Week 13: Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor: An Abolitionist Tale

abductor cover






 Bibliographic Information: Hale, Nathan. The Underground Abductor: An Abolitionist Tale (Book 5). Harry N. Abrams/Amulet Books, 2015. 128 pages. 978-1419715365

Reading Level: School Library Journal recommends this graphic novel for grades 3-7. NoveList recommends for ages 9-12.

Genre: Biographies, Graphic novel, historical narrative non-fiction


From School Library Journal:

Gr 3–7—In this series, a fictionalized Nathan Hale (a patriot from the American Revolutionary War) tells stories about America’s most extraordinary heroes and villains. In this installment, Hale tells his British captors about Harriet Tubman, the spy and nurse who helped hundreds of American slaves run away in the 1800s on the Underground Railroad. Although several children’s books about Tubman exist (all conveniently listed in a bibliography), the author injects danger, espionage, and slapstick humor into his work, as he peels back the layers of this courageous woman’s rebellion. The title begins with Tubman’s childhood and tracks her life, also discussing other notables in the war against slavery, such as Nat Turner and Frederick Douglass. Though the focus is on Tubman, the book touches upon the issue of slavery and its effect on the nation’s history, which may spark conversations among students and may encourage them to seek out more information. Rendered in gray and purple ink wash, the cartoonlike illustrations use comic book conventions to animate a piece of history that may otherwise seem distant and inaccessible to today’s readers. Those who enjoy Lauren Tarshis’s “I Survived” (Scholastic) series and other action-packed historical fiction will devour this title. VERDICT A first-choice selection for any children’s library and a fresh addition to Black History Month and Women’s History Month book lists. KEY: * Excellent in relation to other titles on the same subject or in the same genre | e eBook original Tr Hardcover trade binding | RTE Reinforced trade binding | lib.ed. Publisher’s library binding Board Board book | pap. Paperback | BL Bilingual

“A first-choice selection for any children’s library and a fresh addition to Black History Month and Women’s History Month book lists.” (School Library Journal)


Praise for the Hazardous Tales Series:

one dead spy      ironclad   donner  treaties  alamo


“Livelier than the typical history textbook but sillier than the many outstanding works on the Civil War available for young readers, this will appeal to both history buffs and graphic-novel enthusiasts.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Readers interested in American history will enjoy these graphic novels… Comic panels of varying sizes enhance the real-life events and support the stories’ over-the-top humor… the writing is accessible and entertaining; author Hale’s style gives readers an insider-y, you-are-there-type scoop.” —Horn Book




From CLCD:

In graphic novel format, Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale tells a hangman and British officer about the life of Harriet Tubman and her life-risking dedication to helping runaway slaves find freedom.

Common Core Tie-In:

Common Core Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3 Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

After reading this book, students will gain a clearer understanding of the life and struggles of abolitionist Harriet Tubman along the Underground Railroad through visual information, text, and narrative. Included in the endpapers is a map of North America from 1850 that demarcates the routes of the Underground Railroad. Libraries can also recommend the other five books in the Hazardous Tales series to encourage a love of history.


I thought I knew all there was to know about the great abolitionist Harriet Tubman. After reading this beautifully illustrated book, I realized how wrong I had been. I learned that Harriet Tubman’s real name was Araminta, and that she played a very important role before and during the Civil War. Ms. Tubman also had what is now known as narcolepsy following a head injury, which gave her visions.

This book will appeal to children as it is filled with fun facts, and they will enjoy the humor provided by Nathan Hale (spy) and his hangman and provost (side note: at the start of the series, as Hale is about to be hanged, a magical “Big Huge Book of American History” appears and swallows Hale and his words momentarily. Hale gains knowledge of what is to come for the United States of America and is then able to tell the hangman and provost facts about what is to come). Children will discover how the Underground Railroad system worked and the role abductors played. They will come to appreciate this incredible person’s life and all she did to save her family and people. Suggesting this book is also a good way to get reluctant readers to learn more about American history and history in general. The small text is at times difficult to read (there is a lot of it) however, the wonderful illustrations by Hale help to move the story along.

