Lit­tle Guy’s dad­dy
Brings that baby
Right up close
And gives that lit­tle guy’s bel­ly
A kiss right I the mid­dle
Of the bel­ly but­ton.

Between grand­mas and kids:

Then Lit­tle Pumpkin’s grand­ma
Brings that baby right up close
And tastes each
Of Lit­tle Pumpkin’s toes.

And mamas and kids:

Just look at you
With your two closed eyes
Then Lit­tle Bird’s Mama…
Gives that lit­tle bird a kiss
Right on each of her lit­tle eyes.

I nev­er tire of read­ing about these chil­dren, diverse chil­dren, who are so loved and so val­ued. This book will be fresh as long as we laugh and kiss babies with bel­ly but­tons and ten lit­tle toes.

Phyl­lis:; I miss Vera B. Williams, too, and I love see­ing her spir­it still alive in her books and also in the hearts of peo­ple every­where who care about peo­ple every­where. Her lan­guage in More More More is so deli­cious – along with the rep­e­ti­tion we have live­ly verbs of inter­ac­tion between grown-ups and beloved chil­dren (swing, scoot, catch that baby up).  Lit­tle Guy, Lit­tle Pump­kin, and Lit­tle Bird have names that could be any child’s. I love, too, the exu­ber­ant art and hand let­tered mul­ti-col­ored text. Every­thing about this book cel­e­brates tak­ing joy in our chil­dren.

My Heart Will Not Sit DownJack­ie: In My Heart Will Not Sit Down, (Alfred Knopf, 2012) empa­thy and car­ing for oth­ers trav­el around the world. Rock­liff cre­ates a school child Kedi, who hears from her teacher about the hun­gry chil­dren in New York City and can­not stop think­ing about them. She asks her moth­er for a coin to send them. Her moth­er says they have no coins to spare. “Kedi knew Mama was right. Still, her heart would not sit down.” She asks an uncle, a sweep­ing moth­er with a baby on her back, a grand­moth­er pound­ing cas­sa­va, laugh­ing girls who car­ried pots of riv­er water, old men play­ing a game of stones, even the head­man. No one has coins… Until the next morn­ing when her mama gives her one coin. She takes the coin to school, think­ing that one coin can do lit­tle good for the hun­gry chil­dren. Then the vil­lagers show up — each bear­ing a coin. “We have heard about the hunger in our teacher’s vil­lage,” said the head­man. “Our hearts would not sit down until we helped.” 

Phyl­lis:  This is one of those books that called to me from the shelf in a book­store and cap­ti­vat­ed my heart once I opened it. Kedi’s heart stands up for the hun­gry chil­dren in New York, Amer­i­ca, as she calls it. When the vil­lagers bring their coins, which the author notes would be a small for­tune to the vil­lage even though $3.77 would not go far in Amer­i­ca even in the Depres­sion, her mama asks, “Now will your heart sit down in peace?” Kedi answers, “Yes, Mama, Yes!”  The author notes, too, that in Cameroon, where the event occurred on which the sto­ry is based, peo­ple shared with any­one in need, even strangers, because, as they said, “You may meet him [a stranger] again, and in his own place.” This sto­ry reminds me that the actions of one small per­son can touch many hearts and feed hun­gry chil­dren.

The Heart and the BottleJack­ie: Hearts can spur us to action. Hearts can break. And the last two books are gen­tle sto­ries of the heartache of loss. Oliv­er Jef­fers writes of a “lit­tle girl…whose head was filled with all the curiosi­ties of the world.” Jef­fers shows us this lit­tle girl talk­ing with her grand­pa who sits in a chair, lying under the stars with her grand­pa. He accom­pa­nies her on all her explores. And then one day the chair is emp­ty. She decides to put her heart in a bot­tle to keep it safe. After that she wasn’t curi­ous. She grows up and the bot­tled heart is heavy around her neck.  When she wish­es to retrieve her heart she can’t — until she meets anoth­er lit­tle girl.

This is a sto­ry about deal­ing with sad­ness — we want to pro­tect our hearts but we lose so much when we wall them up.

Phyl­lis:  Oliv­er Jef­fers both wrote and illus­trat­ed The Heart and the Bot­tle, and the illus­tra­tions help car­ry the events and the emo­tions of the sto­ry.  When the girl who has bot­tled her heart decides as a grown-up to take her heart out again, the art shows her try­ing to shake the heart out, grip it with pli­ers, break the bot­tle with a ham­mer, and final­ly, aban­don­ing her work bench cov­ered with a drill, a cross cut saw, a wood­en mal­let, screw­driv­er, and oth­er assort­ed tools includ­ing a vac­u­um clean­er lean­ing again the bench, she climbs a lad­der to the top of an enor­mous­ly tall brick wall and drops the bot­tle which still doesn’t break but just “bounced and rolled…right down to the sea” where a lit­tle girl eas­i­ly frees the heart from the bot­tle and returns it.  The book ends, “The heart was put back where it came from.  And the chair wasn’t emp­ty any­more. But the bot­tle was.” Here, too, the art reflects that the woman’s  world is once again filled with won­der.  We need our hearts with­in us.

