When Grandmama Sings

When Grandmama Sings, written by Margaree King Mitchell and illustrated by James E. Ransome, is a nominee for the 14-15 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Set against the backdrop of the racially-segregated South, When Grandmama Sings is a heart-warming story about persistence and hope. When eight-year-old Belle’s grandmother, Ivory Belle Coles, gets the opportunity to do a singing tour across the South, Belle begs to go along. Her parents agree to let Belle be a helper to her grandmother.

“Grandmama couldn’t read herself. But she always had a song to sing.”

Along the way, young Belle points out that black and white people are treated differently everywhere they go. Through it all, though, her grandmother never loses her spirit, her will, or her love of music. Music has the power to bring everyone, regardless of color, together.

Belle’s grandmother taught her that going after dreams is important. It could be something as simple as learning to read or becoming a singer, but it could be something–like equality for all–with the power to change the world.

This book is great for a simple yet powerful illustration of life in the segregated South. It could be used in elementary classrooms in units on Civil Rights. It could also be part of lessons on persistence and courage in the face of adversity.

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, written by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean, is nominated for the 2013-2014 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

I can see Rocking in My School Shoes being hugely popular as a beginning-of-the-school-year read aloud. Luckily, there’s also an amazing website (http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com…) that goes along with all of the Pete the Cat books, so those of us with less-than-great singing voices don’t have to do the singing ourselves!

It’s easy to see why so many of my students like all of the Pete the Cat books. (I can’t keep them on the shelves!) Pete is kind of a cool cat, the stories are predictable, rhythmic, and easy to read, and they are full of colorful illustrations.