Five Feisty Females – The Arts

Artwork by Sarah S. Brannen, 2017

It’s Nonfiction Wednesday! It’s been a little while since I’ve participated in this linkup, so I’m thrilled to be back! Each week, Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy invites teachers, librarians, readers and book lovers to celebrate the incredible world of children’s nonfiction. There are so many incredible informational texts available, so be sure to check out the other participants in this week’s linkup to discover more amazing books!

In honour of Women’s History Month, I’m taking a look at five fantastic picture book biographies celebrating feisty female pioneers in the arts. Though they pursued very different careers, these incredible women owned their respective fields, expressed themselves with passion and creativity, and left indelible marks on the world.

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova rose from a childhood marred with poverty to achieve international fame and acclaim as a dancer of unparalleled elegance and grace. Her achievements were hard-earned, and Pavlova dedicated herself fully to her art. Though her life was tragically cut short, Pavlova will always be remembered not only as an exceptional dancer, but as a passionate, hardworking, brave and generous woman who inspired generations of young women to dance.

 Different Like Coco

Coco Chanel. Her name is synonymous with glamour and style, but her rags-to-riches life story is even more fascinating. Once a desperately poor, skinny orphan, Coco used her creativity, imagination, skills and  personal grit to challenge social norms around women’s fashion, and in so doing turned herself into a fashion icon whose signature style would captivate women for generations.

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat : Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald, one of jazz’s most celebrated and beloved vocalists, used her incredible voice to escape the grinding, desperate poverty of her orphaned childhood. Hardworking, talented and determined, Ella used music to not only achieve a better life, but to connect and share her passionate spirit with listeners around the world, and across generations.

My Name is Georgia

Georgia O’keeffe lived life her own way. From her earliest years she dressed as she wanted, she lived where she wanted, and she painted what she wanted, and by following her own unconventional heart she would one day become of America’s most distinct and beloved artists.

A Dance like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream

In the 1950s, poor black girls from Harlem didn’t grow up to become prima ballerinas. But Janet Collins was a little girl with big dreams, and the determination to see her dreams come true. Hardworking, committed and passionate, Collins battled through poverty and racism to become the first African American prima ballerina, becoming an inspiration for countless young women with big dreams.

Share these brilliant, beautiful stories of fabulous, feisty females with the young dreamers in your life, whatever their gender – all children can benefit from stories of determination, perseverance, passion and self-belief. Happy Women’s History Month!

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – November 11, 2016

nonfictionNonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.

Title: Hello World! Greetings in 43 Languages
Author/Illustrator: Manya Stojic
Publisher: Boxer Books (England) / Scholastic (United States)
Publication Date: 2009
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s SummaryTake a trip around the world and learn to say “hello” in 42 different languages! This book features vibrant paintings of children from across the globe, simple translations, and pronounciation keys! Bonjour! Hola! Konnichiwa! Learn how to say “hello” in French, Spanish, Japanese—and many more languages! Children from all around the world say “hello” each in their own languages, each and every day. Each page includes a greeting translated in a different language with easy-to-pronounce phonetic spellings.

My Two Cents: This simple picture book is a collection of greetings from around the world – 43 beautiful, happy children saying hello in their different languages. Each picture includes a handy pronunciation guide, but it would have been helpful if Stojic had indicated where each language originates (some of the languages are less familiar to Western readers, like Mandika and Bafia, and teachers/librarians might want to prepare themselves by consulting an atlas, as they are likely to get questions from curious readers!) I like that the illustrations show children in generic contemporary clothes – books about countries around the world often depict children in traditional clothing, which is informative but doesn’t necessarily reflect their modern reality. It’s easy for kids to relate to the children in these pictures, because the emphasis is on their faces, rather than on their costumes. My one finicky little caveat is that most of the Asian children are shown with thin slits for eyes, which is a little stereotypical. Still, I like that there is a bit of variety in how the children are depicted, that is, not all the Europeans are shown with pale skin, blond hair and yellow eyes, which I think better represents the realities of modern Europe.

Title: If…..A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers
Author: David J. Smith

Illustrator: Steve Adams
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: 2014
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book 
Publisher’s SummarySome things are so huge or so old that it’s hard to wrap your mind around them. But what if we took these big, hard-to-imagine objects and events and compared them to things we can see, feel and touch? Instantly, we’d see our world in a whole new way.” So begins this endlessly intriguing guide to better understanding all those really big ideas and numbers children come across on a regular basis. Author David J. Smith has found clever devices to scale down everything from time lines (the history of Earth compressed into one year), to quantities (all the wealth in the world divided into one hundred coins), to size differences (the planets shown as different types of balls). Accompanying each description is a kid-friendly drawing by illustrator Steve Adams that visually reinforces the concept. By simply reducing everything to human scale, Smith has made the incomprehensible easier to grasp, and therefore more meaningful. The children who just love these kinds of fact-filled, knock-your-socks-off books will want to read this one from cover to cover. It will find the most use, however, as an excellent classroom reference that can be reached for again and again when studying scale and measurement in math, and also for any number of applications in social studies, science and language arts. For those who want to delve a little deeper, Smith has included six suggestions for classroom projects. There is also a full page of resource information at the back of the book.

My Two Cents: Woah…This book is mind-blowing! Abstract concepts or massive numbers are made tangible through real-life examples and illustrations. For example, if your whole life could be represented by a pizza divided into twelve slices, 4 slices would represent the time you spend at work or school, 4 slices would represent time spent in bed, and 1 slice would represent the time spent cooking and eating (among other slices!!) How cool is that?? As I child I really struggled to visualize numbers – the weight of a blue whale in tonnes meant nothing to me, but I could visualize an equivalent number of African elephants. This is a particularly valuable books for visual learners like myself, who learn best through through observing. The author has included a number of extension activity suggestions to help students explore and understand concepts of scale.

So, which nonfiction books have caught your eye this week?