Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidents' Day

            Presidents' Day has a long history in the United States. It was established back in 1800 to celebrate George Washington's birthday with a federal holiday. In the early 1970s the holiday began to be referred to as Presidents' Day due to its close proximity to another President's birthday: Abraham Lincoln. Today, in addition to honoring President's Washington and Lincoln it also celebrates the legacies of all U.S. presidents. However, the official name of the holiday is still Washington's Birthday.
            In 1968 Congress passed a bill moving federal holidays to Mondays and since its enactment in 1971 this holiday has been celebrated on the third Monday of every February. This year it falls on Monday, February 20, 2012.
            Putting together a recommending reading list for a topic such as Presidents' Day is so simple with CLCD. We give you the tools to easily search for books about American presidents–no matter how specific or broad your criteria.

The President's Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems of the Presidents
Susan Katz
Illustrated by Robert Neubecker
Susan Katz has turned amusing facts about American Presidents into rhyme. She begins with the fact that George Washington never slept in the Whilte House–although he designed it, the building was not finished until John Adam's term. As for John Adams, we learn he was called "His Rotundity" instead of the title of “His Majesty” which he advocated should be used for the President. Most of the Presidents through Woodrow Wilson are included—he was the one who kept sheep on the White House Lawn as part of the WW1 effort. The title of each poem fits the topic but is followed by the president's name and dates as president; each verse is followed by a short factual note. Neubecker's good humored illustrations complement the light hearted tone of the text. All in all, middle schoolers introduced to this book are likely to decide history is not all dry as dust. 2011, Clarion: Houghton Mifflin, Ages 8 to 12, $17.99. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-0-547-18221-6

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday Charles Dickens

            This feature introduces the author’s and illustrator of The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale to our readers and in honor of the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth we’ve included a list of noteworthy titles about this celebrated Victorian author.

Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London
Andrea Warren

In this engagingly written, meticulously researched life of Dickens, the historical author is just the hook for a study of the treatment of poor children in Victorian England. Warren has written a book that reads almost as a story with young Charles as the main character. Dickens, himself the product of a poor home (his father was chronically debt-ridden and spent time in debtor's jail), went to do factory work as a young boy. The product of a "respectable" upbringing, he was a gentleman among urchins, but learned of the hard lot of slum children in his daily experiences, even accepted by some as a peer. Because of his family situation (his mother moved the family into prison with his father to avoid the horrors of the workhouse), Dickens became self-taught, and a legal apprentice when it was still possible to work your way up to practice law. Dickens had different ambitions and wrote his first successful novel at age twenty-five. Once Warren gets into Dickens' adult years, she diverges from his life to paint a compelling picture of the lives of London's teeming slums and the children that lived there. Warren explores Dickens' commitment to reform, as well as the charitable work of his fellow artists, George Frederick Handel and artist William Hogarth. While most of British society ignored the blighted slum conditions, reformers such as Dr. Thomas Barnardo and captain Thomas Coram built foundling homes and schools to alleviate the unspeakable conditions of children "dropped" on the street to die and young women driven out of homes for being impregnated by employers. The genius of Warren's writing is that it is as compelling as a novel and seamlessly weaves Dickens life into the descriptions of his times. A top-flight example of historical storytelling. 2011, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Ages 10 to 16, $18.99. Reviewer: Lois Gross (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-0-547-39574-6

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Black History Month

            Created by the historian Carter G. Woodson and the minister Jesse E. Moorland, Black History Month began as Negro History Week, first celebrated in 1926 on the second week of February; a meaningful week to its founders as it corresponded with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. In the 1960s, in response to the Civil Rights Movement and active college campuses, Negro History Week morphed into Black History Month. And in 1976 Gerald Ford became the first president to official recognize this observance, a tradition that every president has continued each year. Canada also observes Black History Month in February and in the United Kingdom it occurs in October.

            In the U.S. this year's theme is African Americans and the Civil War, which seeks to honor "the efforts of people of African descent to destroy slavery and inaugurate universal freedom in the United Sates." The books highlighted in this feature fit this year's theme in particular: Heart and Soul, which has a chapter on black soldiers in the Civil War, and Walking Home to Rosie Lee, which takes place during the Reconstruction Era, when freed slaves are looking for their family members.

            The potential for diversity within this unit of study is astounding. While often books will focus on famous African Americans or significant historical events, many featured here are fictional narratives of families and everyday life for slaves or those living in the Civil Rights era. We want to offer you the tools and resources to create powerful programs in your classroom or library; try searching CLCD for all Coretta Scott King award books, which include direct links to curriculum tools. Also available on our site are features about African American authors and illustrators such as Walter Dean Myers, Jerry Pinkney, Floyd Cooper, Leo Dillon, Patricia McKissack, and Sharon Draper.

For more information about Black History Month visit:

The Great Migration: Journey to the North
Eloise Greenfield
Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist

            Between 1915 and 1930, more than a million African Americans left the poverty and soul-crushing bigotry of the south to move to northern cities. Eloise Greenfield's family was part of this "Great Migration" and she documents, in free verse, the vastly mixed emotions of leaving a cruel land that is nonetheless the place of family and memories, and the fear and anticipation of going to a new place–a Promised Land–where the expectation of prosperity and the lack of fear beckon. Greenfield writes eloquently and emotionally, revealing the phases of each person's journey: the news of leaving, the sad goodbyes, the long trip, the questions about the choice to leave, and the reunion of families up north. Each poem is assigned "speakers," so it is a natural that this book will be used as a performance piece for choral readings and readers' theater. Illustrations by Jan Spivey Gilchrist are evocative, showing in collage the emotional tearing of leaving home and the piecing together of new lives. A particularly reflective illustration shows a woman on a train, appearing to be asleep but also prayerful while the young girl next to her shoots her eyes warily out the train windows. All in all, this is a perfect blend of illustration and poetry to document an historical journey that is part of so many American families' experience. 2011, Amistad/HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 3 to 10, $16.99. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780061259210