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  • On Valentine’s Day we pause to think about love. Well, there are many kinds of love, and only some of them romantic. Every day in cyberspace, I post a love letter to a book and author on the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac.
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    The Season for Love

    by Anita Silvey
     | Feb 13, 2013
    On Valentine’s Day we pause to think about love. Well, there are many kinds of love, and only some of them romantic.

    Every day in cyberspace, I post a love letter to a book and author on the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac. Some I found decades ago (old love). Some I’ve only know for a short time (new or young love).

    For this season of love, I wanted to offer up some of my most recent discoveries. They can be shared on Valentine’s Day—or any other day of the year!—to help spark a love of books and reading in children.

    Picture Books

    UNSPOKEN: A STORY FROM THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (Scholastic, 2012) by Henry Cole
    “In UNSPOKEN, Cole decided he wanted to tell a different kind of Civil War story than the ones he had heard about battles—one about the quiet courage of individuals. So he developed the saga of a girl and a runaway slave who never speak but show amazing bravery.”

    HOMER (Greenwillow, 2012) by Elisha Cooper
    “It is rare to find a successful picture book where the protagonist observes rather than participates in activity. Yet in the watercolor and pencil art, Homer looms as the focal point of each piece…. He reminds us to take pleasure in the simple things of life, such as an old dog’s enjoyment of each day.”

    BOY + BOT (Knopf, 2012), written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
    “Everything in this book, from the front cover to the final ISBN notice on the back cover (seconding as a battery for the robot), has been carefully constructed to make an enjoyable reading experience. This is one of those wonderful books where all three elements—design, text, and art—combine to make a whole greater than any of the parts.”

    THE TREE HOUSE (Boyds Mills, 2010) by Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman
    “This wordless picture book, which won the BolognaRagazzi Award for the most beautiful picture book in the world in 2010, brings readers into a magical world created by the Tolmans. In a large, oversized format, the artists use the space to create a world that begs to be entered....The intensity of the color, the animation of the animals, and the bold graphic composition of each page distinguish this book.”

    Novels

    CHICKADEE (HarperCollins, 2012) by Louise Erdrich
    “This saga, which explains a great deal about the [Chippewa} communities and trading patterns around the St. Paul, Minnesota area in 1866, reads like a survival story. Chickadee proves that, indeed, small things have great power; he uses his understanding of the woods to stay alive. And in this slim volume of under two hundred pages, he keeps readers turning the pages to find out if he and his family will be reunited.”

    STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY (Little, Brown, 2012) by Grace Lin
    “Lin’s text can stand alone as a read aloud. But the physical beauty of the book merits special attention. The author’s sketches in different colors of ink and her glorious full-color paintings have been skillfully incorporated into the book…. Writing, art, and design combine to make the reading experience one to be savored and enjoyed.”

    ROAD TRIP (Wendy Lamb Books, 2013) by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen
    “Few authors write as well for this age group as Paulsen, whether he is telling survival stories like HATCHET or urban adventures like LAWN BOY. Because the chapters are short and punchy, ROAD TRIP would make an excellent choice for a read-aloud.”

    A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT (Sandpiper, 2009) by Linda Urban
    “Urban’s first novel, published in 2007, provides easy reading for ten-year-olds on up. In it she has gathered one of the most eccentric casts of characters to grace a recent novel.”

    Nonfiction

    THE LINCOLNS: A SCRAPBOOK LOOK AT ABRAHAM AND MARY (Schwartz & Wade, 2008) by Candace Fleming
    “As Fleming moves with grace from Lincoln’s log cabin birth to the final days of his widow Mary Todd Lincoln, she not only reveals fascinating details of his life but illustrates them as well. Hence this book can be browsed and read in small sections.”

    LITTLE WHITE DUCK: A CHILDHOOD IN CHINA (Graphic Universe, 2012) by Na Liu
    “Both exotic and daring, the book takes readers to another place, time, and culture radically different from our own, and yet one presented with dignity and respect. Because the story appears as a graphic novel, it seems much less a polemic than it would if it were presented as a straight text.”

    MONSIEUR MARCEAU: ACTOR WITHOUT WORDS (Flash Point, 2012) by Leda Schubert
    “There are so many reasons to love this book—the poetry of the language, the expressiveness of the art. For me MONSIEUR MARCEAU demonstrates what the perfect picture book can accomplish: words and text working together to provide a unique reading experience. Marceau and his performances come alive in this slim volume.”

    BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD—AND STEAL—THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON (Flash Point, 2012) by Steve Sheinkin
    “Just as he did in THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD Sheinkin plays up the drama, develops characters, and takes readers to the heart of the action. In the process he makes the evolution of the atomic bomb seem like one of the most amazing stories every told.”

    BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY: THE TRUE STORY OF THE PUPPETEER OF MACY'S PARADE (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) by Melissa Sweet
    “In BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY, author and illustrator Melissa Sweet takes readers behind the scenes of the parade as she presents the story of Tony Frederick Sarg (1880–1942).”

    With a unique career in children's books, Anita Silvey has served both as the editor of THE HORN BOOK MAGAZINE and publisher of a major children's book imprint. She is the author of several books, including HENRY KNOX: BOOKSELLER, SOLDIER, PATRIOT and I'LL PASS FOR YOUR COMRADE: WOMEN SOLDIERS IN THE CIVIL WAR. Her latest project, THE CHILDREN'S BOOK-A-DAY ALMANAC (Roaring Brook Press, 2012), began as an interactive website. The entries serve as a "daily love letter to a book or author," with each one offering a glimpse into the story behind the story.

    © 2013 Anita Silvey. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • This has been a great year for children’s books. On the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, I’ve been able to look at some fabulous titles in picture books, novels, and nonfiction. Below, I’ve listed a dozen 2012 books that work well in the classroom—or even as holiday gifts!
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    Anita's Picks: Tops of 2012 in Picture Books, Novels, and Nonfiction

    by Anita Silvey
     | Nov 14, 2012
    This has been a great year for children’s books. On the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, I’ve been able to look at some fabulous titles in picture books, novels, and nonfiction. Below, I’ve listed a dozen 2012 books that work well in the classroom—or even as holiday gifts!

    Picture Books

    EXTRA YARN (Balzer+Bray, 2012) written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
    “EXTRA YARN has already won the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for picture books this year and may well receive many other accolades. It is perfect for any ‘crafty’ youngsters you know—or simply for anyone who enjoys a picture book executed with élan.”

    HOMER (Greenwillow Books, 2012) written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper
    “I consider this the best three-handkerchief book I have read recently. Anyone who has ever loved a senior pet will identify with this story. It is rare to find a successful picture book where the protagonist observes rather than participates in activity. Yet in the watercolor and pencil art, Homer looms as the focal point of each piece.”

    AND THEN IT’S SPRING (Roaring Brook Press, 2012) written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead
    “The simple, poetic text can be read again and again, and the illustrations by Erin E. Stead will bring readers back even more times. Like many others, I wondered what Erin would do in her first foray after winning the Caldecott Medal for A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE. In AND THEN IT’S SPRING, she has the perfect text for her strengths as an artist.”

    GREEN (Roaring Brook Press, 2012) written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
    “With one absolutely breathtaking scene after another, Seeger explores plants, animals, concepts (faded green), color theory, and shapes in a very accessible format. The book can lead to all kinds of discussions, depending on the interests of the adult or the child.”

    Novels

    THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN (HarperCollins, 2012) by Katherine Applegate
    “Inspired by the real story of Ivan, a gorilla who lives in the Atlanta Zoo, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN raises all kinds of issues about the appropriate treatment of wild animals in human zoos. For that reason it has already been tremendously successful in book discussion groups for readers ages eight through twelve. It also makes a fabulous book to read aloud to this age group.”

    CHICKADEE (HarperCollins, 2012) by Louise Erdrich
    “Chickadee proves that, indeed, small things have great power; he uses his understanding of the woods to stay alive. And in this slim volume of under two hundred pages, he keeps readers turning the pages to find out if he and his family will be reunited.”

    THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK (Putnam, 2012) by Kristin Levine
    “A family, school, and friendship story, the book captures the cry for social justice that erupted in the late fifties and the sixties. It shows how young people can make a difference in the political process…Kristin Levine makes the political events of the era understandable because she finds a way to view them from the eyes of a very sensitive, very appealing child.”

    WONDER (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012) by R. J. Palacio
    “A fabulous book for classroom sharing or book discussion groups, WONDER has already become quite popular with young readers. With a fresh voice and a fresh viewpoint, it allows for the discussion of important issues—but also makes readers care for a very special, and very endearing, young boy.”

