The Story of Charles Atlas: STRONG MAN

February 9, 2018

Angelo Siciliano came to America as a boy, immigrating from Italy. Who knew he was going to become the World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man? The Story of Charles Atlas: STRONG MAN will stir kids’ heart and challenge them to make good choices.

Image result for the story strongmanAngelo was skinny and weak, but he wanted to change. He was tired of being bullied. By observing lions at the zoo, he invented a routine that increased his muscle size. Through perseverance and determination, Angelo grew stronger. His nickname was Charles, and his friends added, Atlas, after the Greek god who was said to have strong shoulders holding the heavens. Atlas promoted exercise, fitness, and good character.

Meghan McCarthy invites kids into the biography of a man who still impacts us today. I love the author’s note, sharing a memory from her grandfather and giving an insight into the America folk hero.

Listen to the audio story on this link from Meghan McCarthy’s website.

Savorings for The Story of Charles Atlas: STRONG MAN:

  • Overcoming Difficulty
  • Perseverance
  • Exercise Fitness
  • Determined to Succeed
  • Character Counts – strong and honest
  • Comic Frames

That Book Woman

January 12, 2015

Connecting children with books – a goal for each teacher. Books are waiting to enlighten and expand children’s minds.

Heather Hansen brings history to life in the That Book Woman. In the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt founded the Pack Horse Library Project. The dedicated women (and some men) traveled into the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky to bring books to the families who had no access to libraries and few schools.

Told through the point of view of the oldest son, the narrative prose shares Cal’s feelings about reading. Chicken scratches is all the paper held. Cal’s younger sister delighted in the treasure of a book, reading each moment she was spared.

Not until the Book Woman risked her health and life, riding through terrible snow. What makes the woman brave the fierce elements? Cal began to read and asks his sister to teach him. In the spring, when the trail is passable, the Book Woman returns. This time, Mama thanks her for making a reader out of two of her children.

Inspiring. Today, bookmobiles bring books to remote places and the book burros in third world countries carry on the tradition of the Book Woman. We can be Book Women and Men to our students daily.

To view a video of the book, click here.

Savorings for reading and in writing for That Book Woman:

  • Love of Reading
  • Book Blessings
  • Passage of Time
  • Dialect
  • Community service

A Good Night for Freedom

February 23, 2011

A Good Night for FreedomI love the courage displayed through the lives of Hallie, the Coffins, and the two runaway slaves.  I wonder if I would have been courageous during a time of injustice.  As I read the story to children, I connect it to present day happenings.  Kids can be courageous during bullying situations.

A Good Night for Freedom is based upon true events.  Levi Coffin helped more than 2,000 slaves escape to freedom through the Underground RailroadBarbara Morrow shares her research in her author’s note at the beginning of the book.  Two runaway slaves, Susan and Margaret, are hidden in the Coffin’s home.  Hallie delivered some butter to Aunt Katy’s.  When she went to the cellar, Katy saw the two girls.  As she ponders her meeting, Katy runs into four slave catchers.  You can feel the turmoil of decision.  Leonard Jenkins uses colors to depict the mood of the story, contrasting dark and light.  In the end, Katy chooses to be courageous and aides the escape of the slaves freedom.

Savorings for reading and in writing for A Good Night for Freedom:

  • Voice – the Quaker accent and language is used
  • Tension – “My heart slammed against my chest.”
  • Illustrations – the imagery of dark night supremacy and bright light courage
  • Character traits – discussion on the risks the Coffins chose, Hallie’s conscience
  • Character thinking – “What was I doing? Meddlin’, Pa would say.”

Players in Pigtails

September 13, 2009

While in Cincinnati this past summer, my son and husband went to the National Sports Collector’s Convention.  Rick and Wes love to search for great baseball cards.  Me, I love the history.  Family Day brings the rest of us to the event for a day of meeting players and sight seeing at the booths. 

Last year, I happened upon a booth where a kind, senior lady sat.  Flanking her table was a uniform from the 1940’s.  But not just any uniform.  The uniform was a dress.  Elizabeth noticed the pictures and the banner that said, “A League of Their Own”.  The lady, Dolly Niemiec Konwinski, played for the Grand Rapids Chicks from 1949 – 1952. 

This year, I returned with a book in my bag.  I talked with Dolly and brought out my book Players in Pigtails.  She was impressed with the book and kindly signed on the back page with the logo AAGPBL.  She said that playing was fun and encouraged anyone to get involved in sports.

