Kids Blog

African-American Folktales

African-American Folktales

Although I grew up with the traditional Grimm fairy tales, when my son was young, it was folktales that we read most often.  Passed down from the oral tradition, they’re perfect for children either as a read aloud or a story you retell together.  In honor of Black History Month here are a few of my favorite from the African-American tradition.

Although a picture book, “The People Could Fly” by Virginia Hamilton, is recommended for older children and teens.  The narrator tells us that in Africa, some of the people “would walk up on the air like climbin on a gate,”  but when they were captured, they forgot that magic.  Sarah, a young woman in the fields, was “standin tall, yet afraid” and had “a babe tied to her back.”  That didn’t stop the cruelty of the Overseer or the one who called himself their Master and she turned to fellow slave, Toby, for help.  He told her, “go, as you know how to go” and Sarah “lifted one foot on the air; then the other.  She flew clumsily at first...then she felt the magic, the African mystery” and was gone.  The next day, a young man fell from the heat.  Toby came and spoke words to him and he flew away.  One after the other, slaves fell and there was Toby helping them soar like birds, towards freedom.  Of course, the Overseer came after him, but Toby just laughed and said “we are the ones who fly” and a group of slaves rose and “flew in a flock that was black against the heavenly blue” with old Toby flying behind them towards freedom.  

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin

“When hunger gnaws inside my belly, I tell myself that a future Pioneer has to repress cravings for such unimportant matters as food. Communism is just over the horizon; soon there will be plenty of food for everyone…I wonder what it’s like in the capitalist countries. I wouldn’t be surprised if children there had never even tasted a carrot.”

More than anything, 10-year-old Sasha Zaichik wants to be a member of the Young Soviet Pioneers in Breaking Stalin’s Nose, by Eugene Yelchin. Sasha can hardly wait for tomorrow’s Pioneer rally, when all of his dreams will be realized. However, as the big day gets close, things go terribly wrong for Sasha. First, his stalwart father is taken away by the State Security in the middle of the night. As Sasha’s mother had died under mysterious circumstances some time before, this leaves Sasha frighteningly alone. He is no longer welcome in the komunalka that he shares with 48 other citizens, so he is put out into deserted and icy streets in the middle of the night.

A Day of Knights

What is a knight?
The simple answer would be a soldier who fights on horseback while wearing armor, but there’s much more to being a knight.

Who were the first knights?
There have been soldiers on horseback for thousands of years, but what we think of as medieval knights first came into being during the time of King Charlemagne (Charles the Great). Charlemagne was a Frank (Frenchman). His knights kept him safe in battle and won him many victories. Chanson de Roland (Song of Roland) was written about Charlemagne’s most famous knight.

Sidekicks by Dan Santat

Sidekicks by Dan Santat

Metro City’s very own superhero Captain Amazing is getting too old for his job, so he’s going to need some backup. Sidekicks is the journey of some die-hard hero wannabes who wish to join the captain for one very simple reason: They are his pets, and he hasn’t been paying them any attention lately.

Tumblebooks for the iPad

Tumblebooks for the iPad

Kids love watching Tumblebooks on the computer because they bring children's books to life. Now there are 100 Tumblebooks available to download to your iPad and take with you on the go. If you log into Tumblebooks through your iPad you will see the available books. To browse the iPad collection from your computer, log in and then click on "Storybooks" from the front page and then the green button that says "iPad Books."

 

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

“I think there is a destiny laid on me that I am not to know anything interesting, go anywhere interesting, or do anything interesting.”

In The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander, Taran feels that nothing exciting happens in his life and that nothing ever will.  And yet, Taran longs to be a hero, like his idol Prince Gwydion, the famed warrior who fights in the name of the High King of Prydain.  Taran lives on a farm called Caer Dallben, named after the ancient enchanter who dwells there. Dallben, between reading from his mysterious tome, The Book of Three, and giving Taran wise but confusing advice, spends most of his time meditating--an endeavor that he often undertakes lying down with his eyes closed while snoring.  The only other person on the farm is Coll, who instructs Taran in making horseshoes, despite there not being any horses.

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Princess Celie’s favorite day of the week is Tuesday because that’s the day Castle Glower usually grows a new room or two, or a turret, or passage. Castle Glower’s favorite person is Princess Celie, the only one who has ever tried to explore and map the ever-changing structure. Castle Glower is not shy about making its opinion known. When the Castle decides Prince Rolf should be the King’s Heir, he awakes one day to discover his bedroom has been moved next to the throne room. Unwelcome guests find their quarters growing smaller and shabbier, while favored residents are housed in spacious comfort in Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George.

When the King and Queen disappear--ambushed and presumed dead--visitors from foreign lands arrive suddenly to advise Celie, Rolf, and their sister, Lilah, during the time of transition. But the Castle seems to know that something isn’t right and the plotters underestimate the Castle’s abilities. They also underestimate the courage and intelligence of the Royal children. The Castle creates a turret, stocked with useful items, that appears when Celie and her siblings need it. It provides a passage to a hidden room where the children can overhear the council’s scheming--complete with a magic cloak that muffles sound so the children will not themselves be overheard. Celie’s maps and her relationship with the Castle are the keys to saving the kingdom, the castle’s inhabitants, and the castle itself.

Author of the Month: Uri Shulevitz

Picture book writer and illustrator Uri Shulevitz came into a world on the brink of a devastating war.  The son of son of Abraham and Szandla (Hermanstat) Shulevitz, Uri (pronounced oo-ree), he was only four years old when German bombs falling on Warsaw drove his Jewish family out of the city and into an eight-year period of travel in exile throughout Europe before finally settling in Paris in 1947, when Uri was twelve years old. 

2012 Award-Winning Children's Books

Here are the 2012 winners of the American Library Association's children's book awards:

Newbery Medal

Newbery Medal Home Page
The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Dead End in Norvelt
2012 Winner

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

2012 Honors

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin
 

 

 

The Presidential Election: How It Works

It takes almost two years from the time the candidates announce they are running to the day that one of them will be sworn into office. Let's take a look at how the winning candidate will get there.