Rags: Hero Dog of WWI

Rags: Hero Dog of WWI, written by Margot Theis Raven and illustrated by Petra Brown, is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Rags tells the true story of a small dog who made a big difference. Rags began his life as a mutt in the streets of Paris, but a chance encounter with an American soldier, Private James Donovan, during World War I changed this dog’s life.

Rags became a mascot of sorts for the Army’s First Division, and he and Donovan became inseparable. Rags assisted Donovan on missions and saved many lives in the process. He was a true hero who remained loyal to his best friend through good times and bad.

Any reader, young or old, who likes inspirational stories, especially those involving animals or wartime, will appreciate this story. It might be a difficult read-aloud given that it’s kind of hard to read through a veil of tears. Even so, Rags is an excellent book that will appeal to a wide audience.

Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball

Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball, written by John Coy and illustrated by Joe Morse, was a nominee for the 2015-2016 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Hoop Genius introduces readers young and old to James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. This young teacher, eager to find a way to keep an energetic group of boys engaged (and injury-free), used a soccer ball and a couple of peach baskets to create a fun new game. This game would eventually be spread far and wide and become one of the most popular sports in the world, all thanks to one teacher who wanted to make his students happy.

This informative picture book is great for read-alouds, particularly in physical education classes introducing the sport of basketball. This book could encourage young readers to do further research on the origin of this sport (and others) and could even inspire them to create their own new games to play.

This Is the Rope

This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by James Ransome, is a nominee for the 2015-16 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

This Is the Rope is a moving tale of one family’s journey from rural South Carolina to New York City during the Great Migration. The story begins with a girl finding a simple rope under a tree. This rope would play a part in the girl’s move north, serving as a luggage tie, a clothesline, a jump-rope, a reminder of times gone by, and a symbol of how far one family has come and the bonds that hold them together.

For younger readers, I think This Is the Rope is useful for illustrating stories with one object tying events together. Pun intended. This book could serve as an example to follow when writing their own similar stories. I don’t know how much K5-2nd grade readers would understand about the Great Migration, but this book could also start discussions on why people move from place to place, the differences between living in rural and urban areas, or what life was like during the North and the South during different periods of time.

For older students, This Is the Rope is a simple yet powerful introduction to the Great Migration, which is something that is often glossed over in some history classes. This book could start discussions on why many African Americans chose to move north during post-Reconstruction America, the conditions in the South that forced them to move, and how much work is still to be done to achieve racial equality, not only in the South but also across the nation.

I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat

I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History’s Strangest Cures by Carlyn Beccia will definitely be a hit with students, especially when they’re that it’s kind of gross and shouldn’t be read around lunchtime.

I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat presents some strange cures for coughs, colds, sore throats, wounds, stomachaches, fevers, headaches, and general cures. Some of them are completely ridiculous (unicorn horn, mummy dust, etc.), but readers will be surprised by how many of these historic cures are still being used today.

Students will love this book. It will generate some fascinating discussions and could lead to further research on the evolution of medicine and treatments in different cultures.

Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History

Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History by Lois Miner Huey is a nominee for the 2015-16 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

Have you ever wanted to live in the past? If so, you may just change your mind when you read Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History.

In this book, you’ll learn that things probably weren’t all that great a few hundred years ago. The smells were horrible, there were bugs everywhere, germs spread awful diseases, and the clothes were extremely uncomfortable, dirty, and just plain nasty!

Take a trip through time in Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History and decide if you’d really like to live in the past. Maybe the present isn’t so bad after all!

This book is sure to be a hit with elementary and middle grade readers. Kids like gross stuff, and this book has it in spades. It’s interesting, entertaining, and full of yucky facts (and illustrations) that will make young readers either laugh out loud or get a little sick. Maybe both. Either way, kids may read this and appreciate how far things like hygiene and medicine have come.

Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History is an essential book for studies of early American history, scientific advances, or comparisons of early life to the modern day.

The House That George Built

The House That George Built, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Rebecca Bond, is a nominee for the 14-15 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

If you take the familiar story of “The House That Jack Built” and combine it with the history of America’s most famous home, you’ve got The House That George Built. This book tells readers about the building of the White House, and how George Washington, the only president who never actually lived in the house, oversaw its construction.

The House That George Built takes us through the early days of our nation, the selection of site for the president’s home, choosing a design, and into the actual building of what would become the White House. The explanations of those events are coupled with charming rhymes reminiscent of the familiar poem mentioned above.

Readers see that, even though he held the highest office in the country, George Washington didn’t hesitate to lend a hand wherever it was needed. He assisted with the actual design, he pounded in stakes, and he made important decisions so that the house would be finished on time and budget.

An afterword and author’s note provide more information about the building of the White House, including some of the changes that have been made over the years.

This book is an ideal fit for studies of Washington, DC, George Washington, or even architecture. It could also be used as a read-aloud for Presidents’ Day. In any event, The House That George Built is a welcome addition to any library collection, and I think both students and teachers who read this book will have a new appreciation for the White House and the man ultimately responsible for building it.

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team is a nominee for the 2013-2014 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Brothers at Bat, written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Steven Salerno, is the true story of an all-brother baseball team. This awe-inspiring story tells of the Acerra family of New Jersey and the twelve brothers who formed their own baseball team…and still left brothers on the bench!

The Acerra brothers played baseball in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and into the 50s. Several of the brothers took time away from their beloved sport and family to join the war effort during World War II, but all of them came back home and continued to play as a family team.

The Acerra brothers played their last game as a team in 1952, but they continued to share the importance of teamwork with their children and grandchildren. In 1997, the brothers were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as the longest-playing all-brother team.

The author’s note at the end of the book provides more information about this remarkable team of brothers and the family values that kept them as a team even when they no longer played baseball as one. Brothers at Bat sends a message to readers of all ages that teamwork–whether in sports, school, family, or any other aspect of life–is truly vital and has the power to make amazing things happen.