A panel from the book I thought was particularly moving when Tubman is leading slaves out of the South:



Besides the remaining five (5) novels in the Hazardous Tales series, I would suggest the following graphic novels for readers interested in this genre:

tubman      March       hidden


Jaffe, M. (2015). Using Graphic Novels in Education: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. Retrieved from http://cbldf.org/2015/10/using-graphic-novels-in-education-nathan-hales-hazardous-tales/



Resources on Bullying and How to Respond for Grades 4-8

Many, if not most, children are often either the target of bullying or are bystanders of this behavior. According to the U.S Department of Education and Justice, 37% of middle school students report being victims of bullying (Studer & Mynatt, 2015). While studies have shown that bullying can start as early as preschool age (Oppliger & Davis, 2015), the majority of bullying occurs in middle school through high school. Many instances of bullying are not reported, however, as students either are reluctant to confide in an adult or feel their experiences will not be taken seriously by teachers or other adults. Children are bullied for many reasons–being different, tall, short, new in school, considered a geek or nerd, or because of a physical disability. There are various types of bullying: verbal, physical, and through texting or the internet, called “cyber-bullying.” This last type is especially harmful because once on the internet, the experience can be relived, whereas traditional bullying occurs in real time (Studer & Mynatt, 2015, p. 27).

While there are many reasons for this aggressive behavior (attention-seeking behavior, perhaps the bully is being treated this way at home, etc.), victims often do not know how to effectively cope with this. Bullying behavior results in low self-esteem, low grades, and an overall feeling of dread in attending school or participating in activities for those who are bullied. This behavior affects everyone: whether you are a bully, a victim, or bystander, all are impacted (Studer & Mynatt, 2015, p. 26). Schools and libraries are taking steps to prevent these incidents, but they cannot realistically stop every one. Children, young adults, and caregivers need to quip themselves with the information to have honest conversations about this issue. The list that follows can be used as a starting point for middle school children and their parents to gather the information and tools to cope with and/or prevent this type of behavior.

Bullying: What are the many ways kids bully, and how can you respond?

Bullying can be physical, emotional, or both, and can make you feel sad or bad. It can take the form of rumors, laughter, teasing, and inappropriate written messages (both on paper and on the internet/online). Many children are bullied, which can affect self-esteem, confidence, and grades.

Do you know someone who is being picked on often at school by a person or group of people? Sometimes it is difficult to stop a bully, even though we know it’s wrong. What can you do to stop this behavior and help someone cope?

stop bullying

[Image courtesy of Google]

Listed below are some books, websites, podcasts, and DVD’s for children in Grades 4-8 that will help children and their caregivers learn more about this topic here at the Fort Washington Library (NYPL) and online.

Books: Non-Fiction

Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig. Illustrated by Beth Adams, 2010. Dragonfly Books. 48p.

confessions of former bullyabout bullying

After getting sent to the Principal’s office again after being mean to her classmate, ten-year-old Katie decides to stop being a bully. She does this by writing a journal, and is helped by her school counselor. Together they identify bullying in all its forms, and teach the tools to empower kids to stand up for themselves (such as walking away, turn an insult into a compliment, or changing the subject). Topics such as cyberbullying are talked about, and what to do if you are a bystander. Included is a cool ‘friendship chart,’ to help kids how to be better friends. As Katie says, she can’t change what she did in the past, but she can change what she does from now on.

The Survival Guide to Bullying: Written by a Teen by Aija Mayrock, 2015. Scholastic Press. 160p.

survival guide to bullying

When Aija Mayrock was a teenager she decided to write a book, what she terms a “powerful survival guide” for kids going through similar situations with bullies. She understands that sometimes it is difficult to talk to an adult or teacher about what is happening, although she recommends doing just that. Mayrock’s empowering “roems” (rap poems) are written on notebook style paper that explain the types of bullying, why kids bully, and how to survive. One way is to have a creative outlet, such as writing, music, art, or sports. She offers excellent tips on finding help and encouraging positive thinking in an authentic voice.