Players In Pigtails (Scholastic Bookshelf)Shana Corey gives you an overview of how the women’s league began.  She loves history.  Shana shares more information about the league in her two page author’s note in the back.  She also shares information in an interview with Scholastic.  Click on the link:  Shana Corey.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Players in Pigtails:

  • Alliteration and Magic of 3 – “Her clothing was crumpled.  Her knitting was knotted.  Her dancing was a disaster.”  “She preferred sliding to sewing, batting to baking, and home runs to homecoming.”
  • Interjection of BOLD words – WOULD SHE?!
  • Show don’t Tell/ Inferring – “The leauge managers heard the talk, and their stomachs started to twitch.”
  • Clauses – After all, at least she was getting to play ball.
  • Transitions/ Passage of Time – Every spring; When she got to Wrigley Field; On opening day
  • Historical background – dress of the era; women’s role in society

September 11 – A Day to Remember

September 11, 2009

Today is a day to remember our country, its heroes, and those whom we’ve lost.

Today is also a celebration, a birthday, a different memory:  my son, Timothy. 

Because this historical event happened on my son’s young birthday, I have begun to collect books that recall the heroic events of that tragic day.  One book that I found and enjoy is Fireboat:  the Heroic Adventures of the John J. HarveyMaira Kalman researched and shares the story of how a retired New York City fireboat was used to help during September 11th. Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey (Picture Puffin Books)

The story begins with a brief history of where the fireboat began.  Then, time jumps to 1995 and the John J. Harvey is old and retired.  The boat was not being used and waiting to be scrapped.  A group who once worked on the fire boat decided to buy and restore it.  They did not know that the boat would be used during such a tragic time. 

The water pipes were broken and buried.  And the fire trucks that had raced to the scene could not pump water.  The firefighters attached hoses to the Harvey. […] For four days and nights the Harvey pumped water.

John J. Harvey Fireboat was awarded the National Preservation Award.  To learn more about the fireboat, visit their website with original photos.  www.fireboat.org

Savorings for reading and in writing for Fireboat:

  • Asides – It had 5 diesel engines so it could go 20 miles per hour.  (that’s pretty fast!)
  • Text placement – the writing is not just in paragraphs but more like picture captions.
  • Close echo – CRASHED, CRASHED, CRASHED into these two strong buildings.
  • Flashback Lead – New York City.  1931.  Amazing things were happening big and small.
  • Colon in a list – People brought supplies:  fuel, sweaters, gloves, pizza, sandwiches and coffee.
  • Prediction

A Slave’s Hero: a Dog

July 16, 2009

I stumbled upon this rich text in the new book section at the library.  The underground railroad is a standard in social studies for fourth grade.   Sharing this story may help bridge history with something familiar – a boy and his dog. 

Elisa Carbone wrote Night Running:  How James Escaped with the Help of His Faithful Dog (illustrated by E.B. Lewis).  It’s based on a true story of James Smith, a runaway slave.  James decided to confide in a friend about his plans to escape.  Unfortunately, his friend betrayed him and he was caught.  James’s dog, Zeus, stayed close by and helped him escape his captors.  Although James was thankful, he worried that Zeus would make too much noise.

Zeus didn’t follow.  No, sir.  He ran on a head.  And noisy?  He made more racket…

This book is excellent for teaching students to focus in and highlight the most important parts.  Time upon time, Zeus saved James’s life, alerting him of danger and helping divert attention.  I was on the edge of my seat.  Eventually, James had to cross the Ohio River to freedom.  He hugged his dog for the last time and began to cross, only to be saved by Zeus again.

Boys like to see themselves as being fearless.  Night Running captures the sense of adventure, courage, and perseverance.  It also taps into the bond a dog has with his boy, as James loves his dog, but he is not willing to take Zeus.  Internal character conflict arises.  I had to reread parts to gain better understanding, visualizing the scenes and feeling the conflict.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Night Running:

  • Voice – you can almost hear James talking to Zeus and letting you into his head
  • Repeating Line woven in text –   Zeus was good at that.
  • Personification –
  • Simile – droopy as an old mulethrew that switch down like it was a rattlesnake on fire
  • Hyphenated words – good-for-nothings; fired-up mad; sweet-smelling


Mail-Delivery Dog

January 28, 2009

Dog lovers, you will enjoy this phenomenal true account of a stray terrier who was adopted by the Albany Postal Service in Owney the Mail-Pouch Pooch (Frances & Foster Books, 2008).  In 1888, Owney began guarding the mail bags and helped the men at the post.  After a time, Owney jumped a mail train car.  Upon returning to Albany several weeks later, the rail workers gave Owney a collar and note asking to attach a depot tag to mark his trip while being gone. Owney seemed to love traveling on the train.  As the reader, you almost feel like you are traveling with Owney on his adventures.  It definitely leaves you wondering what he did and how he knew where to go, when to get on and off.

