Saturday, February 4, 2023

Farmworker's Strike In Books

I adore historical fiction and verse novels. A SEED IN THE SUN, a beautiful novel by Aida Salazar combines both. With rich characters, readers enter the world of the 1965 farmworkers' strike led by Dolores Huerta.
Here are two nonfiction books that pair well with A SEED IN THE SUN. Add them to your classroom discussions!
Nancy Castaldo is the author of books about food and farming, including THE STORY OF SEEDS, THE FARM THAT FEEDS US, and her latest, THE WORLD THAT FEEDS US. For more about these titles visit her website

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

My Top Historical Reads of 2022

 So many books, so little time is the phrase I think about most at this time of year. Thankfully, another year is fresh on the forefront with new reads. Here are some of my fave historical books from 2022. In all of these books, authors have brought to life places and periods across the globe - from Italian immigrants in turn-of-the-century New York to 1930s Berlin to Africa to the fateful day of September 11, 2001. While they range in place and period, they also range in form. They are told in prose, verse, and graphic novel. 

Check them out! 

Turn-of-the-century NYC told in prose by Donna Jo Napoli

A wonderful novel in verse set in Africa from Kwame Alexander

Kip Wilson brings 1930s Berlin to life in this young adult novel-in-verse. 

All of Don Brown's graphic novels are chock full of facts and story. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Women's History Month - Those Who Resisted

From the Writer's Almanac:  It was on this day in 1933 that the Nazi Party won 44 percent of the vote in German parliamentary elections, enabling it to join with the Nationalists to gain a slight majority in the Reichstag. Within three weeks, the Nazi-dominated Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which gave Hitler dictatorial powers and ended the Weimar Republic in Germany.

Let's honor the women who worked in the Resistance at that time and during WWII, my family included. 

Here are a few books that tell the story of some of those people:

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Children of the Past -- An Interview with Lois Huey

Who can imagine what life must have been like for a kid living twenty thousand years ago? Lois Huey can! Travel back in time with author and archeologist, Lois Miner Huey, with her latest book, Children of the Past:Archeology and the Lives of Kids. Thanks, Lois, for talking with us today about this fascinating book.

What inspired you to write about kids who lived thousands of years ago?

Based on archaeological evidence, I was wondering what it was really like to be a kid years ago. My latest book Children of the Past Archaeology and the Lives of Kids (Lerner 2017) begins thousands of years ago with cave kids and goes through time to the 1790s. Finding evidence of children from various times in soil layers is exciting for archaeologists. I wanted to share that excitement and what that evidence of their lives meant in different time periods. In previous books like Forgotten Bones Uncovering a Slave Cemetery and Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History, I've included kids in the information based on both archaeology and documents but not to the extent I wanted to do. So now I have.

Writing about the distant past must have its challenges. There aren’t diaries or other first-hand accounts to study. How did you research this subject?

Archaeologists, like children's writers, are very willing to share their research and reports. I contacted those I knew who were especially interested in this topic, and received lots of information, scientific reports, and ideas from them. I then studied their bibliographies and continued on from there.

As an archeologist, you have such a unique perspective. Did you draw upon your own work in the field for this title?

One of my favorite archaeological projects was an excavation at Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site in Albany, New York. The mansion in the 19th century became an orphanage. The upper layers of soil contained numerous doll parts, clay marbles, a jack, and even parts of toy tea sets. The doll parts clustered in one area of the site, the glass marbles in another, indicating girls and boys played in separate areas. The biggest surprise to me, though, was the fact orphanage kids had toys at all. Research in the Roman Catholic Church archives revealed how many such items were provided to the kids by parishioners as part of teaching them how to care for babies, sew outfits for them, and play fairly. I wanted to include this story in the book, but the editor persuaded me to stop at the end of the 18th century. I agreed with her.

How might a teacher use this book in their classroom?

Children of the Past covers so many time periods that teachers from the fourth grades on through the seventh grade would find it useful. Cave kids, hunters and gatherer children, the first farmers, early colonists in America, and a largely unknown southern Underground Railroad are included--something for each of many periods of history. The chapters begin with a narrative story based on the archaeological (and documentary) evidence, then goes into expository explanations of the science involved in archaeological work that yields the evidence used.

Do you have any tips for young aspiring writers?

I always was one of those who wrote stories in school and at the picnic table in the back yard for friends to read. I encourage any kid who has that inclination to continue. It's a rewarding way to get down your thoughts, the scenes in your head, information you discover--and it's fun. Writing leads to good grades in school, becoming a journalist, librarian, teacher, and even an archaeologist!

Thank you, Lois! This has been fun. We look forward to see what subjects you will focus on in your upcoming books.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Trinity Church, St. Paul's, and Hamilton

I spent some time this weekend in lower Manhattan. My hotel was directly across the street from St. Paul's Chapel so I had to stop over to see this 250-year old Episcopal church that survived 9/11 and holds so much history.

The cemetery is populated by Revolutionary War veterans and New World residents who lived in New York before we were a free nation.

It is remarkable to see this tiny chapel among NY skyscrapers and to imagine an earlier New York. St. Paul's was built by Trinity Church to serve the neighborhood.

St. Paul's 

Just a few blocks away is Trinity Church, where Angelica Schuyler her sister, Eliza and Alexander Hamilton are buried. The original Trinity Church burned down. While awaiting the new building, George Washington and the gang attended St. Paul's.

Trinity Church 

He was a good guy, but.....  

John Lawrence! 

Eliza's plot

This is a great place to fill out your Hamilton knowledge. These two locations are filled with so much history. I could hear the whispers of the early parishioners while walking among the graves and standing inside these two special churches.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Shopping - Illustrator Stacy Innerst Brings History Alive!

I fell in love with Stacy Innerst's beautiful illustrations at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Los Angeles this month. Stacy is the recipient of the 2017 Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Art for The Music In George's Head, a wonderful book about George Gershwin by Suzanne Slade.

Seeing Stacy's books collected together made me appreciate their amazing illustrations all the more. Stacy has a wonderful way of bringing these historical biographies to life. I was amazed to learn that the Levi Strauss illustrations were actually created on denim!  Take a look at them for yourself!

 Find out more about Stacy's work and August picture book release about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Reading on the Glorious Fourth

So many great patriotic titles to read this holiday. I'm thinking the popularity of Hamilton on Broadway has a little something to do with some of these new releases. Don't you?

I can't wait to read Melissa De La Cruz's latest YA novel inspired by this famous couple.

For younger readers, Don Brown has taken a stab at the famous duel.  Brown wrote and illustrated Aaron and Alexander, described as a tale of passion, patriotism, and pride.

Here are a few others that shed light on our founding fathers.