    SHADOW ON THE MOUNTAIN (Amulet Books, 2012) by Margi Preus
    “Inspired by the true adventures of a wartime spy, SHADOW ON THE MOUNTAIN is set in the snowy terrain of Norway during World War II. The Nazis have invaded, and although the locals don’t have the troops to remove the invaders, they have citizens willing to risk their lives to foil the Nazi plan for Norway.”

    Narrative Nonfiction/Poetry

    STEP GENTLY OUT (Candlewick, 2012) by Helen Frost
    “STEP GENTLY OUT not only fosters a love of poetry but also of the creatures it describes. It shows passage of time and the behavior of some of our most populous occupants of the planet. It can be used to celebrate National Poetry Month or on any day of the year. It is one of those rare picture books where the text, art, and design merge seamlessly together to create a spectacular book.”

    THE GREAT MOLASSES FLOOD (Charlesbridge, 2012) by Deborah Kops
    “Kops has effectively used original photographs from the event to show the story of Boston’s destruction; she scanned newspaper accounts and archival records of the trials that followed the disaster. Through these primary sources she brings readers right into the action, describing what it felt like and how it appeared to the citizens of the city.”

    BOMB (Flash Point, 2012) by Steve Sheinkin
    “…Sheinkin plays up the drama, develops characters, and takes readers to the heart of the action. In the process he makes the evolution of the atomic bomb seem like one of the most amazing stories ever told. But rather than ending the book with the explosion of the first bomb, Sheinkin carries the story forward to its impact on Oppenheimer and to the world in general.”

    With a unique career in children's books, Anita Silvey has served both as the editor of THE HORN BOOK MAGAZINE and publisher of a major children's book imprint. She is the author of several books, including HENRY KNOX: BOOKSELLER, SOLDIER, PATRIOT and I'LL PASS FOR YOUR COMRADE: WOMEN SOLDIERS IN THE CIVIL WAR. Her latest project, The Children's Book-a-Day Almanac, is an interactive website that she describes as a "daily love letter to a book or author," with each entry offering a glimpse into the story behind the story.

    © 2012 Anita Silvey. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • During the recent Olympics, many observers commented on the incredible display of American girl power at the events. Over the years children’s books have supplied a lot of portraits of strong girls and women. In honor of Women’s Equality Day on August 26, here is a list of books that showcase “girl power” from The Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac.
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    Girl Power: Top Picks for Women's Equality Day

    by Anita Silvey
     | Aug 15, 2012
    During the recent Olympics, many observers commented on the incredible display of American girl power at the events. Over the years children’s books have supplied a lot of portraits of strong girls and women. In honor of Women’s Equality Day on August 26, here is a list of books that showcase “girl power” from The Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac.

    Picture Books

    INDEPENDENT DAMES by Laurie Halse Anderson

    “This short text lends itself to all kinds of activities or acts simply as a supplement for more traditional texts. Anderson’s research is thorough and her understanding of young readers, as always, is profound. When I conducted an informal poll of school librarians and teachers, INDEPENDENT DAMES emerged as their favorite book for Women’s History Month. Writing with passion and humor, Laurie Halse Anderson is on a mission to set the record straight. And she does!”

    THE DARING NELLIE BLY by Bonnie Christensen

    “In THE DARING NELLIE BLY: AMERICA’S STAR REPORTER, Bonnie Christensen creates an exciting portrait of the journalist who at the age of twenty-five captured the world’s fancy.”

    YOU FORGOT YOUR SKIRT, AMELIA BLOOMER! by Shana Corey

    “The picture book, YOU FORGOT YOUR SKIRT, AMELIA BLOOMER! by Shana Corey, focuses on Amelia’s rebellious nature… When she spied Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s cousin Libby wearing a costume that was not a dress—but pantaloons with a skirt over them—Amelia…used the power of the press to advocate for what became known as the ‘bloomer.’”

    IMOGENE’S LAST STAND by Candace Fleming

    “As Imogene says of her own adventure—‘That was totally fun!’ Celebrate local history by sharing this great read-aloud book with budding historians. After you do, you will probably agree with the words of an eight-year-old boy who loved the book—‘Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had at least a little Imogene in them?’”

