RovingFiddlehead KidLit

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.



Nonfiction Picture Book January Reads

January 29, 2014

A STEM theme ran through my nonfiction picture book January reads: biographies of two scientists, Kate Sessions and Albert Einstein, as well as two bird books covering parrots and godwits.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico

Parrots over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbure, collages by Susan L. Roth

Roth and Trumbure chronicle the demise of the Puerto Rican parrot along with the island’s history.From flocks of thousands covering the skies to only twenty-four parrots in 1967, people swung into action in 1968 to save their unique birds with the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program. The book tracks the ups and downs of the program making it clear how slow and difficult bird recovery programs are. The distinctive blue flight feathers of the Puerto Rican parrot are easy to spot in the gorgeous and intricate collages even as they become rarer as the years pass and will leave children longing for a chance to see this brilliant birds in person. The ALA Youth Media Awards agree that this book is awesome, granting it the 2013 Sibert Medal for most distinguished informational book for children.

Long Long Journey

The Long, Long Journey: The Godwit’s Amazing Migration by Sandra Markle, illustrations by Mia Posada

Four months after they are born, godwits fly non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand (7270 miles!). Sandra Markle tracks a young female godwit from birth to her arrival in New Zealand. Four months of preparation culminate in an eight-day journey. For heightened appreciation of this amazing feat, challenge kids to flap their arms as long as they can before beginning this book!

Tree Lady

The Tree Lady: The True Story of  How One Tree-loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry.

Tree Lady is a delightful biography of Kate Sessions, the lady who brought trees to San Diego. Long thought a city destined to a barren desertscape, with her deep knowledge and love of trees she introduced numerous drought-resistant varieties to the city, in particular Balboa Park. The refrain “But Kate did” is repeated on almost each page of the book as Hopkins stresses how Kate viewed the world differently and was thus able to achieve much that others thought impossible breaking barriers for women, cities and trees. An inspirational biography for any child, but especially budding scientists.

On A Beam Of Light

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, pictures by Vladimir Radunsky.

Berne’s work is not so much a biography as insight into the way Albert Einstein’s mind worked accompanied by anecdotes from his life. Radunsky’s illustrations are perfect companions to the experimental nature of Einstein’s thinking. A good book for parents as well as children as it can remind us of the importance of daydreaming in a child’s life.

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.



Flannel Friday: Travel Flannel Folder

January 24, 2014

I don’t have a direct Valentine’s Day connection today, but rather a flannelboard resource that can be used any time of the year.This clever flannel board made from a pocket folder comes from BillyBear4Kids. It’s great for car travel, but also a nice way to provide each child in a classroom or storytime with a flannelboard, small and also easy to hand out and store since the pieces fit in the pocket. And, most importantly for me, easy to pack when carrying flannels overseas! The particular elephant flannels in the photo can be found in this older post.

Travel Flannelboard

Find­ing Flan­nel Friday

This week’s Flan­nel Fri­day host is Mel’s Desk. 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.

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2014

January 8, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2014

I’ve set my kidlit and yalit reading goals low (50 books on GoodReads for 2014), but I still can’t resist joining KidLit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge again. I’m only going to commit myself to one book a month and now that I’m no longer reading review journals regularly will definitely be gleaning ideas from the other participants with much loftier goals. Despite my low-level participation, I’m jazzed nonetheless to stay somewhat involved in #kidlit. Alison hosts a roundup on Wednesdays so head on over to KidLit Frenzy for the first roundup of the year.


Picture Book Month 2013: Focus on Africa

November 1, 2013


This year for picture book month I am going to read a picture book set in Africa each day. I will be striving for a mix of folklore, picture book biographies and picture books with modern settings.

November 1 (Kenya): For You Are a Kenyan Child by Kelly Cunnane, art by Ana Juan. A boy who should be tending his grandfather’s cattle experiences manages an adventurous day filled with explorations.