Cry, Heart, But Never BreakJack­ie: Cry, Heart, But Nev­er Break comes to us from Den­mark. It was writ­ten by Glenn Ringtved, illus­trat­ed by Char­lotte Par­di and trans­lat­ed by Robert Moulthrop (Enchant­ed Lion Books, 2016).  This book also deals with loss. Four chil­dren live with their grand­moth­er — “A kind­ly woman, she had cared for them for many years.” Then Death knocks at the door. The chil­dren decide to fore­stall Death’s mis­sion with cof­fee. They will keep him drink­ing cof­fee all night so he can­not take their grand­moth­er, thus giv­ing her anoth­er day of life. Even­tu­al­ly he has had enough. And one of the chil­dren asks why grand­moth­er has to die. And then comes: “Some peo­ple say Death’s heart is as dead and black as a piece of coal, but that is not true. Beneath his inky cloak, Death’s heart is as red as the most beau­ti­ful sun­set and beats with a great love of life.” He tells them a sto­ry of Sor­row and Grief meet­ing and falling in love with Delight and Joy. “What would life be worth if there were no death? Who would enjoy the sun if it nev­er rained? Who would yearn for day if there were no night?”

When Death goes to the Grandmother’s room, he says to the chil­dren, “Cry, Heart, but nev­er break. Let your tears of grief and sad­ness begin a new life.” Char­lotte Pardi’s illus­tra­tions are per­fect for this book, sim­ple and ten­der. We see what appears to be quick­ly-sketched fur­ni­ture in the night kitchen — we know this is a sto­ry. And yet we con­nect with the emo­tions on the children’s faces.

Cry, Heart, But Never Break

Cry, Heart, But Nev­er Break. Illus­tra­tion © Char­lotte Par­di.

Phyl­lis: I love that the chil­dren ply Death with cof­fee, which Death loves, strong and black, and that it’s the youngest child who looks right at Death and even­tu­al­ly puts her hand over his. But even cof­fee can’t stop Death; when he goes  upstairs the chil­dren hear the win­dow open and Death say, “Fly, soul, fly away.” Their hearts grieve and cry but do not break. Some (but not all) of the best books about Death come, inter­est­ing­ly, from oth­er coun­tries. But this book is not only about Death it is about the neces­si­ty of a life with both sor­row and grief and also joy and delight. This is a book that makes me cry and hope for all our hearts that they nev­er com­plete­ly break.

Jack­ie: We start­ed with con­nec­tion — the con­nec­tions of babies and fam­i­lies, and we have come round to loss of con­nec­tion, when what remains is love. Our hearts will hold us up.


Hidden Figures

This week, my moth­er and I heard Mar­got Lee Shet­ter­ly, author of Hid­den Fig­ures, speak at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Dis­tin­guished Carl­son Lec­ture Series. Shet­ter­ly’s book tells the true sto­ry of Mary Jack­son, Kather­ine John­son and Dorothy Vaugh­an — three of dozens of African-Amer­i­can women who worked in the 1950s and ‘60s for NASA in math, sci­ence and com­put­ing. Mar­got Lee Shet­ter­ly is the daugh­ter of one of the ear­ly black male sci­en­tists at the NASA instal­la­tion near Hamp­ton, Vir­ginia. She grew up know­ing these amaz­ing women and she grew up think­ing that math, sci­ence and engi­neer­ing was sim­ply what black peo­ple did. This acknowl­edge­ment, which she makes in the open­ing pages of the book, is the back­drop for the mar­velous sto­ry she tells.

It was a large and com­plete­ly packed venue Tues­day night. Ms. Shet­ter­ly was elo­quent and eru­dite and it was an inspir­ing speech to have had the priv­i­lege to hear. When the audi­ence spilled out on the side­walks of the uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus after the event, there was a pal­pa­ble ener­gy and hope in the air. We had had our bet­ter angels called out and our belea­guered spir­its respond­ed. There was zip in our step, an urgency to our con­ver­sa­tions, a new direc­tion to our thoughts and dreams.

Michelle Nor­ris wel­comes author Mar­got Lee Shet­ter­ly to the
Hubert H. Humphrey Dis­tin­guished Carl­son Lec­ture Series, Feb 21, 2017.

After the pre­pared remarks, Michelle Nor­ris asked Ms. Shet­ter­ly a few ques­tions. One of the ques­tions was a vari­a­tion of Why did we not know about these women before now?!, a ques­tion Ms. Shet­ter­ly said she fields again and again. Her answer: Our imag­i­na­tions weren’t large enough for these amaz­ing black female math­e­mati­cians who worked in Amer­i­ca’s space pro­gram in the 1940s-60’s. There were too many things in the way dur­ing that time — racism and sex­ism were two of those things, but there were oth­ers, as well. Many trou­ble us still — the same ‑isms, of course, but also our unex­am­ined assump­tions, our bias­es, our trib­al natures, and our gen­er­al ugli­ness (my words, not hers).

Look­ing beyond” is a theme in this remark­able book — and it could’ve eas­i­ly been the title of the book, as Michelle Nor­ris point­ed out. The movie uses it bril­liant­ly when Al Har­ri­son and Kather­ine John­son stand before a chalk­board filled with math. He tells her he needs her to look beyond the num­bers at math they don’t even have — and she seems to be the only one among all those NASA sci­en­tists and math­e­mati­cians who can do that. Ms. Shet­ter­ly, in turn, invit­ed us to look beyond easy stereo­types and char­ac­ter­i­za­tions, past the usu­al sto­ries and unex­am­ined his­to­ry, so that we can uncov­er oth­er nar­ra­tives as amaz­ing as the ones she’s giv­en us in Hid­den Fig­ures. Her con­fi­dence that these impor­tant sto­ries are every­where and remain untold sim­ply because no one tells them was pos­i­tive­ly rous­ing.

