Category Archives: religion

The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero

Written by: Amalia Hoffman

Illustrated by: Chiara Fedele

For ages: 8-12 years old

Language: English and some Italian

Topics Covered: Judaism, WWII, Holocaust, Activism, Global Community, Historical Events, Historic Figure, Sports, Cycling. 

Summary: Gino Bartali was a small and sickly child, but he loved riding a bicycle more than anything else.  He got a part-time job at a bike shop to learn more, competed in his first race at the age of 12, but didn’t get his parents’ proper blessing to be a full-time professional cyclist until age 17.  Gino worked incredibly hard and in 1938 got a spot to compete in the Tour de France.  Even though he crashed his bicycle trying not to hit some spectators that decided to cross the road, Gino won! In his speech, he didn’t mention Mussolini who had taken control of Italy, and this angered the authorities.  Mussolini had teamed up with Adolf Hitler, and many years of hardship had begun.

When Gino returned home, he received a call from his good friend who also happened to be a cardinal and the archbishop of a church in Florence.  The cardinal had a plan to smuggle false papers into the country to help the Jewish folks assume non-Jewish identities for the duration of the war, keeping them safe from deportation to the concentration camps.  Gino doctored his bicycle frame to hide papers and went on long training rides back and forth through the mountains, shuttling papers back and forth to help the cardinal.

This is a fantastic book about a historical figure in multiple arenas!  We had never heard of Gino Bartali before reading this book, and are so glad his story was published.  After the story is finished there is an Afterword containing a photo of Gino and more detailed information about his life.  Overall, this is a fantastic book for elementary school students and we highly recommend it!

This book was sent to us by Capstone for consideration in the Best Books of 2019 List put on by the Read With River book club, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

600F95C74AA-483A-43AE-862BEF470200BF66Amalia Hoffman an author/illustrator. Her board book, Dreidel Day is scheduled for publication by Lerners Publishing Group/ Kar Ben Publishing for Fall, 2018.
She also wrote and illustrated The Klezmer Bunch and Purim Goodies. (Gefen Publishing House) Both books were chosen as notable stories for children by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The Klezmer Bunch was selected by the Tony Award winning choreographer/producer, Elizabeth Swados for inclusion in her play, Jewish Books Cooking.
Amalia’s article, Queen Esther and Me, was published in the March 2016 issue of  Highlights Magazine for Children.
Amalia designed and illustrated Rose Bud, on oversized book with pop-up elements, created as prop for Israel’s children’s theater, The Train.
Amalia received the SCBWI portfolio award in the category of Fantasy in 2005. Her art was voted best at the illustration display in the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference in 2014 and she received 2nd place at the 2016 conference.
She actively promotes her books with entertaining presentations and was voted as
finalist in SCBWI storytelling competition.
Amalia is a teaching artist affiliated with ArtsWestchester. She is a member of SCBWI and Children’s Books Illustrator Guild.

22282107_1986392834938384_4822018181978824675_nFrom her website:

Hi,
I am Chiara
I was born in Milan in 1973. I live in a little village 50 km far from Milan where I live with my family and my pets.

I attended Art School in Milan and took a degree in Illustration at La Scuola del Fumetto in Milan. I had also attended several workshops with illustrators such as Gianni DeConno, Arcadio Lobato, Svjetlan Junakovic and a course with the publisher Paolo Canton (Topipittori) called Projecting Books.
I work mainly for children publishers all around the word, storyboarding for advertising and movie. Magazines. I use a combination of mixed traditional media and digital.
My artwork is varied and I feel my style is always evolving.

WORK EXPERIENCE
Freelance illustrator, editorial designer, storyboard artist for advertising and movies.

I work with big and small Publishers in Italy, Greece, USA, UK, France, Germany.

I am currently represented by  illustration Agency ASTOUND.US

Common Threads: Adam’s Day at the Market

Written by: Huda Essa

Illustrated by: Mercè Tous

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Global Community, Family, Diversity, Kindness, Clothing, Islam, Culture & Traditions. 

Summary: Adam and his parents go to the outdoor market one day, and he sees a bright blue jay.  Following it, Adam doesn’t realize he’s left his parents behind until he tugs on what he thinks is his mother’s tunic but it turns out to be a nun’s dress.  Adam tries to identify his parents clothes in the crowd, only to realize that many different types of people dress in similar ways!  The individuals that Adam mistakes for his parents work together to bring them back together, and connect to each other in the process.

