Tag Archives: Biography

#365PictureBooks No.50 The Beatles were fab (and they were funny)

“Q: How do you find all this business of having screaming girls following you all over the place?
George: Well, we feel flattered . . .
John: . . . and flattened.

When the Beatles burst onto the music scene in the early 1960s, they were just four unknown lads from Liverpool. But soon their off-the-charts talent and offbeat humor made them the most famous band on both sides of the Atlantic. Lively, informative text and expressive, quirky paintings chronicle the phenomenal rise of Beatlemania, showing how the Fab Four’s sense of humor helped the lads weather everything that was thrown their way—including jelly beans”. Publisher

I discovered this book on my quest for more picture book biographies to use with our PYP : How we express ourselves units of inquiry. I’ve been trying to widen the scope of our collection in the arts area by including books on the different types of art forms including music and dance.  This book is great introduction to one of the most well known rock and roll bands of all time for children, so you won’t find information here about their dabbling in drugs or spiritual awakening. There is plenty describing their early years, from first getting together in Liverpool and naming their band through to all the heady years of Beatlemania. The book describes how their quirky and intelligent sense of humour helped them cope with the rigours of new found fame and the pressures on their friendship. Interestingly, you can see how the older generation of the time would have found this type of humour silly but to me it seems very clever.

Photo source: http://www.stacyinnerst.com/stacyinnerst.com/SI_Beatles_Naming_the_Band.html

The full colour illustrations are outstanding and when I looked through the book I noticed these first before reading the text in a second sitting.  The cover with its sunny yellow cover almost commands the reader to pick this off the shelf. The book would be excellent shared between those of us who were alive when the Beatles were at their peak and a new generation of kids who are still hearing some of these songs today. Great to pair with a standard non-fiction informational text like the Story of rock and roll – picture book biographies like this one really bring the musicians to life. I think playing some of the songs before or after reading would help deepen the connections.

This picture book could also be used as part of a Unit on then and now – looking at the differences of 50 years ago and today, to show children how music and teenage life have changed between their grandparents era and theirs.

Bibliographic details:

The Beatles were fab (and they were funny) / Written by Kathleen Krull & Paul Brewer and illustrated by Stacy Innerst

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

40 pages

ISBN: 9780547509914

I borrowed this copy from Auckland Libraries but I have just ordered a copy for our school library.

#365PictureBooks No. 49 Thank you, Mr Falker by Patricia Polacco

Patricia Polacco is now one of America’s most loved children’s book creators, but once upon a time, she was a little girl named Trisha starting school. Trisha could paint and draw beautifully, but when she looked at words on a page, all she could see was jumble. It took a very special teacher to recognize little Trisha’s dyslexia: Mr. Falker, who encouraged her to overcome her reading disability. Patricia Polacco will never forget him, and neither will we. ” Publisher

I chose this book because I have just finished reading Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s Fish in a tree and it is also Dyslexia Awareness Week here in New Zealand  16-22th March 2015.

Both of these books remind librarians and teachers that often, unless children are lucky enough to meet the right teacher or other adult who recognises that they are dyslexic and then get them the right reading help, then they can so easily ‘fall through the cracks’. This book is heart-wrenching, but one that will resonate with many teachers and librarians. The story is semi-autobiographical and because Patrica Polacco grew up in a different era her little self in the story is taunted with the “D word” – dumb. We don’t hear the word ‘dumb’ so often now, it’s not so politically correct, but there are plenty of other ways students can be made to feel different and the very opposite of smart. A book like this is wonderful for promoting empathy within a class and also provides a positive story for any student feeling they aren’t as smart as anyone else. The illustrations perfectly illustrate the frustration, embarrassment and shame of the young Patricia and I know many children will sadly identify with this.

Here is a video of the book being readaloud with subtitles

You can see/hear other great picture books being read aloud at the Storyline website here:http://www.storylineonline.net/

There are so many things we can do to help our dyslexic students and to do this we need to collaborate with teachers and learning support specialists. In the library we are trying to build our collection of dyslexia friendly titles published by Barrington Stoke and our collections of audiobooks – both on CD and digital. Most importantly we are trying to be part of the partnership between student, teacher, school and parents – with parents being an important advocate and voice for their own child. It’s all part of offering a student centric library service. We often work with children individually to help them choose books and to get their reading mileage up and this seems to work well as they aren’t influenced by their peers as they in a regular library session (there is no pressure to borrow the same books or to be made to feel ‘dumb’ when they choose easier books).