Bullies are a Pain in the Brain written and illustrated by Trevor Romain, 1997. Free Spirit Publishing. 104p.

bullies are a pain

If you are looking for a relatively quick read and funny book about why bullies act the way they do, or figuring out if you are a bully, then this is the book for you. This charming book uses cartoon to define what bullies are and offers practical solutions for those being bullied such as staying calm, walking away with confidence, finding your strengths, learning self-defense, and simply making friends and appearing positive and friendly. Includes message to parents and teachers, as well as resources for students.

Cyberbullying by Lucia Raatma, 2013. Scholastic/Children’s Press. 48p.


Has anyone ever sent a mean text message to you? Have you been embarrassed by someone over the internet, such as on a social media site? This book will address why this happens, why it is very serious, and how to handle it. Recommended for 6th grade and up.

Books: Fiction

The Loser List by H.N.Kowitt, 2011. Scholastic (Available in print and E-Book)

loser list

In this first book of the series about Danny Shine, seventh grader Danny finds out that he and his best friend Jasper have been put on the “loser list” in the girls bathroom. By trying to remove their names, Danny is sent to detention where he meets the Skulls (school bad guys) and impresses them with his art skills. Hanging out with the bad kids changes Danny and affects his friendship with Jasper and the local comic bookstore owner. This fun story is told with humorous line drawings that will appeal to comic book fans to show readers what can happen when you try to fit in with the wrong crowd.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. Illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, 1944. Harcourt. 81 p.

100 dresses

This Newbery Honor book remains a beloved classic about Wanda Petronski, the new girl in school from a different country, with an unusual last name, trying to find her place in school. Wanda wears the same dress to school every day, but claims she has a hundred dressed at home hanging in her closet. Wanda’s classmates don’t believe her, especially Peggy and Maddie, and their laughter and taunting result in Wanda leaving school. The story is told from Maddie’s point of view, and Maddie doesn’t feel good about laughing at Wanda and not defending her. After discovering what Wanda has created for them, despite their being mean, do the girls realize that their behavior was wrong.

Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan, 2016. Scholastic Press. 216p.


It’s the first week of school at Albert Einstein Elementary School in Hamilton, NJ. Ravi has just moved from India and wants to fit in, especially with the popular boy, Dillon, who is an ABCD (American-Born Confused Desi). Ravi’s last name, unusual manner of dressing, and food choices make him stand out. Joe is a quiet boy who struggles with an auditory disorder, making it hard for him to concentrate sometimes around loud noises. While each boy winds up being picked on by Dillon (the class bully), they soon realize that they are meant to be friends. This book tackles issues of culture, fitting in, and friendship in a humorous way and is told from both Ravi and Joe’s point of view. Includes glossaries for Hindi and American terms.

Wonder by R.J.Palacio, 2012. Alfred A. Knopf. 315p.


An inspiring and funny book about a boy named August (Auggie) Pullman. Auggie has been home schooled his whole life due to having many surgeries because of a facial deformity, and he is finally entering fifth grade at a school near home. Auggie knows he looks different and is used to being treated differently, but he feels like any other kid. In school Auggie has to deal with bullying but he stays strong and true to himself. The story’s message is powerful: kids should stand up for themselves and face their fears. Recommended for fifth grade and up.

Digital Content


NPR: Teen Creates App So Bullied Kids Never Have to Eat Alone called Sit with Us.

Interview Available at http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/09/15/494074992/teen-creates-app-so-bullied-kids-never-have-to-eat-alone

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Natalie Hampton is an 11th-grader from Sherman Oaks, Calif., and the creator of a new app called Sit with Us. It is a free lunch planning app so kids can host kids who don’t have a table to go to. Natalie wanted to help others who may be the same situation she was in. Running time: 3:14.


Kind Campaign available at https://www.kindcampaign.com

Created by two women who were affected by female bullying in their youth, their mission is to bring awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl bullying with an outlet for girls to express themselves with activities on the site. Girls are encouraged to create “kind clubs” at their schools (run by an adult mentor) to promote safe spaces to create strong friendships.

