Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Ho’onani Hula Warrior

Written by: Heather Gale

Illustrated by: Mika Song

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English and Hawaiian

Topics Covered: Gender Identity, Hawaiian Culture & Traditions, Hula, Indigenous Voices, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Trailblazer, History, Historical Figure, Biographical, Self-Esteem, Family, Acceptance. 

Summary: 

This is an incredible book based on a real person!  Ho’onani is a young girl that feels in the middle of being a girl (wahine) and a boy (kâne) but still uses feminine pronouns.  Indigenous Hawaiians have a term for this, called mâhû. In the story, Ho’onani is accepted and encouraged by her family, except for her sister (in real life, this is not true!) who wishes Ho’onani would conform to traditional gender roles.  Luckily, one of Ho’onani’s teachers named Kumu Hina, (Kumu is Hawaiian for ‘teacher’) supports Ho’onani and allows her to be herself, in the middle.  Ho’onani wants to lead the boys hula performance at the end of the school year, something a girl has never done!  Luckily, Ho’onani’s community is supportive, and she makes history onstage, winning over the approval of her aforementioned sister that is on the fence with how openly Ho’onani embraces her identity.

There was a documentary made about the real Ho’onani by PBS in 2015!  Something that the documentary addresses that there isn’t enough room for in the children’s book is the fact that Ho’onani’s teacher, Kumu Hina, is a transgender woman.  The pair are very close, and Kumu Hina has developed her own terminology for the classroom to be more inclusive for gender non-conforming students mâhû students.

Indigenous Hawaiian gender identities are also discussed in the academic text, Critically Sovereign, which goes more in-depth about how colonialism shaped Hawaiian sexuality and gender identity, oppressing those that were not within the male-female binary.  The chapter about mâhû identity also takes into account the struggle for marriage equality within Hawai’i that started earlier than any other state, in the 1990’s.  The marriage equality debate is also wrapped up into the debate about Indigenous Hawaiian sovereignty, and if there should be a seceding from the greater government to create their own nation much like other Indigenous tribal nations found on the mainland.

You can watch the documentary about Ho’onani for free, here!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

I'm glad you've stopped by!

HEATHER GALE is a former orthotist and author originally from New Zealand. Heather loves stories of all kinds, but she especially loves those that feature real people like Ho’onani. She fell in love with the art of storytelling during long car rides, making up stories to go with the scenes flashing by. Heather has two sons and now lives in Toronto with her husband and their two dogs.

 

 

 

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MIKA SONG is a children’s author/illustrator who makes stories about sweetly funny outsiders.

Mika Song grew up in Manila, Philippines. As a child she wrote letters to a mouse who lived under her mother’s desk. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and cat.

Granddaddy’s Gift

Written by: Margaree King Mitchell

Illustrated by: Larry Johnson

For ages: 5 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Modern Back Freedom Struggle, Voting Rights, Family, Activism, Racism, Strength, Resilience, Education, Own Voices, Historical Fiction. 

Summary: This story is told from the perspective of a young girl, who everyone calls Little Joe on account of the fact that she follows her grandfather Joe around everywhere. She and her siblings live with their grandparents on a farm in the South.  Little Joe tries to skip school one day, but her grandpa catches her and on the drive to school she complains about the ragged books the school gets handed down from the white schools.

Things change a bit for the family when Granddaddy volunteers to try and register to vote, agreeing to take the test on the state constitution.  He studies and passes, but the community church is set on fire and burns to the ground as retribution for exercising the right to register.  Undeterred, more members of Little Joe’s community vow to study and register themselves to vote.

