Tag Archives: Social Science

A Kids’ Guide to the American Revolution

Author(s), Illustrator/Photographer: Kathleen Krull; illustrated by Anna Divito.

Publisher and Year/Number of pages: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2018, 207 Pages.

Tags/Themes: Graham, New Nation, Declaration of Independence, Thirteen Colonies, Revolutionary War, Boston Tea Party, Washington, George, and Dano.

Genre: Nonfiction, Chapter Book.

Descriptive Annotation: The cover features a watercolor drawing of George Washington, kitted out in a traditional tricorn and blue frock coat, cradling a US flag (of the Thirteen Colonies) and superimposed over the Declaration of Independence. Also included is a red, white and blue color scheme in the title and author’s name as well, emphasizing the colors that the new nation of America rallied to in the heady days of 1776. This is a combination of both standard unifying American imagery used by our country since its independence, and the founding document of our initial independence being put in a position of prominence, which can be seen for the entirety of the novel.

A Kids’ Guide to the American Revolution is the beginning story of our country, which was a group of men who decided that enough British domination was enough, and despite their many differences, it made sense for them to band together and declare to the world the birth of a new nation, and, in doing so, made a document that changed the world: “It spelled out the reasons why the colonists had to rebel against the mother country and begin to govern themselves. It’s not exaggerating things to say that the Declaration launched America” (Krull, p. 7). As the book continues, it is evident that this American story as portrayed in this novel is the complex, conflicted one as it was in real life, mostly due to its older targeted audience. Also important is that this version of the American tale does have plenty of heart as well, and indeed makes the boosting of morale that George Washington did throughout the war for his troops in the face of difficult odds a key point of focus for the reader: “With these victories he wasn’t just scoring points. He was boosting troop morale and attracting much-needed recruits. Washington was doing more than any other single person to keep the flame of the American Revolution alive” (Krull, p. 139).  The whole of the story is about the acceptance of revolutionary and Enlightenment ideals that posed a serious threat to the British governing order in the Declaration of Independence, and how the war was won based on those ideals even if they weren’t always practiced by all of the Founding Fathers at all times. All Americans of every age group, not just students, should read this book as well, because the author does an evenhanded job of assessing the reality of the Revolution for a book that was designed for children, and the lessons within would certainly be useful for students reading this novel in the primary school classroom.

Classroom Application: In the book A Kids’ Guide to the American Revolution, the characters are all real-life figures from the Revolution, from the top (George Washington, King George III) to the lesser-known heroes of the war, such as a man named Swamp Fox (who was in real life called Francis Marion), who had fought in the French and Indian War: “While battling-and almost losing to the Cherokee Indians, he admired how the Cherokee turned the swampy backwoods to their advantage, hiding until just the right moment for an ambush” (Krull, p. 157).  This demonstrates how people take some of the best ideas from those with whom they may have clashed with before, and that competition can later turn into cooperation, as it did when “Marion’s Men” joined forces with their erstwhile indigenous foes to take down British forces in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War, using those same tactics. This is a teachable moment, since it’s Krull’s way of saying that America was built not on lasting enmity towards one’s foes, but treating them as friends once the current issue at hand has been resolved-just as Britain became a great ally in World Wars I and II, and how Germany and Japan are close allies with us to this day as well after we defeated them in the Second World War as well. In short, we need to embrace the lessons learned of the Revolution and strive towards a world with less enmity and lingering resentment in any way possible. This book is an excellent primer on how to do just that by looking at examples from our primary history way back in the 1770s.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: Krull covers the interactions between American and Brits, colonizers and the colonized, slave and freedman, and does so in a way that doesn’t gloss over the real pain that has occurred in our past through many faults of our own. The end of the war didn’t solve the issue of slavery in the slightest-it exacerbated the problem in many ways, as Krull acknowledges: “The institution of slavery continued to be practiced in the original thirteen colonies. Within days of the war’s end, plantation owners were paying soldiers to locate runaway slaves living in the surrounding woods” (Krull, p. 189). This is necessary to do, as many past versions of our founding have glossed over the often-sad realities that plagued our nation for generations and are still not truly solved. The author’s motivation was to do right by the lives of those who were historically ignored in our textbooks, and to do so in an engaging way that is not misguided or skewered to any certain degree: “Treaties  made with the British prior to the war were ignored by the Americans, and years of bloody conflict and expansion destroyed some tribes” (Krull, p. 193). On those pages which cover the aftermath of the war, a nation was born divided between those who had and who had not, and recognizing that not all was peaches and cream is an important step in the telling of American historiography to young readers. In the context of the age group that is reading this book, it is understandable that it is included to help eliminate false truths. 