In clos­ing, Michelle Nor­ris said that there was a program/effort in place to get this book in the hands of high school­ers — news which made Mar­got Lee Shet­ter­ly beam. There’s a young reader’s ver­sion of this book, I know — and I’ve heard it’s won­der­ful — but the orig­i­nal ver­sion is beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten and eas­i­ly cap­tures the inter­est of teens. I hope it’s the ver­sion they receive if they receive one. A tremen­dous amount of his­to­ry is cov­ered in such a beau­ti­ful and acces­si­ble way — through sto­ry. Such pow­er! Our kids need these kinds of sto­ries — we all need these sto­ries. We need our imag­i­na­tion stretched and enlarged for the work that is ahead of us.

Three gen­er­a­tions of our fam­i­ly are read­ing this book right now. I can’t think of anoth­er book that has called us to do that all at once. I com­mend it to you and yours — it will not dis­ap­point.

(P.S. The movie is most excel­lent. The book is superb.)


Do Over

The notion of a “do-over” is alive and well on school play­grounds across the coun­try. Ask any recess super­vi­sor and they will con­firm this. You hear it being request­ed on four-square courts, under bas­ket­ball hoops, and on foot­ball fields… “Awwww, that should be a do-over!” Kids know that some­times you just need anoth­er chance to get it right.

As an edu­ca­tor with near­ly three decades of teach­ing expe­ri­ence, one might think that by this point in my career, my wish-list for “do-overs” in the class­room would be get­ting small­er and small­er. Yet, the truth is, it’s the exact oppo­site. That list of teach­ing regrets, what I wish I could “do over,” con­tin­ues to grow. You see, as I become old­er and wis­er, I real­ize more than ever the impor­tance of reflec­tion. Whether I am pon­der­ing the effec­tive­ness of my lessons, exam­in­ing for­mal or infor­mal data, or spec­u­lat­ing on my abil­i­ty to be proac­tive ver­sus reac­tive, I find myself feel­ing like a 4th grad­er on the play­ground, plead­ing for a chance to do it over.

Do Over

This school year I’ve been giv­en an incred­i­ble oppor­tu­ni­ty to raise my racial con­scious­ness and learn what it means to become an inter­rupter of racial inequal­i­ty. My school dis­trict invests heav­i­ly in pro­mot­ing this unique and very nec­es­sary form of pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment. (See more infor­ma­tion below.)

As part of my racial equi­ty jour­ney, I am writ­ing my “racial auto­bi­og­ra­phy.” The ulti­mate goal for com­pos­ing this per­son­al nar­ra­tive cen­tered on race is to dis­rupt the cur­rent state of affairs by elim­i­nat­ing the racial pre­dictabil­i­ty of the achieve­ment gap. My per­son­al goal in writ­ing a racial auto­bi­og­ra­phy is to pos­i­tive­ly impact how I approach my role as a cul­tur­al­ly respon­sive edu­ca­tor. With­in this pro­gram, I’ve dis­cov­ered that cre­at­ing and shar­ing per­son­al racial iden­ti­ties is an effec­tive way for edu­ca­tors to pro­mote a greater under­stand­ing of our col­lec­tive racial expe­ri­ences. It pro­vides a chance for us to engage in coura­geous con­ver­sa­tions cen­tered on race.

Brian's SongIn writ­ing about my life in terms of race, I’ve dis­cov­ered that until my senior year of high school, the inter­ac­tions I had with peo­ple of col­or were only through books and movies. Grow­ing up in Dubuque, Iowa, it wasn’t until I plopped down in front of the TV in Novem­ber 1971, for the ABC Movie of the Week, that I met a black per­son for the very first time. I was eight years old when I watched the tear-jerk­er about can­cer-strick­en Bri­an Pic­co­lo and his team­mate, Gale Say­ers. Brian’s Song depicts the expe­ri­ences of two Chica­go Bears foot­ball play­ers who became the first racial­ly inte­grat­ed room­mates in the NFL. Sit­ting next to my old­er broth­er who just want­ed to watch a foot­ball movie about his favorite team, the sto­ry cap­tured my atten­tion for very dif­fer­ent rea­sons. I was full of ques­tions as my racial con­scious­ness was stirred. My child­hood naiveté about race left me won­der­ing why it was such a big deal for a white man and a black man, play­ers on the same team, to share a room. I was curi­ous and con­fused. After the movie end­ed, I could not stop think­ing about the friend­ship between the two men.

The sto­ry of Pic­co­lo and Say­ers stayed with me. What for some was an ordi­nary week­ly TV-watch­ing expe­ri­ence, this movie remains one of the most vivid mem­o­ries from my child­hood.  I recall going to the pub­lic library five years lat­er as a junior high stu­dent to check out the book I Am Third by Gale Say­ers. As a teenag­er I had begun hear­ing about and wit­ness­ing more exam­ples of big­otry and stereo­types, racism, in sub­tle and not so sub­tle ways. I want­ed to get to know this man of col­or who I had encoun­tered years ear­li­er. It wasn’t until just a few months ago that the sig­nif­i­cance of that Tues­day evening in 1971 would be ful­ly under­stood. In writ­ing my racial auto­bi­og­ra­phy, I dis­cov­ered that this ini­tial expo­sure to peo­ple who were intent on inter­rupt­ing racial injus­tice con­tributed in pro­found ways to my racial con­scious­ness.

