Thursday, January 8, 2015

Fueling Imagination by Sharing Memories (FAMILY magazine reviews)

During January we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. This can be an opportunity to remember his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. It can also be a time for reviewing our country’s past and noting changes that move us toward a bright future. The books below offer children and families a chance to spend time reading aloud and talking together. Give your child the gift of time with you to wonder about how the months ahead of us can be transformed by our current national conversation.

Tea Cakes for Tosh by Kelly Starling Lyons 
Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Putnam, $16.99 
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2 
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)
Tosh loved his grandma Honey’s delicious golden tea cakes. She matches them with a memorable story from family history. A plantation cook hides tea cakes in her pocket, to give her grandchildren “a taste of sweet freedom.”
            When Honey’s memory begins to fail, Tosh decides to bake tea cakes to share with her. Lyons lyrical text and easy dialog show the strong family ties between generations. 
            Award winning illustrator Lewis’ trademark watercolors match life-like paintings to realistic language. Muted colors help the reader shift into the past, from Honey’s colorful kitchen. This gentle tale emphasizes the importance of sharing memories to strengthen family traditions. A recipe for tea cakes is included at the back.

We March by Shane W. Evans  
Roaring Brook Press, $16.99 
nterest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 3 
(This book is may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

A family wakens and prepares for this march by attending church, painting signs and traveling by bus. They are participants in the 1963 March on Washington. They walk, sing, and although hot and tired, are hopeful.
The dusky colors of morning brighten into the greens and blues of a golden August day. Brushstrokes add detail, movement and depth. Although largely African American, the pictures clearly reveal a rainbow of participants.
Additionally, illustrations show the Washington Monument, where the march began. Also familiar is the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about his dream. 
            Using few keenly chosen words and compelling images, Evans’ conveys a simple but powerful story of why the march happened and how. A note from the author is at the end.

Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons 
Illustrated by Daniel Minter
Putnam, $16.99 
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2 
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)
This cheerful story set during Reconstruction, celebrates the end of slavery. An announcement is made from the church pulpit that former slaves can now register their marriages legally. As part of the beginning of freedom, Ellen and her family join others in merry-making.
Minter’s beautiful hand painted linoleum block prints show the tradition of “jumping the broom” – a ritual slaves used at their weddings. Together, Ellen’s family walks to the courthouse to get a legal marriage certificate. Mama holds the broom, through which Ellen has woven flowers. Later, it is hung, with the certificate, above the home fireplace.
Brown faces, colorful clothing and textures of stone and wood in the artwork glow with vitality. They link emotional expression to the vibrant text and vivid dialog. Quieter colors show scenes from slave times, as Papa explains why the broom was used.
An Author’s Note reveals how Lyons’ family history inspired this lively picture book.



Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend 
by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud, illustrated by John Holyfield
Candlewick Press, $15.99 
Interest Level: Grade 2 – Grade 3 
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Hope’s Gift 
by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Don Tate
Putnam, $16.99 
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2 
(This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

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