Same, Same, but Different

Title: Same, Same, but Different

Author: Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Illustrator: Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Publisher and Year: Henry Holt and Company, 2011

Number of pages: 40

Tags/Themes: Award Book, Culture, Fiction, Picture Book, Social Science, K-5, Evan White

Genre: India; Children’s; cultural; picture book

Descriptive Annotation:  Same, Same, but Different is about two pen pals named Elliot and Kailash.  Elliot lives in America and Kailash lives in India. They write back and forth about their life.  As they write they discover there are a lot of similarities between the two, like climbing trees, taking a school bus, and how they live with their families.  With every similarity, there is a photo to show the cultural differences between the two cultures and a photo of the boys doing the same activity just in different ways. The students need no background knowledge.

Classroom Application: This text can be used to reinforce social science and cultures.  Possibly when learning about continents/countries, a teacher could use this text to learn a little about India.  It can be used to encourage students to think more in similarities with humans rather than finding differences, crafting a social bonding with people of diverse cultures/communities, regardless of where they live.  This book could also be used to introduce pen pals for the classroom, encouraging the students to learn about their new friends’ culture and how it relates to theirs.  This can build appreciation in their real life.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:  This book represents the Indian culture.  It shows beautiful drawings of Kailash living in a diverse yet similar way to Americans that highlights his value.  Kailash shows Elliot how his family, school, and city works outlining some basic cultural values and norms within India.  I think this book could be introduced by teaching the students what a pen pal is, then going into the story.  Ending the story with starting a pen pal assignment to put in practice what the story spoke about .  There is much to ask about a pen pal and learning differences and the value in those differences.  “That is my tree house where I play. I live in a red brick building with my mom, dad, and my baby sister.  I live with my family too-all twenty-three of us-my mom, dad, sister, brother, grandmother, grandfather, aunties, uncles, cousins…” (8).  This quote is awesome because it shows how what American culture sees extended family can be internal for other people.  In addition, this is common for families in America too.  “A great river flows through my village.  Peacocks dance under trees shaped like umbrellas” (13).  This quote shows how beautiful Kailash’s village is.  The page has bright colors with beautiful buildings with peacocks dancing.  It’s very elegant and shows so much value in their city Kailash loves.

Game Changer

Title: Game Changer

Author: John Coy

Illustrator: Randy DuBurke

Publisher and Year: Carolrhoda Books (October 1, 2015)

Number of pages: 32

Tags/Themes: Diversity, Picture Book, Social Science, 4-5, 6-8, Evan White

Genre: History; Non-fiction; sports

Descriptive Annotation:  Game changer is the true story of Coach John McLendon organizing a basketball game between the best white college basketball players from Duke University Medical School and his team from North Carolina College of Negroes in 1944, whose team was called the Eagles.  The teams met up in a gym and locked the doors so no one could walk in.  Both teams played as hard as they could but the Eagles won 88 to 44.  The next day, the two teams decided to play again, but mix the teams up.  This was the first time there was inter racial basketball.  The boys all had a great time playing mixed together but also knew it was not socially unacceptable if outsiders found out.  All the boys began to grow closer together and learn from one another.  The artwork of the book is very dark but the tone of the writing has a message of optimism of time changing.  At the back of the book, there is a timeline of civil rights movement and progression of black athletes coming into the spot light.