So what does want­i­ng a “do-over” have to do with my racial auto­bi­og­ra­phy? My desire to have anoth­er chance stems from the real­iza­tion that, as an edu­ca­tor, I missed out on far too many oppor­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate crit­i­cal lit­er­ary expe­ri­ences, as well as lived ones, that were focused on racial aware­ness and racial equi­ty. The idea of teach­ing about “white priv­i­lege” in an explic­it way was bare­ly on my radar. My class­room was filled with most­ly white stu­dents for years, yet I did lit­tle to help those kids learn about and appre­ci­ate oth­ers who not only looked dif­fer­ent but expe­ri­enced life in a much dif­fer­ent way. Yes, there were sto­ries about Mar­tin Luther King, Jr., Ruby Bridges, and Rosa Parks and there were lots of books brought out for Black His­to­ry Month. How­ev­er, now I see that those min­i­mal efforts actu­al­ly may have done more harm than good. By iso­lat­ing the teach­ing and learn­ing about peo­ple of col­or to just a few indi­vid­u­als and one month out of the entire school year, what mes­sage was I send­ing to kids?

If I had to do it all over again, I would be inten­tion­al in my teach­ing about race, racism, and white priv­i­lege. In a class­room full of six-year-olds, I would seize oppor­tu­ni­ties to talk with kids about these issues. I would devote time to help­ing my stu­dents gain an appre­ci­a­tion for racial equi­ty by explor­ing the need to embrace diver­si­ty in peo­ple, thoughts, and approach­es to prob­lem-solv­ing. We would learn about how talk­ing about race and work­ing towards social jus­tice ben­e­fits every­one. As for­mer Spel­man Col­lege Pres­i­dent Bev­er­ly Daniel Tatum puts it, “It’s not just under­stand­ing somebody’s heroes and hol­i­days.”

As a white, female edu­ca­tor, I rep­re­sent the demo­graph­ic of approx­i­mate­ly 75% of pub­lic school teach­ers in this coun­try. Since do-overs are much eas­i­er to come by on the school play­ground than they are in our class­rooms, I invite all who read this essay to join me in my effort to get it right from here on out. Let’s embrace the oppor­tu­ni­ty for learn­ing and teach­ing about racial aware­ness in order to address the urgent need for racial equi­ty in today’s world.


I offer this list of resources to help you with your racial equi­ty teach­ing and learn­ing jour­ney:

Be a ChangemakerWhat I’m read­ing with kids

A is for Activist by Innosan­to Nagaro

Heart and Soul: The Sto­ry of Amer­i­ca and African Amer­i­cans by Kadir Nel­son

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Be a Change­mak­er: How to Start Some­thing That Mat­ters by Lau­rie Ann Thomp­son

What I’m read­ing for per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment

Born a CrimeBorn a Crime by Trevor Noah

Just Mer­cy: A Sto­ry of Jus­tice and Redemp­tion by Bryan Steven­son

Wak­ing Up White and Find­ing Myself in the Sto­ry of Race by Deb­by Irv­ing

The mis­sion: Putting more books fea­tur­ing diverse char­ac­ters into the hands of all chil­dren. Vis­it We Need Diverse Books.

The vision: A world in which all chil­dren can see them­selves in the pages of a book.

More infor­ma­tion about Glenn Sin­gle­ton and Coura­geous Con­ver­sa­tions.

To learn more about writ­ing your racial auto­bi­og­ra­phy, check out this link.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?Author of the book, Why Are All The Black Kids Sit­ting Togeth­er in the Cafe­te­ria? Bev­er­ly Daniel Tatum offers insights on col­or blind­ness, racial stereo­types, and the media in this PBS inter­view.

60+ Resources for Talk­ing to Kids About Racism” by Lorien Van Ness, pro­vides a lists of books and activ­i­ties to help adults begin the dia­logue, start­ing with birth to three-year-olds.

An exten­sive list com­piled by The Wash­ing­ton Post, offer­ing arti­cles, resources, and research, “Teach­ing about race, racism and police vio­lence: Resources for edu­ca­tors and par­ents.”

More about the St. Louis Park (Min­neso­ta) Equi­ty Coach­ing Pro­gram

Every edu­ca­tor in St. Louis Park schools works one-on-one with an Equi­ty Coach, who offers sup­port, resources, and train­ing in a num­ber of ways. Through con­ver­sa­tions, work­shops, obser­va­tions and coach­ing, teach­ers learn about the impor­tance of rais­ing their racial con­scious­ness in an effort to dis­rupt sys­temic racism.


In Sep­tem­ber, 2013, the St. Louis Park School Dis­trict start­ed a pro­gram called Equi­ty Coach­ing to help address the achieve­ment gap and to improve edu­ca­tion­al equal­i­ty in its schools. Grant funds from the state-spon­sored Qual­i­ty Com­pen­sa­tion (Q Comp) grant (also known as ATPPS; Alter­na­tive Teacher Pro­fes­sion­al Pay Sys­tem) help fund the Equi­ty Coach ini­tia­tive.

The Equi­ty Coach­ing blog fur­ther describes the St. Louis Park Schools Equi­ty Coach­ing Mod­el:  “Sys­temic racial equi­ty change tran­spires when edu­ca­tors are giv­en the space and sup­port to crit­i­cal­ly reflect on their own racial con­scious­ness and prac­tice. Equi­ty coach­ing pro­vides sus­tained dia­logue in a trust­ing envi­ron­ment to inter­rupt the pres­ence of racism and white­ness. Using Coura­geous Con­ver­sa­tions Pro­to­col, tenets of Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry, and instruc­tion­al coach­ing meth­ods, edu­ca­tors, and coach­es engage in this.”


