JUST LOVED READING: Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers

JUST LOVED READING: Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers
  • Image result for free photo of harriet beecher stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers

Middle Grade/Biography

Fritz, Jean. Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers. New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons, 1994.

            Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852, eight years before the start of America’s Civil War.  This is America’s first protest novel (according to many scholars) and is often listed as one of the books that had a profound change on society.

            Harriet came from a large family. Her father was Lyman Beecher, a well-known New England preacher. Lyman Beecher wanted his seven sons to become preachers. Lyman’s goals for his daughters was marriage and motherhood but they weren’t wilted flowers. Lyman’s drive and high expectations drove some of them to become educators, lecturers and writers. Harriet struggled to make her voice heard in this large family of strong personalities which consisted of three sets of siblings to three different mothers. She yearned to achieve something other than being a wife, mother and Lyman Beecher’s daughter. Over time, she transformed from a shy often melancholy young woman whose family struggled financially, to a confident writer, speaker and abolitionist.

WHY I LOVED READING THIS BOOK:

Harriet (and all of her siblings) was taught to think and believe as her father did. Her brothers were not just expected to become preachers but to teach the Calvinist beliefs their father preached. Harriet had been against slavery but was not impassioned by the issue. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act changed her opinions and propelled her to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book’s publication brought her fame and wealth but Harriet never lost sight of the cause.

Harriet was a fighter and a survivor – for herself and for the abolition of slavery.

A SHORT HISTORY OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE’S NEW ENGLAND:

The period between the War of 1812 and before the Civil War is known as the Antebellum period. The era saw the rise of abolition and of the division between those who supported slavery and those who opposed it. There was an increase in manufacturing in the north. The textile industry grew in New England thanks to development and introduction of the spinning-jenny by British business person Samuel Slater.

Other innovations changed the economy of the north. In 1843, Richard M. Hoes developed the rotary printing press. Soon millions of newspapers could be printed and distributed cheaply as more people learned to read, Newly built canals, railroads and roads improved the way people traveled.

The borders of the United States expanded as fortune seekers and others settled uncharted territory. Between the years 1790 and 1840, the Second Awakening movement grew in influence and popularity especially among Baptists and Methodists and inspired the beginnings of the abolitionist and temperance movements.

Slaves used many passive forms of resistance including damaging equipment and  working slowly but they also rebelled openly. in response to the rebellions, white militias and mobs formed and legislators passed slave codes and other laws. In the north, the slave rebellions, evangelical fervor and the new printing presses galvanized the abolitionist movement.

Against this background, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Harriet Beecher Stowe grew up in New England, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and returned to New England. To read more about Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house visit the following link:

https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/

 

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JUST LOVED READING: Audacity Jones to the Rescue

JUST LOVED READING: Audacity Jones to the Rescue

Just Loved Reading:

Audacity Jones to the Rescue

Middle Grade/Historical Fiction

Larson, Kirby, Audacity Jones to the Rescue. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.

Set at the turn of the 20th century, Audacity Jones to the Rescue is about a spunky, inquisitive, smart 11 year-old orphan. When her parents died at sea, went to live at Miss Maisie’s School for Wayward Girls in Swayze, Indiana. She was 6. Audacity is the one the other girls depend on for guidance and support. She is also the one who is sent to the Punishment Room daily. She looks forward to the Punishment Room because it is the library and Audacity loves to read. Her favorite books are novels about swashbucklers, pirates and other adventure heroes but she also loves books about science and geography.

When Commodore Critchfield comes to the school to visit and ask for a volunteer for a secret mission, Audacity jumps at the chance. The  Commodore was once well-to-do donor who is (secretly) down on his luck. Audacity slowly comes to learn about the Commodores’ nefarious scheme and with help from her friends, plots to stop him and his accomplices.

WHY I LOVED READING THIS BOOK:

Audacity is a lovable character whose positive attitude propels the story. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself and boosts the morale of the other girls in the orphanage. She makes friends easily. Audacity looks at life as an adventure – an attitude that takes her to Washington DC, inside the White House, and almost gets her into trouble. The reader will root for her as she finds a way to thwart the Commodore’s evil plan (based on true events). The author does a good job of invoking the culture, fashion and other customs of the era and throughout the novel, the reader will feel that they are living in the first half of the last century.