I met a young year seven student and his mother in the Library last night. She had heard we had audiobooks and wanted to know more about accessing them. It was wonderful seeing how excited the boy was when I showed him our OverDrive collection. He was delighted to not only find audio editions of popular current fiction, but also to be shown how he could download then change the settings on an ebook to make it more readable (sepia toned background, lighter text colour, font choices and he could make the text  as big as he liked). He could also borrow any book he liked and it’s absolutely private – no peer pressure! I also showed him how to turn on the accessibility options in the settings area of his ipad which meant he could highlight text in many apps including emails from his teacher and have them read aloud. Unfortunately they had to leave before I could also show them the collection of Barrington Stoke titles which I am pretty sure they don’t know about. I’m going to invite both student and Mum back to show them these and get feedback on the types of titles we need more of. We will need a bigger selection of titles so that children feel they can make valid personal choices about what they read, just like their peers when choosing from the whole library collection.

Both Thank you, Mr. Falker and Fish in a tree are essential school library purchases in my opinion.

Biographical details:

Thank you, Mr. Falker / by Patricia Polacco.

Published by Philomel, 2001.

48 pages.

ISBN:9780399237324

 

Fish in a tree / by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015.

ISBN:9780399162596

 

 

 

#365PictureBooks Day 25 Grandfather Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson tells the story of how his grandfather taught him to turn darkness into light in this uniquely personal and vibrantly illustrated tale that carries a message of peace.

How could he—a Gandhi—be so easy to anger?

One thick, hot day, Arun Gandhi travels with his family to Grandfather Gandhi’s village.

Silence fills the air—but peace feels far away for young Arun. When an older boy pushes him on the soccer field, his anger fills him in a way that surely a true Gandhi could never imagine. Can Arun ever live up to the Mahatma? Will he ever make his grandfather proud?

In this remarkable personal story, Arun Gandhi, with Bethany Hegedus, weaves a stunning portrait of the extraordinary man who taught him to live his life as light. Evan Turk brings the text to breathtaking life with his unique three-dimensional collage paintings. Publisher: Simon & Schuster

This is a true story told from the point of view of Gandhi’s 12 year old grandson Arun. Arun goes to the village of  ‘Sevagram’ to live with his grandfather, and is initially frustrated that his close family standing does not seem to bring him special favours or time with his grandfather. Arun is used to living in South Africa where Indians are still treated as second-class citizens and he is subsequently full of anger. His struggle to fit in with peaceful village life, learn the language and share his grandfather with Gandhi’s followers adds to his anger and resentment. He questions how he can be a Gandhi when he is not peaceful. When he asks for advice, Gandhi assures Arun that anger is normal and that even he Gandhi, (who is known for his peaceful co-existence and non-violent protest) sometimes feels anger too.

“Have I not told you how anger is like electricity?”

I shook my head.

“It is. Anger can strike like lightning and split a living tree in two, ” he said.

I saw myself on the soccer field, rock in hand ready to strike, I saw the movie cowboys and their guns.

“Or it can be channeled, transformed. A switch can be flipped, and it can shed light like a lamp.”

“Then anger can illuminate. It can turn the darkness into light,” Grandfather said.

The mixed media collage illustrations by Evan Turk are stunning and use the white cotton thread symbolic of the spinning that Gandhi and the village are known for. When Arun is angry swirling dark lines drawn or painted angrily, are mixed with black thread around his head and all over the page. The emotions erupt off the page.

It is wonderful!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfuWrq9XfTs

Awards:

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014
The New York Public Library 100 Books for Reading and Sharing
The 2014 Non Fiction Picture Book Nerdy Award Winner
Chicago Public Library’s Best Informational Books for Younger Readers of 2014
Huffington Post’s “Best Picture Books of 2014″ Honorable Mention

Bibliographic details:

Grandfather Gandhi / Written by  Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk

Published by Athenaeum Books for Young Readers, 2014.

48 pages

ISBN:9781442423657

Available to purchase from all good bookshops and to borrow from Auckland Libraries.