Books for Solace and Comfort

With reports from edu­ca­tors that stu­dents are in a height­ened state of anx­i­ety, we put out the call for rec­om­men­da­tions for books that would offer com­fort and solace with­in the age range of ages three to twelve. Do you have a book in mind? Send us your recommendation(s). We’ll keep adding to this list, so you may wish to book­mark it. We’re not going to wait until we’ve gath­ered a lot of titles because this list is need­ed now.


Here are sug­ges­tions from Mer­na Ann Hecht, poet and edu­ca­tor:

Books for Solace and Comfort

Brown Hon­ey in Broomwheat Tea, Joyce Car­ol Thomas, illus­trat­ed by Floyd Coop­er. NY: Harp­er Collins, 1993. (ages 4 – 7)

Riv­er of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things, Pamela Michael, edi­tor. Min­neapo­lis, MN: Milk­weed Edi­tions, 2008. 

Salt­ing the Ocean: 100 Poems by Young Poets, select­ed by Nao­mi Shi­hab Nye, illus­trat­ed by Ash­ley Bryan. . NY: Green­wil­low, 2000.

This is a poem that heals fish, Jean-Pierre Siméon. New York: Enchant­ed Lion Books, 2005. A play­ful read-aloud book to inspire young chil­dren to delight in cre­at­ing their own poet­ry.

This Place I Know: Poems of Com­fort, select­ed by Geor­gia Heard, Cam­bridge, MA: Can­dlewick Press, 2011.

Words with Wings: A Trea­sury of African-Amer­i­can Poet­ry and Art, select­ed by Belin­da Rochelle. NY: Harp­er Collins, 2001.

Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Where the Heart Is, Wings

For Old­er Chil­dren

Our thanks to Cyn­thia Grady, author and edu­ca­tor, for these sooth­ing sug­ges­tions.

Evo­lu­tion of Calpur­nia Tate, Jacque­line Kel­ly. NY: Hen­ry Holt, 2009.

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Bless­ings, poet­ry by Joyce Sid­man, illus­trat­ed by Pamela Zagaren­s­ki. Boston, MA: HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2013.

Wings by William Loizeaux, illus­tra­tions by Leslie Bow­man, NY: Far­rar, Straus & Giroux, 2006.


Those Kennedys

Patrick and the PresidentAmer­i­ca has a fine tra­di­tion of elect­ed offi­cials who care deeply about the peo­ple, places, and poli­cies of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca. Two recent books high­light the good works of, and respect for, Jacque­line Bou­vi­er Kennedy Onas­sis and John Fitzger­ald Kennedy, the First Lady and Pres­i­dent from 1961 to 1963. Although Pres­i­dent Kennedy was assas­si­nat­ed just two short years into his term as Pres­i­dent, the First Lady con­tin­ued her work for the ben­e­fit of the peo­ple through­out her life.

In Patrick and the Pres­i­dent, Ire­land’s Late Late Show host, Ryan Tubridy, has writ­ten his first chil­dren’s book about Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s vis­it to his ances­tral home­land, Ire­land. In June of 1963, Pres­i­dent Kennedy spent four days in var­i­ous cities, vis­it­ing sites and meet­ing peo­ple. This book shares one boy’s expe­ri­ence of meet­ing the Pres­i­dent.

Patrick Kennedy, John’s great-grand­fa­ther, left Ire­land in 1848 aboard a famine ship. Many peo­ple in Ire­land relied sole­ly on pota­toes as their food source, so when a blight affect­ed the pota­to crop, near­ly one mil­lion peo­ple starved to death and one mil­lion peo­ple emi­grat­ed to Amer­i­ca. The immi­grants retained a strong love for their orig­i­nal coun­try, which they passed along to their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. John F. Kennedy’s deci­sion to vis­it Ire­land was her­ald­ed by Irish peo­ple on both sides of the ocean.

The lan­guage of this sto­ry beau­ti­ful­ly por­trays the excite­ment the entire town felt as they wel­comed this world-famous Irish descen­dant back to the land of his roots. Patrick, the boy in the sto­ry, will be part of the chil­dren’s choir singing “The Boys of Wex­ford” when the Pres­i­dent vis­its … and his father nego­ti­ates a chance for Patrick to help serve tea to the Pres­i­dent when he vis­its the Ryans and Kennedys in New Ross. Emo­tions are high and expec­ta­tions are tense: who will get to talk with “Him­self”?

Tubridy is the author of a book writ­ten for adults: JFK in Ire­land: Four Days That Changed a Pres­i­dent. The infor­ma­tion here is dis­tilled in a way that feels per­son­al and imme­di­ate. Every child will iden­ti­fy with young Patrick, know­ing full well what it feels like to have high hopes for some­thing.

P.J. Lynch, cur­rent­ly the Chil­dren’s Lau­re­ate of Ire­land, con­tributes near­ly pho­to­graph­ic illus­tra­tions of Patrick, his fam­i­ly, the heli­copters, the Pres­i­dent, and the food.

There are two pages in the back mat­ter that list Kennedy’s itin­er­ary dur­ing his four-day vis­it, along with three sepia-toned pho­tos. Don’t miss read­ing this infor­ma­tion — it’s quite inter­est­ing.