This book has few words, and the rich illustrations do the majority of the plot development.  Adam and his parents live in a diverse community that is wonderfully represented by the similarities in clothing that Adam mistakes for his parents.  The emphasis on community in this story is timely, some people live in fear of differences or the unknown.  In the beginning as well as the end of the book are statements about the power of community and diversity, and how we are stronger together.  This is a really beautiful book that can teach fantastic cultural vocabulary about garments along with the other messaging it promotes.

This book was sent to us by Sleeping Bear Press as an entry in the Best Books of 2019 List, but all opinions and decision to review were our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

huda_finalHuda Essa has been a teacher since she was a child. Her first students were her stuffed animals. When she became a teacher as a grown up, she loved finally having human children as her students! Now, as a speaker and author, Huda is a teacher to adult humans, too. Huda’s debut book, Teach Us Your Name, and her TEDx Talk, “Your Name is the Key!” teach us to use our names to learn more about ourselves and to embrace our wonderful human diversity. Huda teaches all over the world, but lives in Michigan. You can visit her LinkedIn here!

pintant-300x292Mercè Tous lives and works “in Barcelona, my place of birth. I love being near the sea and make the most of the wide range of cultural activities and opportunities for social networking this cosmopolitan city offers. However, whenever I can, I return to nature, my main source of inspiration.

Since I was a child I have always liked drawing, painting and immersing myself in pictures and illustrated books. My grandfather was my first art teacher, who passed on to me the passion for art, instilled in me the curiosity, the value of hard working and the satisfaction of doing a good job. I like all the art disciplines, and I have discovered with illustration a means to search beauty, to tell stories and to express my particular perspective of what surrounds me. I think that having an artistic profession is a chance to make a journey to discover the depth of oneself and, at the same time, to open to the world.

I graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Barcelona in 2008. Then I obtained the Art Teacher Certification in the same university. I carried on my education pursuing a postgraduate course specializing in children’s and youth’s book illustration at “Escola Eina” (Autonomous University of Barcelona) as well as three annual courses of illustration at “Escola de la Dona” lead by Ignasi Blanch and other great illustrators such as Cristina Losantos and Roger Olmos. I’ve also participated in several illustration workshops in Barcelona and Italy leaded by illustrators that I admire such as Octavia Monaco, Rebecca Lucciani, Mariona Cabassa and Joanna Concejo. Nowadays I work as a freelance illustrator.”

 

Miep and the Most Famous Diary

Written by: Meeg Pincus

Illustrated by: Jordi Solano

For ages: 6-12 years

Language: English & very little German

Topics Covered: Historical Figures, Historical Events, Holocaust, Judaism, Global Community, WWII, Activism, Strength, Resilience. 

Summary: This book opens with Miep hearing the footsteps of Nazi soldiers, coming to arrest the 8 Jewish people that she’s been helping to hide in attic storage rooms for the past two years.  Miep manages to avoid arrest by realizing that she and the soldier are both from Vienna, and is left alone.  Miep is able to summon the courage to go upstairs to the secret annex where the Franks and others have been hiding, and she saves Anne’s diary.  She is able to hid the diary until the war is over and Mr. Frank returns, he is the only one that makes it out alive.  Eventually, the diary is published.

This book is somber, tender, and based on Miep’s autobiography.  It gives another facet of the WWII experience, this time from a non-Jewish activist committed to the anti-Nazi cause.  While the story of Anne Frank is well-known throughout the world, Miep’s story is lesser known.  In the back of the book is an author’s note, more information about Miep, and a timeline of her life.  She is a beautiful, courageous person.  Although she didn’t do any of the actions she’s famous for for glory, she did it to be a good person, not seeing herself as a hero but rather a person just doing her duty.  This is a beautiful book to add into any Holocaust education/curriculum, or world history learning.

This book was sent to us by Sleeping Bear Press as an entry in the Best Books of 2019 list, but all opinions are our own, as was the decision to review the book separately from the list project.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Meeg Pincus 2018 headshot tightMeeg Pincus is a “kidlit nonfiction author. Humane educator. Book editor. Library lover. The happily book nerdy list goes on.

I have a lifelong passion for nonfiction books. Reading them, writing them, editing them. I’ve been writing & editing nonfiction in some form or another for over 20 years—and I still love it. (Learn more about my writing/editing background—and my much longer, full name—here.)

I’m also passionate about education & making our world a kinder, healthier place. This led me to the field of humane education: teaching people to be “solutionaries”—problem-solvers who help people, animals & the planet.

Nowadays I write “Solutionary Stories” for elementary-age children—nonfiction & informational books that inspire kids to make a difference.

I’m a former newspaper journalist & scholar-in-training (four years of graduate school in cultural studies/communication—focusing on race/class/gender—at UW-Madison & UC-San Diego). So I have a background in, and love for, research that means I dive deep & attempt to be incredibly accurate in every topic I write about.

