Daring Darlene: Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet

Daring Darleen: Queen of the Screen

Anne Nesbet, Author

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Apr. 14, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Silent films, Acting, Kidnappers, Villains, Danger, Adventure, Courage

Synopsis:

Lights! Camera! Kidnapping? When a publicity stunt goes terribly wrong, twelve-year-old Darleen Darling, star of the silent film era, must defeat villains both on screen and off in this edge-of-your-seat adventure.

It’s 1914, and Darleen Darling’s film adventures collide with reality when a fake kidnapping set up by her family studio becomes all too real. Suddenly Darleen finds herself in the hands of dastardly criminals who have just nabbed Miss Victorine Berryman, the poor-little-rich-girl heiress of one of America’s largest fortunes.

Soon real life starts to seem like a bona fide adventure serial, complete with dramatic escapes, murderous plots, and a runaway air balloon. Will Darleen and Victorine be able to engineer their own happily-ever-after, or will the villains be victorious?

Why I like this book:

Daring Darleen is a fascinating peek into early silent films. There is so much to love about Anne Nesbet’s latest piece of historical fiction about a daring 12-year-old heroine and her family of movie makers. Money is low in 1914, so Matchless Studios gives the gives the public what it wants, “chases, plunges, trains, and villains.” And Darling Darleen becomes Daring Darleen. This story is a page-turner with an engaging plot.

The authentic friendship that develops between Darlene and heiress Victorine Berryman, really gives the story its heart. Their backgrounds couldn’t be more different. Darleen is a spunky, clever and resourceful heroine who is even more couragous in real life. After she and Victorine are kidnapped, she plots their escape from a seventh-story building window. Victorine is refined and elegant. She loves to read and is quite the world traveler. Telling the truth matters most to Victorine. The girls bond over the loss of Darlen’s mother and Victorine’s grandmother. They have a mystery to solve and together they are relentless. As the story progresses, readers will marvel at Victorine’s growth in self-confidence.

The girls also befriend the elegant French-speaking Madame Alice Guy Blaché, owner of Solax Studios, who helps them uncover a mystery regarding Victorine’s inheritance and cruel guardians. I was delighted that Nesbit includes Madame Blanché in her story, as a tribute to her real-life contribution in early film history. Blanché was the first filmmakers to “tell a story” in film and was the first woman to run a film studio.

Although the novel is a work of fiction, it is based on the “thrilling true story of the rise of the film industry.” And the story is set in Ft. Lee, NJ, where many of the “photoplays” were filmed. Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of the story to learn more about the history of film making, because Anne Nesbit is a Professor of Film and Media history at the University of California.

Anne Nesbet is the author of the historical middle-grade novels Cloud and Wallfish and The Orphan Band of Springdale, as well as three fantasy novels for middle-graders. Her books have received numerous accolades, including multiple starred reviews and appearances on many best book and notables lists. A professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Anne Nesbet lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

*Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring by Nancy Churnin

Happy Juneteenth 2020!

Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring

Nancy Churnin, Author

Felicia Marshall, Illustrator

Creston Books, Biography, Feb. 4, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 6- 11

Themes: Laura Wheeler Waring, Artist, African American, Biography

Opening: “Laura loved the color brown. She loved her mother’s chocolate-colored hair, her father’s caramel coat, and all the different browns in the cheeks of her younger sister and brothers.”

Synopsis:

As a 10-year-old girl, Laura spent hours mixing and blending colors to find the perfect shades of brown to paint pictures of her parents, brothers and sister and friends. She dreamed of being an artist and exhibiting her artwork in museums. But she didn’t see any artists who looked like her. In 1897 she didn’t see artwork of African Americans. So she created her own gallery, and hung her painting on the walls of her room where her family could view her art.

Her dreams continued to grow. By the time she finished high school, she applied to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She was accepted. Her dreams didn’t stop there. After she graduated she went to Paris to study art and the great artists.  Word of her talent spread and she was commissioned to paint the portraits of accomplished African Americans — poets, authors, diplomats, activists and singers, including her inspiration, Marian Anderson.

Today Laura Wheeler Waring’s portraits hang in Washington D.C.’s National Portrait Gallery, where children of all races can admire the beautiful shades of brown she captured.