This story is an introduction to the struggles that African-Americans faced trying to register to vote before the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.  The violence within the story is light, with no one being injured in the church fire and instead using the arson as reason to have more folks register to vote.  The story is appropriate for children, and we would consider the book a primer about the Modern Black Freedom Struggle for younger audiences, to prepare them later for more complex storylines surrounding the topic of both the struggle and the voting registration activism that took place (ex: SNCC, bussing, boycotts, etc.). Great read with beautiful illustrations!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

FullSizeRender-1-624x468Margaree King Mitchell is the author of Uncle Jed’s Barbershop (Simon & Schuster), Granddaddy’s Gift (Scholastic), When Grandmama Sings (HarperCollins), The People In The Park (Watershed Books), and Woman In The Pulpit (Castlewood Books). From her “about” section of her website:

She has been “featured on the PBS show Reading Rainbow, Uncle Jed’s Barbershop is on a multitude of school lists of required reading throughout the United States. It is also reprinted in several international textbooks.

The team of David Wohl, Kenneth Grimes, and Susan Einhorn has adapted Uncle Jed’s Barbershop into an award-winning musical featuring Broadway veteran Ken Prymus as Uncle Jed.  Uncle Jed’s Barbershop was a featured show in the New York Musical Theater Festival and won the National Music Theater Network’s Directors Choice Award.

In my books for children I use history to encourage students to shoot for the stars with aspirations for their lives.  If they can see the accomplishments of people who lived long ago who achieved their dreams in less than ideal situations, I hope students will be inspired and know they can do even more with their lives.

Several years ago I visited with students who didn’t believe they were special.  They certainly didn’t believe they had special gifts to share with the world.  I was surprised that no one in the entire room thought they had within them the power to change the world.  I asked why.  They said no one had ever told them so.  Therefore, whenever I speak to children, I try to inspire them to dream big dreams for their lives and believe those dreams can come true.

In my teen fiction book, The People In The Park,   I explore what happens in the lives of teens when something devastating happens through no fault of their own.  Teens are blamed for lots of what’s wrong in the world.  But there are teens who are good students and good citizens who  successfully navigate life changing situations.  I thought it would be interesting to show through a story how they work through their issues and return to normal, while becoming better for having gone through the experience.

I hope teens groups use The People In The Park for discussion.

Teens throughout the country are weighing in on Lauren (the main character in The People In The Park) and her situation.  Lively discussions are taking place on whether teens agree or disagree with Lauren and the decisions she makes.

I wrote Woman In The Pulpit after listening to several friends, who are female ministers, talk about their experiences in the pulpit. Through the book I attempt to show the challenges women in the ministry face as they seek to carry out their calling.”

6923840Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Larry Johnson attented The Boston Museum School of Fine Arts.  For over thirty years Johnson was the Editorial Sports cartoonist for The Boston Globe, The National Sports Daily, ESPN’s Quickie page and Weei.com.

Larry has been an illustrator for over twenty five years in book  publishing, magazines and agencies. His work includes assignments for Fortune magazine, Lee Low, Scholastic, Little Brown, The Boston Globe, ESPN.com. Hill Holiday and the Sporting News.  He has illustrated biographies on Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph and The Wilt Chamberlain story.  His work has been acknowledged in New York’s Society of Illustrators.

As a Fine Artist, Johnson has had much success selling his original work to celebrity clients such as Oprah Winfrey and Vernon Jordan.  Corporate clients include Pepsi-Cola, Hallmark and The National Football League. His work has been seen on The Cosby Show and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Johnson works in all mediums.  His ability to capture a likeness as well as draw people of every ethnicity makes him very sought after talent for commissioned assignments. His greatest asset is his ability to work in a plethora of styles from a literal rendering to wonderful children’s books.e to edit.

Little People Big Dreams: Ella Fitzgerald

Written by: Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara

Illustrated by: Bàrbara Alca

For ages: 4-7 years

Language: English 

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Historical Figures, Women in Music, Musicians, Trailblazers, Biography, Black Culture & Identity. 

Summary: Ella was a young girl fascinated with performing and music.  When she was 15, her mother died and radically changed her life.  Running away from a reform school, she began performing.  Two years later Ella won a contest at a nightclub and was discovered by Chick Webb, a big name in jazz at the time.  This jumpstarted her career, turning her into the First Lady of Song, as she is now known!