And I’m grateful to have a diverse family (with a mix of religions, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, and abilities), so I’ve always incorporated diversity of many kinds into my writing. For me, part of being a solutionary is focusing first on compassion for all beings, and giving voice to those who are marginalized.

I’m active in SCBWI (San Diego chapter) and have participated in the Highlights Foundation Nonfiction Master Class, nonfiction workshops with the Writing Barn, 12×12, and more, to always keep improving my craft. I’m also the co-founder of 19PBbios, a promo group of 19 diverse picture book biographies releasing in 2019 from diverse creators.”

Solano_JordiJordi Solano was born in Barcelona and although he still lives there, he likes to visit and stay in almost every other country. He studied fine arts and illustration and has been illustrating books for the last ten years. Recent projects include Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark; Beyond the Sixth Extinction; and iDoyle: The Interactive Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – A Scandal in Bohemia, an interactive book. Stories are his very favorite thing in the world: watching, reading, or telling them, so he’s very happy with the job he has.

Under the bodhi tree, a Story of the Buddha

Written by: Deborah Hopkinson

Illustrated by: Kailey Whitman

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Buddhism, Historical Figure, Historical Fiction, Spirituality, Nature, Mindfulness.

Summary: In lyrical and flowing language, this book tells the story of a prince named Siddhartha.  He was born in India, and had a natural curiosity about the world around him.  Siddhartha’s father may have tried to shield him from the pain and suffering in the world by keeping Siddhartha behind place walls, but to no avail. When Siddhartha was finally allowed to leave the palace to attend a festival in town (orchestrated by his father) he snuck away and saw the real world-one that was not curated for his continued naiveté.  This experience made Siddhartha search for a way to set people free from suffering.  Thus, Siddhartha became the Buddha.  This is simplifying the plot obviously, for the sake of the review, but we suggest you check it out and see exactly how Siddhartha achieves this transformation.

Something really neat about this book is the way Hopkinson weaves in questions to the story, linking past and present.  The reader feels connected to this ancient story, and is drawn to introspection as a result.  Buddhism is one of East & Southeast Asia’s largest religions, and its approximately 470 million followers span the globe.  It’s so important to give people, especially young children, well-rounded and inclusive information about various religious practices.  This book (along with many others) is great for both a wonderful story and introductory information about the Buddha!

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever heard of Buddhism before reading this book?
  • There are lots of different religions in the world that people follow.
  • What seems interesting about Siddhartha?
  • Why do you think he felt he needed to become the Buddha?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Deborah_Hopkinson_2015_mediumDeborah Hopkinson has a masters degree in Asian Studies from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where she studied the role of women in 13th-century Japanese Buddhism. She lived in Honolulu for 20 years and practiced Zen Buddhism with the late Roshi Robert Aitken, founder of the Diamond Sangha and Buddhist Peace Fellowship. She lives near Portland, Oregon, where she writes books for children and teens.

She is the author of more than 50 books for young readers including picture books, middle grade fiction, and nonfiction. At schools and conferences she helps bring history and research alive. Her work is well-suited for STEM, STEAM, and CCSS connections.

Forthcoming titles include D-DAY:The World War II Invasion that Changed History, What is the Women’s Rights Movement? and Under the Bodhi Tree. She also contributed to a young adult collection, Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All (Spring 2018). 

Deborah’s recent nonfiction includes DIVE! WWII Stories of Sailors and Submarines in the Pacific, named an Oregon Spirit Award Honor Book. Courage &  Defiance, Stories of Spies, Saboteurs and Survivors in WWII Denmark, won a 2017 Oregon Book Award, and Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, was a Robert F. Sibert Award honor book and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction finalist.

Deborah’s picture books include Ordinary Extraordinary Jane AustenSky Boys, How They Built the Empire State Building, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor book and Apples to OregonFollow the Moon Home won the Green Earth Book Award, while Steamboat School was named winner of a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. Deborah’s middle grade novel, A Bandit’s Tale was a recommended title for the Charlotte Huck Award.The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London,  the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel won the  OCTE Oregon Spirit Award.

Deborah received a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts and an M.A. in Asian Studies from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. She lives near Portland, OR with her family and a menagerie of pets. Her husband, Andy, is a winemaker and artist; her son, Dimitri, is a photographer and landscaper; her daughter, Rebekah, is a teacher and chalk artist, and her toddler grandson, Oliver, is simply extraordinary!

64288668_449377798943383_7869482119045578752_nKailey Whitman is a freelance illustrator. She likes to draw, drink coffee, and go outside, sometimes all at once.