The close­ups and focus on Patrick and his fam­i­ly bring a pal­pa­ble excite­ment to the book, which encour­ages read­ing through­out a some­what long but ulti­mate­ly sat­is­fy­ing text. This would make a good read-aloud for dis­cussing sev­er­al things in class. Who was Pres­i­dent Kennedy? What do fam­i­lies mean to us? From where did our fore­bears immi­grate? What do these con­nec­tions across oceans and time mean for our world?

Patrick and the Pres­i­dent
writ­ten by Ryan Tubridy, illus­trat­ed by P.J. Lynch
Can­dlewick Press, 2017
ISBN 978−0−7636−8949−0, $16.99

The inte­ri­or of Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion in New York City, © Char­lotte Leaper |

Natasha Wing wrote one of my favorite pic­ture book biogra­phies, An Eye for Col­or: the Sto­ry of Josef Albers, so I was excit­ed to learn that she has writ­ten a book about his­toric preser­va­tion, star­ring none oth­er than Jacque­line Kennedy Onas­sis.

When Jackie Saved Grand CentralAs First Lady of the Unit­ed States for two years, she cap­tured the atten­tion and imag­i­na­tion of every news­pa­per, mag­a­zine, and news­reel in the land. Women adopt­ed her fash­ion sense and hair­style. She did a great deal to restore the grandeur of the White House and would undoubt­ed­ly have done more had she been in res­i­dence there longer.

Return­ing to live in New York City, the city in which she grew up, Mrs. Kennedy learned that Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion was in dan­ger of being altered with a sky­scraper built on its roof!

Like a pow­er­ful loco­mo­tive, Jack­ie led the charge to pre­serve the land­mark she and New York City loved. She joined city lead­ers and found­ed the Com­mit­tee to Save Grand Cen­tral. She spoke at press con­fer­ences and made head­lines.

She inspired cit­i­zens to donate mon­ey. When peo­ple across the Unit­ed States saw their fash­ion­able for­mer First Lady cham­pi­oning her cause, New York City’s fight became Amer­i­ca’s fight.”

In oth­er words, only Jacque­line Kennedy could pro­mote a cause in a way that result­ed in the Nation­al His­toric Preser­va­tion Act of 1966, under which Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion could find the pro­tec­tion it need­ed to be restored to its for­mer grandeur. 

The text is writ­ten with such clar­i­ty and verve that the read­er will want to look for an his­toric build­ing of their own to save! An exten­sive author’s note pro­vides more infor­ma­tion that will prompt some chil­dren to adopt this as a cause of their own.

The illus­tra­tions by Alexan­dra Boiger are ener­getic and whim­si­cal, all the while using col­or to sub­tly empha­size parts of the sto­ry. In “A Note from the Illus­tra­tor,” you’ll find much to dis­cuss about the col­ors she uses while you pore back over the book to find exam­ples.

For a class­room, this is a ter­rif­ic way to begin talk­ing about the build­ings we see every day, why they are impor­tant to a com­mu­ni­ty, and what they mean for our future.

When Jack­ie Saved Grand Cen­tral:
The True Sto­ry of Jacque­line Kennedy’s Fight for an Amer­i­can Icon

writ­ten by Natasha Wing, illus­trat­ed by Alexan­dra Boiger
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2017


The End

Page Break Lynne Jonell


Skinny Dip with Nancy Peterson

Nan­cy Peter­son

We inter­viewed Nan­cy Peter­son, EdD, pro­fes­sor of ele­men­tary edu­ca­tion at Utah Val­ley Uni­ver­si­ty and co-chair of UVU’s annu­al Forum on Engaged Read­ing “For the Love of Read­ing” con­fer­ence and retreat. 

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

I recent­ly learned that Patrick Hen­ry (Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War Patri­ot) is one of my ances­tors. I’d love to talk heart to heart with him about what I have read con­cern­ing his per­son­al tri­als. For instance, I believe his first wife suf­fered from a men­tal ill­ness, and that he remained loy­al and respon­si­ble for her until she died.  I’d real­ly like to know how he coped, dealt with it, etc.

Gift from the SeaWhich book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

Gift From the Sea by Anne Mor­row Lind­bergh. I re-read it every so often… find­ing dif­fer­ent gems for the first time, depend­ing on my life’s cir­cum­stances.  I love that book… love that woman!

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

I can’t even think about it….   Today is my 188th day of no sug­ar, no flour, and no snack­ing.  When I crave “that thing,” I just have go to bed!

Providence, Rhode IslandFavorite city to vis­it?

Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island, in the fall. I’ve only been there once, but I was enam­ored with it, and want to see it again!

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

I real­ly want to answer this, but I have to share three: Steve Jenk­ins, and his exquis­ite­ly detailed cut paper work that almost rede­fines real­ism, in my mind! Mar­la Frazee, whose illus­tra­tions are drip­ping with unique per­son­al­i­ty and “voice.” And final­ly, Jon J Muth. Some words I have bor­rowed to express how I feel about his water­col­or and pas­tel illus­tra­tions are “mag­i­cal,” “haunt­ing,” “charm­ing,” “majes­tic,” and “cozy.” All I can say is that I can’t get enough of them.

Tea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Shas­ta diet root beer… I just love that stuff!

Favorite sea­son of the year?

Autumn (not “fall” – autumn) Why? Evening walks in the crisp, damp air, the vivid col­ors of gold, orange and scar­let leaves, and the aro­mas com­ing from the chim­neys of the first hous­es on the block to light their fire­places.