Why I like this book:

Well done Nancy Churnin! Beautiful Shades of Brown is a celebration of brown Americans, as readers will discover in Churnin’s polished and richly textured narrative about Laura Wheeler Waring’s ordinary, but extraordinary life. Children will find her journey inspiring.

Waring is the perfect role model for little girls who have big dreams. Determined and committed to pursuing her passion, young Laura began to manifest her dreams. She was self-confident, believed in her gift, and welcomed each opportunity that came her way. Most important, she was paving the way for girls and women to live their dreams.

Felicia Marshall’s illustrations are rich, beautiful, expressive and soulful. My favorite illustration shows the joy Waring feels as she paints Marian Anderson’s red gown and remembers the day she first heard her sing.

There’s an informative Author’s Note, and the book is further enhanced by reproductions of seven of Waring’s portraits from the National Portrait Gallery.

Resources: Encourage children to draw or paint a picture of a family member. If they use paints, suggest that they mix colors together to create more interesting faces, hair and clothing.

Nancy Churnin is the author of several picture book biographies, including South Asia Book Award winner Manjhi Moves a Mountain and Sydney Taylor Notable Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing, both Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People. Visit Churnin at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community by Susan Verde

Hey, Wall” A Story of Art and Community

Susan Verde, Author

John Parra, Illustrator

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Fiction, Sep. 4, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Walls, Kids making a difference, Street art, Neighborhoods, Community Life

Opening: Hey Wall! You are BIG! A city block BIG. My city block.

Synopsis:

A boy strolls past an abandoned city wall on his way to school. It is blue, full of cracks and ugly. He calls out “Hey, Wall!” Near the wall is a lively neighborhood busy with life, music, chatter, and laughter. He stares at the empty wall until one day he decides to take action. He gathers his pencils, paint and decides to make the wall special. The boy enlists the support of his friends, family and neighbors. Young and old work together to breathe life back into the wall. They bring their sketches, memories and imaginations to create something new on this big blank canvas. How will they transform their wall?

Why I like this book:

Susan Verde has written an inspiring story that empowers kids to use their voices when they see how  they can make a difference in their community. The story also celebrates the life of this busy town and how coming together to support each other, boosts community pride and relationships. It also shows that walls aren’t dividers, but can bring people together to serve a greater cause.

I especially like Verde’s use of free verse in this urban setting. It works well with the folksy artwork of John Parra. His colorful acrylic illustrations really make this story shine. The final page reveals the wall’s transformation and how it represents everything special to the community. This is an excellent classroom read-aloud and discussion book. It will easily support art school curriculums and encourage creativity.

Make sure you check out the author and illustrator endpapers, because they give insight into the inspiration behind this story and information about the history street art. Visit Susan Verde and John Parra at their websites.

Resources: Use this book to encourage kids to think about ways they can help their community. There may not be an empty wall, but teachers can encourage students to work together to make a paper mural that represents the personality of their classroom.

Susan Verde’s first picture book, The Museum, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, was a Bank Street Best Book of the Year. Her other books include You and Me, I Am Yoga, The Water Princess, I Am Peace, and Rock and Roll Soul all illustrated by Peter H Reynolds; as well as My Kicks illustrated by Katie Kath; and Hey, Wall illustrated by John Parra. Susan is a former elementary school teacher with a Master’s degree in reading remediation. In addition to writing books Susan teaches yoga and mindfulness to kids (and adults) of all ages. She lives in East Hampton, New York, with her three children.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from Library copy.

The Art Garden by Penny Harrison

The Art Garden

Penny Harrison, Author

Penelope Pratley, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Feb. 6, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Art, Creativity, Individuality, Self-acceptance, Friendship

Opening: More than anything, Sadie wanted to be an artist.

Synopsis: Sadie wants to be a painter, just like her best friend, Tom. She loves playing with color and finding shapes in unlikely places. But whenever Sadie picks up a paintbrush she makes a big mess. She spends her time working in the garden or playing with Tom, but, one day, Sadie gets a look at things from a different perspective–and makes a big discovery about herself and her own creativity.

What I like about this book:

Penny Harrison has written a playful story about a girl who wants to be an artist like her best friend.  Sadie’s fingers are very nimble at playing with color in baking and decorating cupcakes, arranging flowers, exploring patterns in nature, and planting flowers in pots. So why can’t she draw like Tom? The harder this determined protagonist tries to paint, she creates even bigger messes. Discouraged, she climbs to the top of a tree.  She stares down at a garden beneath her and sees something she hasn’t seen before. Sadie realizes that if she can’t draw her dreams there are many other ways to express herself.

