Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Me ... Jane

For my next couple of posts, I am deviating from my norm of covering only middle grades books. I have been reading some incredible picture books with my sons lately, and there are two that I just have to share! The first is, quite obviously, Me... Jane by Patrick McDonnell.

First in my list of reasons that you should literally go buy this book right now and treasure it forever, is that it is simply beautiful to look at. The illustrations are muted in earthy, but vibrant colors. The cover and pages are a wonderful matte. If this book isn't in the running for a Caldecott, I will be very surprised.

Secondly, this book is completely inspirational. It clearly chronicles how Jane held on to her childhood dreams and aspirations to grow up and accomplish exactly what she had planned. As an adult, reading this tugged on the heart strings, because it is so childlike, simplistic and lovely.

In reading it to my 7 year old I saw just how encouraging it could be, because he was just so excited that she actually grew up and did just what she had intended to do at 10 years old. From his perspective, it makes his dreams of being a space scientist all the more plausible.

This lovely picture book is a wonderful introduction and tribute to Jane Goodall, her quietly powerful life, and her incredible work.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sharing: They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group

        It has taken me weeks to finish this book. This was entirely due to how busy I was with school, because the book was fascinating and intense. The history of the Ku Klux Klan is detailed with chilling accuracy in They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group. 
image via Amazon.com

Beginning with the origins of this terrorist group in the days that followed the end of the Civil War as evidenced by Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses S. Grant, and chronicling them with painful accuracy to all the way to the Civil Rights Movement, Susan Campbell Bartoletti again gives evidence as to why she deserves her previous Newbery Honor and Sibert Medal. 

Even as someone who has studied history, there were many facts presented by Bartoletti that were new to me, and even familiar ones were brought to life in new and startling ways. The stories of William Luke, Cornelius McBride, and Jim Williams are told with depth, accuracy and a subtle sense of just how brave they were to take a stand against these terrorists.

Dictionary.com defines a terrorist as :

a person who terrorizes  or frightens others. It is apparent that Bartoletti was exceedingly accurate in calling the KKK exactly what they are - a homegrown terrorist organization. 

Bartoletti glosses over nothing and gives the reader a glimpse of the very real horror that was experienced during the height of the KKK. The eerie photograph on the cover is of a real Klan hood that was stolen after this picture is taken. The inclusion of documents and personal accounts adds a somber and startling reality to what might otherwise seem like a nightmarish work of fiction.

This book is an absolute must-read for American history students, teachers, or even those who are casually interested. It would also be of great benefit in classrooms with struggling readers who may not typically gravitate toward non-fiction. The book is summed up with succinctness and a subtle sense of victory by including a Civil Rights Timeline that concludes with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the United States' first African-American president.