This is a basic overview of the prolific singer that is Ella Fitzgerald, and a good book for an introduction to the subject.  We really love the timeline in the back of the book with the photos of Ella throughout her career.  This book, like the other books in the series, is adorable!

This book was sent in consideration of the Best Books of 2019 list by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (an imprint of Quarto), but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

maria-isabel-sanchez-vegara-2Mª Isabel Sanchez Vegara was born in Barcelona, Spain, and she is a writer and creative director perhaps best known as the author of much of the Little People, Big Dreams series. Six years ago, she decided to self-publish a book that had been in her mind for a long time. One day, one thousand copies of arrived at her home – she had no idea what she was going to do with them! She opened a little online shop, placed them to some pretty stores in her neighborhood and, one by one, she sold them all. Soon, publishing houses started to approach her to write books, but she was working on another idea of her own: a series about little people with BIG dreams. Each book tells the childhood story of one of the world’s female icons in an entertaining, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers, allowing them to identify with the characters in each story.

DeHda4TXUAAg0LNBàrbara Alca is an “extremely beautiful and enthusiastic Graphic Designer, Comic Artist and Illustrator based in Barcelona.

I make my own zines, work as a freelance illustrator for press such as El País, Ajuntament de Palma, El Jueves, Revista Cactus, and for editorial projects with Planeta, Alba Editorial and Sapristi.

Most of my work is mixed media, hand drawn lines with digital colouring.

I have a dark sense of humour, but I also love lace and bows which results in an eclectic style.”

This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration

Written by: Jacqueline Woodson

Illustrated by: James Ransome

For ages: 5-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Black Culture & Identity, The Great Migration, Family, History, Community, Growing Up, Own Voices, Historical Events.

Summary: This story of family legacy is framed using a rope, and all of its different uses throughout its time with the family, and told in first person.  The narrators grandmother found the rope under a tree and used it as a jump rope.  Later on, she used it to tie luggage to the top of her car when she moved to the city.  The rope sees both the beautiful and the mundane, assisting the family in daily tasks as well as being a relic that ties memories together (sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally!).

The book centers the experiences families during the Great Migration that left the South and moved North in a quest for better treatment and a better life.  While the book is about a specific family, it is the history of many families.  The rope is also a metaphor for being able to hold onto family history while embracing the future and changes that come with growing up.  This book is fabulous for the representation that Black students often lack within classrooms, and can lend itself to a larger unit about history in general.  An awesome book for any time of the year, not just during February!  Lived experiences and representation need to be worked into all aspects of school, not brought out once a year as a “diversity” requirement or for a holiday!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

33705Jacqueline Woodson “wrote on everything and everywhere. I remember my uncle catching me writing my name in graffiti on the side of a building. (It was not pretty for me when my mother found out.) I wrote on paper bags and my shoes and denim binders. I chalked stories across sidewalks and penciled tiny tales in notebook margins. I loved and still love watching words flower into sentences and sentences blossom into stories.

I also told a lot of stories as a child. Not “Once upon a time” stories but basically, outright lies. I loved lying and getting away with it! There was something about telling the lie-story and seeing your friends’ eyes grow wide with wonder. Of course I got in trouble for lying but I didn’t stop until fifth grade.

That year, I wrote a story and my teacher said “This is really good.” Before that I had written a poem about Martin Luther King that was, I guess, so good no one believed I wrote it. After lots of brouhaha, it was believed finally that I had indeed penned the poem which went on to win me a Scrabble game and local acclaim. So by the time the story rolled around and the words “This is really good” came out of the otherwise down-turned lips of my fifth grade teacher, I was well on my way to understanding that a lie on the page was a whole different animal — one that won you prizes and got surly teachers to smile. A lie on the page meant lots of independent time to create your stories and the freedom to sit hunched over the pages of your notebook without people thinking you were strange.