The students will need to know about segregation, the term negroes, prejudice, and the KKK.

Classroom Application:   This text can be used to reinforce history, and could be used as the sports perspective within civil rights.  The book also explores the progression of equality in America in different areas, like sports.  Game Changer can also be used to reinforce history with breaking down barriers.  As the coach did a brave thing for the time period and can teach how it is important to take risks that go against social norms.  A social norm doesn’t mean it’s a moral norm, so taking risks and stepping outside of comfortable spaces can lead to impact on society.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book represents the culture in the 1940s and how the black community stood together to progress in equality.  This book could be used to generate discussion in looking at current sports diversity and examine if they are diverse, how diverse, and if certain groups are not represented in sports.  This can be done by using percentages and ratios of diverse athletes with a math reinforcement.  Using the charts, we can look at the time the athletes were playing.   “Nineteen years before Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech and three years before Jackie Robinson broke the color line in Major League Baseball, black players and white players worked together as teammates in an illegal game in segregated North Caroline” (19).  I think this quote is important because it established there are leaders in civil rights other than Martin Luther King.  It is important to learn about more than one leader, and how there was multiple leaders in civil rights through the years, no matter how famous they became.   Learning about strong leaders would lead into this next quote.  “A reporter for the Caroline Times, Durham’s black weekly newspaper, heard about the game, but he agreed not to publish the story at McLendon’s request since the Ku Klux Klan was active and considered ‘race mixing’ a crime punishable by death” (24).  This is a powerful quote that should be used with a mature class ready for these topics.  This quote shows the serious tone of the book and paints a picture of how brave the boys were for playing in an interracial basketball game.  Understanding the serious consequences makes the coach and players stronger leaders for the students.

The Dress and the Girl

Title: The Dress and the Girl

Author(s): Camille Andros

Illustrator/Photographer: Julie Morstad

Publisher and Year: Abrams Books for Young Readers 2018

Number of pages: 33

Tags/Themes: Allison Henry, Adventure, Historical Fiction, Friendship, Picture Book, Social Science

Genre: Historical Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: The Dress and the Girl is the story of the adventures of a little girl and her dress. At the beginning of the story, they are at their home in Greece. But one day, the girl and the dress board a boat destined for America. When they arrive in America, the dress is folded up in a trunk. The dress searches the globe for the girl, and they are finally reunited in a store many years later. There are no special features in this book and students would need little background knowledge to understand the text.

Classroom Application: This book could be used in a social science lesson on immigration, specifically immigration to the United States. This cute story about a girl and her dress could be used to show students how immigrants to the united states had to give up their home culture (the dress) when they got to the new country, in order to fit in better. Students could look into the immigration process of America. They could also choose a different country and compare and contrast it with America.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book is about a Greek girl and her dress immigrating to America. The story shows similarities between Greece and America, but it also shows the differences. It shows the hope that immigrants have when they leave their home for a better life. In the beginning of the story, it says, “But they longed for the extraordinary. Something singular, stunning, or sensational.” When they arrived at America, it says, “They wondered if now was the time for something singular, stunning, or sensational. For something extraordinary.”

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors

Title: Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors

Author(s): Hena Khan

Illustrator/Photographer: Mehrdokht Amini

Publisher and Year: Scholastic Inc. 2012

Number of pages: 21

Tags/Themes: Allison Henry, Culture, Family, Fiction, Holidays, Picture Book, Poetry, K-1, 2-3, Social Science

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns follows a young girl as she explains the what the colors in her world are. Each page talks about a color and what object in the young girl’s religion are that color. A background knowledge of Muslim terms would be helpful, but there is a glossary in the back that defines many of the words. Each page is two sentences long and the sentences have end rhyme.

