Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - picture book biographies that celebrate the arts - 12.02.2020

Wednesdays I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
#kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

This week I am celebrating picture book biographies of people who contributed to the arts!

Dark Was the Night by Gary Golio
Dark Was the Night: Blind Willie Johnson's Journey to the Stars
written by Gary Golio
illustrated by E.B. Lewis
This is one of those books that will have you going off in different directions to learn more.  
The story is about musician Willie Johnson.  As a blind musician, Willie definitely had an ear that was tuned into music.  Usually accompanied by his guitar and his pocketknife, which he would slide down the steel strings of the guitar, Willie was known for his soulful music.  But one of his more famous songs is "Dark Was the Night", which was included on the Golden Record.  This special collection of music was sent out into space on the Voyager I, which was sent into space specifically to be played by a potentially other civilization that may be in space or another galaxy.
After reading this book, I did a couple of things.  The first was to listen to the song "Dark Was the Night".  This was an absolute beautiful and soulful song that I listened to on a loop.  Next, I looked more into Voyager I and its journey.  Remember, this is what a nonfiction book can and should do - help you dive even deeper into a topic!

Queen of Tejano Music by Silvia López
Queen of Tejano Music: Selena
written by Silvia López
illustrated by Paola Escobar
In early 1996 I did my student teaching in San Antonio, TX.  I worked in a bilingual kindergarten for a couple of months, followed by a first grade placement.  In both classrooms, the little girls, and some of the little boys, absolutely idolized the Tejano singer, Selena.  She had just recently been killed, right as she reached crossover stardom, and her music was all over the radio.  Every girl wanted to be Selena, they talked about her all the time.  Her music was catchy and I found myself finding the Spanish music channel even when I came back home to IL to find her songs.
I'm glad that there are picture book biographies being written about her and will introduce another generation of readers to her and her music.  She really was a role model for young kids and that is something we always need.  Her love for life and music will live on in these books.  I hope you find this one and future books about her life to share with readers.

By and By by Carole Boston Weatherford
By and By: Charles Albert Tindley the Father of Gospel Music
written by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Bryan Collier
Starting from Tindley's early roots of learning to read and write by slowly reading newspaper clippings, we can see the tenacity young Tindley had in order to rise up.  Once he reached adulthood, Tindley wanted a better life and moved north.  Starting at cleaning up a church, to eventually becoming the preacher of the same church, readers learn about how hard Tindley worked in order to be in a position to preach and sing and celebrate.  
For this particular story, Weatherford told it in rhyme.  I'm wondering if she made that decision since it was about the Father of Gospel Music.  However, I wish it has been written in prose.  I felt like most of the details were left out of the story in order to allow for better rhymes.  However, Collier's illustrations are on point, as always.

Hello, Neighbor! by Matthew Cordell
Hello, Neighbor! The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers
by Matthew Cordell
When I think of watching television as a little girl, I have strong memories of Sesame Street  and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.  My mom always said I was a quick and strong reader because I watched those shows!  Regardless of the reading, I think I was more understanding of emotions because of both of those shows.  And isn't it funny, decades have gone by, yet when I see some of the songs from the television show, I can sing them right away!  Mister Rogers really did have a lasting impact.
While most of our young readers have never heard of Mister Rogers, they certainly can name television shows they watch.  This is a perfect introduction to compare and contrast the changes in young children's television programming!
I liked that this picture biography really focused on what Fred Rogers did for children's television, particularly the show he was most famous for.  There is so much to explore about Fred Rogers, but instead of trying to tell everything, Matthew Cordell tells us about one important aspect of Mister Rogers' life.  
I particularly enjoyed the visual glossary at the end, giving us just a little more glimpse into parts of the show and Fred Rogers' life.

RESPECT by Carole Boston Weatherford
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul
written by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Frank Morrison
A beautiful introduction to the Queen of Soul for young readers.  Told in rhyming verses with a spelled out word at the beginning of each layout, young readers learn a little bit about Aretha's young years going into her R&B years, but also how she was an activist.  Accompanied by Frank Morrison's amazing illustrations, this book is so enjoyable to read and devour.  The cover illustration alone... perfection!

Cezanne's Parrot
Cézanne's Parrot
written by Amy Guglielmo
illustrated by Brett Helquist
Told as a story, readers learn about the frustrations and finally, celebrations, of artist, Paul Cézanne.  Known for his still life paintings, he was a perfectionist who toiled over every painting for extended amounts of time.  Cézanne was passionate about his art, and even after years of rejections, he stayed the course and painted the way he wanted.
I really wish there were photographs of Cézanne's artwork included in the backmatter.  Helquist is such a detailed illustrator so the illustrations are beautiful, but I would have liked to seen his actual work.

Hope you have a budding artist in your group to share these books with!

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