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

I would love to take the train from Wash­ing­ton, DC, to Harper’s Fer­ry, stay in a bed & break­fast inn, and walk and wan­der around for 2 or 3 days sight-see­ing the his­tor­i­cal land­marks and muse­ums and shop­ping in the his­toric vil­lage and quaint shops – in autumn, of course!

What gives you shiv­ers?

Snakes and mice.

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?


What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I am an amaz­ing grand­ma! For my tal­ent of “grand­moth­er­ing” I have the hair, the rock­er, the sto­ry­books, the sewing machine and the most beau­ti­ful two and four year old grand­chil­dren ever to walk this earth!

Your favorite can­dy as a kid …

M&Ms – always and for­ev­er! Have you tried the Mega M&Ms?

Broth­er and sis­ters or an only child?

I’m the old­est of five girls.

How did that shape your life?

I’m head­strong, opin­ion­at­ed, stub­born, and always But I’m also a pleas­er; I can hold my tongue when I want to, and I usu­al­ly go over­board in try­ing to make a good impres­sion.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

Tak­ing time to be alone and find joy. Anne Mor­row Lind­bergh says women need to take a minute of every hour, an hour of every day, a day of every week, and a month of every year (or some­thing like that) for them­selves. I don’t have a reg­u­lar sched­ule for it, but I know when I’m need­ing it, and I go to great lengths to get it.

Your hope for the world?

For every human being to receive and give kind­ness more than feel­ing and inflict­ing pain.


Frog and Toad

This spring, Min­neapo­lis’ Children’s The­ater Com­pa­ny will put on A Year With Frog & Toad, which has stood as one of my top three the­ater expe­ri­ences for the last dozen years or so.

We had three tick­ets the first time we saw it. Dar­ling Daugh­ter was still young enough for a “lap pass” at the time. Our house­hold had been hit with The Plague and for days/weeks/month/going on years (it seemed, any­way) and we’d been sick­ly and unfit to leave our home. But I was loathe to miss the per­for­mance. We decid­ed if we napped, med­icat­ed, and then bathed and dressed up, we could enter soci­ety. All but Dad — he was still down for the count. So I took the kids. We piled our coats on the third seat and Dar­ling Daugh­ter sat atop them, so thrilled to have her own seat, so thrilled to be out of the house, that she bounced through most of the per­for­mance, clap­ping wild­ly at each of Frog and Toad’s antics.

Ten min­utes in I was weepy and so sor­ry we hadn’t drugged Dad up enough to bring him. It was fan­tas­tic! Of course the Children’s The­ater Com­pa­ny does most excel­lent work — one expects to love the expe­ri­ence. But this was, I think, par­tic­u­lar­ly well done, and I’m will­ing to think that it might be the source mate­r­i­al that real­ly gave it that extra some­thing. Well, that and it’s a musi­cal — could there be any­thing bet­ter?

I love Frog and Toad with a pas­sion sim­i­lar to my love for Pooh and his friends in the Hun­dred Acre Wood. I love their friend­ship, their quo­tid­i­an adven­tures, their goofi­ness, and their oh-so-dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ties. We have the whole col­lec­tion at our house — in both Eng­lish and Span­ish (Sapo y Sepo insep­a­ra­bles, etc.) — and they bear the marks of hav­ing been repeat­ed­ly read and loved.

These are “I CAN READ Books,” but what I remem­ber is read­ing them with my kids. I’d do one page, they the next. Except for Shiv­ers, which is in Days With Frog and Toad. I was the only read­er on that one — it was too shiv­ery for any­one to work on sound­ing out the words. Both kids learned to read with inflec­tion using these books. Many books — espe­cial­ly “I CAN READ Books,” and espe­cial­ly Arnold Lobel books — lend them­selves to dra­mat­ic read­ing, but for some rea­son, Frog and Toad’s con­ver­sa­tions and adven­tures taught them to look for the excla­ma­tion point, the ques­tion mark, and the mean­ing of the words as they worked so hard to get through the sen­tence.

Truth be told, the three of us prob­a­bly could’ve recit­ed many of the Frog and Toad sto­ries fea­tured in the musi­cal that night. Cer­tain­ly, even the too-young-to-be-able-to-hold-a-the­ater-seat-down child could’ve told you about their sled­ding and swim­ming adven­tures, their trip to the ice cream store, and about when Toad tried to fly a kite. We bought the CD, nat­u­ral­ly, so it was only a few more days before we could sing the sto­ries.

My kid­dos are much old­er now…but I think I might try for four tick­ets this spring. Every­one can hold their seat down now, and if we stay well we can final­ly take Dad. I’ve no doubt we’ll enjoy it just as much as the last time.




Graphic Storytelling


Fish GirlA good graph­ic nov­el should pose a mys­tery.

As it opens (last pos­si­ble minute), the read­er often has no clue what’s going on.

It’s often an unknown world, even if it looks like our world.

This isn’t that dif­fer­ent than the open­ing of a con­ven­tion­al print book but, for some rea­son, peo­ple often react to graph­ic nov­els by telling me, “I can’t read them! I nev­er know what’s going on.”

What is there about adding con­tin­u­al visu­als that caus­es some oth­er­wise avid read­ers to throw a graph­ic nov­el aside with such dis­fa­vor?