PBS Kids: It’s My Life available at http://pbskids.org/itsmylife/friends/bullies/

This is a great site for kids about various topics (Friends, Family, School, Body, Emotions, and Money) led by experts in their fields that includes information on bullying. Offers blogs, games, videos, and other fun ways to deal with the every-day issues tweens and teens face.



NPR: Stories about Bullying [http://www.npr.org/tags/135628597/bullying]

Provides several stories and audio interviews on issues related to bullying including children with autism being targeted by bullies and the repercussions that bullying has on its victims later in life.


The Ophelia Project available at http://www.opheliaproject.org/links.html

An organization dedicated to raising awareness of the social issues children face today through speaking engagements, conferences, and advocacy. This site includes excellent links to an anti-bullying YouTube videos, and information on issues such as cyberbullying, school safety, and youth empowerment.

Cyberbullying: What is it and what can you do? Available at https://www.phoenix-society.org/resources/entry/cyber-bullying

The Phoenix Society is an organization dedicated to burn survivors. They include a page about what cobbling is and the various ways it can occur, and strategies to protect oneself. Included are resources to help children and young adults stay safe in the digital age.


ALSC Blog available at http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2012/01/words-can-hurt-books-can-help/

ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children) has a great blog that provides timely information on bullying for adults and introduces adults to the No Name-Calling Week with events organized across the country during the week of January 16- 20th.


Stop Picking on Me! Produced by Mazzarella Media. Distributed by Wonderscape Entertainment (2014). Running time: 13 minutes

This fairly short program teaches children using cartoons and real-life scenarios how to tell someone to stop picking on them. Children learn the various methods of responding such as ignoring the bully or walking away, using words to stand up for oneself, showing confidence, working together with fellow classmates/friends to stand up to the bully, and asking for help from a trustworthy adult. Questions posed to viewers are interspersed following each scenario for further reflection and discussion.

Here is a sampling of Stop Picking on Me! From You Tube:


Don’t Call Me Names! Produced by Mazzarella Media. Distributed by Wonderscape Entertainment (2015). Running time: approx.13 minutes

Using cartoons and real-life scenarios as the example above, this program is great for parents to have a dialogue with children around the subject of hurtful name-calling, ways to stop the name-calling, and what to do if the person does not stop. It also explains the steps to take if a friend calls you by a nickname you do not like.

Here is a sampling of Don’t Call Me Names! From You Tube:


Estes, E. (1944). The hundred dresses. New York, NY: Harcourt. Horn Book Review  by Roger Sutton retrieved from EBSCO database: http://web.a.ebscohost.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=13&sid=250fa7b5-d2b2-4bb1-9fd5-33c2619051a8%40sessionmgr4010&hid=4114

Kowitt, H.N. (2011). The loser list. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. Booklist Review retrieved from https://www.booklistonline.com/The-Loser-List-H-N-Kowitt/pid=4491816

Ludwig, T. (2010). Confessions of a former bully. New York, NY: Dragonfly Books. Booklist review by Carolyn Phelan retrieved from EBSCO database: http://web.a.ebscohost.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=12&sid=144f5d3a-edcb-427f-858d-dab42604a18f%40sessionmgr4006&hid=4212

Mayrock, A. (2015). The survival guide to bullying: Written by a teen. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. Review retrieved from Booklist: https://www.booklistonline.com/The-Survival-Guide-to-Bullying-Aija-Mayrock/pid=7604668

Maughan, S. (2012). Bullying Resources: A Selected Listing. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/54460-bullying-resources-a-selected-listing.html

NPR Staff. (2016, September 15). The salt: What’s on your plate. National Public Radio. Podcast retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/09/15/494074992/teen-creates-app-so-bullied-kids-never-have-to-eat-alone

Oppliger, P.A. & Davis, A. (2015). Portrayals of bullying: A content analysis of picture books for preschoolers. Journal of Early Childhood Education 44, 515-526.

