Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 2

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.   

Blues and Jazz are kissing cousins in the music world. With roots in Africa and branches stretching from New Orleans to Chicago and everywhere in between there’s a special flavor and feeling in each musician’s take depending on where they’re from, who their influences are, the year they were born and more. Since it began primarily with slaves there were a lot of local influences that stayed local for the first little while until recordings became easier and outsiders began to take notice.

Today we’re spotlighting a few of the early (but by no means earliest) pioneers of the blues and jazz music scene.

Born near the Mississippi Delta in 1915, McKinley Morganfield, was immersed in the blues from an early age. His Grandma Della had other ideas for how she wanted to him to live his life, “but Muddy was never good at doing what he was told.” Eventually he left the racially segregated south and his life as a share-cropper and migrated to Chicago where he soaked up the jazz, bebop, and blues. He fought his way to a recording contract and became influential to everyone from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and more.

The text has chunks of rhythmic repetition interspersed with the story. The illustrations are rough, earthy, and brimming with life just like the music and musician they are portraying. There’s an author’s note, a bibliography, and further listening list for readers who want to know more.

Muddy Waters book review

 

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters

Written by: Michael Mahin

Illustrated by: Evan Turk

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017

Age Range: 6-10

Rating: 4/5

Muddy Waters is one of those people you know, even if you don’t know you know them. Modern musicians continue to be inspired him or by those who were inspired by him. Here’s one of his own and one by Son House who came a bit earlier and was one of his inspirations. (Shout out to my friend Katie who introduced me to Son House several years ago. He’s become a repeat player on many a playlist in my world!)

 

Women didn’t always get a public voice in music outside of church settings. And they didn’t often get a chance to be leaders or headliners on their own. Lil Hardin Armstrong did it all.

Born in Memphis in 1898 she played her mother’s organ and took lessons from a young age, including playing for her local church. Her mother insisted on the classics but Lil was more influenced by W. C. Handy and other jazzy neighbors. She earned a spot as a piano player in the New Orleans Creole Jazz Band and migrated north to Chicago where she met Louis Armstrong. Together they wrote songs, played music, and formed their own band. Later she toured in Europe, designed clothing, opened a restaurant, and eventually died doing what she loved best, playing music.

Excellent back matter includes a little more about Lil, a list of songs to listen to, photographs, a timeline, author’s note, bibliography, and more. I’d heard of Lil Armstrong, knowing her as the wife of jazz great Louis Armstrong, but hadn’t realized she was a jazz great in her own right. I loved learning more about this amazing powerhouse of a woman.

Born to Swing book review

Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong’s Life in Jazz

Written by: Mara Rockliff

Illustrated by: Michele Wood

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Calkins Creek, 2018

Age Range: 6-10

Rating: 4/5

We’ll keep on trucking through the years to another jazz legend tomorrow. Hope to see you then!

 

Picture Book Reviews ~ Musical Biographies

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.   

Welcome to music week, here on the ol’ blog. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of all kinds of music (my tastes run the gamut from classical to anything I can sing along with.) I’ve even spotlighted a few great picture books already and I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll share even more as time goes by. Most of what I have for you are biographies of music makers but we’ll throw in a few books based on songs or sing-along texts and books featuring instruments at the end. So, there should be something for everyone. And as always, if you’ve got favorites I fail to mention please share them in the comments so I can add them to my lists!

Let’s start off today with some rock and roll music. No discussion would be complete (or could even really get started) without mentioning the King.

In 1935 Tupelo, Mississippi was still struggling to bounce back from the Depression but despite the growing racial tensions the streets hummed with music. Elvis soaked up it all up and sang every chance he could get. He was very shy and his family moved a lot but music was his constant. As times changed he knew he had to take a chance and record the songs he’d been singing, the mix of black and white, blues, jazz and his own style. When “That’s All Right” played on the radio it became an instant sensation and a legend was born.

An author’s note tells us a bit more of Elvis’s story after finding success and there’s also a timeline of the major points of his life from birth to death. This is a great example of following your dreams despite the odds. And I don’t think I have to suggest that any readings should be paired with a few listenings as well. There is a plethora of audio and video available for all of the people I’ll be featuring this week. Listen to their songs, watch their performances (musical and otherwise), and soak in the abundant amazingness of talent!

