RovingFiddlehead KidLit

Gingerbread for Liberty #nfpb15

February 25, 2015

gingerbread for liberty

Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff with illustrations by Vincent X. Kirsch is the delightful story of Christopher Ludwick. Appreciative of the freedom and comfort life in America brought him, the aging and overweight baker was determined to do his part when the Revolutionary War began. His contributions to feeding the American soldiers (at his own expense) and converting some Hessian mercenaries to their side were indeed significant. The illustrations, all done in the style of elaborate German gingerbread, perfectly complement the text. And Ludwick’s large belly is a delight! A gingerbread recipe is aptly included on the endpapers.

The story is entertaining and the baker endearing, but I fear many children will not realize they have been reading about an actual person and actual events. Ludwick is not even named until the author’s note! It is a shame that the readers who skip the Author’s Note will not realize the depth of his contributions and may even believe the brave and cheerful baker to be a fictitious character.

For more nonfiction picture book recommendations, visit the weekly round-up at KidLit Frenzy.



Animal Movement Storytime

February 23, 2015

In the midst of freezing temperatures, animal movement storytime, with lots of swinging, shaking, stomping and hopping throughout, is a fun antidote to being cooped up indoors.

animal movement books
Book: Dancing Feet by Lindsay Craig

Action Song: The Animal Boogie by Debbie Harter – love this song! So catchy and the kids really get into it.

Action Rhyme:
I can take giant moose steps    (step in place)
I can take tiny mouse steps     (tiptoe in place)
I can take quick, quick bunny hops   (hop in place)
I can sit still, as still as a rock. (sit down)

Book: Babies on the Go by Linda Ashman – a quieter, more reflective picture book than the others here


Fingerplay/Flannelboard: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

Book: Jump by Scott Fischer. Love this story of the confident, dare I say cocky, animals jumping to safety.

Action Rhyme: Five little pigs
Five little pigs rolled in the mud –
Squishy, squashy, felt so good.
The farmer took one piggy out.
“Oink, Oink, oink,” the pig did shout!

Count down until…

No little pigs rolled in the mud.
They all looked so clean and good.
The farmer turned his back and then,
Those pigs rolled in the mud again.

I used Melissa’s adorable muddy pigs with this one.

clean and dirty pigs

Who Hops? by Katie Davis. A basic silly book in which elephants slither and giraffes crawl. Or do they? This one closes on a note encouraging kids to be active, a fitting

Additonal book suggestions:
Can You Move like an Elephant? by Judy Hindley, illustrated by Manya Stojic
Do Donkeys Dance? by Melanie Walsh
This is the Way by Charles Fuge
You are a Lion and Other Fun Yoga Poses by Tae-Eun Yoo

A sampling from You are a Lion:

Squat on your feet
Hands on the ground
Hop up!
You are a … (turn page)

Ribbit your song
Leap in the pond
All the day long

Weeds Find a Way #nfpb15

February 11, 2015

weeds find a way

Weeds find a way to live where other plants grow,
send their seeds into the world in wondrous ways…
find a way to wait…
find a way to be loved…

There is wonder and beauty to be found in all of nature. Weeds Find a Way by Cynthia Jensen-Elliott and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher gives weeds the prominence, strength and beauty normally reserved for flowers, trees and food plants.With bold illustrations and large text, weeds take center stage in this engaging picture book. Children play amongst the weeds throughout as weeds grow in the cracks of a hopscotch game, the sole of an old shoe and, of course, dandelion seeds are blown into the wind.

In the closing profiles for the 28 weeds mentioned and/or illustrated throughout the book, children will delight in the often amusing names such as cheeseweed, stinkweed, and ox-eye daisy. Back matter provides context for when and why weeds are problematic. While Weeds Find a Way is a celebration of their perseverance and adaptation, the back matter makes clear that all is not sweetness and light in the realm of weeds.

For more nonfiction picture book recommendations, visit the weekly round-up at KidLit Frenzy.