Lots and lots of books later, I am still surprised when I walk into a bookstore and see my name on a book or when the phone rings and someone on the other end is telling me I’ve just won an award. Sometimes, when I’m sitting at my desk for long hours and nothing’s coming to me, I remember my fifth grade teacher, the way her eyes lit up when she said “This is really good.” The way, I — the skinny girl in the back of the classroom who was always getting into trouble for talking or missed homework assignments — sat up a little straighter, folded my hands on the desks, smiled and began to believe in me.”

james-e-ransome-1261135The Children’s Book Council named James E. Ransome as one of seventy-five authors and illustrators everyone should know. Currently a member of the Society of Illustrators, Ransome has received both the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration and the IBBY Honor Award for his book, The Creation. He has also received a Coretta Scott King Honor Award for Illustration for Uncle Jed’s Barbershop which was selected as an ALA Notable Book and is currently being shown as a feature on Reading Rainbow. How Many Stars in the Sky?and Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt were also Reading Rainbow selections. PBS’s Storytime featured his book, The Old Dog. Ransome has exhibited works in group and solo shows throughout the country and received The Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance award for his book, The Wagon. In 1999 Let My People Go received the NAACP Image Award for Illustration and Satchel Paige was reviewed in Bank Street College of Education’s “The Best Children’s Books of the Year.” In 2001, James received the Rip Van Winkle Award from the School Library Media Specialists of Southeast New York for the body of his work.  How Animals Saved the People received the SEBA (Southeastern Book Association) Best Book of the Year Award in 2002 and the Vermont Center for the Book chose Visiting Day as one of the top ten diversity books of 2002.  In 2004 James was recognized by the local art association when he received the Dutchess County Executive Arts Award for an Individual Artist.  He has completed several commissioned murals for the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Hemphill Branch Library in Greensboro, NC. He created a historical painting commissioned by a jury for the Paterson, NJ Library and a poster for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Brown vs the Board of Education.  His traveling Exhibit, Visual Stories has been touring the United States since 2003.  His work is part of both private and public children’s book art collections.

A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice

Written by: Nadia L. Hohn

Illustrated by: Eugenie Fernandes

For ages: 4-8 years 

Language: English & Jamaican/Caribbean Patois 

Topics Covered: Historical Figure, POC-Centric Narratives, Poetry, Global Community, Trailblazer, Black Culture & Identity, Jamaica, Language, Literacy. 

Summary: Louise is a young girl living in Kingston, Jamaica.  She loves words and writing poetry, but the words get stuck when she tries to speak.  Louise gains inspiration for her poetry by listening to the sights and sounds of those around her, but she is shamed for it at school.  Louise ends up going to another school, but has trouble reciting the poems she memorized out loud.  Instead, she musters up courage to speak the lyrical flow of Jamaican Patois that she hears on the streets and in her house, rather than the formal English that she feels might be expected of her in school.  To her surprise, her classmates and teachers love Louise’s poem!  

This book is amazing for several reasons.  First, it introduces young children not only to poetry but also to an accomplished poet that they might not be familiar with if they don’t live in Jamaica!  Second, it helps normalize the linguistic cultural funds of knowledge that students bring into the classroom with them.  Many times, children of color that might speak a patois, pidgin dialect, or AAVE outside of the classroom are shamed for bringing it into school.  This invalidates their experiences and furthers the elitism associated with formal/standard English.  We should be embracing the lived experiences of students, and having this book that celebrates such a prolific woman is a great addition to bookshelves!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

