Category Archives: social studies

New Year… New Nonfiction Books!!

A New Year brings lots of changes… excitement for new beginnings, cold crisp weather, and also New Nonfiction BOOKS!

If you’re looking for ways to spend those gift cards that you may have gotten over the holidays, why not buy some new books to add to your collection?  Since there are so many great ones to choose from, I thought I’d highlight some amazing nonfiction books releasing this year.  Be sure to put them on your list!

 

The Women’s Rights Movement by Rebecca Langston-George (Capstone Press, Jan 2018)

Discusses the main concerns of the womens’ movement in the 1960s, and how those have evolved since; what’s changed for the better, what might be worse, and where do we go from here.

 

 

Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System: Massive Mountains! Supersize Storms! Alien Atmospheres! by Jennifer Swanson (National Geographic Kids, January 2018)

This stellar book introduces kids to outer space through in-depth info and comic book adventure. Along the way, kids follow explorer Bethany Ehlmann, a member of the NASA Mars Rover Curiosity mission, and her lovable robo-dog, Rover, as they study and protect our amazing solar system. Dr. E’s conversational and funny explanations of the solar system and planetary geology will pull kids in like gravity. The pairing of fun, graphic novel side stories with science facts makes big concepts accessible and interesting to boys and girls of all levels, from STEM science fans to reluctant readers alike.

 

 

Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends (Animals)  by Sarah Albee (National Geographic Kids, March 2018)

 

 

 

Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction by Nancy Castaldo (HMH Kids, April 2018)

 

The acclaimed author of Sniffer Dogs details the successful efforts of scientists to bring threatened animals back from the brink of extinction, perfect for animal lovers and reluctant nonfiction readers. With full-color photography.

 

 

Count the Wings: The Life and Art of Charley Harper by  Michelle Houts (Ohio University Press, April 2018)

When you look at a bird, do you see feathers and a beak? Or do you see circles and triangles? Artist Charley Harper spent his life reducing subjects to their simplest forms, their basic lines and shapes. This resulted in what he called minimal realism and the style that would become easily recognized as Charley Harper’s. Art fans and nature lovers around the world fell in love with Harper’s paintings, which often featured bright colors and intriguing nature subjects.

 

 

Two Truths and a Lie: Histories andMysteries by  Ammi-Joan Paquette (Author),‎ Laurie Ann Thompson (Walden Pond Press, June 2018)

Crazy-but-true stories about history, geography, and human achievement make this acclaimed nonfiction series perfect for fans of curiosities and wonders. A fun way for middle graders to explore ways to separate fact from fiction.

 

Pearl Harbor (American Girl: Real Stories From My Time)
by Jennifer Swanson (Scholastic, June 2018)

Pearl Harbor features real stories of that fateful Sunday morning in 1941 when Japanese planes executed a surprise attack on the American base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. American Girl Nanea Mitchell shares her own experiences adjusting to the drastic changes to everyday life in Hawaii following the attack.

 

 

The Secret Life of the Little Brown Bat by Laurence Pringle (Boyds Mill Press, September 2018)

This gorgeous and lyrical picture book continues the Secret Life series by renowned science author Laurence Pringle and illustrator Kate Garchinsky. It follows a year in the life of a little brown bat named Otis as he learns to be a hunter, escape predators, and find a mate. Stunning, realistic illustrations celebrate the beauty of these mysterious creatures as readers learn important facts through an engaging and fascinating story. The book also includes back matter with more in-depth information, a glossary, and further resources.

More to come!

Eavesdropping on Elephants by Patricia Newman (Millbrook Press, Fall  2018)

Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill by Heather L. Montgomery (Bloomsbury Publishing, October 2018)

Check out all of these great nonfiction titles!  What about you? Do you have a nonfiction title to share that is coming out in 2018?  Give it a shout-out below in the comments. YAY for NONFICTION!!  #NonfictionRocks!

Paper Love: An Author’s Challenge to Writers of All Ages

Like most authors, I love getting fan mail. I mean, wow! There’s nothing more affirming than THIS:

I’d venture to say that I get more mail than most marginally-known authors. But not because I’m more popular. In fact, sometimes I get letters that ask, “So, what do you do for a living?” You’d think if they’re writing to me, they’d already know. Right?

Not always. Sometimes I do get mail from my young readers. But often, my mailbox is stuffed with letters from those who’ve found the 52 Letters Challenge. Maybe they came across it on my website, in which case they’ve figured out that I’m an author. But sometimes they’ve picked it up from a blog post or by word of mouth. Maybe their teacher has compelled the class to take part. It doesn’t really matter to me how they got the idea to write 52 letters in a year. It matters that they’ve embarked on a writing journey that will make someone’s day. Once a week. For a whole year.

When I started the 52 Letter Challenge, I had no idea how far it would reach. People from Australia, Singapore, and Poland have joined the fun.

Sound do-able? Daunting? Like drudgery?