Audacity Jones lived during the presidency of William Howard Taft. Click on the link below learn more about him and his presidency:

https://www.facebook.com/williamtaftnps/

https://www.biography.com/people/william-howard-taft-9501184?_escaped_fragment_=

https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/presidents/william_taft_nhs.html

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JUST LOVED READING: Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets

JUST LOVED READING: Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets

Just Loved Reading:

Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets

Picture Book

Chang. Pei-Yu. Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets. New York: NorthSouth Books, Inc. 2016

Mr. Benjamin is an author and a philosopher of ideas. During World War II, his country begins to punish and jail people with ideas.

Mr. Benjamin realizes he must escape not only to save his live but to save his important ideas. How could he do this? The soldiers blocked  and guarded every street.

He went to see Mrs. Fittko who “knew all the hidden paths to everywhere.” Mrs. Fittko had saved many lives. Other people were there to ask Mrs. Fittko for help, too.

On the day of escape, Mr. Benjamin was late. Mrs. Fittko told everyone to pack lightly but Mr. Benjamin arrived lugging a large heavy suitcase. Mrs. Fittko could not persuade him to leave it behind. It contained all his new ideas. “It’s the most important thing to me – more important than my life.”

The group walked over and through olive groves and past blueberry buses.

Eventually they reached the Swiss border. The border guards let the people through – but not Mr. Benjamin.

Mr. Benjamin lived in a hotel in the mountains until he and his suitcase disappeared.

WHY I LOVED READING THIS BOOK:

This is a true story. Mr. Walter Benjamin was a German author and philosopher. His suitcase of ideas may have disappeared but he left many of his writings with his friends or in the public library. Many brave dissidents today escape the countries of their birth because of political instability. Pei-Yu Chang tells Mr. Benjamin’s story so that children of almost any age can understand it. The illustrations are simple, colorful and child-like. Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets tells the story of yesterday’s and today’s refugees.

Switzerland Between the Two Wars:

http://history-switzerland.geschichte-schweiz.ch/switzerland-second-world-war-ii.html

https://www.quora.com/Why-was-Switzerland-allowed-to-be-neutral-during-World-War-II-when-other-countries-were-attacked-without-provocation

https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/world-war-ii.html

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JUST LOVED READING: Full of Beans

JUST LOVED READING: Full of Beans

Just Loved Reading:

Full of Beans

Middle Grade/Fiction

Holm, Jennifer L. Full of Beans. New York: Random House Children’s Books, 2016.

Depression-era Key West was no tourist destination. Kids like Beans Curry will tell you. Beans is 10 years-old. His kid brother, Kermit and a stray dog he named Termite, follow him everywhere he goes – delivering laundry his mother takes in, collecting used cans for pennies, shooting marbles for the best team in the Keys or seeing the latest Shirley Temple movie.

One day, men from the Roosevelt administration come to the Keys with the aim of turning the Keys into a tourist destination. No one likes these intruders least of all Beans but he doesn’t let them interfere with his chance to make some easy money by helping a local rum smuggler. His dad is in New Jersey looking for work and his family needs the money.

The government men slowly win over the locals and soon tourists descend on the Keys and improve the local economy. But what will happen to Beans and his family?

WHY I LOVED READING THIS BOOK:

Beans Curry, the central character in Full of Beans of Beans, propels the plot by the force of his personality. The Florida Keys were economically depressed like the rest of the country and hardly able to welcome visitors. Kids ran barefoot and hungry. Full of Beans is based on the true story of the Roosevelt administration’s attempts to turn the Keys into a tourist mecca. Local slang, customs, and foods, add an extra dimension to the story about one summer in the life of a 10-year old boy.

MORE ON KEY WEST DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION:

http://fcit.usf.edu/florida/lessons/depress/depress1.pdf

http://www.floridahistory.org/depression.htm

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT FLORIDA KEYS AND KEY WEST TODAY:

http://www.fla-keys.com/key-west/

Image result for free photos key west during the great depression

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JUST LOVED READING: Amina’s Voice

JUST LOVED READING: Amina’s Voice

Just Loved Reading:

Amina’s Voice

Middle Grade/Fiction

Khan, Hena. Amina’s Voice. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017.