Classroom Application: This text can be used in the social sciences when talking about different religions. It could also be used to explain part of the culture of a student that is Muslim. This book could be used to introduce a unit on different religions and/or holidays, because it does talk a little about both Ramadan and Eid.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: As stated in the classroom application section, this text can be used to teach students about the Muslim religion. It is a brief introduction, so it could prompt students to look deeper into this religion or prompt them to ask questions and potentially research other religions. It can also be used in a unit on holidays as it says, “Brown is a date, plump and sweet. During Ramadan, it’s my favorite treat.” It also talks about Eid, “Purple is an Eid gift just for me. I open it up and love what I see.”

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics

Title: Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics

Author(s): Margarita Engle

Illustrator/Photographer: Rafael Lopez

Publisher and Year: Henry Holt and Company 2017

Number of pages: 38

Tags/Themes: Allison Henry, Culture, Diversity, Poetry, Picture Book, K-5, Non-fiction, Social Science

Genre: Biography

Descriptive Annotation:  Bravo! is a biographical story that highlights many influential Hispanics (this is the term the author uses; however, the story does include individuals from countries other than Spain. A better term would be Spanish-speakers). The individuals in the text range from poets to doctors, musicians to astronauts, pilots to cowboys. At the end of the story is a list of many more influential Spanish-speaking people and a more descriptive paragraph about each of the individuals featured. Most of the words in the story are easy words, any students reading this would benefit from a general knowledge of history, although it is not strictly necessary. This story is written in free-verse poetry and the illustrations are done in pen, ink, watercolor, construction paper, and acrylic on wood.

Classroom Application: This text can be used to talk about social science and Spanish-speaking individuals’ contributions to many different fields. Many of the stories mention wars, slavery, injustice, and immigration. The stories of specific individuals can be used to supplement lessons and/or units on events such as the American Revolution, Civil Wars, music, medical advancements, and even minorities in baseball. This book could be introduced by asking students what they know about Spanish-speaking individuals’ contributions to history and then building off of their answers.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book can be used to highlight important people in the different Spanish-speaking cultures. A variety of cultures are represented in the book, so this text can be used when talking about many different cultures. On the page highlighting Julia De Burgos, it says, “I struggled to become a teacher and a poet, so I could use words to fight for equal rights for women, and work toward meeting the needs of poor children, and speak of independence for Puerto Rico.” Another page highlights Arnold Rojas, a cowboy, and says, “My Mexican ancestors included Yaqui and Maya indios, people who fought to stay free and live in their own traditional ways.” These quotes show just two of the many cultures represented in the text.

Freedom Over Me

Title: Freedom Over Me

Author(s): Ashley Bryan

Illustrator/Photographer: Ashley Bryan

Publisher and Year: Antheneum Books for Young Readers 2016

Number of pages: 44

Tags/Themes: Allison Henry, Culture, Diversity, Emotion, Family, Historical Fiction, Picture Book, Poetry, 2-3, 4-5, Social Science

Genre: Historical Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:  Freedom Over Me is the story of eleven slaves. It provided a narrative of each of the slaves’ duties on the plantation and then describes their inner thoughts while they are working. In the back of the book there is an Author’s Note that explains the history behind this story. The author collected many documents relating to slavery, including an appraisement form for an estate. This form listed eleven slaves with their name and price. The author wanted to craft these names and prices into people to show that slaves were humans, too. This book is written in free verse poetry and the illustrations are done in pen, ink, watercolor, and copies of historical documents.

Classroom Application: This book could be used in a unit on slavery. It provides a different perspective that shows a little bit of the slaves’ side of the story. This text could be used to show students how slaves were treated like animals when they were sold. The author includes the appraisal form in the book and it shows the slaves’ names next to cattle and other farm animals.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: The pages that include the slaves’ thoughts provide a brief description of what their lives were like in Africa before they were taken. It includes mentions of African art, history, and music and how those things are passed down through generations. Mulvina, the oldest slave, says, “Years of driven labor have not driven the ancestral thoughts out of me. My memory of teaching-surrounded by children, singing songs of our people, the stories of our history-lives always within me.” Betty, a middle ages woman says, “We remember our African cultures, our traditions, our craftsmanship. Within us lives this knowledge, this undefeated pride.” This book could be used in the classroom by having the students compare this story to a story about slavery from the perspective of the owner. There would be a discussion on power and how perspectives shape our idea of the world around us.