November 2 (unnamed country): Next Stop- Zanzibar Road! by Niki Daly. Another day in the life tale, this one filled with rhythmic language and focused on the adventures of the elephant Mama Jumbo and her “flippy-floppy,, flappy-slippy, this-way-that-way pompom” hat.

November 3  (Ethiopia) – Yuvi’s Candy Tree by Lesley Simpson, illustrations by Janice Lee Porter. A fictional story based on the true story of Yuvi Tashome’s escape from Ethiopia to Israel through Sudan as part of Operation Moses.

November 4 (Tanzania) – Elizabeti’s Doll by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, illustrated by Christy Hale. Elizabeti loves and cares for her new doll just like Mama cares for her new baby brother. A CLEL Silver Bell Award Book for Play: Early Literacy Activities Sheet

November 5 (Sudan) – My Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Catherine Stock – When Sangoel moves from the refugee camp to America, he finds an innovative way to make his name clear to his new classmates. Teacher’s Guide from Karen Lynn Williams.

November 6 (Maasai tale) – The Lonely Lioness and the Ostrich Chicks retold by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Yumi Heo. An ostrich mother struggles to regain her chicks from a lonely lioness who wants to be their mother.

November 7 (Botswana) – Honey, Honey, Lion by Jan Brett. Honeybird and honey badger usually work together to get honey, but one day honey badger greedily eats all the honey. A mistake he will not repeat! Companion Name the Botswana Animals activity by Jan Brett.

November 8 (West Africa) – The Sticky Doll Trap by Jessica Souhami. A trickster tale featuring lazy rabbit, a hard-earned (by the other animals) water hole and a big bush of thorns.

November 9 (Ethiopia) – The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela by Christina Kessler, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins. Determined to become a beekeeper, a girl named Almaz successfully takes on village tradition, tall trees and determined ants.

November 10 (West Africa) – Anna Hibiscus’ Song by Atinuke, illustrations by Lauren Tobia. Anna Hibiscus’ happiness grows and grows as her family shares how they express happiness and, especially, when she find the expression just right for her. Author interview at Playing by the Book.

November 11 (South Africa) – Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Desmond Tutu, illustrated by A. J. Ford. Archbishop Tutu teaches about forgiveness by sharing a hurtful incident from his youth.

November 12 (Liberia) – Head, Body, Legs retold by Won-Ldy Paye & Margaret H. Lippert, illustrated by Julie Paschkis. A creation and cooperation story ending in a tasty treat.

November 13 – Hot Hippo by Mwenye Hadithi and Adrienne Kennaway. A pourquoi tale explaining hippos’ home in water while resisting eating the fish.

November 14 (West Africa) – The Hunterman and the Crocodile by Baba Wague Diakite. A hunter is taught the importance of living in harmony with nature in this version of folktale, The Ungrateful Serpent Returned to Captivity.

November 15 – Here is the African Savanna by Madeleine Dunphy, illustrated by Tom Leonard. A cumulative tale introducing children to the animals and ecosystem of the African savanna.

November 16 (Ghana) – The Spider Weaver by Margaret Musgrove, illustrated by Julia Cairns. An origin legend of the beautiful kente cloth woven in Ghana.

November 17 (Nigeria) – A Triangle for Adaora: An African Book of Shapes by Ifeoma Onyfulu. Children are introduced to African culture as little Adaora learns her shapes and her cousin finds her a triangle.

November 18 (West Africa) – Zomo the Rabbit by Gerald McDermott. Another trickster tale. This one recounts how Rabbit gains both wisdom and, inadvertently, speed.

November 19 (Nigeria) – Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Won-Ldy Paye & Margaret H. Lippert, illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Mrs. Chicken escapes from the hungry crocodile by convincing her that they are sisters.

November 20 (Cameroon) – Sense Pass King retold by Katrin Tchana, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. The story of a clever girl, with more sense than the king of the seven villages.

November 21 (Nigeria) – Master Man told by Aaron Shepard, illustrated by David Wisniewski. A Hausa tall tale of battling strong men in graphic novel form.