Palacio, R.J. (2012). Wonder. Review retrieved from blog by Elizabeth Bird: http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2012/02/21/review-of-the-day-wonder-by-r-j-palacio/#_

Raatma, L. (2012). Cyberbullying. New York, NY: Scholastic/Children’s Press.

Romain, T. (1997). Bullies are a pain in the brain. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing. School Library Journal review retrieved from EBSCO database: http://web.b.ebscohost.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=9c31ce50-10c4-46df-80ba-55683e2b4890%40sessionmgr104

Studer, J.R. & Mynatt, B.S. (2015). Bullying prevention in middle schools: A collaborative approach. Middle School Journal 46 (3), 25-32.

Weeks, S. & Varadarajan, G. (2016). Save me a seat. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. Review retrieved from Kirkus: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/sarah-weeks/save-me-a-seat/ and interview with authors retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2016/05/interviews/staying-in-touch-with-their-inner-tween-sarah-weeks-and-gita-varadarajan-on-save-me-a-seat/





Week 12: Evaluating Digital Book Apps

reading app

I chose the article, Books Apps as a New Interactive Learning Experience: Evaluating and Reviewing This New Media (2013), written by Mary Ann Scheuer. Scheuer writes the blog Great Kids Books. Given the popularity of tablets these days with children and young adults (and libraries incorporating them more into story times and other programming), librarians will benefit from this article.

Scheuer presents the information clearly and explains that book apps (applications) are “interactive computer programs based on books” for tablet computers, better known as tablets. According to Scheuer, librarians should consider the following elements in evaluating a book app:

  • Audience and purpose
  • Story, plot, information
  • Navigation
  • Narration and audio options
  • Pacing and chunking (breaking down difficult text into manageable pieces)
  • Interactive features

Each section is given a thorough summation and Scheuer includes relevant apps as examples, such as The Going to Bed Book (Loud Crow Interactive, 2011). Scheuer tells us to always consider the audience in selecting an app. In this example, the app is designed for very young children and looks and feels like a board book. This app is very interactive, as characters respond to touch with sound and movement, tap water that turns on and off, and steam that fogs the screen (Retrieved from http://loudcrow.com/the-going-to-bed-book/). Scheuer points out that the app should have a “rich story experience.” In other words, is it interesting? Will children want to read this again and again because of narrative and interactive features? Is the navigation simple; can children move easily between sections? Can a child replay a part of the story they missed for a moment? It is features like this that distinguish the great apps from those that will not make much of an impression.

Sheuer also discusses narration and audio options and how they can help develop essential literacy skills. She uses the example of the Cinderella app launched by Nosy Crow, in that this app takes narration a step further with interactivity. For example, in addition to the speech dialogue bubble and narration that pops up, when the character is tapped again, it says something new (view link here). SLJ’s review of this same app goes a little more into detail about the interactivity of this app and how children can help Cinderella with various tasks, or change the music at the ball. What is so great about this app is that it allows children to think about concepts such as hard work. Kate Wilson states in the interview that, “As children [listen to or] read the app they are encouraged to fetch, for example, different bits of costume to help the stepsisters get ready for the ball and to help collect mice and a pumpkin for the Fairy Godmother…” (Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/touchandgo/2011/09/14/interview-nosy-crows-kate-wilson-talks-about-the-cinderella-app/).

Haines and Campbell have termed the evolving role of the librarian as “media mentor” –that person who connects families and the information they need in whatever format they need it (Haines & Campbell, 2016, p. 8). Libraries are so much more than books these days; many children and their caregivers are checking out audiobooks and iPads, and using the latest technology such as apps. Things will only continue to evolve. Librarians must therefore stay on top of the latest technologies by reading reviews and journal articles to continue to choose appropriate materials for their patrons.


Haines, C. & Campbell, C. (2016). Becoming a media mentor: A guide for working with children and families. Chicago: American Library Association.

Scheuer, M.A. (2013). Book apps as a new interactive learning experience: Evaluating and reviewing this new media. California School Library Association Journal, 37 (1), 17-21.