4635690Nadia L. Hohn is a dynamic “story lady” who has presented to audiences in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jamaica, and Trinidad.  From the age of six years old, Nadia L Hohn began writing stories, drawing, and making books. Her first two books, Music and Media in the Sankofa Series were published by Rubicon Publishing in 2015.  Her award-winning first picture book, Malaika’s Costume was published in 2016 and its sequel Malaika’s Winter Carnival 2017 by Groundwood Books.  Nadia is also the author of Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter, an early reader by Harper Collins published in December 2018.  A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett-Coverley Found Her Voice, nonfiction picture book about the performer, playwright, author, and Jamaican cultural ambassador, Louise Bennett-Coverley otherwise known as Miss Lou, will be published in 2019 (Owlkids). Nadia was 1 of 6 Black Canadian Writers to Watch in 2018 and the first SCBWI Canada East Rising Kite Diversity Scholarship recipient in 2018. Nadia  will be a touring in Alberta as a presenter in the TD Canada Children’s Book Week in 2019.  In summer 2019, Nadia will be the writer in residence at Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver, British Columbia. Nadia is an elementary school teacher in Toronto and has taught early years music in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Nadia L. Hohn studied writing at the Highlights Foundation, Humber College School of Writers, George Brown College, and the Voices of our Nation (VONA).  She holds an honours arts degree in psychology from the University of Waterloo as well as Bachelor and Master of Education degrees from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT).  Nadia is currently working on two young adult novels, a play, the next Malaika… book, and others.  She lives in Toronto she teaches, reads a ton, and crafts stories. She also loves to write (songs, blogs, journals, stories), play piano, cook vegan dishes, travel, study arts and cultures of the African diaspora especially Caribbean folk music, Orff music education, and run.

eugenie_fernandes-2Eugenie Fernandes has illustrated a myriad of books for a whole slew of publishers!  Here is a brief blurb about her from the Kids Can Press website: “My world is yellow and blue and green. I grew up on the beach. I painted with my father — comic-book illustrator Creig Flessel. We made up stories sitting on the front porch. Birds flew down from the sky and sat on my shoulder. Cats purred. Frogs hopped. I have always lived on islands …a house on Long Island, an apartment on Manhattan Island, a thatch hut on an island in the middle of the South Pacific, and now … I live and work in a little house … on a little island … in a little lake in southern Ontario. Summer and winter …starting at the crack of dawn, I paint every day. Sometimes, I write stories. Sometimes, I sell the stories. Then I paint again … I paint my stories … I paint other people’s stories. Sometimes, I paint paintings for myself … abstract paintings … big … free … Sunshine fills my studio.I am surrounded by water and birds and trees.My world is yellow and blue and green. Eugenie graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1965. Her paintings from Earth Magic and One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference are at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.”

Little People Big Dreams: Zaha Hadid

Written by: Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara

Illustrated by: Asun Amar 

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figure, Women in STEM, Biography, Women in Architecture, Trailblazer, Feminist.

Summary: This book talks about the life of prolific architect, Zaha Hadid.  She was creative from a young age, and was soon designing her own clothing and furniture.  Zaha was lucky to travel around the world, becoming inspired by architecture and art.  She went to boarding school in Switzerland and instead of skiing like her classmates she would stay indoors (we can relate to this) and design funky buildings with shapes that no one had ever created before.

Zaha became a professor and continued to trailblazer for women architects everywhere, smashing barriers.  We love the timeline and real photos of Zaha in the back of the book!

This book was sent in consideration of the Best Books of 2019 list by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (an imprint of Quarto), but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

maria-isabel-sanchez-vegara-2Mª Isabel Sanchez Vegara was born in Barcelona, Spain, and she is a writer and creative director perhaps best known as the author of much of the Little People, Big Dreams series. Six years ago, she decided to self-publish a book that had been in her mind for a long time. One day, one thousand copies of arrived at her home – she had no idea what she was going to do with them! She opened a little online shop, placed them to some pretty stores in her neighborhood and, one by one, she sold them all. Soon, publishing houses started to approach her to write books, but she was working on another idea of her own: a series about little people with BIG dreams. Each book tells the childhood story of one of the world’s female icons in an entertaining, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers, allowing them to identify with the characters in each story.

c3218357867537.58570417b318fAsun Amar is a freelance architect based in Barcelona, Spain! (She’s also difficult to track down online!)

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.