Elvis Book Review

 

Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King

Written and Illustrated by: Bonnie Christensen

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt, 2015

Age Range: 7-10

Rating: 4/5

Aside from Elvis, there probably isn’t a name more synonymous with rock and roll than the Beatles. Their influence reaches well beyond the boundaries of music to movies, pop culture, fashion, and even equal rights.

The book starts with a brief bio of John Lennon’s childhood, particularly his trouble at school and escape into music. It then introduces each of the other Beatles, showing how their paths cross and how they eventually became a world-wide phenomenon. All four boys had experienced loss and loneliness and all found solace in music in various ways. But it wasn’t until they joined together that they all found what they’d been missing and were able to use that to create something amazing. Anyone interested in some background on the fab four or are introducing them to a new generation of fans will find something here to pique their interest. There’s also some great back matter; an author’s note, glossary, notes and sources for those who want to know even more.
For a grown-up resource, try this fab book: Meet the Beatles: A Cultural History of the Band That Shook Youth, Gender and the World by Steven D. Stark. Or for a unique look at their entire history presented in a graphic format try Visualizing the Beatles: A Complete Graphic History of the World’s Favorite Band by John Pring.
Fab Four Friends book review

Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles

Written by: Susanna Reich

Illustrated by: Adam Gustavson

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt, 2015

Age Range: 7-10

Rating: 4/5

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Elvis songs (mostly ’cause I can’t narrow down the Beatles songs to save my soul.) Did you know Elvis sold more gospel records than rock ones? This is one that always makes me tap my toes and feel like a believer.

Tune in tomorrow when we’ll go a little further back in our musical history for some blues and jazz spotlights. Happy Reading/Listening! 🙂

 

Picture Books about Growth Mindset

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.   

There’s a lot of talk right now about growth mindset. I know it’s been a big focus in the schools, many adopting curricula to specifically teach it to their students. For anyone unfamiliar with the idea you can visit this website for more info.

But the brief rundown is that there are two basic outlooks to learning and failure. With a fixed mindset, the individual believes that intelligence is predetermined and set. You are either smart or stupid and no amount of work will change that. (High IQ? Awesome, you win. Lower IQ? You will never catch up or be as successful.) Therefore when they fail or face setbacks they take on a defeatist attitude, giving up, knowing that there’s nothing they can do about it, and that it just reinforces what they already knew. Studies are showing that teacher/parent reactions can contribute to the fixed mindset as well. Praising a child for being ‘smart’ rather than for ‘working hard’ or even trying reinforces the idea that it’s not within their control.

With a growth mindset, however, the learner recognizes that while they may begin at a certain point they can get better if they put in effort, practice, and keep at it. This isn’t just for book learning but for physical skills like sports, painting and so forth. Failure is more often looked at as a stepping stone to success rather than the end product (think of  Edison’s famous quote about finding 10,000 ways that don’t work.)  There’s more to it than just that, obviously  but that’s the gist.

As an adult, I’ve dealt with some of my own struggles with growth mindset often as a side effect of depression. I have not done a ton of study on this so I don’t know how the overlaps affect each other and if they can even be grouped together…the chemical imbalances of depression don’t follow the rules of everything else so it may be trying to compare apples and oranges. But the results are the same; a feeling of discouragement and hopelessness and “why bother.” So, reinforcing a growth mindset, even in adults, can only be helpful.

That said, I want to highlight a few books today that demonstrate and reinforce a growth mindset. I’m sure this is a topic I’ll revisit as time goes by so if you’ve got favorites please mention them in the comments below. I’d love to have a massive list to reference and share with you all!

After the Fall book review

After the Fall by Dan Santat–After Humpty Dumpty falls from the wall he gives into the fear of heights and failure and misses out on so many of the things he used to love. But he’s determined, eventually, to do something and that changes everything. This one is my absolute favorite. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it and yet I still get a little teary when I get to the last spread!

What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada–Looking closely at a problem can reveal something altogether different than what you at first assumed. Look for the rest in the series (What Do You Do With an Idea?, What Do You Do With a Chance?)

