Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sioux Code Talkers of World War II by Author Andrea Page



I'm excited to bring you news about this debut book by Andrea Page. I was fortunate to win it in an online contest. As soon as I heard of it, I realized its importance to the people of my state. We've heard about code talkers from other Native American tribes, but not about the people who live where I do. That said, anyone interested in WWII or Native American issues will find this book of interest. 

Author Andrea Page, a relative of Sioux Code Talker Sioux John Bear King, sets the stage by giving an account of Sioux culture and history. She goes on to tell how Sioux men chosen to be code talkers were part of the US Army's efforts in winning battles in WWII's Pacific Theater. Her excellent writing lets the reader see the irony of a government that once punished the Sioux for speaking their language now using that language to win a war. Page's thorough research includes photos and transcripts of some of the messages Sioux Code Talkers sent and received. Complete with summary bio information about each of the featured Code Talkers, a bibliography, and index, this book adds new material to the WWII canon. Written as juvenile nonfiction, this book would appeal to adults as well as young people.

I was especially impressed to learn that this book was 2 decades in the making, from the time she learned about John King Bear's service through years of primary document research and interviews to the writing itself. Ta da! At last, a book was born!

Hear more about the writing of the book from Andrea and her mother:

Andrea is making a trip back to "Siouxland" that includes a talk at Siouxland Libraries:
If you're in the area, come out and meet Andrea!





Wednesday, July 5, 2017

First Times by Charles Ghigna





There's a first time for everything, so the saying goes! For example, this is the first time a publisher has sent me an unsolicited Advanced Reader Copy. I was elated because I so admire Charles Ghigna's work.

His upcoming book, First Times, illustrated by Lori Joy Smith, celebrates the many firsts that preschool children experience. The rhyming text makes reading aloud fun, and the cartoonish illustrations are just right for the preschool set. Even the font design helps tell the story. This is a happy book, people!

It begins:
First times are fun times!
   From summer to spring.
My first slide down the slide
   My first swing on the swing.


I read this book to my 4-year-old granddaughter. We talked about her "firsts" as we went along, including sliding, swinging, personal care, getting dressed, going shopping. These are everyday things that we grownups take for granted, but shouldn't. Some of these firsts she remembered, some she didn't, and some she still looks forward to. For example, she's always liked books, but she doesn't remember this one:

First Times is a wonderful family book about growing up and being proud of every achievement.  I highly recommend it. Orca Book Publishers will release it in late October, but you can preorder from the publisher or any bookseller.

Charles is also known as Father Goose, a nickname first given to him by the children he visits at schools. He says he writes in a "tree house," which is really the attic of his home.
Here's a little more about Charles from Father Goose himself: 


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Long May She Wave: Happy Independence Day!


Sure, we've all heard of Betsy Ross, but did you know that a girl named Caroline helped sew the flag that flew over Fort McHenry, the flag that Francis Scott Key wrote about in his poem, "The Star-Spangled Banner"? 

Using phrases from the poem that became the United States' national anthem, author Kristen Fulton  tells readers about this little-known part of history. This picture book and its design is great for all ages. Young children can grasp the ideas from the text in big font and the pictures, block prints by Holly Berry that emphasize the flag . Older children will appreciate all of the book's text and understand the importance of a little girl in history. (And maybe be inspired by that.) Still older readers will appreciate this new look into history and the information Fulton provides in her Author's Note in the back of the book.

Fulton's writing captures the suspense and importance of the battle from Caroline's point of view. This is an especially wonderful book for Flag Day (June 14) or the 4th of July. 

Take a peek inside the book by viewing the video.

Thank you, Caroline, and thank you, Kristen and Holly for this look into history. Indeed, long may she wave!  


Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Promise of Trees



The Promise is an amazing first-person fable by nature writer Nicola Davies about the importance of keeping a promise and how having a positive purpose can change one's life. The illustrations by Laura Carlin enhance the text, as they change from black and white to color as the main character's promise is fulfilled. Change does not happen overnight; patience is required. The underlying message of "if you don't like it, change it" empowers readers of all ages, and encourages all of us to leave a positive legacy. 

My favorite line from the book: "I held a forest in my arms, and my heart was changed." 

This picture book will be most appreciated by older children through adults. In fact, it is on the reading list for my church women's reading program in the Social Action category.

(photo taken at McCrory Gardens in Brookings, SD)

This tale of hope and environmentalism was inspired by Jean Giono's 1953 story, L’homme qui plantait des arbres, (The Man Who Planted Trees.)  I don't read French, but I have seen the video and recommend it to you. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Bully Behavior: National Poetry Month


Carmen Graber teaches poetry to her 8th graders, and they share their poems aloud. She writes and shares along with her students. This one stunned them. You'll see why.