            Amina Khokar is a Pakistani-American immigrant who, with her brother and parents lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her best friend, Soojin, is an immigrant from South Korea and is about to become an American citizen. When Soojin becomes friendly with their once-sworn enemy, Emily, and announces that she is changing her Korean name to something American, Amina feels her life is about to be upended. To make things even more stressful, her parents have signed Amina and her brother to the state-wide Quran competition. Amina freezes in front of audiences, refusing to use her beautiful singing much less her imperfect Arabic.

On top of everything that is happening, her strict great-uncle is coming for a long visit and is all too willing to help her perfect her Arabic for the competition. Only when the Islamic Center is vandalized, does Amina realize she is not alone, but has the support of loving friends and family.

WHY I LOVED READING THIS BOOK:

The author weaves the cultural and religious traditions of Amina and her family within the larger American society that the live in. Amina is no different than any other middle school student in her town but all of a sudden, she has to face hatred and destruction of the Islamic center. Her quiet world is no longer. It’s only when her friends support her does she realize where she really belongs.

Amina and her family and friends lived in Minneapolis,Minnesota. To learn more about Minneapolis, click on the following links:

http://www.minneapolis.org/

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/great-lakes/minneapolis

Amina and her family are part of Minneapolis’ large diverse Muslim community:

http://iccmn.us/v2/

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Picture Book Month: A Tale of Two Umbrellas II

Picture Book Month: A Tale of Two Umbrellas II
Blue, Green, Chartreuse Umbrella

Blue, Green, Chartreuse                       Umbrella

 

ReadThe Umbrella by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert

A family dog finds a red umbrella on a windy day in the yard. When the dog opens up the umbrella, the wind carries them over the clouds and around the world. They go to Africa where the dog confronts elephants, alligators, hippos, zebras and storks; the oceans and their inhabitants; the tropics; the North Pole and finally, back home.

Project: Decorate an old umbrella and if you want to challenge yourself, give the design a theme: animals, fairies, sports, etc.

Materials:

An old umbrella

Glue

Beads

Markers

Sequins

Buttons

Silk flowers

Ribbons

Stencils

Paint in squeeze bottles

Stickers 

Additional Reading:

The Umbrella by Jan Brett

The Umbrella Day by Nancy Evans

Umbrella by Taro Yashima

*Copyright Art work by Marion Constantinides 2015

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Picture Book Month: A Tale of Two Umbrellas I

Picture Book Month: A Tale of Two Umbrellas I
Yellow Umbrella

Yellow Umbrella

ReadThe Umbrella by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert

A family dog finds a red umbrella on a windy day in the yard. When the dog opens up the umbrella, the wind carries them over the clouds and around the world. They go to Africa where the dog confronts elephants, alligators, hippos, zebras and storks; the oceans and their inhabitants; the tropics; the North Pole and finally, back home.

Project: Decorate an old umbrella and if you want to challenge yourself, give the design a theme: animals, fairies, sports, etc.

Materials:

An old umbrella

Glue

Beads

Markers

Sequins

Buttons

Silk flowers

Ribbons

Stencils

Paint in squeeze bottles

Stickers 

Additional Reading:

The Umbrella by Jan Brett

The Umbrella Day by Nancy Evans

Umbrella by Taro Yashima

*Copyright Art work by Marion Constantinides 2015

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Picture Book Month: Yellow T-Shirt

Picture Book Month: Yellow T-Shirt

ReadIn My New Yellow Shirt by Eileen Spinelli

Aunt Betty gives her nephew a new yellow shirt for his birthday.

“That’s no fun,” his best friend, Sam, declares.

But the birthday boy loves it and imagines himself transformed into a variety of yellow shapes and forms:

A yellow duck

A yellow lion

A yellow cab

A yellow caterpillar

A yellow daffodil

A yellow tropical fish

A yellow tennis ball

A yellow trumpet

A yellow canary

A yellow butterfly

A golden treasure hidden in a dark, dark attic

A yellow banana

A yellow submarine

A yellow and black fire fly

And a “smile of moon.”

Project:

Do you play soccer? Do you collect fire flies? Do you belong to a secret boys’ or girls’ club? Decorate a T-Shirt with a favorite shape or symbol.