My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl

Title: My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl (Dear America series)

Author(s): Ann Rinaldi

Illustrator/Photographer: N/A

Publisher and Year: Scholastic Inc. 1999

Number of pages: 171

Tags/Themes: Allison Henry, Culture, Diversity, Chapter Book, Emotion, Historical Fiction, 4-5, Social Science

Genre: Historical Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: My Heart is on the Ground is written in diary format. At the end of the book is a section on the events happening in the United States during 1880, the year that the book takes place. There is also a section of pictures, a note about the author, and a list of the other books in the Dear America series. My Heart is on the Ground is the story of Little Rose, a Sioux girl who gets sent to a school set up by white people to force Native American children to forget their heritage and become the white people’s idea of a perfect citizen. Little Rose struggles to remember where she comes from while also making her teachers proud.

Classroom Application: This book could be used in a series of lessons on Native Americans. It shows what these children went through in an age appropriate way. It can also be used during a lesson on writing styles, as an example of epistolary writing. The students could read this book, put themselves in the position of a child in any point in history, and then write a range of diary entries.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: My Heart is on the Ground paints an accurate picture of the life of a Native American child at an Indian School. This book could be used to start a conversation on appropriate treatment of groups, dominant culture, and/or Native American culture. Little Rose talks about many aspects of her home culture quite often in the book. One instance of the cultural differences is shown when one of Little Rose’s peers dies from a disease. “I know some of the boys and girls wanted to tear their garments, cut their hair, cover themselves with mud, and slash at their arms because the Death Angel took Horace. But we were made to stand in citizens’ clothing, clean and quiet” (44). This book could also be used to build confidence in student’s writing skills. As Little Rose learns the English language, she makes many mistakes in her writing. If students read passages like, “The teachers had a new bed bring brought to our room” (69), they can recognize that it is ok to make mistakes in their writing.

Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art

 Author(s)/Illustrator/Photographer: Hudson Talbott

 Publisher and Year Number of pages: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018, 31 pages.

Genre: Nonfiction

Descriptive Annotation: The cover features an artistic rendering of Thomas Cole at work on one of his superb paintings of the Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York. The depiction demonstrates the way the sun sets at night on those majestic mountains. The artist who is pictured made the American art scene a respected one on the international stage, and his pieces are as well-known today as any Monet or Picasso. As for the book itself, it is a brilliant storybook that involves the engrossing story of a young English boy, Thomas Cole, who is forced to flee his homeland as a result of the ongoing Industrial Revolution there (late 1700s-mid to late 1800s). Thomas, our protagonist, is a boy who is used to his beautiful English countryside home life with his mother, father, brother Sami, seven sisters, and his grandpa Jed. Family life for him is consistent and comfortable. However, as the author notes, “Thomas’s father had to close his workshop because he could not make goods as cheaply as the big factories” (Talbott, p. 5). England is the only home he’s ever known, and when the Industrial Revolution comes to the village, he and his family must flee the land they love so much to make it in the American wilderness by boat from Europe. The family ends up in Steubenville, Pennsylvania, leaving four of Thomas’s seven sisters behind in the Old World, as the family only had money for the three sisters and the Cole parents to take a stagecoach. Thomas follows them on foot, and befriends a travelling portrait painter upon his arrival and learns how to paint. His passion takes off, and soon he is the toast of the worlds both New and Old, inspired by journeying up and down the Hudson River and funded by his first patron, a Mr. Thomas Bruen. It would be beneficial for the reader to learn why and how Cole’s career got started; the additional information, plus the background knowledge provided in the text, would help the reader to enjoy this story better. The language is pretty simple, but also profound in its own way when describing the devastating impact of industrialization on ordinary Americans and Englishmen, particularly Thomas and his family.