Pinball (for my 8th grade students) 
by Carmen Graber

Words shoot out of mouths
Like a pinball launching from the starting chute.
The words ricochet off the hallway walls
Bruising and battering unsuspecting students.
Points can be scored for claiming
“She is my friend”
“I am just joking and having fun”
“He doesn’t mind”
You score extra points
If you light up
A student’s fear and
Make him or her feel insecure.
Be careful though,
You don’t want to cause the game to tilt!
You are racking up the points;
But then the teacher comes out
With a look of scorn
And tells you
“knock it off-get to class”
Your fun is destroyed-
This round is finished.
But not to fret.
Another round is waiting in the chute.
This time when you launch,
The rules have changed.
The flippers turn into hands
Which slap the back of someone’s neck.
It’s a game you say.
No harm done.
But the marks are there
This time more evident than the words
But both are destructive.
There are pieces of students
Splattered on the walls
Trampled under foot,
Lost in the commotion.
Until that teacher comes over again
“keep your hands and your words to yourself”
And this time you hear
“game over”
But only till the game resets

And you start another round.

Here are some anti-bullying resources: Stop Bullying Stomp Out Bullying, and the program used in our local schools, Olweus. And a list of books for kids with an anti-bullying theme.

Bullying is not a game. Pinball is!


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Teddy Bear Loyalty: National Poetry Month




Many children have toys or blankets that give them comfort and act as a friend when there's no one else around. I had a Raggedy Ann that I wore to shreds. Here's a poem from Carmen Graber, reminiscing about her teddy bear.

Random Thoughts of Teddy

Teddy was my best friend
Not an original name for a teddy bear
But, hey
I was only 3 years old.
Keeper of my secrets,
Sharerer of my tea
at afternoon tea parties.
Protector of my nights
when shadows turn frightening.
Then we both had to go to the hospital:
Teddy to get more stuffing in his neck
And to fix his nose where I bit him.
Me to have my eyes fixed-
No, not to get my tonsils taken out like everyone else.
Patches over both eyes,
Sleeping in a bed with sides up like a crib.
I couldn’t see it,
But I heard the rasp of the railing
As it was pulled upward until it clicked.
And the doctor saying
“it won’t hurt”
As he ripped the patches off.
Kicked him in the shin.
That will teach him to tell a lie.
Grandma Lil gave me a white cat;
Not a real one-mom would never allow that.
Didn’t need Teddy as much when I got home.
He got stuck between the wall and the bed,
His new stuffing all scrunched up funny.
Then we moved to a new house.
Where was Teddy?

Did he get packed?
I have read stories about dogs that walk for miles
Just to find their owners.
Could Teddy do that too?
Not to worry-Teddy is here.
Best friends again.

Went to visit Grandma Lil
Took Teddy and the white cat
When we got home, only the white cat was in my bag.
Grandma Lil said not to worry
Teddy was with her
She would mail him to me.
How would he breathe?
Would she put holes in the box?
Would he be afraid in the dark?
Finally he arrived-at the big stone building-
The box had my name on it.
Never so happy to see my best friend Teddy.
I will never let you out of my sight again.
Then came junior high
Roller skates, boys, new friends.
Don’t know when Teddy got lost.
Asked my mom-she didn't know-
"Look in the closet in the basement".
Got distracted-forgot to look.
Went to college,
Got a job and place of my own.
I haven’t thought about Teddy for a long, long time.

Now I am old and I wish Teddy was here.

What toy do you remember fondly? What memories does that conjure up? Do you still have that toy? Please share in the comments below.

Carmen's poem reminded me of this famous rhyme for kids:

Friday, April 28, 2017

Exploring Fragile: National Poetry Month



Most of us have times in our lives when we feel fragile. Some of those are more serious and life-altering than others. Today I'm pleased to introduce Carmen Graber, 8th grade language arts teacher and poet.

Fragile

“easily broken, shattered, or damaged”
never would I have used this word
in conjunction with me or my life.
But one phone call
one word - cancer-
broke my soul
shattered my reality
damaged my world.
I collapse;
my breath stolen from me.
Gasps of fear
bursting colors of emotions
explosions of words and questions.
I feel broken, shattered and damaged:
fragile.
How can I go on?
Can I go on?
How can I face others?
How can I let them see me as fragile?
A whisper of air
A tremor of strength
A flow of love.
The ultimate showing of trust-
allow those you love to see you vulnerable - fragile.
A hug, a hand, a word-
not from pity,
but from love, concern, and hope.
I am not alone.
I am not broken.
I am not shattered.
I am not damaged.
I AM NOT FRAGILE!
Together, we are stronger than cancer!


~carmen graber

How would you define "fragile" for yourself? How has poetry or art helped you overcome your fragility? Feel free to leave a comment for Carmen below and share this poem with anyone who is feeling fragile. Thank you, Carmen, for allowing me to post your powerful poem.