PB & J Hooray #nfpb15

February 4, 2015

PB & J Hooray

PB & J Hooray written by Janet Nolan and illustrated by Julia Patton is a fun and effective picture book answering the question “where does your food come from?”

Nolan tells a cumulative story beginning with a boy making himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. With short rhythmic, but informative explanations and illustrations, the trail goes from the kitchen to the grocery store, delivery truck, bakeries and factories, farmers’ fields and seeds. At last, with all the pieces of the puzzle in place, several friends join the boy and “it’s finally time to say PB & J Hooray!”

Interesting tidbit: Julia Patton’s illustration process began with eating her first peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

For more nonfiction picture book recommendations (including lots of ALA Youth Media Awards coverage this week), visit the weekly round-up at KidLit Frenzy.


Flannel Friday JavaScript: Little Mouse

January 30, 2015

Little Mouse

I’m contributing a distinctly non-flannel Flannel Friday: an online interactive version of Little Mouse, the popular storytime game, using JavaScript.

Thanks to my eldest for his help and Trent Richardson for his jQuery Impromptu extension.

The code is available on Github. Pull requests that improve and extend the code are most welcome!

Mouse icon made by Freepik from, licensed by CC BY 3.0

JavaScript Version

Flannelboard Version

I posted the traditional flannelboard version here way back in 2011.

Find­ing Flan­nel Friday

This week’s Flan­nel Fri­day host is Storytime Katie.

You can also find past and future roundups and lots more infor­ma­tion about Flan­nel Fri­day at the Flan­nel Fri­day web­site. For a visual round-up of all post­ings, check out Flan­nel Fri­day on Pin­ter­est.

And to all the lucky Flanney Friday-ers meeting at ALA this weekend, have a blast!

Separate is Never Equal

January 28, 2015

Separate is Never Equal
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh details the struggle Sylvia Mendez’ parents undertook to ensure that she and her siblings were able to attend the public school closest to their house, a school that was not only closer than the “Mexican school”, but also provided a superior education.

While the superintendent would only vaguely tell Gonzalo Mendez that his children couldn’t attend Westminster School because “that is how it is done” the court case revealed the depth of his prejudice. Without speaking to the students he assured the court that 75% of the Mexican students had poor hygiene and were academically inferior. Such blatant prejudices, particularly the claim that they all spoke poor English, were easily dispelled by student testimony.

Governor Earl Warren desegregated all California schools in 1947, opening the schoolhouse doors for not only Sylvia Mendez and Mexican children, but children from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. He also laid the groundwork for 1954, when as Supreme Court Justice he would rule on behalf of African-American students in Brown vs The Board of Education. Tonatiuh’s book was an eye-opener for me. I had not realized that segregation for the children of Mexican immigrants was codified until reading Separate is Never Equal.

Strong back matter accompanies this solid title of overcoming prejudice and changing American schools.

Related Resources:
Sylvia Mendez today
Story Corps: Syvlia Mendez talks to her younger sister about the case
Voices of History video


For more nonfiction picture book suggestions, visit the roundup on KidLit Frenzy.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

January 21, 2015

Two excellent 2014 books begin this year’s nonfiction picture books reading. A historical biography and one STEM title.

Dare the Wind by Tracy Fern

Dare the Wind by Tracy Fern, ill. by Emily Arnold McCully

Dare the Wind: The Record-Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud by Tracy Fern, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

As a young girl, Ellen Prentiss’ father taught her to “have the caution to read the sea, as well as the courage to dare the wind.” Ellen did not put aside her navigational skills upon her marriage to sea captain Perkins Creesy. Instead they were formidable partners who sailed multiple trips to China. The lessons from her father and a willingness to use the latest information, led her to navigate the fastest clipper from New York to San Francisco in 1851 as part of the Gold Rush.

From racing fishing fleets across Massachusetts Bay to the opportunity to win a bonus and bragging rights on the trip to San Francisco, Ellen’s competitive spirit was vital. Her skills and spirit provide the basis for an inspiring biography.

Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins

Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins

Steve Jenkins continues his streak of well-illustrated information-rich nonfiction. While the intended audience is children, what adult doesn’t learn something from each of his books? This time the focus is on sight, its evolution and current state for a wide variety of animals. For each animal, Jenkins has a close-up illustration of its eyes and a full-body drawing. Among the fascinating tidbits:

  • bullfrogs don’t see things that aren’t moving and will starve to death with a motionless fly in front of it!
  • each tarsier eyeball is bigger than its brain
  • the mantis shrimp has the most highly developed eyes in the animal kingdom

The book also made we wonder what kind of vision enhancement might be introduced to humans through technology. Will tech like Google Glass expand to give humans a wider-range of vision or the ability to see ultraviolet light?


For more nonfiction picture book suggestions, visit the roundup on KidLit Frenzy.

Nonfiction Picture Books Challenge 2015

January 17, 2015

I’m participating in the Nonfiction Picture Books Challenge again. While they didn’t all get blogged, I easily met my goal of one per month last year. Combined with a return to some library work this year (more on that in another post), it seems natural for me to increase my goal this year to 25 nonfiction picture book reads in 2015. As with last year, I look forward to learning about gems from our host Alyson and all the other participants.

Nonfiction Picture Books Challenge

September 17, 2014

Time to catch up on sharing nonfiction picture book reading over the last few months. As usual, historical biographies and nature books dominated my choices.

Bird lovers and more will enjoy Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart. Stewart highlights the many accomplishments of bird feathers from providing shade and warmth to more obscure dissolving bristle feathers of the American bittern or the forklift behavior of the lovebird’s tail feathers. A great introduction to the tools of bird life with well-executed illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen.

feathers not just for flying

Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle is the inspiring picture book biography of a slave woman who successfully challenged the writers of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. Using information drawn from the autobiography of her lawyer’s (Theodore Sedgwick) daughter, Woelfle gives a glimpse into Elizabeth Freeman’s difficult life as a slave as well as her groundbreaking fight for freedom. Alix Delinois deftly illustrates the strength of Mumbet’s convictions and character with the bold strokes and vibrant colours.

Mumbet's Declaration of Independence

I’ve been meaning to read Cokie Roberts’ Founding Mothers (original adult version) since it first came out in 2004. This summer, I cheated and read the children’s adaptation, a Cliff’s Notes version if you will. A decent roundup of both well-known spouses like Martha Washington and women who impacted history independent of the men in their lives such as Deborah Sampson.

founding mothers

Malcolm Little by sheds light on the childhood of Malcolm X. The strong family foundations and the role that racial hatred played in destroying his loving family.

Malcolm Little

Butterfly farming in Costa Rica is handled beautifully in Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey by Loree Griffith Burns. By presenting an unique angle to both farming and butterflies’ stages of growth through gorgeous photographs and clear text, this book will have every child wanting to raise a butterfly. Highly recommended.

handle with care

For lots of nonfiction picture book ideas, head over to KidLit Frenzy every Wednesday for the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge posts. This week’s roundup is here.


Nonfiction Picture Book March Reads

March 26, 2014

I really enjoyed and learned a lot reading Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sara Levine and illustrated by T. S. Spookytooth. The combination of comparisons and questions is an effective method of teaching children about bones. I had no idea that giraffe’s and humans have the same number of vertebrae, but I’m sure I’ll never forget.

Bone by Bone

Music lovers will be fascinated by Hey, Charleston! The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band by Anne  Rockwell with illustrations by Colin Bootman. An interesting story about an inspiring leader, Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins, the orphanage he created and the impact its band had on music and dance in America and Europe.

hey charleston

The Secrets of Stonehenge by Nick Manning and Brita Granstrom sheds light on both the creation of Stonehenge and life among prehistoric peoples. A nice swath of anthropology and archaeology in very readable form with charming illustrations.

Secrets of Stonehenge

For lots of nonfiction picture book ideas, head over to KidLit Frenzy every Wednesday for the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge posts. This week’s roundup is here.