How to Heal a Broken Wing
Written and illustrated by Bob Graham
(Candlewick Press, 2009)
40 pp. $16.99
Young Will notices a bird lying on the ground in the middle of a bustling city. With the help of his mother he wraps it up and takes it home to loving care. The stark drawings and sparse text make this an ideal book for preschool and early grades, while the empathic character and urban fable of possibility encourage action by even the oldest of readers.
Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel
By Nikki Grimes, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
74 pp. $10.99
Dyamonde Daniel is the star of a new chapter book series for 8- to 10-year-olds. She loves math, is outgoing, and knows everyone in the neighborhood. In this first book she breaks through the tough exterior of a new kid in the school who has been taking out his frustration on everyone. Because countless beginning chapter book series feature white children, we look forward to the upcoming adventures of this strong African American girl.
My Name is Sangoel
By Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Catherine Stock
(Eerdmans Books, 2009)
32 pp. $17
An identity story of a young boy who flees with his mother to the United States from Sudan after his father is killed in the war. As a refugee, the one thing Sangoel has is his name, yet people mispronounce it and children laugh at it. Sangoel devises a creative way to solve his problem and build friendship with his classmates. A well-illustrated book that sensitizes children about the conditions of refugees and the power of names.
John Brown: His Fight for Freedom
Written and illustrated by John Hendrix
(Abrams Books, 2009)
40 pp. $18.95
Published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid, this dramatically illustrated book brings Brown to life. The detailed text on each page concisely explains the important events in his life, highlighting not only Brown’s campaign against slavery but also his steadfast stand against racism and for equality. An excellent read-aloud for upper elementary through high school students. It’s also a fine discussion starter on the topics of race, abolitionism, and the role of white people in the struggle against racism.
Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect the Planet
By Harriet Rohmer, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin
(Chronicle Books, 2009)
108 pp. $16.99
An inspiring collection of the stories of 12 people across North America who are fighting for the planet. The heroes include Will Allen, the founder of an urban farming project in Milwaukee; Judy Bonds, organizer against mountaintop-removal coal mining in West Virginia; Sarah James, spokesperson for the Gwich’in people of Alaska who are fighting oil drilling; and El Hijo de Santo, the masked wrestler in Mexico City who works to protect turtles and whales. The short vignettes, illustrations, and photographs will appeal to 7- to 14-year-olds. Excellent for reading, science, and social studies.
A Young People’s History of the United States
By Howard Zinn, adapted by Rebecca Stefoff
(Seven Stories Press, 2009)
448 pp. $19.95
Seven Stories Press has released a new version of the young people’s adaptation of Howard Zinn’s classic, A People’s History of the United States. This adaptation was formerly available only in two hardback volumes. In these times, more than ever, we need curriculum materials that emphasize the role of popular struggle in making this country more democratic. A Young People’s History includes a number of short segments about the role of young people in making change.
Coal Mountain Elementary
By Mark Nowak, with photographs by Ian Teh and Mark Nowak
(Coffee House Press, 2009)
181 pp. $20
In this startling book, poet Mark Nowak weaves together four strands: excerpts from Chinese newspapers about coal mine accidents, personal testimony from the 2006 Sago, W. Va., mine disaster, coal country photos, and lesson plans on coal mining from the American Coal Foundation. The juxtaposition of coal- mine-induced tragedy and the coal industry’s lesson plan propaganda makes for jarring reading. Coal mining “is a job for living people working in hell,” says the sister-in-law of a miner killed in a coal mine gas explosion. Meanwhile the coal industry curriculum manipulates students to see the world from the standpoint of owners. “Was making a profit easier or harder than expected?” the American Coal Foundation tells teachers to ask students in a lesson plan that uses chocolate chip cookies to simulate coal mining. Coal Mountain Elementary is an odd but brilliant critique of curriculum that ignores the working people who produce all wealth.
The Teacher’s Attention: Why Our Kids Must and Can Get Smaller Schools and Classes
By Garrett Delavan
(Temple University Press, 2009)
224 pp. $24.95
If ever there has been a book that makes the case for smaller class sizes, this is it. It looks not only at policy issues, costs, and political strategies, but also pushes educators and parents to think about our relationships with students. Delavan, a high school teacher in Salt Lake City, argues for “relationship load” reduction as a key feature of improving education and the lives of children.
The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World
By Susan Linn
(The New Press, 2008)
258 pp. $17.95
Author Susan Linn wrote the excellent book Consuming Kids and is director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (www.commercial freechildhood.org). It’s a sad commentary on society when we desperately need a book defending the importance of play—essential for creativity, mental and physical health, and intellectual development. Linn argues that play undermines corporate profits. As she writes in the introduction,
“. . . [I]n a market-driven society, creative play is a bust. It just isn’t lucrative.” This is a manifesto for parents and educators who want our kids raised to be imaginative, creative, empathetic, and thoughtful—instead of seeking happiness through consumption.
The Hardest Questions Aren’t on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School
By Linda F. Nathan
189 pp. $25.95 Hardcover
In 1998, Linda Nathan founded the Boston Arts Academy, a pilot school within the city’s public school district. With honesty, humor, and compassion, Nathan discusses her efforts to lead a high school that helps students confront the real world as it teaches academic skills. In too many places, standardized testing and scripted curricula are stifling our educational imaginations. This book is an invitation to step back from taken-for-granted high school structures and practices and to imagine alternatives.
A Thousand Never Evers
By Shana Burg
301 pp. $15.99
Set in 1963 Mississippi, this historical novel introduces middle/high school readers to life at that time through the experiences of 12-year-old Addie Ann Pickett. The story weaves in historical events from the Civil Rights Movement. It also does an excellent job of showing the many layers of oppression and how people resisted individually and collectively in many more ways than public protests.