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken–I’ve spotlighted this one before but I absolutely love the idea that our “mistakes” can be turned into something beautiful. And this shows the process, step by step. It’s gorgeous. (Beautiful Oops is another great one along the same lines.)

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Gary Rubenstein–A young girl who never makes mistakes, finally makes one, a big one, in front of everyone.  Learning to laugh at herself makes all the difference.

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires–An otherwise brave adventurer faces a task she’s never tackled before and finally convinces herself she doesn’t want to rather than try. After going through various emotions she decides not to let the task defeat her.

A Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats–This simple classic shows the joy of persevering.

How To Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers–This one is all about dreaming big and thinking outside the box. Both important skills in developing a growth mindset.

The Dot and Ish by Peter Reynolds–Both of these similar art tales show the value in ignoring the naysayers and trusting in yourself. With a little encouragement and effort anything is possible.     *I’m a day late and a dollar short on this but September 15th is actually International Dot Day… “a global celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration.” You can join the community of thousands of others around the world in a host of activities or celebrate on your own. Check out their website for more information.

 

There are so many great resources for helping us all to be successful people. Don’t forget to share a few of your favorites in the comments!

Kindness is the Answer

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.   

Even after all these years I struggle to put into words the feelings I felt watching the Towers fall that fateful September day. Anger, fear, shock, awe, gratitude, wonder, amazement and everything in between coursed through my veins at various moments over the days that followed and still do when I stop to really think about what happened to individuals, communities and our nation (and world) as a whole. At a remembrance program this evening one of the speakers mentioned that he missed the feelings of September 12th. After the biggest shock had settled in (it would never really wear off) there was room for the outpourings of love and faith and hope and humanity that surged immediately after the attacks. Our country is in desperate need of those feelings again and each of us has the choice and opportunity daily to either react and give in to the hatred and negativity that we are constantly bombarded with or take a stand and represent the love, hope, positivity, goodness and more that each of us needs in our lives.

On a similar note, if you haven’t heard about or had a chance to watch the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, I highly recommend you do so immediately. Fred Rogers was an incredible example of living your beliefs and accepting everyone for who they are. You can’t help but walk out of the movie theater feeling lighter, more hopeful, and eager to share that light and glow with everyone you come in contact with. And that was exactly his point. You don’t need to do anything over the top or miraculous, just be you. And let those around you be them. Love and appreciate each other for our similarities and differences. There’s a great magic in accepting and being accepted and that magic can change the world.

I can’t wait to learn more when I dig into his biography a little later as well. Darn library hold list…I think I’m #126. :/ But if you get a chance check out The Good Neighbor: The Life and Works of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King and let me know how it is!

I’ll leave you with a few quotes by the great man and the challenge to make a difference today, tomorrow wherever you may be.

How Important Mr Rogers quote

 

Mr Rogers quote self worth

 

Mr Rogers quote be kind

35 Bedtime Stories for Kids

Bedtime Books

 

As we come to the close of this Labor Day weekend we come to the unofficial end of summer. Days get shorter, leaves start turning and we all reluctantly go back to a more scheduled and routine lifestyle. I’d like to hope that bedtime stories are a part of the routine during all seasons of the year but even my own bedtime reading routine suffers when it’s warm and light outside. So, as you’re transitioning back into those routines be sure to squeeze in a few minutes one on one with the littles in your life to talk about the good and the bad things that happened during their day and read together even if it’s just one page or poem before turning out the lights. This one habit will transform your relationship and their reading skills, I guarantee it.