There was a time when letter-writing was a necessary part of communicating. While writing the biographies of Charley Harper, Dottie Kamenshek, and Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, I depended heavily upon letters written decades ago. Letters to and from and about these individuals provided key information and a unique personal perspective not found in newspaper articles.

A letter from artist Charley Harper to Edith McKee during his years serving in the army during WWII. He called her “Ediepie.”

It makes me wonder how research will be done in the future. With so much communication happening via email and texting, how will those conversations be recovered by researchers? They likely won’t be.  Think of the ideas, feelings, thoughts, reactions, emotions, and responses that will go undocumented. Sure, there will be articles and interviews, but those often contain a person’s most guarded answers to questions.

Next time you decide to send an email of appreciation, consider writing a thank-you note. If you want to text “I love you” to your momma, baby, or sweetheart, by all means, do it! And then put it on paper with a big heart beside it and place it in their hands. I guarantee paper love goes into a box or drawer to be treasured later. E-love will be felt at the time, but it will disappear with the rest of today’s million messages.

A little paper love from my big girl!

Send some paper love to someone today.

 

Adventure, Intrigue, and Korea, OH MY!

One of the perks of being a teacher is the authors who grace our school halls, no matter where in the world those halls stand. Korea is such a place, currently front and center in recent events.

First, let me say, as a teacher and author, I appreciate the process: long hours, extensive research, pondering, the wrestling and wavering of ideas, bits of your heart and soul on paper. I value how one’s experiences provide rich content for the stories we create and how those events can touch the lives of students in the classroom. I especially love when students are able to connect to the person behind those words.

Meet author, Anne Sibley O’Brien, and her middle grade novel, In the Shadow of the Sun, an adventure story set in North Korea.

When our school librarian announced an upcoming author visit, I was intrigued to learn that the author, Anne Sibley O’Brien, had grown up in South Korea as a daughter of medical missionaries. A prolific picture book author, Ms. O’Brien’s first novel for middle school kids, In the Shadow of the Sun, unfolds in North Korea, a country currently in the midst of rising tensions around the world.

When my class and I pick up an author’s work, I remind them we are looking inside the mind of another person. We are immersing ourselves into a world that has been created from nothing. If someone else was to tell the same story, it would be voiced from a totally different perspective. In Ms. Obrien’s case, we are not only privilege to her writing acumen, but also bicultural experiences that provide sustenance in the backdrop of a foreign land.

Book Synopsis: North Korea is known as one of the most oppressed countries on Earth, with a dictatorial leader, a starving population, and harsh punishment for rebellion.

Not the best place for a family vacation.

Yet, that’s exactly where Mia Andrews finds herself, on a tour with her aid-worker father and fractious (would irritable be better here?) older brother, Simon. Mia was adopted from South Korea as a baby, and the trip raises tough questions about where she feels she really belongs. Her dad is then arrested for spying, just as forbidden photographs of North Korean slave-labor camps fall into Mia’s hands. The only way to save Dad: get the pictures out of the country. Thus, Mia and Simon set off on a harrowing journey to the border, without food, money, or shelter, in a land where anyone who sees them might turn them in, and getting caught could mean prison — or worse.

 Author Interview

In the Shadow of the Sun, Anne Sibley O’Brien

Please tell us about In the Shadow of the Sun and how you came to write it.

Our family arrived in Korea in March 1960, when my parents were hired by the Presbyterian Church to do medical missionary work. I was seven. We lived in Seoul and Daegu and on the island of Geoje, and I attended Ewha Women’s University for my junior year of college. Along the way I became bilingual and bicultural, and that background has influenced the content of some of my books, including the folktale 바보 온달, published as The Princess and the Beggar (now out of print) and my graphic novel of the Korean hero tale, The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea. 

Those books were both inspired by retellings of traditional Korean stories. In the Shadow of the Sun, however, is a completely original story, and a modern one. The inspiration for the book was a radio interview in which my attention was drawn to the people of North Korea in a way I’d never thought of them before. (More about the story here.) That led to a ten-year process of research and writing, including several remarkable encounters with North Koreans who had defected.

You can find more about my childhood and background, photographs and videos, responses to the novel, and whether I’ve ever visited North Korea, on the novel’s blog, InTheShadowOfTheSunBook.com. There is also an activity guide created by Island Readers and Writers.

How do the events in your book tie into our current events with North Korea?

In the Shadow of the Sun is the first fictional portrayal of contemporary North Korea for young English-speaking readers. When I was writing it, I never anticipated just how much the DPRK would be in the spotlight!

The picture of North Korea that’s presented in the media is such a cartoonish one. I think it’s important to consider not just the government but the people, everyday citizens who have no say in what their leaders do. Of course, my plot is a completely imagined one, but I’ve tried to weave in bits of current North Korean politics and society — and most of all, people — in a way that will give readers a glimpse of what it might be like to live there today. In the Author’s Note, I also recommend other books and films which can add more context. I hope that people might come away from the novel with a sense of the humanity of North Korea’s people.