Week 11: On Diversity in Library Collections

American children today are a part of a culturally diverse country and global world, yet research by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) and other groups suggests that children’s books published as recently as 2015 still do not reflect this growing diversity. Although in the past four years there has been a slight increase in the recognized books published about and by people of color, there remains a vast gap in relation to the overall number of books published that focus on white or animals characters (Dahlen, 2017). According to Dahlen, in 2015 the CCBC reported that 73.3% of books published depicted characters who were white, and 12.5 % were animals or inanimate objects such as trucks (Dahlen, 2017, p.4). While picture books about animals will always be popular among children, publishers and writers still have a long way to go to write and publish books that celebrate many colors and backgrounds. For libraries, this is not just a matter of offering variety to their young patrons. As reported by Naidoo (2014) regular exposure to diverse collections helps children build positive self-images, validates lived experiences, and fosters cross-cultural connections locally and globally. High-quality diverse children’s collection assembled according to professional standards can potentially help young patrons build social skills necessary to thrive in a culturally diverse society.

Children respond to stories in which characters that look like them or share similar characteristics or behaviors, and illustrations play a significant part in this process. Recent celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats include references to letters the author received from a range of people deeply impacted by the black “every-child” character in the story. One teacher wrote that “The kids in my class, for the first time, are using brown crayons to draw themselves.” In her article on children’s book illustrations, Roethler (1998) discusses how each child goes through “identity formation” and visual literacy’s role in this development (or lack thereof). According to Roethler, children are repeatedly exposed to images (either positive or negative) through books, and these images become part of the child’s “schemata” that partially inform how they view themselves (p. 97). In other words, if Black or Asian children see images of themselves in negative ways or are absent entirely from the narrative, this will impact the child’s self-worth and place in his or her world. Roethler argues that illustrators who are white can unwittingly pass along their prejudices in their “interpretation.” Black illustrators, however, are more likely to understand their own culture, just as Asian, Latino, and Native-American illustrators are. While there have been more writers and illustrators of color represented in books in recent years, the reality is that more need to be published that fairly represent this country’s reflection and that of other countries. Distinguished writer Walter Dean Myers stated in a NY Times article, that growing up he wanted “to become an integral and valued part of the mosaic that I saw around me.”

Librarians have a voice and they choose what is purchased for their libraries and what is displayed, read during story times, or promoted during special programming. Librarians must ensure that all children “see” themselves in some part of the collection, whether a child is Black, Asian, Latino, or Native American, identifies as LGBT, or physically disabled. NYPL Mulberry Branch Youth Librarians shared with us that promoting diverse collections can stimulate young patrons’ imaginations and creativity by helping them look beyond the range of their own experiences. These librarians also indicated that keeping up with the diversity can be daunting but worth the effort. The positive impact on young patrons will be life-long and far-reaching (personal communication, April 21, 2017).


diversity 2015

Huyck, David, Sarah Park Dahlen, Molly Beth Griffin. (2016 September 14). Diversity in Children’s Books 2015 infographic. sarahpark.com blog. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/picture-this-reflecting-diversity-in-childrens-book-publishing/


Dahlen, S. (2017). Picture this: Reflecting diversity in children’s book publishing. APALA Newsletter, 34 (2), 1-12. Retrieved from http://www.apalaweb.org/apala-newsletter-winter-2017-is-out/

Naidoo, J. C. (2014). The importance of diversity in library programs and material collections for children. Association for Library Service to Children, American Library Association. Available http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/ALSCwhitepaper_importance%20of%20diversity_with%20graphics_FINAL.pdf

NPR Staff. (2012, January 28). ‘The Snowy Day’: Breaking Color Barriers, Quietly. From All Things Considered, National Public Radio. Retrieved April 20, 2017 http://www.npr.org/2012/01/28/145052896/the-snowy-day-breaking-color-barriers-quietly

Myers, W. D. (2014, March 15). Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/opinion/sunday/where-are-the-people-of-color-in-childrens-books.html?_r=0

Roethler, J. (1998). Reading in color: Children’s book illustrations and identity formation for black children in the United States. African American Review, 32 (1): 95–105.