And while you can absolutely read any book at all during this time, there are more than a few that are tailor made for sending the reader off to dreamland in style. Here are just a few of my favorites:

In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck

A Different Pond by Phi Bao*

Bedtime for Bear by Bonny Becker

Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas*

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies

Windows by Julia Denos*

Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

The Night Gardener by Terry Fan*

Time for Bed by Mem Fox

Hush Little Baby by Marla Frazee

Night Lights by Susan Gal

Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton

Kiss Goodnight by Amy Hest

Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho*

Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban

Forever or a Day by Sarah Jacoby*

One Minute Till Bedtime by Kenn Nesbitt*

Babushka’s Doll by Patricia Polacco*

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site  by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson

Have an older reader? Don’t underestimate the power of picture books, especially those above with an * by them which indicates a little more depth in the text and/or illustrations. Or read a few pages (or a whole chapter) from one of the favorites below. Keep this time separate from any school reading or skills practice for the child. Allow them to do the reading if they choose but bonus points if you do all the reading and just let them revel in the story. Discussion can occur if they take the lead, but again the goal is to simply enjoy the tale and the time together.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater

The Miniature World of Marvin and James by Elise Broach

The BFG by Roald Dahl

The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

I’d love to hear about your favorite bedtime reads and any tips for making it a habit. Share them in the comments below!

Happy Reading!

52 Hikes Progress Report

This weekend marks the end of summer, the beginning of school, and a time I look at as a second new year so to speak. I like to re-evaluate goals I’ve set and where I stand. At the beginning of the year I set a goal to go hiking (or snowshoeing, depending on the weather) once a week making a grand total of 52 hikes for the year. Of course, life got in the way and had its own ideas but I’ve come pretty close despite the various health setbacks and horrid air quality thanks to all the wildfires everywhere.

I’m at the halfway point of 26 hikes just a little behind at 35 weeks. With the temps cooling down and the air clearing up and a few weeks of travel and extra hikes planned I think I may still make it to 52 before January. Regardless, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my health and stamina and am even down a few pounds (and hoping I can be down a few more before the holidays set in!)

I love being able to gage measurable progress even if its something relatively subjective. I’ve been doing a modified keto diet as part of the health overhaul and have been nowhere near perfect (I followed up today’s hike with a delicious serving of frozen yogurt!) But I’ve definitely been more conscientious about what I eat and how I treat my body and it’s making a difference. I still have more I’d like to do but the progress is there and that encourages me to keep trying.

I’ve also made a conscious effort to unplug more and connect with the people around me. As a result, I’ve done more reading, crocheting, writing and improving relationships. I still spend way too much time attached to my phone but the awareness is there and that alone has made a difference. The hubs and I have also made a great effort to stick to a budget…again, no where near perfect but being able to watch the savings grow and the debt shrink even a little is such a powerful motivator!

What motivates you to stick to your goals? How do you evaluate your progress? Do you do a daily/weekly check-in? Do you set multiple goals or work on one at a time? I’d love to hear about what you’re working towards and how you’re doing. Share your experiences, successes and setbacks in the comments below!

 

Waterfall Sign

Bells Canyon Waterfall

Music Monday ~ Aretha Franklin

The world lost an amazing lady recently. I’ve been revisiting some of her music and venturing beyond some of the more well-known (to me) songs and wanted to spotlight a couple of my favorites today.

I’m so grateful for people who are blessed with talents (I’m a little lacking in that department) and for all of those that share them with the rest of us. My greatest talent may be appreciating other people’s talents…so keep sharing and making the world a better place for us, even long after you’ve left us!

God bless, Miss Franklin. Thank you for the music. <3

 

 

50 Books for Back-to-School

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  

In addition to all the books I’ve already shared this week, I’m excited to share with you  50 more of my favorite back-to-school reads for all ages. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just some of the standouts over the last few years.  Some are dealing directly with first days of school (whether it be in a pre-school or kindergarten setting for the very first time or a new school or grade for older students) while some are focusing on the ins and outs of a classroom setting, friendships and social skills, and the unique dynamics of social hierarchies withing a school. And all are simply great books! 🙂

50 Back to School Books

Kindergarten Specific

Countdown to Kindergarten

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten

Kindergarten Rocks

On the First Day of Kindergarten

Adventure Annie Goes to Kindergarten

Kindergarten Diary

Jake Starts School

First Day Jitters

The Kissing Hand

Wemberly Worried

Llama Llama Misses Mama

 

Picture Books

I Walk With Vanessa

Sumi’s First Day of School Ever

My Teacher is a Monster

The Name Jar

My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil

The Art Lesson

Thank You, Mr. Falker

Rain School

The Teacher From the Black Lagoon

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan

This Is the Way We Go To School

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

Miss Nelson is Missing

The Invisible Boy

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To School

 