Based on true events recorded by the major newspapers in the 1890’s, Mona Kerby captures Owney’s travels through the United States and even the world, on a special voyage.  In the author’s note, Mona shared “When Owney died in 1897, his friends had a taxidermist preserve him and sent this body to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.”  Three original pictures of Owney grace the book.  Check out Mona Kerby’s blog that focuses on letter writing and other activities for this newest book based on Owney.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Owney the Mail-Pouch Pooch:

  • Introduction – “In the year 1888, on a cold rainy October night in Albany, NY, a straggly terrier mutt wandered through the empty streets looking for a place to get out of the rain.  He was so skinny his ribs stuck out.”
  • Descriptive action with the Magic of Three – “circled twice, curled up, and went to sleep
  • Hyphenated words – official-looking, lickety-split
  • Historical narrative – a unique story that’s true
  • Passage of Time

(Warsaw Public Library)


Priscilla and the Hollyhocks

January 26, 2009

Image result for Priscilla and the Hollyhocks by Anne BroylesReading books brings much pleasure to me, but sharing a great story with children and teachers is my delight.  I read lots of books; some I like, others I don’t, some teach lessons and then … some move me as a reader.  When I read a book that moves my heart and makes me think deeper, it is a treasure!  Priscilla and the Hollyhocks is my find today.  Wow!  Knowing that Priscilla existed deepens the story.  I can’t get it out of my mind!

Priscilla and the Hollyhocks by Anne Broyles is based on historical events.  The book jacket stated that Anne Broyles  “discovered Priscilla’s story while researching the Cherokee Trail of Tears for a young adult novel she was writing.” Click on this link to see a preview of the book. (The first two pages still linger with me, let alone the story. March 2018)

The story begins with Priscilla’s mother being sold away when she ‘s young, approximately five.  Then, she begins working in the Big House by age six.  One visitor to the plantation talked with Priscilla and was kind.  His name was Basil Silkwood.  He didn’t agree with slavery.  By age 10, her master dies and she is bought by a new owner:  a Cherokee family.  Priscilla finds comfort in the hollyhocks she has planted at the new place.

During her time with the Cherokee family, America was expanding and began to round up the Indians.  The Cherokee family was forced to move.  They were “rounded up like animals” and forced to walk the “Trail of Tears.”  Priscilla went too.  After several months, they were passing through a town, when Priscilla miraculously happened to see Mr. Silkwood on a hotel porch.  She called to him and Mr. Silkwood asked about her.

Later that evening, Basil came to her Cherokee master.  “Massa Silkwood handed the Cherokee a bag of gold that held my freedom.”  He took her home and then set her free, adopting her into his family of fifteen children.  “Home we went to a family who claimed me slave not longer, daughter once more.”  Incredible!

The author’s note sheds more light on the background events shared in the story.  I know my eyes will look upon Hollyhock’s with a new appreciation.

Priscilla and the Hollyhocks tells a story too often ignored or overlooked – a story of how the west was not won but captured.  Reading about Priscilla’s remarkable life makes all our hearts a bit warmer while filling our heads with a much-needed piece of American history.”  – Nikki Giovanni, poet

Symbolism of hope/love/home:  Interweaving hollyhocks –

  • The one item that Priscilla loved and remained unchanging in an unsettling environment was the hollyhocks.  She carried the seeds with her to each new place she went and found comfort being near the plants.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Priscilla and the Hollyhocks:

  • Synthesize:  What can we learn from this story?  How does it affect us now?  We must guard against prejudices and be like Basil Silkwood, seeing worth in a person.
  • Lead – emotional, “Freedom filled my dreams, but I was born a slave’s child.”
  • Word choice – mirrored the mood; yoke, pined
  • Inference – “my insides was a’quiverin.”
  • Varied punctuation including semi-colon and colon –

(Warsaw Public Library/ MH owns)


The Rest of the Gettysburg Story

November 5, 2008

AImage result for the cemetery keepers of gettysburg by linda oatman highuthor’s notes provide added background knowledge for deeper understanding.  It often gives more to the story, and so I often will read it first (although its usually placed in the back).  Linda Oatman High was intrigued by the history of the Gettysburg Battled and learned of the heroic determination of Elizabeth Thorn.

The Cemetery Keepers of Gettysburg is written in poetic narrative, and it moves me.  The story is told through the eyes of the Thorn’s eldest seven-year-old son, Fred.  The Battle of Gettysburg was “the most ferocious and bloody battle of the Civil War“, and Linda Oatman High captures the emotion of the wounded soldiers, the fear-gripped children, and the devastation left behind. Although the battle was horrible, Linda’s words are poetic and rich and appropriate for upper elementary-aged children.

Linda Oatman High then tells the rest of the aftermath.  Nearly one hundred soldiers lay dead.  Elizabeth Thorn (six months pregnant), her father, and Fred dig the graves to honor the men.  Astounding!  The story ends with President Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address and then honoring Elizabeth for her heroism.  Wow!  I have to read and reread this book and each time I focus on something new.  This book is excellent for developing background knowledge for the Civil War and provides good discuss on what families did behind the scenes. Savorings for reading and in writing for The Cemetery Keepers of Gettysburg:

  • Point of view – from a child
  • Word Choice – “grandfather with wrinkled skin
  • Emotion – “huddling, shuddering together
  • Poetic narrative
  • Show don’t Tell – “he said as a tear creeped down his cheek