    ME…JANE by Patrick McDonnell

    “September 1 has been set aside to celebrate International Primate Day. I can think of no better way to mark this day than look at the life of Jane Goodall, who has devoted herself to the study and the conservation of chimpanzees.... This message that your childhood dreams can, and do, come true will be welcomed by both parents and children.”

    Novels

    LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott

    “Jo March may have inspired more women over the years—including Hilary Clinton and French philosopher Simone de Beauvior—than any other character in a children’s book. As actress Julianne Moore says in EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED FROM A CHILDREN’S BOOK, ‘From Jo I learned that a woman could choose…[and] that she has a choice about her career.’”

    THE MIDWIFE’S APPRENTICE by Karen Cushman

    “THE MIDWIFE’S APPRENTICE is filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of a medieval village. Beetle, who has a single companion, a cat named Purr, makes a great protagonist. She has the liveliness, the spirit, and the determination to make a better place for herself. Ideal for fourth and fifth graders, the book has frequently been taught in classrooms and naturally leads to discussions of medieval villages and life—their fairs and inns and customs.”

    THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly

    “Living in Fentress, Texas, in 1899, eleven-year-old Callie Vee doesn’t excel in sewing or cooking, but she has a passion for science. Not really an acceptable calling for a girl in the nineteenth century, but her penchant truly makes her crotchety grandfather happy.”

    PIPPI LONGSTOCKING by Astrid Lindgren

    “Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking, or Pippi for short, lives without parents. Pippi dictates her own rules and nags herself about going to bed at night. With endless money, time, and freedom, she certainly fulfills the fantasy of most children who often think about what life would be like if they had no one to boss them around.”

    CLEMENTINE by Sara Pennypacker

    “The daughter of an artist, Clementine is a true independent spirit. She cuts off all her best friend’s hair—and then destroys her own as well. A cyclone, she spends more time in the principal’s office than in her classroom. Everyone keeps telling her to ‘pay attention’ and she does—to all the things occurring outside the classroom window. But if you need someone with an out-of-the box idea, Clementine will come to the rescue.”

    Narrative Nonfiction

    ELEANOR ROOSEVELT by Russell Freedman

    “As Eleanor Roosevelt began to find the causes of her life—the plight of minorities, the poverty of the disadvantaged—she turned from a shy person into a firebrand, the conscience of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Russell captures this complex marriage—its betrayals and its strength. He shows the final years of Eleanor Roosevelt as she worked in the United Nations and became, as President Harry Truman called her, ‘the First Lady of the World.’”

    A BALLET FOR MARTHA by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

    “Of all art forms, dance, which depends on movement, remains the hardest to convey in a book—particularly a book for children. Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan took on this task in BALLET FOR MARTHA: MAKING APPALACHIAN SPRING and succeeded brilliantly.”

    CLAUDETTE COLVIN: TWICE TOWARD JUSTICE by Phillip Hoose

    “In CLAUDETTE COLVIN: TWICE TOWARD JUSTICE, winner of the National Book Award, author Phillip Hoose presents the life story of this unsung heroine of the Civil Rights Movement. In his fascinating account, told mainly in Claudette’s own words, readers get to see the events of 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, from a different perspective—as they were experienced by a young girl.”

    ALMOST ASTRONAUTS: 13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM by Tanya Lee Stone

    “With extensive research into the period and interviews with the Mercury 13 women— who thought they might actually get to travel into space during a time when only men were considered fit to do so—Stone explores little-known events of the NASA space program. In ALMOST ASTRONAUTS she brings to life the 1960s, a time when women had to think and act outside the box if they wanted to do something other than be a housewife.”

    Looking for ways to use these books in your classroom? Check out the ReadWriteThink lesson plans Females in the Spotlight: Strong Characters in Picture Books and Girls Read: Online Literature Circles.

    With a unique career in children's books, Anita Silvey has served both as the editor of The Horn Book Magazine and publisher of a major children's book imprint. She is the author of several books, including HENRY KNOX: BOOKSELLER, SOLDIER, PATRIOT, I'LL PASS FOR YOUR COMRADE: WOMEN SOLDIERS IN THE CIVIL WAR, and, most recently, THE PLANT HUNTERS (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2012). In October, the print version of The Children's Book-a-Day Almanac will be published by Roaring Brook. Anita continues to add entries to the Almanac's interactive website, which she describes as a "daily love letter to a book or author." 
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  • This year, we celebrate World Read Aloud Day on March 7th. This relatively new holiday gives those in the classroom a time to emphasize both the joy of reading aloud and of discovering different cultures and worlds. For World Read Aloud Day on the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, I recommend the books of German writer Cornelia Funke.
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    Anita's Picks for World Read Aloud Day

    by Anita Silvey
     | Feb 08, 2012
    This year, we celebrate World Read Aloud Day on March 7th. This relatively new holiday gives those in the classroom a time to emphasize both the joy of reading aloud and of discovering different cultures and worlds.