Book Review 3: Bad News for Outlaws

bass reeves

Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux. Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life Of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Carolrhoda Books, 2009. 40 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8225-6764-6

When people think of the Wild West and cowboys, the name Bass Reeves does not always come to mind. Reeves was one of the first African-American Deputy U.S. Marshals of the Old West. Outlaws feared him and law-abiding citizens respected him. He is considered by some to have inspired the character of the Lone Ranger. Whether or not that is true is debatable, but what is fact is that Reeves was a hero and capturer of outlaws in Indian Territory in the late 1800s, in what is now Oklahoma. Born a slave, Reeves fled for Indian Territory and perfected his marksmanship while living among Native Americans. For three decades, Reeves was one of the most respected lawmen west of the Mississippi, making more than 3,000 arrests but only killing fourteen men in the line of duty.

This 2010 Elementary Honor of the Carter G. Woodson Award will engage readers with its vivid brushstrokes and lively language (including phrases such “didn’t cotton to” and “fit to be tied”), often laid out in the style of the “Wanted” posters familiar in Westerns. This book is essential in any library, simply because it brings to life the story of a black man who rose from slavery to become a hero even outlaws feared. Young African-American boys especially need positive role models that they can look up to in children’s books. Reeves’ story serves to inspire those virtues common in all heroes: sacrifice, integrity, and basic decency. In the Author’s Note, Nelson talks about a lack of black heroes celebrated by Hollywood when she was growing up. She writes, “I came to believe there were few blacks in the West and none who did anything I would have called important.” When Nelson got older she learned of the Buffalo Soldiers and about black cowboys like Nat Love, but not about Reeves until much later. Includes a glossary, timeline, bibliography, and notes about the research. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Belle Star


Nelson, V.M. (2009). Bad news for outlaws: The remarkable life of Bass Reeves, deputy U.S. Marshal. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books.


Read Aloud Reflection

same, same

Kostecki-Shaw, Jenny Sue.  Same, Same, but Different. Henry Holt and Company. 2011. 40 Pages. ISBN 978-0805089462

In preparing for this assignment, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous in reading in front of my peers. It is only the second time I have read a story in front of my class (the first having been in 773: Public Library Services for Children). For some reason, I felt more pressure with this read aloud. Maybe it was that I was being graded by my classmates? After I read the class feedback, I saw that some of the comments mentioned that I rushed through my reading and seemed nervous, so I suppose my nervousness impacted my pacing. I will try to be more aware of this next time and go slowly (Though I’d like to think I would be less nervous reading to children!)

I wanted to read about a concept/theme that would teach something new to children. I felt that Same, Same but Different explored several important concepts such as friendship, family, diversity, and the idea of being a part of a larger world. I liked the way that the illustrations interwove all these concepts together to tell a story about how two boys share and discover how alike they really are, despite their distance.

One of my main concerns was the appropriateness of the book for 4-7 year olds. Would a typical four year old understand the concept of a pen pal? This is why I decided to explain the concept of a pen pal before reading. In showing the map of the world I hoped to put into context how far apart the United States and India are. I considered doing a call/ response where I would read, “same, same” and the children would respond, “but different.” In the end I chose to not do this, however, and I am still not sure why I left this out. Dr. Serantes told me this would have been a great way to get the children to be more involved. So, that is something I would do differently. I realized at some point that since this isn’t a funny book, or a fun story about animals or a princess, I need to get the children involved and engaged in some other ways. It was suggested to me that I could have asked about the peacock in the story—“do any of you have a peacock as a pet, the way that Kailash has?”

I appreciate the class feedback, and was happy that many of you liked the map and some of my questions. I really appreciate the wonderful suggestions made by the class such as: asking how are the boys same and how are they different following the read (I love this suggestion), pointing out illustrations, including an activity like the kids getting a pen pal, or having the children say out loud the response “but different” each time we came across it in the story.

On looking back, once I was up there and started to read, I really enjoyed reading to the “children.” I thank my class for the great feedback.

