Category Archives: ***** A must read

Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter

Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster, 2009.     ISBN 9781416994374

Basing the book on a true story, Winter tells how Afghani women resisted the Taliban and continued to teach their daughters in secret, home-based schools.  An introduction, which can serve as a starting point for discussion with older readers, explains the differences in women’s lives before and after the Taliban seized control. The story itself addresses younger readers effectively.

When soldiers take Nasreen’s father away, her mother sets off in search for him and doesn’t return. Nasreen stops talking, and just sits, waiting. As her despair grows worse, her grandmother finally decides to risk taking her outside to a school for girls that she has heard about. As time passes, Nasreen still doesn’t speak. But after the winter break, she responds in a whisper to one of her classmates, and finally begins to smile and talk, and learn, and to find comfort in the discovery that her country was once filled with artists and writers and mystics, and that there was a bigger world outside.  Winter’s beautiful illustrations work for story time, but a closer perusal provides an even deeper engagement with the text.

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Filed under ***** A must read, Grades 1-2, Grades 3 - 4

“Mommy, Mama and Me,” and “Daddy, Papa and Me” by Leslea Newman

Tricycle Press, 2009

ISBNS: 9781582462639 and 9781582462622

Written by the well-known author of  “Heather has Two Mommies,” these two titles are the first board books to focus specifically on same-sex parents. Illustrated by Carol Thompson, they depict loving families in warm, inviting colors, with the brief story about a day in each family told in easy rhyme.

These books will be welcomed by the thousands of same-sex parents looking for books reflective of their families, but all children will enjoy the familiar stories of a day spent with loving parents.

The books have won an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Best Book Award.

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Filed under ***** A must read, Awards, Infant/Preschool

The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill, Kool-Aid, and Civil Disobedience: or Reading Can Be a Dangerous Thing

pushcart“The Pushcart War” is one of my all-time favorite books.  For those of you who haven’t read it, get thee to a library or bookstore, and remedy the situation immediately. The book is about the pushcart peddlers in New York City, who become embattled with the Mack Truck drivers who are crowding the streets and blaming the pushcarts for the traffic jams. How the beleaguered little guys join together and beat the big guys with their big trucks is a great story.

I read the book in 5th grade during all the student and racial unrest in the 60s, and it really politicized me, leading to my own petition writing and civil disobedience at school.

The petition was to get rid of our fifth grade teacher after she punished Nancy S. (I guess I won’t name names here) for having a packet of Kool-Aid in her purse. The Kool-Aid thing was a fad at the time: lick your finger and dip it in the Kool-Aid powder and lick it off. People went around with Kool-Aid colored index fingers.

For some reason this bothered our teacher, and she banned Kool-Aid packets in the classroom. One day, for reasons unbeknownst to me, David C. went into Nancy’s desk, into her purse, found a Kool-Aid packet, and ratted her out. Nancy got into trouble, but David did not. Now I was no friend of Nancy’s, who I saw as a snobby rich kid, but I knew that the teacher was punishing her based on illegally obtained evidence. And I felt that David should have been punished for going into her desk and purse and invading her privacy. I have always had strong feelings about fairness, and while I might be shy about sticking up for myself at times, I would never let something like this go by without doing something about it.

Most of the kids in the class signed my petition, including the principal’s daughter, Gretchen, who volunteered to take it to her father. But when my classmates saw how serious I was about this, they chickened out and erased their names from the petition. I was furious and stormed out of the classroom. Gretchen followed me, fluttering around me in dismay, and I turned and punched her in the arm, left the building and walked home, only to be taken back to school by my mother.

My mother was actually proud of me–not for hitting the principal’s daughter or leaving school, but for sticking up for what was right. I got a mild lecture about how the school was responsible for my whereabouts during school hours from the principal and my mother.

And that is how Kool-Aid and The Pushcart War have become linked forever in my mind.

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Filed under ***** A must read, Grades 5 - 6