    For World Read Aloud Day on the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, I recommend the books of German writer Cornelia Funke. Both THE THIEF LORD or INKHEART (see below) make perfect choices for reading aloud.

    Here are some others to share next month—and throughout the year.

    Austria

    THE STAR OF KAZAN by Eva Ibbotson

    “Set in Vienna, Austria, in the early 1900s, Ibbotson pays tribute to her native city in this book. A love of all things Viennese—from the beauty and richness of the city to its exquisite pastries—permeates the narrative.”

    Canada

    THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY by Sheila Burnford

    "Fifty years ago, in 1961, a book appeared that celebrates the bond between humans and their pets—Sheila Burnford’s THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. In this story, ideal for seven- to twelve-year-olds, three pets—an old bull terrier, a Siamese cat, and a young Labrador retriever—attempt a treacherous 250 mile journey through the Canadian wilderness.”

    China

    WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON by Grace Lin

    "WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON stands as good a chance of becoming a classic as any book in this time period. A Newbery Honor book that adults and children adore, the story works for independent reading or for reading aloud in both families and second through sixth grade classrooms. It is a particularly good choice for sharing because the short chapters, filled with action and lyrical language, can be enjoyed just one or a few at a time. Wherever you end the narrative, young readers want it picked up again." [You can see our recent Putting Books to Work feature on this title here.]

    Denmark

    NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry

    "Each chapter has been beautifully crafted; each moves the story along. From the first moments when Annemarie encounters Nazi soldiers to the final page when Denmark has been freed, readers stay with her, cheer her on, and hope that she makes the right choices. The life of her best friend rests on the thin shoulders of this child. Ultimately, NUMBER THE STARS explores the issue of taking political action, even if to do so might mean death."

    Egypt

    THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS by R.L. LaFevers

    "In a story that begins on December 17, 1906, eleven-year-old Theodosia introduces readers to her rather unusual living arrangements. Her father oversees the Museum of Legends and Antiquities, and her mother frequently travels by herself to Egypt to bring back artifacts for this London establishment… A plucky, clever heroine, fascinating material, and page-turning plot all help make THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS delightful for the ten to fourteen set. Even if it doesn’t convince them to become archaeologists, it will make them believe that reading can be fun and exciting and entertaining."

    England

    SHAKESPEARE STEALER by Gary Blackwood

    "Methinks the best book about Shakespeare, for nine- to fourteen-year-olds, to be Gary Blackwood’s THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER, published in 1998. Blackwood knows how to capture all of the excitement, villainy, emotion, and action of a Shakespeare play… With great scenes of swordplay, chases, and duels, THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER brings the world of Elizabethan theater and the street life of London alive for young readers."

    Fantasy Landscape

    MY FATHER’S DRAGON by Ruth Stiles Gannett

    "In MY FATHER’S DRAGON by Ruth Stiles Gannett, nine-year-old Elmer Elevator travels a long distance to Wild Island to save a baby dragon. After stowing items he may need in a backpack (a lollipop, hair ribbons, rubber bands, a toothbrush, and chewing gum), Elmer must outwit a tiger, gorilla, and crocodiles before he completes his quest. In fact, he needs every item he has carried with him."

    Greece/Greek Myths

    THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan

    "An inventive plot, engaging characters, non-stop action, and an unpredictable ending have helped make the stories of Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan some of the most beloved reading for ten- to fourteen-year-olds in the last few years. Riordan was just voted author of the year [for 2011] in the Children’s Choice Book Awards administered by the Children’s Book Council. And as young readers devour Percy’s saga, they also learn a lot about Greek Mythology."

    Italy

    THE THIEF LORD by Cornelia Funke

    "In the THE THIEF LORD, the first novel by German author Cornelia Funke translated into English, the canals, the streets, the abandoned buildings, and the small islands outside of Venice provide an amazing setting for a gripping novel.... Teachers have used this book successfully as a read-aloud for third through sixth grades; readers ages ten to adult have loved it for independent reading."