Materials:

T-Shirt

Fabric paint

Fabric brushes

Fabric markers

Water and container for water

Fabric glue

Iron-on transfers

Iron-on patches

Additional Reading:

Boase, Petra. T-Shirt Fun

Gould, Deborah. Aaron’s Shirt

Wells, Rosemary. Max’s Dragon Shirt

Wollman, Jessica. Andrew’s Bright Blue T-Shirt

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JUST LOVED READING: Dumpling Days

JUST LOVED READING: Dumpling Days

JUST LOVED READING:

Dumpling Days

MG/Fiction

Lin, Grace. Dumpling Days.  New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012.

Pacy and her two sisters are headed to Taiwan to spend their summer vacation. They are not looking forward to spending a month in a country they’ve never visited before, don’t speak the language and don’t know the relatives they are going to live with.

And even though their mother has signed them up for art classes to encourage them to learn about their heritage, the visit doesn’t necessarily start off smoothly.  Pacy is artistic but painting bamboo for a week isn’t what she expected from a painting class. Plus, the girl sitting next to her in class isn’t nice to her at all.

Many Taiwanese don’t understand why Pacy doesn’t speak Chinese and show their displeasure. Pacy defends herself at least in her own mind. She’s an American and her parents never made her learn Chinese.  Pacy’s loving relatives introduce her and her sisters to the temples and neighborhoods of Taiwan, strange foods like chicken feet and quail eggs and the customs of Ghost month which go on during their month-long visit. At least, Pacy can eat her favorite dumplings every day.

By the time the month is up, though, Pacy realizes what her identity is: she is a Taiwanese-American even if she can’t speak Chinese and that her family loves her despite of that fact.

WHY I LOVED READING THIS BOOK:

As a Greek-American, I easily understood Pacy’s struggle to identify as a dual American although I speak, read and write Greek. Having visited the countries of my ancestry, I also understood the clash of cultures that she experienced. I lived in my father’s village in Cyprus for seven months. There was no running water or modern plumbing of any kind, no electricity and little in the way modern transportation. There was a bus that went through the village in the morning and returned at night and one or two privately owned cars.  There were plenty of donkeys, though!

No one signed me up for painting classes but I did learn to pick fruit and olives during the harvest, make a fire and skin and gut freshly killed birds! (My aunt showed me how!)

So I empathized with the struggle to learn to even like the country of your heritage let alone identity with that heritage. There’s a lot of freedom that comes from eventually realizing and accepting what you are.

TAIWAN

Pacy and her sisters’ ancestors are from Taiwan. To learn more about Taiwan and its culture check out the following links:

https://www.britannica.com/place/Taiwan

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/taiwan

 

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Picture Book Month: Have a Too Cool Day!!

Picture Book Month: Have a Too Cool Day!!
Sunglasses - Too Cool!

Sunglasses – Too Cool!

Read Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by Kimberly and James Dean.

“Pete the Cat did not feel happy. Pete had never, ever, ever, ever been grumpy before. Pete had the blue cat blues.”

Grumpy Toad usually was grumpy but on the day he met Pete the Cat, he was wearing cool, blue, magic sunglasses which made him look at everything in a new way.

When Pete the Cat tried them on, he saw the world in a whole new way, too.

Walking along with his new attitude, Pete the Cat ran into his friends, Squirrel, Turtle and Alligator and lent them his cool, blue, magic sunglasses. They saw the world in a whole new way just like Pete the Cat and Grumpy Toad!

Isn’t that cool?

Then Pete the Cat fell and cracked his cool, blue, magic sunglasses.

What would he do without them?

The Wise Old Owl told him the truth: Pete the Cat didn’t need his cool, blue, magic sunglasses to see the world in a new way. “Just remember to look for the good in every day,” the Wise Old Owl told him.

Pete the Cat looks all around him and exclaimed, “Too cool!”

Project:

Decorate a pair of sunglasses to brighten your day like Pete the Cat and his friends.

Materials:

Sunglasses*

Strong glue like gorilla glue

Sequins

Paint in squeeze tubes or bottles

Glitter

Make your sunglasses the coolest ever – you don’t have to paint your glasses blue like Pete the Cat’s! You can paint them any color or design.

*Remember: if you paint the lenses, you won’t be able to see through them!

 Additional Reading:
Lizzie Logan Wears Purple Sunglasses by Eileen Spinelli

 

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