Non-fiction: Comparing Sibert and NSTA Award Winners

In selecting informational texts that have won these two distinguishing awards, I chose two books that I would have chosen to read or write a report on when I was 10 or 11. Both are great examples of non-fiction that present the lives of two people (one a scientist and the other an artist) growing up in two vastly different worlds.

Stephanie Roth Sisson. Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos. Roaring Brook Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-59643-960-3. 40 pages.

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12: 2015.

Star stuff                                CBC-Sticker_final

Sisson’s book on the life of Carl Sagan and his impact on astronomy begins with an image of the Milky Way galaxy and our sun’s (by comparison) tiny place in it. This image sets the tone of the book and shows children the magnitude of the Milky Way (one of many, many galaxies in Universe) as Carl Sagan’s life as a child unfolds. Children are taken on a journey to discover how a child from Brooklyn and his fascination with the cosmos would inspire Sagan to one day become a world-renowned astrophysicist. The book is filled with vibrant comic book-style images that accompany simple yet engaging text, and is presented as more of a scrapbook. Notes and sources by the author included in the book shed light on Sisson’s research. Sagan is portrayed as a visionary in his many roles as scientist, who through his popular television series Cosmos invited millions of people all over the world to look up at the stars the way he had all his life. Recommended for ages 4-8.

Peter Sis. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. ISBN 978-0-374-34701-7. 56 pages.

2008 Robert F. Sibert Medal Winner

The Wall                                 SIBERT

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain shows readers what it was like to grow up without freedom and choice–the dismal experience of growing up in Czechoslovakia behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s and 1960s. Sis loved to draw as a child, especially as an escape from his reality. This book demonstrates the power of art when people are stripped of their freedoms and when art, music, books, and religion are censored or prohibited. It may be difficult for younger children to understand some of the text and images, and this may require the assistance of an adult to get to the end. Pictures are powerfully presented in black-and white, and Sis uses the color red to distinguish the oppressive Communist flags, banners, stars, and insignia. Text is presented as diary excerpts, introductory and closing notes, and a timeline. Photos of Sis and his family and friends surrounding the journal entries infuse a gritty reality to what Sis experienced. Ultimately, readers learn how Sis rebelled against the oppressors with his art and escaped to America when the opportunity arose. Recommended for ages 10 and up.


These two informational books are about two men whose lives were incredibly different. Both are well researched yet are organized differently, from the written text to the art work. Sisson’s biography uses few words to capture Sagan’s life, and instead relies more on images to tell the story. Her book’s tone is warmer (this is not surprising, however, as it does not deal with a dark subject) in the way Sagan is painted as a child to the description of the launch of the two Voyagers and their missions of openness. The Wall is presented more coldly, given the dark subject. Drawings are mostly black and white and only the color red pops out. Only when the Beatles are painted in a two-page spread is it more colorful to convey the freedom and excitement of the West. Sis states he was “painting dreams and nightmares.” It is a story about a young boy who despite great odds became the artist he was meant to be. As opposed to Sisson’s book, there is a lot more information to take in and absorb in The Wall, including maps, dates, and the names of prominent military figures. Sis uses a significant amount of text to describe the country’s history and he also includes one line on the bottom of each page to tell his personal experiences alongside the historical events that were unfolding. Whereas Sisson wrote a biography, Sis’s book is autobiographical; his journal entries describe his experiences with being interrogated by the authorities about his drawings, and children being brainwashed to report on “uncooperative” parents.

It is understandable why Sis’s book won the Sibert award as “…the most distinguished informational book for children published in the United States in English during the preceding year.” Sis takes children on a journey through the four difficult decades of the events in Eastern Europe and Czechoslovakia under Communism in a manner so children can understand it, such as the portrayal of authorities resembling pigs and the use of the color red.


Horning, K. (2010). From cover to cover : Evaluating and reviewing children’s books (Rev. ed.). New York: Collins. Ch. 2

Sis, P. (2007). The Wall: Growing up behind the iron curtain. New York, NY: Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Sisson, S.R. (2014). Star stuff: Carl Sagan and the mysteries of the cosmos. New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press.