November 22 ( Malawi) – The Mean Hyena retold by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Michael Bryant. Tortoise paints the animals’ colourful coats, but, out of revenge, destroys the coat of Hyena.

November 23 (West Africa) – The Leopard’s Drum: An Asante Tale by Jessica Souhami. Slow turtle uses his wits to bring Nyame, the Sky God, the leopard’s drum that the larger and faster animals could not.

November 24 (Somalia) – The Lion’s Share retold by Said Salah Ahmed, illustrated by Kelly Dupre. A fable about the misuse of power by a lion after hunting a camel with the help of many animals.

November 25 (Massai, Tanzania) – We All Went on Safari: A Counting Journey through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs, illustrated by Julie Cairns. Maasai children go searching for animals while teaching the readers how to count in Swahili.

November 26 (Ila, Zambia) – Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan. Blackbird, voted the most beautiful bird in the fores, shares his colour and wisdom with the other birds.

November 27 (Morocco) – My Father’s Shop by Satomi Ichikawa. Through play, Mustafa helps his father’s carpet shop.

November 28 – Hippo Goes Bananas! by Marjorie Dennis Murray, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley. Word play fills this energetic story of a hippo with a toothache.

November 29 (Egypt) – Voyage to the Pharos by Sarah Gauch, illustrated by Roger Roth. A young boy accompanies a merchant ship to the great city of Alexandria and the Pharos Lighthouse.

November 30 (Somalia, Kenya) – Muktar and the Camels by Janet Graber, illustrated by Scott Mack. An orphan refugee is able to fulfill a dream thanks to a camel bookmobile.

Flannel Tuesday in Botswana

October 17, 2013

Firstly, many thanks to Beth, Erin and this week’s Flannel Friday host Amy for creating flannelboards for the children in Serinane, Ditshegwane and Francistown, Botswana as well as Patty for providing money for books. Amy even packaged hers in flannelboard boxes (see below) with books and storytime sparks – superb! Through your generosity, each school received multiple complete storytime kits each containing 3-4 books, 2-3 flannelboards and a storytime starter sheet.

Flannels for Botswana

Through Pam Shelton of the Botswana Book Project, I connected with Peace Corps volunteer Kate Slisz who welcomed my friend Helen (a former preschool and elementary teacher) and I into her home and the school in Serinane last week. Fellow Peace Corps volunteer Jessica Ruggiero from the (relatively) nearby village of Ditshegwane also joined us to receive storytime kits for the primary school there.

Serinane Primary School

Serinane is a village of about 800 people 90 kilometres north of Gaborone, Botswana. The Serinane Primary School has 271 students in Grades 1-7. The school was built in 2009 and is an impressive complex with multiple buildings, a nice recreation area, kitchen, teacher housing and class sizes in the low 20s.  Pass rates are low across the country (averaging less than 35%!) and the school leadership is justifiably proud that its classes have been steadily improving in the annual tests and besting the national average pass rate. Last year over 70% of Standard 7s in Serinane passed.

Serinane Botswana School

Time in the Classrooms

We sat in on a reading lesson with Mma Keletso’s Standard 3 class where the children learned relevant vocabulary and read a passage about camels. English is rarely spoken at home in Serinane, but a necessity to succeed in school and the kids did a great job. After the reading lesson, we each read stories and shared flannelboards with 3 classes of Standards 1-3 (there are two classrooms for each of these grade levels). There has been a recent push in Botswana to have more interactive learning so the teachers appreciated us sharing flannelboards such as Little Mouse, Where Does It Go? and It’s a Pig! In a school system where corporal punishment is still quite common, encouraging children to guess freely is also a huge step. When we met with the teachers after, Mma Ntlhe (Standard 2) remarked on how helpful the visual aids were for reinforcing story elements and vocabulary. And rhyme always makes an impression, Kate reported that the Standard 2s were walking around the playground chanting “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” the next day. Many thanks to Head Teacher Mma Monthusi for allowing us to visit Serinane Primary School. Thank you so much, Kate, Jess and the staff at Serinane Primary School for the warm welcome!