The language is simple and lyrical. The pacing will keep readers in suspense. Prately’s colorful watercolor illustrations are lively and encourage readers to see the world through Sadie’s eyes. Make sure you check out the endpapers.

Resources: This book is an excellent read-aloud in the classroom. Teachers can encourage kids to name the many ways they enjoy expressing their creativity like baking, sewing beautiful clothing, planting beautiful gardens, trimming topiary bushes, knitting blankets, carving wooden figures, making pottery, designing buildings, birdwatching, quilting, music and dance. Children will enjoy sharing their ideas as they realize art is individual and all around them.

Penny Harrison is a children’s author, book reviewer, garden writer and lifestyle journalist. A professional writer for more than 20 years, she has contributed to a range of magazines, newspaper, and books, writing about everything from raising toddlers to raising chickens.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Grace and Katie by Susanne Merritt

Gracie and Katie

Susanne Merritt, Author

Liz Anelli, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Nov. 1, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Twins, Art, Creativity, Sisterhood, Individuality

Opening: “Grace and Katie loved to draw. Grace’s drawings were filled with straight lines, squares and angles. Katie’s drawings were filled with patterns, squiggles and swirls.”

Publisher Synopsis: Grace and Katie are twins who love to draw. Grace loves everything to be organized and neat, while Katie loves everything to be bright, bold and messy. When they want to draw a map of their home and street, the girls can’t agree on how it should be done so they each decide to create their own map. But that doesn’t work out as well as they’d planned. Perhaps working together might be more fun after all!

Why I like this book:

Grace and Katie is an imaginative exploration of individuality, sisterhood, creativity and appreciating each other’s talents.  It will win the hearts of many budding artists.

The book focuses on twins in a way that emphasizes each girl’s individual strengths. Each sister has a unique perspective on art. And they have a different ways of expressing themselves. When Katie adds colorful touches to Grace’s map, and Grace gives Katie’s map more structure, they learn that working together can be a lot more fun.

Grace and Katie encourages kids to express their creativity and realize that there is no right or wrong way to be an artist. The topic of map making is woven throughout the story, making this a valuable resource to explore visual literacy. Children will find this story a very satisfying read.

Liz Anelli’s delightful illustrations combine both heart and design. They are delightfully bold and appealing. There is such vivid detail, especially in the cityscape scenes.  You can tell Anelli has a flare for architecture which blends beautifully with this empowering story of individuality.

Resources: This is a great resource to celebrate creativity at home and school. It is also a great resource to teach children about creating and reading maps.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Before Morning by Joyce Sidman

before-morning-61plgsa6lwl__sx379_bo1204203200_Before Morning

Joyce Sidman, Author and Poet

Beth Krommes, Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, Oct. 4, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: City and town life, A child’s wish, Snow, Rhyme

Book Jacket Synopsis: There are planes to fly and buses to catch, but a small child wishes for a different sort of day. As clouds gather and heavy flakes fall, her invocation rises above the sleeping city. A too-busy world falls silent, and a family revels in the freedom and peace that snow brings.

Why I like this book:

Joyce Sidman’s breathtaking book is pure poetry for children and the young at heart. The text is spare and there are many wordless pages. It is a quiet story to curl up with, read slowly and study the detail on each page. There are busy scenes of people walking in parks, striding past shops, pushing strollers and riding buses. There are children arriving home from school, families eating together, and parents leaving for work. And there is a child who wishes for snow. Beth Krommes’ beautiful scratch-board artwork is a feast for the eyes.  The words and artwork perfectly support the theme.

Resources:  Make sure you read the author’s thought-provoking comment “On Wishes and Invocations” at the end of the book. Ask children what they wish for. Do their words have power?

Joyce Sidman won a Newbery Honor for her Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. She is today’s foremost nature poet for children. Two of her other books are Caldecott Honor books. She won the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children for her award-winning body of work.

Beth Krommes is the Caldecott-winning artist of The House in the Night and other beautiful picture books, including Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, and Blue on Blue.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

International Dot Day Growing – September 15-ish

dot_day_2012_v01“Creating…Connecting…Collaborating…Sharing” is the theme for this year’s International Dot Day.  Celebrated the week of September 15th-ish, over 3,786,213 children have signed up since 2014 from 115 countries. They will celebrate in their classrooms and individually.