    INKHEART

    "Funke sets scenes and creates atmosphere brilliantly. All the chapters are just the right length for reading aloud; they contain a lot of action, cliff-hanging endings, and beautiful language. The book has been perfect for use with nine- through fourteen-year-olds, in class or at home. Reading this book slowly, savoring the scenes and the details of the plot, actually makes it more enjoyable than reading it independently.

    Japan

    SADAKO AND THE THOUSAND PAPER CRANES by Eleanor Coerr

    "The classic SADAKO AND THE THOUSAND PAPER CRANES was published in 1977, shortly after the end of the Vietnam War. Like so many other authors of historical fiction for children, Eleanor Coerr chose the time period of another conflict, World War II in the Pacific, to deliver her thoughts about the effects of war on children and her message of peace."

    United States

    THE PENDERWICKS by Jeanne Birdsall

    "Meet the Penderwicks. As the subtitle states, this is A SUMMER TALE OF FOUR SISTERS, TWO RABBITS, AND A VERY INTERESTING BOY. Having lost their mother to cancer, the four Penderwick sisters work together and support their father, an absent-minded but loving, botanist. Because their vacation reservations on Cape Cod fell through, they take a chance on a cottage in the Berkshires and find that it’s located on the grounds of the Arundel estate, a seemingly magical place with an evil owner and her very attractive son Jeffrey."

    THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Stewart

    "With lots of twists, turns, puzzles, even Morse codes, the book engages readers’ minds. It does not merely serve up escapist reading, although the over-five-hundred-page book certainly provides many hours of entertaining adventure. The book explores larger issues like the power of the media and the need for teamwork in overcoming obstacles.

    In this book for ten- to sixteen-year-olds, the happy ending satisfies but still leaves room for sequels. The children seem quite vulnerable and real—not superheroes or heroines, but children who have their share of problems. They use ropes and marbles to solve dilemmas, not magic swords."

    Find even more read-aloud resources on ReadWriteThink. This strategy guide is a great place to start.
     


    © 2012 Anita Silvey. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • The Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac celebrated its first year at the end of October. During this time I have presented many superb narrative nonfiction books. Narrative nonfiction develops a cast of characters; it tells a story. But it also appeals to those children who want to read “just the facts!” Here are a dozen of the best offerings from this year.
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    • Anita's Picks

    Anita's Picks: Top Nonfiction (organized by era)

    by Anita Silvey
     | Nov 02, 2011
     
    The Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac celebrated its first year at the end of October. During this time I have presented many superb narrative nonfiction books. Narrative nonfiction develops a cast of characters; it tells a story. But it also appeals to those children who want to read “just the facts!” Here are a dozen of the best offerings from this year. The archive of the Almanac provides many more—classified under Nonfiction and Biography.

    Founding of America
    WRITTEN IN BONE by Sally M. Walker
    "Discussing how forensic anthropology has contributed to our understanding of history, this fascinating treatise might encourage more than one reader to become part of an archaeological team. History, science, a passion for details, and a reverence for human life saturate these pages, which have been lavishly illustrated with photographs, maps, historical documents, and anatomical drawings."

    Revolution
    THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD by Steve Sheinkin
    "Now, I admit, I love the bad boys of history—always have, always will. So Arnold is a personal favorite, and I have read scores of books about him...THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD adds something new to what is available. Arnold was always restless when not in the height of action, and so is his biographer."

    1790s
    AN AMERICAN PLAGUE by Jim Murphy
    "In AN AMERICAN PLAGUE: THE TRUE AND TERRIFYING STORY OF THE YELLOW FEVER EPIDEMIC OF 1793 Jim Murphy, who can write like an angel even when describing a world of destruction and chaos, brings an absolutely gripping account of these events to young readers ages ten through fourteen...AN AMERICAN PLAGUE allows the reader to be swept up in events, breathlessly turning the pages."

    Civil War
    CHASING LINCOLN’S KILLER by James L. Swanson
    "Every now and then, an author of a book for adults adapts that work into an important book for young readers…James L. Swanson revised his bestselling novel MANHUNT: THE 12-DAY CHASE FOR LINCOLN’S KILLER to create CHASING LINCOLN’S KILLER, a book that reads like a thriller and works perfectly for ten- to sixteen-year-olds."