#365PictureBooks Day 19 – The pilot and the little prince

“Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was born in France in 1900, when airplanes were just being invented. Antoine dreamed of flying and grew up to be a pilot—and that was when his adventures began. He found a job delivering mail by plane, which had never been done before. He and his fellow pilots traveled to faraway places and discovered new ways of getting from one place to the next. Antoine flew over mountains and deserts. He battled winds and storms. He tried to break aviation records, and sometimes he even crashed. From his plane, Antoine looked down on the earth and was inspired to write about his life and his pilot-hero friends in memoirs and in fiction. Peter Sís’s remarkable biography celebrates the author of The Little Prince, one of the most beloved books in the world. A Frances Foster BookPublisher

This is one of the most beautiful sophisticated picture books I have seen. This is a book that will appeal to as many adults as children and the text and illustrations work very well to support different types of reading. There is a basic narrative story running along the bottom of the pages which tells the reader about the life of Antoine de Saint Exupery, in a simple style comprehensible to most children; then this is combined or layered with exquisitely detailed and sometimes fanciful illustrations. Lastly, there is very detailed text and captioning around the illustrations. Children who enjoy investigating small details, will love poring through this story and discovering exciting facts and ideas.

This is an inspirational biographical picture book which talks about having dreams and acting on them; suffering setbacks and disappointments but not giving up; about getting up and trying again.

See also:

Brainpickings.org (beautiful reproductions of pages from the book)

The Guardian (more wonderful illustrations and back story bout the authors interest in the subject)

Publisher page (inside sketches, teacher resources and more)

Bibliographic details:

The pilot and the little prince: the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery / Written and illustrated by Peter Sis.

Published by Francis Foster an imprint or Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2014

39 pages

ISBN:9780374380694

NZ RRP $37.50

I borrowed this copy from Auckland Libraries

#365PictureBooks Day 6 – Star stuff : Carl Sagan and the mysteries of the cosmos

For every child who has ever looked up at the stars and asked, “What are they?” comes the story of a curious boy who never stopped wondering: Carl Sagan.

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” – Carl Sagan

“When Carl Sagan was a young boy he went to the 1939 World’s Fair and his life was changed forever. From that day on he never stopped marveling at the universe and seeking to understand it better. Star Stuff follows Carl from his days star gazing from the bedroom window of his Brooklyn apartment, through his love of speculative science fiction novels, to his work as an internationally renowned scientist who worked on the Voyager missions exploring the farthest reaches of space. This book introduces the beloved man who brought the mystery of the cosmos into homes across America to a new generation of dreamers and star gazers. “[Publisher website].

 I recently borrowed this from Auckland Libraries,  but it’s firmly on my list for purchase as soon as I return to school.  I’m going to use it in any unit of inquiry where we are looking at innovation and curiosity. This will be especially valuable for our Year 3  PYP Where we are in place and time unit of inquiry, with the central idea “Exploration and discovery leads to new understandings and opportunities” where the focus of the inquiry is on space exploration.

I’m going to shelve this with the biographies related to astronomy and space at 520.92 SAG. This is the same spot where students can find books about Galileo and right with all the really popular material on space and astronomy. The 520s are an area I’m currently trying to simplify within Dewey.

When students need to look at biographies as a genre it is easy for them to find books about the person they are interested in by searching for them by name in our catalogue. All picture book biographies in our collection are tagged BIOGRAPHY and we consistently use a subject heading like Sagan, Carl – Biography. I have found that not having all the biographies at 920, but within their subject area, is far better for browsing kids and a result, the books get checked out more often (not just when students are looking at biographies – which may only be once a year).

Awards, accolades and starred reviews:

“Carl Sagan is best known for being a renowned expert on the cosmos, but he started out as just a curious kid fascinated with the night sky, and that’s where Sisson starts this picture-book biography.” – Booklist
“Sisson’s economical narrative and lighthearted illustrations convey Sagan’s regard for the power of imagination and his generous approach to knowledge. . . Both friendly and inspiring.” – KIRKUS, STARRED REVIEW
“Told in narrative format, this beautifully designed and illustrated picture book gives readers a glimpse into the childhood wonderings Sagan experienced as he looked at the night sky and imagined possibilities. . . A gorgeous, informative offering for biography and science collections.” – School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW and one of the SLJ Best Books for 2014
“A broader message about the role wonder plays in innovation resonates throughout this story.” – Publishers Weekly
Biographical details:

Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos / by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2014

40 pages.

ISBN:9781596439603

NZ RRP: $35.50

Available for purchase from Wheelers or to borrow from Auckland Libraries.

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