September 15, will be the 12th anniversary of Peter H. Reynold’s international bestselling book, The Dot, about a girl who doesn’t believe she can draw. The book has been translated and published into 12 different languages and braille. Iowa teacher Terry (T.J.) Shay, who held the very first Dot Day celebration in 2009, has been the motivational force behind this extraordinary annual event.

Each year teachers and students continue to take International Dot Day to a new level, using many ways to connect and partner with teachers and students in all 50 states and 112 countries. This is truly a global event where children are connecting the dots with each other around the world.

If you are a teacher, homeschooler or parent who wants to get involved in this incredibly powerful event, there is still time to enroll your students and children. Visit the International Dot Day site for all the information and resources you will need to get started, inspired and connected. Teachers, make sure you check out the special section Skype in the Classroom and view the sections on Find a Lesson, A Teacher or Mystery Skype. Many teachers have posted requests to partner with other schools.

Teachers may want to check out this cute video to use after they read The Dot. Singer song-writer Emily Dale collaborated with Reynolds to create the lively The Dot Song, which includes a hand motions guide.

You can follow International Dot Day on:

Facebook: Share on Dot Day Facebook page (facebook.com/InternationalDotDay)

Twitter: Connect on Twitter using @DotClubConnect, and #dotday and #makeyourmark

Challenge: I encourage many of my author friends who’ve published books to check out the Celebri-Dots and submit your own special dot. To my KidLit blogging friends who are such outstanding artists and always sharing their artwork, please consider posting a dot on your website September 15th-ish.  Many of you are wonderful poets and may find a calling in writing a poem about Dot Day, along with a dot. There are no right or wrong ways, only a lot of creative fun! Visit the Dot Gallery for inspiration. I will post my dot on September 15.

Please check out my friend and blogging colleague Beth Stilborn’s post on International Dot Day. Beth shares many of the dots she’s created each year and tells Vashti’s story in The Dot.

Peter Reynold’s will officially kick-off International Dot Day on Saturday, September 12 from 11-2 p.m. at The Blue Bunny, in Dedham, MA. Reynolds hopes a lot friends will join him to “make their marks.” Everyone is encouraged to wear dots that day.

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Hana Hashimoto9781894786331_p0_v1_s260x420Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Chieri Uegaki, Author

Qin Leng, Illustrator

Kids Can Press, Fiction, Aug. 1, 2014

Winner: Asian/Pacific American Award Picture Book Winner 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Violin, Talent Show, Practice, Teasing,  Self-confidence, Courage, Individuality

Opening: “When Hana Hashimoto announced that she had signed up for the talent show and that she would be playing the violin, her brothers nearly fell out of a tree.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: When Hana announces that she’ll be playing violin in the school talent show, her brothers laugh so hard they nearly fall out of a tree. But Hana doesn’t let that stop her — she practices and practices, inspired by memories of the time she spent in Japan with her ojiichan, a professional violinist. But when the day of the performance arrives, will she be able to overcome a sudden case of nerves?

Why I like this book: This is a charming and creative story from author Cheri Uegaki. Hana is a sensitive, yet spunky and determined character. Many children will easily relate to the teasing from siblings, the jitters of performing in a talent show, and the courage to try anyway. No matter how much Hana’s brothers think she is “loopy,” she practices and perseveres despite everyone’s doubts.  She remembers listening to her ojiichan (grandfather) play the sounds of chirping crickets, squawking crows, plucking rain, and squeaking mice. These memories help Hana to find her own way of playing her violin and making the performance her very own. Kids will cheer for Hana. Quin Leng’s illustrations are warm, whimsical, playful and capture the personality of each character and the tone of the story.  Her pencil and digitally colored illustrations include details of both Hana’s Japanese and American life.

Resources: Introduce your child to music, take them to a children’s symphony so they can hear the various instruments. Encourage them to try an instrument in their school music program. Let them decide what instrument they would like to play. Encourage young children to play a harmonica, drums, a kazoo, or a marimba.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Father’s Chinese Opera

Father's Chinese Opera9781628736106_p0_v2_s260x420Father’s Chinese Opera

Rich Lo, Author and Illustrator

Skyhorse Publishing,  Inc., Fiction, Jun. 3, 2014

Suitable for ages: 3-8

Themes: Chinese opera, Acrobatics, Father and son, Perseverance

Opening: “Father was the band leader and composer of the Chinese opera in Hong Kong.  Sometimes I sat on top of the instrument cases and watched the actors onstage.”