Classroom Application: It is an ideal text to teach lessons on the aftereffects of industrialization, since too often the media and history books solely focus on the big incidents that occur with the process of industrialization itself instead of the human impact, and its unsuitability for the long run. Good stewardship of the environment, and being able to appreciate beauty via subtle art as Thomas Cole exhibited in his paintings is the lesson I learned from this book. The author subtly demonstrates that treating your environment with dignity and respect results in a better world, rather than the outright sabotage through rapid buildup and environmental issues that resulted from the First Industrial Revolution (1760-1840). The best avenue to pursue is to educate others as Cole did, and help save “…the environment while there (is)…still time” (Talbott, p. 30). How the children best learn this lesson, of course, would be up to the teacher. The passion shown by the main character, Thomas Cole, in pursuing his goals of making a new, truly American art form and saving the environment from then encroachment of machines is certainly a worthy trait for teaching purposes, and could be tied into the environmental protection movement of the 1960s-present in a history classroom setting. Students could be taught laws or US Supreme Court decisions that allow discrimination against the environment, or in the past discriminated against it, and how to go about changing them.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: The book is set in England and Upstate New York, and its cultural influences will be very familiar to many readers in Illinois. Instead, focus on the unique American art schools formed over the 2 centuries we have been a united, independent country and expound on them to a large extent. This would also be great for an art course, as the artists who followed Cole such as Asher Durand and Frederic Church help reflect the artistic traditions of the USA since our independence in 1776: “It was the first art movement that was truly born in America” (Talbott, p. 30). Even though they weren’t part of the group that originally settled the area thousands of years ago, Cole and his devotees started to capture the natural beauty of the Eastern United States before a large portion of it was lost to the forces that built up the factories out East, making the region into what it is today.

Bring me some apples and I’ll make you a pie: a story about Edna Lewis

Author(s), Illustrator/Photographer: by Robbin Gourley.

Publisher and Year Number of pages: Clarion Books, 2009, 45 Pages.

Genre: Historical Fiction and Biography.

Descriptive Annotation: The cover features the protagonist, Edna Lewis, brandishing an apple of the sort used by the future chef at Freetown, Virginia. Watercolors depict the sons and daughters of former slaves in their community, gathering crops and making a living free from the bulk of anti-black persecution of their brethren further south under the post-Civil War Jim Crow laws. The book covers the harvest of crops, which are baked into delicious recipes that can be found at the back of the book, and the process of getting them from field to fork.  Breaking the mold of standard imagery of the era in our collective mindset, all of the workers in Freetown live relatively pleasant lives, seemingly unburdened by segregation due to the town being formed by and for African-Americans, and not a single white person in sight for the entirety of the text. Prior knowledge of what the community of Freetown was, and perhaps research on Edna Lewis’s long cooking career could help further classroom discussions immensely.

Classroom Application: In this picture book, the characters are all assigned different tasks in farming the field, which would be ideal for some role-play for those children who live in suburban and urban settings who have never experienced rural life and its trappings before. Accompanied by a field trip to a local farm (especially in the Bloomington-Normal area) would be an excellent idea and a way to broaden one’s knowledge of Illinois’s agricultural traditions, supplemented by the Virginian ones seen in the book. I certainly never heard pecans falling from the sky during harvest season: “The leaves are falling, and so are the nuts. Ping-ping-ping. Pecan and walnuts fall on the rooftop. The family fills baskets full of them” (Gourley, p. 34).

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: Gourley covers the legacy of slavery, and Jim Crow, in a way that can easily be remembered, and notes the historical significance of Freetown at the last page of text before the recipes come in: “Edna Lewis was born in 1916, in Freetown, Virginia, a community founded by her grandfather and two other emancipated slaves” (Gourley, p. 40). The author speaks the dreams of Edna to become a famous chef towards the end of the book, too: “How about we make a summer pudding or a cobbler? Or just have a bowlful of berries with sugar and cream?” (Gourley, p. 19). Such a bevy of ideas for making food with the berries are indicative of a creative young mind, and it is crucial that teachers encourage that kind of pluck and ingenuity so that they can make the next generation of innovators like Edna Lewis reach new heights of greatness.