Chapter Books/Middle Grade

Lola Levine is Not Mean

Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters

Frindle

Gooney Bird Greene

Sideways Stories from Wayside School

The One and Only Stuey Lewis

Wonder

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things

Stuart Goes to School

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

Real Friends

Wolf Hollow

 

Young Adult

The Hate U Give

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

Stargirl

Homeroom Diaries

Anna and the French Kiss

Drama

Speak

Extraordinary Means

Words on Bathroom Walls

Challenger Deep

The Fall

 

Have I missed any of your go-to’s? Be sure to share them in the comments below! Happy Reading!

 

More Back to School Picture Books

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.       

I’ve got a few more picture books to help you get back into the swing of school things. Check back at the rest of the posts this week and and a big list coming next week if you need more ideas!

There is more than a little need for fostering inclusion, acceptance, sympathy, and other social skills in our kids’ lives. This beauty is designed to do just that.

Rhyming text starts the reader out on the first day of school and takes us through various scenarios in the classroom, the cafeteria, the playground and out into the community repeating the refrain that “all are welcome here.” There are simple reminders that we all have special talents and dreams. We all have stories to share and things to learn from each other. It’s as simple (and complex) as that.

The illustrations are bright and cheery and so diverse you almost can’t believe it’s all fit into one book (two moms, two dads, kids in wheelchairs, girls wearing hijabs, boys wearing turbans, grandparents…you name it, it’s probably represented.)

A note on the publication page tells us that Kaufman originally created a poster for her daughter’s school that eventually spread across the country. When Penfold saw the image, she sat down to create a story to go with it. Somehow this makes it even more powerful to me than the story on its own. Knowing that it’s not just a story of wishful thinking but one based on a real experience makes me hopeful for our future. I highly recommend it!

 All Are Welcome book review

All Are Welcome book review.2jpg

All Are Welcome

Written by: Alexandra Penfold

Illustrated by: Suzanne Kaufman

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018

Age Range: 3-8

Rating: 5/5

 

My favorite way to teach is to use a book as a starting point. So, while this isn’t strictly about going back to school it uses fabulous word and language play which you’ll be sure to need/want as the year goes by.

Three little dinosaur brothers set out to discover the world around them and find something to eat. The first and second describe the mountains as “big”, the sun as “hot.” But the third is no ordinary dinosaur. He’s a stegothesaurus who knows lots of words and uses them as often as he can. His mountains are “gargantuan, gigantic, Goliath” and his sun is “blazing, blistering, broiling.”

After a bit of a mishap he meets another dinosaur a little like him and the two spend the day sharing adventures and swapping words but she isn’t all she seems.

I admit I giggled all through this clever book. It’s absolutely perfect for encouraging your students to improve upon their writing by using descriptive words and leads very nicely into an introduction about the thesaurus and other reference books. Great fun!

Stegothesaurus book review

Stegothesaurus

Written by: Bridget Heos

Illustrated by: T. L. McBeth

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt, 2018

Age Range: 3-8

Rating: 4/5

 

And here’s another book to use as a resource for tackling some otherwise tricky concepts, this one involving math…

Whether your child is just learning to count, practicing grouping, sorting, multiplication or just has a knack for thinking outside of the box this book will spark their rational mind. Sure you can count straight up from one to eleven but sometimes life (and our math problems!) are a little more complicated than that. What other ways can you think of to get to eleven?

The book shows an apple with six bites, then a core, then a stem, then three seeds… 6+1+1+3=11

or a hen waiting for her eggs to hatch; five eggs, three cracking, two with beaks, and one just hatched…5+3+2+1=11

There are items at a circus, things that came out of a magician’s hat and more. And of course, the possibilities for extending this are countless! 😉

12 ways to get to 11 review

Twelve Ways to Get to Eleven

Written by: Eve Merriam

Illustrated by: Bernie Karlin

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Aladdin Picture Books, 1996

Age Range: 3-8

Rating: 4/5

 

I hope you’re all ready for school with those backpacks and lunchboxes and bouquets of newly sharpened pencils and, of course…books!  Happy reading!