Review: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

Charlotte’s Web was the very first read aloud novel I shared with our oldest daughter, Theadora.  While I knew what was coming, I still cried right along with her when it got to that point.  We still marveled at the story, breathed it in together, and thus the book became a part of the narrative that weave us together as a family.  I was therefore excited to read Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet, because it turns out there is so much I did not know about the famous author who has brought the story of Wilbur and Charlotte into our lives.

This book, by far, is one the best biographies I have ever read.  The depth of knowledge, the whimsical magic of the illustrations, and the sheer breadth of information is, indeed, wondrous.  I kept taking pictures of quotes I wanted to write down, as well as things I wanted to use as teaching materials with my students.  I had several students in mind that I want to hand this to as I was reading it as well, thinking of those who love writing, who need inspiration, or who just need an amazing book.

Biographies can be hard to read and write, I feel.  They often fit a narrow audience because of the way they are written or you are not quite sure that children will stick with them.  But this one sets the bar.  This is the book I want to use to teach my students how to write non-fiction, this is the book I want to use when I want to teach them how to be better writers, period.  I am so grateful to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book, I already ordered another for my classroom, because I think this one will just reside in my house as I try to find my own inspiration to write.  What a tale!  What a book!  What a life!

This is absolutely appropriate for any age and could be used elementary through college.



Hidden Girl #BookADay

IMG_1285I have been trying to beef up my nonfiction offerings for my students and anything that discusses social issues is a sure winner in my classroom.  Hidden Girl:  The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave is a book my students need to read.  While tough to get through, after all, Shyima was only 8 when she was sold into slavery in Egypt, I think it would be an incredible discussion starter for my students as far as the privilege we have in our school and in our lives.  In fact, this book would be a great book club book because I immediately wanted to discuss it with my husband.  Now all I have to do is get more copies of it.  Thank you Simon and Schuster for sending me this one!

Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

I had heard about this book from just about every blogger I follow.  How it was the must read of the summer (even though it wasn’t even out), how this would win awards (and it sure has).  And yet, it came to my classroom and sat on the shelf.  I don’t know why I didn’t pick it up for over a month.  Something about the cover, perhaps, or my own frame of mind.  Then one day I remembered just how much I love Jacqueline Woodson.  Her book Each Kindness is a staple every year for me (which is probably why it has disappeared from my classroom).  So why not read this one?

As the story often goes; I started it and then I finished it.  All within two days.  All within the same time frame as parent-teacher conferences.  Yup, this book made me stay up and read after 13 hours days.  That’s how good it is.  Why is it so good?  I don’t really know.  Her voice, her story, the images that came to my mind as I connected the lines between her story and America’s story.  But even though I loved it, I had an incredibly hard time envisioning which student I would hand it to, not sure where it belongs.  But it fit right into my heart. It fit right into everything I believe is great about books.

So bottomline:  Yes, add it to your classroom library.  5th grade and up or perhaps even younger.  Share it with your students and hope that someone else gets it just like you got it.

From Goodreads:

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

I absolutely loved “Bomb – The Race  to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Powerful Weapon” also by this author so when I saw this little book I had a feeling I would not be disappointed.  I also happen to love history and love sharing wacky stories with my students and this definitely qualifies as one.  I kept stopping along the way and asking Brandon whether he knew this fact or that fact.  He had no idea about any of this either.  The sheer audacity of this stunt and how it unfolded it enough to convince even the most hardened anti non -fiction reader out there to actually read this book.

Bottomline:  Great read for all upper elementary readers.

From Goodreads:
A true crime thriller — the first book for teens to tell the nearly unknown tale of the brazen attempt to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body!

The action begins in October of 1875, as Secret Service agents raid the Fulton, Illinois, workshop of master counterfeiter Ben Boyd. Soon after Boyd is hauled off to prison, members of his counterfeiting ring gather in the back room of a smoky Chicago saloon to discuss how to spring their ringleader. Their plan: grab Lincoln’s body from its Springfield tomb, stash it in the sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and demand, as a ransom, the release of Ben Boyd –and $200,000 in cash. From here, the action alternates between the conspirators, the Secret Service agents on their trail, and the undercover agent moving back and forth between the two groups. Along the way readers get glimpses into the inner workings of counterfeiting, grave robbing, detective work, and the early days of the Secret Service. The plot moves toward a wild climax as robbers and lawmen converge at Lincoln’s tomb on election night: November 7, 1876.