Book Synopsis: The Chinese opera is anything but boring. Songs, acrobatics, acting, and costumes make the opera a truly spectacular show to behold. Spending a summer backstage at his father’s Chinese opera, a young boy yearns to be a part of the show. Rehearsing his acrobatic moves day and night with the show’s famous choreographer, the boy thinks he is soon ready to perform with the others. But the choreographer doesn’t agree. Upset, the boy goes home to sulk.  What will he do next? Will he give up?

Chinese OperSpread_1

Artwork Compliments of Rich Lo

Why I like this book: This autobiographical story is based on Rich Lo’s childhood. His father, Lo Tok, was a famous opera composer in China before the family immigrated to the United States in 1964. The author is the child backstage longing to be a performer. This dramatic, expressive and colorful art form will be new to many readers. The story is narrated by the boy who is determined to become an acrobat. The text is simple so that the illustrations showcase the action in the story. It is a realistic story that encourages children to practice hard and not give up on their dreams. The boy’s disappointment turns into determination, perseverance and success. Every page is filled with colorful, evocative and detailed watercolors which highlight the traditional costumes, make-up, and dramatic action of the performers. Lo’s book is an inspiring tribute to his father and culture, and an introduction for children to the beautiful traditions in Chinese opera.

Chinese OperaSpread_2

Resources: Make sure you check out the “Author’s Note”about Chinese Opera at the end of the book.  There is also detailed information about the author’s father, Lo Tok, who was a famous opera composer and great musician. He shares the family’s struggles to immigrate from Communist China, and what it was like for his father being “a renowned writer of poetry and music to being illiterate.” The author lists other reading resources about Chinese Opera. Visit Rich Lo at his website for more information. Children can make their own Chinese Opera masks if they click [HERE] on the First Palette website.

Chinese OperaSpread_10

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Fly Away

Fly Away9781442460089_p0_v3_s260x420Fly Away

Patricia MacLachlan, Author

Margaret K. McElderry Books, Fiction, April 2014

Suitable for ages: 7 -10

Themes: Family Life, Brothers and sisters, Floods, Farms, Poets, Music

Book Jacket: “Family means — offering help when it’s not asked for, accepting help when you think you don’t need it, sharing joys, keeping secrets, and singing your song. Unless you’re Lucy and you can’t carry a tune. Lucy thinks she has no voice. But family means — even if you’re sure you can’t sing, you’ll be heard.”

Synopsis: Lucy and her family (and Mama’s chickens) pack into an old Volkswagen bus and travel across Minnesota to spend the summer with her Aunt Frankie in North Dakota. They time their annual visit to help Aunt Frankie plan for the flooding of the Red River.  When they reach the Red River, it is high and flowing fast.  Lucy’s mother, Maggie, remembers the dangers from her childhood.

Lucy has a secret. Everyone in her family sings, but she can’t. Her father, Boots, loves opera, her mother likes Langhorne Slim and her younger sister, Gracie, sings in a high perfect voice. When Lucy opens her mouth nothing comes out. Even her little brother Teddy, who can’t talk, can sing. He sneaks into her bedroom at night and coaxes Lucy to sing with him. His sweet “la la la’s” are pitch perfect and no one knows but Lucy. As the flood waters recede and the house is safe, another crisis occurs when Teddy turns up missing. Will Lucy find her voice and save him in a way no one else can?

Why I like this book: With the heavy rains and major flooding we are experiencing across the country, Patricia MacLachlan chooses the perfect time to release a new book for children about this phenomenon of nature. It is a story that touches the readers emotions. I love the quirky nature of Lucy’s family, the secrets, the fears, the joys and the strong family bonds that keep the family afloat during a dangerous flood.  Fly Away is poetic and written simply for young readers wanting to read longer chapter books. The plot is engaging, well-paced and full of adventure. This is a great summer read and is 107 pages.

Patricia MacLachlan is a Newberry Medalist for her book Sarah, Plain and Tall. I reviewed her powerful 2013 picture book about grief and renewal, Snowflakes Fall, which was dedicated to the families of Newtown and Sandy Hook, CT.  I also reviewed The Truth of Me, another middle grade novel about complicated family relationships.