People of Courage, Persistance, and Dreams

by Nancy Bo Flood on March 6, 2011

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How big is the ocean, how high is the sky?  Old lyrics but new meaning – just how big is this genre of NONFICTION?

Creative, quirky, unusual, interesting – informative, and truly the sky isn’t the limit regarding subject, form, structure or illustrations. How big is the ocean of topics?  It is indeed vast and varied:  biography, social science, natural science, mathematics, history, social concerns, sports, “how-to’s,” cultural descriptions, languages, and more.

This month, in Beyond Boundaries, we have chosen to focus on quite a variety of topics – biographies, construction trucks, social issues, and history, including natural disasters and natural science.

First, biographies: A library on a donkey? What an idea to share with a child. Jeanette Winter’s new book, BIBLIOBURRO: A True Story from Colombia, will first capture your attention with her delightful and unusual  illustrations. We meet Luis, a man who lives “deep in the jungles of Colombia…who loves books.”  Luis lives in his little home, sharing a book with a giant orange butterfly and surrounded by tropical creatures, iguanas, hummingbirds, snakes, spiders, birds with giant bills and birds with long legs.  Luis has one big problem.  His house is FULL of books and he has an idea.  He will share his books with children who have none. Luis has two burros, one to carry books, and one to carry Luis.  He’s determined that his biblio-burro will bring books to children.  And it does.

Other true stories written by Jeanette Winter include award-winning NASREEN’S SECRET SCHOOL, WANGARI’S TREES OF PEACE, and THE LIBRARIAN OF BASRA, winner of the Bank Street Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for Nonfiction.  Jeanette’s books gently introduce children to economic and educational challenges faced by many children in this world.

Biographies show real aspects of being courageous – standing up for what one believes in or persisting toward one’s goals.

A PICTURE BOOK OF CESAR CHAVEZ by David A. Adler and Michael S. Adler, illustrated by Marie Olofsdotter, provides a window into the world of César Chávez who risked his life and spent time in jail, but continued to help farm workers in California organize into unions and argue for fair pay and working conditions.

Courage is often small actions, such as planting beans or carrying oranges to the market, instead of being able to go to school. Though not nonfiction, these books offer a window into a specific culture and setting and can be paired with other informational resources to give students a peek into these other lands and peoples.

JOSIAS, HOLD THE BOOK by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell, presents the dilemma of many children. Josias, who lives in Haiti, has no money to go to school.

Another book set in Haiti is TAP-TAP by Karen LynnWilliams, illustrated by Catherine Stock. In this book, a girl carries oranges to sell at market and wonders if she can manage the long dusty walk back home.

Or from the far north, Ningeokuluk Teevee, one of the most celebrated of the Kinngait Nunavut (Cape Dorset) artists has written and illustrated ALEGO.  This book presents a picture of today’s daily life of an Inuit child and grandmother  – join them as they go clam-digging!

THE MANGROVE TREE: Planting Trees to Feed Families by Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore tells of the work of Dr. Gordon Sato, a Japanese American, and of all surprising partnerships, a cell biologist whose ideas and work helped to make the desert of Eritrea productive by planting mangrove trees.

“Fly” back to the United States for one more biography, SKY HIGH: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss, illustrated by Carl Angel – the first Asian-American woman pilot.  Maggie showed persistence and courage to fly high and reach her dreams.

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