Serinane Botswana Classrooms

School Libraries

You will be thrilled to hear that both Kate and Jess started school libraries in their respective communities. It’s really exciting to hear how the children love their school libraries (less exciting is that the Serinane one is currently in storage pending renovations – it’s the freshly painted, but bare classroom in the middle set of pictures). Kudos to Kate and Jess, you are both great doing great work during your Peace Corps tenures!

Find­ing Flan­nel Friday

This week’s Flan­nel Fri­day host is Amy at Catch the Possibilities. 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.




Flannel Friday: Five Little Fish

September 27, 2013

This week I’ve got a marine animals version of the five little monkeys teasing Mr. Crocodile to share.

Five Little Fish Flannel

Check out the pointy teeth my friend, Beth, embroidered for the shark. We made multiple sets of these flannelboards for the schools in Botswana.


Five Little Fish
Five little fishies swimming in the sea,
Teasing Mr. Shark,
“You can’t catch me!”
When along comes Mr. Shark
Aaaaaaannnnnndddddd SNAP!

Repeat until all the fish have been snapped up.

Find­ing Flan­nel Friday

This week’s Flan­nel Fri­day host is Agnela at ValleyStorytime. 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.

Flannel Friday: Safari Animals

September 20, 2013

There are all sorts of great rhymes, songs and fingerplays based on African animals so I made sets to take to the schools I will be visiting in Botswana. The monkey is based on Mollie’s Five Little Monkeys set, the elephant from a cookie cutter and the others are freehand. As well as the rhymes below, the folktale The Crocodile and the Monkey is a good fit for some of the pieces. Also, Storytime Katie’s Master List is always a great place to look if you are need storytime rhymes.

safari animals

The Elephant Walks
The elephant walks like this and that. (Wobble from side to side.)
He’s very tall (Stretch arms up)
and very fat (Stretch arms out to sides)
He’s has no fingers (Hold up hands, making fists to hide fingers)
But he does have toes (Reach down and touch toes)
And, goodness gracious, what a nose! (Bend over and swing arms for trunk)

I’m a Giraffe
I’m a big tall giraffe stretching way up high (reach arms up)
A big tall giraffe, I almost reach the sky (stand on tiptoes)
I eat the leaves from the tallest tress (pretend to eat)
And when I run, I move with ease (pretend to run)
I’m a big tall giraffe stretching way up high (reach arms up)
Way…up…high! (reach on tiptoes)
Source: Perry Public Library

I Went to the Jungle One Day (Tune: London Bridge)
I went to the jungle on day,
jungle one day, jungle one day.
I saw a lion on the way
And this is what he said, “ROAR!”
(Other animals: elephant, monkey, etc.)
Source: Perry Public Library

Five Little Monkeys
Five little monkeys swinging from a tree,
Teasing Mr. Crocodile, “You can’t catch me!”
Along comes Mr. Crocodile, quiet as can be
Snaps that monkey right out of the tree.

Monkey See, Monkey Do
Monkey see, monkey do
Little monkey at the zoo
Monkey, monkey in the tree
Can you ________ like me?
(jump around, swing your arms, scratch an itch, eat a banana, screech)
Credit: Perry Public Library

One Little Lion
Rhyme from ABC Literacy Storytimes: Storytimes to Promote Literacy and Learning by Marilyn Lohnes
One little lion, roaring at the zoo,
Called for another: ROAR!
Then there were two.

Two little lions, underneath a tree,
Called for another: ROAR! ROAR!
Then there were three.

Three little lions, who heard a distant roar,
Called for another: ROAR! ROAR! ROAR!
Then there were four.

Four little lions, happy and alive,
called for another: ROAR! ROAR! ROAR! ROAR!
Then there were five.

Five little lions.
Ran off to play
And then there were no more.

Find­ing Flan­nel Friday

This week’s Flan­nel Fri­day host is Sarah at Miss Sarah’s Storytime. 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.