This ques­tion is an intrigu­ing one for me. In our Chap­ter & Verse Book Club, we read at least one graph­ic nov­el each year, usu­al­ly with an under­cur­rent of grum­bling. I know which of our mem­bers won’t like the book, which of them won’t open the book, and which of them will do their best to like the book. Some will even love the book.

Why such a wide range of respons­es based on the visu­al aspect of the book? And the dia­logue nature of the sto­ry?

I recent­ly fin­ished David Wies­ner and Don­na Jo Napoli’s Fish Girl. The open­ing is bewil­der­ing. What is going on? I find this sat­is­fy­ing.

When I fin­ished, I turned imme­di­ate­ly to re-read it, to fig­ure out where I first fig­ured it out. What were the clues? Were they visu­al or ver­bal or a com­bi­na­tion of both? I’m not going to tell you, of course. That’s your read­ing jour­ney. But I was par­tic­u­lar­ly fond of the way in which Fish Girl (dare I say it?) unwinds.

As a long time fan­ta­sy read­er, I’m famil­iar with sto­ries in this seg­ment of the genre. (I’m try­ing not to reveal too much so I’m pur­pose­ful­ly not nam­ing that seg­ment.) 

About the  book, David Wies­ner writes, “I tried sev­er­al times to devel­op a pic­ture book around these com­po­nents (draw­ings of char­ac­ters, scenes, and set­tings to go with an image of a house filled with water where fish are swim­ming) but the house full of fish turned out to be a com­plex image, sug­gest­ing sto­ries too long and involved for the pic­ture book for­mat. The log­i­cal next step was to see it as a graph­ic nov­el.”

Many of the peo­ple who don’t care for graph­ic nov­els love pic­ture books. Per­haps under­stand­ing graph­ic nov­els as a pic­ture book for telling longer, more com­plex sto­ries will help them appre­ci­ate this form more?

In Fish Girl, the water­col­or-paint­ed frames are clear and visu­al­ly beau­ti­ful. The char­ac­ters are well-delin­eat­ed. The dia­logue is involv­ing. The mys­ter­ies lead the way. Why does this girl, who lives with fish and an octo­pus inside of a house filled with water, named Ocean Won­ders, seem to be a pris­on­er? Why can’t she leave? Why does Nep­tune set so many rules? Are sto­ries the true rea­son that Fish Girl stays in her prison?

Wies­ner’s paint­ings pro­vide focus in an involv­ing way through­out the book. The ocean is brood­ing, beau­ti­ful, and beck­on­ing. Fish Girl is lone­ly, a lone­li­ness every read­er will rec­og­nize. The expres­sions of lone­li­ness, bewil­der­ment, friend­ship, and long­ing are beguil­ing. When I con­sid­er how long it would take me to draw and paint just one of these frames and then look at how many frames are employed to tell this sto­ry, I could well imag­ine that David Wies­ner has been work­ing on this book for five years. I won­der what the truth of that is? 

It’s a book that many read­ers, young and old, will enjoy. I believe it would be a good read-aloud if all lis­ten­ers can see the book and help turn the pages. Fish Girl is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed. And I will keep look­ing for graph­ic nov­els that will con­vert even their most reluc­tant read­ers!

Fish Girl
David Wies­ner and Don­na Jo Napoli
Clar­i­on Books, March 7, 2017
(I read an Advanced Read­er’s Copy.)
ISBN 978−0−544−81512−4 $25 hard­cov­er
ISBN 978−0−547−48393−1 $18 paper­back


Anti-Tailgating Measures

Writing Road Trip | Anti-Tailgating MeasuresA few years ago, a coun­try high­way I reg­u­lar­ly dri­ve in the sum­mer became part of a pilot pro­gram to stop tail­gat­ing. Large white dots were paint­ed on the road, and new signs instruct dri­vers to keep a min­i­mum of two dots between them and the car they’re fol­low­ing. Rear-end col­li­sions are a dan­ger on this road­way, and the pro­gram hopes to encour­age dri­vers to leave enough room between cars so they can take cor­rec­tive action if some­thing goes wrong.

It occurs to me that this hints at an enor­mous­ly help­ful piece of advice you can share with your stu­dents about their writ­ing road trips, as well: dou­ble-spac­ing their first draft is one of the eas­i­est tools they have for sim­pli­fy­ing their lat­er revi­sions.

Revis­ing is chaot­ic work. When I vis­it class­rooms, I often bring along proof of this: the first hand­writ­ten draft of one of my sto­ries, com­plete with dozens of cross-outs, mar­gin notes, arrows, and addi­tion­al brain­stormed ideas spilling onto the back. This “slop­py copy” even­tu­al­ly turned into a fin­ished book that is only 224 words long, but my messy piece of paper must con­tain thou­sands of words, all com­bat­ing to see which of them will make my final cut.

In oth­er words, revis­ing is not mere­ly tidy­ing up your man­u­script; it’s an “emp­ty out the back of the clos­ets” type of spring clean­ing.

Dou­ble-spac­ing is one sim­ple way for stu­dents to make this revi­sion process slight­ly less messy and slight­ly more man­age­able. Unlike the rel­a­tive­ly low prob­a­bil­i­ty of a rear-end col­li­sion on any giv­en day of dri­ving, some­thing always goes wrong when writ­ing a first draft. Encour­age your stu­dents to think of the blank lines left by dou­ble-spac­ing as the room they’ll undoubt­ed­ly need for lat­er cor­rec­tive action.



Page Break by Lynne Jonell

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