    1880s
    BLIZZARD! by Jim Murphy
    "In this book, ideal for third through seventh grades, Jim Murphy brings to life the snowstorm that changed America, giving us the United States Weather Bureau and city governments ready to respond to disaster. Many classes use the book in a snow unit this time of year. Otherwise it makes compelling reading in a warm house by a fire. No one describes disasters—fire, snowstorms, or the plague—to children better than Jim Murphy."

    Early 1900s
    BOOTLEG by Karen Blumenthal
    "The book begins with the Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, certainly an event to get the attention of readers aged eleven to fourteen, an ideal audience for the information that follows. In this well-written, thoroughly researched volume, the author explores how America came to embrace the 18th Amendment and why the country abandoned it less than fourteen years later...As she moves along the journey, she brings fascinating historical details into the text."

    World War II
    ELEANOR ROOSEVELT by Russell Freedman
    "Perfect for ten- to fourteen-year-olds—I needed this book as a child myself. I once made a fool of myself in class because I thought that 'FDR' was a swear word—so vehemently was it used at home. Imagine my surprise to find out these initials acknowledged a president of the United States. Russell has always admitted that he loved FDR’s wife a bit more than he loved the president, and the resulting tribute to her certainly shows his enthusiasm."

    ANNE FRANK: HER LIFE IN WORDS AND PICTURES by Menno Metselaar and Ruud van der Rol
    "No book written by a young writer has ever had the impact of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. Perfect to use with it, ANNE FRANK: HER LIFE IN WORDS AND PICTURES extends the text, elucidates it, and adds to reader’s understanding. Produced in cooperation with the Anne Frank House where a million visit each year, this small volume can be appreciated by those who tour the house and those who only can do so by visiting the house website."

    BALLET FOR MARTHA: MAKING APPALACHIAN SPRING by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
    "Of all art forms, dance, which depends on movement, remains the hardest to convey in a book—particularly a book for children. Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan took on this task in BALLET FOR MARTHA: MAKING APPALACHIAN SPRING and succeeded brilliantly. At the beginning of the book, they write that though art is sometimes created by one artist, other times 'it is the result of artists working together—collaborating—a forge to something new.'"

    MARCHING FOR FREEDOM: WALK TOGETHER, CHILDREN, AND DON’T YOU GROW WEARY by Elizabeth Partridge
    "Explores in vivid detail the eight tumultuous months in 1965 that ended with the Voting Rights Act. On January 2 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Selma: 'We’re not on our knees begging for the ballot. We are demanding the ballot.' On March 7, Bloody Sunday, troopers turned tear gas and billy clubs on peaceful marchers. By the time readers come to the events of March 21, they completely understand what is at stake—and just how brutal the fight for voting rights was."

    Contemporary
    THE RACE TO SAVE THE LORD GOD BIRD by Philip Hoose
    "In a book that covers two hundred years of bird history, readers first see those bird lovers of the 1800s, who shot, drew, and preserved their specimens. Then Audubon, another hunter, comes on the stage, who records details of his prey through art. Some years later women’s hat fashions devastate the bird population. Everyone wanted a distinctive plume to wear in their chapeau. Consequently, the Audubon Society was created—to try to convince those with a fashion sense to leave out the birds. Hoose moves with grace and dexterity through American history—the need for timber, the shrinking habitat of the Ivory-bill, and the wanton collectors."

    ALMOST ASTRONAUTS: 13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM by Tanya Lee Stone
    "With extensive research into the period and interviews with the Mercury 13 women— who thought they might actually get to travel into space during a time when only men were considered fit to do so—Stone explores little-known events of the NASA space program. In ALMOST ASTRONAUTS she brings to life the 1960s, a time when women had to think and act outside the box if they wanted to do something other than be a housewife."

    With a unique career in children's books, Anita Silvey has served both as the editor of THE HORN BOOK MAGAZINE and publisher of a major children's book imprint. She is the author of several books, including HENRY KNOX: BOOKSELLER, SOLDIER, PATRIOT and I'LL PASS FOR YOUR COMRADE: WOMEN SOLDIERS IN THE CIVIL WAR. Her latest project, The Children's Book-a-Day Almanac, is an interactive website that she describes as a "daily love letter to a book or author," with each entry offering a glimpse into the story behind the story.

    © 2012 Anita Silvey. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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